Thursday, January 27, 2011

Babywearing in a warm climate

Yes, it's an odd time of year to write about babywearing in hot weather, but this is the time of year when some of us are lucky enough to escape the frigid Canadian winter, fleeing to a warmer climate if only for a brief respite from the cold. If you walk into the Ottawa store on a particularly cold day, and I'm behind the counter, you will likely be greeted by some comment about the weather, and it likely won't be favourable. I am not a fan of winter. I don't ski or snowboard, so I view snow as a pointless inconvenience. Fortunately for me, I'm not in Ottawa right now (!!!).

My husband and I have escaped with the kids to Hawaii for a couple of weeks, a trip that's been over a year in the making has finally come to fruition, and we are enjoying the tropical weather of the Pacific islands. One of the must-haves on our packing list was our Manduca carrier; on the various trips that we have taken as a family throughout the years, slings have been an invaluable tool, a convenient way of toting our children around that gives them a birds-eye view of whatever we might be doing (on tomorrow's agenda: a whale-watching tour!). Grace is over two and a half years old, but still in need of being carried from time to time. Navigating through a busy airport with a walking two-year old would be impossible, and when we're sightseeing, sometimes she just gets too tired to walk (like today in Lahaina) -- it's nice to be able to scoop her up and pop her onto my back without missing a beat.

If you will be babywearing in a warmer climate, whether you're enjoying a hot Canadian summer, or you're lucky to be vacationing somewhere warm during a Canadian winter, there are things you can do to ensure a comfortable experience for both the babywearer (that's you!) and the babywearee (that's your child!).

Use a light-colored sling. Look around our store, and you may notice the lack of dark-colored slings. Yes, I stock a few in each brand, but I will freely admit that I often try to talk people out of buying dark-colored slings. From a practical point of view, they show dirt more readily than their lighter counterparts (a black sling with a baby prone to spit up = a nightmare!). Furthermore, dark-colored slings will feel hotter in the sun - your baby will feel a lot hotter in a black Ergo than she will in a camel-colored Ergo!

Use adequate UV protection. Young or old, when you're in the sun, UV exposure is a concern for everyone. If your baby is six+ months old, apply a safe sunscreen to any exposed skin, and put a brimmed hat on her head. If your baby is younger than six months old, consider using an umbrella with UV protection to protect her skin (added double bonus: the umbrella will protect your skin too, and it will keep you both cooler!).

Carry a spray bottle.  When water evaporates off of skin, it has a cooling effect (a fine mist will give you the benefit of sweating, without the sweat!).

Apply a cool, wet cloth to your (and your baby's) pulse points.  Wet cloth (any cloth!) applied to pulse points is an effective way to lower your core temperature.  The blood vessels in a pulse point are closer to the skin, so as blood passes through the vessel, it is chilled by the cool cloth.

Avoid being in the sun during peak hours. The sun is the strongest between 10am and 4pm. Avoid being outside with your little one in a carrier between these hours. You don't have to barricade yourselves indoors all day, use common sense to plan your outings -- go for a walk early in the morning, or before supper.

Dress yourself and your child accordingly. People are often concerned that babywearing in the summer will be too hot. It's not the sling that will make you hot, it's the little heat box nestled against you -- babies are naturally warm little creatures! Grace was born in early June, I was back to work within a week of her birth (one of the many 'benefits' of being self-employed). As a result, Grace spent the first three months of her life (the hottest months of the year) in a Boba stretchy wrap all day. I dressed her in nothing more than a onesie and a diaper, on particularly warm days, she wore only a diaper; I wore light t-shirts and tank tops to keep myself cool.

Keep yourself and your baby well-hydrated. Breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby frequently, and don't forget to drink plenty of liquids yourself.

Traditionally, many cultures in hot climates around the world have employed carriers in one form or another as a method of transporting babies and children; from Rebozos in Mexico to Kikoys in Kenya, hot climates are not a barrier to babywearing. With a little planning (and a lot of common sense), babywearing in warm weather is a safe and comfortable activity. Aloha!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Homegrown lactivism

Breastfeeding was back in the news last week as Michelle Obama's attempts to encourage women to breastfeed drew criticism from conservative politicians across the United States. It's wonderful to see someone as influential as Michelle Obama stand up for breastfeeding, but did you know that we can all encourage positive change?

Donate your time to an organization that supports breastfeeding mothers
(La Leche League, Breastfeeding Buddies). If you don't have time to donate, consider making a small financial contribution to an organization that supports breastfeeding. Infant formula manufacturers have deep pockets to fund their research and advertising campaigns, committees that promote breastfeeding do not, every penny counts!

Donate breastmilk to a mother in need. If a mother cannot breastfeed herself, donated breastmilk is the next best option, however, there is currently only one (one!) breastmilk bank in Canada. Fortunately, a new milksharing organization called Eats on Feets pairs mothers in need of breastmilk with breastfeeding mothers. If you have a surplus of breastmilk stored in your freezer, consider donating it to someone else who could make good use of it.

Encourage and support your breastfeeding friends. Are you familiar with the term "It takes a village to raise a child"? The same adage applies to breastfeeding. Breastfeeding can be a challenge in those first few weeks, the more support a new mother has from her partner, family, and friends, the more likely she is to succeed at breastfeeding. What can you do to help? Cheer her on! Remind her why breastfeeding is important, and let her know what local resources are available. You're not being pushy, you're being supportive!

Choose your words carefully. The subject of feeding babies can be a divisive topic among mothers, there is no need for judgement or assumptions. I think it's safe to say that we all want what's best for our children, but without proper support at home, and without access to adequate breastfeeding resources, some mothers may not be able to establish a successful breastfeeding relationship with their baby, despite their best intentions. When I hear anyone use the phrase "didn't try hard enough" in relation to breastfeeding, I cringe. When you talk about breastfeeding, use positive, encouraging words.

Lobby your local MP to improve access to breastfeeding resources and government-funded milk-sharing banks. In response to the immediate success of Eats on Feets, Health Canada issued an advisory against breastmilk sharing. While we are fortunate in Ottawa to have access to a number of free breastfeeding resources, families in other cities aren't as lucky. Mothers should not be limited by location (or finances) if they need breastfeeding help. Considering the myriad of health benefits breastfeeding offers both mother and baby, rather than criticizing attempts to make breastmilk accessible to anyone who needs it, the Canadian government should consider how it can increase breastfeeding rates.

Breastfeed in public. As more people exposed to it, the more normal breastfeeding will seem. Use a cover if it makes you feel comfortable, though if you watch yourself breastfeed in a mirror, you may be surprised at how little is revealed.

Stand up for your rights. If you are breastfeeding in public, and someone challenges you about your rights, challenge them right back. Many people still don't realize what that breastfeeding mothers have rights, there is nothing wrong with educating them about it. If you meet resistance, ask to speak with management. If that doesn't work, approach the media. You're not attention-seeking, you're standing up for yourself and your baby. When the media runs a story about a woman being denied the right to breastfeed in public, it provides a great opportunity to educate the general public about breastfeeding rights.

Talk to children about breastfeeding. On at least two occassions, I've had the opportunity to explain to my children's friends how I was feeding my baby (it only took them two years to notice, lol). If your community offers a Roots of Empathy program within its school system, perhaps you and your baby can participate -- in addition to encouraging positive social behaviour, and reducing peer aggression, it's a great way to model positive parenting. If children are exposed to the idea of breastfeeding, it may affect the choices they make as parents.

It's encouraging to see increased breastfeeding rates in Canada, but there's still room for improvement.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Things that make me feel old.

It's official, I can't pretend anymore that aging doesn't bother me. Today, I heard (read) the depressing news that Gabrielle Carteris, the actress who played Andrea Zuckerman on Beverly Hills 90210, has turned fifty. That's 5-0. Eeek! Of course, it's not that news alone that makes me feel old. Rather, it's a combination of things, a collection of random happenings that, when considered independently, aren't such a big deal, but when considered collectively, eeek! I mean seriously, eeek!

  1. The fact that someone reading this may not realize I'm not talking about today's 90210 (a bucketload of crap, for the record), but that I'm talking about the *original* Beverly Hills 90210 that aired over 20 years ago.
  2. The fact that the original Beverly Hills 90210 is over 20 years old! I remember being glued to the trials and tribulations of Brandon, Brenda, Dylan, Kelly, Donna, David, and Andrea like it was yesterday. Yesterday!
  3. I have grey hairs. Plural. I used to pluck them, but I've given up on that strategy, I don't want to add thinning hair to my CV of aging (of course, now I'm sort of tempting the powers-that-be, aren't I?).
  4. My ass is flat. Like a pancake. You think these would help? It would be our secret, promise not to tell anyone, k?
  5. My nipples have a mind of their own. Let me tell you, it's a sad day when you have to manually adjust your breasts in your bathing suit so that they're facing the same way.
  6. I'm turning 37 this year. Sure, it seems like a random number to get upset about, but it means I'm in my 'late thirties' now. Not my early thirties, not my mid-thirties, but my late, holy-shit-I'm-so-old thirties. Oh, the humanity!
  7. When I fill out surveys that ask for your age, I have to select the '35+' age bracket. Have they no compassion?
  8. Whenever I go to the liquor store, I secretly pray that the clerk will card me. I would tip him if he did. Yes, I'm offering, if any LCBO clerks are reading this.
  9. George Clooney is dating someone younger than me. I remember when I was young, and he was old. Touché, George, touché.
  10. I know people who were born in the 1980s who are parents now.
  11. I can remember the 1980s.
  12. I call the 1980s 'the 1980s'.
  13. I love pants with elastic waistbands. Like my mother and my mother-in-law. They are over 60. It's embarrassing that we could probably share a wardrobe. No offense to either of you, of course.
  14. I wear pyjamas to the movies, confirming the obvious, I value comfort over fashion. I like to think running shoes class up the outfit, my husband disagrees. Who's right?
  15. I cannot watch an entire movie without peeing. And trampolines are not my friend.
  16. I play indoor soccer in a league that does not have age restrictions. 18 year old girls have boundless energy. And strong bladders.
  17. When talking to my kids, I have prefaced sentences with 'When I was your age...'.
  18. The upcoming NKOTBSB tour. Admit it, it's kind of depressing.
  19. Facebook. Specifically, seeing pictures of high school friends on Facebook. I would prefer to pretend we are all still 18 years old. It's kind of sad to see the captain of the football team with thinning hair, glasses, and a paunch that suggests he's 7 months pregnant. Damn you, Father Time, damn you to hell!
  20. My metabolism appears to be broken. Or quite possibly, stuck in reverse.
  21. My memory appears to be broken. You know it's bad when you're watching TV, and you turn the channel during commercials, then forget what you were watching to start with. I should start writing it down.

I'm sure there's more, but I forget. Whoever coined the phrase "You're only as young as you feel" was probably 18 years old. Similarly, the person who claimed that stretchmarks are a 'badge of honor' likely has no stretchmarks. Whatever, I have to go pee.