Saturday, February 28, 2009

Imagine Whirled Peas

Babies bring out the happy in people. Hold a baby and you suddenly receive smiles from strangers who would otherwise have passed you by without a glance; you hear genuine “Hello! And how are you today?”s from store clerks instead of their usual “Paper or plastic? [just pick one. I don’t care either way. I wish I were on break.]”s. 

But, as I’m learning, the presence of a baby also creates an overwhelming busybodiness in people whom one would otherwise never believe to be meddlesome. It hasn’t been too weighty as of yet, just a few comments here and there from strangers about using a fan the nursery, wearing blue vs. pink and where Baby sleeps (there is a bitter underground battle between the crib people and the co-sleepers which we’ve managed to sidestep by co-sleeping with Uli for her first 3 months and now having her on a futon). We all have our own ways and tend to roll our eyes at those who differ.

But the food issue. Oh my. Food is a big freakin’ deal in America. We all have our own little ways about us and heaven help the person who implies that their way is better. Even in homes without children we all subscribe to a view on food (there are the I-hate-tomatoes people and the Thai-food-is-the-perfect-food people and the sugar-is-the-devil’s-tool people, and the vegetarians, the vegans, the Gwyneth Paltrows, and the potato-chips-are-a-vegetable people, etc.). It’s not a particularly gracious group to begin with, but add children into the mix and suddenly it appears we’ll protect our food ideals to the death, battering each other over the heads with lunch boxes or sacks (whether plastic or paper is a sure tell about your food philosophy) and jousting with miniature forks. Indeed, I believe it’s a fact that feeding a baby any way but “my” way (where the “my” is whomever is talking) is guaranteed to kill babies or at least make them weak or fat or give them allergies or make them picky eaters for life. Worse: once someone gives you their precious insights into how and what to feed a baby, if you don’t follow their advice to the letter it’s akin to spitting on the graves of their great-grandmothers (or at least spitting on their doctors, and since they chose & like their doctors it’s like spitting on the advice-givers themselves).

So it’s impossible to please everyone or do exactly what everyone else is doing because we’re all doing different things and we all have seemingly good reasons for doing them. Add Justin and me to that mix. We know we’re deviating from the current US practice of starting a baby on cereals at 4 months. Instead, the original plan was to follow the WHO in their recommendation of exclusive breastmilk for a baby’s first six months. But now I see that other studies allow for some diluted juices (apple or banana) prior to 6 months for electrolytes. So we have some options, but regardless of whether we’re b-milk only or a bit of juice, were not planning on any real solids until 6 months.

But beyond Uli’s first 183 days? Even more options. I lean toward a vegetarian / naturopathic / organic / locovorish mix, and though we might make some changes to the following list depending upon what our daddy-doctor’s final nutritional recommendations are, Uli’s food introduction schedule will likely look something like this*:

6-9 months
Berries (black- and blue-)
Cooked/strained fruits (primarily peaches and pears)
Steamed veggies (asparagus, broccoli, carrots, beets, leafy greens like swiss chard and kale, etc.)
Baked veggies (squash, sweet potatoes, turnips, zucchini)

9-12 months
Cooked fruits (apples, apricots)
Fresh cut/mashed fruits/berries (banana, cherry, avocado, melon, plums)
Cooked veggies (brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cucumber, peas, peppers, white potatoes)
Non-gluten grains (millet, quinoa)
Beans and lentils
Oils (olive, flax)

12-18 months
Goat milk
More fruits (citrus, figs, raw apples, strawberries)
More veggies (cabbage, corn, eggplant)
Soy (tofu, tempeh, soymilk, yogurt)
More grains (barley, kamut, oats and oatmilk, rye, spelt)
Seeds, seed butters, and seed oils (sunflower, hemp, pumpkin)

18-24 months
Nuts, nut butters, nut oils (almonds and almond milk, cashews, walnuts)

Animal flesh (pasture-raised, organic, local) [mama’s not so sure about this one...]

2-3 years
Peanuts (nuts, butter & oil)
Cow milk
Eggs (free-range, organic, local)

Quite the list, huh? As always, I LOVE a list, but we’ll see how it turns out working in real life. So far, things with Uli have been off my ‘ideal’ schedule... ;-)

*adapted from two main sources: Justin’s notes on infant nutrition and a naturopathic food chart credited to Trang Duong, found in Dreena Burton’s Vive la Vegan.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Nursing Is Normal

I’m so excited! I just read Happy Bambino’s latest website update. It’s about a photographic project called Nursing is Normal which started in Fort Worth (Hello there, Texas! Finally, something I can be happy about has come from you!) and to which Madison is adding a chapter.

Pictures of mothers nursing their babies in public. Simple. Lovely. Local.

Why make a big artistic deal about something like feeding a baby? Because too many women seem to feel they must justify their choice to breast-feed in public. And that’s just sad. No mother should feel as though she must carry bottles of breast milk around with her if she normally nurses her baby when they’re at home. No mother should feel like she must seek out Border’s darkest back corner if she’s browsing the travel section and her little one is hungry. And that’s the purpose of this exhibition: to promote the normalcy of breast-feeding in public. Mama’s unite!

Personally, I’d go one farther. I think I see a couple of pics (from the TX show) of mothers with covers over their nurslings, and while I’m happy to see a mama breast-feeding, I wonder about that cover and why it’s hiding that sweet babe’s head (or, more accurately, the mother’s chest). I know that there are many who will say that they choose to use a cover or a bottle of breast milk because they want to. And okay. I don’t intend to be a voice that says everyone must be like me, flouting mores. But that’s just it: feeding a child from your breast in public goes against societal manners in the US, hence the manufacturing of those covers. That any of us feel the need to cover up what is a totally normal expression of love and care of a baby is painful to me. So I hesitate to say ‘you-go-girl’ type things about covers or the like because I find myself wondering why the woman who chooses to use them felt that they were the most appealing option. Feeding your baby under a cover because you’re at the bus stop and it’s 30 degrees outside? Practical. But feeding your baby under a cover at the coffee shop? On the airplane? At the in-laws? It seems a pain to be monkeying around with all that paraphernalia, practical only in the sense that Mama doesn’t feel as though she’s being ogled or thought indecent. Hiding your breast-feeding under a bushel (no!) Oh come on, am I the only one who instantly sang that? a cover doesn’t strike me as a choice of style (as in, “I like the color red better than the color green”) as much as it does a choice to protect one’s honor (worried about the “Did you see the boobs on that one?” or the “Can you believe she’s got her shirt pulled up? I mean there are children around!”). And that, as I said before, is sad.

I am not saying that a woman must breast-feed. Especially after my struggle that first month with Uli, I can see breast-feeding doesn’t work for everyone nor that everyone would want to breast-feed. I’m glad that those who choose not to can do so without having to beg a doctor’s prescription for formula (as they must do in some countries). I’m glad that those who do not breast-feed have the option of human milk banks and formula instead of having to rely on goats’ milk or wetnurses. However, those who choose or need to bottle-feed (regardless of what is in their babies’ bottles) are not more acceptable than breast-feeding mothers. There should be no thought to the decency of either method. There is nothing inappropriate about breast-feeding in public; there are just the people who promote that it’s indecent; and they need to stuff it and stop staring.

To those who have issues with breast-feeding, who say it’s embarrassing to be around an openly breast-feeding woman, who say that feedings should be private and kept behind closed doors with the window shades pulled, who say that sure, breasts are meant to feed babies, but-lets-get-real-they’re-too-sexy-to-be-on-display-like-that, to you let me say: stop. Just stop. You’re protecting no one. You’re perpetuating a hideous taboo. We’re not ‘displaying’ anything. We’re putting our breasts to good use. Normal use.

And that’s exactly why a project like NIN is important. Nursing cannot be obscene—not at home, not at the library, not out to dinner at the fanciest restaurant in town. Because it’s normal, healthy, and right. Those that cannot or choose not to nurse are a normal part of the mothering spectrum as well. But they are not more normal than breast-feeding mothers. They should not be more accepted or preferred. Openly breast-feeding your baby is not something that anyone should ask be tolerated any more than a person sitting in public is tolerated or women talking in public is tolerated. It’s normal for women; it’s normal for babies. Breasts are normal. Babies nursing are normal.

So, I’m going to put my name in as a volunteer for the NIN project. Don’t know if I’ll be picked or not, but I hope I am. Not because I’m a crusader but because I’m a normal breast-feeding mama who wants other mamas to be unashamed and unafraid to tread upon a horrid sense of propriety that deserves no place in Madison. I’d love to help with that.

Gosh, insert ‘maverick’ for every time I wrote the word ‘normal’ and you start to have flashbacks…

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