Video – The Truth About Breastfeeding

We plan to breastfeed our infant. This video provides a lot of information about the benefits of breastfeeding. It doesn’t discuss any “risks”, although I am not sure that is a meaningful concept when analyzing an evolutionary biology-based parenting practice. Below the video is a summary of some of the key points if you do not wish to watch the video:

  • The benefits of breastfeeding imply exclusive use, ie, no supplementation with bottle feeding, formula or solid foods
  • Breast milk is the most complete form of nutrition for infants; it also allows the mother to pass her antibodies to the baby to improve its immunity to disease
  • The skin-to-skin contact of breastfeeding creates hormonal release that leads to bonding
  • Breastfeeding is connected to improved brain development in infants (compared to non-breastfeeding), especially with regards to language development, emotional function and cognition
  • The hormonal release also assists with post-partum healing of the mother’s body and delays the return of ovulation during breastfeeding, preserving the mother’s stores of iron and creating “natural” spacing between pregnancies
  • Childbearing and breastfeeding have shown significant decreases in a woman’s risk of developing different forms of cancer in clinical studies

Review – Real Food For Mother And Baby

Real Food For Mother And Baby

by Nina Planck, published 2009

For me, reading this book simply resulted in confirming a lot of biases I already have regarding ideal nutritional practices. Those confirmed biases could be reduced down to:

  • make most of what you eat yourself
  • when eating animals, use as much of the animal as you can (including bone, skin, organs, etc.)
  • when eating fruits and vegetables, use what is in season when possible
  • focus on organics and other traditionally raised and cultivated foods
  • avoid eating things that were not regularly consumed 100 years ago
  • avoid anything processed, “packaged” sweetened or artificially preserved
  • eat more fat than you’re “supposed to” and don’t get your nutritional advice from headline news or the government

There’s more to it than that, but that’s a good start to revolutionizing the way most moderns/Americans eat in the West.

The book is essentially 200pgs of these broad outlines and a few more specific guidelines, along with basic scientific information on why this is the right way to eat and how various research agrees. The advice is good for women (and men) planning to conceive, women in pregnancy, nursing mothers and babies ready to eat things besides breast milk.

In other words, the “best” diet for fertility, childbirth and infancy, is also the best diet for children and adults in terms of achieving optimum health outcomes and maximizing genetic fitness and expression.

The weakest part of the book is the author’s condoning of various “cheats” and nutritional oversights based on the arbitrary logic of “a little poison now and then won’t kill you”, and it was a let down to learn that after following these nutritional practices she still ended up getting drugged out and giving birth by C-section during her own pregnancy.

Mothers to be will probably find the affirmative tone and validative diction of the book enjoyable. And for some this will be a revelation. For me, I didn’t get a lot new. It did get me to think about how hopeless health (and intelligence?) outcomes must be for generations of people in communities without the knowledge, incentives or resources to eat this way. It also got me thinking about how easy it is to overdo good nutrition, to obsess about it and give it undue consideration. It’s important, yet spending your life on feeding yourself doesn’t leave time for much else which to me is like luxurious primitivism.

Review – Nonviolent Communication

Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life

by Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D., published 2003

What is all this hippie nonsense?

A common question, this is the best introduction I’ve found so far, via a lecture given by the author.

 

The NVC Process

To practice the Nonviolent Communication (NVC) process involves four components, which are:

  1. observations – the concrete actions that affect our well-being
  2. feelings – the emotions we experience in relation to what we observe
  3. needs – values, desires, etc., that generate our feelings
  4. requests – the concrete actions we’d like to see others take in order to enrich our lives

The NVC process is not a new way to manipulate other people; it involves giving and receiving a level of respect and empathy common to ourselves and others which entails:

  • expressing honestly through the 4 components
  • receiving empathetically through the 4 components

Obstacles to needs-based communication

There are many pitfalls that trap us in our efforts to communicate our unique needs. One common communication style which serves to hinder compassionate communication is moralistic judgment, an impersonal way of communicating the focuses on the “wrongness” of the actions of others rather than on revealing what a person thinks and feels inside of themselves. In truth, analyzing and judging the behavior of others is actually a reflection of our own needs and values. For example, “The rich are so selfish!” might be an attempt to communicate something closer to, “When I witness poverty, I feel sad; I value living in a community where everyone seems to have enough to take care of themselves.” The danger of moralistic judgments is that the act of classifying can promote violence by creating adversarial, us-them attitudes toward others– people become obstacles to satisfying our needs and values rather than potential partners.

Another problematic approach to communication involves making comparisons, which are simply another form of judgment. When we make comparisons, we block compassion– for ourselves and for others. It is another way to build walls and separateness.

Compassion is similarly difficult to achieve when we engage in denial of responsibility by using language which obscures the connection between our own thoughts, feelings and actions. In Nazi Germany, officers responsible for the Holocaust and other atrocities relied on Amtssprache, or “office talk/bureaucratese”, to deny responsibility for their actions because everything they did, they did because of “superiors’ orders” or “company policy” or “just following the law/doing my job.”

There are many ways in which we can deny responsibility for our actions by attributing their cause to factors external to the self:

  • vague, impersonal forces; “I did X because I had to”
  • condition, diagnosis or personal history; “I do X because I am Y”
  • actions of others; “I did X because Y did Z”
  • dictates of authority; “I did X because Y told me to” (Amtssprache)
  • group pressure; “I did X because everyone in group T does X”
  • institutional policies, regulations or rules; “I did X because those are the rules around here when people do Y”
  • gender, social or age roles; “I hate X, but I do it because I am a good Y”
  • uncontrollable impulses; “I was overcome by my urge to do X”

History is rife with examples,

We are dangerous when we are not conscious of our responsibility for how we behave, think and feel

Two other ways we create obstacles to life-enriching communication are by stating our desires as demands, and speaking in terms of “who deserves what”.

A demand explicitly or implicitly threatens listeners with blame or punishment if they fail to comply

Similarly, speaking in terms of “deserving” creates the impression of “badness” or “wrongness” and promotes behavior based upon fear and punishment-avoidance (a negative philosophy) rather than goal-seeking and personal benefit (a positive philosophy). In other words,

it’s in everyone’s interest that people change, not in order to avoid punishment, but because they see the change as benefitting themselves

Implementing NVC: nuances and complexities

At this point you might be thinking, “NVC sounds interesting, but how do I actually use it?” Even the first element, observation, can hang people up.

The reason that the NVC process stresses observing without evaluating is that when people hear evaluation, they are less likely to hear our intended message and instead hear criticism which puts them on the defensive rather than being receptive to what we have to say. However, the NVC process doesn’t require complete objectivity and detachment from emotional realities, only that when evaluations are made they are based on observations specific to time and context. In other words, evaluations must be about specific actions taken within specific time periods. For example, “John is a great guy” is a generalized evaluation whereas, “John helped the little old lady cross the street yesterday afternoon” is an observation without evaluation.

Another element of NVC that new adoptees struggle with is separating feelings from non-feelings (thoughts). It is a common construct of the modern English language (and many others) to use “feel” in place of “think”. Red flags for feel/think confusion are the use of the following after the word “feel” when making a statement:

  • words such as “that,” “like,” and “as if”; “I feel like a failure” or “I feel that you shouldn’t do that”
  • the pronouns “I,” “you,” “he,” “she,” “they,” and “it”; “I feel it is useless”, “I feel I am always running around”
  • names or nouns referring to people; “I feel my boss doesn’t like me” or “I feel Jeff is doing a great job”

In NVC, there is a difference between expressing how we feel, and expressing what we think we are (self-evaluation):

  • feeling; “I feel disappointed/sad/frustrated with myself as an X”
  • evaluation; “I feel pathetic as an X”, which is better stated, “I am a pathetic X”

Part of developing our ability to accurately express feelings entails developing our feelings vocabulary, and learning which words connote states of being or evaluations of capability, and which words can authentically convey an emotional response to such values or needs.

The other critical component involved in accurately expressing out feelings is taking responsibility for their cause. The common misconception is that external factors cause internal emotional reactions. The reality that, while external factors may provide a stimulus, the direct cause is our internal values, beliefs, expectations and needs; when they are satisfied, we have one set of feelings (positive) and when they are violated or negated, we experience a different set of feelings (negative).

When we receive a negative message from another person, we have four options for choosing how to react to it:

  1. blame ourselves
  2. blame others
  3. sense our own feelings and needs
  4. sense others’ feelings and needs

Accepting responsibility for our feelings involves acknowledging our needs, desires, expectations, values or thoughts. We commonly mask these things by using unaccountable language such as:

  • use of impersonal pronouns such as “it” or “that”; “It makes me so X when Y” or “That makes me feel Z”
  • use of the expression “I feel X because…” followed by a person or personal pronoun other than “I”; “I feel X because you…” or “I feel X when Z…”
  • statements which only mention the actions of others; “When Y does X, I feel Z”

The simplest remedy is to adopt use of the phrase “I feel… because I need…” which connects our own feelings to our own needs. This can improve our communication with others, as well, because when people hear things that sound like criticism they invest their energy in self-defense, whereas when we directly connect our feelings to our needs we give people an opportunity to behave compassionately toward us.

If we express our needs, we have a better chance of getting them met

The liberation cometh

Emotional liberation is the state of being achievable through disciplined and consistent practice of the NVC process wherein an individual is able to freely and safely express his authentic feelings and needs to others, and to similarly be free and secure in receiving these authentic feelings and needs from others. The movement from emotional slavery to emotional freedom typically involves three transformational stages:

  1. emotional slavery; we see ourselves as responsible for others’ feelings
  2. obnoxious observation; we feel reluctant as we realize we no longer want to be responsible for others’ feelings
  3. emotional liberation; we take responsibility for our intentions and actions

Implementing NVC: the final step, making requests

The fourth component of NVC, making requests, is in some ways the most challenging of all. To practice effective request-making it is important to be in the habit of utilizing positive language as it is hard to “do a don’t.” Thinking of a way to express your request in the form of “Would you be willing to do X?” instead of “Please stop Y” serves to remove incentives for resistance and fighting and gives the other person an opportunity to make a positive contribution to your well being.

Similarly, the focus should be on making specific, concrete, actionable requests rather than something general, ambiguous, vague or abstract.

We often use vague and abstract language to indicate how we want other people to feel or be without naming a concrete action they could take to reach that state

Being clear about what you’re requesting from another person makes it more likely they’ll be willing and able to comply with your request– how can a person satisfy your needs if they don’t know what they are and don’t know what they could do to help you with them? Don’t make people guess!

Additionally, expressing feelings without providing a request can confuse people and lead them to believe you are trying to pin guilt for your emotions on them, rather than prompting them to take some corrective action. For example, “It bothers me that you forgot to do X” is not a clear request for a person to do X and may be interpreted as “You make me feel bad!” which is antagonistic and inspires self-defensive reactions.

Whenever we say something to another person, we are requesting something in return

Another guideline for making requests is to ask for a reflection– ask the person you just made a request of to reflect the request back to you to confirm you have been understood.

After we’ve communicated a request, we’re often interested in knowing how our the other person has reacted. We can get a better understanding of this by soliciting honest feedback through one of three ways:

  1. inquiring about what the listener is feeling
  2. inquiring about what the listener is thinking
  3. inquiring as to whether the listener is willing to take a particular action

A key here is to specify which thoughts or feelings we’d have to have shared; without specificity, the other person may reply at length with thoughts and feelings that are not the ones we’re seeking. Particularly challenging situations arise when making requests of a group.

When we address a group without being clear what we are wanting back, unproductive discussions will often follow

Keep in mind that there is a difference between making a request and making a demand. The difference is that when a person hears a demand, they believe they will be punished or blamed if they don’t comply. This leaves them with two options:

  • submit
  • rebel

Notice how “respond with compassion and seek resolution” is not one of the options. If the speaker criticizes or judges the listener’s response, it is a demand, not a request. A request implies that a person is free to disregard it if they don’t want to comply; that’s their right as a free individual with their own needs and wants.

Making a request implies we are prepared to show empathetic understanding of another when they are unwilling to comply with our request. However, if someone doesn’t comply with our request, we don’t have to give up. We do have an obligation, though, to empathize with their reasons for not complying before attempting to persuade.

Conclusion

This is a powerful and transformative framework for not only communicating with others but better understanding one’s self and one’s own needs. The world would be a much different place if it were more widely understood.

 

The ‘Downs’ of Pregnancy

“What goes up, must come down.” That saying certainly applies to my mood, especially during pregnancy when a woman’s hormones are going crazy!

My last post on how pregnancy is going so far was a mostly positive one, and I think I had written it on an ‘Up’ day. Today was a bit of a ‘Down’ day, continued from a couple of days ago. On Friday, I had noticed a considerable shift in mood. The day started out well, I walked our dog before it got too hot out, I went to breakfast with a good friend, and then I met my MIL to do some furniture shopping. All in all, a good morning. But as the day wore on, and as the sun grew more intense, I started feeling more and more overwhelmed by everything. I had chores and errands to do that weren’t laborious, and I had the rest of the afternoon to do them, but for some reason, it was difficult for me to get the motivation up to complete them. One chore that really held me up that day was meal planning; my project was to come up with a dinner plan for the evening and meal plans for the weekend and then go shop for groceries, but lately I’ve been feeling uninspired by my cooking, making the task of meal planning extremely draining, frustrating, and disappointing. Eventually though, I settled on a few meal ideas and finished my errands, but not without some tears.

I don’t remember much of what yesterday was like, but in the evening, the Lion and I drove up to LA to have dinner with a couple of friends. It was a really good time, but we ate a lot of rich and heavy foods* (friend entrees, bread and crackers, ice cream, and presumably inordinate amounts of sugar), and we didn’t get to bed until almost midnight. This morning, we slept in until 9AM, and I woke up with the makings of a headache already in place. My headache today has waxed and waned, but it has been noticeable enough for me to consider today to be a ‘Down’ day 😦

I consider myself very fortunate to not have had constant morning sickness or heartburn during pregnancy (though I’ve heard heartburn can begin in third trimester…), but these headaches are certainly a contender for causing discomfort, annoyance, and generally being day-ruiners!! Since I don’t want to take any medicine during pregnancy, I try to combat these headaches with quiet time, massaging my temples, Chinese medicinal oil (/eucalyptus oil), and short naps. These methods help me get through the day, but they don’t cure the headache. Oh, another method is early bedtime. Speaking of which…

*During this pregnancy, I’ve noticed that when I overload on sugar (eg, a bottle of soda at our July 4th dinner) or gluten (eg, a bowl of leftover udon noodles for lunch), a headache will develop almost instantly. And this constant heat does NOT help.

Experiencing Pregnancy as a Woman

(The Lion’s version: Experiencing Pregnancy as a Man)

It’s funny how greetings change as your life does. I went from hearing, “How’s wedding planning going?” every day for a year until our wedding date to “How are you feeling?” now that I’ve announced my pregnancy on social media. I guess it is more personal than the “How are you today?” that we receive every where so I can’t complain. Plus, most of the people who have asked me how I am feeling are genuinely curious and ready to hear me explain how I’m actually feeling, and for that patience and thoughtfulness, I am grateful and appreciative.

My pregnancy (17 weeks, day 1 today) has been great so far.  It hasn’t been all great these last four months, as I’ve had about 3-4 outstanding rough days (including one day of pretty terrible morning sickness) that included headache and crankiness and feeling generally uncomfortable, but overall, I feel happy and content.

I don’t feel like there has been a [huge] shift in my personality or mood, although I have noticed that I am crankier when I don’t get 2-3 naps in throughout the day. I am eating slightly less meat (I used to eat about a half pound of protein per meal), I find that I crave vegetables more (salads, veggie sticks and dip, and more salads), and I prefer to eat smaller meals throughout the day rather than three big meals (read: I love snacks!). I haven’t had any weird cravings for dirt, chalk, fast food, tuna ice cream, or much sweet stuff (now, that’s not to say that I wouldn’t eat In-N-Out if it was right in front of me!). And I’ve found that if I DO have cravings for fast food or sweet stuff, I can find something else desirable to snack on, like apples and almond butter or a couple pieces of dark chocolate or some cheese and nuts, and feel satisfied enough to stave off the craving. I am also continuing my aerial dance workouts. Mostly because I see all of my good friends there, but also because I always leave the class feeling accomplished and happy. I used to train “hardcore,” approximately 3-4x per week for 1-3hours each time, but I’ve noticed a mental shift since I’ve been pregnant: my desire is no longer to “train” or learn new death-defying tricks, but rather to perfect the basics (like learning to do the same moves but on my less dominant side), to feel the music, and to just dance. I think this helps me to tune into what my body is feeling, and it has helped me to gain acceptance of the changes that’s going on physically and mentally. It also helps a lot that many women who are in my classes are moms themselves and have also experienced this change!

I believe a lot of what is contributing to my positive experience of pregnancy so far is my diet and exercise regimen. I eat a lot of protein (grass-fed, pasture-raised, wild-caught) and fresh vegetables (organic), and I eat a little fruit (also organic, and seasonal) for dessert. I drink fresh squeezed orange juice, whole milk (raw milk, occasionally), and homemade bone broth and kombucha. I exercise every day by taking our dog on a morning walk and an afternoon walk (sometimes also an evening walk, but a lot of times I’m asleep already :), and I am at the aerial fitness studio 3-4x per week stretching, dancing, and weight training.

I am also preparing mentally and emotionally by reading a variety of books on pregnancy nutrition, child birthing, and child raising (all to be reviewed on this blog at a later date…). These books help give me an idea of what to expect, realistically, and how to accept these changes instead of fighting them. I believe that because I have this knowledge of what pregnancy is like, I am less anxious about what is happening to my body. Furthermore, being prepared with a plan on how we want to raise our child means less stress during pregnancy!

Now, on to research about what pregnancy pillow is best for sleeping…

Experiencing Pregnancy As A Man

People ask me a lot lately how the Wolf is doing with her pregnancy. It’s kind of like the new “How’s the weather?” or “What’s up?” because I have similarly unexciting information to share in response. The truth is that she just hasn’t had many challenges with the pregnancy so far. Aside from a quick bout of nausea while making dinner one night during the first trimester she’s been pretty peachy– cheerful disposition (enhanced by the confidence of knowing she is caring for a new life growing inside of her), eating healthily and with a normal appetite, maintaining relationships with friends by continuing to exercise and getting together for meals outside the home. She definitely is more tired than usual, she is slower on our evening dog walks around the neighborhood and takes frequent naps throughout the day and often likes to go to bed early.

But no wild changes in personality or emotions or other kinds of physical, mental or emotional instability.

I think that’s what I am having a hard time wrapping my head around. If pregnancy ever comes up in the plotline of a TV show or movie, there is usually a “Pregzilla” moment where the newly sassy, demanding and impossible-to-please woman shovels ice cream and other junk food into her mouth, emasculates the man by ordering him around town and the house on silly errands (which he hops to to prove his love and loyalty to mother and child) and generally just storms around the world raising hell and acting like your typical idea of a bitch. It falls nicely into that other man-woman stereotype where the two people enjoy nothing more than relating to sympathetic listeners of the same sex how knowingly horrible marriage and their spouses are, but, ah, the things we do for love!

I guess shame on me for thinking corrupt Hollywood ethics and bizarre leftist social agendas would make for accurate depictions of real human biology and sociology in media. We just aren’t experiencing that. For me, her pregnancy has been essentially “painless” so far, and I think I can say without being a jackass here that, all things considered, it’s been relatively painless for her, too. We’ve heard so many horror stories from others and none of it has happened.

Although we did have a chuckle the other day when we were watching something together and there was a “Pregzilla” moment on screen and I said, “How come you aren’t all hormonal and crazy like that woman?” and she looked at me and said, “Oh, I did some random crying right before you got home!”

I’m not sure if it’s diet, exercise, self-control, lifestyle or just luck but so far her pregnancy has been a civilized experience for both of us.

(For the Wolf’s perspective, check out Experiencing Pregnancy as a Woman)

Modern Feminists Can’t Think Straight About Pregnancy

From “Get the Epidural” at NYT.com:

No one ever asks a man if he’s having a “natural root canal.” No one ever asks if a man is having a “natural vasectomy.”

First, women get root canals done, too, so this is terrible gender-baiting. Second, a root canal is a medical procedure designed to treat a diseased tooth, while a vasectomy is an elective surgery designed to prevent a man from transmitting his sperm during intercourse.

Pregnancy isn’t a disease and neither is the process of giving birth. The attempt to analogize between disease treatment, elective surgery and the very natural process of experiencing a pregnancy and a birth after sexual intercourse fails miserably, in this case.

Now, two completely separate questions are: 1.) Is it “desirable” to experience the pain of child birth if you can avoid it by injecting drugs? and 2.) Does anything in the drugs administered during an epidural a.) represent some kind of toxic risk to mother or child b.) potentially inhibit hormone-release and other natural processes within the process of birth that might further complicate either the birth itself or the natural bonding of the mother with her newborn?

But to inquire about such issues thoughtfully, one wouldn’t be able to write an angry NYT op-ed. And one certainly couldn’t eat a sugary cookie with the resultant unnaturally stimulated mental state it might entail!

As such, our motto here will continue to be, “If you find it in the NYT, treat it to an extra dose of skepticism!”