Archive for the 'Motherhood' Category

Breastfeeding is Awesome

I don’t think I’ve really talked much about this topic, but I really do feel quite strongly about it, so I want to get it out there… Breastfeeding is amazing! It’s practical, healthy, and beautiful. I wouldn’t go back on my decision to breastfeed my daughter for anything in the world. Of course, I know I am lucky to have a year parental leave so that I didn’t have to worry about working and daycares, etc. and also, it doesn’t come as naturally as one might think it would… It was quite a bit of work to get everything right in the beginning, but it is so worth it.

First of all, breastfeeding is super practical. If the baby is hungry, you just need to find a place to sit down. No warming things up or mixing powders. You don’t have to remember to carry stuff with you, except a cover, and even that is optional. (Most women in Germany don’t use covers; the only ones I’ve ever seen were foreigners)

Secondly, breastfeeding is super healthy, both for mom and baby. It gives the baby a life-long boost in their immune system, and it also helps the mother with her immune system. We have spent the last 6 weeks in Mexico, and I haven’t been sick even once! Olivia had the sniffles for a few days, but it was very mild. Normally when I come to Mexico I get the infamous stomach illness (usually salmonella) pretty badly no matter how careful I am. This time not at all, and I have been eating everything, even lettuce! Unfortunately my husband was not so lucky… He has been sick three times so far, each time being stuck in bed for several days. Poor guy doesn’t get any of the immune system boosts from breastfeeding.

Lastly a word on nutrition. I know there are a lot of myths floating around out there about how the nutrition in breast milk is not sufficient after the baby has reached 6 months. I did a little research on this and couldn’t find any evidence to support that. It seems people are mostly worried about iron, since there is very little iron in breast milk, and the iron stored in the baby’s body from birth supposedly depletes by 6 months. But breast milk is tailored to the human body, and the small amount of iron it contains is actually absorbed very efficiently by the baby, (50-70% as opposed to iron-fortified cereals or formula which is only absorbed at a rate of around 10%. ) You can read more about it here if you are interested.

Other people say that there simply isn’t enough milk after six months and that the baby will be hungry if you don’t feed them something additional. This isn’t true, either. The way the body works is that the more a baby eats, the more milk is produced. There is a delay of a couple of days, so that when the baby hits a growth spurt he will be eating a lot more often because he is hungry. A few days later, the mom’s body catches up and there is more milk. As you start to wean, the milk production goes down accordingly, since the baby is eating less often. But if you continue breastfeeding, there will continue to be milk.

I breastfed my daughter exclusively until she was 7 months old, and then continued to feed her about 90% breastmilk until 11.5 months. (She has suddenly decided that she likes to eat more solids). She has been at the very top of the weight charts since just a few days after she was born, even though her birth weight was exactly average. She has always been very healthy, and people are constantly asking me if that is really all from breast milk. The answer is “yes”! I know that not every breastfed baby is super healthy or super big like mine, and they don’t have to be, either. But if you are looking for proof that exclusive breast milk is enough for a baby to thrive on, my little girl is a great example.

20130208-004433.jpg (here is my little chunk, talking to daddy on Skype)

Of course, as with all things, there are always exceptions… Every woman is different; every baby is different. Some women really don’t have enough milk or can’t breastfeed, and obviously that is ok, too! But if you have been breastfeeding successfully and your baby doesn’t want to eat solids when they turn six months old, don’t worry about it! They are getting everything they need from you.
We moms have enough to worry about already without people telling us that our babies are undernourished. What a way to sabotage the beauty of the female body.

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Daily Exercises

Like all of us, babies need exercise too. Today Olivia got her morning dose by crawling up and down a step for 20 minutes while I hung up the laundry.

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Down the step

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Pick up the block

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And… Stretch!

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Again!

First Words

Ok, so she hasn’t actually said anything clearly yet except for “Mama”. Even so, I can tell that Olivia is really making major progress on her language development since she is starting to copy some words, and obviously understands quite a few more.

We are a tri-lingual family, speaking English, Spanish and German. (I am American, my husband is Mexican, and we live in Germany). So Olivia is growing up with all three languages, and I am SO incredibly excited to watch how her language develops!

Olivia will be one year old tomorrow, and so far she has had a lot of exposure to English (through me, obviously) and over the past month she has basically had Intensive Spanish immersion, since we have been visiting family in Mexico. My husband does speak Spanish with her at home, too, but since he is at work most of the day, her exposure to Spanish had been pretty limited until he got to go on paternity leave.

As for German, well, I admit that it has been very meager so far… She does hear it when I visit German friends and neighbors, but again it really isn’t a whole lot. I don’t think she understands anything in German yet, but I’m sure that will come more once we are back home in March.

So what exactly does she understand?

In English:
————–
Olivia (her name;))
Bye-Bye
Kitty
Look
Water
No
Here (I think…)
Doggy (I think…)
Daddy
Mommy

In Spanish:
—————
Adios (goodbye)
Hola (hello)
Mira (look)
No
Si (yes)
Bravo
Gato (cat)
Agua (water)
Mamá
Papá

There are probably a lot more words she can understand, but it’s difficult to tell since she can’t demonstrate it. These are only the words I know for sure that she understands.

She is also starting to say a few words – she says “kitty” (sounds kind of like “kee kee”). And she also very rarely says “bye bye” (sounds like “buh buh”). I think she is trying to say “daddy”, too (sounds like “duh da dee da duh dee”)

I know that multilingual children often take a little bit longer to speak, but Olivia seems very verbal, babbling all the time, so I guess we’ll see. Even if she is later than most I don’t really mind at all, since having three languages right from birth is a gift worth having!! It takes us adults years of effort to learn a foreign language, so It is totally worth it if it takes her a few extra months.

How to drop stuff

Did you know that dropping things is a skill that has to be learned? Just a few days ago I accidentally taught Olivia how to drop stuff…. I was playing with her and decided to make a game out of crumpling up newspaper and throwing it in the air. Naturally, she thought it was just hilarious, and starting trying to copy me. She would take a piece of paper and rumple it twice in her tiny hands and then open her hands to let it fall 5 inches to the floor. Then she would look up at me with the biggest, cutest smile in the world, and clap her hands!

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Ever since then, she has been purposely dropping everything she can get her hands on. Before, she often dropped stuff, but only if she was opening her hand to get something more interesting. It had always slightly surprised her that the old item she had been holding fell with a “clunk” to the floor. Now she does it as a game; and although sometimes it is annoying (like when she drops her food) mostly it is just cute.

Now it’s time to work on setting things down carefully!

The Solids Saga – giving up on baby-led-weaning

If you have followed my previous posts about baby food, you know that we were trying to do “Baby Led Weaning” with our daughter, instead of the traditional pureed baby mush. In theory, it seemed like a great idea, and made perfect sense to me. I just adjusted my cooking a little bit and eliminated salt and sugar from our diet, and offered Olivia whatever we were eating. The idea was that she could eat as much or as little as she wanted, and then get the rest of her nutrition from breast milk (so I continued to feed her on demand). Apparently some babies dive right in and love it, but a few babies really hang on to breastfeeding for a long, long time, and it seems that Olivia is one of those babies. She simply was never very interested in food.

I tried everything I could think of, and some days were better than others. Somtimes she would eat a lot of somthing and I would think that I’d figured it out, but then we would end up right back where we were before, with her only eating a few bites here and there, and some days not eating anything at all. At eleven and a half months she was still getting about 90% of her nutrition from breast milk.

Make no mistake, I am a huge fan of breastfeeding, and I’m not in any rush to wean her. She seems healthy enough, and her growth has continued to be off the charts. Nutrition is the last thing I’m worried about. But at the same time, I am getting tired of feeding her every two hours, and of being tied down. I’d like to be able to leave her with relatives for more than two hours. And I want her to try all of those exciting foods out there!

We have tried purees several times in the past, but Olivia hated them. She only wanted to grab the spoon from me, and if I tried to put anything in her mouth she would arch her back and scream. A lot of people told me I had to “teach” her how to eat by holding her down and forcing the spoon into her mouth. I’m sorry, but that just felt wrong to me, and the times I tried it, it didn’t work anyways; it only made her madder.

I was starting to accept my fate that maybe Olivia wasn’t going to start eating until she was 18.

But then, little by little, I started finding things she would eat reliably. One was Cheerios, and the other were those pouches of pureed fruits meant for toddlers. She loved them so much that she would devour a whole one in one sitting if I let her!

This is what finally led to our breakthrough… One day at the supermarket near my brother-in-law’s house, I ran across a bin of small plastic cups with chunky straws in them, meant for older kids. Since Olivia loves straws, I decided to get one and put purees inside it, like a milkshake. Believe it or not, it worked perfectly! I let her watch me mix the puree and fill it into the cup, and then I took a sip from it acting as if it were the BEST thing in the world. She instantly wanted it, and she ate an entire cup-full of baby food in just five minutes!

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Now that the world of purees has finally been opened to me, I have been having lots of fun cooking various concoctions for her. Her favorite is banana-spinach milkshake, but she also likes turkey with veggies and rice. Unfortunately it is hard for me to cook a lot for her since we aren’t at our own house right now, but once we get back I’m sure my fridge will be chock full of experimental baby food…

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Laundry in Mexico

Doing the laundry has been a bit different since we have been traveling in Mexico. And since we are still using cloth diapers we end up with tons of laundry and I basically have to wash every two days.

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One of the things I like the most about doing laundry here is that you get to hang it up on the roof to dry! I really enjoy going on the roof, and since it’s sunny and warm in the afternoons, everything dries really quickly. It is a HUGE difference from Germany, where it’s usually cold and rainy, and where even indoors it takes days for laundry to dry.

I like hanging out the laundry so much that I’m even willing to brave the stairs of death to get up to the roof to do it.

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The laundry basket doesn’t really fit while you’re walking up the stairs, making it even more difficult. But hey, I admit that that’s part of what I like about it.

We have a washing machine, but we also have something else which makes my life a million times easier:

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This is not just your ordinary wash basin, as you might think. It is tilted at a slight angle so that water runs down over the ridges, similar to the old fashioned washboards people used before washing machines. You are supposed to rub the clothes over the ridges, and since some of the water stays in the ridges, it makes washing by hand super easy. I use this every day to get out the dirt stains on Olivia’s pants, since she loves to crawl all day and by the end of the day the knees of her pants are almost black. It’s also great for diaper stains, which are a huge pain in the butt even if they are pretty rare for us (since we practice EC). This simple washbasin may not seem like much, but believe me it is a million times better than the bathroom sink, which is what I have to use at home. Every Mexican home has one, even if they have a washing machine.

A few days ago it actually rained (during the dry season, heaven forbid!) and we ran around grabbing all the laundry down from the roof so it wouldn’t get wet. Since the volcanic ash always “drops” more after a rain, it would have not only gotten wet but also covered in a fine layer of black dust, which would have meant washing it again. Obviously, we’d rather not have to do that, so we took it all in the house.

The only problem is, since this is Mexico, there is no where to hang laundry inside the house. (They normally don’t have to worry about the rain.). So instead we took the laundry to a laundromat to be dried. They charged 9 pesos per Kilo, (so about 2 Euros for the whole load) and when we picked it up, it wasn’t just dried, but FOLDED as well! It’s crazy what you can get for your money here.

Nevertheless, I will stick to hanging my laundry on the roof just because it’s more fun.

Diaper Free – Month 10& 11

After my last post about EC which was a bit depressing, I am happy to report that EC has been going incredibly well for us for the past month! Considering that we have been using diapers full time and haven’t done any diaper free time at all in ages,I really thought that Olivia would eventually stop caring about going to the potty. But that hasn’t been the case at all – in fact she has been gaining more and more bladder control and still waits for me to take her to the bathroom most of the time. Even with all of the travel we have been doing, she still expects to be taken to the potty at regular intervals and lets me know by “yapping” when she needs to go. (Sounds kind of like a high pitchecd “eh eh eh”)

We have gotten into a good routine of going potty after every meal and every nap, and that is working very well. We still have a lot of wet diapers, but poo almost always ends up in the toilet unless I am not paying attention. Interestingly, on the day of our flight from Germany to the US, I woke her up extra early (at 4am) to take the taxi, then train and finally the plane, and with all of the rushing I didn’t get the chance to take her potty until four hours later. Would you believe it that when I finally got into that tiny airplane bathroom, her diaper was still DRY???? She did the biggest pee I had ever seen, and then we went happily back to our seats. From that point on we continued to have dry diapers about 70% of the time for the entire trip.

Our rate has gone back down since then (she almost always does somthing in the toilet when I take her, but she usually has a wet diaper too) but that’s only because we have a lot going on and I don’t take her as often as I should. Nevertheless, I am still really happy with the way things are going – it feels like second nature now to the point where I have a hard time NOT offering her the potty after changing her diaper. Even if we are in a parking lot or in the middle of a touristy park and there is no potty available, I will put the dirty diaper on the ground and hold her up over it to do her business. I know she expects the chance to relieve herself, and I simply couldn’t live with myself putting her into the carseat when I know she has to go to the bathroom.

Even though we aren’t doing “all out” diaper free, I am really happy with EC and how it’s working for us. I used to be worried that I wasn’t doing “enough”, or that it wouldn’t “work” as well if I put less effort into, but now I’m seeing that it really doesn’t matter all that much. Sure, we could probably be completely out of diapers by now if I put in the effort to take her once an hour. In fact, if I got rid of the diaper she would probably start to hold it longer than an hour, since I know she has the capacity to do it. But I’m happy with how things are going, and I know that anything I do is better than nothing, and Olivia seems to be fine with it too.

Three Kings Day

In Mexico, Three Kings Day (January 5th) is the day when kids get presents, rather than Christmas. We spent Three Kings Day in Puebla, with Oscar’s brother and his family. For Oscar, this was something extra special since it reminded him of his childhood, and seeing the joy on his niece and nephew’s faces on the morning of the 6th was something he was really looking forward to. For me, this was somthing totally new, since even though I had heard of Three Kings Day, I had never experienced it and really didn’t know any of the traditions that go along with it. So it was very interesting for me!

20130109-192056.jpg On the night of the 5th, each of the kids wrote a letter to the three kings (telling them that they had been good and which presents they wanted). Then we tied the letters to balloons and sent them off in the sky. Olivia’s letter was pretty difficult to read, but I guess the three kings must have understood, since along with a few other gifts, they also brought her three bendy straws!

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Us getting ready to let the balloons go (I am taking the picture)

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Olivia”s cousin letting his balloon go from on top of a jungle gym

Afterwards, we each put out a shoe in the living room, and went to bed. The next morning the shoes had been moved up on top of the couch, and by each shoe was a small pile of gifts. Appearantly the three kings don’t like wrapping paper, but that’s ok since it cuts down on the waiting time!

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Aside from her bendy straws, Olivia also recieved a shape sorter, some clothes and two books of Mexican stories complete with original Mexican art. I am especially excited about those books, since I have had a really difficult time finding any children’s books in Spanish which aren’t just translated versions of American books.

Olivia also enjoyed playing X-box which her cousin Emiliano received! I was pretty impressed that Emiliano not only tolerated her grabbing the controller, but actually even has been trying to incorporate her into his play. They have been playing X-box together peacefully for several days now without any problems even when the race-car gets run off the road by Olivia.

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Later in the day Olivia’s Abuelita (grandmother) came over and we had a “Rosca de Reyes” together, which is a special sweet bread made specifically for Three King’s Day.

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Rosca de Reyes (Wreath of the Kings)

Hidden inside the bread are 4 or 5 small plastic dolls, and if you get one in your piece, you are responsible for making Tamales for breakfast for everyone else on another day. Since we have quite a but of family and friends around here, we have already been part of three different “Roscas”, but so far I haven’t gotten a single doll, which is probably a good thing since I have no idea how to make Tamales…

The Story of Our Stroller

Yes, I love to baby-wear and carry Olivia around in my arms a lot. But I also use the stroller quite a lot, depending on what I plan to do.  Since we live in Germany and don’t need a car to get most places, I often spend the whole day on foot, which means sometimes I like to have the stroller there, even if it just to carry shopping bags 😉 Olivia also likes to sleep in the stroller, and I’ll be honest, it’s a great place to pull on and off her diaper when there’s no other place to change her.

Our borrowed Hartan stroller

Our borrowed Hartan stroller

Our stroller was lent to us by a good friend who lives in Paderborn. It is about 5 years old and has already lived through two children, so it has seen better days, but still worked fine when she gave it to us. It is a Hartan VIP – which is a top-of-the-line stroller here in Germany. I was ecstatic at not having to buy a stroller! And I am eternally thankful to our friends for lending it to us.

But about a month ago, it suddenly gave out. The plastic piece at one of the joints on the right-hand side had cracked. It makes sense that it would crack there, since every time you push down on the handle to get over a curb the entire force is put directly on that one joint. And despite the many good things about Germany, they unfortunately have a long way to go in installing ramps at every street corner. So basically you are maneuvering up and down curbs all the time. So it was clear that eventually something would have to give. But this is not our stroller… so now what?

I took the stroller to a store which sells baby stuff and asked them if they could order the plastic part for me. They couldn’t, they said they had to send the whole thing in to the manufacturer, who would then give me a quote for repair, since it was no longer under warentee. I knew even then that it would be expensive. no company ever just charges you for the spare part… they would most likely want to replace the entire mess of metal rods, if not the entire base. And to let me try to repair it myself – no way. They would rather have me spend 500 EUR on a new stroller. But even though I knew all of this, I let them send it in anyways (for a 30 EUR fee). They gave me a spare stroller to use while it was gone, for 2 Euros a day, and told me it would be four weeks.

The spare stroller made an odd clicking noise wherever I pushed it, but it didn’t seem to bother Olivia, and I got used to it pretty fast. I still used my carrier or a wrap a lot anyways. Then, about three and a half weeks later, the spare stroller cracked, too!! This one decided to give out on the handle bar, at a joint which is used to fold the handle up and down. It is also a highly stressed area, so it made sense to break there. But that didn’t make me feel any better! What would the store say? How much was this going to cost me?

The *next day* the store called, saying that my stroller had been returned to them with a quotation from Hartan – the repair for that one cracked joint would be 210 EUR, if I wanted to do it. They couldn’t even tell me what exactly Hartan planned to do to fix it. (super glue…?) So yeah… if I had waited ONE MORE DAY to take that last walk, the spare stroller would have been just fine, and I wouldn’t have had any issues! But now I had not one, but *two* broken strollers on my hands, neither of which belonged to me! If the first stroller was 210EUR to fix, would would the second one cost?!

Fleeting thoughts of trying to hide the broken spot on the rented stroller crossed my mind. Maybe I could glue it so that they wouldn’t notice, and then it would break on the next customer instead. But I just couldn’t do it. I really have a tough time being dishonest like that. So I sucked it up and took the stroller in, expecting a huge bill, on top of the 60 EUR rent for the past four weeks.

Fortunately, this is a story with a happy ending! The employees at the store were very sympathetic, and told me it wasn’t my fault. The rented stroller was already 6 years old and could have broken on anyone. They simply threw it in the trash. They almost forgot to even charge me the rent, until I reminded them about it. And even then, they only charged me for 10 days instead of 30! I wanted to hug them. I wheeled my broken stroller back out of the store, intent on trying to fix it myself later. I loaded Olivia into the car and drove home a happy girl. And to make things even better, Olivia even fell asleep on the ride!

Well, I got home, opened the trunk of the car, and what do you know, the stroller wasn’t there! I had left it parked on the street next to my parking spot downtown…! But being the panicked carefree, relaxed person that I am, I just got back in the car, and with Olivia still sleeping drove back for the stroller, which was still parked exactly where I had left it.

Of course, at the end of the day, our stroller is still broken. But I swear, I have the nicest friends in the world. Another friend of mine who lives in my neighborhood offered to lend me her stroller while she spends 6 weeks in Berlin. Her mother even pushed it all the way over to our house this morning, just to give it to me! (it is about a 15 minute walk) Knowing my luck, I will be *extra* super careful with this stroller, especially since it is brand spanking new.

Grandparents are Allowed to do Anything

On our trip to Michigan back in August, I had a lot of parenting conversations with my mom.  After all, she has a lot of experience since she raised six of us!  At some point, my mom told me that she didn’t let me have any sweets until I was at least two years old, but that her mom (my Grandma) had given me ice cream behind her back!  We both agreed that that wasn’t ok.

Then, just a day later, my mom and I went out to the grocery store, and we stopped to have chocolate shakes as a treat together.  I went to the bathroom for a few minutes and my mom held Olivia for me.  When I came back, this is what I saw:

My mom pulling the chocolate shake away from Olivia

My mom pulling the chocolate shake away from Olivia

My mom said “She really wanted it, she grabbed it before I could do anything!”  Olivia had chocolate shake running down her chin…

Now, at this point, remember that she was only 6 months old, and hadn’t even started solids yet, let alone dairy, sugar or chocolate!!  A million things could have happened.  Fortunately everything was fine.  In fact, she didn’t even like the shake, probably since it was so cold – she spit it all out.  But she wanted the cup back – probably because of the straw.  Yes, Grandparents can get away with anything.  And I really couldn’t be mad since it was so funny.


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