Bright from the Start: The Simple, Science-Backed Way to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind from Birth to Age 3 offers scientific reasoning behind some of the simplest truths. What makes this book stand out is DR Stamm’s academic background; a PhD in neuroscience and a very unique life experience.  She is a mother of two grown-up daughters.  One of them is severely intellectually disabled, and the other holds a PhD in neuroscience, just like her mother.

I was not initially blown over when I read the first couple of pages.  However, when I read the introduction in which Dr Stamm describes her experience in great detail, my eyes filled with tears.

She tells how her first daughter was born extremely premature and that it is a miracle that she even survived as she was still foetus at birth. She had been advised that her child would die soon and even if she survived, she wouldn’t be able to walk or talk.   It is difficult to imagine what she must have been going through.

The baby had to undergo a series of surgical interventions.  However, because her heart was very tiny and weak, they would operate without anaesthetics, as there was a risk she would not wake up if they did. They said that babies don’t feel pain and comforted her by saying that the baby would not remember anything (if she survived).

One thing is for sure,  Dr Stamm didn’t need the over-cited example of famous Romanian orphans to depict the kind of consequence an early trauma can leave on an infant’s developing brain.

This book is actually bright just like the title says. It brings the clear message that, regardless of our children’s natural potential, we are able to support brain development.

The author’s first daughter grew up to be a happy individual; she is my age now and is able to talk. Her second one is extraordinarily intelligent. Dr Stamm raised them both with an exclusive knowledge of a neuroscientist and true motherly devotion; willing to give her best effort to help her children thrive.

So, what did she do? What is her secret? According to Dr Jill Stamm, what babies really need is as simple as ABC – Attention, Communication and Bonding. She teaches us how to increase a child’s attention span, and how to keep a delicate balance between stimulating activities and the peaceful ones.

Dr Stamm emphasises the significance of developing emotional attachment between a child and a parent, pointing out the firm connection between attachment parenting and cognitive development of the baby. She also offers revolutionary advice on directing the link between verbal engagement with parents and higher IQ rates among children.

This book is definitely eye-opening; I would recommend it as an essential read for all parents and future ones too.

7 Wrong Cues That Make You Think Your Milk Supply Is Insufficient

 

Image courtesy of Valentina Yachichurova / Flickr

 

The most overlooked fact in regards to breastfeeding is that all healthy mums can breastfeed their babies. Significant and evident to this, is that milk production depends on the amount of milk the baby drinks, breastfeeding frequency, as well as the occurrence of night feeding. It is a demand-supply process.
Notwithstanding, there are some factors that can lower milk supply for a day or two. Sometimes it can take three days for milk producing to get back to normal but this doesn’t mean that any woman can’t produce enough milk for her baby.

 

One of the things that can slowly limit milk supply is if a mother starts to believe that she is simply not producing enough milk to fulfill her baby’s growing needs. As a result, she starts supplementing with infant formula, which leads to a decrease in milk supply. It is important for women to identify false cues. They need to understand why there suddenly seems to be a low supply of milk and learn how to boost it again.

 

1. The first couple of days after the childbirth

Immediately after we give birth to the first child, most of us expect an immediate flow of milk. In fact, the beginning of lactation is a moderately complex process that starts before the actual birth and requires you to breastfeed as often as possible. The amount of milk your baby is able to drink is small but more sufficient to sustain them. A newborn baby needs equivalent to a spoonful of milk every half an hour or so. Breastfeeding on cue helps your body decide how much milk to produce. However, if you jump to the conclusion that there is insufficient milk supply and start feeding your baby with artificial milk, your body will start producing less day by day. Don’t let anything or anyone lessen your confidence and just continue to breastfeed on demand.

2. The Use of Breast Pump

The breast pump is one of those inventions that might come handy now and then. For example, if you are separated from your baby for some hours or if you have a large milk supply. This alternative can sabotage your milk supply and may affect confidence. Some mothers get upset when they are unable to pump exact amounts of milk as they may think they should, often forgetting two simple facts. First, there are variations in amounts of milk produced, which is perfectly normal. Secondly, no pump can get as much milk as an effectively nursing baby.
The breast is not a bottle. Breast pumps are designed to mechanically remove extra milk. Babies, on the other hand, when nursing, evoke complex emotional and physiological responses, which trigger producing more milk both instantly and in long-term.
I would advise all new mums to be careful. It is preferable to use a breast pump to collect extra milk, but not to determine whether or not you are producing enough milk.

 

3. Discomfort

As I’ve mentioned, when we breastfeed our babies, it creates a strong emotional and hormonal response. However, if that response is not positive, for example, if a mother suffers from post-natal depression or if she is in pain, the physiological chain that normally leads to producing more milk would not work properly. When this happens, it is essential to diminish the source of the problem, whether it is physical or emotional.

 

4. Development Jumps

After establishing a routine, you may find your baby simply can’t get enough of your milk. Don’t panic; babies enter a phase of faster growth and/or greater activity level and therefore need more calories. That doesn’t mean that you have to supplement your milk with formula. If your baby already feeds on solids, you may consider adjusting her diet to the new circumstances. If your baby is still under six month old, just let her nurse more and more often, especially at night. Be persistent and your milk supply will accommodate the baby’s needs.

 

5. Your Diet

One of the main concerns for most of us is how to lose weight after pregnancy. Bear in mind that strict regimes that include smaller intake of calories are not such a good idea. In the long run, the most effective way to get rid of these calories is to keep nursing. Implementing strict diets would compromise successful breastfeeding. I would recommend to eat healthily and to drink enough fluids, which should give you good results and sustain feeds for your baby.

 

6. Emotional Needs of Your Baby

Babies can demand breastfeeding even when they are not hungry or thirsty. Many times, they are only longing to be close to you, which is normal. Breastfeeding is not just feeding and is not always about nourishments. It can be about attachment as well. The baby might not be hungry at all and your milk supply is probably fine but the baby may require your closeness and assurance.

 

7. Hormonal Changes: Period Is Coming

There can be a sudden drop in milk supply, which can be disheartening to mums. This is most likely caused by hormonal changes; either your period is coming or you might be pregnant. It is important to know that this drop is temporary; in a few days everything should be back to normal.
Whatever the cause, there are some things you can do to preserve the flow of milk. Just keep feeding your tiny one as much as possible. Remember, milk production is a demand-supply process. More breastfeeding directly results in greater milk supply.

Another great reason to choose breastfeeding

Our bodies are designed to gain weight during pregnancy. They are also designed to lose it afterwards. That’s biology. The problem begins when we ignore nature.

 

People rarely manage to hide their disbelief when they first find out that I am a mum of three. And I am not an exception – there are fit mums everywhere and, truth to be told, most of us never tried any particular diet, not to mention going to the gym. You may ask why all mums aren’t able to shed the baby weight. There are several factors that one should implement which include a combination of light exercise such as walking and nourishing your body with the right foods that benefit your breastfed baby and yourself. I just have to point that breastfeeding plays a huge role too.

 

Our bodies change. During those nine months, we gain weight. Our bodies collect calories, making enough supplies to make it possible for our baby to survive a potential famine. The threat of famine might not be realistic for most of us, but our bodies don’t care about statistics. It still creates reserves of fat and other forms of nourishment that are used as the primary source of food for our babies.

 

We shouldn’t ignore the fact that our bodies change during pregnancy. We need to understand that the changes on the hormonal level affect metabolism. If we try to find alternative ways to lose weight, we might discover that none of these work; especially those that were effective before pregnancy. This is normal.

 

Other factors that may impact weight loss are;

  • Night waking; This can lead to sleep deprivation, preventing the repair and restoration of your body.
  • Early weaning: You loose calories as you breastfeed. When you stop, you are unable to loose them in the same way hence you have to find other means. If you don’t, your body may keep all these calories that it collected during the previous nine months.

Don’t want to keep them? There is a very simple solution; don’t overlook the biological imperative. Do breastfeed your baby and nurture your body.
These calories won’t go away overnight. It usually takes a little over three months before you start noticing that pounds are melting. Then you need to wait for another three to six months to fit into an old pair of jeans, and a few more to be completely satisfied with your look. That’s not quite a long period of time. Remember, our bodies collect calories for those nine months. It is perfectly normal that we need at least another nine months to lose them.

Image courtesy of Amila Pradeep at Flickr

Image courtesy of Amila Pradeep at Flickr

 

I came across an interesting fact while undertaking research for my upcoming book.

When people Google the term “attachment parenting”, several responses surface, which include ‘why it is wrong’, ‘why they shouldn’t do it’, and ‘how to beat an attachment parent in a debate’.

 

ap_google_search

 

Of course, I’ve heard it is bad – my neighbour’s mother-in-law is always telling me things like, it is inappropriate and children should get used to independency as early as possible.  Regardless, this was a surprise when it presented as one of the responses for my search.

When I tried Bing instead of Google, I was suggested to type “Why attachment parenting is harmful”. I got curious so I tried it out, then the search engine gave me these hints too:

ap_related_searches_2

and so on…

My observation was that, most Google users tend to ask why attachment parenting is bad, wrong, and controversial, while Bing users seem to consider terms such as; harmful and dangerous.  I noticed that they also search information on AP techniques (I can give them a straight answer: attachment parenting is not about techniques, it is about bonds of love.)

I decided to follow the clues in order to find out the arguments against attachment parenting. I expected to find “traditional parenting” commonplaces on general parenting forum threads. To my surprise, I have found long articles on high authority websites, all fabulously written by top journalists and skilled writers. Those people know how to write compelling content, they know how to convince the readers, but unfortunately, they show little insight about attachment parenting. The research they have undoubtedly made wasn’t of much use because they were biased from the start.

In an article published in The Atlantic, Emma Jenner says: Extremes like on-demand breastfeeding can take their toll on parents and children alike. This would normally be enough to stop reading for anyone who follows the WHO’s recommendations on newborn health. I continued to read. I found the cliché advice I’ve heard numerous times from random people: “One of the tenets of attachment parenting is that you breastfeed a child on demand. That can lead to a habit where a child will snack—eating a little bit many times throughout the day.”

Facepalm. Where did that come from? Experience? No, she is attachment parenting opponent. Science? Statistics? Proof? There isn’t any. On the contrary, there is a lot of evidence, which states that regular, and on-demand breastfeeding leads to healthier eating habits.

  • Breastfed children have healthier habits than non-breastfed children in terms of the introduction of complementary foods. According to a recent study, non-breastfed children aged four months or younger were 8.2 and 6.7 times more likely to receive the family food (95% CI: 3.23-20.66) or vegetable soup (95% CI: 3.84-11.78), respectively. (source: Feeding habits of breastfed and non-breastfed children up to 1 year old / Jornal de Pediatria).
  • World Health Organization emphasize the importance of “unrestricted exclusive breastfeeding” in establishing healthier eating habits in infants and children (source: Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding).
  • Breast feeding and obesity: cross sectional study goes further: In industrialized countries promoting prolonged breastfeeding may help decrease the prevalence of obesity in childhood. Since obese children have a high risk of becoming obese adults, such preventive measures may eventually result in a reduction in the prevalence of cardiovascular diseases and other diseases related to obesity.

Now, let’s get back to the article. It goes like this: a dad cries for help. He and his wife had tried attachment parenting and it didn’t work. They were desperate and asked the author of the article for advice. She is an expert after all. And so she explained to them that all the attachment nonsense is a new trend that is gotten off the balance and that it is an unsustainable modelBut like so many trends that catch on through social media and word-of-mouth, it’s gotten out of balance, says Emma Jenner. And like many well-intentioned practices, when taken to an extreme, it loses all value. And, as she said more than once, breastfeeding on demand is an extreme.

I wonder what does it mean to try attachment. Attachment is not a technique. You don’t try; you bond yourself to your newborn. You don’t follow any rules; you follow your baby’s needs. And if you need help, there is a huge network of attachment parenting support groups around the world. You certainly don’t call an attachment theory opponent for help. If you do so, maybe it means that you were never sincerely attached, that you only wanted to think of yourself as of a perfect parent and, when the initial approach became too heavy, you asked just the right person to validate your efforts and give you the arguments that you don’t really need to do all that. Why would you call a reality nanny and the author of a book called Keep Calm and Parent On: A Guilt-Free Approach to Raising Children by Asking More From Them and Doing Less, instead of qualified professional or experienced friend, if not to clear your conscience? Wouldn’t that mean that you only needed some arguments so you could think of yourself as of, still, a perfect parent?

Trend? If anyone thinks that the Sears family invented attachment, the article titled Becoming Attached was published in The Atlantic back in 1990Even before that, there were – and there are – parents around the world who never heard of the attachment theory, but who are deeply bonded to their children. Attachment is something that they do, not a trend or fashion which they follow. Attachment parenting is the most natural way of raising children. Regarding Jenner’s remark that our Western culture hardly resembles these cultures. Did these parents have commutes and nine-to-five jobs? Parents need to be able to focus at work… – I’ll thoroughly respond to these arguments in my upcoming book.

Unsustainable? According to my experience as an attached mother of three, it is absolutely sustainable. I am still breastfeeding my youngest one and I still carry him around, as he is still under 2 years old, but I can clearly see that he will be just as independent as his older siblings. And they are doing great. You’ll have an opportunity to learn more on my experience as an attachment parent from my future blog articles and the book. Now, let’s get back to the subject.

The Guardian featured an article called Attachment parenting: the best way to raise a child – or maternal masochism? The author is not a child-care professional, rather, as a top newspapers’ journalist, she is a professional opinion-maker. Let’s see what she says;

The approach combines an attitude of enlightenment (“We don’t do things the old way”) with veneration of the distant past (vague anthropological references to the practices of ancient tribespeople, never mind the improved mother and infant mortality rates). […] Like the trend for “wellness” and clean eating, attachment parenting posits that the modern world has corrupted what was once pure, through scientific intervention. Rejecting modernity has become the ultimate aspirational signifier […] It also has about it a touch of anti-intellectualism, an increasingly popular stance in everything from politics to nutrition. — Hadley Freeman, The Guardian (the emphasis is mine)

As an attached parent and psychologist, I found this opinion highly disturbing. Attachment parenting has nothing to do with anti-intellectualism. On the contrary, the enlightenment that we have here is purely intellectual. As a mother and an intellectual, I refuse to follow so-called experts and I do “shun developments such as sleep training”, because I am knowledgeable enough to see that sleep training is not a development. I choose not to follow “experts” like Ferber and such, because I know that his approach is not scientifically proven to be good or even harmless for babies.

I love the fact that it is 21st century now and we have so many information available. You’re now just a click away from these wonderful sources: The Case Against Ferber Sleep Training (written by Dr Laura Markham – a clinical psychologist with a PhD from Columbia University) and Dangers of “Crying It Out” (written by Darcia Narvaez – a professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame).

Through the rest of the article, Hadley Freeman touches the common topics such as intimacy in marriage and cites few women who admitted that attachment parenting affected their marriage. Everything seems plausible and self-evident. Some marriages ended, some are about to end.

But let me share something with you from the position of an attached mum and a wife whose marriage goes just fine.  Attached or not, parenthood is an ultimate test for any couple. People don’t get divorced because of their parenting philosophy. They get divorced for several reasons like finally finding out that they can’t make constructive decisions together, that they became rivals instead of being partners and supporters of each other.

Unattached parents get divorced too and it seems to me that many people, including H. Freedman, think that having children in general is masochistic. No wonder that they can’t embrace attachment parenting. In my opinion, the everyday struggle with insincere and non-supportive partners is masochistic. All fights with your partner will now be the same fight over and over, and that fight is ‘I do more for the kid(s) than you and you don’t give me any credit’, says Hadley in her recent article, called I’ve been a parent for one year, and this is what I’ve learned. Well, I’ve been a parent for eight years and I’m led to believe that one year of hers may have been harder than my eight.