I have a 17-year-old son and a 3-year-old son and the way I have parented them has been completely different. Even with my 3-year-old I wish I’d known some things when he was real little that I know now. Over the last 18 months I’ve explored and read information on birthing practices, baby care, nutrition, particularly breastfeeding, circumcision, attachment parenting practices and so much more. And I believe I’ve read pretty widely and many different view points which has led me to feel for the first time as a mother confident in my parenting choices. Before I did what I knew and took advice only from a small group of women, which while it was not bad advice by any means, it was lacking, and not intentionally lacking either. Practices change, improve, as information sharing becomes easier, and old ways of doing things are discredited. Every mother only wants what’s best for their children, and the wealth of information available now is mind-boggling. I have waded through a great deal of that information and here is my list of what I wish I had known then that I know now.
- Circumcision is wrong. It’s not up to us as parents to make that decision for our sons. It is their body, and most when given the choice do not choose it. My oldest is circumcised because 17 years ago I didn’t know any better. Most of the men in my family were circumcised, it was what I knew as normal. My 3-year-old isn’t and I’m glad I just decided not to by default because I was too tired to look into it. Now I’m glad I didn’t and wish I hadn’t with my oldest. Aside from inflicting incredible pain on an infant too young to understand, there is just no medical reason to do it. Thankfully in Canada we’ve come a long way and most boys are left intact now, but I still believe that this is an important message to spread as there may still be people who believe the outdated information. I encourage you to check these sites for more information:
2. Breastfeeding and more importantly, extended breastfeeding – as society has termed it – is incredibly healthy for both mother and child and completely normal. I will admit I used to fall into the camp of thinking breastfeeding past a certain age, about a year, was wrong, but now I have learned better. The health benefits don’t stop as a child grows. Breast milk changes constantly to meet the needs of the child, even when tandem nursing children of different ages. Breast milk is liquid gold, and the benefits of breastfeeding an older child is huge to both mother and child. In the mother extended breastfeeding can help lower the risks of illnesses such as breast cancer and ovarian cancer. In the child it provides continued immune support against common ailments and is the perfect building blocks to help them grow strong mentally and physically. Emotionally it is an easy way to help soothe a child in pain or who is over tired. No matter what formula companies may say, they can never duplicate the amazing, adaptive qualities of breast milk.
That brings me to my next point on breastfeeding; support systems. In Canada, partially because of our maternity and parental leave benefits, there’s a decent support system in place and it has definitely improved since my 17-year-old was born but there’s always room for improvement. Even with my 3-year-old I wish I’d had a stronger support system and that when he was three months old and I decided due to my extreme post-partum depression to quit, someone had said “No, what do you need to keep breastfeeding?” because the truth is I didn’t want to quit, I just didn’t have the support I needed or the words to express my frustrations. I sometimes wonder if I would still be breastfeeding him. He totally loved it and still will reach for my breasts occasionally like there is a lingering memory there. So support isn’t just about hospitals supporting skin to skin immediately after birth (weighing and even cord clamping can wait, unless there is a medical reason to whisk the baby away, the baby should always be placed skin to skin on the mother’s belly right after birth), or providing good qualified breastfeeding consultants if they are needed both in hospital and after discharge, but it also includes community and family support, especially in the first 3-4 months after birth, which is labelled the fourth trimester for a reason. Community support also includes supporting a nursing mother when you see her out in public. Women should be applauded and encouraged for providing the best possible nutrition for their children and not made to hide or feel ashamed in any way. As a by-product of encouraging breastfeeding in public, it also normalizes it for the next generation.
3. Birthing practices is one I’ve spent a lot of time reading about. I started my training to be a doula a year ago but after doing the weekend course, decided to put the practical side on hold as I still have a young family to care for. I continue to read extensively on birthing practices and absorb all the information I can. I’m an advocate of natural birthing practices as much as can be possible but each labour, each woman is different and at the end of the day just needs to feel supported and loved as she moves through this rite of passage to motherhood, whether it’s for the first time, actually most importantly if it’s for the first time, but also for each subsequent child she births as well. Birth isn’t just about delivering healthy babies, it’s about birthing strong, confident mothers, and the quality of care and support will have a huge impact on how a woman sees herself both as a woman and as a mother. I have learned an incredible amount and I will revisit this topic again in future posts. Suffice to say my views on the pregnancy and birth process have changed quite a bit over the last 18 months, and I hope will be an integral part of my career path. I’m actually already signed up for two Sacred Pregnancy courses this summer where I hope to extend my knowledge and care skills exponentially.
4. There are other areas as well that I have learned so much about, like attachment parenting for example. Some elements of the practice I always knew deep down but society insisted on different approaches, and especially with my 17-year-old I didn’t have enough wherewithal to argue the status quo. For example, I left my 17-year-old to cry it out because 17 years ago that was an acceptable method. Now, never, not even with my 3-year-old. About 8 months ago he suddenly developed a fear of shadows, and after that his easy bed time routine evaporated. It became a long protracted affair, but when he cried, I, or my husband, was always there. And now, he’s learned to handle shadows and scary monsters, but even more importantly, he also knows without question we are here if he needs us. The relationship I have with my 3-year-old is the most connected and natural of all my children. Attachment parenting does not breed spoilt brats, it breeds confident, happy, well-adjusted children. Yes, it’s more work but the rewards are worth it.
Below I’ve listed my favourite websites and Facebook pages for information on all the above. It’s just a sampling, I have many, many favourites and can’t possibly list them all. There are some amazing women and yes, even men, changing the face of pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and parenting in general. I encourage you to check them out. I’m sure I will be writing more on these subjects in the future, both to provide information and to relate how they apply to and affect my life.