Monday, September 26, 2016

Calling All Lactavists!

I was having lunch with a friend of mine the other day who became nervous when her fifteen week old son wanted to nurse, not knowing whether the restaurant we were patroning would take kindly to her nursing since her son would invariably battle her nursing cover and lead to certain public exposition of her milk ducts. She was nervous despite knowing full well that the law protected her right to do so. Unfortunately, while the law protects women breastfeeding in public, not all women know this and even the women that do (like my friend) feel uncomfortable because there is a culture of seclusion.

Many places that cater to young mothers provide "breastfeeding areas" which while respectful of an infant's need to feed in a serene area, may also be unwittingly contributing to (or more insidiously the result of) this unspoken custom of accepting breastfeeding but expecting it be done away from public view. This is further fortified by the fact that it is expected that women use a nursing cover when feeding as if providing sustenance to their babies is somehow indecent, somehow shameful. We cannot on the one hand glorify the benefits of nursing and on the other provide no support to women that nurse their babies and seclude them away as if their nursing is an act of bodily secretion slightly above dispensing with your dinner in the usual biological way.

The law in California protects a mother's right to nurse her baby IN ANY LOCATION, PUBLIC OR PRIVATE, notwithstanding any other law, with the limited exception of someone's private residence (private here referring more to restaurants, shops and office buildings etc), unless the mother is not authorized to be there in the first place (California Civil Code 43.3).  This right is NOT conditioned upon the mother covering up and essentially noosing her baby while he or she feeds.

Some babies do not want to nurse under a cover- part of the reason babies do not want to cover up (apart from the obvious discomfort) is that babies' temperature may increase during nursing (it does with my sons) and also I wonder whether since they are already limiting the scope of their breathing whether limiting the air around them is quite stifling. That babies do not prefer to nurse under a nursing chador and that some babies refuse to, should not be a surprise to anyone for I would wager that hardly anyone would find favour in being told they had to eat their lunch under the cover of a blanket.

Nursing is a miracle and should be treated as such. I can't believe that my teeny tiny 6lb 10 oz baby is  2 moths in, now nearly 14 lbs and all from my miracle milk!

The nursing chador is akin to laws that target pedophilia by unwittingly sexualising the bodies of children. For instance, some schools prevent parents from taking photos of their children during swimming competitions, lest they capture photos of other people's children so scantily clad. My first cultural clash when I migrated to Australia from Yugoslavia - an engram etched into my memory - was this difference of covering up. My parents had recently started buying me bottoms for the beach and pool when I previously would run around naked (they also weren't as afraid of the sun as the antipodeans with their ozone amiss) but at seven and a half, I still lacked a top. After all, what would any top cover? My chest was indistinguishable from a boy's and may I repeat, I but was seven years old. Yet I noticed that girls either had a swimming costume that covered their entire torso or tops and bottoms while only boys had bottoms so in my stunted staccato English I gesticulated to the teacher that I only had a bottom and wondered at her response - which was that I was not to swim since I had forgotten part of my swimmers, not a thought in her mind that it would be suitable to expose my seven year old chest to my classmates. There seems to be a little of the Victorian lingering in the Anglo world which translates to the nursing chador that ensures no mis-latchings would lead to the sensational exposure of a nipple.

We should not sexualize nursing and impose a nursing chador over women and babies. It is
extremely inconvenient, sometimes even impossible to have these babies nurse- so are we on the one hand meant to praise the benefits of human milk and on the other deny a famished baby its food because it does not want to eat under cover?  Are we on the one hand meant to praise women that nurse and on the other ensure that they do so covered up under a nursing chador?

While I have noticed some discomfort, I have experienced only one instant in which I was told to stop nursing (thankfully the Bay Area is not gripped by the fear of the nipple, but I fear for my sisters in other parts of the world). I believe the exact terminology used was that I had "picked the wrong place" to start nursing my son, being the Home Depot in Oakland, as if nursing were somehow anathema to buying home supplies and construction tools. I politely replied that I did not pick when my son was hungry or thirsty and that I was going to finish nursing (albeit my husband does not remember me being so diplomatic, but I wager that it is his memory that is faltering and not mine).  They recalcitrantly "allowed" me to finish nursing (which, apart from the attention resulting from the staffer's commotion with me, otherwise seemed to not attract any interest, good or ill and I doubt had any effect upon their sales that day). It might be a good idea for managers to instruct their staff on a women's legal right to nurse - without cover- so that women do not have to bother with justifying their legal right while they are concomitantly feeding their babies.

I would of course recommend that lactivists carry around a nursing chador, if only to throw it over a person that may be uncomfortable so that they can be happily protected from bearing witness to such a miracle.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Merry-Go-Round: 2 Boys, 2 Vaccines

Yesterday I took in both boys to get their vaccines. Well that was fun. I strapped M in my Ergo and L into his red car, munching away on an apple, and took them to the doctor (which seemed to disprove the verity of one famous aphorism). L, traumatised from previous stygian experiences at the doctor, started crying despite his red apple and red car (the theme of the day was the colour "red") as soon as we entered. He ran between my legs and held tight, crying "no, mama, no" which woke his little brother up. Then there were two crying and this continued until a thoughtful nurse gave L some stickers with cars to divert his attention. L was then blythe as M continued to protest and show off his lungs to the doctor and nurses.

I had explained the importance of vaccines to my boys but neither understood(I understand that these days it's a controversial topic, but while I do worry what is in the vaccines apart from the cultures, we're a family of the opinion that the benefit of vaccines for yourself and for the general populus is a no brainer). It was a good time to describe to L the etymology of the word, coming from vache, or cow in French as Edward Jenner developed the first vaccine for smallpox (eradicated in 1979 worldwide due to the prevalence of the vaccine) by noticing how people infected with cowpox were immune to smallpox. L was already quite late in his getting his vaccines as I kept delaying them because he kept being sick every time he was meant to receive one and as I also wanted to spread them out to be easier on his system so despite knowing it would prove difficult to have both boys go and get them concomitantly, I was determined to do it.

The shots were a delicate operation. I thought we would do L first because if L saw M getting pricked, he was not going to wait until his turn. The nurses thought it were better to have M go first and divert L, because they feared that M, who would otherwise at 2 months have no idea what was coming, would protest when he saw his brother's reaction. I agreed. So L was taken to a different room to play with toys while M got his shots after which I calmed him down with a speed nursing session. Then L waltzed in happy to show me his new booty - a toy dump truck and camera. His happy mood was truncated to say the least. As soon as we were done, I tried to calm L down by hugging and kissing him but that show trick was getting me nowhere. Then I realized I had a prop to aid me. I told L that he had a camera in his hands and pretended I was taking photos of him directing him to smile ("Smile for Daddy! Smile for Baba! Bigger! Smile bigger! Smile for Yia Yia!). Appealing to his vanity did wonders. I couldn't claim victory yet because while I had one happy toddler, I now had one screaming baby whom the nurse carried back to me. I'm pretty much a one show pony when it comes to my infant because nursing is a panacea - so I let L play with his toys while I did another speed nursing session to calm his brother down. I continued to let L play with his toys while I strapped him into his car and strapped my now sleeping infant back into the baby carrier- now there was one happy toddler and one sleeping baby... but I had to give the toys back.... and went back to one sleeping baby and one screaming toddler.

My main weapon with my toddler is diversion. As we walked home, I continued to ask him to point things out to me (Do you see a tree? Do you see a bus? What else do you see?) which slowly calmed him down as he forgot about this truck and camera. By the time we were back at the house, I had one happy toddler and one sleeping baby.... then came the four flights of stairs... my toddler protested and his dancing decibels woke up his sleeping that by the time we came back home, I was back to one screaming toddler and one screaming baby...If only there were inoculations against kids crying...

Monday, September 12, 2016

If Only I Had More Arms...

The other day I decided to stay up after a 5 am feeding, figuring that I had a few hours before either boy was up and could get some extra work in. I skulked into the kitchen as if I were in the commission of a criminal act, careful not to wake up the sleeping Little Giant and the Little Tyrant, whom I had just laid down and chose the most silent breakfast, conscripting a protein bar for my purposes (unveiling the conscript in the bathroom due for good measure). I fashioned a nice setting on the couch so I wouldn't wake my husband in our bedroom and set to work. Less than 5 minutes later, when I was still getting into a groove, I heard the Little Giant wail. I gave him a minute and looked at my camera, figuring that maybe he were having a nightmare. When his wails didn't subside, I knew I had to go on a diaper reconnaissance mission but on finding out that the diaper was dry and that the wails were indeed due to a nightmare, I was ensnared in a cuddle conundrum (to work? to cuddle? the latter always wins). After cuddling my son and stroking his hair to get him to sleep (bonus cuddle score! My favourite part of the day), I left and resumed work. Less than 5 minutes later, the Little Tyrant woke up and wanted to feed again and before I had finished nursing him, my husband woke up for the day and the Little Giant raged awake. So much for an early morning breakthrough.

I'm still negotiating how to deal with both boys, sometimes I get too frazzled and feel completely helpless and useless as they are both crying and demanding my sole attention. I've never wanted superpowers more than now. If only I could be in two places at once!

When I get it down pat (in those rare circumstances), I feel like a super mum! The other day, we were all curled up on the couch, content. I was sitting crosslegged, the  Little Tyrant copacetic, feeding with gusto, the Little Giant on my other side, curled up next to me, holding my left arm across his chest, his head resting on my side, enthusiastically playing with a toy dinosaur (which in his lingua is termed "achoo" after we read a book in which a dino sneezed). Our concordia didn't last very long, but I take what I can get.

While my husband and I had our routine down pat with the Little Giant, we are still finding kinks negotiating both. The other day as I was nursing the Little Tyrant and hubby ran the bath and went to prepare his PJs (usually my job but I was diverted by the deluge of the ravenous Little Tyrant), when I heard some suspect splashes from the bathroom. Calling my husband to investigate, I was surprised to hear him laugh raucously. The Little Giant had thought it fit to crawl into his bath, clothes and all.... 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

To Watch or Not to Watch

I've read numerous articles that state that television holds no positive for a developing toddler's brain and may retard development. One of the reasons is that toddlers are not meant to process what they are seeing before the age of 2. However, my toddler is not yet 2 and he has been processing what he sees on screens for a while. He excitedly points to a cow or a sheep or fox or a bus or whatever he recognizes. If he doesn't recognize what is on screen or doesn't understand what is happening he looks at me and asks for an explanation - "this?" and I explain. He then remembers the new objects he has seen (I find the best way to remember something learnt yesterday is to repeat it the next day before we learn anything new).

The main reason that television is not suitable for toddlers, so the argument goes, is that it's a passive activity and leave no room for the imagination. I would certainly agree that it's normally a passive activity and that reading for instance, is much more interactive because you have to visualize what you are reading. However, at this young age, we are reading picture books, so there is no visualization inherent in either activity. Further, I find television to actually be very good for my kid's development. Firstly, not at all screen time is equal. Neither my husband nor I are big television fans and we're certainly not going to allow our toddler to sit in front of a glaring screen to regurgitate its cultural carcass onto our innocent toddler. However, there are plenty of shows and films that are very educational that we see our toddler learning from  (Sesame Street being pride of place) . The number and letter of the day have been a great hit. Dare I admit in public that it was during an episode of Sesame Street that my son first ebulliently  exclaimed  "C!" when it popped on the screen before the puppets had time to pander their daily ware....I guess, I do...Admittedly at times we use television (ie Sesame Street, thus far the only show officially sanctioned by our household) for its passivity. Mostly, however, we enjoy watching with our toddler and walking (well, talking) him through the episodes. Look, a bear! A bear! A mammal, a quadruped - can you say "bear?" You can make television as interactive as picture books. Thank you pause button. My toddler gets agitated, but I like to pause and explain what is going on. At times, we've put on films - he's watched Finding Nemo, Cars, Zootopia and I like to channel his enthusiasm for the characters to learn new things (Zootopia gave us "bunny", "fox" and "sheep" for instance). He's watched a few Bugs Bunny cartoons. I'm not sure of these yet. My concern is the violence. If he sees a violent scene in a cartoon he won't know that this is not correct behaviour. That throwing a rock at someone's head does actually hurt them and can severely injure them. I explain this, but how much is he understanding? The best method is to leave this until he's a little older and fast forward.

Well curated, television can be as educational and as interactive as picture books. Of course, this depends on your's child's development and ability to discern the pictures on screen, with the agreed cut off point being 2. As with all cut off points, to an extent they're arbitrary. You have to draw the line somewhere, and you draw the line for the majority of the population. Take voting for instance. Some 17 year olds may be more politically sophisticated and active than some 54 year olds, but you have to draw the line for the majority. The young voter is not going to be any more sophisticated on the day they turn 18 than they were the day before, but if an election were held the day before their 18th birthday, they would have to miss it. This is the inherent arbitrariness of cut off points, a regrettable necessity. My kid was about 18 months when he started watching shows and he immediately registered what was going on.

I find the biggest problem may be purely physical. Whether it's the TV or an iPad, our eyes perceive screens differently than books. Are we hurting our child's sight? Will he have to wear glasses? For this primary reason, until we leave picture books for more substantive literature, we strictly limit screen time.