Category: Feed With Love and Respect

How We Night Weaned

By , June 13, 2014 9:33 am

With my first five kids I left night weaning for last. It seemed like such an easy way to handle night wakings.  And it seemed (rightly so) to be the hardest nursing sessions to give up. But of course they just started ramping up their night nursing to make up for the missed ones in the day. Toddlers don’t mind missing the day sessions: there are toys and food and dogs and chickens and episodes of their favorite shows during the day. Day weaning is easy. So I took the low hanging fruit. But night time became a living hell.

More and more nursing…less and less sleep. So with Mars (six time’s a charm!) I decided to night wean as soon as I noticed he would easily be distracted from a once-beloved day time session; which was about 15 months. He had clear words and signs to express himself. He understood our words and directions. Having phrases and rituals that accompanied the start of nursing and the end of a session were important for us even in the day time. “One minute na na” became our phrase for “you may latch on for a minute or two, but I will ask you to latch off soon” he would nod his head and put up one finger to indicate he understood the terms before latching on. After he had a little milk, I would tell him “we are going to latch off in one minute” and he would nod and put up his finger again. After another minute I would say “we are latching off in 10, 9, 8…3, 2, 1… Latch off please!” And sometimes he objected and I might need to repeat my request in a firmer tone and shift my body to indicate that I was preparing to vacate my seat…but very often he would happily latch off and scamper off to play.

Nursing session that were intended to produce naps or were allowed to be as long as he liked were called “Bed Bed na na’s” and meant laying down, body contact, blankets…the whole comfy deal either in bed or someplace cozy. He still craved the unlimited contact with me that he had been getting at night from nursing, so giving him that on my terms during the day allowed us both to get our needs met.

So, what does ANY of this have to do with night weaning? With our clear communication since 15 months, it became easy for him to understand that nursing had some boundaries and that we negotiated before the session so the expectations were clear on both ends. Going to bed was a Bed Bed session. Subsequent wakings were one minute sessions and latch off meant rolling over to face away from me or going to daddy, but latching off had to happen. And he got it pretty quickly!

So then we began introducing the “Not Now. See Daddy” session and Sir Hubby committed himself to doing what it took to comforting him: singing, walking, a cup or bottle of coconut milk, warm tea, or water.

So I picked my times:

Bedtime = A long Bed Bed session.

Before midnight = One session of one minute.

12-6am = Daddy.

6-8am another one minute if he woke.

So by 17 months Mars didn’t ask for nursing at night. Or when he did, he was very quickly and easily redirected to see Daddy or even sometimes would simply go back to sleep. The key was our daytime nursing communication and trust! He knew he could count on me to mean what I said, to communicate clearly with him, and to be respectful of my own boundaries AND his needs.

Master Tonic aka Fire Cider: For Your Health!

By , March 27, 2014 10:01 pm
Freshly Made Anti-Plague Formula!

Anti-Plague Formula! Fire Cider! Master Tonic! Whatever you call it, viruses don’t stand a chance against it!

Want to keep your family healthy? This is an incredibly powerful way to heal your gut, bolster your immune system, and colonize your body with kick-ass pro-bugs. After this is ready, we bottle it up and use it in our salad dressing (mix a tad of balsamic and maple syrup…amazing!) We use it as a marinade for venison and other local, sustainable meats. I also make a warm honey-lemon tea and add a spoonful of this for everyday use. Even the baby will drink it that way!

So, here’s whatcha need to make it yourself! (I got the original recipe from Heal Thyself and have added a few personal touches along the way!)

1 part fresh chopped garlic cloves (antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antiparasitical)

1 part fresh chopped white onions, or the hottest onions available (similar properties to garlic)

1 part fresh grated ginger root (increases circulation to the extremities)

1 part fresh grated horseradish root (increases blood flow to the head and sinuses)

1 part fresh chopped Cayenne peppers, Jalapenos, Serranos, Habeneros….any combination of the hottest peppers available

  • Preparation

I use a full cup of each of these ingredients…but I am making a gallon of master tonic for a family of six.  I begin this formula on the NEW moon and bottle on the FULL moon, (approximately 14 days). I do this on the last new moon of September so that it is ready for the fall cold and flu season. I begin another batch on the first new moon of the new year since we are almost out of our fall batch by then.

Fill a glass jar with equal parts of the fresh chopped/grated ingredients.  Then cover completely with raw unfiltered, undistilled apple cider vinegar (aka ACV). I use Brags ACV.

Close and shake vigorously. Top off with more ACV if necessary. Keep the jar in a cool, dark place for 2 weeks.

Shake or swirl the tonic daily.

On day 14 you can filter the mixture through a clean piece of cotton straight into smaller mason jars for storage (I make a few jelly jar sized ones since I know I will end up gifting folks with a few over the months!) After straining it will keep indefinitely at room temperature. Store in a dark place if possible (I keep mine in my herb cabinet with all of the other tinctures) I feed the leftover strained pulp to my chickens. 

1/2 to 1 ounce, two or more times daily, as needed.

Girl Talk Workshops

By , December 6, 2012 4:54 pm

The summer session is scheduled to begin on July 13th 2013. Girl Talk’s goal is to empower, educate, and support 9-17 year old girls as they journey toward womanhood. This 6-week course will cover the biology, the history, the legacy, the commercialization, and the power of the female menstrual cycle while creating community and a safe space. Each class will be $20 or the entire course will be $100 if pre-paid. The fee includes supplies as well as ongoing support long after the course is complete! To register for the class or buy a gift certificate for a young lady in your life, please write to me at GirlTalk@stateoftheheart.n et

This Girl Talk Workshop is the class you WISH you had taken when you were young! Join me for this 6 week course on menstruation;  honoring their femininity; finding their power; discovering traditions from history and other cultures; creating self-empowering rituals; and embracing their authentic selves!
This Girl Talk Workshop will be facilitated by me, Justine Julian! My educational background includes anthropology, sociology, psychology and theatre. My professional training is in parent education,  pregnancy & childbirth support, midwifery, and child development.  My most important training and experience has been spent “in the field” while parenting my own 6 children over the last 24 years (including a fantastic 18 year old daughter who has taught me tons about the complicated and amazing journey into womanhood).
We will also be joined by Kathryn Hamilton who is a Fertility Awareness Method facilitator. She has also studied herbalism with Susun Weed and is a passionate advocate for healthy body image and body awareness for young women in our culture.
****While this workshop will be about very intimate aspects of womanhood, this particular workshop will NOT cover topics like sexual education. All of the material we cover in class will be age appropriate for girls in the 9-17 age range. Additional resources or internet pages may be sent home for YOU to research or share with the student to facilitate further discussion and ongoing learning. Some of these resources MAY incidentally contain more mature subject material.

Kids Want to Do What We Do!

By , March 1, 2012 3:21 pm

Bug Cooks a Healthy Dinner for the Family

I have been getting a ton of questions about toddler behavior, household chores, and picky eating lately. I have one answer for all three: Kids WANT to do what we do. But how does that work exactly? What on earth do I mean? How can doing what we do change the behavior of toddlers and children?

Let’s start at the beginning: I encourage babywearing right from the start. Not only because it facilitates successful breastfeeding, regulates infant body functions, provides neurological benefits, makes parents’ lives easier or because slings and wraps and mei tai’s are so beautiful and cool…but because it is the child’s first classroom.

So many parents spend their day doing little else but playing with the baby (or toddler, or both) We have been lead to believe that this sort of constant intellectual and educational stimulation provides myriad benefits for our kids and will make them smarter, more capable, and happier. And we have all been told that Play IS the Work of Childhood. I agree…but more on that later. Additionally, a great deal of effort is spent each day to get our little people down for a nap so that parents can finally get some work done. However, we do a great disservice to our children and ourselves when we scurry about during nap time doing the work of running a household. Instead, nap time (if you are fortunate enough to still have a napper!) should be spent resting or replenishing our own batteries; reading, writing, connecting with friends, stalking around on Pinterest, taking a shower, or (gasp) even snuggling up for a nap with our little ones! Or for those of us who have been fortunate enough to earn income while being at home with our children, perhaps we can make those last few phone calls in silence, finish up our online banking, or crank out a few more listings for our Etsy shop. Teaching our children (of any age) that magic fairies come in while they are asleep/out of the house and transform our homes and work spaces into clean, functional areas is not helping them to be engaged, aware, and responsible household members when they get older and we DO want their help. Additionally, we don’t do any them any favors when we constantly martyr ourselves and complain about our workload. Joyfully engaging in the work we participate in will encourage others to enthusiastically join in. I highly recommend checking out Radical Ideas About Chores to get some ideas of what I am aiming at here.

Instead, include your baby and toddler in the running of a household. They WANT to do what we do. Instead of setting up an Us vs Them situation in our households, we need to expose our children to what we do on a daily basis. Modeling the work of the day…whether that is household, school work, or earning income while at home… provides them with the connection they are craving from you. Talk to your child while you go about your routine. Explain what you are doing, why, how it makes you feel, how you learned to do it, what the alternatives are, what tools you need to do it, etc… *(see note below)

Jean Liedloff, Author of The Continuum Concept, sums up this idea succinctly in her article entitled Who’s In Control:

…because a toddler wants to learn what his people do, he expects to be able to center his attention on an adult who is centered on her own business. An adult who stops whatever she is doing and tries to ascertain what her child wants her to do is short-circuiting this expectation. Just as significantly, she appears to the tot not to know how to behave, to be lacking in confidence and, even more alarmingly, looking for guidance from him, a two or three year old who is relying on her to be calm, competent, and sure of herself. A toddler’s fairly predictable reaction to parental uncertainty is to push his parents even further off-balance, testing for a place where they will stand firm and thus allay his anxiety about who is in charge.

I certainly don’t want this to sound like it is direct conflict with Attachment Parenting principles–it is not. It is perfectly in line with AP and instills a great deal of trust and confidence in children. Liedloff is not advocating for ignoring the needs of a child in leui of completing adult work.  In her work with the Yequana tribe of South America, she observes a lack of  terrible twos, tantrums, selfishness, destructiveness, and recklessness that we call normal toddler behavior here in the Western world.  Equally, she does not find the adults to be nagging, constantly disciplining, or creating endless boundaries for toddlers. There did not seem to be an adversarial relationship between parent and child. Her conclusion? That being held and worn frequently by an adult who was simply going about adult business taught children from the earliest of ages about how to act and behave confidently in the culture. Whatever your adult business of the day may be: including your baby and children in those activities is what will help them become happy, confident, adaptable and pleasant young people and members of society. It will reduce uncertainly, anxiety, and undesirable behviors without constantly relying on discipline techniques.

That might seem doable for a remote tribe of South American’s, but what about modern, busy Western families? How can we apply these ideals to our fast-paced and complex lives?

When our babies were small, they were included in the running of the household and wage-earning activities via babywearing. Snuggled under a chin, they were rocked to sleep by the rythyms of and sounds of vacuuming, running water, the tapping of computer keys and work-related activities. As they became more mobile, they were invited to help us do our work side by side at home and at the office when applicable. By two years old we expect that they will (with supervision and guidance as needed) voluntarily and enthusiastically pitch in for straightening up the house, making beds, folding laundry, mopping floors, wiping off surfaces, dusting, setting the table, feeding the pets, and loading and unloading the dishwasher. By 4 we see them cheerfully helping to use various tools to assist in minor household repairs, lawn maintenance, and yard clean up. After that, we really do not limit the types of activities that they can engage in with supervision: preparing meals, running the household appliances as needed, using household cleaners (all the more important to make sure you are only using safe, non-toxic cleaning alternatives in your home and office! For a green alternative cleaning service here in Erie contact Sarah at Mother Earth’s Keeper)

But what about forcing your kids to work all day long? The last time I checked, there were laws against child slavery, right? Obviously, we don’t use or treat our children as slaves who must do our bidding without question. However, we do not provide special rewards for doing work that is essential to the running of our household. If a family member chooses to take on a responsibility that is not expected, or is asked to help out in ways that are not required, but would be nice, we compensate them. When my 17 year old watches the younger siblings for a special event or a night out for Sir Hubby and I, we consider that to be above and beyond the normal work of the household. When our 8 year old offers to clean out the van as a special favor to us, we reward her with a special outing. The part that so many people forget though is that they WANT to do what we do! We don’t use chore charts or allowances or stickers or rewards. They clamor to get in on the action of unloading the dishwasher. The elbow each other out the way to be the one who gets to pull the comforter up on the bed. They turn the work of the home into the games they play. They set up obstacle courses, assembly lines, and elaborate fantasy scenarios to accompany the work they do. They run from imaginary crocodiles snapping at their heels on the way to feed the dog. They jump over dangerous lava flows to make it to the laundry room. They also take frequent breaks. Sometimes they even ask if we can handle a task on our own while they do something they want to do. They delegate and negotiate just like adults do sometimes. I often tell Sir Hubby that I am just not up to a specific task and would like to trade. Or we negotiate terms so that everyone gets their needs met. The expectation is that the work will get accomplished with team work and that we are all part of the team. We also have realistic expectations of what the needs of our household are. We do not live in splendor. We do not live a museum. We are happy to accept a less sparkling house in trade for eliminating the conflicts and battles that usually accompany “chores”.

But what about kids being kids? What about Play BEING the Work of Kids? Of course they still spend a great deal of time doing the more widely acceptable work of children: playing.  They play outdoors, with toys, with one another, with other children. We go to the Children’s Museum, they ride bikes, they pick flowers, they dig in the dirt, they climb trees, they draw pictures, they read books, and they put on puppet shows. But the work of the adults is not cloistered away behind a private office door (unless we are on the phone, or at our respective out of the home offices) like Ward Cleaver (I mean, what they hell did he do all day? Who knows!) We strike a balance of meeting our adult-orientated work goals, allowing the children to engage in age appropriate activities that they create while also exposing them to the realities of daily work.

But how does this translate into other toddler and child behaviors like food wars and undesirable attitudes?

Food Wars: They have seen us preparing, eating, and enjoying healthy meals since their earliest of days as part of the work of our home. While they are still exclusively breastfeeding and all of their needs are being met with human milk, they observe us enjoying food and sometimes offering it to them without a lot of expectation about whether they eat it or not. This creates a low pressure situation for kids. Any food in the house that they choose to say yes to is a healthy food: we simply do not buy or make junk food to have to say no to. As for nutrition: no child has ever voluntarily starved themselves to death. They have no socially-driven body image hang-ups, nor do they have a political agenda to hunger strike about. And remember: they WANT to do what we do! They will eat food that they see trusted, reliable, loving adults sharing and enjoying in their presence. Offer very small portions, invite them to the table (not to eat, necessarily, just to sit with the family) and enjoy your meal and the wonderful company you are in. Allow them to eat or not without any comment, judgment or expectations. Dr Sears shares some tips here. Does this mean that my kids eat everything we put in front of them? Oh god, no. But we don’t sweat it and we don’t fight about it. My 23 year old and 17 year old eat JUST FINE. They can use a fork AND a knife. They can sit at a table for a whole meal. They even chew with their mouths closed. Forcing them to do it at 3 was not going to ensure that they grew up to do it: it would have only caused fights, stress, and power struggles about meal time. I have the long term goal in mind. Our kids will be just fine on whatever healthy food they manage to sneak in. Again, remember the key is to NOT have junk around for them to make a poor choice with when they do get around to eating.

Terrible Two’s: As for toddler behaviors like tantrums, saying *NO*, and not wanting to be cooperative: the key is not necessarily finding a way to handle the behaviors, but preventing them from starting as much as possible. When we keep our babies close, allow them into our world, show them that they are in the care of competent, engaged, aware, present, and happy adults, they feel little anxiety about our ability to care for them, meet their needs, and keep them safe. Check out Janet Lansbury’s article on toddler discipline for a glimpse into your toddlers brain and why this matters. As they get older and gain confidence by participating in the adult work around them, they feel proud of themselves and their own abilities WITHOUT having to hear it from us. I never say “Good Job!” to my children. Ever. I simply state facts: “You completed that task so quickly!” or “You were able to do that with no help!” or “Helping your sister with her work must have made her feel loved.” Then they own their proud feelings instead of looking to adults to confirm whether they should be proud of themselves or not. The most rewarding thing I ever get to see as a mom is my kids shouting with glee and clapping their hands with pride after they have done something…and they never even look at me to see if I saw them do it.

Be sure to pick up copies of The Continuum Concept, Connection Parenting, and Child Honouring to get a deeper look into the concepts I am talking about.

* I use the terms parent and family to also include hired or volunteer care-providers. Even if parents must earn wages outside of the home, loving, dedicated and competent care providers should be providing these valuable experiences for babies whenever possible. These techniques are not the privilege of families affluent enough to have a stay at home parent—this is a workable model for any person who cares for infants.

Attached at the Heart VALENTINE’S DAY GIVEAWAY!

By , February 3, 2012 2:02 pm

It would be an understatement to say that I love this book. This is one of the most comprehensive texts on ALL of the principles of attachment parenting by the founders of Attachment Parenting International; Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker.

Attached at the Heart researches the eight main principles of Attachment Parenting (AP) in depth:

  • Preparing yourself for pregnancy, birth and parenting
  • Feeding with love and respect
  • Responding with sensitivity
  • Using nurturing touch
  • Ensuring safe sleep physically and emotionally
  • Providing consistent, loving care
  • Practicing positive discipline
  • Striving for balance in your personal and family life

There are very few books that I insist parents have in their personal libraries: this is one I wish I could buy in bulk and hand out everywhere I go. I feel so strongly about this that I am GIVING AWAY a copy of this incredible book to one lucky family in the month of February as a special Valentine’s Gift! To enter do ALL of the FOLLOWING:

  1. LIKE State of the Heart Parenting on Facebook (already being a liker counts!)
  2. Tag State of the Heart Parenting in a post on your own page talking about how one of the principles of AP has–or will–made you a more conscious parent.
  3. Don’t have Facebook? Leave me a comment under this post about how your child has blossomed or grown through AP…or how you hope they will in the future.

*Updated on February 14th: I used to choose a winner from all eligible entries. The final winners are Ashley & Jay who are expecting a baby soon! Congrats to them! I know they will LOVE having this book in their parenting toolbox!

Attached at the Heart: 8 Proven Parenting Principles for Raising Connected and Compassionate Children

“The key to successful parenting is not found in complex theories, elaborate family rules, or convoluted formulas for behavior. It is based on your deepest feelings of love and affection for your child, and is demonstrated simply through empathy and understanding. Good parenting begins in your heart, and then continues on a moment-to-moment basis by engaging your children when feelings run high, when they are sad, angry, or scared. The heart of parenting is being there in a particular way when it really counts.” John Gottman, PhD Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child (My second favorite quote from the book.)

In today’s fast-paced materialistic world, where every new parent is bombared with all the ‘essentials’ they must have for their baby, and where there are a seemingly limitless number of baby books and ideas on childrearing; it is extremely easy to forgot the most important parenting ingredient: a loving relationship with the child.

The main focus of the book though, is on building a strong relationship with your child above all else. This begins right at birth, if not before. This book gives you all the research and evidence you will need in order to follow your own parenting instincts, instead of the advice easily sprouted by friends, family, and even some professionals, that often goes against your gut instinct.

Why Our Family is Cool With Raw Milk

By , July 9, 2011 2:57 pm

We get our raw milk from a local source: it comes from Pot of Gold Dairy in Bear Lake PA and we purchase it at Duran's Farm in Waterford PA.

(and it’s okay if you are not cool with it…we still think you are probably a lovely person anyway. Just give us the same courtesy, mmmkay?) Farmers like Edwin Shank and his family know the importance of whole, living food and chose to consume raw milk products despite dire warning from “agencies” and “experts” that doing so may be hazardous. Shank, his family, and many more Americans are learning to “embrace living, whole foods, full of immunity-building probiotic bacteria and nutrient-absorbing living enzymes.” A healthy immune system is the backbone of our overall health. Having the ability to fight off and recover from germs, bacteria, viruses and other creepy crawlies on our own is what our bodies are designed to do. Shank states that raw milk is “full of unadulterated, unprocessed, unmessed-with, cell-nourishing, cell-repairing raw fats and proteins.” He also points out that a “bulletproof immunity is our only protection against the pathogens of our environment.”

Yet, we interfere in the creation of a bulletproof immune system in almost every aspect of our lives. When our bodies are weak from a lifetime of being protected from every germ, we are susceptible to even trace amounts of bacteria in our food and water supply. Birthing in sterile environments reduces our exposure to our mothers natural bacteria colonies and has far reaching consequences for our long term gut health. Artificial infant feeding methods weaken our immune systems as we grow. Consuming dead, sterile, and overly processed food contributes little nutrition to growing humans. Our bodies are starving for real food and many of us are too weak to fight off even the most common allergens in our world like dust, grass and pet dander.

Many people are concerned about about the risks of contamination that may be present in raw dairy products. However, bacteria is not the enemy, our weakened immune systems are. Shank points out several analogies in his article which illustrate the common “risks” we take everyday because the benefits are such a boon to our standard of living. We don’t eradicate these activities from our lives, we simply try to engage in them as safely as possible. Of course, raw milk may contain pathogens which could cause illness in a person with a weakened immune system. However, as recent “outbreaks” of foodborne illnesses (and even death) have proven, so do allegedly “safe” foods that people commonly consume from grocery stores, restaurants, and other FDA approved sources: peanut butter, ground beef, spinach, and even pasteurized milk. We believe that the benefits of consuming raw foods outweigh the risk for my family. We are healthier, stronger, and suffer from fewer allergies and illnesses than we did before.

We cannot keep ignoring the core issue: we need to restore good health to our population and make every attempt to bring babies into the world with their natural immune responses working optimally instead of creating more and more elaborate band-aids to cover up the problem. Pasteurization and other modern big-business farming methods— such as anti-biotic and hormone use— are only necessary when we have a chronically ill population consuming these products. Healthy individuals have the ability to become stronger from naturally occurring bacteria and need little help from modern science or technology to do it.

How can chronically ill mothers be expected to give birth to babies with anything except even weaker immune systems? Ideally, we would restore balance to our health before conceiving our children, but as a mother to five and as a birth worker, I know that the reality of family planning is often complicated and unpredictable. It is imperative for all expectant mothers to begin consuming living, unprocessed, unaltered food to restore optimal gut health and to rebuild their immunity before they give birth. While raw milk may not be the solution for every family, recognizing the lessons that farmers like Mr Shank already know can inform our choices when growing a new little life and a brand new immune system.

What does your family do to promote optimal gut health and strengthen your immune system?

The Truth About Raw Milk: Common Sense about Raw Milk from a Raw Milk Dairy Farmer by Edwin Shank from Pathways to Family Wellness: Winter 2010, Issue 28. Pages 26-29.

Our First Giveaway!

By , May 21, 2011 3:01 pm

There are very few things that matter more to our health than what we put INTO our bodies. My recent success with full time gluten-free eating and part time grain-free eating has made extraordinary and positive changes in my health. The gift of good health is something that I do not take for granted. I am blessed enough to live in an area that allows me to have access to many fresh, local, and healthy food options. In honor of my many blessings and because I feel so damned good, I will be giving away a $25 gift card to the Whole Foods Co-op so that someone else can have a little help in their quest to become (or to stay) healthy. Enter to win TODAY. Contest ends Monday May 30th at 10pm.

Update May 31st: Congratulations to Jenn D. who is the winner of the gift card!

Breastfeeding and Tongue Tie

By , October 2, 2010 6:47 pm

Adorable, but kind of a problem for my nipples.

Shortly after Lazlo was born I attempted to play the “stick your tongue out” game with him: ya know, the one where newborns will show off their mad innate skills by sticking out their tongues in response to seeing an adult do the same. Dr. V.S. Ramachandran, a neuroscientist at University of California, San Diego points out that babies are programmed to imitate in order to learn the social cues in the culture that they are born into. His research shows that the early inability to perform those imitative tasks may be a early sign of autism:

“You stick your tongue out at a newborn baby, very often the newborn baby will stick its tongue out,” he says. Similarly, babies return smiles and often make sounds when someone speaks to them. A few years ago, scientists found a biological explanation for this phenomenon: specialized brain cells called mirror neurons. These neurons fire when you do things such as sticking your tongue out. They also fire when you watch someone else stick their tongue out. And mirror neurons can reflect emotions as well as physical actions. Experiments show that some of the same cells that fire when we feel pain also fire when we see another person in pain. But people with autism appear to have faulty mirror neurons. That may be why they have trouble putting themselves in someone else’s shoes. And Ramachandran says without that ability, a lot of what you can accomplish with language disappears.”

Already having one child with a history of behavioral issues, Lazlo’s lack of reciprocity in this case sent up a few red flags for me. However, attempting to snoop around in a tiny newborns mouth (well, at 11 lbs, I suppose his mouth wasn’t as tiny as some) proved to be frustrating for both of us. His objections to my explorations–in the form of crying with his mouth wide open– afforded me the opportunity to clearly see what we were dealing with: a tongue tie. Although the heart-shaped tip was beyond adorable, it could be a problem. I knew that tightly connected frenulums (either labial or lingual) could contribute to a poor latch while breastfeeding (causing me pain and making it difficult to establish an ample milk supply), jaw alignment and dental problems, along with future speech difficulties. In his older sisters case, her tightly connected labial frenulum had caused an acidic and corrosive environment for her four upper teeth. The lip was so firmly pressed against her teeth that even saliva had a difficult time getting up there, let alone a toothbrush. After much worrying, we decided to have it have her teeth and gums surgically repaired and protected from future damage.

When I was 4 weeks postpartum with Lazlo, we called the pediatrician to find out IF she could clip it in her office. Sadly, the pediatrician would have to refer us to an ENT who would have to evaluate it, then perform the procedure (possibly under general anesthesia!) and then have a follow-up appointment. We were still Babymooning in the middle of a NWPA winter! The thought of taking Lazlo out in the snow multiple times for something that was not really a problem seemed overly complicated and unnecessary. From my initial reading and research, I was under the impression that this was a SIMPLE and COMMON procedure! Further investigation revealed the cultural reasons that have made tongue tie treatment much more complicated than necessary. Anne Smith, IBCLC sums up the history behind this baffling trend in modern medicine:

Even though clipping the frenulum is a simple, safe, and uncomplicated procedure,… it may be difficult to find a doctor who is willing to perform it. Up until the nineteenth century, baby’s frenulums were clipped almost routinely. Midwives were reported to keep one fingernail sharpened so that they could sweep under the tongue and snip the frenulum of just about all newborn babies. Part of the reason frenotomies fell out of favor for many years was the fact that doctors discovered that in all but the most severe cases, speech was not affected by tongue-tie. They preferred to take a “wait and see” approach and let nature take it’s course. Most of the time, the frenulum would stretch out on its own with no intervention.

During the same time period that frenotomies were becoming less common, the rate of breastfeeding also declined dramatically. Bottle-feeding doesn’t present the same feeding difficulties for tongue-tied babies that breastfeeding does, because the mechanics are very different and extension of the tongue doesn’t play as big a role in feeding from the bottle. Since the majority of babies were bottle fed, it was easy for doctors to say that they weren’t going to perform an unnecessary procedure that didn’t interfere with feeding, and rarely caused speech problems.

Even today, with most infants in this country starting out breastfeeding, it may be difficult to find a doctor who recognizes the problem that tongue-tie can present for a nursing baby and is willing to perform a frenotomy. The procedure is seldom mentioned in the pediatric literature, and is no longer routinely taught in medical school.You may need to work at finding a health care provider who can clip the frenulum. Although any pediatrician can theoretically perform a frenotomy, many prefer to make a referral to an oral surgeon, dentist, or ENT specialist

After discussing our options with a few different breastfeeding consultants and several momma’s who had gone through this, we decided that we would wait to clip his frenulum since it was not causing any problems at the time.  I was tandem nursing; my older baby was ensuring a more than adequate milk supply. I was an experienced nursing mom; I was not bothered by the occasional poor latch or more-frequent-than-usual feedings. Lazlo was content,  gaining weight, and wetting enough diapers.

For 7 whole months, we carried on with our tandem nursing and the tongue tie was rarely noticed, let alone fretted over. Then on August 6th everything changed. We had somehow gotten thrush and the next 8 weeks of my life were essentially a living hell. Cracked, bleeding nipples. Searing pain that felt like glass being crunched up under the skin.  In the meantime, Lazlo was behaving as many babies do when mom has thrush: frequently pulling off of the breast (without unlatching. Ouch), biting (double ouch), and just simply refusing to nurse. Not fun. Multiple treatments and common remedies for the babies and for me had failed to clear it up.

Baby Chippin Pops

Right in the middle of this my teenager and my toddler both unexpectedly (and mysteriously) broke out in chicken pox. During this time, I was also upgraded to a new, much more powerful thrush Rx. Things were just about getting back to normal with nursing when Lazlo hatched his very own crop of chicken pox.

And then my aunt died the next day. Un.Be.Liev.Able.

One of the things that twenty-two years of parenting has taught me is that todays crisis is quickly replaced with tomorrows back-to-normal boredom and things eventually work themselves out given enough time, perspective, and teeth-gritting. But his nursing strike and bad nursing behavior went from bad to worse. We had begun to up his intake of solids and supplementing occasionally with hemp milk, almond milk and rice milk to ensure that he was getting enough nourishment. With the support of Kelley (NICU Nursing Goddess, Expectant Momma, and my BFF who is also a LLL Leader) we brainstormed ways to improve Lazlo’s latch and increase his time at the breast while giving my nipples time to recover. Of course,  I still had my nursing toddler to help keep my supply up, too. I was confident that we could get through this! But after very severe biting incident (one which required some skin adhesive and a butterfly strip to keep it from repeatedly breaking open and bleeding) I was beyond the point where I could just keep riding this out and waiting for things to fall back into balance. It was time to revisit the fundamentals and FIX this before our nursing relationship was prematurely and permanently ruined.

We decided that the place to start was ensuring that Lazlo was latching as best as he could. Revisiting the tongue tie was the first item on our list. Kelley told me about one of our friends who was learning to do frenulum clippings during her midwifery apprenticeship and how simple the procedure was. I contacted the midwife, Jen (who was part of our birth team when we had Tillie) and she happily agreed to come to our house and clip it the next day! No finding babysitters for the other kids and traveling to multiple appointments! He would be in his own house where he felt safe and comfortable.

To prepare, I made Lazlo a chamomile-apple juice popsicle to help reduce swelling and stop bleeding after the procedure. My friend Anne at Dou-la-la (who has a tongue-tie nursing sage to share, too) suggested homeopathic aconitum but none was to be found at the local places in time, so I got some Valerian Calm instead. After chatting for a few minutes and trying to get a glimpse of his frenulum without upsetting him, we got straight to work. I swaddled him up in a blanket to keep him as still as possible and held him on my lap. He seemed a tad confused about this part, but didn’t stir up a raucous. To hold his mouth open I put my index finger in his mouth, toward the back (where there are no teeth yet, thankfully) and Jen took the other side. Lazlo let us know that he felt like this was not what he wanted to be doing at the moment, but was still not overly upset. A bit of hollering, but nothing that triggered my protective momma-bear senses. Jen used a pair of blunt-tipped scissors to quickly clip the tiny piece of membrane under his tongue. There were about 2 drops of blood. I immediately sat him up and gave him the frozen treat Kelley had been holding nearby. Zero crying. I let him play with the popsicle for a few minutes and then allowed him to latch on.

Right away his face let me know that this was a different experience for him. His big eyes looked up at me with curiosity shining out of them like a light. He stuck his fingers in my mouth, under my tongue and then used the same hand to pat my breast several times. My mouth feels funny when I nurse now, he seemed to be saying. Later, he tried to put my fingers in his mouth while he was nursing to indicate this sentiment again! Over and over again, he stuck his tongue out PAST HIS BOTTOM LIP! It was amazing to see his tongue do that after nearly 9 months! Within 20 minutes, he was even making new noises (like raspberries and consonant sounds which he was unable to do with his shortened tongue!) We even noticed that he has a wider smile and that he actually has a dimple in his cheek!

He is not magically an expert nurser…improving his bad nursing habits will take more time. However, in just one day we have already seen many small improvements and expect that things will only get better!

Conclusion? My new advice on tongue tie is this: if you can get it done gently, in your arms, and without a lot of hassle then get it done right away. Frankly, because the medical community makes it so complicated, I was much more worried about it then I should have been. I do wish that we had done this when he was very young, but I do not regret skipping the ENT-overly-medicalized-route. Dong it at home and allowing me to participate, hold Lazlo, and nurse him right away made it a non-traumatic experience for both Lazlo and me.

Pennsylvania License To Breastfeed

By , June 26, 2010 9:51 pm

I just put in a print order for these and will have them available at the Doulas For All meeting at Borders on Tuesday June 29th. Donations of $1 per card will benefit Doulas For All! Great idea for adding to a baby shower card, or to keep in your diaper bag to present to a nursing duo, or to help educate…write to or call 661-DOULAS-1 to get yours today!

Food! Why can’t it be simple?

By , March 30, 2010 10:13 pm

When our babies first arrive we know what we should feed them. It is encoded right into the newborn-DNA to seek out the breast moments after birth. Our breasts are perfectly positioned on our bodies so that when we nourish our baby we hold them off of the cold ground—close to our heart—within kissing distance—within smelling distance—within focus-range for the newborn eye. Our milk delivers all of the vital nutrients that our tiny new babies need. When our baby needs more milk, our breasts simply produce more. Simple. Elegant. Efficient.

Nonetheless, even while in the depths of this blissful symbiotic relationship of supply and demand—ebb and flow—providing and consuming—our culture has taught us to doubt ourselves. We worry. We question everything. We get sucked up into the drama. Is my baby getting enough? Is my latch correct? Am I balancing the needs of my baby and also of my body? What if someone hassles me about nursing in public? How can I help my mother-in-law understand why this is important to me and her grandchild? How do I deal with criticism about how long I am nursing? Why do decent nursing bras cost so much?

Bug and Food...a complicated relationship!

Now, flash forward to solid foods. To cereal or not to cereal? Avocado or chickpeas? Will this cause food allergies? Does this have high fructose corn syrup in it? Does red dye really matter? Is organic better than local? More questions. More doubts.

Add a picky eater to this equation and now you have all of the questions about food mixed in with all of the challenges of discipline. Nothing sparks a power struggle faster than dealing with a crying, kicking, screaming kiddo who is starving but won’t eat what they have in front of them.

Now, add ALL of those problems on top of a child who has a sensory processing disorder or falls on the aspergers or autism spectrum somewhere. The smell of all but the most bland of foods is so over powering it can cause nausea. Food textures conjure up descriptive terms like sandpaper, fiberglass and slime. Seemingly perfectly reasonable food tastes odd—the mac & cheese tastes like soap— the eggs taste like metal– the yogurt tastes spicy. They only want one food. They can’t have that food and this food at the same meal. Single ingredient meals. No sauce. No spice. No blending. There are plenty of days when even the most patient and tolerant of parents just lose it. Especially the days before you understand what your child is going through. It is easy to think that they are just being difficult, or stubborn, or manipulative. Especially with all of the voices of Ghosts of Dinner Past from your own childhood whispering in your ear:

“You can’t leave the table until you have finished your veggies!”

“You’ll go to bed hungry!”

“Clean your plate!”

or  everyone’s favorite; “There are starving children in <insert third-world country here> who would be grateful for this meal!”

“If you eat everything on your plate, we’ll go get ice-cream!”

“If you don’t eat this, we will NOT go get ice cream!”

“Seriously, we will NEVER get ice cream ever again. Ever.”

“Can you finish just three more bites?”

“How ’bout one more bite of the green stuff?”

I could fill a book with what all of that is probably doing to kids (someone already has, I am sure of it). I sure know that I have a horrible love/hate relationship with food, a body that doesn’t use food efficiently, and a taste for things that are, frankly, very unhealthy for me. But that is not today’s post. Today, I want to talk about Bug and the relationship between her food and her behaviors.

If you’ve ever spent any time with our family, you’ve probably shared a meal or a snack with us. (And in the case of a few select friends, you may have been the victim of Food Theft—an inexplicable phenomenon marked by the disappearance of all–not some—but ALL of your banana’s, strawberries, and apple’s while my children are visiting your home. You know who you are. I owe you some fruit). So, you may have suspected that it can be a little chaotic to feed a family as large and as diverse as ours. And that we don’t have a fortune to throw away on food each month. I am sure that it comes as no surprise that we put a lot of time and thought into what we eat, where we get it from, and what it costs. Buying food no one will eat, that doesn’t pack a nutritional punch, or that is too complicated to prepare is a waste of our time and resources. We find a lot of inspiration from our subscription to Vegetarian Times. We share recipes and ideas with friends and family. We are blessed to have a wide-variety of whole and organic food choices to work with. With that being said, however, we still have the seemingly never-ending frustration of finding ways to get Bug, our 6 year old, to eat healthy foods.

Bug is challenged by many of the symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder, especially the ones concerning food and smells. Her symptoms cause her to be a picky eater. Her picky eating has probably caused some nutritional deficiencies. It is likely that her nutritional deficiencies are exasperating her symptoms. And ’round we go. We are hoping that her issues are as easy to fix as learning some new recipes and cutting out some common culprits in the food-behavior chain. We do eat fairly healthy compared to the folks Jamie Oliver is dealing with. But we still enjoy a box of donut holes on Sunday mornings once in awhile (hello deep fried junk). And there are still some colorful dyes and high fructose nastiness lingering around in a few of our dirty-little-secret snacks (The first ingredient in Cherry Twizzlers is HFCS…and that bright red color is not from a natural source, sorry to say) . But for the most part we enjoy plenty of whole grains, a variety of  local vegetables, fresh herbs, organic fruit, and “from scratch” goodies.

I had told myself that we would give Bug until the age of 7 to see if her emotional and behavioral issues evened out when her development was a little more advanced and she ready for more complex learning situations. We decided to homeschool her because of these concerns. We are approaching 7 in just a few months, and Bug’s behaviors, although changing in complexity and specifics, have not really improved significantly. So now the serious phase begins and we are committing to cutting out those few lingering no-no’s…eliminate the HFCS for real. Say goodbye to dyes…even for special occasions. Embrace the fact that many children with behavioral issues are suffering from food allergies…like wheat, gluten, and corn. We are amping up her green foods, calcium, and good fats to flush out lingering toxins and heavy metals. We’ve done these things in the past, for a few weeks, or until we fell off the wagon, or until Halloween–whichever happened first. This time, I am hoping that we have reached a place where making these changes will be more compatible with our lifestyle then they were before. Everyday, we become more and more committed to making positive and healthy changes in our lives since Sir Hubby’s father became ill last summer. Not just in our food, but in the way that we think, the way we interact with the world around us, with the community we live in. But those are all posts for another day…

So, we begin our serious journey into better health for Bug today…and hopefully a healthier relationship for all of us!

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