Mindful Milk

Happy breastfeeding mother and baby

Your breastfeeding relationship is precious and short. Mindful nursing means connecting with the experience in the moment, bringing your attention back to the milk.

Simple Mindfulness Practice

Mindfulness as a basic meditation practice brings us to a non-judgmental awareness and focus on the moment. That practice can be formal, as we might learn in yoga or in Buddhist meditation, and that practice can be a loose, much less formal yet powerful consciousness in our lives.

A very basic structure for the practice can be:

  • sit with your back straight,
  • notice your breath, and
  • bring your mind back to the breath when it wanders—and it will wander.

You can spend 5 minutes on this practice, 30-minutes, or all day.

Yes, it can be that simple—to start.

Science of Happiness

The science of happiness has begun to tell us that this simple practice of mindfulness or meditation can help us savor the moments and let go of the judgments we let block us.

Our brains reorganize based on our experience. This is called brain plasticity or neuroplasticity. By being present in our moment with kindness and compassion toward ourselves and others, we change our brains. We create pathways ready for peace and happiness.

Just spending those few minutes of breastfeeding in awareness can have a big impact on your life and on your parenting—and through your parenting on your child’s life.

Meditative Breastfeeding

The length of time and the kind of time you spend breastfeeding is a perfect place for mindfulness practice. In most meditation, you bring your attention back to the breath, which you can do while your are nursing a baby, certainly, but there is much in the moment to recognize with breastfeeding. As your mind wanders, you could bring it back to your baby’s breath, to the sound of the suck, to your feeling of letdown, or more generally to the milk. Rather than bringing your mind back to the breath, you can practice bringing your awareness back to the milk.

Practice bringing your awareness back to the milk.

Mindfulness doesn’t push or pull, it recognizes what is as it is. Mindfulness is a practice of compassion, compassion for yourself as you are. At no time in my life have I needed more compassion for myself than in my parenting. Perhaps it is that way for you, too.

Using this breastfeeding time to cultivate a natural awareness will bring you back to yourself as parent, to your baby as a wiggly, giggly new person, and to your relationship with your baby as your milk flows.

Remove Barriers When You Choose

Breastfeeding in a baby carrier or under a cover can leave us disconnected from the experience, from the moment in the experience. It can, but it doesn’t have to if you don’t let these become barriers to your awareness or barriers to your relationship with your baby.

Practice Mindful Milk

However or wherever you are giving your baby milk, be mindful. Bring your awareness back to the physical and the more-than-physical experience.

Whether you breastfeed for months or years, this part of your relationship can feel altogether too short. Being present in the moment, each moment, can help you to welcome the experience as it is and let it change as it must.

As you sit with your baby, let the experience itself bring you back to the moment. Maybe your baby pinches you, bringing you back to the moment. Maybe you gaze into one another’s eyes, bringing you back to the love. Maybe you feel your milk flowing, bringing you back to the milk.

Practice bringing your awareness back to the milk.

For the next month, we are focusing on slowing down, unplugging, and being mindful—of our parenting, of our communities, and of our presence in nature.

Resource

Mindful Parenting. Nancy Bardacke, a midwife who has developed a program for new parents and for those who work with new parents on Mindful-based Childbirth and Parenting. As part of her short talk to other professionals working on Mindful-based Stress Reduction, she shows a video of parents who talk about (and demonstrate) how mindfulness has influenced their parenting.

Photo Breastfeeding – © Cherrymerry | Dreamstime.com

Milk Matters

Baby breastfeeding because milk matters.

World Breastfeeding Week

Milk matters for babies, for mothers, for families, and for global health and sustainability. World Breastfeeding Week is our chance to re-commit to wellness.

This campaign is a project of the World Alliance for Breastfeeding, which is “a global network of individuals & organisations concerned with the protection, promotion & support of breastfeeding worldwide.” Local advocates plan their own events then pledging funds from their local events to support breastfeeding worldwide.

Overall, World Breastfeeding Week goals are:

  1. To provide information about Millennium Development Goals and how they relate to breastfeeding.
  2. To showcase progress so far.
  3. To call attention to stepping up actions after 2015 (the goal date for Millennium Development Goals).
  4. To stimulate interest among young women and men in the relevance of breastfeeding in today’s world.

World Breastfeeding Week Goals

(Goals are listed on WorldBreastfeedingWeek.org.)

See the pledges made so far, including 6 from Canada and 96 from the U.S. (as of this writing). Most of the North American pledges are from The Big Latch On events that took place today.

Milk Matters

At bynature.ca, we are pleased to support breastfeeding mothers in our own community with a monthly support group: Milk Matters.

Register online.
Registration is not required, and there is no cost associated with this group.

Moms need all the help and support they can get. If you’re a breastfeeding mother looking for a like-minded support system, we’re thrilled to announce a new weekly Breastfeeding Café being hosted in the Parenting By Nature Wellness Lounge (above our storefront in Orillia, Ontario). Join other nursing moms in our community for a morning of conversation and support.

Pregnant women welcome and encouraged!

Whether you’re pregnant and just thinking about breastfeeding, currently nurturing an early breastfeeding relationship with a newborn, a pumping mom, or looking for a supporting group that understands the joys and challenges of nursing a toddler, this is the group for you.

  • DATE & TIME: Begins September 2014. A monthly support group meeting Wednesday mornings from 10:00am -11:00am
  • REGISTRATION: This is a complimentary program hosted by Parenting By Nature. Registration is not required.
  • TOPIC: Each week we will be discussing a different topic, depending on the needs of the group.
  • NOTE: In order to ensure moms are comfortable, this is a women-only support group. Men are welcome to wait in the lounge within the storefront. Thanks for your understanding!

Milk Matters is a local support group for breastfeeding women. The Café is facilitated by a trained Lactation Educator, Doula, or La Leche League Leader.

We provide mom-to-mom group support during these sessions. If your experience requires more individualized or clinical support, referrals will be provided.

Photo Breastfeeding BW – © Alexhg1 | Dreamstime.com

Book to Help Reduce Toxin Exposure During Pregnancy

Pregnant woman putting on lipstick

During your pregnancy, the developing fetus is far more vulnerable to toxins than you are as an adult. You are your baby’s protection, so protect your own environment to give your baby the best possible start.

Let’s start with the positive.  You need:

  • Clean Air (so, avoid outdoor activity when air quality is low and pollution is high, driving in congested traffic, wood fires, and, of course, smoking)
  • Clean Water (so, filter your drinking water, unless you know it is safe from the tap, and use a safe water bottle, such as stainless steel)
  • Clean Food (so, eat whole foods rather than processed food-like substances, and buy organics when you can afford them, especially dirty dozen; buy food in glass containers and use glass containers when you store leftovers)
  • Clean House (so, let someone else paint as you prepare for baby, switch to cleaner household cleaners and personal care products, and don’t wear perfumes; also, don’t rush into essential oils if you haven’t consulted an actual professional.)

With the pervasiveness of toxins in our modern lives, you need to do more than rush toward the positive. You need to understand and avoid the negative. You need to know what toxins surround you and where to look for them so you can remove them from your life.

Books about Avoiding Toxin Exposure

Are you ready to learn more? We stock a few carefully chosen books that we find most help us create healthy environments for our families.

There’s Lead in Your Lipstick: Toxins in Everyday Body Care and How to Avoid Them, Gillian Deacon
There's Lead in Your Lipstick

Your lipstick, shampoo, deodorant, nail polish, soap, and the rest of your personal care products could be exposing you to toxic chemicals unless you have switched to safe cosmetics. You can always make a quick check in the Skin Deep database to see what grade your products get. To be proactive about your choices, educate yourself with There’s Lead in Your Lipstick. You don’t need to go skin bare when you are pregnant (though, of course, you can!). If you still need cream for the stretching skin across your belly, you have natural skin care options. We sell these products because we use these products.

Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects Our Health, Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie
Slow Death by Rubber Duck

Beyond the (almost) obvious toxins in our grooming products, we are poisoned every day through basic household products. Read Slow Death by Rubber Duck to clean up your life during or before pregnancy, then you will have created a toxin-free environment for your new baby. A disturbing but empowering book. If you need a kick to clean up, this is it.

Ecoholic: Your Guide to the Most Environmentally Friendly Information, Products and Services in Canada, Adria Vasil
Ecoholic

Ecoholic reaches beyond just household products to become a Canada-wide guide to green energy, incentives and rebates available, waste disposal, and other services. You will need this information as you clean up your life. City-by-city guide includes Calgary, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, and Winnipeg. This is just one of Adria Vasil’s Ecoholic books. We also carry Ecoholic Body and Ecoholic Home.

The Natural Pregnancy, Aviva Jill Romm, MD
The Natural Pregnancy Book

The Natural Pregnancy Book focuses on herbs to promote health, but you will also learn what to avoid. If you are looking for a positive focus, keep this book next to your resting place during your safe, natural pregnancy.

Funny Aside. It must be early. My husband asked, “What are you writing about?”

“Avoiding toxins during pregnancy.”

“Why would you want to avoid dauchshunds during pregnancy?”

I wouldn’t. Dauchshunds should be completely safe during pregnancy. Who can resist a wagging doxie?

Remember, your happiness spreads to your developing baby.

Photo pregnant girl paints lips – Image © Robertprzybysz | Dreamstime.com

Summer Family Vacation on a Tight Budget

Family on vacation

Your budget is tight but you still want to take the family on a fun vacation this summer. I can help you with that. This has been the story of my family’s summer every year, and we have found a lot of ways to save money on family trips.

The biggest expenses on the family vacation are transportation, lodging, food, and souvenirs, so I have a few thought how you can cut one or all of these costs to give your family a memorable vacation without a high price tag.

Lower Transportation Costs

The easiest way to cut your vacation costs is to stay closer to home. Do you live near a place others visit on vacation? Travel close to home and see the place like visitors see it.

If you want to travel away from home, go off-season. In the summer, go to an area known for winter vacations; in the winter, go to an area known for summer vacations. Sure, you will deal with weather, but that’s just fun.

Lower Lodging Costs

The biggest range of costs for your vacation is in where you stay. Even if you stay in a hotel or motel, you can often pull the costs down by checking discount websites or using a discount (CAA/AAA or military, for example).

The best way to save money on lodging costs on your summer vacation is to camp. Even if you don’t want to pitch a tent, a lot of campgrounds offer cabins. Cabins cost more per night than a spot to park a camper or put up a tent, but they cost less than a motel, and you don’t need to buy the extra camping equipment. You do need to be prepared with cooking (pots & pans) and sleeping equipment (sleeping bags or blankets), but cabins can save you money if you already have all of this.

Where to go? Why not just start big with the national parks of Canada. You can find spectacular beauty and sites of historic significance across the country.

Is camping a mystery to you? If you’ve never been camping and don’t quite know how, you can even find camping instructions on the Parks Canada site. They even have an app with recipes, checklists, and tips.

Lower Food Costs

One of the biggest expenses of traveling with the family is food. Feeding a family of four three meals a day can cost more than a hotel room.

Find a local grocery store and make your own meals. Even if you don’t have access to cooking equipment, you can have great uncooked meals. More than once my family has quietly rolled our cooler into a hotel.

Not only does making your own simple food save you a lot of money, you can choose high quality, whole foods rather than accepting the quality you get in an inexpensive restaurant.

Lower Souvenir Costs

Really, you don’t need souvenirs at all, but you will almost certainly hear the cries of “Mom, can I have this?” My strategy is to start out with a distraction that creates its own keepsakes. Rather than taking home stuff from the trip, we remember by taking photos.

When my kids were little, I bought them simple cameras so they could document the trip from their own point of view. The follow up at home was important. We would create albums or frame photos on their walls. I like how this gives my children freedom to frame their own experience, and it helps me see what they find significant. In the era of smart phones and tablets, you have a lot of options for equipment, but I still think it’s important to put the equipment wholly in your child’s hands.

Another idea for souvenirs is to collect small mementos of specific experiences. If you are heading to national parks or national historic sites, check out the Xplorer programs for children. When you arrive, you check in and get a booklet or equipment that leads children on activities designed to help their understand what that park has to offer. U.S. national parks have a similar program for Junior Rangers. We did a variety of activities from an hour to several days. When they returned with completed activity books, the park ranger held a little ceremony to award them patches. My kids collected those patches from their junior ranger activities and sewed them onto their backpacks. They still talk about the activities as they point out the patches.

Go Slowly

Make sure that you leave enough space in any vacation or staycation to enjoy your time together and unwind from the relentless pace of your normal life.

I’ve found that the activity that left my kids the happiest on most vacations was swimming in a motel pool. Simple, but it works wonders. Whatever you do, leave enough space that the kids can play and you can chill out. You don’t have to leave first thing every morning. A vacation shouldn’t feel like work.

The Really Cheap Summer Vacation

If you just don’t even have the option to travel because of the costs, you can still create that vacation feeling and fun summer memories. There is no requirement that you leave home each summer. Sure, it’s fun, but that pressure to do right by your kids can be stressful when you just don’t have the money to spare. You can make this a summer of fun without staying away from home.

Day trips. Take day trips to all of the tourist spots within a few hours drive. Even if you have seen the historic houses and scenic views around your region, for your children, a lot of this will be new. Help them see their own home for the first time.

Backyard camping. Have a weekly campout in the back yard. Cook your dinner over a fire and tell silly stories. Everyone will remember these nights more than random evenings spend in a crumbling motel.

Indoor camping. If you are more of the indoor type, you can still have a campout with the family. My family loves doing this. We pull the cushions from every couch in the house and cover the floor. Everyone brings their bedding, and we make one big nest. Then, we play board games, read aloud, watch a movie, or have a picnic. Anything you can do sitting on the furniture, you can do lounging on the floor. Difference makes the fun. It will seem completely silly to little kids, and they will love it.

Make Your Own Fun!

You don’t need to spend money to have fun with your family. You have a lot of choices to bring down costs and create beautiful summer memories for your children. Have fun!

Photo Family Enjoying View on Vacation – © Eric1513 | Dreamstime.com

Natural First Aid

Preparation of comfrey

The need for natural first aid will come up as you spend more time outside in the summer—hiking, camping, and adventuring. Start with a few basic plants and ingredients for natural first aid.

Kitchen First Aid

Before you go out into the garden, start in your kitchen. If you know your food and what it does for your body, you can use common basic ingredients to aid in health and healing every day. These are just a few of my favorite essentials.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Internally, add to water and drink or use on food to avoid heartburn or indigestion. Gargle to soothe a sore throat. Kids might be reluctant to just take vinegar because it is a very strong taste.

If you just want to get your kids to take apple cider vinegar regularly, slice up cucumbers and onions, cover in apple cider vinegar and water, leave for a day, and you have quick pickles. My kids love these. We always have pickled cucumbers and beets in our fridge.

Externally, pour on a cloth and dab on the skin to take the sting and color out of sunburn. This is one of my family’s most common uses of apple cider vinegar. My childhood memories of summer include smelling like fish and chips, but it works, and I’ve continued to use it on my own children.

Also, use a cloth soaked in apple cider vinegar to neutralize the alkaline venom of wasps or hornets.

Baking Soda

While we are healing stings, take a paste with water and apply on bee stings to neutralize their acidic venom.

Peppermint and Ginger

For nausea or upset stomach, peppermint and ginger are my first choice. This is another food that I have used as long as I can remember. My mother often picked mint from around our house to boil for a drink when I was feeling nauseated.

There is a reason we have after dinner mints or ginger sweets to follow a meal. They help digestion. These are easy foods to give a child.

Cayenne

We eat a lot of spicy foods, so I get a regular does of cayenne internally. This can increase blood flow. You can also use cayenne powder externally to stop bleeding.

Manuka Honey

We have family in New Zealand, where we learned about the healing properties of manuka honey—honey produced by bees that pollinate manuka (which is similiar to tea tree). When manuka honey contains high concentrations of methylglyoxal (MG), it can be used medically. In my family, we use it for wound care or for a food additive when we are ill.

The honey, especially medical-grade honey, is expensive, so we use this sparingly. If we were in New Zealand and could get it less expensively, it would be at the top of my list.

Plant a Healing Garden

If you want to heal your family naturally, start by planting a few essential healing plants in your own garden.

Echinacea

These beautiful pink-purple flowers are easy to grow. Echinacea is often used internally, usually in tea, as an immunity builder or as a cold remedy. It reduces inflammation and is antibacterial and antibiotic.

Arnica

Arnica is commonly used externally (though not on open wounds) for bruises, muscle soreness, and other aches and pains. Most natural first aid kits will include arnica.

Arnica Spray

Arnica Spray for bruises

Mom’s Kisses Topical Arnica Spray is an easy way to keep arnica in your first aid kit. It comes in travel size, also.

Comfrey

Comfrey is another common natural healing plant best used externally, though you can use it on open wounds that aren’t too deep. Comfrey encourages healing of skin and tissues. Very common ingredient in homemade salves.

Yarrow

Yarrow flowers act as a styptic, stopping bleeding when used on wounds. Yarrow flowers or ointment made with yarrow are an important addition to your kit.

Aloe Vera

My mother always had an aloe vera plant growing in our house. When I had bites or rashes, she would trim the plant and squeeze the gel onto my skin. Plus, the plant looks great indoors. Every house should have an aloe vera plant to be used to soothe skin.

Anointment Skin Soothing Ointment

Anointment Skin Soothing Ointment

Anointment Skin Soothing Ointment contains many of these basic natural first aid plants listed above: comfrey, burdock, plaintain, and other soothing and healing ingredients. You don’t necessarily need to make your own ointments, but it does help to understand what herbs do and which herbs work for which purposes, so you can choose wisely when you buy prepared healing potions.

Wildcrafting

Learn the plants of your area, and your hiking adventures can yield wild foods (like nettles, red clover, dandelion, burdock, and other common plants) and wild healing (like plaintain, arnica, yarrow, mullein, and other plants specific to your region).

The best way to learn about local plants is to join a local herbalist or visit a local botanical garden for a walk specifically designed to teach you about local plant resources.

As preparation, you could play Wildcraft! An Herbal Adventure Game, a cooperative board game I play with my kids. This is a great way to learn and reinforce learning about herbs for healing.

Essential Oils

I do worry about the ways I see some essential oils being used. Someone who has been warning against essential oil misuse for years is renowned herbalist Susun Weed.

An essential oil is a highly concentrated, drug-like substance which can cause severe side effects if used incorrectly. It concerns me that essential oils, which have killed several adults and children when taken internally, have been presented to the American public as a safe, warm-fuzzy, natural remedy. Out of respect for the plants and the many tons of them it takes to produce a little essential oil, I rarely use essential oils. Also, I prefer the safety and pleasure of using the plants themselves with their effective and amazing volatile oils.

From Susun Weed’s Wise Woman Herbal Ezine v 7, no 12 (December 2007).

If you are going to use essential oils, please be sure that you start with the guidance of someone who has been trained, not just someone who wants to sell you a product they just learned about themselves.

Recipes? No.

I am not trained in natural first aid or herbal medicine. I have taken classes, read books, and helped my family when I can, but I do not have the background to share recipes with you.

I trust few natural healers. Among those I do trust are Demetria Clark and Susun Weed.

If you are looking for recipes, please choose wisely from those who have long-term experience and dedication to natural health. There are many great herbalists. Just look into the background of the person you want to work with or the person whose recipes you want to try before you experiment on your family.

Be the Herbalist

Yes, there is so much more. You could spend a lifetime learning about all of the natural ways to keep your family healthy and to heal them when they are injured or ill.

I think it is best to go slowly and deeply into that knowledge rather than dabbling with broad, shallow knowledge and taking risks.

You don’t need to become an herbalist in order to help your family naturally, though, why not? A friend and colleague of mine, Demetria Clark, runs Heart of Herbs School. In addition to intensive programs that lead toward master certification and diplomas in herbal medicine or aromatherapy, she offers short programs you can complete at your own pace.

Closer to home, find a local herbalist who is giving an all-day workshop or nature walk on herbal remedies. Just one day will help you identify basics that can become part of the naturally foundation for your family’s health.

Learn about herbal basics, safe herbs, and use them. Compare your experience with what you hear from your teachers. Then, add new herbs and natural remedies as you become more knowledgeable.

Pregnant?

My constant companion through pregnancy was Susun Weed’s Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year (1985). If you are pregnant, you need to consult an herbal expert before using remedies. A few of them are unsafe, while most of them will be fine. Just learn the difference.

Natural First Aid Resources

Be sure to read our article on natural bug sprays and the sad state of repelling bugs naturally in Canada.

Image Preparation of comfrey © Teamarbeit | Dreamstime.com