29 August 2012

Adopting the Veil

Why do some Catholic women still cover their heads during Mass?  The 1983 Code of Canon Law does not require it, and the vast majority of women have ceased to do so.  I've been asked about it several times recently, and it seems worth a post. Head covering can be a touchy subject for many women-- goodness knows I've been branded a sanctimonious little chit by enough of them --so I want to begin by making it absolutely clear that I am not judging anyone, I am not trying to imply that there is one right choice on the subject, I am merely explaining why I personally have chosen to cover my head in church.

There are a number of reasons women choose to cover their heads during Mass.  The most common is probably 1 Cor 11:3-15*, which I believe was the basis for requiring women to cover their heads pre-Vatican II.  (But don't quote me on that.)  Beyond that, though, there are a few reasons why I personally choose to do so: focus and humility.

Focus. I get distracted so easily: Oh, look, I know that altar boy... I saw his mom at the parish picnic last week... Picnics are fun - we should go on one more picnic before summer ends... Summer is almost over; we need to look for a snow shovel... I heard it snowed in Barrow the other night... Matt's going to Barrow for work soon... He hasn't been on a work trip in a month or so... Has the reimbursement check come in from his last trip yet?...  The nice bank teller wants to meet the baby...

..And in just a moment or two, I've wandered so far down the rabbit trails that I have no idea what started it.  Wearing something -- scarf, veil, hat -- on my head provides a tangible reminder of where I am, of what I need to be focusing on, of Whose presence I'm in.  I can't count how many times my eyes have started to wander during Mass, been arrested by the bit of black lace at the edge of my field of vision, and snapped back up to focus on the sanctuary.

Humility. This was the reason I originally began wearing a veil: I realized that men are still expected, as per 1 Cor 11:4, to remove their hats in church. Why? To show respect. Then why don't women also follow St. Paul's instructions? Why is one instruction still standing after two millennia, and the other been discarded in the past 60 years?  Why does the timing of women no longer covering their heads coincide so closely with the sexual revolution? Ah...

It seems plausible that the sudden cessation of veiling in church is linked to feminist claims that women should be treated exactly the same as men: men don't cover their heads in church, so women shouldn't have to.  The problem is, if men remove their hats out of humility, to show respect, and women remove their headcoverings to prove they are as good as men, where is the women's humility before God? There are, I'm sure, many other ways of showing humility before God. For me, though, it has made more sense to follow St. Paul's recommendation and adopt the veil rather than find some other way.

Additionally, veiling helps me avoid being prideful about my hair. I have always dearly enjoyed dressing my hair... curls, braids, ribbons, rhinestones; I even went through a phase of weaving little bells into it. In high school, it wasn't uncommon for me to spend hours on a Saturday night putting my wet hair into 20+ French braids so that I could have a head of curly, bouncing locks for Mass the next day.  Was I doing this for God, or to attract masculine attraction?  Well, I *was* a teenager... Like Jo March, my hair was my "one beauty," and I intended to take full advantage of it.

Fortunately, it wasn't too much later that I realized the important difference between dressing well for Mass out of respect for God and dressing well for the sake of others' admiration. Today, wearing a veil during Mass ensures that I'm dressing up for the right reason, and is a way that I can offer my desire for admiration as a sacrifice to God.

Once again, I don't mean to imply that every Catholic woman ought to be covering her head at Mass -- that's not what the Church teaches. I have personally found the practice helpful, though, and I would encourage anyone who is considering it to give it a try!

* 1 Cor 11:3-15 (Douay-Rheims)
But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.
Every man praying or prophesying with his head covered, disgraceth his head.
But every woman praying or prophesying with her head not covered, disgraceth her head: for it is all one as if she were shaven.
For if a woman be not covered, let her be shorn. But if it be a shame to a woman to be shorn or made bald, let her cover her head.
The man indeed ought not to cover his head, because he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of the man.
For the man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man.
For the man was not created for the woman, but the woman for the man.
10 Therefore ought the woman to have a power over her head, because of the angels.
11 But yet neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man, in the Lord.
12 For as the woman is of the man, so also is the man by the woman: but all things of God.
13 You yourselves judge: doth it become a woman, to pray unto God uncovered?
14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that a man indeed, if he nourish his hair, it is a shame unto him?
15 But if a woman nourish her hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering.

27 August 2012

Amazon Mom?

Little Bear being a baby and all, we're going through diapers at a ridiculous rate...  recently, it's been somewhere between 90 and 100 per week.  I know that cloth diapers would result in long-term savings, but right now cleaning them ourselves isn't an option, and the local cloth diaper cleaning service would cost more per week than we're spending on disposables now, even if we had our own diapers instead of renting theirs.

Balancing the books today and realizing again just how sizable a dent diapers are putting in our budget, I was reminded of an ad that popped up recently for Amazon Mom.  Twenty percent off diapers, and free shipping... it sounds attractive.  Users only receive three months free before being upgraded to (i.e. paying for) Amazon Prime, though.  Have you or anyone you know signed up with Amazon Mom?  Was it worth it? 

24 August 2012

Imperfectly Pocketed Pita

While I love baking, as we've probably demonstrated several times over here already, I must confess -- I love baking simple things.  My track record with fancy, complicated recipes is less than stellar... we are still laughing about some of the more spectacular disasters several years later.  But humility is good for the soul, right?  I was definitely half-expecting a lesson in humility when I agreed to bake pita for lunch today.

Why pita today?  Well, it's the feast of St. Bartholomew, and as the baby is allowing me a little more cooking time I'm trying to ease back into making mealtime a part of our celebration of the liturgical year.  Flatbreads like pita originated in the Levant, where St. Bartholomew traveled extensively... it would probably have been a bit more accurate to make Indian naan, as several legends have St. Bartholomew traveling to India as a missionary, but our grill is not the most cooperative... Pita just seemed like a better option.

Pita bakes at a very high temperature, so a crust quickly forms to trap water vapor in the center of the dough.  When the pita cools, the steam dissipates and it deflates, leaving behind the pocket.  We discovered that allowing the pita to sit for at least 30-40 minutes before cutting them increased the volume of the pockets.

Our pita turned out better than I had expected.  They were strong enough to use for scooping up hummus, and sturdy enough to bear a substantial amount of smoked salmon salad.  The pockets... well, some were about as expansive as those in grocery store pita, some larger, some smaller.  Being fresh, though, they all tasted so much better than a pita which has been sitting in plastic on a shelf for days or weeks!

1.125 cups warm water
1.5 teaspoons yeast
1.5 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour

Combine water, yeast, and sugar; allow yeast to bloom.  Add oil.  In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients.  Work in liquids until fully combined.  Cover and let rise one hour or until doubled.
Stretch risen dough into a 12-inch rope.  With a knife, divide into eight equal pieces and roll each into a smooth ball.  With a rolling pin, roll each into a 7-inch circle.  Cover all rounds with a towel and let rise 30 minutes while preheating oven to 500 degrees F.
Place 3-4 rounds at a time on a wire cooling rack.  Place the rack directly onto the upper shelf in the oven and bake 5-7 minutes, until the pitas have puffed up and the tops begin to brown.  Remove from oven and place directly into a paper bag, rolling the bag tightly closed for at least a half hour while the pita cools.
Makes 8 pita.

23 August 2012

A Prayer for the Autumn

Yes, yes, I know; the seasons are only changing here in the Great White North (which is still quite green and sunny for the moment, thank you).  This prayer was too beautiful not to share, though.  I will try to remember to re-post it when the rest of the country approaches autumn!

O God of Creation, 
Thou hast blessed us with the changing of the seasons.
As we embrace these autumn days,
May the earlier setting of the sun remind us 
to take time to rest.
May the brilliant colors of the foliage remind us 
that all the earth is Thy masterpiece.
May the crunch of leaves beneath our feet remind us 
of the brevity of earthly life.
May the steam of our breath in the cool air remind us 
that Thou art the source of our lifesbreath.
May the migration of the birds remind us 
that Thou callst us to follow Thy Will.
Grant us, we pray, a bountiful harvest season 
to sustain us through the coming winter.
We praise Thee for Thy goodness, forever and ever.

22 August 2012

First Breath of Fall

We have all been studiously ignoring the signs; the air cools a bit more each day, and we say, "look at how sunny it is!" Spending time outside is undeniably more enjoyable in long sleeves, and we stubbornly cling to our sandals. Clusters of leaves here and there have made the leap from green to gold, but all of our neighbors religiously water their lawns and flowers daily, careful not to look up.

I can't deny it anymore: autumn is fast upon us. The breeze cannot be described as anything but brisk, yellow leaves have begun to journey from tree to lawn, and this morning, we woke up to the first frost.

The realization is bittersweet. Autumn is my favorite season and I rejoice to greet it, but it is also our shortest season: every falling leaf brings us irreversibly closer to the long, cold night of winter. The temperature should climb to 70* in today's afternoon sun, but will dip back into the 30s tonight.  It is time to think about bringing in the harvest, picking cranberries, hunting moose and caribou.

Today, though, I'm just going to celebrate the simple pleasures of fall by taking Little Bear for a walk:  we will be looking for yellow leaves, enjoying the crisp breeze that sings of pumpkins and cider to come, and reveling in the fact that my pre-pregnancy fleece jacket fits again!

21 August 2012

Catholic Speaker Month 2012

In order to show support for Catholic speakers and spread the word about some who are not as well known, several Catholic bloggers  have organized Support A Catholic Speaker Month 2012.  They have a list of 250 Catholic speakers at the site linked above, and are looking for help paring it down to 100:  Give them a hand by going and voting for your favorites! You can vote for as many as 15 speakers.

Voting closes Thursday, August 23.  After votes are counted and the Top 100 list is released, Catholic bloggers will be connected with the speakers. In the early days of September, you should be seeing bios, interviews, and other creative introductions popping up throughout the Catholic blogosphere.  (If Bob Rice makes it to the top 100, I sure hope the blogger featuring him does something creative... A graphic novel page, a character sketch done in the style of one of Rice's RPGs... something to really give a taste of how much fun he is.)

It takes just a minute or two to vote, and it's a great way to help show support for Catholics who have actively embraced the call of Mark 16:15 to "go out to all the world and spread the Good News."  Head over there and give them a hand, and don't forget to tell your friends!

16 August 2012

Of chivalry and coffee-salesmen

I don't often drink coffee, seeing how I'm allergic to caffeine, but Matt does, and he and my mother both enjoy a particular roast called "Black Gold" from local coffee purveyor North Pole Coffee. Being artisanal roasts, their coffee tends to be a bit pricier, but after  this morning, I have one more reason to splurge every so often and support the company.

This morning was the first time Little Bear and I ventured out to run errands by ourselves without Matt around providing an extra pair of hands, and I was nervous about getting through the grocery store all in one piece. As I walked through the automatic doors into the grocery store entryway, the owner of North Pole Coffee was walking out carrying a stack of empty boxes, presumably from restocking. 

At least ten other people walked through the large doorway at the same time we did, but somehow, the coffeemeister noticed the exhausted young woman who stood there for a moment clutching a tiny baby and looking at the legion of shopping carts, wondering how she was going to get to the one with an infant seat attached, stuck as it was in the middle of the sea of normal carts.

He immediately set down his boxes, walked over with a smile, and moved the other carts out of the way so that he could fish out the infant-carrier cart for me. He smiled at Little Bear, said "congratulations," picked up his boxes, and left before I could properly thank him.

It blew me away. Such an act of kindness for a random stranger, when he was obviously busy working and probably had more deliveries to make: I haven't seen someone go that far out of their way to help a stranger since we moved here a year and a half ago. I am glad to be able to support a company owned by such a man!

Assumption Coffeecake

Whoops! I meant to get this up yesterday on the solemnity of the Assumption, but Little Bear and I had a difficult day, and there wasn't any extra computer time...

Blueberry Coffeecake for the Assumption!

It has been difficult to do out-of-the-ordinary things to celebrate feast days since Little Bear was born; having a new baby really ties up my hands, cuts down on cooking time, and encourages the use of free time for naps!  The Assumption is such an important feast, though, and a holy day of obligation at that!, I really wanted to find a little something special to mark the day.

Enter blueberry coffeecake. Our Lady's colors are blue and white, and a warm slice of coffeecake in the morning was a special treat for both of us, particularly Matt since I haven't had baked goods to send with him for breakfasts recently. This recipe is based on the coffeecake from Hobee's Haven, a breakfast place we visited in San Jose, CA, with a friend this past spring.

1.5 cups flour
1 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
0.5 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1 cups sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
0.25 cups fresh blueberries
cinnamon sugar

Thoroughly combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. Beat in eggs, sour cream, and vanilla. Pour into greased 9" or 10" round cake pan. Scatter blueberries across batter and press into top layer, but do not stir. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
Bake at 350* F for 25 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.


[photo coming soon]

13 August 2012

Wait, that's Catholic? Jägermeister

The past week has been spent visiting with Little Bear's godfather, who (fortunately for us!) decided that if he was flying all the way to Alaska for the baptism, it only made sense to make a vacation out of it.  We enjoyed the opportunity to make a few brief expeditions out of town, relax, and just catch up.  The last evening of the visit, he and Matt surprised me by bringing home a little airplane-size bottle of Jägermeister to split, as neither Matt nor I had tried it before.

It is spicy and fruity; the strongest components I could pick out were licorice and citrus, but more than 50 ingredients combine to create its full, heady flavor.  One of the most interesting things about the little bottle, though, was the Jägermeister logo: the head of a stag with a cross between its antlers.

That symbol is scattered throughout medieval Christianity.  What connection does it have to a liquor first produced in the early 1900s?

As it turns out, Jägermeister translates from German as "hunt-master."  The liquor was so named because of the original distiller's passion for hunting, and the logo is a reference to the conversion of St. Hubert, patron of hunters:

On Good Friday morn, when the faithful were crowding the churches, Hubert sallied forth to the chase. As he was pursuing a magnificent stag, the animal turned and, as the pious legend narrates, he was astounded at perceiving a crucifix between its antlers, while he heard a voice saying: "Hubert, unless thou turnest to the Lord, and leadest an holy life, thou shalt quickly go down into hell". Hubert dismounted, prostrated himself and said, "Lord, what wouldst Thou have me do?"

There is also a bit of German poetry on the label which translates to say, among other things, that the huntsmaster has a moral duty to honor God through His creatures.

That's certainly more Catholicism than I expected from a liquor not made by monks!

07 August 2012

World Breastfeeding Week: Nocturnal Reading?

Waking up to feed Little Bear several times a night has me flying through reading material even more quickly than usual:  I'm currently subscribed to more than 35 sites in my Google Reader, we moved a bookshelf into our room right next to my side of the bed, I'm even saving the junk mail to read during marathon 2 am nursing sessions, and I am still running out of things to read.

Any suggestions?  I can't handle anything too deep in the wee hours of the morning, nor anything that needs to be translated, but outside of that I'm very open to suggestions!  Books, blogs, etc...

One book I would love to get my hands on for the upcoming long nights is Catholic Philosopher Chick Makes Her Debut, by two alumnae from my alma mater.  It sounds like a thoroughly enjoyable read; hopefully soon I will be able to share my thoughts on it!

06 August 2012

Chrism and Grace

Yesterday, Little Bear received the sacrament of baptism. I think I've been holding my breath all month, waiting for the blessed reassurance that, God forbid, if anything happened to Little Bear, he has been baptized and received the life of sanctifying grace in his soul. There was certainly a sense of profound relief as we left the church after Mass!

Fr. Fath does not skimp on chrism: as he anointed Little Bear "priest, prophet and king," the three crosses he traced stretched from the back fontanelle to his forehead! The scent of chrism (a blessed oil containing balsam, ginger, pepper, and wine) is still markedly present, and will likely linger for several days.

Our celebrations continue today, as Matt and I wonder at a year gone so quickly:  Today is our first wedding anniversary.  We are fortunate enough to have the whole day together, since he has to work this coming Saturday, and are planning a leisurely drive to a hot spring an hour and a half northeast of town.  Not sure yet if we will wind up getting in the water or just doing some hiking in the area, but either will be fun!  If Little Bear is cooperative, maybe we will stop for dinner at a local brewery on our way back into town.

A year ago today, I couldn't have imagined that we would be here on our first anniversary: Matt going to work while I stay home to keep house, cook, and take care of finances, and a one-month-old little boy making goat noises as he naps next to me.  If someone had painted this picture for me that morning as my sisters, college roommate, and I got ready for the wedding, I would have laughed in disbelief: we had plans, and being a single-income family with a child before our first anniversary was not a part of those plans.  God has better plans than we can ever design for ourselves, though, and I am certain that our first year has gone so well, has been so filled with grace, because we were open to God completely rewriting our plan!  It truly has been a wonderful, blessed year, better than we ever imagined.

05 August 2012

World Breastfeeding Week: Breastfeeding in Church

A spin-off from the last two days:  Breastfeeding in public is a subject many people have strong views on, but it seems that sometimes those views change when you specifically mention church.  A number of moms I've spoken with who don't have any objection to nursing in public have said that they do feel uncomfortable nursing in church, or that they get more dirty looks for breastfeeding discretely in church than they do elsewhere.

Why would people have a greater objection to nursing in church than anywhere else?  This doesn't make any sense to me.  Jesus was breastfed.  Everyone was breastfed up until at least the mid-1800s.  We hear about breastfeeding as a good thing in Scripture.  As Bl. John Paul II said,

“…[Breastfeeding] benefits the child and helps to create the closeness and maternal bonding so necessary for healthy child development. So human and natural is this bond that the Psalms use the image of the infant at its mother’s breast as a picture of God’s care for man…”

As long as the baby is fed discretely, I can't think of a good reason to either make the hungry baby wait until the end of Mass or to make the mother feel guilty for feeding her child.  The La Leche League has tips for discrete breastfeeding which should help mothers who are concerned about being a source of distraction to others while nursing.

04 August 2012

Feast of St. John Vianney

Today is the feast of St. John Mary Vianney, also known as the Curé of Ars.  He is the patron of parish priests; don't forget to pray for your parish priest through his intercession today!

Dear Saint John Vianney, 
your childhood dream was to be a priest, to win souls for God. 
You endured years of toil and humiliation to attain the priesthood. 
You became a priest truly after God's own heart, 
outstanding in humility and poverty, prayer and mortification, 
totally devoted to the care of God's people. 
The Church has exalted you as model and patron of all parish priests, 
trusting that your example and prayers 
will help then live up to the high dignity of their vocation to be faithful servants of God's people, 
to be perfect imitators of Christ the Savior, 
who came not to be served but to serve, to give His Life in ransom for many.

Pray that God may give to His Church today many more priests after His own heart. 
Pray for all of the priests under your patronage, 
that they may be worthy representatives of Christ the Good Shepherd. 
May they wholeheartedly devote themselves to prayer and penance; 
be examples of humility and holiness; 
shining models of poverty; 
tireless and powerful preachers of the Word of God; 
zealous dispensers of God's grace in the sacraments. 
May their loving devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist and to Mary His mother 
be the twin foundations of fruitfulness for their ministry. 


World Breastfeeding Week: Nursing in Public, Part 2

Continuing our examination of different mindsets toward breastfeeding in public.

Those who support breastfeeding, but are made uncomfortable by seeing it in public.
- If this is the mother, no sweat.  Not everyone is comfortable nursing in public, and that isn't wrong; feed your baby in the way that makes both of you comfortable.
- If this is another person, why might they be responding this way?  It could be either of the reasons discussed in the previous post, simply to a lesser degree.  Perhaps, too, the nursing mother seems uncomfortable or unsure of herself:  If the mother is giving others the impression that she is uncomfortable being seen while she breastfeeds, it stands to reason that people who pick up on her discomfort will be made uncomfortable themselves, and may carry this discomfort over into interactions with other breastfeeding mothers.
- How can this mindset be addressed?  If the mother is uncomfortable nursing in public, she obviously doesn't have to do it.  In fact, forcing herself to breastfeed in public when it makes her uncomfortable will likely spread the discomfort to those around her, and her stress may make the baby fussy, increasing her discomfort at being in public... it's a downward spiral which isn't good for anyone involved.  More private places to nurse are almost always available; they are not usually as convenient, but if they make it easier for mom and baby, then they are worth it.
If other people seem to be uncomfortable, but not antagonistic, with a mother breastfeeding in public, chances are good that a simple effort to be discrete will be enough to lessen their discomfort, and they may well be willing to dialogue.

Those who consider it normal, natural, and nothing to be ashamed of.
- If this is the mother, her baby is surely grateful for her willingness to feed him whenever he is hungry.  Be aware of the possibility of different mindsets in those around you, though; breastfeeding should always be about the good of the child, not done for the sake of making a point to those who disagree with you.  Also, the fact that breastfeeding is nothing to be ashamed of does not mean breastfeeding mothers should throw discretion to the wind: breastfeeding is not a modesty issue, but women who chose to breastfeed flagrantly in public for the sake of some political point risk making it one.
- If this is another person, thank you for not looking down on mothers who are trying to feed their child as best they know how.  Care should always be taken the other direction as well, being sure to avoid looking down on or pressure mothers who choose not to breastfeed in public for any reason.
- Addressing this mindset:   Discretion.  For the nursing mother, discretion means being aware of the sensibilities of other people, and refraining from wantonly displaying more skin than necessary during breastfeeding.  "Necessary" varies from mom to mom and baby to baby, and isn't something that anyone else is in a position to judge, but it is important for the mother to be thinking about when nursing in public.  For others, "discretion" is much more circumstantially defined.  For example, if a mother is nursing in public in such a way as to avoid drawing attention to herself, discretion means allowing her to do so, while in a situation where a mother expresses her intention to go breastfeed in private, discretion means not making a big deal out of how you don't mind her staying.

I know that I haven't nearly addressed all of the possible motivations behind each of these mindsets.  Do/did you breastfeed in public? (Or, if you don't have kids, does it bother you?)  Why or why not?

03 August 2012

World Breastfeeding Week: Nursing in Public, Part 1

More and more state and local governments have been passing laws and ordinances protecting a breastfeeding mother's ability to feed her baby in public.  In Alaska, AS 29.25.080 states:

A municipality may not enact an ordinance that prohibits or restricts a woman breast-feeding a child in a public or private location where the woman and child are otherwise authorized to be. In a municipal ordinance, "lewd conduct," "lewd touching," "immoral conduct," "indecent conduct," and similar terms do not include the act of a woman breast-feeding a child in a public or private location where the woman and child are otherwise authorized to be.

Breastfeeding laws have been met with a wide range of reactions from the general public.  You have the people who think breastfeeding in public indecent, inappropriate, disgusting; those who consider it an invitation to voyeurism; those who support breastfeeding in general, but are made uncomfortable by actually seeing a breastfeeding mother; those who consider it normal, natural, and not something to be ashamed of; and those who militantly support it to the point of intentionally making others uncomfortable.

While the second response is clearly immoral and the last uncharitable, the other three are mindsets we need to consider and be aware of, both in ourselves and in others around us.

Those who think it indecent, inappropriate, disgusting.
- If this is the mother, she probably isn't the one breastfeeding.
- If this is another person, why might they react this way?  Do they belong to one of the generations which largely did not breastfeed?  If they did not breastfeed and have had little exposure to it, they may well have spent much of their life believing that breastfeeding is weird, abnormal, icky... They may even remember being told by their pediatrician, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, that breastfeeding isn't important, reinforcing their belief that a woman who breastfeeds in public must be doing so for some personal reason rather than for her baby's sake.  Being understanding is so important (although so hard!) in this situation, because it is a natural response for people to avoid, fear, and vilify things they don't understand.
Do they belong to a group or generation which places a very high value on modesty?  It is possible that their understanding of modesty has been influenced away from an authentic Catholic understanding by elements of Puritanical mores (Marc Barnes of Bad Catholic has discussed this here and here).
- How can this mindset be addressed?  Deeply held opinions against breastfeeding in public, especially those stemming from an emotional response, will not change quickly or easily.  Being knowledgeable and willing to share current information about breastfeeding, or even a simple "My doctor said that it is important to let my baby nurse when he is hungry," may help, and it is important to be open to discussion if the other person is willing to talk.  In an antagonistic situation, though, it will be better for your stress level (and by extension your baby's) to try to be non-confrontational and discrete.

(To be continued)

02 August 2012

World Breastfeeding Week: Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers

There is a bewilderingly vast array of resources on breastfeeding available to new mothers today.  The only book I really read was The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers, mainly because a friend was so good as to send me a copy, and then our library didn't have much else!  I did find it fairly useful, although I wouldn't recommend it to every new mom-to-be.

The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers, by Dr. Jack Newman and Teresa Pitman, is a collection of medical information, advice, and anecdotes aiming to address problems and concerns new breastfeeding mothers have on a wide range of subjects, from jaundice to taking medication while breastfeeding to correcting a poor latch.  Each subject is explained in depth, often illustrated with examples from Dr. Newman's breastfeeding clinic.

The book is a treasure trove of information.  It gave me a sense of confidence about my own ability to breastfeed even before Little Bear was born, and provided a reassuring voice in the back of my mind through the first miserably sleepless nights when I wondered whether this was really going to work.  I have an acute case of desiring to know how and why everything works, and TUBBoA provided surprisingly detailed answers to all of my questions.  For the mom-to-be who knows that she is committed to breastfeeding her child but wants more information, this book will be a valuable addition to the bookshelf.

For the new mother who is still on the fence about breastfeeding, though, TUBBoA may be off-putting; the authors can come across at times as condescending and judgmental toward women who choose to formula feed.  There is also an undertone of negativity toward maternity wards, hospital nurseries, and pediatricians, as they make sure to prepare women to fight with hospital staff for the ability to breastfeed.  I understand that in some hospitals the attitudes toward breastfeeding may not have changed as much in the past 20 years as it has in others, and I did interact with at least one nurse during our hospital stay who was definitely with the old guard, but aside from a few isolated incidents the hospital staff we worked with were overwhelmingly supportive of breastfeeding; it left me rather disappointed that the book put so much effort into inculcating the impression that I would have to fight to be allowed to breastfeed the way I wanted to, which simply did not turn out to be the case.

If you are breastfeeding or know that you are going to breastfeed, I can confidently recommend The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers; you will likely be pleasantly surprised by how many of your questions will be clearly and comprehensively answered!  If you are still not sure, though, perhaps you should consider looking for a book with a less combative style for your introduction to the topic.

01 August 2012

World Breastfeeding Week

What a coincidence:  World Breastfeeding Week follows right on the heels of National NFP Awareness Week!  This year marks the 20th anniversary of WBW, and the 10th year of the UN's involvement through the World Health Organization and UNICEF.

The last 20 years have seen a dramatic increase in support for breastfeeding at a professional level, and a deeper understanding of the benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and baby.  A generation ago, many infants were transitioned to commercial formulas at just a few weeks of age, if they were breastfed at all.  Today, the American Pediatric Association recommends that babies receive all of their nutrition via breastfeeding until they are six months old, and continue breastfeeding concurrently with the introduction of solid food until they are at least one year old.  The World Health Organization goes even farther, encouraging mothers to continue to breastfeed "up to two years of age or beyond."

Having this professional support can make such a difference:  For us, having access to a certified lactation consultant at the hospital after Little Bear was born was a lifesaver.  His enthusiastic but poor latch in first few hours left me physically unable to nurse him for the next day and a half, but the nurses were able to help us find solutions that didn't involve substituting with formula or introducing bottles.

I am so glad to see the continuing commitment of our health professionals and international health organizations to spreading information about breastfeeding and helping to ensure that all children receive the best possible nutrition!