Monday, May 25, 2009

Book Review: The Expectant Parents' Companion

Today I'm reviewing another book loaned to me by my doula: The Expectant Parents' Companion by Kathleen Huggins.

I wasn't sure what to expect from this book just from the title, but the subtitle is the giveaway: "Simplifying what to do, buy or borrow for an easy life with baby." The book starts with some good checklists of things to do at different stages, such as interviewing and selecting a pediatrician in the third trimester (something which I've not finished yet and I'm not anxious about at all).

The subsequent sections delve into each to do and buy item in more depth, such as: buy a stroller. The stroller section goes into great detail about the types of strollers available, and the pros and cons of each. This was the first place I read a good explanation of what an umbrella stroller is!

There is a substantial section on breastfeeding and another on formula feeding - the formula section is a lot longer, but of course, it's a more complex topic. Overall, the book is very pro-breastfeeding and briefly reviews a number of the reasons why breastfeeding is better, whenever possible. The author is lactation consultant, so if it weren't pretty pro-breastfeeding, I'd be surprised...

This book contains loads of practical advice, aimed at new parents who want to learn about what types of baby gear is really necessary, and what are (expensive) optional items. It appeals to my frugality a great deal. It's written clearly and accessibly for complete newbies like me!

If I were editing or writing a new version of this book, I'd include a section on getting stuff for free or cheap. There are a lot of ways to do this, including using your local Freecycle, swap meets, and of course, inviting people coming to your baby shower to bring you their hand-me-down goods. My recommendation is to be specific about things you want new, or about which you are very particular: for me, I'm feeling fussy about the crib and stroller I've picked out but the rest of it - whatever!

Let me know if you've read this and what you thought of it. I'd love to hear from you if you've found or written a good must-have (or waste of money) list of baby gear as well.

I'm off for a week's vacation, so I may be offline for awhile. Hope you have a great week - see you next time. Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Book review: Sleeping With Your Baby

Book review time! This is another book loaned to me by my doula. I'm so delighted that I read it.

It's a very short book (128 pages) with lots of white space and images, so it's a rather quick read. It's largely divided up into three sections: an introduction, a how to cosleep and an FAQ, but each section is divided up into mini-subsections of a page or three in length, so the whole book reads like a (well written and interesting) FAQ. 

The introduction gives some anthropological background on cosleeping in other cultures and species. The how to is probably the most important section as it explains how to cosleep and what can be dangerous. The FAQ addresses a hodgepodge of other miscellaneous concerns, such as twins, premature babies and lack of pediatrician support.

I had a couple of important take-aways from this book. First, the author, James McKenna points to research which shows a significant reduction in SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) when the baby sleeps in the same room as the parents. Note that this doesn't need to be in the same bed - just the same room. 

Second, McKenna gives the reader a bit of a taxonomy of cosleeping. Cosleeping means to have an infant share a bedroom with a parent. Bedsharing means to share the parents' bed with the infant.

McKenna is very strongly in favour of breastfeeding, though he acknowledges it may not work for everyone - but he says that cosleeping can very much support breastfeeding. 

I'm personally really glad I read this book. I always liked the idea of bedsharing, but for a number of reasons, which the how to cosleep section confirmed for me, I'd intuitively felt it was potentially dangerous for us to do (too many pillows, sometimes drinking too much, I do odd things in my sleep sometimes). But knowing that the SIDS risk reduction is just from cosleeping in the same room, not necessarily from bedsharing, is a great gift. 

Cosleeping is more acceptable to me and my DH, and fits better with his culture as well. How to sleep with your infant(s) is a very personal choice, and I'm so glad to come into this with more information.

I do feel that McKenna kind of glosses over the impact of bedsharing on a couple's sex life - this is the only place I found it addressed:

Intimacy will have to be less spontaneous. You may need to start scheduling time together... find some other place to be intimate... or move the baby to a crib or bassinet after he falls asleep.
I guess this was my biggest question about bedsharing - what about the sex? But perhaps that just reveals my naivete about what comes next in terms of post-partum sex frequency... I guess I'm trying to be optimistic.

Anyone have any other infant sleeping resource recommendations? I know there are a lot out there!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Belly photos and a bit of love for The Parent's Journal

Here I am with my 30 weeks pregnant belly. It's still at a size which is fun, rather than too big... but I can see how it's going to get too big before it's over. I'm really enjoying the attention and enthusiasm from friends, family and strangers. The belly touching by strangers still hasn't manifested for the most part.

I have a feeling that I send a kind of standoffish vibe which only the most effusively affectionate are likely to overcome and decide they should touch me anyway. I don't intentionally cultivate this, it's just the way I roll. (Did I really say that? Funny thing is I just imagined my daughter reading this as a twelve year old, cringing at the old fashioned idioms I use(d). Sorry dear!)

I've been listening to some quality content on the iPod these days. I'll talk about hypnobabies another day - today is the day I want to give some love to The Parent's Journal. It's a radio show on NPR which on my affiliate is on at a crazy time on Saturday mornings... so I like to load their podcast onto my iPod and listen to it in the afternoons when I'm walking home from work. 

Each week, the host, Bobbi Conner, interviews a series of parents, pediatric or obstetric health practitioners and others with interest and expertise in child rearing. Her interviewees largely seem to have written books and I suspect the show is sort of a stop on the book tour for many. However, I really like what a lot of them have to say. 

Many seem to have a fairly relaxed view of parenting - often somewhat in line with Lenore Skenazy is trying to convey with her Free Range Kids movement. I listen to it all, topics ranging from raising resilient toddlers, to childbirth options, to being a good parent during divorce. Like a lot of other things, I take it all in, and spit out the stuff I think is hokum, such as the folks who say that eating peanuts during pregnancy will cause a peanut allergy in the child. 

The show covers a wide range of topics and I find each segment usually has something that might be worth filing away for the future.  Sometimes when Conner is interviewing someone over the phone, I find the audio frustrating to listen to on my headphones. Her voice ends up being a bit too loud and the interviewee's voice a bit too soft. But that's really my only complaint. It's a great source of ideas and things to think about. 

Of course, when it comes to applying these suggestions to reality, we'll see how it goes... 

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Growing Green Babies

A friend recommended that I check out this DVD, Growing Green Babies - I think she hadn't seen it, but figured it sounded good. I got it through Netflix and I finally made time to watch it tonight.

Overall, it's aimed at people who are new to paying attention to the environment. A hot tip from the movie: accept hand-me-downs because it will save you money and be good for the environment. No kidding! Another hot tip: choose wood and cloth toys over plastic. Wow.

In a section on greening your baby's nursery, the narrator, Sara Snow, first says the jury is out on the effect of electromagnetic fields on your health, and then goes on at length about how you must remove all optional electrical appliances from the nursery. I was ready to just ignore this, as I am not on the side of the afraid of electronics, but then she started talking about great CDs to buy to listen to in the nursery. I thought to myself ah yes, I'll be playing those nice CDs on my, um, CD player? That's electronic equipment, folks.

The narrator is very sincere, but she grates me a bit the wrong way: she's overly enthusiastic (I think she's pushing my cheerleader button), and I guess because I'm already familiar with most of the content, she comes across as condescending. But, I think if she were sharing something that was new to me, I might feel less so. Between each segment, Snow is filmed standing by a creek in front of a bamboo grove to introduce the next topic and explain why it's so important. It comes across as very corny.

The beauty segment made me feel like I'm having the easiest pregnancy ever: still no stretch marks, no varicose veins, no change in my (head) hair. I've been lucky!

The home cleaning segment is hilarious: Snow suggests using castille soap, baking soda and vinegar for various things, instead of conventional cleaning products. All things I already use. Here's something new that I like: use white vinegar in the rinse cycle when washing clothes instead of liquid fabric softener - which I knew was problematic, but now know what to replace it with.

There are a couple of segments on nutrition, prenatal and postpartum, and they're explicitly, blatantly filmed at Whole Foods! It's like a big advertisement for the store. In the first nutrition section, Snow annoyed me by talking only about the impact of pesticides on your health, as if that is the only reason to eat organic. This is a pet peeve of mine: there are two other hugely important reasons to eat organic that aren't selfish.
  • First, those chemicals are often petroleum based and both their production and use have negative impacts on our water and the rest of the ecosystem.
  • Second, it's easy to forget when you don't see it, but there was someone in a field growing your food. Their health is negatively impacted by a lot of the pesticides that are applied to your future food.
If we buy organic, we are supporting more environmentally friendly farming, and better chances at good health for farm workers around the world.

Another valuable thing from the movie: instructions on the use of the G Diapers. I knew their inserts are flushable, but now I know what needs to be done to them before flushing (not much, but there are steps to follow).

Snow dialogues with two moms, teaching them about how to green their whole pregnancy and baby experience. At the end, they talk about how scary it was: I think that's a great summary. It seems to me that this is reusing information that's already widely available, but pushing it at new parents to scare them.

If you haven't been reading about and working on reducing your environmental footprint for a long time, you might find this video to be helpful - but pick and choose what you act on, and ignore the rest. It will only give you more to worry about. Other than the two tips I mentioned about, it wasn't really a good use of my time.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Oprah, let's see Shape of a Mother on your show

If you haven't seen the photos or better yet, subscribed to the RSS feed on The Shape of a Mother website, do go check it out now. It's good because it's beautiful, it's real, it's expectation setting (in that women look very different - it's a very snowflake  uniqueness sort of thing), and I think it's especially good to look at if you're pregnant, as it's kind of reassuring that the changes you're going through are normal.

Some folks are lobbying Oprah to profile the site on her show and I'm joining in. I've tweeted about it, I've joined the Facebook group and now I'm blogging about it. Go do me a favor and tell Oprah you think she should have The Shape of a Mother on her show, too, OK?

In other news, I'm well and while I have graduated, I'm  not actually quite finished until COB tomorrow. Work has been a tad nutty and some dear friends threw a baby shower for me last weekend... right after graduation. I was completely knackered. So I'm playing catchup, and then I'll be back to proper blogging... Our little futbolista is kicking away.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Book Review: Understanding Your Moods When You're Expecting

I'm a big reader and enjoy sharing books with friends, and I was thinking I'd write here about a few of the books that I've read about pregnancy and parenting. I've signed up to be an Amazon Associate, which means that if you use the link provided to the book reviewed, I will make a tiny commission. I was setting this up just as the delisting of queer content shitstorm happened. I went back and forth on whether I'd go ahead with putting up the Amazon links along with the book reviews, and decided I would, though I'm quite unhappy with them these days. Wow, that makes me sound like I'm a total mercenary, or something, eh?

At any rate, my doula loaned me a pile of books which I should really return to her, so I'm going to go through those first. The first is Understanding Your Moods When You're Expecting by Dr Lucy Puryear

When I found this in the pile of books, I was skeptical of its value. I wondered how you fill up a whole book with you're pregnant, so you're going to be cranky and weepy, have fun! I decided I'd give it a try anyway.

Dr Puryear is a psychiatrist specializing in female reproductive mental health - a field it hadn't occurred to me exists until I read her book! Like so many pregnancy books, this one is largely divided into temporal phases: first, second, third trimester and post-partum. Throughout, Puryear presents how a lot of the emotions pregnant women experience are hormone related, and she also touches on how women already in psychiatric care for depression or other issues and taking medication, may experience pregnancy.

The first trimester section has some invaluable bits, including a nice section called The Conspiracy of Silence, which addresses in a very sensitive way, how problematic it is that we are so ashamed to hide miscarriages, and not talk about being pregnant until later in the pregnancy. (There is an article I really like on by Christine Chitnis that looks at this issue as well.) Puryear talks a lot about trusting your instincts and your trust of information sources, because of the boundless quantity of conflicting information out there on pregnancy. 

I found that for me personally, the second trimester chapters didn't really capture my experience. I think this is because Puryear talks a lot about husbands feeling disconnected and nervous about the coming baby, whereas in my case, it's me that's the nervous newbie and he's more confident about parenthood than me; and anxiety about weight gain is another big topic, and for me my main weight gain worry was the week I lost five pounds. I think that it's probably really good content for a lot of women though. 

The third trimester section is great, covering what I imagine are common anxieties and concerns with the impending birth. Something I really like is that throughout, she presents examples of clients and their family situations (Western traditional nuclear or not), and the complexities of their dynamics, like the woman who didn't want to ask her mother for help after the baby comes, because the new grandmother would take it as a confirmation of her daughter's incompetence. Stuff like that is so real! Puryear gives some good ideas about how to handle the family craziness and also get the support you need.

For me, the real value in this book is the last few sections looking at the emotional impact  of birth and post-partum. I've not yet blogged about this and I'm not sure I will, but I'm pretty sure my mother had pretty bad undiagnosed post-partum depression after the birth of my little sister and probably after me too. 

PPD is so common - according to Puryear, up to 1 in 10 women experience it after giving birth. Puryear presents examples of clients with varying degrees of PPD and how she or other practitioners helped them through it. She also advocates breastfeeding newborns as much as possible, though for some women, she allows that it's more stress and pressure than it is worth. Puryear provides some useful warning signs of PPD which are also available on her website so I won't reproduce them here, but I encourage anyone who is pregnant or knows someone who is pregnant to go check them out.

I was surprised at how valuable I found this book to be and I'm glad it came my way. If what I've written interests you, I encourage you to get your hands on a copy. It's a quick read (199 pages in the edition I have)  and written in a very accessible style.