Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The beauty of kangaroo care

More and more studies point to the changes that occur in preemies who are allowed to have kangaroo care with their mothers. I could point to any one of them to show that kangaroo care can be a powerful healer.

Instead of doing that, I'm going to point you to a story about one mother's experience with kangaroo care, and how it saved her tiny one's life.

Monday, August 24, 2009

In the home stretch!

This summer has been the craziest that my family has been through. Four weddings, a trip to the beach, a birthday, two trips to Atlanta, a trip overseas, family and friends visiting us, starting home-schooling, damage from storms, starting two new jobs (luckily one is temporary)'s just been wild. We're in the last two weeks of it - my daughter is in Maryland this week with her grandparents, and next week my husband and son will go up there to visit and pick her up, and then the kids will go to the beach with my parents while my husband and I are at a conference in Atlanta. Labor Day, we'll all come back home, and we'll be able to breathe a sigh of relief until the holiday season. Even for me, the amount that we've been doing has been too much.

Through all of this, my son has kept nursing. Even when we've been separated for three or four days, whenever we've come back together, he's eventually asked to nurse again. Some days he may nurse as many as four times; other days not at all. We're definitely in the last parts of our nursing days.

Even knowing this, I'm not totally prepared for the idea that he may wean completely next week. We'll be separated for seven nights and eight days while he's in Maryland and down in Gulf Shores - by far the longest period of time we've been separated. By the end of it, I don't know that he'll be thinking about nursing at all. I don't know that I want him to be thinking about nursing by that time either. But whenever I think that this Sunday/Monday might be the last time he nurses, I get a sad little ache around my heart.

Don't get me wrong - we've been nursing just over three years now, so it's not like he'll be weaning early. I have plenty of good nursing memories with both of my kids to look back on. Knowing, however, that he is my last, that this is the last child I'll ever makes me a little melancholy, something I have never expected to feel when it came down to it.

Ah well. Life will be full of such lettings go. Right now, my daughter is in Maryland with her grandparents, and I won't see her for two weeks - much, much longer than I've ever gone with not seeing her. It's probably the combination of this next step along the path of my daughter's independence combined with the possibility of my son weaning that is making me feel sadder about this than I thought I would. And I know that when it's all said and done, I won't really give it another thought; it'll just be another parenting milestone hit, so to speak.

But for right now, I'm just a little sad about it all.

Monday, August 17, 2009

PTD – Parent of Teens Depression

Everyone recognizes PPD (post-partum depression) as a very real phenomenon often caused by significant shifts in hormonal balances. I've written before about how important it is for mothers suffering from PPD to get help. Another key factor for those moms is breastfeeding which increases a woman's production of prolactin and oxytocin. In an earlier blog I listed several antidepressents that are considered compatible with breastfeeding. Since I tend to blog about breastfeeding and baby issues, I know that's what my readers have come to expect.

This blog, however, is about a different season of parenting and the very real effect it can have on a mother's emotional well-being. Parenting teenagers can be a real challenge; it can also be an absolute delight. But even strong attachment parenting techniques in infancy and early childhood don't guarantee a smooth ride during the teen years. Although I do believe the secure foundation we give our children through attachment parenting certainly makes the ride a little less bumpy than it might be otherwise. Neither does extended breastfeeding and attachment parenting guarantee that a child will never have any kind of illness. Genetics play a key role in some illnesses, and while breastfeeding absolutely does help our kids be healthier, it is not a magic elixir.

One such illness which we have faced in our family is adolescent bi-polar disorder. We do have a family history of mental illness, and unfortunately one of our children has developed the chemical imbalances which create bi-polar disorder. Fortunately this child is very bright and actually did research herself when she began having symptoms. We have a wonderful Christian psychiatrist as well as a terrific Christian counselor to whom she relates very well. But it is still a struggle. You have to find the right combination of medications, make sure they are in balance, then make sure that nothing else she takes for an unrelated condition (say a brown recluse bite, for instance) interacts with her bi-polar meds.

Add into this mix the fact that Mom is 49 and definitely peri-menopausal, and you have a recipe for PTD. Now I've never seen anything in the literature about PTD, but I think it should be there. Many women who are parenting teens and experiencing menopause are also caring for an aging parent. That will up the stress several notches! These same women are also often at critical points in their careers – they may be in leadership and management positions with all the accompanying headaches. I'm telling you, this is a recipe for disaster! Actually in the literature, there is information on PTD, but it has nothing to do with parents of teens. I really wish some PhD student who needs a good thesis topic would tackle PTD as it relates to parents of teens!

The good news is that help is available. A family doctor or Ob/Gyn will often prescribe something to help a woman cope with the stresses of PTD. Even women who've never had to take an anti-depressant may find that they cry a little less and get a little better perspective once the chemicals in the brain get stabilized. New moms have all kinds of support groups; maybe mothers of teens need their own version of La Leche League. Finding one or two close friends in whom you can confide is crucial for the mom who is overwhelmed by her life. Another option is a professional counselor. If you can find one you click with, it is worth every cent. The goal, of course, is to get you to the point where you don't need help….but in the meantime, don't be afraid or embarrassed to get a little help.

Whether you are in the early days of parenting, still enjoying your baby's precious cuddles, or you are on the roller-coaster ride of parenting teens, one thing is certain: your child will grow up way too fast, and you need to be mentally and emotionally healthy so you can enjoy every moment of every day.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Breastfeeding is a Lifeline in an Emergency Situation

Every year the first week of August is set aside as World Breastfeeding Week. This year's theme is "Breastfeeding is a vital emergency response. When a disaster strikes, everyone should be ready!" The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, (WABA), reminds both mothers and health care workers that emergencies can happen anywhere in the world. In their press release, they point out that infants and young children are especially vulnerable to malnutrition, illness, and death in these situations. Whatever the emergency –from earthquake to conflict, from floods to the flu pandemic – the story is the same: breastfeeding is a lifeline and a shield that protects infants in emergencies.

According to their press release, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF recommendations - early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding until six months of age and continued breastfeeding for two years or beyond - are even more critical in emergencies. Breastfeeding is the one safe and secure source of food and fluid for infants - instantly available, providing active protection against illness and keeping an infant warm and close to his/her mother. It also reduces the risk of post-partum hemorrhage in the mother, the leading cause of maternal mortality worldwide. In the challenging and risky environment of an emergency, how infants are fed is key to their survival.

The rationale behind this year's theme includes the following points:

  • Children are the most vulnerable in emergencies – child mortality can soar from 2 to 70 times higher than average due to diarrhea, respiratory illness and malnutrition.
  • Breastfeeding is a life saving intervention and protection is greatest for the youngest infants. Even in non-emergency settings, non-breastfed babies under 2 months of age are six times more likely to die.
  • Emergencies can happen anywhere in the world. Emergencies destroy what is 'normal,' leaving caregivers struggling to cope and infants vulnerable to disease and death.
  • During emergencies, mothers need active support to continue or re-establish breastfeeding.
  • Emergency preparedness is vital. Supporting breastfeeding in non-emergency settings will strengthen mothers' capacity to cope in an emergency.

WABA is quick to point out that when an emergency strikes, simple measures can make all the difference in the world. Emergency preparedness is the key to quick appropriate actions. Mothers need to be secure and have priority access to food for the family, water, shelter and safe places to breastfeed. I recently read about a victim of Hurricane Katrina who was stuck with her newborn on a roof for many hours. When they were rescued, the baby was severely dehydrated and later died in the hospital. The nutritionist who reported the situation noted sadly that if this mother had been nursing her baby, the baby would probably still be alive. It doesn't matter whether a mother lives in a third world country or in a western nation, the ability to nurse her baby may just be the factor that saves his life.