Friday, August 10, 2012

Rational Baby Registry - Part 4 - Baby Gear

A note on health: I do try to limit the toxins to which my baby is exposed, but I don't want to drive myself crazy so I am super anal about the toxicity of places where he spends most of his time (like his bed) and less worried about toxic things that he won't be around that often (like an outside play pen).

Here is what Babies'R'Us calls the "must haves" of baby gear:


Toxic: The more time a baby spends in a car seat, the greater his chances of dying from SIDS. There is no definitive proof as to why this is, but what scientists do know is that in a car seat, infants are scrunched up, making it more difficult for them to breathe and that car seats are highly toxic and famous for off-gassing. The wise parent will make sure her child spends as little time as possible in a car seat.

Health issue: Newborns are most comfortable lying on their backs. According to Dr. Emmi Pikler in Bulletin Number Fourteen, this is also the best position for proper muscular development. Any time a baby spends in a "propped" position, his muscles are forming and developing badly. So again, the wise parent will make sure her child spends as little time as possible in a car seat.

For these reasons, I don't recommend buying an infant car seat at all and especially not a "travel system". Infant car seats with travel systems are made so that you can strap your baby in and never take him out. You put him in the car seat in the house, take him like that to the car, drive somewhere, take him out of the car (still in his car seat) and click that car seat right into a stroller, go for a walk, let him doze in the stroller/car seat while you have lunch at a restaurant.... Your baby can spend most of his day unable to breathe easily and only able to breathe toxic air.

Only uninformed parents carry their newborns around in their car seats. For people who know better, for people who plan to only have their child strapped into a car seat while in the car, there is no point in purchasing both an infant car seat and a convertible car seat since all of the nicer convertible car seats accommodate newborns all the way through booster age. Not to mention, that if you are buying one car seat instead of two, you will have more room in your budget to get something nice.

As for the booster car seat--your kid won't need this for years. Why register for something so that it can sit in your garage gathering dust for three to five years? The laws may change by then!

What I did: When choosing a car seat, I looked for safety first. But, knowing that eighty percent of car seats are not installed correctly (which makes them useless), looking for a user friendly and easy-to-install car seat was my number two priority.

After much deliberation between the Britax Boulevard, the MaxiCosi Pria and the Orbit Baby Infant Car Seat, I decided on the MaxiCosi Pria. First I decided against the Britax because it has sweater-snagging velcro on the straps. I then decided on the Pria because I could use it for much longer than the Orbit (the Orbit seat went from 4-30 pounds and the Pria seat went from 4-70). So far, I have been very happy with this choice.

Note: The first lay-flat car seats are already on the market in Europe but are still illegal in this country. When they are legal here, they will be worth your consideration.


Unnecessary! If you buy a nice car seat, it will come with all of these things built-in.


These are personal preference items. I did not buy any of them except sun shades for my windows.


Unnecessary! Since I did not buy an infant car seat, I was also saved this expense. My husband and I considered getting two car seats, one for each car, but then we decided it was easier to just make my car the "family car". I keep my car stocked with the stroller, backpack, a change of clothes, diapers, a nursing cover, a picnic blanket, water bottles, etc. It's nice to only have to worry about the inventory in one car.


Health issue: The best stroller for a newborn is one that allows him to lay flat.

Toxic! But even strollers that enable your baby to lay flat are made of highly toxic things and babies should not spend very much time in them, similar to a car seat.

What I did: I as given a very nice stroller that I used sparingly. For my next baby I will buy a lay-flat pram style stroller.


Philosophical issue: Babies do not need to be sheltered from real life. Our genes were passed on specifically because we could deal with the elements of the outside world. If you teach your child to be afraid or needy, he will be. If you teach him that a bug bite is no big deal or that he can solve the problem of the sun in his eyes, he will be independent and confident in his own abilities to handle life. Even tiny babies are capable of solving problems.

What I did: When I want to take my baby for a walk in the rain, we bundle up and go for a walk in the rain (without the stroller). I carry him and let him feel the rain falling on him. I have never worried about bugs or bug bites. My little guy and I spend a lot of time in the backyard and we often have bites. My stroller has a shade that can go down to protect him from the sun if necessary but most of the time I allow him to close his eyes or squint. I like to let him solve the problem.


Philosophical issue 1: If you are going for a walk, go for walk. If it's time for a snack, have a snack. No need to do both things at once. That does not teach good habits. That teaches chaos and mindlessness (there will be more on my eating philosophy later).

Philosophical issue 2: Stroller toys?! For your baby, the world looks like a crazy foreign country full of sights and smells he has never seen. Looking out at the world is the only entertainment your baby needs.


Philosophical issue: The name alone should stop you from buying these. What a terrible thing to do to a baby--force him to sit in something that he can't get out of with a mess of toys in his face that he can't escape from even if he wants to. These contraptions are perfect for future Epsilons: prison with meaningless entertainment. They do not belong in the home of someone who believes in freedom and wants to raise someone who thinks.

Health issue: According to Dr. Emmi Pikler in Bulletin Number Fourteen any time you prop your baby into a position into which he cannot get on his own, you are encouraging poor muscular formation. Babies who strengthen their legs before their strengthen their cores will walk early, yes, but they will be clumsy and their posture will only continue to get worse as they get older.

What I did: I was given one of these. I sold it.


Health issue: Propping your baby into artificial positions is not good for his health--from scrunched up lungs to improper muscular development.

Toxic: These are just as toxic as car seats.

Practical issue: Rocking babies to sleep--and especially by a machine instead of by a person--is a terrible habit to get your baby into. A baby who learns to fall asleep being rocked will come to need that in order to fall asleep. This means you will be getting up 5-10 times every night for months to rock your baby back to sleep every time he wakes up. Better to teach your baby to fall asleep without motion.

If you want to rock your baby to sleep because you enjoy it, get a rocking chair and rock your baby but don't hire a "machine nanny" to do it for you--and be clear on what you are doing: you are rocking your baby for your enjoyment. If your baby comes to need it because you have made it a habit and you no longer enjoy it, stop doing it. Instead of putting him in a toxic cloud that will give him a crappy body, teach him to go to sleep without motion.

Philosophical issue: When used as a toy, swings are noisy and overstimulating. They are active toys that entertain passive babies. This is not a wise kind of toy to have.


Health issue: See what I have said about propping and body development above or read Emmi Pikler's Bulletin Number Fourteen.

Philosophical issue: Maria Montessori supported walkers as long as the baby could use it volitionally i.e. no toy that the baby cannot get in and out of on his own. Magda Gerber believed that babies should not be encouraged to do things that they cannot actually do. If your baby can't walk--he can't walk. He doesn't need something to help him pretend he can. I am a big fan of reality so I am with Magda on this one.


Health issue: See what I have said about propping and body development above or read Emmi Pikler's Bulletin Number Fourteen.

Philosophical issue: When all a baby can do is lie on his back, that is all he should do. There is plenty for him to do on his back and there is plenty of time for him to sit when he is older.

What I did: One of these chairs was given to me. I removed the toys and used it as a chair. I put my baby in every now and then during a festive meal when I wanted him to be able to be part of the group and could not have him on my lap. I never used it to bounce him or as an entertainment center. I would not have purchased one.


Practical issue: There is no point in putting an immobile baby in a pen. Once a baby is mobile, the pen has to be, at minimum, 4' x 4' for proper body development. For my thoughts on netting, please see the section on stroller netting.

Toxic! Most of these pens are made from toxic plastic materials.

Philosophical issue: Many of these pens come with built in entertainment. That makes this a toy which harkens back to--active toys make passive baby brains; passive toys make active baby brains.

What I did: A "pack'n'play" was given to me. Because it is not the proper size for a mobile baby, I did not use it and am still not willing to use it. I keep it in case I want to try using it while traveling. I will update this post if it ends up coming in handy! For now, I recommend skipping this purchase.


Philosophical issue: Both Maria Montessori and Magda Gerber believe children should never be put in something they cannot get out of on their own.  Both recommend waiting until the child is really ready to eat (around nine months) and then providing him with his own child-sized table and chair.

My story: In the last decade I spent caring for other people's children, I found the whole high-chair feeding process to be loathsome. When my son was just starting to take an interest in foods (around six months) I let him taste things from my lap. When he could sit on his own (around eight months) I put him in a bumbo chair that was given to me. It sits on the floor where his own little setup will be eventually. Bumbo chairs are restrictive and not ideal but since I already owned it and didn't use it for anything else, I figured, "Why not?"

My plan is to replace my traditional dining room table with a Japanese style table that requires people to sit on pillows on the floor. Not only is this better for my body and all the bodies of every adult present, it enables children to eat with their parents in an easy fashion!


Philosophical issue 1: Carrying a newborn (three months or younger) makes life easier on the parents in many ways and makes the baby happier but--

Practical issue: I cannot recommend doing it all the time as your baby will develop a habit and come to need to be afraid of being put down. There is a whole branch of parenting called "attachment parenting" that believes in never putting babies down. I will write an article about why this is founded on bad ideas soon.  Here is a snippet on what Magda Gerber says about these ideas: "There are sound physiological reasons why a newborn should not be held all the time. To begin with, he must adapt to his new capabilities outside the womb, by kicking, stretching, curling and uncurling his body.... I see lots of infants hanging on their mothers or fathers in carriers. The babies are cramped and confined [unable to move or exercise their muscles]...Parents often say to me, 'I want to hold my baby all the time to show him how much I love him...' A mature, evolved person shows love by respecting the otherness of the beloved. You become a good parent... by paying close attention to your baby... How often I see parents holding their babies, or carrying them in contraptions close to the body without paying the slightest attention to them."

Philosophical issue 2: Whether or not babies should be sleep trained before three months is a hotly debated issue. If you are going to sleep train him as a newborn, carriers are not necessary. If you plan to wait until he is three months old, a newborn carrier that he can nap in while you are out and about is useful.

Practical issue 2: Baby backpacks with external frames are useful if you like to hike. I have yet to find one that I find as comfortable as a backpacking backpack though.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Rational Baby Registry - Part 3 - Care Items

Here is what Baby's-R-Us calls the "must haves" of baby care items.


This is a personal preference item.

What I did: I have Dr. Mom's nail clippers and they work fine.


Philosophical issue: Your baby should be encouraged to do what he can for himself as soon as he can. Owning a child sized brush he can wield himself is instrumental.

What I did: I bought a wooden handled and natural bristle brush that served as a toy long before it became useful.


I chose the ear thermometer. I have not needed to use it yet.


Philosophical issue: It is not wise to medicate your baby, even for teething pain. Read my posts on heroic health, the books I have recommended on health and Dr. Mendelsohn's book, How to Raise a Healthy Child in Spite of Your Doctor.

Unnecessary! There was nothing in this kit (aside from drugs) that wasn't already in my home medicine cabinet.


Unnecessary! There are some circumstances where a humidifier can be helpful--though again, not actually necessary. The rest of the time these machines are not fun to use, refill or clean.


Toxic! There are no pain relief medications out there that are not bad for your baby's health in some way. If it would make you feel better to give your baby something, look into homeopathic remedies and natural cures and your own psychology because--

Philosophical issue 1: Many parts of life are uncomfortable and downright painful. This isn't bad. Pain is just... uncomfortable for a little while. Better to get to know your body and learn to deal with physical discomfort than pop a pill for every ache.

Philosophical issue 2: Instead of masking the problem with gas relief drops, find out what you are eating that is giving your baby gas. Work to cure causes, not effects.


Not fun! Bathing newborns sucks. They hate it and often shiver and for the parent it's just one more chore. I wanted to make bathing more fun for both of us so I skipped the baby bath tub and made a nice bath for me and my newborn once a week or so. In the tub with me, my newborn was a very happy and at peace little guy. Because he was in a real bathtub he could be immersed in the water and was never cold. He learned how to float on his back quickly and I would just hold his head and let him float. Being fully immersed in water and able to stretch out made him so happy I took him to baby swim classes! (And there I realized that the bathtub is warm whereas a pool is cold, the bathtub with mom is peaceful whereas pools are loud and chaotic and the bathtub at home has a chlorine filter whereas pools have extra chlorine. Plus--for a small baby, the bathtub is the size of a pool! There is no need for anything bigger.)

Health issue: It is not healthy for your baby to be "propped" into positions into which he cannot get himself. Many baby bathtubs force your baby to sit in a position similar to his car seat. This depresses the lungs and encourages muscles to form that will make your child slouch. Better to have newborns lay flat.


Philosophical issue: Yes it's cute to see your baby in a miniature version of something you find convenient to wear, but babies need clothes designed for them, clothing that is comfortable, easy to take on and off and does not restrict their movement.

Not fun! A robe is just one more thing to take on and off your baby. One more "thing to do" instead of spending quality moments just being with your baby.


Philosophical issue 1: They come in bright colors. Why do we think babies need things like this? Maria Montessori says it well: "The most marvellous aspect of the child is that he is quite an acute observer who sees things that we cannot imagine he can have seen. how peculiar, then, that we believe we must use bright colours, exaggerated gestures and loud voices to attract his attention."

Philosophical issue 2: They come shaped like little animals instead of like a sponge an adult would use. Again, Maria Montessori says it well: "Although the children in our first school could play with some really splendid toys, none cared to do so. This surprised me so much that I decided to help them play with their toys, showing them how to handle the tiny dishes, lighting the fire in the doll's kitchen, and placing near it a pretty doll. The children were momentarily intersted but then went off on their own. Since they never freely chose these toys, I realized that in the life of a child, play is perhaps something of little importance which he undertakes for the lack of something better to do. A child feels that he has something of greater importance to do than to be engaged in such trivial occupations." For children under age of six, Dr. Montessori came to believe fantasy had no place. She believed that pretend is "not proof of imagination, rather it is proof of unsatisfied desire." Pretending was thus assimilation of the ego, rather than adaptation to reality. The child's task is to adapt to reality, so for adults to encourage fantasy was to encourage the child toward something that deviates from the developmental path he or she is on. "When children play house, they are expressing a desire to really keep house." Give them real chores! Teach them about real life! Not only will the child be happier and feel more competent and confident, but if he does want to engage in some sort of fantasy play it will be his fantasies rather than yours.


Unnecessary! Why do we think we need special towels? Regular ones work just fine.

My personal experience: I received a set of newborn towels that my baby outgrew when he was two months old. Then I received an older baby towel that he outgrew when he was five months old. Most of the time, having those extra towels was just one more thing to remember. It was easier to just wrap him in one of my towels--and he looked just as cute.

Philosophical issue: Again on the dumbing down and cutsey things people think their children need. Children don't want to be cute or little or treated like cute little things. They want to be like you. A real towel in a regular color without ears on it is superior.


Practical issue: Do you use a washcloth in the bath? If not, your child will most likely not use one either. They are not necessary to get clean. If you do use one, your child should have one sized for his use.


Possibly toxic! Almost all toys made for the water are plastic. Plastic, even BPA free plastic, is toxic and does not belong soaking in hot water with your baby or in your baby's mouth.

Philosophical issue: Read my post on appropriate toys--i.e. items from real life,

My experience: I follow the 80/20 rule when it comes to toxicity--I do my best to keep major toxins out of my life and my baby's life and the rest of the time I try not to drive myself crazy. Same with toys--I do my best to keep my son's toys philosophically sound but when someone gives him a gift and he enjoys playing with it, I don't worry about it. In the bath tub my baby loves playing with bars of soap, my pumice stone, an old toothbrush, the body of my razor and his wash cloth. Most of the time however, he is too busy obsessing over the water spout, drain and doors to worry about toys.


Possibly toxic! Untreated wooden or metal bins are my preferred bins, but again, I follow the 80/20 rule.

Philosophical issue: Your baby does not need very much stuff and that stuff that he has should be stored in an organized, peaceful and beautiful fashion. There are a few things like socks or a large collection of a particular type of toy, that merit attractive storage baskets, but otherwise, one small book shelf where each of the toys have a place and are all visible should suffice. For more on this, read Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui.


Possibly toxic! Read ingredients carefully before you buy. Never buy anything antibacterial. Only buy soaps and shampoos sold at health food stores.

Unnecessary! The purpose of soap is to remove oils from your skin and hair. We do that and then pay more money to put oils back in in the form of conditioner and lotion. I seriously question the necessity of soap and shampoo and would like to see some experiments done in this area in the how our skin would benefit from not removing the oils and drying it out. Remember that everything about our natural body evolved that way for a reason or was a successful adaption. This includes our natural oils. I don't want to smell bad any more than the next person but rinsing off is enough for me to not smell. There is no need for soap and shampoo. My naturally wavy hair actually looks better without conditioners that make it silky-smoothe. Unfortunately, I have not been able to break this normalization of wanting my hair to feel this way so I continue to wash and condition. I have been able to break the daily habit though and am down to every other day. That being said, I don't wish to inflict this habit on my son. I have a friend who has done anything but rinse off daily for about a year. He looks and smells fine--though his hair is not silky to touch. It feels like animal hair.


Possinly toxic! Read ingredients.

What I do: My husband, my baby and I use organic 100% pure sweet almond oil for moisturizer. No need to have lotion too.


Health issue! These are "may irritate body tissue but will have no significant effect on germs. The body has its own system to fight infection, and they work quite effectively if you give them the chance," says Dr. Mendelsohn. 


Toxic! Not sure what this would be used for, but I recommend using 100% pure lanolin instead. Almost identical products but lanolin is not toxic.


Toxic! Never use antibacterical anything. This is one of the biggest mistakes people make. 


Possibly toxic! Buy the gentlest, unscented, hypoallergenic dish soap you can find. Or just skip it. Dish soap isn't truly necessary. You learn this when you go backpacking and you learn to wash your dishes with dirt. Yes, you rub dirt all over your plate until it is dry and then you wipe it off or rinse it. Most soap is far more toxic than any food bacteria (despite what you have been led to believe).


Possibly toxic! Buy the gentlest, unscented, hypoallergenic laundry soap you can find. You can also save quite a bit of money by making your own.


Toxic! And irritating. That shit stinks.


Possibly toxic! It is fascinating to me that many people with pets only use white vinegar to clean their homes because they don't want their pets to get sick when the lick the floor... but people with babies buy the harshest chemicals around and think they are at war with bacteria. If you think bacteria is bad, you need some reeducation on that subject. There are many great Ted Talks for listen to.

What I do: I use white vinegar.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Rational Baby Registry - Part 2 - Diapering

Here is what Baby's-R-Us calls the "must haves" of diapering items:


Practical issue: Cloth or plastic? If you google this you will find a ton of information, in my experience, these issues are the most important and the most rarely mentioned--

The main pro of cloth: The average baby who wears cloth diapers will potty train a year earlier than the average baby who wears plastic diapers (because the baby has made the brain connections of going pee and being wet. Babies who wear plastic diapers pee and since they don't feel anything, often never realize something is happening). It is not absolutely necessary to use cloth diapers in order to potty train a child at a young age.

The other great thing about cloth: Because the diaper is wet, poops are very easy to clean up. In a plastic diaper, all the moister gets sucked down and you are left with sticky grossness on the baby's but that takes a dozen wipes to wipe up. With cloth diapers, you often only need one wipe.

The main pro of plastic: The majority of Americans use plastic diapers which means baby clothes are made for the slim butts of plastic-diaper wearing babies and not the bulky butts of cloth-diaper wearing babies.

What I did: My baby wears cloth diapers at home and plastic when we go out or travel. He has only ever had a hint of a diaper rash and the only time I ever had poop escape his diaper was when he was wearing a plastic one. We have a diaper service so I cannot comment on whether cloth diapers are worth it if you also have to wash them. I will update this post as time goes on.

[Update 1: I almost gave up on cloth diapers after about three months since the diaper covers did not seem to be water proof. Both the Thirsties and the Bummies covers had the problem of losing their waterproof-ness after a very short time even when never washed in hot water. Once I started using the Grovia covers, I started to love cloth diapers again.]

[Update 2: By the time my baby was nine months old it was clear to me that he understood when his diaper was wet and dry. He only cared that his diaper was wet and wanted to be changed around 30% of the time though. Twice now he has let me know he has a poopy diaper by crawling to his changing table when I ask him if he needs his diaper to be changed.]


Possibly toxic!

What I did: I use Seventh Generation and Earth First wipes.

What my parents did: Wipes didn't exist yet. They put dirty baby butts under running water in the sink!


Practical issue: If you get your baby used to room temperature wipes he will be used to it. If you get him used to warm wipes he will get used to that, come to need warm wipes and freak out if your wipe warmer breaks or you forget to bring it with you when you are out and about.


This is a personal preference item.

What I do: I slip a diaper, changing pad, a travel packet of wipes and a ziplock bag into my purse. (The ziplock bag is in case I am going somewhere that does not have an appropriate place to dispose of a diaper, I can put it into the bag and dispose of it later.)


This is a personal preference item: 

What I did: I have three Kushies delux flannel changing pads that fold easily, can go with me anywhere and wash easily.


Practical issue: Diaper rash is caused by your baby sitting in his stools for too long so if your baby gets a lot of diaper rash, instead of slathering toxic things onto his butt, change his diaper more often or consider switching to cloth as cloth diapered babies get less diaper rash.

Possibly toxic! The best cure for diaper rash is fresh air and sunshine. Your first line of defense should always be naked time outside. When that is not possibe--

What I did: I was given four bottles of various diaper rash creams at my shower and I have only ever used it a few times. My favorite is the Weleda because of how it smells. 


Practical issue: I have used a million differnt kinds of these in my decade working with children and I never found one that didn't smell. The solution that worked best was never a fancy contraption but rather a simple one that was easy to clean.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Rational Baby Registry - Part 1 - Feeding

Baby registry "must have" lists were not written by rational people who are experts at raising independent minded adults. They are written by expert salesmen. Most child raising experts who weigh in are no better. Their expertise, most of the time, is in raising exactly what we have been raising--children, children who never grow up. Children used to dream of being grown ups. Now it's the gown ups who dream of being children. Worse, we are told that children are better than adults and adults should aspire to being childlike. This type of child rearing is exactly why we have a patronizing paternalistic government.

Here is what Baby's-R-Us calls the "must haves" of feeding items:


Philosophical issue: We know that our species evolved nursing its young. We know that women in primitive societies nursed their babies for 2 to 5 years. We know that mother's milk is "natures most perfect food." We know that from his mother's milk, a baby will receive antibodies that will protect him from getting sick. We know that both mother and baby receive large doses of hormones during breastfeeding, the importance of which we cannot quite be sure as science does not have a full grasp on the role of hormones in influencing our life, health and evolution. One thing we do know is that hormones are extremely powerful and unreleased hormones in our bodies contribute to cancer.

On the flip side: We know that most French babies are not breast fed and the French are surviving--though they do suffer from many of the same Western diseases that we do, including an increase in infertility. [Many people use this as a formula defense so I mention it here, however, philosophically, I disagree with holding an unhealthy population up as an example of why x decision would be rational.] We know that there have been cases of formula causing sickness and death in babies across the world but that this is a rare enough occurrence that many parents still feel comfortable using formula. We know that we don't know all there is to know about vitamins and there could be many vitamins in breast milk that are yet unrecognized and provided for in formula. We know that doctor's never learn about breastfeeding in medical school and formula companies give them gifts and "educational" dinners/parties/vacations where they are taught that it is possible for a woman to not make enough milk for her baby, that a baby can be allergic to his mother's milk and that a baby will be iron deficient if he only drinks his mother's milk for too long. Few people question the validity of these claims even though our species could not have survived if they were true.

The decision is: Do you think man with his hundred year old and very incomplete science of nutrition knows better than four billion years of evolution? Whom do you trust more: your body or formula companies? Since it is highly probable that there is more going on in the hormone exchange than we know about, if you value your baby's health, is it worth the risk?


Practical issue 1: Breastfeeding is far easier than pumping. There is nothing to heat up--the milk is always warm. There are no dates to check--the milk is always fresh. There is nothing to clean or sterilize, nothing to store and no bottles or parts to remember. As a new mom overwhelmed with the sheer amount of Things To Do, the pumping, storing, cleaning regime is a huge time drain.

Practical issue 2: Your breasts fill up with milk (similar to your bladder) and you want to empty them. It's a nice idea that you will pump and dad will feed the baby and you will sleep but... that may not happen. If you go for too long without emptying your breasts, you might be so uncomfortable that you can't sleep.

My story: I registered for and received a great Medela pump. I had planned for Dad to do the 11pm "dream feed" but when it was time to feed the baby, my breasts were always way too full and hard for me to sleep and keeping everything clean was such a hassle that we gave up on this after a week or two.

I pumped milk and left it with the babysitter so my husband and I could go to a movie and dinner. By the time the movie was over my breasts were so full and uncomfortable there was no way I would make it through dinner so we went home. The baby, having eaten the milk I previously pumped, wasn't hungry so I had to pump again. In addition, because I had pumped extra milk out the day before, my breasts, responding to the new level of demand, were making more milk than my baby could eat.

I decided that pumping made things overcomplicated. Why not just bring the baby and sitter to the movies, nurse the baby in the car and go into the movie while the sitter takes the baby for a nice long walk. We could go home after or I could nurse the baby in the car in between the movie and dinner. Nothing to plan, remember or clean up and no over supply or under supply issues.

Another time I tried to use the pump was for long car rides during the holidays. I pumped ahead of time so that there would be bottle ready in the car when the baby got hungry. I quickly learned that pumping, cleaning bottles, storing milk, defrosting milk, packing ice, putting it in the car, keeping the baby trained on how to use a bottle--it was all way less easy and fun than just leaving fifteen minutes early, pulling the car over and feeding the baby.

Money Saving Issue: Many people are not aware that if they do need to pump every now and then, they can do it the old fashioned way--with their hand. It's often easier (and definitely quieter) than setting up the pump and plugging it in and cleaning all the parts.

*If you are the working parent in your partnership, a pump will be indispensable.


This is a personal preference item. Some women have leaky breasts and others don't. You may want to wait and find out if you are a leaker before you invest in breast pads.

What I did: I received thick and fluffy organic cotton reusable nursing pads, bamboobies and boxes of both the Medela and Lasinoh disposables. The fluffy cotton ones left fibers sticking to my breasts that ended up in my baby's mouth so they did not work out. I liked the bamboobies but I would have had to own a ton of them or wash them all the time to make them more user friendly. The Medela and Lasinoh disposables were annoying as each pad had to be unwrapped before use. In the end, I was more likely to use paper towels or stray socks lying around.


Possibly toxic! Breast creams are made of lots of fancy things and always advertise that they are safe for your baby. I don't trust any of it except the 100% pure lanolin. Lanolin is purified sheep "fat" (it's actually more like a wax) that humans have been using for medicinal purposes since the 1800's and for other uses since 1600 BC. Note that some lanolin creams, like the one made by Medela, are not 100% pure lanolin and therefore I do not recommend them.

Many breast creams advertise being "lanolin free" so women think lanolin is bad but it's actually the opposite. Unless you are allergic to wool, then lanolin would not be advisable. For great about Lanolin check out and

A note on my personal experience: I did not find breast creams to be necessary except when I was experimenting with pumping. When I took fenugreek (an herb that increases breast milk supply) my nipples got insanely sore a few days later and no cream could make them feel better. I did this experiment with the fenugreek three more times to make sure I was correct that it was the herb that was making my nipples hurt so much and it was. Of course, it doesn't mean you will react that way.


Possibly toxic! The research on plastic gets scarier every year so the obvious choice is to use glass storage containers for your breast milk. You will still have to use a plastic pump and pump all the milk through plastic to get to the glass so there still could be some leaching.

My story: If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't bother. But since I thought I would want to be "free" from my baby and didn't know my breasts wouldn't really cooperate, I bought the Evenflo glass bottles to store my milk in as they are compatible with the Medela pump. 


This is a personal preference item except for--

Philosophical issue: There is a type of elastic nursing cover called a "boob tube" that women use for squirmy babies who try to peak out from beneath the looser types of nursing cover. This excuses the mother from teaching the baby this boundary and takes the choice of whether to respect that boundary away from the child.


This is a personal preference item.

Practical issue: Don't buy them until two weeks after your baby is born as your breasts might still change size.

On a personal note: I have three Bravado nursing tank tops that I love and use far more often than any of my nursing bras.


This is a personal preference item.

My story: I was given a Boppy and it did not work for me. Boppy's were not actually invented to be nursing pillows. I ended up buying a Breast Friend which I loved but rarely used as by the time I bought it, I had discovered the ease of lying down to nurse.


This is a personal preference item.

My story: Newborn bibs were not necessary for me. My baby never spat up except after parties where I indulged in fake foods and by the time he was interested in eating food, he was around 6 months old. These bibs are helpful and I do use them but most of the time, it is easier to undress him for meals. Then I just have to wash him instead of him and his clothes.


This is a personal preference item.

What I did: I didn't buy them and never needed them. If there ever was a need, a nearby dishcloth worked just fine. Anders spit up maybe 3 times total when he was a baby--whenever I went to a party and ate junk food. The rest of the time there was no spit up to worry about.


Possibly toxic! You can store the milk or formula in a glass jar but it will still flow through a plastic nipple.

Practical issue: These are all things a nursing mother doesn't need to buy, store, clean and keep track of if she is staying home with her baby.


Toxic! With all the unavoidable toxins your baby will be exposed to, I don't understand buying a chunk of plastic for your baby to suck on.

Philosophical issue 1: Baby experts go on and on about how newborn babies need to suck. What I want to know is why was this trait passed on? It must have been useful. According to Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers, historically babies sucked on their mother's breasts for long periods of time even when they weren't nursing i.e. the mother was the pacifier. Perhaps the babies who spent extra time suckling stimulated more milk to be produced in their mother's breasts and got more food or perhaps the babies extra suckling caused hormones to be released and their mothers were more attached to them.

Philosophical issue 2: Using a pacifier with a newborn when he needs to suck is one thing, shoving something into his mouth in an effort to "shut him up" is bad parenting. How would you like it if you were telling your husband how sad you were and he stuck something in your mouth? Far more respectful to respect your baby's emotions.

Practical issue 1: Though pacifiers can be useful during the first few weeks when mom's nipples are sore, they are often used way beyond that, for years even. They become a comforting (toxic) habit rather than a useful tool.

What I did: I let my baby use me as his pacifier when I was available and when I wasn't he sucked on his organic cotton blankets or one of the pacifiers we were given. He outgrew his sucking-need around ten weeks. We never felt fully comfortable with the pacifiers though so we ended up getting rid of them after a short while, I want to say two weeks but it could have been a month.


Possibly toxic! Look into pure wood teethers instead of plastic ones or teething biscuits--I have never even found whole grain teething biscuits with passable ingredients.

What I did: I registered for (and received) maple teethers. My son chews on them at times--and everything else he can get his hands on. When his first teeth came out he mostly chewed on blankets.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Rational Nursery - Part 3

Most nurseries are decorated according to the fashion trends seen on television and in stores. The unrealized philosophy being practiced is: Television characters/decorators/baby stores know better than you do. Expectant parents are often intimidated by the daunting task before them and fall for the message the "experts" send loud and clear: "You don't need to think about this stuff--that's too hard. Just do what you're told. Here's a list."

Continuing on with the "nursery must haves" listed by Babies'R'Us:


Philosophical issue: Very little furniture is appropriate in a baby safe room. Your baby can bang his head on and get stuck under dressers and climb on and fall from drawers, shelves or chairs. Child-size furniture will be appropriate later, but for the scooting/crawling/toddling years--almost no furniture is safe. (Furniture is safe before your child can move, approximately the first six months. Whether or not you want to buy furniture that you will only use for six months is up to you.)

Toxic! Keep in mind that almost all furniture is toxic--made from toxic things and treated with toxic fire retardant chemicals before being sold. Imagine how many fewer chemicals will be floating around your baby's room simply by it being free of toxic furniture.

What I decided to do: All of my son's clothes hang in his closet or are folded and resting on his closet shelf. I have not missed having a dresser or chest at all. 


Philosophical issue 1: Changing tables are dangerous. Many babies roll off these tables and injure themselves. Most changing tables have straps to prevent babies from rolling off but strapping a baby down is an annoying use of time and not a very Libertarian way to parent. If you are a competent parent, you should be able to train yourself to keep one hand on your baby while he is on the  changing table, so you will not need straps. That being said--

Philosophical issue 2: A baby-proof room does not include furniture like a changing table. Changing tables are not baby-safe furniture. They are giant, heavy monstrosities for your baby to get stuck under with drawers for your baby to climb on and fall from and will take up valuable space he could use for movement.

What I did: I bought a changing pad and put it on the floor. My son sleeps on a mattress on the floor so moving him from one floor area to another floor area made more sense than moving him from the floor to a changing table where I would have to stand. I love my floor changing station. If my son rolls he'll roll right onto the carpet so there is no need for straps or keeping one hand him at all times. Sitting cross-legged on the floor with nothing to worry about is a very pleasant way to change a diaper. It slows me down, reminds me not to rush and to enjoy my time with my son.

When my baby became mobile I moved his changing station to the closet.


Practical issue: If furniture isn't part of a baby-safe nursery, what is a Libertarian mom to do--she has to nurse!

What I decided to do: I got a chair for nursing that I planned to move out of my baby's room when he became mobile.

What really happened: I struggled through the aching arms and back discomfort of nursing in various seated locations with various nursing pillows and several different chairs before I decided it sucked and there had to be a better way. That's when I discovered laying-down nursing. I lie on my side, my baby cuddles up next to me and nurses.

When we nursed in a chair my son was often distracted, looking this way and that. When we started nursing laying down, all those annoying distractions disappeared. And it's so cozy! I will not bother with a chair at all for my next baby.


Practical issue: Babies do not need to be rocked to sleep and getting them in the habit of being rocked to sleep means you will need to do it all night long for months. Read my post about newborn sleep for more information on why I don't recommend a rocking chair at all.


Toxic! There's a whole sales pitch out there that will try to convince you that your newborn won't be comfortable in large spaces and should be put in a tiny, enclosed space instead. Unfortunately, since most cradles and bassinets are made of toxic things, your baby will be in a tiny, enclosed toxic cloud. There are non-toxic ways to make your baby feel like he is still in the womb (like swaddling or baby wearing) and there are even probably some non-toxic bassinets out there (perhaps moses baskets). However--

Philosophical issue 1: Your baby is no longer in the womb. The more time he can spend getting used to his new world the better.

Philosophical issue 2: Newborns have lots of muscular spasms. In many times and places parents were very disturbed by this, believing their babies to be possessed.  Babies were swaddled and confined to prevent these movements. Today, it is known that these movements are exercise. Every muscle spasm is helping to build that muscle so your baby will be able to scoot, crawl and walk. Preventing those exercises is no longer considered necessary or even wise.

What I did: I let my baby be in his new world when he arrived and he was fine with it. I swaddled him once or twice as a newborn when he was overtired. When I needed him to take a nap at a certain time (for visitors or family holiday dinners) my husband wore him. Otherwise, as much as possible, from day one, I let him experience being in and falling asleep in his new world.


Toxic! But at least they have good ventilation.

Practical issue: If your Libertarian baby won't be sleeping in a crib at home, will he be able to fall asleep in a crib when you are away? Every baby is different but most likely your baby will resist falling asleep anywhere other than the place he normally falls asleep. Whether it is a foreign bed or a crib, he will struggle.

What I thought I would do: since my son's "mattress" is really a yoga mat, I thought I would roll it up and bring it with me when I traveled.

What really happened: when I travel my baby sleeps in bed with me. First, because I find it delightful to sleep with him and welcome the excuse and second because when we are in a new place, be it a hotel room or a guest room or a campground, I am happier for him to disturb my sleep than the sleep of our hosts or other guests. Having him in bed with me means there will be no crying in the middle of the night and if there is I can deal with it in less than five seconds without getting up.

A pack'n'play was given to me. I have not used it yet but I imagine I will use it as a safe place for my son to play (not sleep) while we are traveling. I will update this post later to let you know how it worked out.


Toxic! Paint fumes belong no where near a pregnant woman or a baby. Glue and almost all other forms of adhesives (with the one exception of the old-fashioned, non-toxic paste sold for kids) are some of The Most Toxic Things Out There. 

Philosophical issue 1: Most babies are overstimulated. Overstimulated babies are difficult, unhappy babies. Difficult, unhappy babies do not make parenting fun. The wise mother will not make her baby's room a busy, overstimulating place. Maria Montessori said it well: "The most marvellous aspect of the child is that he is quite an acute observer who sees things that we cannot imagine he can have seen. How peculiar, then, that we believe we must use bright colours, exaggerated gestures and loud voices to attract his attention."

Philosophical issue 2: In order to have a baby proof room, anything you put on the wall should not be within your baby's reach.

Philosophical issue 3: Your baby doesn't know he is supposed to like a dumbed down version of life. He would actually rather play with your computer and your phone than stuffed giraffes. Babies want to imitate you and do what you are doing--babies desperately want to learn about real life.  I have never cared for a child who wanted his room to look like a silly nursery instead of his mom or dad's office. Babies don't want to be babies, they don't think nurseries are cute, we do.

A note on baby decorating motifs: once upon a time we lived on farms and as early as possible parents taught their babies about the animals for safety purposes and for chores. Teaching babies about animals was teaching them about their real lives. We no longer live on farms. It no longer makes sense to obsess over teaching babies about a life that they do not actually live. All it does is confuse them and disconnect them from reality.

What I did: Nothing. I left the walls white.


Yes! This is definitely part of a baby-safe room.


Philosophical issue: A lamp (with a cord for your baby to pull) that sits on top of some piece of furniture is not part of a baby proof room.

That being said, your newborn will stare at overhead lights so a lamp for the first six months might be good (after that your baby will mostly be on his stomach and won't find overhead lights nearly as interesting).

What I did: I loaned my baby the BioBrite Sunrise Clock that I use. I like how many settings it has--I can make his room bright during the day and just lit enough for me to nurse him at night. 


Toxic! 100% organic wool rugs are the only rugs I know to be safe. Wool is naturally fire retardent so it is not soaked in cancer causing chemicals before use like all other rugs have to be.

What I found: is the the best place I have found to buy non-toxic things. I really appreciate how informative their sales representatives are when I call with questions.


Philosophical issue: The only kind of hamper that belongs in your child's room is one that cannot hurt him while he is a baby and one that is light enough for him to carry when he can walk.

What I found: the folding mesh cube sold by the container store.


Philosophical issue 1: A wicker basket that your baby can break pieces from and choke on is not part of a baby-safe room. Use your common sense to make sure any basket--or anything--that is put in your baby's room is safe.

Philosophical issue 2: As soon as your child is old enough to start taking control of his clothing, he should be encouraged to do so. As you organize his closet, plan for the small child that will need to be able to reach things and put things away. A huge closest organizer system sized for adults will only be used for a year or two.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Rational Nursery - Part 2

As a rational person, you have no intention of turning out a future moron so it's important (and fun and fascinating) to spend a little time questioning why our nurseries are the way they are and whether or not they should be that way.

I am going to start with the "nursery must haves" listed by Babies'R'Us:


Unsafe! Approximately 50 infants each year are killed and another 9,000 are injured in crib-related accidents in the U.S. alone. Why do we use this piece of furniture?!

Once upon a time cribs served the purpose of keeping babies off the cold, damp, dirty ground... but the floors of our bedrooms are no longer cold, damp or dirty. Once upon a time cribs also served the purpose of keeping babies confined to a baby-proof area so their parents could work. Houses were much smaller then and a few square feet was all parents could offer their baby. Cribs were the size they are for practical reasons. Parents didn't sit down and decide that it was ideal to confine their baby to a tiny box.

Today, parents still need a safe place to keep their babies while they get work done, but they have a lot more space to offer. Many babies even have their own rooms! Yet parents continue to confine their babies to a tiny cage. Why is this? Babies don't need to be so tightly confined and it is actually detrimental to their development.

For the first few months, your baby won't be able to move from wherever you place him. There is no need to confine him. No wild animal will get him. You can place him on your bed, on a bathmat, on the living room carpet, on a towel on the kitchen floor--he can't go anywhere. All he can do is look around and putting him in a crib will inhibit that. 

For the next few months, until your baby is more than half a year old, he will spend his entire day just trying to move a foot or two. At that point the crib will be a frustrating, restrictive prison, preventing him from moving to the fullest extent of his ability. 

As soon as your baby can crawl and stand, the crib will be a dangerous place where your baby can trap his arms in an effort to get free or flip himself out and become one of the statistics mentioned above. At what point is a crib a good idea in this day and age?

As a Libertarian who is constantly expanding my vision of what is possible, I immediately rejected people's comments that "it just wouldn't be a nursery without a crib."  I refused to continue an irrational practice, especially a practice that inhibits freedom, so that I could fit in with an irrational society churning out adults who behave like children and think like slaves. I looked for a better way to keep my baby safe and simultaneously provide him with more freedom in which to move, learn and explore.

I found a brilliant solution written about by Maria Montessori. A hundred years ago, she started advising parents to put a mattress on the floor, childproof the baby's entire room and put a gate at the door. She advocated an entirely new kind of nursery--a child-centric one. Instead of having a few feet in which to be safe, the child can have an entire room. Instead of finding things to do in a tiny pen for a little while, he could find things to do in a large pen for a long while. Babies with longer attention spans are happier--and so are their parents. Montessori had a lot more ideas about nurseries, and we will get to those ideas soon, but for now on the subject of cribs--

A note on my personal experience of not having a crib: I LOVE IT; I love the simplicity of not having bumpers and crib sheets (such a nightmare to change); I love how much my son loves just laying there and looking around his room--he has such a great view from the floor and with nothing obstructing his view, he can see everything; I love that he has no bars to break his arms and would have to scoot across his entire room to cram his head into something, and even then it wouldn't be dangerous; I love that I don't have to "transition" him to a "big boy" bed in a few years since he will always have been in one; I love it because my favorite way to nurse is laying down and my baby's twin mattress is the perfect size for us to cuddle up and nurse; I love it because I can fall asleep there with him if I want to; I love it because I can lay with him in bed and we can make "ahhhh" sounds at each other before he goes to sleep.

I wonder if I would have even discovered the joys of nursing while laying down if I had had a crib. People with cribs usually nurse in chairs and they are so uncomfortable there is a whole pillow/chair/stool industry out there trying to make it more comfortable. But why nurse in a chair, putting strain on your shoulders and arms, when you can lay down and rest?

I found laying down to nurse so much easier on my body and so pleasant. It was also convenient at the times when I missed the window and my baby was overtired and I wanted to nurse him to sleep. All I had to do once he was asleep was slip my nipple out of his mouth. I didn't have to move him or lay him down and risk him waking up. I also loved, as he got older and squirmy, just laying there with my breast out and making it his job to get his food. He would roll over and find my breast on his own, feeling so capable and proud. 


Toxic! All mattresses (and clothes and many other things) are soaked in formaldehyde. In Australia, mothers wrap the crib mattresses in plastic to prevent the babies from being exposed to those chemicals which they blame for SIDS. Whether or not baby mattresses are the cause of SIDS, your baby will spend around 2/3 of his life in bed. If there is one off-gassing poisonous menace to be super anal about--it's this one.

Companies will tell you that the formaldehyde prevents death by fire. This is inaccurate. In the best cases, formaldehyde-soaked homes take an extra five seconds to burst into flames. You will pay for that extra five seconds with cancer and other horrible health problems. Mattresses are really soaked in formaldehyde because it acts as a preservative and bug repellent during shipping and someone in government made it illegal for them not to be. Large doses of deadly chemicals for eighteen hours a day makes perfect sense if you are raising a future Epsilon but if you're reading this blog, I don't think that's your goal.

There are two types of chemical free mattresses that I found--organic futons and latex or wool ones that are naturally fire-retardent. The futons run around $400 and you need a doctor's PERMISSION to obtain one and even then they sprinkle something else (borax maybe?) on it. Natural wool or latex crib mattresses run around $800. Twin sized ones are over $1000.

What I decided to do: I bought a chemical and dye free oversized yoga mat from with measurements almost identical to a twin mattress. It cost around $80. I love it because my baby can roll off his bed onto the floor and there is no 6 to 10" drop like there would have been with a mattress. I love that the mat is nice and firm like baby mattresses are supposed to be yet comfortable enough for me to sleep on. I love the way it smells--like woven grass (this might not be for everyone). I love that I can roll it up and take it with me on trips. When my son is potty-trained I will spring for that expensive wool or latex mattress, but for now I am very happy with my organic cotton mat.


Possibly toxic! Whatever you use to keep your baby warm at night, remember that most bedding has been soaked in toxic chemicals. Look for wool, organic cotton and silk. Many things from Europe and Japan are formaldehyde free as well.

What I decided to do: by opting out of the crib I opted out of all of these things. A bedding set at Babies'R'Us runs around $200. I bought two covers for my yoga mat for around $40 and use a twin sized quilt that will fit the twin sized bed my son will have when he is older. Since the quilt cannot tuck into anything and be tight or constrictive and since it is so large, it would be quite a feat for him to tangle himself in it (though I will continue to reassess this as he gets older and more mobile). Because blankets are such a safety concern I want to make a few more things clear: the quilt is made of 100% cotton so it breathes; I spend a great deal of time observing my son and he is a very still sleeper; I have also watched how he plays with his quilt when he is awake and it has never appeared dangerous and he has great control over it; if this ever changes I will immediately switch to a cotton or wool sleep sack; in the mean time, I will trust my common sense over the "expert" advice that usually encourages nothing but paranoia and spending money.


Toxic! These are always made of toxic things and since they don't breathe well they can make your baby hot and sweaty while he sleeps--which means in addition to an unnecessary dose of chemicals, he might not sleep well.

My solution: I did not purchase this item.


Toxic for the same reasons mentioned above.

My solution: I bought three plastic, portable changing pads that can be folded up and taken with me wherever I go. I place one under my baby's butt at night in case his diaper leaks in lieu of an entire sheet that would off-gas near his head.


Philosophical issue 1: "Active toys make passive babies. Passive toys make active babies," wrote Magda Gerber in Dear Parents: Caring for Infants With Respect. Most crib mobiles move and play music making your a baby passive viewer watching an active toy. This is great preparation for a life of being passively entertained if being a good little consumer-slave isn't the future you dream for your baby, perhaps this is not the best way to start out.

Philosophical issue 2: Is it disrespectful to put something right in someone's face before he has the power to look away if he wants to? If, as a Libertarian, you hope to practice as little aggression as possible against your baby, this is a good place to start.

Philosophical issue 3: But don't you have to hang a mobile in your kid's face for educational reasons? This argument can only be made if your baby is stuck in a crib with nothing else to look at. If your baby has an entire room to look at... there is no need for a mobile in the first place.

Philosophical issue 4: Even pop culture baby-advisor Tracy Hogg, author of The Baby Whisperer, will tell you that one of the most common mistakes parents make is overstimulating their baby. Overstimulated babies are fussy, unhappy babies and unhappy babies make unhappy parents. Your baby's brain is such that the entire world looks amazing--like a crazy foreign country--all the time. Picture the overwhelming newness of a country that you have never been to (for me, I picture India). Colors, sights, smells, and sounds everywhere! There is plenty of The World for your baby to look at, he does not need an overstimulating toy.

A note on my personal experience: I did not buy a mobile. I bought a lovely palm plant that bends gracefully over my son's bed but does not hang in his face. The fronds move when the window is open and are still great things to stare at when the window is closed. Palms also improve the air quality of whatever room they are in. They are also part of the the natural world, the world I wish to expose my son to. As a newborn my son spent many hours staring at his palm tree. He also enjoyed staring at the post-it notes I made for him (with stripes and patterns) and posted to the wall near his bed. Thus, I gave him fascinating, passive things to look at that were not overstimulating and I always put them in places that gave him the choice to look at them or not.

To see the rest of the rational nursery picture, proceed to the next post!