What Not To Wear: Baby Edition

When debating how best to raise kids, parents stand divided on many issues: breast or bottle, clothe diapers or disposable, and co-sleeping or cribs. While many moms feel so passionate about their beliefs they flood internet forums with personal manifestos, I tend to stick to the sidelines cheering “go mom, whatever works for you.”

That is until now.

On a recent park trip I saw a young boy wearing a t-shirt with the expression “Too Kool for Skool.” While it very well might have been the boy who picked the shirt out of his closet to wear that day, it was definitely not the boy who earned the money to buy the shirt and put it in the closet to begin with. Some parent, grandparent, or well-meaning relative clearly thought it was funny?… clever?…ironic?….enough to purchase.

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I couldn’t help but wonder, what message did those parents think they were conveying to their son? Did they think, at the age of five, he would understand the irony and it would only reinforce the importance of education? Did they think he would laugh it off as a clever joke? Did they think anything about it at all?

New research comes out all the time that reinforces the impact of what we wear on other people’s perception of us and our self-perception. The term dress for success isn’t only a catchy platitude, but an insight into the effect clothing has on people, a phenomenon scientists call enclothed cognition. For example, a well-dressed man is not only viewed as more fashionable, he is also perceived to be more confident, successful, flexible and a high-earner.

In another study, students given a white lab coat to wear during a test for sustained attention performed significantly better when they were told it was a doctor’s coat versus a painter’s smock. According to Dr. Adam Galinsky, the principal investigator, “clothes invade the body and brain, putting the wearer into a different psychological state.”

If you browse around online clothing stores long enough, you will see that there are outfits that walk a fine line between funny and inappropriate, and then there are those that take a flying leap off that line. “Too Kool for Skool” may just be teetering on the edge, but there are plenty of more offensive options to choose from. As a fellow mom trying to raise a happy, well-adjusted kid, I encourage you to think about the effect of that stripper onesie before you buy it. What message are you sending your child? What message are you sending society about your child?

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The messages we surround ourselves with on a daily basis, as subtle as they may be, are important. They start a long chain reaction that shapes our very being.

Subtle environmental cues influence the way we think about ourselves. The way we think about ourselves affects our behavior. Our behavior changes the way people perceive us and likewise, treat us. And others perceptions and treatment feeds back into the way we think about ourselves.

If we surround ourselves with positive messages, even something as small as a slogan on a shirt, the effects can be far-reaching.

Want to see some particularly heinous offenders? Here are the top 7 outfits you will never see Oliver wearing:

1) If you consider buying this for your child, please get a matching one for yourself.

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2) Because gun violence is always funny.

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3) If you are going to get #2 you might as well get this one also.

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4) My son still hasn’t said mama yet; maybe it’s not too late to work on MILF instead.

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5) Or if he can’t quite get milf down this one might be easier.

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6) This shirt might as well say “proud to be a racist parent.”

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7) I really hope this kid is hiding a sandwich in his onesie. Come on, do we really need to sexualize our kids?

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Just to be clear, if you choose to put your kid in one of these outfits, it doesn’t make you a bad parent. I’m guessing you love your kid just as much as I do mine. I do urge you to think about the message you are sending though, because “I have a great sense of humor” is not likely what most people will hear.

There are some companies out there that provide apparel with positive messages; one of my favorites is tinyrevolutionary.com. (Nope they didn’t pay me to say that. I just really dig their clothes.)

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And now you know the real reason why every other outfit Olive wore as a baby said “I love mommy.”

DSCN3815What do you think? Funny? Inappropriate? Or it’s not my kid I don’t care?

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A Very Pinterest Birthday to Oliver

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My baby turned one on July 20th. It was a milestone I could only dream about reaching back during Oliver’s colicky newborn days and thus, it needed to be celebrated accordingly.

Where is an overly ambitious, party-planning mom to turn for inspiration? Why Pinterest of course! After scanning through idea boards for…way too many hours (a number I’m embarrassed to admit), I came to two conclusions:

1) Poor Oliver got stuck with a mom who would never throw him a party quite as awesome as every other baby on Pinterest. And…

2) I needed a theme.

If there were an equation for creating a successful first Birthday, according to Pinterest, it would look something like this:

Cute party theme
+
Matching decorations
+
Matching festive food
(preferably laid out artistically on a table also displaying month-by-month baby photos)
=
Picture perfect party

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Oliver could throw a fit throughout the entire celebration. I could forget to bake the cake. All of our invites could get lost in the mail. But as long as I had a theme this party would be a success…at least in pictures.

What that equation fails to include, however, is that picture perfect and practical are two totally different things. I’m guessing if we were to look beyond the photos a different scene would emerge. Behind every ornately decorated food table is a grubby little hand flinging chips and dip on the floor. Behind every balloon bouquet and streamer is a crying baby who doesn’t understand why he can’t touch. And behind every butter cream covered work of art is a one-year old who will reduce it to a pile of mush regardless of how many hours someone spent sculpting Elmo’s face.

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Perhaps elaborate Birthday’s and one-year-olds don’t really mix well. Clearly, Oliver’s Birthday didn’t NEED a theme for it to be special.  Much the same way it didn’t NEED a cake, or presents, or balloons or any of the other dozen things I included on that day. But I still WANTED it to have one.

Why?

As a parent, it is my RESPONSIBILITY to provide my child with the things he needs: nourishment, rest, and a safe home just to name a few. But as his mother, it is my HOPE that his life will be filled with so much more.

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It is my HOPE that he is not only nourished with food but also with knowledge and curiosity, lifelong friends, a sense of purpose and meaning, and unconditional acceptance and love.

It is my HOPE that he not only finds rest for his body but also for his worries, his insecurities, his negativity and cynicism, and his fears.

It is my HOPE that he not only has a safe home but a safe world to grow up in. A world in which people are kind and honest, a world where he can be whomever he was born to be without the fear of prejudice or persecution.

Above all, it is my HOPE that he always knows how much his mother loves him.

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You see, love is found in the small things we do for our children, not because they are necessary, but because we simply hope to see them smile. It is found in the things we do for them that they might not even notice or appreciate, but we know they make a difference.

Things like sitting in an uncomfortable position for hours because my sick baby has finally found rest in my lap. Like reading Spot Goes to the Beach for the hundredth time because I know it’s his favorite book. Or acting like a fool in public because I know my animal noises will always cheer him up when he’s sad.

And yes, even things like having a themed one-year old Birthday party, although I know he is sure to forget it the very next day.

Those are the things that carry with them all the hopes and dreams I have for my son. And all the love I feel for him.

So Happy 1st Birthday Oliver. I hope you enjoyed the Outer Space Expedition party. And above all, I hope you know how much I love you.

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PS Daddy is insisting on a dinosaur theme for next year. Think it over and get back to me.

Advice For Exclusively Pumping Moms

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For the last twelve months, multiple times a day and night, I’ve had an intimate rendezvous with a double electric breast pump. It has been a love-hate relationship to say the least.

The pump never woos me with chocolate or flowers, and yet it’s groped my boobs more often than my husband. I shower it with praise for allowing me to nourish my baby, only to get into a screaming match at 3am when it decides now is a good time to conk out. I spend hours a day listening to its dull drabble (whirr whirr whirr whirr) and bemoan the time spent keeping it in good working order. I’ve even sworn on numerous occasions that we are breaking up for good; I am done pumping! And yet I keep coming back for more.

I made the decision to begin pumping after my son’s four week check up when we found out he wasn’t gaining enough weight. Because of reflux issues, Oliver spent a lot of time screaming and thrashing around while trying to eat, and all too often, a lot of what he did eat came right back up. Exclusively breastfeeding him became a nightmare. Most feeds were a battle of wills. I desperately tried to get Oliver to latch on, he desperately tried to do anything but that.

My husband would stumble out into the living room in the middle of the night to find both Oliver and I in tears. “I’m just so tired, and he won’t eat,” I would cry.

“Why don’t you let me give him a bottle of formula?” Brad would counter.

“No we can’t give him formula.” (Because, you know, it’s liquid poison and I’m a complete failure as a mom if we do).

“Well then I can’t really help you.”

And I desperately needed some help. So when the doctor suggested giving him expressed milk in a bottle a light bulb came on. I went out the next day, bought a pump, and instantly felt a sense of relief.

Since beginning this pumping journey (calling it a “journey” makes it sound much more exciting and glamorous than it really is) I’ve transitioned from just pumping enough to have a couple extra bottles, to exclusively pumping and then supplementing with some formula around the 8 month mark (note: baby did not die when ingesting formula). I love the freedom pumping has afforded me, and I don’t feel like I’ve sacrificed that “special bond” so many breastfeeding moms talk about. If anything, since I’ve started bottle feeding expressed milk, I’ve enjoyed much calmer snuggle time with my guy.

If you are considering exclusively pumping, or are just starting out, I’ve compiled a list of some of the more helpful information to get you going.

1) Get a high quality electric double pump. This is not the time to cut costs. The quality of your pump means the difference between pumping for 30 minutes to get 2oz and pumping for 15 minutes to get 6oz. The price of a double electric pump ranges from $150 to $350 depending on its features. I’ve had success with both Medela and Ameda brands, but ultimately prefer Medela for its superior suction and wide availability—meaning it’s easier to quickly replace lost or broken parts. A great website for researching breast pumps and reading reviews can be found HERE.

2) Check with your insurance company, many will cover pumps. Because why spend money on this kind of pump:

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…when you can spend money on this kind:

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3) If you aren’t sure about pumping, have a low milk supply, premature baby, or are trying to produce enough for multiples try renting one from companies like Medela, or check out your  local hospitals or lactation consultants like La Leche League. Most rentals are high-quality hospital grade pumps that would cost about $1,000 if you bought it on your own. Also, if you qualify for WIC it is often possible to get a pump through them.

4) To save time, during the day store pump parts in the refrigerator in between pumping sessions. Wash and sanitize them once at night. Trust me, the last thing you will want to do when finally getting baby down for a nap is wash pump parts.

5) Until your supply is well establish, around the 12-week mark, pump about every 3 hours, even in the middle of the night, even if you’re baby is still sleeping soundly (Yes, you have my permission to complain loudly while doing so. Make that loud enough to wake up your partner to let him know just how unpleasant waking up is). Once your supply is established you can slowly cut back sessions. At about 6 months postpartum I was only pumping about 5 times a day, and not at all at night, and was making about 25-30 oz/day.

6) Don’t agonize over having to supplement with a little formula here and there. The expression “breast is best” really needs to be changed to “breast is best…until it’s not…and only you can be the judge of that.” It’s not quite as catchy and a little long to fit on a bumper sticker but you get the point.

7) Make pumping hands-free by purchasing a pumping bra, literally a bra with holes in it (later lingerie use?), or make your own by cutting holes out of a tight sports bra that are large enough to accommodate the phalanges. Leopard print pumping bra anyone?

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Because never mind the baby vomit in your hair, you need to be fashionable!

8) If you aren’t going to use the breast milk in the next 6 hours (some say up to 8) then store it in the refrigerator for up five days. If you want to build up a milk stash try freezing the milk in ice cube trays and then storing them in large zip lock bags. Each cube is approximately one ounce so it becomes easy to unthaw just enough for your feeding.

9) To get the maximum output there are a number of things you can do.

-Make sure you have properly fitted phalanges.

-Massage your breasts while pumping.

-Alternate the rate of suction on the pump to stimulate multiple let-downs.

-Think about or look at your baby while pumping.

-And like with breastfeeding, get as much rest as possible, eat a balanced diet, and drink plenty of water.

10) Congratulate yourself daily. Pumping is a challenge, and whether you’ve been at it for a day, week, month, or entire year you’re a trooper. High five pumping woman!

11) If pumping ever becomes so stressful or burdensome that it is affecting your relationship with your baby or your mental health, STOP! Give yourself a day or two to evaluate if it’s the right decision for you, and then move on. A year from now your baby won’t remember whether he ate formula or breast milk, but you will remember the stress it caused. The positive memories you have of feeding your baby should outweigh the bad caused by an unpleasant pumping experience.

So pump on ladies! And when you’re ready to retire, give your pump a proper send off like Julie the Happy Home Fairy. I seriously need to start searching for a funeral plot for my pump.

Or I could just keep letting Oliver have his way with it and I’m sure it will eventually reach it’s own timely death.

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