I was at the library today when I saw an NHTSA ad proclaiming that “3 out of 4 car seats are installed incorrectly.” Wow! I am not a carseat expert, but I’ve become somewhat passionate about carseat safety. A few common problems I have seen when I am out and about:

Turning a baby or toddler forward-facing. I know, I know – it’s tempting. Now that Calvin is 20 months old, I have certainly been tempted myself. But the bottom line is that rear-facing is far safer and your child should remain rear facing until he reaches the weight limit of the car seat.

Not paying attention to the shoulder straps. The straps should meet high up on the chest – near the armpits. I try to remember that the clip should go in-between the nipples. This is really important – otherwise the child may fly out in a crash.


Using a booster seat too soon. Boosters shouldn’t be used until the child reaches 40 lbs. Many also recommend that a child also be at least four years old.

Last but not least, when installing a new seat, get it checked out by a certified inspector. I did this with both my infant seat and my convertible seat. Now that I have seen how the seats should be installed, I feel comfortable installing them myself when needed. I recommend calling your local fire department – it took a few tries, but I was finally able to find an inspector near where I live. And it’s free!

Some of these safety concerns are not governed by any laws. It’s up to you to make sure that your child is safely installed in his seat. Don’t be too quick to imitate what you see others doing – it may not be what is safest for your child.

More Carseat Basics.

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It has been one of those days… Two failed nap attempts. A toddler who constantly wants to nurse.  The perpetual sounds of cranks and whines. There seemed to be nothing that would please him.

I kept it together pretty well, but late this afternoon I finally lost my patience. I missed the mark when it came to my job as a mother. It kills me to not be the epitome of the gentle, attached mother that I want to be (and that I usually am). But today (and really, all week) things have just been off track. He is extra whiny and needy, and my patience is stretched thin.

On days like this I could use more ideas for grounded, gentle and patient parenting. A few things that work for us so far…

What helps me set the tone:

  • A prayer to start the day, and intermediate prayers asking for God’s mercy throughout the day.
  • Beginning the day with a playful/joyous spirit.
  • Really focusing on him for the first hour of the morning (after my coffee is made, of course!)
  • Getting enough to sleep. Lately it’s been hard for me to go to bed on time.

What helps me try to get both of us back on track (or what helps me keep my sanity):

  • Taking the time to pay 100% attention to him for a while. Read books, play outside – whatever he wants is what we do.
  • On the flip side, letting him watch TV. Sometimes it is either this or I might jump ship.
  • If my husband is home, I am a big fan of letting them have one-on-one time. This is definitely a win-win for everyone.
  • Take a trip to the mall or Target. Take a walk. Water the plants together.

What are your ideas? If you have older kids, tell me: does your patience grow as time goes on? I sometimes wonder if I would be more patient if I had more perspective on just how young Calvin really is. I hope I don’t come off as sounding horribly impatient; my husband always tells me that he is amazed by my patience with Calvin. But when that patience cracks… boy, do I hate that.

On Lactivism

April 17, 2010

Lactivism is the advocacy of breastfeeding. I consider myself a lactivist which should come as no surprise since I am nursing a toddler. Lactivists come in all forms and I try to remain mindful that I want to be the nice, helpful, non-judgemental kind of lactivist. I am unconvinced that militant lactivism is of benefit to anyone.

I wanted to share a few great lactivist links that I recently came across:

Newborn Breast Crawl – This is a really cool video of newborn babies crawling – yes, crawling! – up to the breast. Breasts shown, so you may not want to watch this one at work. Watching this I was reminded that babies are born to be breastfed.

Why Seeing Breastfeeding is Important – I’ve always nursed in public, though I find myself cutting back just a bit now that Calvin is getting older. I do believe that breastfeeding anywhere and everywhere is an important step in normalizing breastfeeding. I think nursing in public paints nursing in a very positive light: a content baby and a mom who can be anywhere she pleases.

Take the Risk and See – Give Extended Breastfeeding a Try – There probably aren’t too many first-time moms who plan to be in an extended nursing relationship. My personal set-in-stone nursing goal was to nurse exclusively for six months and to continue to nurse until the first birthday. After I made that goal, I would evaluate and move on from there. That was seven months ago and I haven’t even thought about weaning. Why would I stop giving him the perfect food? Why would I give up the ability to comfort and soothe him at the breast? And of course there is one of my favorite side benefits – why would I want to lose my ability to consume a little extra junk food?

If Calvin doesn’t show some interest in weaning soon, then I think I may end up tandem nursing. Honestly, I have mixed feelings about it. But I feel that the downsides to tandem nursing don’t even compare to the downsides of forcing a milkaholic toddler off the breast. The average human weaning age is somewhere between two and five years old. While I probably will not pursue a 100% child-led weaning method, I will certainly continue to use gentle techniques that show respect both to Calvin and to the nursing relationship that we have established.

Book Review: Bedtiming

March 18, 2010


snoozing Calvin

I read about this book on Moxie and was intrigued since it purported to take a developmental approach to sleep issues. There are some interesting developmental resources available on infant/child sleep… Moxie herself has some of the best resources on this. But I was still curious about seeing a more comprehensive study of such issues. The premise of this book is that if you want to make sleep changes that happen easily and that will stick, you need to do it in the right developmental window. Since I have tried to make changes before – and I’ve usually failed miserably – I thought that this sounded like good information to have.

I should note that Calvin and I had been experiencing sleep hell when this book arrived. I was really at my wit’s end – what was going on with my little guy who was previously so content to nurse a bit and then go straight back to sleep? Now he cried and squirmed and tossed and turned. It didn’t matter if he slept in his own bed, or in my bed… no matter what I tried, he could not sleep. He was nursing at night more than a newborn and still he could not sleep. I am so thankful that Moxie had several great posts on the 18 month-old and how he didn’t want to sleep. Misery loves company.

So you can bet that upon receiving the book I quickly flipped to the section that would address my current woes. According to the book, 17-21 months is not a good time to implement changes because of the toddler’s fear of separation and his determination to hold his own in conflict situations. Instead, stay consistent in bedtime routines and just wait it out. I really was not surprised by the advice because it was exactly what I was experiencing. While I would have liked a solution, I can definitely appreciate the fact that what I was experiencing was normal.

In the end though, I didn’t feel that this book  really had a lot to do with sleep. Instead the book is a developmental overview up to age four. The developmental stages are loosely tied to sleep issues. Sleep is really only mentioned at the very beginning and the very end of the book. I think this would be really helpful information for new parents who don’t yet know much about developmental stages. Otherwise, I think that Moxie’s information about sleep regressions is every bit as helpful – and I’d even venture to say that it’s probably more helpful.

The second to last chapter is devoted to a brief analysis of the major “sleep training” techniques: CIO a la Weissbluth, CIO/gradual extinction a la Ferber, and no-cry solutions a la Pantley. The authors contend that there is no best way to help your baby sleep so they run through the major options and leave it to the parent to choose. I am anti-CIO (I particularly abhor Weissbluth’s method), but I do appreciate the way that the authors handled these topics. In the CIO section they are careful to point out that there is nothing wrong with nursing or rocking your baby to sleep and that indeed, this is often a very enjoyable activity.

Long story short: Take a look at this book if you want a good developmental overview that can be related back to sleep issues. There is a little chart in the front of the book that is especially handy for quickly determining whether or not your child is at a good age for changes. There was once a time when I thought that I would easily go on nursing Calvin at night until he was no longer interested… that time passed. There will most likely come a time when you want to make changes to help your child (and you!) sleep, so be prepared beforehand.

5 Reasons to Comfort Nurse

February 13, 2010

1. Nursing comforts a baby. Do we really need to say more?

Apparently we do…

2. Nursing shows the baby that he can turn to his mother for comfort. He can connect with her when he needs that.

Nursing does not teach the baby to turn to food for comfort. Try offering a nursling a snack when he is in need of serious comfort – my own nursling would certainly push any food away.

3. The breast is the ultimate pacifier.

Most people would not have any problem with giving a child a pacifier when they were upset. If he’s not sucking on the breast, he will find something else to meet the need. Instead of a plastic baby soothing device – why not use the part God gave you?

4. Nursing takes the baby’s mind off of pain.

A nursing baby is a relaxed baby.

5. Nursing fosters a sense of security.

When he is attached to his mother, he knows that no harm can come to him.

Nursing isn’t just about imparting nutrition to the nursling. Connection and comfort and closeness are also important parts of a nursing relationship.

My son is 17 months old and while we don’t comfort nurse nearly as often as we once did, it is still an important element of our nursing relationship. As a toddler he gets his fair share of bumps and bruises and I can quickly comfort him when it becomes clear that he needs something more than a hug. When he is tired or overstimulated I can rejuvenate him with a quick nursing session. When he is bored and I need him to sit quietly for awhile, nursing is the go-to solution.

Thank you God, for creating such a wonderful way for me to connect with my son. I really cannot imagine what I would do without this handy solution for most any problem.

I happened to catch the NBC Nightly News this evening where I learned about the latest development in SIDS research. My interest was piqued even before I heard the full story: How would this compare to research done by Dr. James McKenna? What does it mean for co-sleepers? How would the mainstream media respond?

According to the study:

“Lower levels of the hormone serotonin may help explain why some infants succumb to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).”

I have a bit of experience with wonky levels of serotonin. In my experience with generalized anxiety disorder, my serotonin levels were negatively affected following a period of extreme stress. Extreme stress. You know — like the stress that a baby would feel if his parents laid him in the crib and walked out the door. Like the anxiety that would flood his little body as he wailed and waited for them to come back to him. Like the despair he would feel when they did not.

Could this new research possibly support the theory of a link between “sleep training” and SIDS?

This latest study could be an affirmation of McKenna’s position that babies are safest when they sleep within an arm’s reach of their mothers, and breastfeed on cue. Serotonin is a hormone that exists primarily in the gut of a human being. It regulates intestinal movement and operates optimally when ‘fed’ and cared for. (A hungry baby, for example, will have serotonin levels that are off kilter). Serotonin is also highly responsible for other central nervous system functions – the regulation of mood, sleep, muscle movement, appetite, learning and memory. Serotonin works as a calming hormone in the body, while cortisol (a stress hormone) spikes when distressed.

A co-sleeping baby never experiences this rise of stress hormones (such as cortisol) from being left alone to cry-it-out. Rather, a baby sleeping near his mother feels the security of her body, her warmth, her regulatory breath, right beside him. A co-sleeping baby is happy. Research demonstrates that a co-sleeping baby has natural, normal, regulated levels of serotonin. (1, 2)

Unfortunately, that’s not the way that the mainstream media may present the results. Already we see reactions like this from the medical community:

“I think the message is there is something inherently wrong in some of these babies.”

Really? Is there “something inherently wrong” with these babies?

Or perhaps something inherently wrong with the way we are being taught to parent?

References:

1) Gerhardt, S. (2004). Why Love Matters: How Affection Shapes a Baby’s Brain. Brunner-Routledge: New York.

2) Sunderland, M. (2006). The Science of Parenting: How today’s brain research can help you raise healthy, happy, emotionally balanced children. DK Publishing: New York.

Thanks to Danelle at peaceful parenting for her excellent editing skills!

My son has been in cloth diapers since he was about two weeks old. My main motivation for cloth was the monetary savings (buy diapers for the first baby, and then you’re set for subsequent babies) and the environmental savings (no reason for any more of our waste to sit in a landfill). There are plenty of other benefits, though – a truly better product, a much more attractive product, no chemicals next to sensitive areas, and supposedly easier potty learning. Despite the extra laundry, cloth diapering has remained the most attractive diapering option for our family.

But recently I began wondering if I really was saving any money. According to Mothering magazine, “a child will go through about 8,000 diapers changes. At $.25 per diaper, that adds up to $2,000 spent on disposables.” (Evans, Lindsay. “Dumping Disposable Diapers.” Mothering. April 2008: 50.)  Are these numbers valid? How do cloth diapers compare?

Cost of Disposables

When I buy disposable diapers I always buy the Target brand which sells for $10.69 for 60 diapers – $.178 per diaper, a little less than quoted in the Mothering piece. How about the number of diaper changes? When my son was a newborn I remember changing his diaper constantly. But now that his little system is more mature he really doesn’t need as many changes. If you change your kid’s diaper 8.7 times per day for 2.5 years, you get to 8,000 diaper changes. Eight or nine changes per day is reasonable for a young baby, but I haven’t changed my son that often for awhile. Let’s drop the estimate down to 6,000, which still may be a bit of an overestimate.

Based on these calculations, my cost to use disposables full-time would be about $1,068 per child. Note that I have not included the cost of wipes or diaper pail liners, etc. I don’t use these products so I am not equipped to guesstimate their cost.

Cost of Cloth

There are several components to the cost of cloth: the cost of the product and the cost to launder.

I have purchased the following products for my son:

  • Snappis – $2.50 x 3 = $7.50
  • Newborn prefolds (dozen) – $21 x 2 = $42
  • Infant Fitted Diaper – $6.75 x 6 = $40.50 (yikes, this was a complete waste of money! Chaulk it up to learning curve).
  • Infant prefolds (dozen) – $25 x 3 = $75
  • Med prefolds (dozen) – $29 x 3 = $87
  • Large prefolds (dozen) – $32 x 2 = $64
  • Toddler prefolds (dozen) – $36 x 2 = $72
  • Newborn covers – $11 x 4 = $44
  • Small covers – $12 x 5 = $60
  • Medium covers – $12 x 4 = $48
  • Larger cover – $8 x 1 = $8
  • Large covers – $11 x 4 = $44
  • Doublers – $3.75 x 6  = $22.50 (would have skipped in retrospect)
  • I won several covers in a contest, had I not won them I would have spent about $25 more

The cost to cloth diaper all of my children comes to $639.50. (In retrospect I could have skipped a few of these items and shaved about $71).

To truly have an accurate comparison, I would also need to include the increased costs of my water, electricity and gas bills. I have sorted through the historical costs of these items and have found the variance to be a bit unbelievable. For a brief period of time my water bill was almost doubled and as of right now it’s at about a 40% increase. I really haven’t seen much of an increase at all in my gas bill which is odd considering that heating the water is supposedly the greatest cost of running a washing machine. However I do see a quite a large increase in my electric bill – almost 50%! I have to question whether this is really related to the diapers or if it because I am now home more often.

I will need to complete more research before providing an accurate utility cost for cloth diapering. Right now I would guesttimate that I am spending about $20 per month in additional utilities. If we cloth diaper for 2.5 years, I’ll spend a total of $600 on utilities.

I am not surprised to see that it costs more to cloth diaper the first child. Now that I have seen the numbers, I have to question whether cloth diapering is worth it. While it can be annoying to have to run the diapers through the laundry, I still firmly believe that the cloth is a superior product (personally I don’t enjoy having a baby poop on me). I also believe that it is the better choice for the environment. While I do use extra water to wash the diapers, I am not sending anything to the landfill and I like that.

I would love to hear more cost analysis from fellow fans of cloth. Do you think the cost to use disposables is accurate? What about the additional utility costs to wash the cloth diapers? Is cloth really worth it?