Bento Du Jour – Autumn/Winter

Lunchbox Bits and Pieces:

  • I sneak extra green leaves into the toddler by blending them into pestos, sauces and smoothies or chopping them super fine and adding to savoury muffins, fried rice, stews and curries. Thankfully she’s still too young to figure it out that she’s eating spinach if it doesn’t look like a leaf (18 months).
  • Don’t limit green leaves to kale, spinach and chard – use herbs and the tops of root vegetables like carrot tops, turnip tops and beet tops.
  • Add seeds to everything. They’re delicious, add instant nutrition and good fats, and bonus – they won’t kill any nut-allergic kids at school.
  • My kid is salt-obsessed. It’s not ideal but kind of inevitable considering my tastes. I use miso paste a lot so she gets the saltiness with the added probiotics. And nutritional yeast – it makes everything taste salty and slightly yeasty like vegemite.
  • Generally the main part of her lunchbox is leftovers from dinner the night before or I’ll quickly cook some cous cous or pasta and add a pesto or sauce from the fridge.
  • I use a Meals In Steel box and Kai Carrier bags. The teachers at creche often heat the young one’s food but if you have school-aged children there are some great thermal containers available these days. Like here and here.
  • Chia pudding takes 1 minute to make and 5 minutes to thicken. I just combine chia seeds, frozen berries and coconut yogurt (or you can use coconut milk, soy milk, almond milk). The above links also have leak-proof containers for lunches that go in school bags
  • I always keep pickles, yoghurts and fermented foods in the fridge, and fruit in the fruit bowl as quick snacks and lunchbox fillers. If you spend a little time making your own fermented foods it’s a great way of preserving produce and is WAY cheaper than buying it. We get our fruit from a local vege co op, forage in parks and the Chch red zone and swap food with friends who have fruit trees – if you stick to what’s in season it’s cheap/free and yum.
  • Usually once a week I’ll make one of the following and keep in the freezer for easy snacks throughout the month: savoury muffins, empanadas, filo parcels, samosas, raw balls. It’s worth the 1/2 hour every week (or 1.5 hours if I have the time and  patience to have the toddler “help”).
  • Every time I make rice I make extra and fry it the next day with finely chopped veg.
  • Every time I make lentils I make extra and put it into a pie or lasagne or something another day that week.

 

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Garlic & Thyme Borlotti Beans; Wholemeal Penne with Carrot & Olive Oil; Carrot top & Pumpkin Seed Muffin; Avocado; Kalamata Olives; Radish; Raspberry Coconut Chia Pudding with Frozen Half Grapes; Fairtrade Banana

 

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Kim Chi Fried Brown Rice; Cucumber; Fairtrade Banana; Green Kiwifruit; Spinach Flatbread; Dried Dates

 

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Red Cabbage Creamy Quinoa Fusilli; Linda McCartney Vegan Sausage Rolls; White Carrot & Kale Savoury Mini Muffin; Apple Slices; White Carrot Sticks; Cucumber; Orange Slices; Frozen Blueberries

 

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Miso Sesame Roasted Pumpkin; Agria Potato & Purple Cabbage Poêlée; Avocado; Vietnamese Spring Rolls; Lentil Mini Empanadas; Radish; Ciabatta with Tahini; Fejoa; Apple-Sweetened Dried Cranberries.

 

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Pumpkin & Pea Risotto; Spiced Black Beans; Purple Potato & Golden Beet Chips; Carrot & Carrot top Savoury Mini Muffin; Kalamata Olives; Smoked Coconut Cheese; Sauerkraut; Fejoa; Apple-Sweetened Cranberries; Frozen Blueberries; Coconut Yoghurt

 

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Lentil & Chard Spaghetti Bolognese; Kalamata Olives; Smashed Pumpkin; Sauerkraut; Radish; Japanese Turnip; Brown Rice Cake; Dried Apple Slices; Dried Cranberries; Spirulina & Blueberry Chia Pudding

 

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Spicy Autumn Tagine; Moghrabieh with Parsley & Preserved Lemon; Pitted Olives; Lebanese Bread; Hummus with Sumac; Chopped Dates with Toasted Seeds

 

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Chickpea & Spinach Curry; Brown Basmati; Steamed Broccoli; Bellbird Organic Sourdough with Mushroom Paté; Sauerkraut; Tumeric Pickled Courgette; Kiwifruit; Pumpkin Seed Raw Ball; Blueberry Coconut Chia Pudding

 

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Potato, Cauliflower & Leek Purée; Linda McCartney Vegan Sausage; Sauerkraut; Peas; Pickled Golden Beets; Cucumber; Kiwifruit; Blueberries; Pumpkin Seed, Coconut, Chia Seed & Date Muesli.

 

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Purple Cabbage, Mushroom & ‘Chicken’ Green Curry; White Basmati Rice; Cucumber; Nigella Seed Bread with Pumpkin Hummus; Sauerkraut; Gerkins; Sundried Tomatoes; Nut-free Scroggin

 

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Puy Lentils with Garlic & Purple Cabbage; Cubed Agria with Porcini Salt; Ciabatta with Vegemite & Tahini; Mushroom Paté; Sauerkraut; Pitted Olives; Cucumber; Carrot; Fejoa; Apple; Cranberries; Sunflower Seeds

 

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Fried Noodles with Tempeh, Red Cabbage and Daikon; Rice Crackers; Olives; Vegan Blue Cheese; Chickpeas; Mandarin; Coconut Yoghurt; Kiwifruit

 

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Leek & Vegan Cheese Farinata; Pumpkin Hummus; Garlic-Braised Brussel Sprouts; Roasted Potato & Jerusalem Artichoke; Gerkins; Vegan Pepperoni; Kiwifruit; Chia Coconut Pudding

 

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Green Mac’n’Cheese; Pickled Golden Beets; Stewed Purple Cabbage; Mini Lentil Empanadas with Nan’s Tomato Relish; Radishes; Papa’s No-Knead Ciabatta; Cucumber; Raspberry & Coconut Chia Pudding.

 

Bento Du Jour – Autumn/Winter

Bento Du Jour – Autumn

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Kim Chi Fried Rice – Nori-wrapped Tofu ‘Fillet’ – Edamame & Petits Pois – Pak Choy & Coriander Stalk Gyoza – Sugar-free Blueberry Coconut Mini Muffin – Grandma’s Cucumber, Tomatoes and Table Grapes – Mandarin

 

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Red Lentil & Chard Dhal with Steamed Basmati Rice & Paratha – Coconut & Raspberry Chia Pudding – Brown Rice & Quinoa Crackers – Vegetarian ‘Ham’ – Home-pickled Gerkin – Sauerkraut

 

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Green & Yellow Courgette Fritters – Red Bean and Kale Cassoulet – Tomato ‘Escargots’ – Roasted Beet Cubes – Fermented Gerkins – Pitted Dates – Crackers – Fairtrade Banana

 

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Spicy Black Beans with Baby Leeks and Spinach – White Quinoa with Capsicum – Avocado – Tomato & Cucumber Salsa – Corn on the Cob – Herb Wrap – Black Boy Peaches – Sauvignon Blanc Grapes

 

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Quinoa & Rice Fusilli with Wild Mushroom Ragu – Raw Capsicum – Avocado – Petits Pois – Vegetarian Sausage – Roasted Cauliflower with Cumin & Nigella Seeds – Courgette, Basil & Spinach Mini Muffins – Kalamata Olives – Kiwifruit – Pear Compote

 

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Maple & Miso-Glazed Aubergine with Sushi Rice and Edamame – Roasted Nori – Pak Choy & Coriander Stalk Gyoza – Quinoa Crackers – Nut-free Tahini & Linseed Raw Balls – Avocado – Wild Apple Compote

 

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Ratatouille with Wholemeal Cous Cous – Garlic & Herb Fried Spaghetti Squash – Pickled Lebanese Cucumber – Beetroot Leaf Fataya – Wholemeal Pita Bread – Hummus – Kalamata Olives – Fairtrade Banana

 

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Lentil Shepherd’s Pie with Agria Potatoes and Nutritional Yeast – Golden Beets – Petits Pois – Courgette, Basil & Spinach Mini Muffin – Avocado – Cucumber & Capsicum Sticks – Fejoa – Coconut Yoghurt  – Pear

 

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Miso Fried Rice – Nori-wrapped Tofu ‘fillets’ – Garlic & Sesame Broad Beans – Crackers – Tahini & Vegemite Mini ‘Escargots’ – Fairtrade Banana – Sugar-free Coconut & Raspberry Cake

 

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Penne with Roasted Vegetable Ragu – Fresh Tomato – Crumbled Broad Bean and Chickpea Falafel – Brown Rice & Quinoa Crackers – Wholemeal Ciabatta – Nut-free Tahini & Linseed Raw Balls – Roasted Nori – Homemade Cornichons – Fairtrade Banana

 

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Red Rice Noodles with Japanese Turnip, Pak Choy & Spring Onion – Baked Sesame Tofu Fingers – Courgette, Basil & Spinach Mini Muffins – Mandarin – Tahini, Cucumber & Vegemite Petits Escargots – Spray-free Grape Halves – Coconut Yoghurt

 

Bento Du Jour – Autumn

To Sleep, Perchance To Dream.

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Sleep deprivation is not what I had imagined. Before having a child I was pretty sure I knew was tiredness felt like .. I’d partied, and run half-marathons, and taken double long-haul flights. Turns out this assumption is just another to add to a list I like to call, “Things I Was Wrong About Before I Had A Baby.”

The unrelenting, insidious, consuming reality of baby-induced sleep deprivation is quite unrelated to ‘tiredness.’ It’s another beast altogether.

It is never, ever resting.

It is ending a busy day shift with a needy baby or a busy toddler – exhausted and ready to collapse, only to start the dreaded Night Shift.

It is spending every evening whispering, tip-toeing and on edge, waiting for your child to wake.

It is watching the clock for the ‘end of the hour’ so you’re mentally prepared to get up and settle the baby.

It is going to bed with the anxiety of not knowing if you will have 2 seconds of rest, or 4 hours before you have to force your eyes open and drag yourself out of your warm horizontal heaven to deal with the needs of another human, who cannot tell you why they are not asleep and who may be awake for 5 minutes or 2 hours.

It is whisper-fighting with your partner about who’s turn it is, how much noise they’re making, the light, the temperature, who is in more desperate need of sleep, that time they accidentally flushed the toilet.

It is knowing exactly how many hours of sleep you have had, because for 14 months you have spent every night counting the hours – knowing that if you have less than 4 you will have to cancel everything but more than 5 and you can have a reasonable day if you drink enough coffee.

It is exhausted, murderous thoughts in the middle of the night – not the kind that you could actually do, but the, “oh, the baby’s face is getting close to that pillow, I’d better move it… well at least it would shut her up and I could go to the fuck to sleep,” *moves pillow* kind.

It is lying awake when the baby actually sleeps because, 1. you’re worried they’ll wake, 2. you’re worried they won’t wake and it probably means they’re dead, 3. you’re worried about climate change.

Yes, this is the ‘natural parenting way’ and yes, we chose to have a child and no, parenthood is not a daytime-only thing, and apparently we’re not the only parents in the world that aren’t sleeping even though it usually feels like it, and it’s temporary and blah blah blah.

But here’s the plot twist – I wish we’d trained. I wish we’d cried-it-the-fuck-out. Maybe not at 6 months but 10 months for sure. By then the baby mostly cried from habit and displeasure rather than actual issues. But we don’t let our baby cry. What kind of monster does that? Friends would tell us about holding each other down to stop them from attending to their screaming baby and honestly, that sounded sick to us.

So we let the madness continue, and then she was 14 months old and I had not slept one entire night since her birth. I was getting 5-6 hours of broken sleep per night. I couldn’t work effectively, or even follow long conversations. Our whole family was suffering. And worst of all, my daughter was exhausted, constantly overtired. Her 1 year old sleep regression had stretched into 4 months of extra sleeplessness, with 2-3 unsettled hours per night, regardless of cuddling, rocking, feeding, co-sleeping. I watched as she desperately wanted to fall back to sleep but was unable to. She cried and grizzled and tossed and turned. She would fall asleep only to wake again after 10 minutes. Until the day I reached my ‘natural parenting’ limit.

My husband was at work. My daughter had woken three times in the two hours since I’d put her to bed and I knew she was ramping up for a long unsettled period so I wouldn’t get any downtime that evening. I heard her stir…and I.just.didn’t.move. I couldn’t. I could not spend one more second leaning over her cot with my back throbbing in pain. I could not shhh or pat or cuddle or feed for 1 second more. I just couldn’t. So she cried. And I listened. It wasn’t blood-curdling as I’d feared. It was complaining. It was grizzling and then it was pissed off. And I sat and listened – my heart breaking but my mind firm. After 15 minutes I went in. I gave her a quick cuddle, explained that she was now old enough to fall asleep alone, I told her I loved her and she was safe, I tucked her in and walked back out of the room. And after two more visits, one nappy change, a very large glass of wine, a lot of second-guessing, encouraging self-talk, and intellectualizing, she stopped crying. She fell asleep on her own for the very first time.

That was almost a month ago and she has slept for 11-12 hours per night ever since. Just that one hour of crying and our lives have completely changed.

I recognise my face again. I’m nicer, and so is my toddler. I care about the problems of my friends again. I like my husband again.

I spent so long believing that it can’t be kind parenting to let your baby cry because it goes against your instincts, but the problem is ‘instinct’ is one hell of a fuzzy concept. What can feel like instinct is sometimes closer to emotion (especially when you’re tired AF), and emotions are not the same as instincts.

The truth is, because I let my child suffer for one hour, we have both suffered FAR LESS since. She cries a fraction of the amount that she used to. At some point in her first year we decided we had a ‘bad sleeper.’ We did every single gentle training technique. We bought shushers and Lulla Dolls, we co-slept, but she would not sleep. That was our family’s karma, and would be our life for as long as it took. And yet here she is – sleeping. Sleeping like a ‘good sleeper.’ And we are free from zombie-parenting, back-crunching, co-sleeping-from-2am Hell.

So yes, it turns out, we do let our baby cry. We are those monsters. It seems so obvious (now that I can string a thought together) that kind parenting can and must include teaching important, difficult lessons (at appropriate stages).

One of the truest things I heard when I was pregnant is that you don’t know what kind of parent you’ll be until you are one. It seems to be a lesson I need to learn over and over again – that listening to my own gut and paying attention to my own child is far more useful than any article, myth, study, mum’s group or blog. I only hope that the next time my daughter needs me to be a hard-arse for her own good, I can ‘woman-up.’ I’m sure  this new toddler phase will offer an opportunity or two…

To Sleep, Perchance To Dream.

Bento Du Jour

My toddler has started attending crèche one day per week. One of the (many) unexpected highlights of this new phase is lunchbox preparation – although I must confess that if I had more than one child attending school five days a week this activity would quickly become tedious. If you’re in that boat and need some inspiration, feel free to take a peek into these lunchboxes:

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Sticky Rice with Toasted Nori – Spring Onion and Sesame Omelette (from Grandpa’s happy hens) – Avocado with Fresh Salsa-  Brown Rice Crackers – Organic Homemade Ciabatta – Grandma’s Cucumber – Heirloom Tomato – Peach Slices – Coconut Yogurt.

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Sesame & Shiitake Rice Noodle Salad – Hummus on Wholewheat – Ratatouille – Herb-Crusted Vegetarian Sausage – Brown Rice Crackers – Fairtrade Banana

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Quinoa Spaghetti with Basil and Carrot Top Pesto & Grated Courgette – Organic Green Pitted Olives – 5 Grain Bread with Sun Dried Tomato Hummus – Herb and Tomato Lentils – Grandma’s Cucumber Slices – Wholewheat Crackers – Roasted Nori Sheets – Auntie Liz’s Fresh Peach Slices.

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Fusilli with Broccoli & Sunflower Seed ‘Cheese’ Sauce – Cherry Tomatoes – Pitted Kalamata Olives – Homemade Fermented Gerkins – Plum – Avocado – Homemade Organic Ciabatta with Vegemite & Hummus.

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Potato & Courgette Gratin – White Beans with Garlic and Herbs – Sesame Stir Fried Green Beans and Frys ‘Chicken’ Strips – Wholewheat Crackers – Plums – Fruit Salad – Coconut Yogurt.

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Black Lentil, Pea and Potato Curry – Paratha – Coconut Yogurt – Avocado – Fresh Cold Tofu – Plums – Cucumber Sticks

Bento Du Jour

On Breastfeeding and Dairy Products

As I’ve spoken about before on this blog, I had a really hard time breastfeeding my daughter. It hurt like hell for weeks, then just a little for months and months. On top of that I suffered from a little-talked-about condition where my hormonal response to milk let down was backwards, causing a wave of sadness to come over me every time I fed my baby – which is a massive downer when you’re feeding all day and night! But as the months passed I almost started Not hating it. By 10 months I almost even enjoyed it.

Now my daughter is 1 year old – the point where I was sure I would stop breastfeeding – and I’ve actually started to savour our feeds. She feeds far less and can happily skip a feed or take a bottle of plant-milk, so I am officially released from my ‘breastfeeding prison,’ and now, I can finally say that I understand why people are ‘into’ breastfeeding.

But along with that understanding comes an increased bafflement that any lactating human woman on Earth could possibly drink milk from a cow.

Boom. There it is. Cow milk lovers will no doubt click elsewhere at this point but I hope you don’t, as I don’t intend to attack. I am simply baffled. When one understands the hormones, the relationship, the science and the spirit of breastfeeding one’s child, how does someone willingly deprive another mother and child of that experience simply to sate a desire for cheese?

I want to mention at this point that this is not about breastfeeding vs formula. If there were decent plantmilk formulas available in NZ I ABSOLUTELY would have stopped breastfeeding prior to now. Without good alternatives, cow or goat milk formulas are often necessary. And I honestly have not an ounce of ‘see, I hung in there and it got easier’ smugness… only ‘thank Christ this isn’t awful anymore’ relief. This conversation is purely about seeing your own body create milk and then downing a big ol’ glass of breast milk from another species.

I do understand the cognitive dissonance people use daily to consume meat, to buy cheap clothes or throw plastic bags into the landfill, but when you’re a mother, particularly when breastfeeding, how do you mentally disconnect from the reality of what cow milk is and who it is really intended for?

I would go so far as to say that the consumption of dairy products is entirely anti-motherhood. The dairy industry exploits and destroys the mother-child biological bond, and, after personally experiencing pregnancy and breastfeeding, I can honestly say that being kept pregnant, having my babies taken from me, and being hooked up to a milk pump every day is literally my idea of the worst kind of hell.

Mothers Against Dairy expresses it well: “At its core, animal agriculture is based on sexual violation, reproductive subjugation and exploitation, and on the objectification and violent domination of vulnerable bodies. It is also based on the destruction of animal families.”

After almost 20 years of veganism, I have become exhausted and mostly private in my activism. I tend to promote vegan food and ‘set a good example’ these days because outrage, anger, aggression and debates can feel futile and even counter-productive. But this is one topic I have to discuss. It feels personal. It literally makes me feel sick in the stomach and heart.

So I’m asking the question: as women in the world, as people who can understand clearly what the modern dairy industry is and does, isn’t it our responsibility to bring attention to this topic? Is it not up to us – as the carers, as empathetic humans, as the lactating sex, and as the main shoppers in most households, to do everything we can personally do to stop this unnecessary cruelty? Even if that is through the very simple personal action of choosing plant milk at the supermarket.

For advice on dairy free products visit:  NZ SAFE or Go Dairy Free

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On Breastfeeding and Dairy Products

Cost/Benefit Analysis of Parenthood, 9 Months In

When Anaïs was 6 months old she did her first sign  – the sign for milk, or as we call it La tete. It was truly one of my favourite moments. Ever.

Which got me thinking about the much talked about ‘rewards’ of parenting. Honestly, most of the first 6 months of her wee life (plus the 9 months prior) had felt like work to me and I had trouble relating to the famous parenting chant: “It’s hard, but worth it.” Not that it had all been terrible. Not at all. And of course (and I hate that I’m even saying this because, duh) I adore my baby. I literally, actually think she’s the cutest, smartest, most charming human to have ever lived. I am incredibly glad she exists. But in the day to day of parenthood, the work vs rewards lean heavily towards the work side of things. Yet in that singular moment that my daughter made her hand into a tiny fist, opened her hand and made a fist once again to tell me she wanted milk. In that instant, the HOURS and HOURS of putting her to sleep, the relentlessness of her needs, the daily drudgery of domestic life all did indeed feel ‘worth it.’ And in the months following, as she has developed more personality, increasingly shows genuine understanding of her world and participates more fully in it, these moments come with exponential frequency.

That’s the genius of the system. We’re wired to love these tiny monsters so much that 1 cute moment makes up for approx. 10 shitty ones. And my memory won’t tell me whether or not the shitty moments are reducing or if I simply love her more and more and thus don’t notice.

I struggled with the idea of having a child. It seemed (and still does) a selfish, emotionally-driven decision. Adding another resource-sucker to this over populated planet. To what end? Why do people do it? Why spend all of your time caring for the needs of another human who will inevitably grow up and, by design, be less and less in your life? I couldn’t work it out. I only knew, deep down that I would regret it if I didn’t and frankly, time was running out.

When analysed intellectually it still doesn’t make sense to me to have a child in this day and age, in this climate, in my financial position and with my inheritable flaws. But we are more than intellectual beings. We are also emotional and spiritual beings and the cost/rewards analysis of parenting means sweet F-all compared to the biological desire to procreate, the emotional highs of parenting and potential for spiritual growth that children bring to your life.

Intellectually I realise that my adoration for my child is biological. I understand the hormones involved in bonding and attachment. I understand that she doesn’t yet have the emotional maturity to truly love me, but is firmly attached to me as her primary carer, as the person who gives her what she needs. But none of that matters because the hormones involved with parenting are better than any drug I’ve ever taken recreationally. They are amazing. Her smile dazzles me. Her laugh is the best sound I have ever heard, ever. And to use another boring parenting cliche, my heart actually feels like it will explode sometimes. And it’s the best. feeling. ever. It’s worth it.

 

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Cost/Benefit Analysis of Parenthood, 9 Months In

The Attachment Parenting Turncoat

Like every other first-time-pregnant, obsessive-middle-class-white-woman-with-a-blog, I spent my pregnancy reading all the birth and parenting books, watching all the birth and parenting docos and bookmarking all the birth and parenting blogs. What quickly became clear to me was that there were two types of parents: Attachment Parents, and lazy, selfish parents. So I signed up. I had found my ‘tribe.’ Attachment parenting or AP had all the things I like – it was natural-leaning, sounded like a place where science met instinct, was enough hard work to feel guilt-free about stopping paid work for awhile and would allow for all kinds of smugness.

I am now 9 months postpartum and I am ready to call BS on this AP thing. I am exhausted and I no longer believe that being this tired is simply part of being a caring parent. Ultimately, my instincts no longer match up with what attachment parenting advocates have told me. So I’m out.

I’m starting my own parenting tribe.. it’s called Semi-Detached Parenting – everyone gets sleep and space, there is both the soft kind of kindness and the firm kind of kindness.

Plenty has been said about what type of children and adults attachment parenting raises but honestly who the fuck knows what conditions create the ‘right’ type of humans? What I would like to discuss is the impact of AP on the whole family unit and specifically the mother.

Based on my experience, I would proffer that attachment parenting is only possible if you:

A.) Live in a commune/village/extended family home.

B.) Never leave the house.

C.) Don’t drive.

D.) Your baby has zero issues with, or aversions to breastfeeding, sleeping or being worn.

So basically for 99% of modern western parents, it’s not possible. Nor, I would argue, is it even beneficial, at least not when practiced dogmatically. Here’s an actual, real stat: 23% of mothers who believe in intensive motherhood (or AP) suffer from signs of depression; among average mothers, this applies only to 6.7%. *

So AP is not only exhausting and unrealistic for one primary caregiver to maintain, it is potentially even dangerous, creating the perfect conditions for PND and anxiety.

And here’s the thing about attachment – it happens regardless of babywearing/ cosleeping/ lack of tears. Plus there are real benefits and important lessons to be learned through fostering autonomy and independence.

I’d like to rave a little about each of the tenets of AP now so get comfy.

Natural birth: I’ve already blogged about how my homebirth ended up in a nightmarish hospital scenario. Having been convinced that a natural home birth was the only kind of childbirth experience to be proud of and cherish, I am left with an immense sense of failure and disappointment about how mine turned out. The tone of natural birthing discussion is that anything else is a failure.. a failure to properly relax or a failure to have the right environment/ birth team/ meditation/ type of scented candle. There is little to no discussion about the uncontrollable aspects and various alternative outcomes and how one should feel when things go awry.

Breastfeeding:  Wonderful for some, awful for others. For some, it’s difficult to the point of depression, anxiety and/or being in constant pain. If you enjoy breastfeeding or you simply found it tricky until you got the hang of it, please consider yourself lucky. And then shut up. Because you have no idea what it’s like to deal with a tongue-tie or low milk supply or D-MER (abnormal hormonal response to let down) or ongoing pain or whatever other issues you were lucky enough not to experience. And at some point there has to be a point where breast is not actually best for everyone involved. Breastfeeding is a relationship so it needs to work for both parties.. not just the baby at any cost to the mother. And deciding when it’s simply not worth continuing has to be a personal decision. For myriad reasons, I do not enjoy breastfeeding. But as an organic vegan and a control freak, my other options are non-existent, therefore I continue to feed and simply wait for the day my baby turns her nose up at the boob and I drink a few bottles of champagne to celebrate.

Of course I need to explain all that to you all because that’s what we respect right? Mothers suffering for their babies? No matter how difficult or painful breastfeeding is, we should all do it, right? Push on through. Or as my baby’s integrated health doctor put it when I expressed how hard I was finding breastfeeding and how depressed it was making me, “toughen up.” But my continued discomfort and exhaustion don’t make me a better mum than if I had stopped breastfeeding and given my baby formula. In fact it could even make me a worse mum. It definitely hindered rather than helped my bonding experience at the start, making my baby appear to me as a life-sucking vampire at times. And while I get to enjoy the smugness of an exclusive breastfeeder, I still feel like a failure.

Here’s my advice to new mums: Do whatever the fuck you want! Seriously. I’m not even putting conditions on that. It’s your body, your baby and holy shit parenthood already comes with enough built-in guilt.. when did we as a society decide it was OK to pile it on?!  Women have the right to choose what they do with their bodies. That right extends to breastfeeding in public, breastfeeding till your baby is ten years old, or not breastfeeding at all. If you are feeding your baby something and your baby is therefore not starving to death and you also give it cuddles, well done – you’re parenting perfectly.

Babywearing:
A great way to get shit done until your baby is old enough to sit and play alone. And an absolute lifesaver for those with colic-y/clingy/sleepless babes. It’s handy and smart. So why is the cult of babywearing full of such dicks?! It’s handy AF, that’s enough of a reason for me to wear my baby. It’s a happy bonus if it’s also good for her immune system/heart rate/breathing/blood pressure. It’s also a no-brainer and surely one of the most basic and common ways of transporting a baby in every culture since the beginning of time. So why all the fuss? Just wear your baby. Wear them as much as you and they like. No need for #wearallthebabies hashtags and scoffing at strollers. I personally believe in the idea of keeping a baby close for the first 3 months. I also believe in everyone’s right and need for personal space and solitude. Even a baby’s. Some people are more physical than others, some babies actually hate being worn.

Advice for new parents: Try before you buy – there are carrier libraries so don’t waste heaps of cash on 3 types of carrier while pregnant only to discover your baby can’t stand any of them. Also, if and when your baby is so heavy that it hurts you, I promise you that if you stop carrying them, it won’t affect your attachment. Also, try not to become a dick.

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Co-sleeping: We bedshared until 2 months old and coslept until 6 months. What felt cosy and natural with a brand new out-of-womb Being felt increasingly like encroaching on each other’s personal space as Anaïs grew. The close proximity to our babe certainly added to my new mum anxiety, making me jump (and feed) at the slightest noise or movement, which of course led to her having a hard time linking sleep cycles. When she left our bed, her sleep improved. Again when she left our room. Although walking to another room at night to feed is a major drag, once I’m back in my bed I’m far more relaxed and sleep better.

The key here is to know what you’re getting yourself into. Yes it’s potentially good for a newborn’s health but it’s also good for a baby’s health (and mum’s sanity) for a baby to learn to sleep! Not to mention the benefits to the family unit when the parents are gettin’ some.

The reality is, plenty of children do well with longterm bedsharing and are great sleepers, but take a look at any natural parenting community forum and you’ll see that it’s not uncommon for bedsharing babies to turn into bad sleepers for years to come. And you thought sleeping while pregnant was uncomfortable? Wait till you’re wrapped around a human who’s big enough to bruise you when they punch and kick.

In my not-at-all-expert opinion, you have 4 options when it comes to sleep:

1. Have a baby who magically sleeps really well and convince yourself it was because you did all the right things.

2. Apparently if you let 0-4 month olds grizzle and wriggle for bit rather than being uber-responsive velcro-mum, they learn to link sleep cycles early on. I can’t attest to this but it sounds reasonable.

3. Sleep training of some kind.

4. Coping with a wakeful baby for as long as is takes (which sounds like a viable option to the well-slept).

When I got on board bedsharing and ultra-responsiveness, I had no idea I was potentially signing up for years of sleep deprivation and 9 months in, I can confidently say I am NOT on board with that. I’ve been doing a kind of fading technique for 3 months now. It’s been effective and kind but SLOW and of course I’m smug AF about not crying-it-out but as the night waking continues (albeit, with less frequency) and as my daughter’s cries now vary between ‘I’m in distress’ and simply ‘I’m not getting everything I want in this second,’ my CIO friends are starting to look like the smug ones – with fewer bags and perfectly happy babies.

Elimination Communication: This, I actually think is brilliant. But only because I’ve found a lazy-arsed way of doing it. Anaïs has used a potty a few times a day since she was 2 weeks old, she also happily uses a nappy.  Basically it reduces the amount of nappies I have to wash and most of her ‘serious’ toileting happens on a potty, which is a hell of lot less messy and disgusting to clean than a soiled backside. To do 100% nappyfree and also have a life/ leave the house would be a crap load more work. Even at home, fulltime nappyfree would require watching your child every minute of the day and frankly I have other shit to do. Plus following her around to watch her face and interrupting her play to use a potty is the very definition of helicopter parenting. I’m happy my baby has become increasingly independent and I truly believe that alone time and solo play is just as important as interaction and affection, and that learning through uninterrupted play is more important than religiously learning practical skills.

No Crying: By far the most fucked up idea in AP is that babies shouldn’t cry. I’m tempted to simply write LOL at this but the extent to which this idea alone is damaging, stressful and just downright wrong leads me to elaborate. Again and again while researching AP I was told that babies needn’t cry. That they cry to communicate discomfort but if you take care of all their needs and keep them close, they will be happy, contented and quiet. *clears throat… UM… Bullshit. Babies cry. A lot. Some cry more than others but they all cry, it’s normal and IT’S OK. It’s already stressful and emotionally exhausting when your baby is crying but if you’re also thinking they shouldn’t cry, that you’re doing something wrong, your anxiety levels are bound to go through the roof. Babies cry in the ‘witching hour’, in the car, even in the baby carrier.

Advice to new parents: buy earplugs and DO NOT read any articles that talk about how African babies never cry. Here’s the thing about crying – it comes in many, many forms. The best way to be a responsive parent is not to try to avoid crying, it is to LISTEN to the cries. Work out the different ones, pay attention. Learn which cries require which response.

Here’s what attachment parenting doesn’t acknowledge:

  • Any parent that cares for and about their child will form secure attachments. Children who form no secure attachments are either seriously neglected or psychopaths… and as far as I know, AP is not a cure for psychopathy.
  • ‘Natural’ parenting is sometimes kindness and sometimes firmness.
  • It is natural and healthy for babies and mothers to gradually have more space from each other over the first year of a child’s life.
  • A baby needs autonomy and downtime as much as it needs stimulation and closeness. Newborns are SO easily overstimulated… even carrying, holding, smiling at or feeding can be stimulating. Keeping my newborn close sometimes meant keeping her constantly stimulated.
  • Children need to learn that they live as part of a family and wider society, that their needs are not more important than anyone else’s and that compromise is required on everyone’s part for the continued happiness and comfort of the group.

One of the ideas of attachment parenting is that it’s the most instinctual form of parenting, but as I have slowly moved away from this type of parenting, my anxiety levels have dropped and my instincts are far more clear to me. I find it much easier now to tell my instincts apart from my hormones or my anxiety. I know now when my baby is truly distressed and when she is not. My instincts told me that my baby would sleep better in her own room at a certain point and she did. My instincts tell me she can and should learn to wait. Instinct is what tells us how to parent our own children in a manner that fits us and them specifically – it’s far from instinctual to take a regime or set of rules and apply them to every parent, child or situation.

So here I am, a converted AP parent. A ‘lazy, selfish’ mum according to my judgey earlier-self. Because that is what I believe my family needs. I need physical space, timeout and sleep. So do the other humans in my house. And the more we as parents take care of our needs, the more we enjoy parenting and the happier The Baby is.

 

Click here for my thoughts on BLW and starting solids early.

*From a 2014  University of Mary Washington study

The Attachment Parenting Turncoat