Thursday, August 22, 2013

Confessions of a Choleric Child: When a Little Hit More is Never Enough

If you've ever discussed spanking, you've probably come across a common sentiment. It's cliche, tossed out confidently as if the person claiming it has direct experience with the situation.

And yet, if you're a choleric, you probably see the inaccuracy.

It goes like this:

"All kids are different. Some kids might respond to gentle parenting or warnings. But what about those kids with strong wills? You can talk to them all day but they won't obey unless you give them something a bit more. They need a spanking."

This points draws on several implications. First, it sneaks in the assumption that hitting a child has different ethical weights depending on the personality of the child. Some children deserve to be hurt but not others? Ignoring that, it then moves to the choleric argument: if you've got a strong willed child, then the only/best way to discipline that child is with physical punishment.

Now, I have no idea why this sounds so good on the surface. Because if you take two seconds to look at it, you should see it pretty clearly. Someone with a strong will isn't going to give in over a little smack on the butt...that so-called harmless and legal pat, pop, boppity spanking that parents claim is all they do for discipline.

So if the child isn't going to bend over for a light smack, then what WILL break his spirit? It's not going to be a punishment anyone publicly admits. It will be something harmful enough and abusive enough that the strong-willed child yields (and only momentarily) out of fear for his wellbeing. Is that discipline or is that abuse? How far will you go to break someone's will? And is breaking a child the goal of discipline anyways?

I've always eyed this argument sideways because I'm that Choleric Child. The one you prayed not to get, perhaps...the one that turns your hair gray and forces you to your knees in rejuvenation of some faith, out of desperation that a deity is in the cosmos capable of assisting you with your hellion.

My parents started out with punitive parenting. In fact, it was the narrow faux-Christian version based on spanking the devil out and forcing the child to obey because otherwise *feigned high voice* Hooooow will she ever learn to obey God? That rod better be applied, hard, fast and frequently or your child will rot in hell!

For the strong-willed child, perhaps they meant reign in hell.

My parents changed over the years, grew in grace, learned new methods, asked forgiveness. But before that, I was given several memories of how punitive parenting works on a child who needs a "bit more." The saddest thing is, I can easily recall these punishments but I can't for the life of me recall why I was punished or what lesson I was intended to learn.

One such memory that floats to the surface is being struck repeatedly on the buttocks in a calm manner. I use that language since that's the official pro-spanking language. Nothing wrong here, according to pro-spanking methods. It was calm, so it was loving, right? It was on the buttocks, open handed. And in accordance with how old I was (one spank for each year.)

Firstly, strong-willed children don't give a crap how loving you feel towards them when striking them. Or in general. They are typically concerned with advancement, such as being the best, the most, the highest. Relationships are not a strong point for the undeveloped choleric. So who cares if you feel loving and calm or if you've flown into a rage. What you HAVE done, in the young child's mind, is declared war upon them.

And you will lose that war.

As each slap landed upon my body, my brain registered a distant sensation of pain. A punitive parent intends that hurt to be productive on the parent's behalf. They think that hurt makes the child yield. They think that hurt distributes justice. They think it drives in a lesson or makes the child remember something for next time.

They don't know about strong-willed children. See, pain doesn't do that for the spirited child. Pain hardens them. It strengthens them. Each sting followed by dull thudding, spreading through my back didn't make me feel sorrowful. It didn't drive in a lesson or cause me to yield. In my head, I stood stronger and taller. As my mom spanked me dutifully, I stood there and smiled. Then I chortled. Then when she was done and I had to face her, I did so with the confidence of a soldier who has won a battle. Whatever I resolved that day, it wasn't to be more compliant with her wishes.

I can recall plenty of reactions from my spankings. I probably received many of them in that early time period. I can only imagine how it must feel to parent a spirited child and your only tool is faux-Christian punitive parenting methods. Despair comes to mind!

In my head I would often chant, fueled by those spankings.

SLAP "Ha! Try again!"
SLAP "That's all you've got?"
SLAP "You will never win."

Sometimes, being so motivated by the confrontation, I would even verbally engage. Reminds me of Bart on the Simpson's, waving his butt. "Haha! That didn't hurt! Why don't you try again?" But obviously that's not a great thing to do since it involves more punishment.

One thing I can assure you is that never, ever in that punitive period did I learn a lesson, feel regretful, believe that my parents were in the right or resolve to change my behavior in the future. Cholerics aren't into impulsive behavior. They know what they want and why, and they plan to do things based on that. If they get punished at the end, oh well. It won't change their minds.

If you have a strong-willed child who will not yield, it's actually gentle parenting that will lead the way. It sounds contradictory to some, who think that a heavier hand against a heavier spirit is the way to break through. But the choleric personality is not merely about opposition. It's about being absolutely right and just. Appeal to higher, noble concepts and logical reasoning and you will be granted inside very quickly. In fact, negativity and a punishing environment can quickly lead the choleric child towards perfectionism and despair. As hard as they appear towards others, they are even harder towards themselves, demanding precise performance. As I recall reading somewhere, "If you think the choleric child needs to be disciplined, get out of the way and let him do it!" Underneath that cold, strong surface is a heart that can be appealed to and expanded.

The opportunities for this temperament can go down two roads. Historically, some of the most evil and most brilliant minds were choleric personalities. As parents, do we want to break a child's will, embitter and discourage him and potentially send him down a dark pathway where he grows up thinking his strong will and competent presence permit him to harm others?

Or do we want to raise such a child to use her strength and wisdom in the world for helping others, solving problems, rooting for the underdog? Whichever way your child is compelled, she will go with all her might, seemingly carrying the world on her shoulders and stopping for no one. This then is your decision: will you lift up your child towards the highest human principles of love, peace and courage or break her down towards the lowest, of cruelty, violence and coercion?

And, really, when you think about it, exactly who changes a mind and heart based on a few slaps on the butt? Spirited or not, having a parent hit you doesn't teach you something. It doesn't develop your skills. It doesn't fill emotional needs. It doesn't help you to analyze the situation and think of better ways. It doesn't even fit the crime or make sense as a natural consequence.

Why are we so intent on justifying the act of hitting a child? Why do we think it causes discipline? Why do we think it's effective? Why do we think hitting a loved one can ever be calm and loving? It's time to drop the cliche statements and really think about our own hearts and our own intentions. Sheer, brute force is never the answer for young, developing people. And if your young, developing person happens to be strong-willed, you only serve to drive the two of you apart and to start a war you will never win.

What part of your choleric child do you want to eliminate just
to get temporary compliance with small-peas parental requests?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

JEWISH INTACTIVISTS: What are Bris Shalom and Brit B'lee Milah?

(United States) - More and more Jewish parents in America and Israel are avoiding circumcision. Instead, they are holding alternative ceremonies sometimes called Bris Shalom or Brit B’lee Milah (covenant without cutting) ceremonies. Many Jews throughout Europe and the former Soviet Union have stopped circumcising over 100 years ago. Already over 100 Rabbis are performing alternative covenant ceremonies that omit the violent circumcision. These are gaining popularity both in the United States and worldwide.

Here some of these Jewish parents share their experiences and thoughts on the development of new Jewish rituals and the morals and principles that inspired them. 

Jewish parents can find a Rabbi, or Cantor to lead a Bris without cutting via Dr. Mark Reiss' Brit Shalom Celebrants List. Many parents are finding that their regular Rabbi or Cantor are happy to do so as well, even if they are not on this list. 

"We did not circumcise my son. Instead, we created a beautiful, gentle welcoming ceremony to celebrate his entry into the Jewish people and the world  community. Instead of a bris milah, there was a bris blee milah - a covenant without circumcision. We reinterpreted the notion of covenant to mean the commitment that we, his parents made, publicly, to bring him up with love, respect, openness, and gentleness. Friends lit candles for him and shared blessings and poems for him, some in traditional Hebrew, others specially written for the occasion. We had music, prayers, songs, dancing, and we spoke about the meanings of his names and about our decision not to circumcise him... I say this as a Jew actively involved in both cultural and religious aspects of my community. I also say it to you directly from the Jewish tradition, specifically from the Talmudic imperative of pikuach nefesh. Pikuach nefesh means the duty to save a life in any situation in which it is imperiled, whether directly by danger or serious illness, or indirectly by a condition which is not serious but cute deteriorate. It is clear to me that circumcision of an eight-day old infant is such a condition, and one could therefore make an argument from within the tradition for outlawing circumcision. The Talmud goes on to say (Hul. 10a): "One should be more particular about matters concerning life and health than about ritual observances." It insists (Yoma 85a and b) that even the laws of the Sabbath may - indeed must be broken to give necessary medical treatment... Let us note that keeping the Sabbath is one of the ten commandments, circumcision is not.
Jewish law is not, contrary to popular misconception, set in stone. It is an evolving process which began with the early Talmudists and continues to this day, taking into account new developments in science and understanding in the secular world."
- Jenny Goodman, 
A Jewish Perspective on Circumcision.

"The Jewish opposition to circumcision was just beginning 24 years ago when my wife Yehudit and I decided to leave our newborn son intact. We were not the only Jewish parents of our generation to reject circumcision, but we were among the first.
I performed my son’s birth ceremony and it was beautiful. We called it a brit b’lee milah or “covenant without circumcision.” The gift of life came unencumbered by any cutting and joy permeated the room...
Samuel was accepted and welcomed everywhere he went, in and out of the Jewish community, and within all of the relationships we had among the different Jewish denominations, including our Orthodox Jewish friends. To my knowledge, no one ever teased Samuel while he was growing up about his being in a distinct minority as a Jew with an intact penis....
Samuel’s birth ceremony was the first that I conducted, but would not be the last. Over the past several decades, I have officiated at more than a hundred birth ceremonies for intact Jewish boys in New York City, New Jersey and Connecticut. The ceremony I have developed includes blessings associated with it being a joyous event (candle lighting and Shehechiyanu); honoring the parents and grandparents; and creating, along with the parents, a meaningful alternate ritual. Non-cutting ceremonies for Jewish boys are called by different names, including “brit b’lee milah” (covenant without cutting), “brit shalom” or “bris shalom” (covenant of peace), “brit ben” (covenant for a boy)...
Judaism has evolved through centuries. It is inevitable and right that parts of Judaism have changed. We who oppose infant circumcision believe further change is needed. Circumcision, despite its historic centrality, has to go. It is nothing short of child abuse. No parent or religious leader would ever choose to carry out or endorse such a heinous act if they held this point of view."
- Moshe Rothenberg, Bringing a Jewish Circumcision Alternative (Brit Shalom) to New York Metro Families,, March 17, 2012.

“It's been a (long) half month since George's birthday, birthday party and naming ceremony. The week was a little harried, a little different than I'd imagined, but in the end everything worked out beautifully. The fog lifted in San Francisco just in time for George's aunties to make it and in the absence of challah or a mohel, my baby got his Hebrew name just the same.
When I was researching the bris shalom, I found very few resources online for parents who, like us, were trying to welcome and name their son… We 
found some scripts and sat down together to craft a ceremony with only the meaningful-to-us and none of the extras or concessions. The result was a short, sweet and informal gathering with babies running around, friends and family sharing well wishes, bread and honey and -- most importantly -- an intact baby boy with a brand-spankin'-new Hebrew name. Here is the script. I realize this won't be a riveting post for most people, but my hope is that someone might stumble across it while researching for their own son's bris shalom, and find a useful bit or support for the somewhat thankless task of naming an intact Jewish boy…”
- Stefanie, 
The NamingVery, Very Fine, December 29, 2010. 

"Twenty-five years ago my husband and I did something few Jewish parents had. We held a brit shalom ceremony for our son as opposed to a brit milah... We had a friend who was a rabbi in education, but without a pulpit. It was novel for him to do a brit without mila, but he was willing to do it and risk it. There was also a rabbi in Marin County who was known to do a brit shalom. He was known as a hippie rabbi. He also was willing to do this for us. So we had two rabbis.... My son was around eight when he learned about circumcision and the fact he is intact.... I explained to him what circumcision is, and that it was novel that he was Jewish and not circumcised because we opposed it. I don’t think he minded not being circumcised. I think he was appalled that anyone would have considered cutting off part of his penis... Being intact hasn’t stopped my son from being involved with Judaism. He had a bar mitzvah and did the whole service except for Shachrit, including a dvar Torah.... He did a Kohn internship here when he was an undergrad, working for Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA). He did a year of modern Hebrew at college (that is all they offered). He currently goes to Hillel or to a local synagogue every Shabbat in Ann Arbor where he is a grad student. When he’s home he is eager to go to Torah study with uson Saturday mornings at the Reform congregation. For someone his age who was not raised as an Orthodox Jew, he is very knowledgeable about Judaism and very interested... Choosing to leave our boy intact hasn’t diminished our Jewish involvement. My husband and I belong to two congregations in Palo Alto, California. We’ve belonged to the Conservative synagogue for at least 25 years and are associate members of the Reform temple where we attend Torah study. I am a member of the Jewish Community Relations Council."
- Natalie Bivas, 
Choosing Brit Shalom Over Brit Milah,, April 24, 2012.

“When you take the religion out of circumcision, and really look at what the procedure actually involves, it is easy to see why more and more people are choosing to leave their sons intact. I thank my lucky stars for the Internet and the information it provided me on circumcision (as well as a million other mommy related questions). The Internet has allowed me to question the status quo; to find out why things are the way they are. A privilege our foremothers did not have. For me, the mere thought of giving birth to my precious baby at home without any medical intervention and then cutting off a part of his body eight days later just seemed absurd. I told myself that if G-d created my son with a foreskin, then he was going to keep it.”
 - Stacey Greenberg, 
My Son: The Little Jew with a Foreskin, Mothering Magazine.

“I knew we weren’t the first Jewish parents to keep our child intact; what did everyone else do? The internet provided a fewexamples of Bris shalom ceremonies… Since our Bris shalom, I’ve run across others in the same predicament; I’ve had conversations about whether or not we made the right choice (we did), if my son is “actually Jewish” (he is), and if we would make the same choice again (we would). The only thing I would change is my own hesitation. If there’s anything the past year and a half of parenting has taught me, it’s to trust the instincts that keep my child safe and happy.… And when our son inevitably holds us accountable, as kids seem wont to do, I look forward to saying, “We thought you were already perfect,” rather than “It seemed like the thing to do.”
- Pamela, 
Intact and Jewish, Natural Parents Network, July 14th, 2011.

"...for a number of reasons—personal, social, and political, Steph and I have decided not to perform a bris milah, but instead wanted to have a welcoming ceremony—a bris shalom or bris b’li milah (a ceremony without cutting). In following this part of ancient Jewish custom, we mark the beginning of our commitment to raise him in the Jewish cultural tradition... By this ceremony your mother and I formally welcome you to our world and our family. As we name you today we undertake our traditional responsibilities as your parents to take you forward into the world as we know it, to love you, to guide you, to educate you, and to cherish you. You are whole, complete, and perfect. We promise you, before our family gathered here today in your honor, to do our very best for you each and every day hereafter."
- Lar, 
The Bris Shalom Ceremony.

“Sorry to disappoint, but that's the end of our story. Or at least the end of the story of Zachary's bris. There was no circumcision on that day. We had decided not to circumcise our son. Although he enters a world filled with violence, he would enter it without violence done to him. Although he will no doubt suffer many cuts and scrapes during his life, he would not bleed by our hand… We welcomed Zachary into our family on that morning without a circumcision. We decided that we want him to live in a world without violence, so we welcomed him without violence. We decided that we want him to live in world in which he is free to experience the fullness of the pleasures of his body, so we welcomed him with all his fleshy nerves intact. And we decided that we want him to live in a world in which male entitlement is a waning memory, and in which women and men are seen--in both ritual and in reality--as full equals and partners. So we welcomed him equally, his mother and I, in the time-honored way that desert cultures have always welcomed strangers to their tents: We washed his feet.”
 - Michael S. Kimmel, 2001. 
The Kindest Un-Cut: Feminism, Judaism, and My Son's Foreskin. Tikkun 16(3): 43.  


Jewish Intactivist Link List

Peaceful Covenant Texts for Jewish Parents.HowJudaic is the circumcision? An Israeli Hebrew scholar on Biblical intactivism.100+ Rabbis who lead covenant without cutting ceremonies worldwide.
Naming and Welcoming Ceremony on the Birth of a Child by Rabbi Jay B. Heyman, D.D.
Brit B'lee Milah Ceremony
A Brit Shalom Ceremony
Song for an Intact Jewish Boy’s Welcoming. 

Judaism, the Foreskin and Human Rights.Rabbis on a Covenant without Circumcision
Jewish Law, the Foreskin, and Human Rights | Part 1.Jewish Law, the Foreskin, and Human Rights | Part 2.Jewish Law, the Foreskin, and Human Rights | Part 3.

Jewish Intactivist Families: Jewish Parents' Experiences Keeping their Sons Intact.
Laura Shanley: A Jewish Woman Denounces Circumcision | A Jewish Childbirth Educator keeps her sons intact.Moshe Rothenberg: Ending Circumcision in the Jewish Community? | Envisioning an Intactivist Judaism..Michael Kimmel: The Kindest Un-Cut: Feminism, Judaism, and My Son's Foreskin | Published in Tikkun. Intact & Jewish | Published on the Natural Parents Network.The Naming | Published on Very, Very FineDiane Targovnik: How "Cut" Saved My Son's Foreskin: A Movie Review | Published on Beyond the Bris.Humanistic Judaism is Increasingly Intactivist.Circumcision Questions (letter from an intact Jew). |  Published in the Northern California Jewish Bulletin.
Outlawing Circumcision: Good for the Jews? By Eli Ungar-Sargon. Published in the Jewish Daily Forward. 
Dear Elijah: A Conservative Jewish Father's Letter to His Intact Son | Published on Peaceful Parenting.Stacey Greenberg: My Son: The Little Jew with a Foreskin | Published in Mothering Magazine.

Jewish Intactivism

Echoes of a Friend

It's easy to find a lot of articles about healthy body images. Even chatter about post-partum bodies and motherhood are cropping up around the internet.

And in general, I've always felt I had a healthy body image. I'm still unsure exactly how or why, but I missed out on the body weight and beauty issues many girls struggle with during childhood and adolescence. Later, stunned by the power of pregnancy and birth and the beauty of breastfeeding, I thought motherhood was wonderful, too.

But here's something I let creep up on me, sadly. It slipped into my conscious slowly, became a part of me late at night while listening to the soft rise and fall of my children as they breathed in their sleep and thinking too much. It whispered to me as I read articles and discussed female topics online. It bared itself whenever I chatted with girlfriends.

Looking in the mirror, I can easily pat my big butt and feel fine about the padding. Fat is not a bad word in our house. Fat is like a comfy, lived in home. The stretch marks don't look pretty to me, but they don't define me or depress me. The hard work my body has done brings me satisfaction and security.

But the mirror can't reflect one aspect. It can't reflect the inner meaning and conscious view of my fertility, of how my individual body works. The mirror didn't bounce back an image of a strong mama body or a fecund and loving mother. It was silent, leaving me to stew in a negative mindset about how I return to cycling and fertile cycles almost immediately after birth.

"Defective," the mirror whispered to me one day. Every good naturalist knows that an early return to fertility after pregnancy is defective. Women are biologically intended to have a space after birth without cycling.

"Toxic, broken, polluted," the mirror continued its mantra another time. Clearly my body was burdened and broken, a sign that I wasn't doing enough for my own health.

"Stressed and out of balance with the world," it spoke to me quietly, as if insinuating that mental health and wellness was entirely our responsibility, as if a broken body could be healed by sheer will of mind. Remember that study finding girls menstruate sooner if impoverished or stressed? Clearly I was at fault here for not living a better and more peaceful lifestyle.

"Irresponsible, careless, selfish," the mirror exclaimed, hitting my heart hard. No mama wants to hear that her recklessness or selfishness is hurting her children. As all the hippies point out, you can't care for other children adequately or love them enough or meet their needs enough if you have children closer than the correct 3 year space. What was I thinking?

What had become of my light-hearted way of living? What had happened to my general acceptance and happiness about my body? I'm still not quite sure how I stumbled into such negative thinking in this topic, but I was in it, and deeply. My husband patiently tried to steer me away, his words of affirmation crowding around me, trying to lift me up but only floating away, dismissed as obligatory phrases that any good partner would say. And his words barely held weight against the hundreds of comments and articles I allowed myself to read, the comments clucking, asking if I had checked my thyroid, and had I tried GAPS? And what about going back to 100% grain free living? Or maybe it's my MTHFR defect and I need additional testing and supplementation. Maybe I'm breastfeeding the wrong way. Cluck, cluck, what a terrible disease to have.

Something changed one day. It was a small, imperceptible change. Like a thin crack running along a wall that looks harmless but actually runs all the way through to the other side.

Sitting on a picnic blanket at the park, enjoying the pleasant breeze and sunlight, watching my children run around at the playground, my friend piped up randomly. "Isn't it amazing?"

I turned to look at her. "What?"

She continued on, "Isn't it amazing, your body. That you can care for your children and breastfeed them. And nourish big babies during pregnancy. And have them so close together and it all works out for you."

The crack was rushing along, sliding through a dark mind without much notice from me in the moment. Distracted by the kids and uncomfortable with the topic, I think I mumbled out a basic, "Yeah" and moved on from the discussion. I didn't think about it again for a long time. But during that time, something had changed.

A few days later, I was looking into that mirror to take a baby bump photo. I heard her words all of a sudden. They surprised me, sounding foreign in a mind that had turned negative. I turned this way and that, looking at my bump. And I saw deeper than tiger marks and flab. "I'm so healthy," I said it to myself unexpectedly. The words seemed to well up awkwardly, hesitatingly. Feeling strange, I walked away quickly and tried to stay busy throughout the day.

Days passed, a week maybe. Then one morning I was at the grocery store and my toddler slipped against the cart. He instantly began screaming so I latched him on for a comfort nurse. A lady passed by, stopped, looked. She asked me, "How can you do that while pregnant?" In moments such as these, I would take on an apologetic tone, as if what I was doing represented failure. I heard my friend's words again, circling around and around. "It's cool, isn't it? I can take care of at least 3 at once this way!" I blurted it out with a startled smile. She smiled and walked away.

That crack made it all the way around my mind and heart. It split off into smaller cracks and those cracks fed more lines, spreading through the dark band I had somehow allowed to enclose me, until a wall fell down. It wasn't as overbearing and obvious as I'd expect, but it happened. I'm feeling more like my positive self now and I'm going to be a little more vigilant of what sneaks into my internal dialogue. It just goes to show that working on self-care is a process, not a state of being that remains the same over many years.

These days when I sit at the park, appreciating the soft breeze and the sun, trying to be present for my children, I include myself in the experience.

Photo credit: Kate B.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Moment of Transformation While Nursing

Here I am, nursing my firstborn, Zon, when she was about 8 months old. It was one of my more lasting memories about nursing in public as we were at a very busy, very large water park and some people had already made little remarks when they saw me sitting down to nurse her. My husband said, "Let me take some photos to capture your transformation into a stronger person." And so I have several beautiful reminders that motherhood has raised me up, empowered me and set me on a journey far richer than any career path.

Do you have a favorite moment of transformation in your parenting? Feel free to send in a photo and caption to be shared!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

14 Ways to Celebrate Siblings

Is your family growing? Here are 14 ways to promote sibling bonding and acknowledge the new roles of each family member.

1. Read books together. Find a book, DVD, CD or make your own that celebrates aspects of your unique family situation. Spend time together talking about the new changes and roles of everyone in the family.

2. Take photos together. Eager to capture that growing belly? Remember to capture the growing siblings, too. Include them in family sessions and ask for their ideas on poses!

Handprinted with love!
Didn't come out as quixotic as intended but she LOVED it.

3. Prepare together. Include siblings in decorating, purchasing, birth discussions and share research when age-appropriate, or adapt it to make it accessible to all ages. Include them in prenatal visits and testing when possible.

(And remember to use non-VOC paint!)

4. Continue to breastfeed. If healthy for you emotionally/physically, consider breastfeeding during pregnancy.

5. For more than one sibling, consider tandem nursing during pregnancy, too.

6. Keep sleeping arrangements, potty learning, food patterns, etc the same. A new baby often prompts parents to want to go into full shake-it-up mode. Nothing startles a toddler more than having his or her entire world turned upside down for the arrival of another person. Affirm the other siblings in their status and needs by keeping the routine as normal as possible (within necessary reason obviously). Instead of booting the child to a new room, consider a family bed. Instead of forced potty training, consider waiting until after the baby is born.

No one gets left behind at night. (But please remember not to leave
little ones unsupervised when together like this.)

If possible, keep all positions, sleeping arrangements and "spots" such
as in the car and at the table, the same when the baby arrives. Attach
change to milestones. In this case here, DD will move to a new spot
and forward face for her birthday, not for her sibling.

7. Birth together. Even if preparing for a hospital birth, even if you are worried about scaring the other children, you can still find a way to include them such as just early on when contractions are light or before you pack and leave. Make it a clear, positive transition, not a scary and abrupt one.

8. During labor (especially if the children are unable to be present) have them color pictures, make cards and hang a banner for the new baby.

9. After birth, have a Baby Birthday Bash. Include the siblings in cake baking. Have them pick out a gift ahead of time and wrap it for the new baby.

10. But during the Bash, celebrate the siblings. Have Big Sibling Gifts ready. Have excitement, encouragement and attention ready. 

11. Enlist the help of relatives and friends. Remind them to make eye contact, smile and say hello to the older siblings BEFORE oohhing over the baby. Sounds simple, but it's a small gesture and often a forgotten one. You will come to notice that most people completely overlook the other children, going right to the baby. Or if they do acknowledge the sibling, it will only be in relation to the baby. "Aren't you a good big sister" or "You must be a happy big brother." Remind other adults to give direct attention to the other children. And when it's happening, gently steer the conversation by talking about the other child's interests and current events.

12. Tell closer relatives and friends to bring a trinket or treat for the other sibling if they are bringing something for the baby. Nothing like being a little kid, watching people come over with gifts and ohs and ahs and just standing there, forgotten. If it's socially inappropriate for you to ask, then keep a discreet box of little toys and healthy but sweet treats (colorbooks, bouncy balls, granola bars, fruit packs, etc) to have something magically appear for the other children. This is also a great idea for times when you really need to care for the newborn or the older child is getting antsy and bored.

13. Keep nursing together. It doesn't have to be every time, and it doesn't have to be for a long time. But commit to a few tandem nursing sessions for bonding. 

14. Babywear together during and after pregnancy. Experiment a bit to find what works for you. Even if done rarely, more as a novelty or gesture for the older child, it can still speak volumes.

Depending on age and ability, consider sibling wearing, too!

Do you have ideas on promoting sibling bonding, reducing rivalry and meeting the needs of each person in a growing family? Please comment and share it with us! If you have photos of sibling bonding that you'd like to share, feel free to email hem and I will add them!

Birth Control and Breastfeeding: The Silent Topic for World Breastfeeding Week

The variety of information and educational outreach during World Breastfeeding Week is amazing! I've seen articles, memes, studies and even youtube videos promoting every aspect of breastfeeding that you can think of, from history to art, culture to science.

But I find it a little disappointing that one topic remains hidden. And when teased out, met with resistance and polarized fighting. In a community where we carefully analyze every detail, even down to the finer routes of exposure for toxins, why the knee-jerk response to hide our heads in the sand?

Breastfeeding and (hormonal) birth control. People are quick to say it's been proven safe and proven effective. They are quick to say hormonal contraceptives won't interfere with breastfeeding as long as you use the right ones. They are quick to dismiss the many anecdotal accounts that say otherwise and even quicker to ignore the hand of Big Pharma in this topic.

Big Pharma...bad in our births. Bad in our vaccines. Bad in our food. Just ignore them for our fertility health? Hmm.

I tried digging around in this topic at the request of a friend today and I sunk so deep into the stinking pit that I couldn't quite decide on how to narrow the scope of such a huge pile of crud. So here are just some basic angles that I skipped across, shared to give you food for thought.

Big Pharma, Birth Control and Formula

So, a lot of people in this natural community dislike "Big Pharma" in general as it's nicknamed. The companies involved are often viewed as suspicious, their products low quality and their studies most likely flawed or tainted with conflict of interest. Scientists and business employees switch from company to company and even move back and forth in our government. It's a big nest for money or scientific fame. That's no different when it comes to this topic. Has anyone noticed that many of the companies or conglomerates responsible for hormonal contraceptives also make or sell infant formula?

We're quick to point out the conflict of interest and ethical problem of, say, Dr. Offit making a vaccine but also sitting on a board and voting for that vaccine.

What about companies making hormonal contraceptives and then making infant formula? Or otherwise promoting, selling and profiting from these two topics?

Teva Pharmaceuticals owns Barr, which owns Duramed. Duramed makes several contraceptives including Paragard and Seasonale. The entire structure also includes about a dozen estrogen mixes including Apri, Aranelle, Enpresse, etc:,7340,L-4089073,00.html
"Materna and Similac face competition: The Teva pharmaceutical company, which specializes in generic drugs, will begin marketing Nutricia's breast milk substitutes in Israel in late 2011."

Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals, maker of the infamous Yaz, Yasmin and Mirena brands, owns Bayer Australia, which produces Novolac infant formula:

Merck & Co. Need I say more? Merck produces NuvaRing and Implanon. And also supplies the mineral mixes used in infant formulas:

Also noteworthy is the Ortho-Mcneil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals group, maker of a handful of contraceptive brands including Ortho-Trycyclen, which is under Johnson & Johnson (yes, that one) which is now partnered with Merck:

Warner Chilcott and Bristol-Meyer Squibbs both produce several brands of hormonal contraceptives. They also entered into a mutually beneficial agreement to promote each other. BMS sells infant formula and has a majority ownership of Mead Johnson (Enfamil):

Perrigo produces levonorgestrel, used in many brands of contraceptives:
"PBM Holdings is the world's largest manufacturer and marketer of infant formulas for the store brand market. All cash transaction with a purchase price of $808 million. Acquisition expected to add approximately $300 million of sales in first full fiscal year."

Abbott Laboratories (Similac) gets its hands in the cookie jar by owning Knoll Pharmaceuticals:

Pfizer. (Another, need I say more??) The company produces Depo Provera. And infant formula:

Nestle [Gerber] and Pfizer also go together when it comes to feeding China's babies:
"NestlĂ©, the world's biggest food maker, was not the only firm interested in Pfizer's baby-food business. Danone, its big French rival (which is said to have teamed up with Mead Johnson, an American maker of baby food), was also in the running. Yet the Swiss giant had the deeper pockets—and so won the bidding war. On April 23rd NestlĂ© announced that it would buy Pfizer Nutrition for $11.85 billion, or nearly 20 times its estimated EBITDA"

So that's just a taste of Big Pharma and its roots in birth control and breastfeeding based on how much I was able to dig up while the kids were napping.

No Evidence of still no evidence

When it comes to breastfeeding and birth control, every time I broach the topic, I get responses that everything is proven safe and effective. But just a quick smidge of digging seems to say the complete opposite. When big medical organisations are saying the topic is controversial, it's definitely time to reconsider the topic!

American Family Physicians (a lobbying organisation like AAP and ACOG) released a statement on some kinds of hormonal contraceptives. The nuggets in this article are too many to pick out in one blog post and I encourage you to read it carefully and fully:

Here are just a couple highlights for your pleasure:

"Clinical Question

Is breastfeeding safe for infants if their mothers use combined oral contraceptives?

Evidence-Based Answer

There is currently no evidence of harm; however, few patients have been studied and existing studies have many limitations. Therefore, it is not possible to definitively answer this question at this time. The existing low-quality evidence suggests that combined oral contraceptives may reduce the volume of breast milk but not affect the growth of infants. [Strength of Recommendation: B, based on inconsistent or limited-quality patient-oriented evidence]"
"Despite the fact that this was the largest and most recent of the three studies in the Cochrane review (it included 171 women and was published in 1984), the data should be interpreted with caution because the loss-to-follow-up rate was greater than 30 percent in both groups. In addition, most of the participants in the trials were using supplemental feedings by the 12th week postpartum; these could have masked any detrimental effect the combined oral contraceptives had on infant growth. The Cochrane reviewers concluded that the evidence from the existing randomized controlled trials was inadequate to make recommendations regarding the effects of hormonal contraceptives in lactation."
For my readers interested in the theory of "vaccinate 'em so young you can't tell the difference" here's a similar situation in the contraceptive topic:
"By week 6, 23.5% of women discontinued breast-feeding, and 64.5% of those breast-feeding were supplementing.
This study demonstrates that there is no detectable adverse impact on breast-feeding attributable to progestin-only contraceptive methods initiated within the first 3 days post partum."

And once again, we have our modern medical system giving the go-ahead before the evidence. Just use us all as guinea pigs and it will be sorted out later:
"Right now, information is too limited to say whether breastfeeding women should use hormonal birth control or not." (So go ahead, everyone get on it right at 6 weeks PP!)

Anyways, that's a wrap for now. I know I get beat up pretty badly whenever I broach the topic of HRTs (Hormonal Replacement Therapies). But I would be hypocritical if I didn't mention them. And I'm not going to let World Breastfeeding Week pass by without mentioning one of the most common events for the American woman...going onto a hormonal replacement therapy 6 weeks after her baby is born.

Here are a few familiar resources discussing breastfeeding and birth control:


Department of Health: 

Monday, August 5, 2013

St. Louis Children's Hospital Tells Parents to Harm Their Sons (UPDATE!)

UPDATE! St. Louis Children's Hospital crafted a response that they copy/pasted in reply to everyone who posted on their Facebook wall:

It appears they have edited the online version of their statement, removing the erroneous retraction advice and replacing it with a short blurb on being "uncircumcised."

Also note that Brother K has organized a rally on October 1st! Please join us in front of The St. Louis Children's Hospital to spread awareness in a sorely needed area. Missouri circumcision rate remains one of the highest in the country and with hospitals and doctors like this, it's no wonder! Rally details here:

Take a look at what a large hospital is mailing to its local residents under the guise of helpful parenting advice:

Thank you to reader Eileen C from St. Louis, MO, who shared this with me!)

In an upbeat, seemingly authoritative newsletter called Kids Today, The St. Louis Children's Hospital solicits neonatal circumcision surgery and then takes it another step farther by pushing some of the most outdated, damaging foreskin care you can find. Most parents who research the circumcision topic have probably heard of the medically inaccurate advice to retract or wash under their young child's foreskin. But this hospital had to go farther, recommending a thorough drying underneath before replacing the foreskin. It's hard to conjure up something not only more damaging, but also more torturous!

To add to the gravity, the beloved AAP which is cited several times in this small article is suddenly ignored at the end. Even the AAP has basic guidelines on caring for foreskins. You can read their statement here:

"Most boys will be able to retract their foreskins by the time they are 5 years old, yet others will not be able to until the teen years. As a boy becomes more aware of his body, he will most likely discover how to retract his own foreskin. But foreskin retraction should never be forced. Until the foreskin fully separates, do not try to pull it back. Forcing the foreskin to retract before it is ready can cause severe pain, bleeding, and tears in the skin."

Parents: this kind of marketing to drum up circumcision business at a big hospital just goes to show that you have to be the one to take charge. Do the research. Be prepared. Don't expect hospitals and doctors to choose the health of your son over their business needs. It's still buyer beware for the consumer, even when it comes to doctors and hospitals.

More about circumcision:

How many babies must die?

Large list of circumcision links divided by topic (pain, statistics, infections, sex, etc)

Circumcision and sexual disease:

What if my son has already been retracted?

What can you do if a doctor or other medical employee harmed your son?

How to care for a boy with a normal (intact) penis:

Saturday, August 3, 2013

When Two Become Three, Four, Five...

I was enjoying a chiropractic adjustment yesterday. (Seriously, my chiropractor has magical hands that wipe away the piriformis/sciatic pain). She's pregnant, too, with her second. And she asked me about a really common concern that I think probably every single parent at some point has wondered: when I add another child to our family, will I be able to give enough attention to the new addition?

How will I bond with and love the new child as much as the first? How could I ever spend enough time on the new one? The new baby will never have only me. I'll be busy running after the toddler or tired out from being a mother this long already.

There's certainly nothing wrong with voicing those fears. And you can find countless articles and memes on that perspective. I wanted to mention something else that I don't often hear, though.

Worry about bonding with your older child(ren). Worry about spending enough time with the older ones. Worry about giving your first child your undivided attention. Worry about saving your energy and patience for them.

See, I can't speak exclusively or absolutely for all parents in all situations, but in general, it's actually quite easy to bond, love and dote on a newborn. Their demands are basic and clear. They need you, quite literally, to survive. They need you every moment. You won't find a moment when a newborn refuses your care and attention. Holding a tiny, vulnerable bundle in your arms, filled with oxytocin from birth and breastfeeding, you could sit and stare into your newborn's face for an hour. It won't be hard to find the time or will to love your newest.

But it will be awfully easy to miss that time for your other child. Their needs don't seem very, well, necessary. Breastfeeding for example starts to feel like an additional comfort or luxury, not a matter of keeping someone alive. Anyone could make lunch for your toddler. He has other friends to keep him entertained. Daddy can tuck him in at night. When he's grumpy or upset, Grandma can give him a hug. Toys, books, playdates and even TV or gadgets fill his every waking hour, and at night you find with a little nudge, he'll sleep through or sleep on his own.

You're not really necessary, and you're so tired from holding your newborn and you feel touched out from all that breastfeeding. It's just too easy to let go...and in fact isn't everyone telling you it's time for the toddler to grow up, be independent, cut the cord?

Take time for your first child. Find the time. Make the time. You won't regret it. Those moments when you set the newborn down for a nap and cuddle with your older children are precious. And as your children grow older, moments like that are fleeting. They still need you in different and new ways. What you'll find, as well, is that you still need them. Your journey doesn't end at one stage of parenting. You are still learning and growing with every stage. Grow together, a testament not only to your love for the older one, but also affirming to your younger one, to show that no one can outgrow a parent's love.


Tandem nursing:

Triandem nursing:

Siblings at birth:

Celebrating big siblings: