Category Archives: attachment parenting

I’m home but I’m not the same

It’s interesting how the things that you cannot really remember like the sounds of the birds, the smells and the way the air feels crisp in the morning are the things that make you feel most at home. However, it’s also a bit weird to live in the homecountry again because we are not the same anymore. Little things that you have to get used to again, like the fact that nobody packs your bags at the grocery store and that it’s so much busier on the streets and in public transportation (whaaaahh there’s bikes everywhere!!).

But also bigger things, because to you, my dear audience, I have always been InBabyAttachMode: somebody with children who is open about the fact that I tandem nurse and sleep in the same bed as my babies. But to my friends and some of my family here, I am still the person who left to go to the US four years ago. This person that I can only vaguely remember that used to have time for drinking, shopping and chatting without having to make sure her child doesn’t drown himself in the nearest pond. Now I am someone who needs to eat dinner at 5.30 to make sure the kids can go to bed early enough that I have an hour for myself (in the best situation) before I go to bed in order to feel relatively rested when BlueEyes wakes up at 5 the next morning.

And maybe this is the most challenging thing about leaving and coming back: to figure out how the new you relates to the people who best remember the old you.

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Filed under attachment parenting, baby, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, cultural differences, observations, travel

So is breast truly NOT best on the long-term?

Yesterday, a new study came out on the long-term effects of breastfeeding. The major limitation of this kind of research is that sociodemographic factors are so intertwined with breastfeeding behavior and long-term outcomes that it is nearly impossible to correct for this statistically. So Cynthia Colen did something smart: she looked at families in which one sibling was breastfed while the other wasn’t and in this way was able to circumvent all the unknown confounding factors. Her results have been highlighted on many news websites because they show that there are virtually no long-term benefits of breastfeeding. The most important findings are explained here by The Skeptical OB.

However, when I read the paper I couldn’t find one important piece of information: how long did these mothers breastfeed for? In this news article it says an average of six months, but those data (and the standard deviation) are nowhere to be found in the paper (or is it me and did someone else find them?!). The authors of the paper do report that there is no correlation between the long-term outcomes and the duration of breastfeeding, but since an average of six months is a lot less than the AAP recommended year, I still wonder if we can draw these conclusions from this study. Another piece of information that I missed is if in the discordant sibling sample, the first sibling was more likely to be breastfed than the second or the other way around. I want to know these things so I can judge this paper better!

An important factor that I’m missing in the current news reporting on this paper is that breastfeeding does seem to have short-term benefits for children and both short- and long-term benefits for mothers (well of course journalists aren’t known for their nuance, but still).

So don’t get me wrong: I think it is super important to have real and reliable data in order to create recommendations for breastfeeding and whether or not we should encourage women to do so. I recognize that starting to breastfeed can be a huge struggle and it is important to have the right information. But I feel that the societal debate that is happening following the publication of this article misses these points A LOT.

 

Reference:

Is Breast Truly Best? Estimating the Effects of Breastfeeding on Long-term Child Health and Wellbeing in the United States Using Sibling Comparisons. Cynthia G Colen, David M Ramey. 2014 Social Science & Medicine, available online Jan 29 2014

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Filed under attachment parenting, baby, breastfeeding, maternity leave, parenting, pumping milk

Social media make my maternity leave so much more enjoyable!

I’ve written before that when BlueEyes was just born I had a hard time enjoying all of it. Now that Little Brother is over two months old I think it is safe to say that this time I am enjoying my maternity leave. So what is different this time?

First, I think a major difference is that I knew what was coming. I’m already used to the fact that I am someone’s mother: my personal space is no longer mine alone. I no longer decide when I wake up or how long I sleep, and I got used to caring for someone without having that feel like a huge burden. Also, Little Brother’s birth was a lot less intense than BlueEyes’.

Second, when you’re used to dealing with a toddler, a newborn is really not that much work: they eat, sleep and need clean diapers but that’s it. No arguing about what to wear, no wanting to climb in the carseat by themselves, etc. I have to add that I’m lucky that BlueEyes continues to go to daycare while I’m home with Little Brother. I get quite a lot of work done while Little Brother sleeps in the sling or on my lap. And this is nice, because then at the end of the day I feel like I did something useful.

Third, what really helps is that in my mind, Little Brother going to daycare is really far away. With BlueEyes I felt like I HAD to enjoy every second that I was home with him because soon he would go to daycare. Now, Little Brother is only going to start daycare after we have moved to Europe. And I can tell you that a looming transatlantic move is a really good way to keep your mind off of other things (I have to add though that it is also quite an expensive and time-consuming way to keep your mind off of other things).

But the most important difference is that when I was home with BlueEyes I felt pretty lonely. Going from a busy lab with colleagues to being home all day with a baby was quite a shocking change. Now on the other hand I feel surrounded by funny, interesting and caring people through social media. When I feel lonely I know there’s always people on twitter I can talk to. There’s blogs to read and Pubscience videos to watch. Even though I might not actually see someone IRL all day, at the end of the day it feels like I’ve interacted with lots of people and I find that this makes me very happy. So thank you!

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Filed under attachment parenting, baby, babywearing, birth, blogging, daycare, maternity leave, Pub-Style Science, twitter

Babywearing a newborn

My newborn is not so new anymore (already 6 weeks old!), but I started wearing him in a sling for the first time when he was just 5 days old.

5-day old Little Brother in a woven wrap

I often get asked on what the best way is to wear such a tiny baby. I already wrote previously about how important it is to position your baby in the correct way: with their back arched and their legs spread so their knees are higher than their bottom (froggy legs). This is hard to accomplish in most of the structured carriers (like Ergo), because the baby’s legs are too small to fit in the carrier properly when they are newborns. The Ergo does have a baby insert, but even there it is quite difficult to get the baby positioned properly. Many people use a Babybjorn for their newborn, but with those it is impossible to attain the recommended position for the baby. So my answer is always that it’s best to wear your newborn in a wrap.

Wraps come either stretchy (like the Moby) or woven (like the one I’m using in the picture). I like woven wraps better because once you know how to tie them you have more control than with a stretchy wrap. Also, BlueEyes was born in the middle of the summer and where we live a stretchy wrap, with three layers of thick cotton was WAY too hot. Tying a wrap might seem challenging at first, but with a bit of practice it’s almost like tying your shoe laces.
Here’s a good video (that’s not me) of how to do an FWCC (front wrap cross carry) using a woven wrap. I sometimes put a rolled up wash cloth in the top rail of the wrap to add some head support.

And here’s a good video (also not me) of how to put your newborn in a stretchy wrap:

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Filed under attachment parenting, baby, babywearing

So how many papers does having a baby cost?

I think we’ve all read the correspondence piece in Nature yesterday on how we don’t need to worry about gender bias, because it really all comes down to women having babies and therefore publishing less papers. Lukas Koube, the author, already wrote this as a comment last year, but apparently Nature still thought this piece was worthy of being put in the journal. I don’t think I need to add anything to what Melissa WilsonSayres wrote about it yesterday. She already says that it really is possible to be a scientist AND a parent, and that babies are often made by more than one person, and that the other parent (often, but not always a man) can also pitch in. And as we established last week, science is about generating ideas (or not?) and I might as well generate a scientific idea while nursing, or while changing a diaper.

Okay maybe I do want to add something: Really, Nature? Did you think someone who has published zero scientific papers knows whether you can publish papers while pregnant or taking care of a baby? And Lukas Koube, do you really think that that is the only thing holding women in science back?!

But it is something that is on my mind often: how many papers would I have had during this post-doc if I wouldn’t have had children? Would I have worked harder and/or longer? I can say that I’ve become a lot more efficient since having BlueEyes. Perhaps I’m not in the lab as long, but I am very productive while I’m there (and so is my husband I have to add). But let’s be scientific and calculate this: When I leave here in two months I will have been a post-doc for four years, in which I have had 2 children. I have taken 3 and 4 months of leave*, so that adds up to 7 months of not doing experiments (although currently a tech is doing some of my experiments). Also, during my pregnancies I was less productive than during non-pregnant periods because of being nauseous and tired and foggy (although working also helped to keep my mind off of feeling crappy)**. And the 1+ year of sleep deprivation also didn’t add to productivity (but that was divided mostly equal between my husband and me). So say that I missed somewhere between 6 months to a year in productivity out of four years. That’s 12.5-25% of my post-doc. I think that’s an overestimation, but that would mean that instead of 4 papers I would have 3. Or instead of one or more high impact factor papers I would have medium impact factor papers.

BUT there are so many more factors to this: could better mentoring have led to more productivity (YES!), are publications in high impact factor journals dependent on which field you work in (yes), whether your data are negative (yes), whether stuff works like it’s supposed to (yes), etc etc.

So to conclude: assuming I make it through the “post-doc to faculty bottle neck”, in the bigger scheme of my scientific career this is going to be peanuts. If I am a scientist for the next 35 years (until I’m 65), then that 6 months to a year is only 1-2% of the time. And not every woman has children. So any disproportion of female to male authors more than 1% is due to something else than having babies. There, Lukas Koube. I just used some science to calculate this WHILE AT HOME WITH A BABY!

The biggest problem right now: using my precious nap time to blog about this instead of work on a paper…

* I know that some people (are able to) take more leave, and I also realize that many female scientists (at least me) won’t be able to sit at home for 3 months without thinking or doing any science.
** Here I should add that my pregnancies were pretty smooth sailing, and I know that for some it can be 9 months of total agony. And for some people the process of becoming pregnant takes a lot of mental, emotional and physical energy.

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Filed under academia, attachment parenting, baby, publishing papers, women in science, writing

We made a co-sleeper!

Normally, I save all my craftiness for in the lab. When not in the lab, I don’t really enjoy making crafty things, and if I ever attempt, I’m horrible at finishing projects. This is illustrated by the fact that I have several unfinished craft projects in my old room in my parents’ house. Nowadays, I just don’t really try it anymore. But last Friday Dr. BrownEyes and I did a very crafty thing: we made a co-sleeper from our IKEA Somnat crib and our IKEA Malm bed. Ours is not as fancy as this example from a slightly different crib, but I’m still very proud of the result.
We used this equation:

The Malm bed.
 +
The crib that BlueEyes used for maybe 2 months, after which we realized we kept walking back and forth and he kept ending up in our bed anyway.
 =
A huge bed, so prospective baby can co-sleep safely.

In short, we removed the side of the crib (which is a feature this crib already has), we elevated the crib with wooden blocks and since the Malm bed has a wooden edge next to the mattress, when elevated just enough, the crib mattress can lay on that wooden edge and align nicely with the big mattress. We pushed the crib against the wall and the bed against the crib and will fill the hole on the left in the crib with rolled-up towels, so the two mattresses are snug against each other.

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Filed under attachment parenting, breastfeeding, pregnancy

Neuroscientist Dick Swaab says gender specific toys are a natural consequence of brain development


My homecountry is getting ready for Sinterklaas, which means lots of people need to buy toys and the large toy stores send these big books full of ads to people. Bart Smit, a large toy store in my homecountry, sent a book full of ads containing this one:

Translation of pink text:”You want to be as good as mommy!”

Indeed, not very gender neutral, and it gets even worse when on subsequent pages all the sciency toys are advertised with just boys.
Last night this was discussed in one of my homecountry’s late night tv shows “Pauw & Witteman”, where one of the guests involved in this discussion was Dr. Dick Swaab, a neuroscientist and former head of the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience. You might think that a scientist is well aware of all the sociological science showing that when girls are presented with stereotypes like this (pink vacuum cleaners, women being the ones doing housework while men do science), they perform worse on things like math and science, and that therefore it would be good to try to get rid of these stereotypical images. On the contrary, Dr. Swaab stated that both research on monkeys and his own experience with his son and daughter (yes, n=1) showed that girls like to play with dolls and boys like to play with cars. He literally said that the only time when this is not the case, is when individuals have been exposed to toxins in utero. So according to him, it was totally justified to show people these stereotypical images of girls doing housework and boys doing science, because that was what they were programmed to do anyway. Yay neuroscience…. Perhaps not surprisingly, at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, out of the 20 research team leaders, only three are female. I could not find on the website how many of the people that clean this institute are male and female for comparison…

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Filed under attachment parenting, feminism, neuroscience, toys, women in science