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Personality types.

So, you know, I have a personality type where it’s hard for me to talk about things that are controversial. I don’t want to be noticed; I don’t want to argue with anyone; I want everyone to be happy and peaceful.

But there are also issues that burn inside me. Topics and questions that are very important to me. That are important to God, too, but He doesn’t give everyone the same interests– so if you don’t care about this to the degree I do, that’s OK with me; there are most likely issues you really care about and I don’t. To various people He gives various issues to care about because we are finite.

So, I have to reconcile two things about myself– my desire to be only nicely noticed and not be involved in controversy while at the same time, speaking out the things that God makes burning issues in my heart.

I am learning to speak (instead of remaining silent) in a calm, peaceful, non-argumentative but assertive way about issues that I care about deeply. They are hard for me to talk about because people are already so assertive, and loudly so, and argumentative about these topics. And the church of God needs to be very careful about what issues we argue about and how we “argue.”

I want to say also, this issue does not define my life, and I have a lot of friends and acquaintances who do not agree with my position.

First, to define my subject: breastfeeding (or infant feeding) and babies crying and reflecting the nature of God as mothers.

Second, I want to define my audience.  Ideally, I’m talking to women who are struggling with their consciences in this issue. As mothers, we should want with our whole beings to feed and comfort the cries of our babies. God made us this way. So, ideally, I’m talking to moms who are in the balance on these issues.

Third, here’s my (very simple) message:

  1. Feed your baby.
  2. Answer your baby when he cries.

Some of you may be amazed that we need a theological argument for doing these very simple, innate (natural, instinctive, unlearned, inborn) practices.

I myself am amazed by this.

But, if this is the need of the age, then … I will accept that.

I will also shoot from the hip and name names. I think it’s mainly today Ezzo’s book (“Babywise”) that promotes scheduled feeding as “God’s way” of feeding babies  and ignoring your baby’s cries as essential for good parenting. This book is very popular among Christian parents.

I think its seemingly “godly” strictness, its flashy promises of a lengthy list of benefits, and the name advertising it boldly as “God’s way” make this a formidable issue for a remarkable number of Christian women …

I want to pause here. You see that paragraph above? That is why I am writing. I am writing boldly and assertively, though it is not my nature to do so, because others (ie., Ezzo) are making bold, assertive statements. I will answer with a corresponding boldness and assertiveness, though I have no desire to argue.

So, back to my message.

I. Feed your baby. Feed your baby. Feed your baby. Babies feed for many wonderful reasons. They are hungry, they are thirsty, something hurts, they want to be close to mommy, the sucking action itself is comforting. … God made babies to feed– it’s designed to be both physical and emotional. Babies need this–physically and emotionally. He didn’t turn your breasts off and on every three hours, which He could’ve very easily done. He made most women capable of feeding their babies very frequently.

I know Ezzo has mocked (in his book) those who cue feed and portrayed it as something horrible. But I want to tell you– he’s lying to you there. I have 4 children, ages 9 to 10 months. I have exclusively breastfed each one for the first ten months of life. I never ever looked at a clock about this issue. I have flown back and forth over the Atlantic numerous times with happy, complimented, non-sleep-medicated babies and children. I have traveled around the States, we love camping, I have lived, lived, lived a joyful mostly-in-motion life– all breastfeeding almost nonstop for about 10-11 years now.

I have slept. SleptSleptSlept. My babies have all slept very well at night right next to me. They’ve all slept for long stretches. The current baby sleeps all night and wakes up with me in the early morning to refeed and fall back asleep and I get up. I don’t recall that I have ever put my feet on the floor to stand up during a night. Ever.

My point is not that parenting is easy. My point is that Ezzo (or whoever) is lying to you when he says that schedule feeding is easy, or at least easier than cue feeding. It’s not.

I would also be so bold as to say that my choices have probably made my life easier and my children easier to handle. I’ve not had any breastfeeding issues. I’m not promising that you won’t if you do what I do. But what I mean is that scheduling and other such rules can make breastfeeding and sleeping actually harder.

As for E’s ideas about God’s orderliness and it’s supposed application to breastfeeding … stand back from the Word of God and look at It’s entirety in your mind…. Pan through the whole of Scripture…. Now lay over the ideas of strict scheduling. …

You know, it’s really not there. Really. It’s. Not. There.

In fact, I could give you a lot of “Bible verse” reasons for cue feeding:

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! Is.49:15

Instead, we were like young children among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children. I Thess 2:7

Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” Luke 11:11-13

I could wax on and on, loading up reasons why God wants us to generously cue-feed our babies and respond to their cries, using these verses (and several others). But I won’t. I don’t think I should twist into Scripture what is not really meant there. Ezzo, however, has no such compunctions, and that is my point.

My message is, dear mother, you can feed your baby freely and generously with a non-accusative conscience. God designed you to do that, and to want to do that. You can comfort your baby at your breast. I will tell you from experience, it is sweet to do that. It is handy! And it’s a great way to affirm that special bond that God created to be between you and your child. Don’t let someone steal your joy by creating rules that have “an appearance of godliness, but deny the power thereof.”

I want to talk for a moment about “independence.” Several baby masters use this term in a desirable fashion, to mean things like your baby should fall asleep independently, your baby should play independently, your baby should emotionally soothe himself independent of you.

I am trying to speak carefully here, but I want to say, in very strong terms, that that kind of thinking is dangerous. And here is why:

God specifically designed human babies, babies made in His image with parents made in His image, to have long, vulnerable childhoods, to be extremely (compared to other mammals not made in God’s image) underdeveloped when born and to have complex needs (compared to a baby animal’s needs).

The neediness of infancy, childhood, and adolescence is all designed. God designed our babies to need us to soothe them, to need us to help feel safe, to need us and our responsiveness in order to develop emotionally. Babies are not capable of emotionally soothing themselves. For example, they are not learning to “soothe themselves” when they cry themselves to sleep.

Especially small babies. Don’t haste to harden your heart toward that neediness, toward that baby. If we accept it, and give ourselves to serve our babies, then as they gradually grow into independence, we can give that over to them, too, with wisdom and while having a strong emotional bond formed with them.

I will speak personally for a moment. I have been very thankful for the bonding “dependency” disciplines of mothering–gestating, birthing, breastfeeding, wearing my babies in slings close to me, sleeping next to them, and answering their cries. Giving myself over to serve them as God created and only I can do.

Because I particularly struggle with feeling emotional bonds with my kids. And I struggle with keeping them connected when I lose that contact of breastfeeding and wearing and all. I am still learning how to sustain emotional bonds (dependence, if you will) with my kids as they grow older.

2. I want to shift into including my second message: Answer your baby when(ever) he cries.

Hmmmm. I have raised these kids with responding to all their cries and breastfeeding generously, and accepting their neediness and serving them in it … And they are growing up quite “independent,” ready to go off to camp without me, walk to the store without me, fall asleep without me …. I even dare to say that consistently responding to them has helped them grow in feeling confident and secure.

And at the same time, I still keep us close, working to keep our emotional connection strong and healthy.

I haven’t been run ragged, I’m not yanked here and there by the whims of my children. I have grown in dignity and confidence and love as a mother. These disciplines, plus developing a fuller understanding of God’s nature expressed through motherhood, have grown me into loving the job of mothering. It becomes easier and more enjoyable.

So if someone is claiming otherwise– that responding to their needs will ruin your children, and ruin you, it’s a lie.

Vitaliy was recently at workshop for rehab center leaders. Two American men came to Ukraine– they lead biblical healing groups for people enslaved to various forms of sinful s’xual behavior. They talked about childhood, what should make up a normal, healthy childhood. Their words are very insightful:

  • Children need to be children (play, develop, etc).
  • Children need to imitate their parents.
  • Children are basically emotional humans– they do not understand logical reasoning.
  • Children need to know that their parents will fight for them, protect them.
  • Children need to have strong emotional connections with each parent.
  • The main work of parents is to meet their children’s emotional and physical needs unconditionally (only God can meet their spiritual needs).

Selah.

Selah again.

As I have grown in my ability to be patient with children who are being children, I have become a more loving person. As I have invested years into meeting my children’s physical and emotional needs, I have become a more loving person.

God has designed the neediness of childhood. He designed it with parents in mind–to make us more able to express His image.

Feed your child–God made him to need you. Answer his crying–God designed him to need you. It is a blessing for you that he needs you so deeply, that he so strongly wants to be connected to you. This neediness will be your friend for years as you continue to guide your child into relationship with the One upon whom we are all fully needy and continually dependent.

Also, I’d like to share that I have practiced cue-feeding and responding to my babies’ cries, and I love it. I really love it. My husband loves it, too. The older I get and the more perspective I get, the more I love it and the more thankful I am for it. We both are.

We have a close, intimate, wonderful marriage. Cue feeding and answering our babies’ cries (and co-sleeping, etc) have only helped us grow in loving each other and each member of our family. If someone tells you that this is not possible and these things will wreck your marriage, I’m here to tell you that it is possible, and that lack of love and selfishness are what wreck marriages, not meeting children’s needs.

I want to end here by re-stating that I don’t talk about this a lot openly for several good reasons. 1) It’s important, but it’s not that worth arguing about. 2) It doesn’t define my life or the whole of parenting. 3) I have quite a few friends who would disagree with me, and that is OK. I thank them for this quiet space to express who I am and how God has blessed me.

I will end with the prayer our pastor often parts with:

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

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So, I was all gung-ho about losing some weight and getting into shape before my 40th birthday. I was doing T-Tapp, and I lost like 20 lbs and some inches.

Then mid-January happened. Lots of travel, then moving to Kiev. Then I was so happy and enjoying other things of life, that I didn’t want to think about getting in shape any more.

So I became open to several ideas: dropping the goal, changing the goal, re-motivating myself …

And I’ve settled on changing my strategy. I dislike repetition and doing the same thing over and over, so how can I move things around to reshuffle and re-interest myself?

After some ponderations, I’ve settled on dropping T-Tapping, and going to calorie counting/food journaling and walking. I like calorie counting/food journaling on myfitnesspal, and the weather and four kids gets me outside for walking.

Another reason I’m changing my strategy, that I haven’t wanted to even think about or deal with emotionally, is that I had some pelvic organ prolapse, and the T-Tapp posture really aggravates that.  So … I had to pause and reconsider what to do, and after watching wholewoman (Christine Kent)’s video about all this, I think walking is good for me right now. And the four kids getting outside is good, too. Yesterday I walked 30 minutes in only 53 minutes! (ha ha, having to stop and answer questions, changes roller blades out for tennis shoes, help Andre on his little bike, give out drinks from the water bottle, and answer multitudinous questions … )

One thing I know that sabotages my calorie counting/food journaling, is that I tend to restrict myself too much too easily, and then I lose my breastmilk supply, freak out, give up on it all, and go back to eating–I’ve actually done this a few times, so I am aware of it now. So, I need to have a plan ready for that, to eat enough to breastfeed (most diet things don’t even consider this), but still lose weight.

So, 8 months to go and I’d like to lose another 30-35 lbs. We’ll see.

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My friend Tulipgirl is hosting her annual truth-about-Ezzo week starting on Monday, and since Im leaving town tomorrow, I wanted to put some thoughts into the conversation that I’ve been pondering lately.

Also, I want to say, that my heart’s desire is to speak lovingly. I think Ezzo teaches several false, misguided, dangerous things, but I never want to be disrespectful of an individual mother. Please don’t take my criticisms of Ezzo as a criticism of anyone personally. We all love our children and want to raise them to love the Lord. (And I have plenty of areas of motherhood I just plain stink at, and I desperately need God’s Spirit to live in me each day, so I offer these thoughts in humility, wanting to speak the truth in love.)

The context of these thoughts grew out of my visiting what I later learned to be an Ezzo-promoting church. The pastor speaking about childrearing that day made one comment (scenario) about breastfeeding, and I got to thinking afterwards, why do parents have to be trained to be suspicious of their baby’s desire to breastfeed? Hence, the approach of my following comments. . . .

Is the baby’s desire to breastfeed something we should be suspicious of?

According to Ezzo, the answer is yes. We see this through Ezzo’s use of controlled access, strict timing, and breast-only-as-food (not emotional comfort).

And while Ezzo does weave some elements of God’s nature into his method (like “order”), let’s put aside his conclusions for a moment and examine anew: What is Scripture’s view of and approach to breastfeeding? Is Ezzo’s way really an expression of God’s heart for babies and children at the breast? Does God encourage mothers to breastfeed the way Ezzo is promoting?

(The format of this post: I will make some comments about verses, then quote the verses.)

Look in these verses at God’s expression of breastfeeding as a blessing, of being happy and satisfied, emotionally comforted and delighted; as the breast and mother’s arms being the natural place a child belongs:

“Be joyful with Jerusalem and rejoice for her, all you who love her; Be exceedingly glad with her, all you who mourn over her, That you may nurse and be satisfied with her comforting breasts, That you may suck and be delighted with her bountiful bosom.” For thus says the LORD, “Behold, I extend peace to her like a river, And the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; And you shall be nursed, you shall be carried on the hip and fondled on the knees. “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; And you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” (Isa 66:10-13)

In the following verses, are there any expressions of control or suspicion of breastfeeding children? Or rather, are they shown praising God and their breastfeeding is a normal stage of life? Nothing is said about control, motive, or timing. In fact, “nursing” is a description of their very childhood!

But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became indignant, and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babes Thou hast prepared praise for Thyself’?” (Mat 21:15-16)

Here, God is displaying His tender care and gentleness to His children. His words evoke warmth and feelings of love and safety. He is showing us how He, God Himself, treats the “nursing” lambs—and that is you and me. We are God’s nurslings.

Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs, And carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes. (Isa 40:11)

Here again, any suspicion? Control? Rather, again, “nursing” is the child’s one descriptive written in this verse. And again, it describes us as God’s children. We are objects of God’s compassion; He will never forget us. And can a mother forget and not have compassion on her nursing child? The rhetorical answer is no. There’s no way a mom could or should forget her nursing child; there’s no way she should not have compassion on her baby. Although God’s answer assumes it’s possible. . . What is Ezzo wanting to teach us?

Can a woman forget her nursing child, And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. (Isa 49:15)

Paul uses a “nursing mother” to describe his gentleness to these believers. Let’s be sure that those who are teaching us how to mother teach us this gentleness:

But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. (1Th 2:7)

In these verses in Job, even orphans are being breastfed! And those who grab them away from the breast are the wicked ones here, removing food from the needy.

“Others snatch the orphan from the breast, And against the poor they take a pledge. “They cause the poor to go about naked without clothing, And they take away the sheaves from the hungry. (Job 24:9-10)

Here is another sad picture. Animals instinctively offer their breasts, but people can become cruel and refuse to feed their hungry babies.

Even jackals offer the breast, they nurse their young; but the daughter of my people has become cruel like ostriches in the wilderness. The tongue of the infant cleaves to the roof of its mouth because of thirst; The little ones ask for bread, but no one breaks it for them. (Lam 4:3-4)

Another beautiful picture the Bible gives us of the breast is Jesus’ own breast, when His beloved disciple, John, was reclining there. It’s even mentioned twice by John! Once before Jesus’ death, once after His resurrection:

There was reclining on Jesus’ breast one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. (John 13:23)

Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His breast at the supper . . . (John 21:20)

Again, I don’t want to offend, but I do want to expose Ezzo’s teaching that binds parent’s consciences regarding the freedom in the Lord that they have to breastfeed how they want/need and to offer comfort from the breast to their babies (Colossians 2:23 may even apply here, rules with an “appearance of wisdom” . . . but lack any true spiritual value).

Ezzo seems even to teach us to have opposite feelings for and evaluations of our children’s desire to breastfeed than what God says. God is showing breastfeeding as a natural descriptive of childhood, a time of special protection and gentleness and care. We need to ask ourselves if Ezzo is really teaching us God’s heart towards our babies.

(*More to come: next topic is the confusion of the baby’s sin nature with the nature of the baby.)

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Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering by Sarah Buckley is a significant book. It’s worth reading just for the explanation of how the pregnant and birthing woman’s hormones so perfectly orchestrate birth. Reading this book took my level of trust in the normalcy of the birth process to a much deeper level.

She also presents a lot of evidence for breastfeeding, responding to babies’ cries, and sleep sharing. Also, her explanation of cord blood banking is excellent.

It’s a book that ideally combines evidence with instinct. A great read.

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My midwifery school director once commented that midwifery is a lot about focusing parents on parenting (or something like that), so I signed up for a membership to The Attached Family, a group that promotes attachment parenting at various levels. They have personal and more scientific articles about childrearing. It was only $35 for the year and included a digital subscription to Mothering magazine.

Great investment! I don’t get as much out of it as I could yet, just being busy with other things, but it’s a great resource to have.

Skyla a few months old with Vitaliy. She is such a happy girl still today!

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I have some other thoughts about parenting and power, and thankfully, “Thatmom,” Karen Campbell, said it already! Here’s what she writes:

The Pearls’ philosophy demands that parents place themselves in a position of control and power over their children, luring and enticing the parent into self idolatry. It teaches that a parent is to conquer the child’s will and body, doing whatever is necessary, emotionally or physically, to achieve success. It places the parent, especially the father, in the position of sovereign over the child, giving him prophet, priest, and king status, even saying that a father can offer righteousness to a child through the use of the rod. It is the same desire for power over God and creation that Satan used for his own purposes in the Garden. And this desire for power and control over children conceives the sin of abuse, which, in the case of little Lydia Schatz, caused her death.

That’s bad power; it’s a bad concept of power.

For a great read on parenting, discipline, etc. please read this post she put up today from a homeschooling dad.

Psalm 103:13 ~ “Just as a father has compassion on {his} children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.”

Homeschool application: Scripture recognizes that compassion is part of teaching children. Children typically imitate their parents so why not let them imitate compassion.

. . .

Ephesians 6:4 ~ “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

Homeschool application: Scripture recognizes that dads should be fair about discipline. For those who know the humble instructions of the Lord there is nothing more fair than that.

Colossians 3:21 ~ “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.”

Homeschool application: Scripture recognizes that children will give up and stop caring if they are never given positive reinforcement. Certainly beating a child until they stop crying as the Pearls are alleged to endorse is forbidden by this verse.

1 Thessalonians 2:7 ~ “But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing {mother} tenderly cares for her own children.”

Homeschool application: Scripture recognizes that children are to be tenderly cared for. I remember passing my daughter around on a pillow, she was so small at birth.

1 Titus 3:4 ~ “{He must be} one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity”

Homeschool application: Scripture recognizes that bringing attention to good manners, emphasizing them and insisting that they be used produces a well run household having the dignity of self-controlled children. 1 Titus and 2 Titus mostly describe a well run house.

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Vitaliy and I have co-slept with our kids for going on five years now–that is, as long as we’ve had them! I’ve enjoyed the rest, closenss, and sweet times that bedsharing provides. Sure, there are some botherations, but every place of child-sleep has those.

Science is more and more returning us to cosleeping. There are right and wrong ways to practice cosleeping, but it’s not so hard or mysterious to figure out. And it’s safe; actually, it’s a means of protecting your child.

Here’s a great article explaing the ins and outs. (HT: midwife and mentor Susan Oshel with Charis Childbirth.)

That the highest rates of bedsharing worldwide occur alongside the lowest rates of infant mortality, including Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) rates, is a point worth returning to.

The low calorie composition of human breast milk (exquisitely adjusted for the human infants’ undeveloped gut) requires frequent nighttime feeds, and, hence, helps explain how and why a cultural shift toward increased cosleeping behavior is underway. Approximately 73% of US mothers leave the hospital breast feeding and even amongst mothers who never intended to bedshare soon discover how much easier breast feeding is and how much more satisfied they feel with baby sleeping alongside often in their bed.

In short, and as mentioned above, cosleeping (whether on the same surface or not) facilitates positive clinical changes including more infant sleep and seems to make, well, babies happy. In other words, unless practiced dangerously, sleeping next to mother is good for infants. The reason why it occurs is because… it is supposed to. 

There is no doubt that bedsharing should be avoided in particular circumstances and can be practiced dangerously. While each single bedsharing death is tragic, such deaths are no more indictments about any and all bedsharing than are the three hundred thousand plus deaths or more of babies in cribs an indictment that crib sleeping is deadly and should be eliminated. Just as unsafe cribs and unsafe ways to use cribs can be eliminated so, too, can parents be educated to minimize bedsharing risks.

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