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What I've been Reading [Feb. 16th, 2007|01:52 am]
Pregnant Liberals

Early Potty Training (aka Elimination Communication, Natural Infant Hygiene, etc.)

'Early-Start Potty Training' by Linda Sonna
'Infant Potty Basics' by Laurie Boucke
'Diaper Free: The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene' by Ingrid Bauer
'The Diaper Free Baby' by Christine Gross-Loh

'Early-Start Potty Training' was the best of the four, with lots of information and history. 'The Diaper Free Baby' was the worst. It was rather repetitive and didn't seem to contain much information which wasn't in the other books. 'Diaper Free: etc.' was good, but very on the Granola-side of things--it might scare off parents who are unfamiliar with the subject, and may not be as effective for most parents as the techniques in Early-Start (even though they're very similar.) If you are a total hippie, though, you might want to read this one first. 'Infant Potty Basics' is a much shorter book, more of a companion book to a much longer work by the same author. It makes a good supplement to the others, but by itself feels rather incomplete.

Potty Training History (as told by the books):

Back in the day, (around 1900,) Westerners had very stupid notions about potty training. They'd do things like beat their kids or chain them for hours to the potty. Quite obviously, this caused kids to be fucked up. And also quite obviously, the more anal parents tended to be the ones who who tried to potty train their kids the earliest, and so their kids ended up the most fucked-up.

Time went on, and people started realizing that maybe this was stupid. Doctors did studies and found that the younger kids were potty trained, the more issues they had, and concluded that early potty training caused problems for kids.

The emerging disposable diaper industry picked up these findings and began promoting them, along with the notion that kids should wait until they're 'ready' to potty train, generally around their second or third year, but occasionally longer. Today, the average kid goes through about 5000 diaper changes/disposable diapers.

The important thing the authors of these books (and other books similar) would point out, though, is that it wasn't early potty training itself which hurt the kids, but the manner in which it was done. The methods used in and around the Victorian age were bad. Not all early potty training methods are.

International Perspective:
You can bet your panties that people in rural China or India or wherever do not keep their kids in diapers until 3 or 4, do not buy thousands of disposable diapers, etc. On the contrary, many of these people manage to get their kids effectively potty trained at much younger ages than American kids, but without great distress.

How does it work:
The trick behind Early Infant Potty Training, Elimination Communication, Diaper Free Babies, what people in the third world are doing, or whatever you want to call it, is simple operant conditioning.

Basically, whenever you note your baby peeing or pooping, (much easier to do if you're baby-wearing) you make a noise. You can make a different noise for poop and pee, or use the same noise for both, so long as you're consistent. The sound 'Pssst' or 'Peepee' is recommended for pee, and grunting or 'poop' for poops, but it doesn't really matter. After a few weeks of making the sound every time you notice your baby peeing or pooping, the baby will come to associate that sound with peeing and pooping. You can then hold the baby over the potty (or an infant potty, or a bowl, or really wherever, so long as they feel safe,) make the noise, and if they need to pee or poop, they will.

Pretty soon, the baby will be potty trained, although teaching the kid to recognize by themselves when they need to go to the potty and getting them to signal this to you (for babies who can't walk yet/still need help) or getting themselves to the potty (particularly when they're distracted by something fun) takes a lot longer.

Why Potty Train Early?
The environmental costs of thousands of disposables goes without saying. Even cloth diapers have a high cost in terms of laundering. Many pre-schools and the like won't accept kids who aren't potty trained, and other kids don't like being around a kid who stinks of shit. Neither do I. For that matter, babies aren't all that fond of sitting in piles of their own poop.

But most importantly, these authors argue, delaying potty training as done typically in America these days actually makes it more difficult for kids to learn how to use the bathroom later on. We are, as it were, training them first to pee and poop in their diapers, and then expect them to learn to pee and poop in potties. Their pelvic floor muscles, important for keeping waste in while 'holding it' and releasing it on cue, simply do not develop/atrophy over the course of the years, which also makes potty training difficult, and after so many years of sitting in their own waste, they are often no longer even aware of the act of peeing and pooping when it occurs. This is especially so with the extra-absorbent disposables, which wick away urine so quickly that babies often do not even feel 'wet'.

The authors offer more good reasons for early training, such as ease of movement for a child not constrained by diapers, freedom from diaper rashes, and increased communication and connection between parent and child. Therefore, the authors propose that early potty training is more convenient and healthy for both baby, parents, and the environment. For the parent who already believes in attachment parenting, these potty training methods may seem like a natural choice.

Internet links for those eager for more information: Wikipedia Article on EC and Article on EC
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This is why I hate America. [Feb. 9th, 2007|01:03 pm]
Pregnant Liberals

Am I the only person who realizes the inherent paradox in this situation:

A mother needs to make income so that she can support her child. In so this, she will almost certainly have to enter the public sector, which means leaving her child with a daycare provider of some sort. Now if the mother is working because she is poor, she may qualify for some sort of subsidized daycare option.

The longer the mother is out of the workforce post-partum, the more desperate her financial situation is going to become, so it is in her best interest to return to the workforce as soon as possible. Luckily, the subsidized daycare options offer childcare from 6 weeks upward. Unluckily, the waitlist for such options (in some places, the only affordable option) is upwards of 4-5 MONTHS. If you are lucky. Anecdotal accounts place it at more like 9 months to a year which, of course, begins at birth. So the earliest a woman can ACTUALLY get daycare if she is too poor to afford it (and thus too poor to stay at home and not work) is optimistically 4 months, realistically 9 months.

What the heck is that about? So even if you really WANT to work, you are forced into a situation where you basically can't if you can't already afford daycare. What's the incentive for a mother not to just say "what the heck, forget it" and draw welfare benefits (also barely enough to live on, but don't get me started).
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Circumcision [Feb. 1st, 2007|04:36 pm]
Pregnant Liberals

I love how these baby/pregnancy books have sections on the 'not medically necessary but still valid choice to have your infant boy circumcised.'

What I really just can't understand is why they only mention male circumcision. What about the perfectly valid choice to chop off your unconsenting daughter's genitalia?

And why stop there? After all, circumcision is so over-done these days--why not find new and interesting ways to mutilate your baby? Instead of chopping off parts of their genitals to show that their parents assume that of course their baby will grow up to have the exact same religious beliefs as they do, why not brand your baby? Or if you were only considering circumcision for appearance's sake, why not bring back the ancient Chinese art of footbinding? You wouldn't want the other kids to think your kid had funny looking feet, now would you? Or maybe we should just get creative and randomly chop off bits of their bodies, like fingers or toes or ears.

I mean, it's not like they can object to being mutilated. They're just babies.
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Woo! [Jan. 29th, 2007|09:08 pm]
Pregnant Liberals

Actually pregnant! Now I feel like I can legitimately call myself a member of this community.

Now I have to figure out how to gain weight...
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What I've been Reading [Dec. 20th, 2006|12:11 am]
Pregnant Liberals

In an effort to become a good parent, and more fully understand these 'spanking verses time-out' debates, I've been trying to get my hands on some nice, intro to psychology and behavioral sciences sorts of books. Unfortunately, this is a bit tricky--textbooks are nice, but expensive and not readily available at the bookstore in my building--thus I would have to travel long distances to read them, or actually buy the damn things, and as we know, textbooks are expensive--not to mention long and often boring. Most of the childrearing books don't seem to cover this, and most of the psychology books seem to be either regurgitated Freudian or Youngian crap which the rest of the field completely rejected about half a century ago for being utterly unscientific and, moreover, highly stupid; and books with titles like, "Living with ADD/Autism/fuckupery." I'm familiar with these since my mum's bought a quite a few over the years--in fact, she recently sent me one about her newest diagnosis. But the kid hasn't even been conceived yet, much less diagnosed with any sort of mental differences.

Part of the problem, I think, is that on some level, people are a bit disturbed by basic psychology--they don't like the idea that they are predictable, much less that their own behavior can be modeled by mice in boxes. And they certainly don't like the idea of raising their children according to ideas found in science experiments designed to 'train' animals.

As a nerd, I don't have these hang-ups; it seems sensible to model human behavior with simpler creatures and sensible to try and use the best evidence available to date in order to raise our children--any less seems almost neglectful. And, honestly, there are a great many things I wish to 'train' my children to do--like pooping in the toilet.

So I've read a bit here and a bit there. To sum things up, punishment doesn't seem very useful--and in many cases, it reinforces the wrong things. This is easy to see in terms of animal training--if you call your dog over to you because you're angry that it peed on the floor, and then when it comes, you punish it, the dog will learn that the command 'come' means 'punishment is about to occur.' I use this example not because I think kids are dogs, but because this is precisely what happened to me as a teen. A high enough percentage of the times my mother called me ended in punishment that I began praying every time she called me before responding. (This was back when I believed in god.)

So, yes, punishment will work--but it may not teach what you want it to teach. In my case, I learned that avoiding my parents made life better, and it's taken quite a few years to fix that. Or to paraphrase one author, if they can train a 6,000 lb killer whale without punishment (for anyone who tried to punish a killer whale would surely cease existence in this mortal plane fairly quickly,) then why should anyone need to punish a 30 lb toddler?

Sadly, though, toilet-training incidents are one of the chief 'causes' of child-abuse in this country.

Punishments and rewards can work in several different ways. Here's the basic setup:

Positive Reinforcement: You give the child a reward for something they've done (good or bad.)
Positive Punishment: You give the child a punishment for something they've done.
Negative Reinforcement: You remove something negative from the child's environment in response to something they've done. (For example, the child cries, and you change their dirty diaper.)
Negative Punishment: You remove something good from the child in response to their action.

The Three laws of learning:

Rewarded behavior gets repeated
Ignored behavior gets stopped
Once a behavior is in place, variable rewards will strengthen the behavior. (Variable rewards means that the child isn't always rewarded for good behavior, only sometimes, randomly, and with different kinds of rewards. This is the basic principle behind slot machines, and why casinos make so much money.)

And law four: Learning is always happening.

The least effective method of teaching someone is to punish them. The most effective is to reward them for behavior you like.

This does not mean that kids should be allowed to run around doing whatever they want and that you should ignore them and give them candy whenever they sit down. A child who is misbehaving, according to these theories, should be best dealt with by re-directing their energies into *good* behavior, and then rewarded for that good behavior. The child will then learn that doing the desired behavior gets them rewarded, while doing the undesired behavior merely gets them... directed into other behaviors. The non-productive behavior is dropped.

Of course, I imagine that this kind of parenting is more difficult than simply yelling, "Johny? Johnny! Drop that! JOHNNY DROP IT!"
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Welcome [Dec. 10th, 2006|06:53 pm]
Pregnant Liberals

Welcome to the liberal pregnancy community.

An empty community seems kind of sad, so I thought I'd post about the books I've been reading so far in preparation for this pregnancy.

The Attachment Parenting Book by William and Martha Sears, M.D. and R.N., respectively, is a quick and easy read. Most of the book is spent trying to convince you that Attachment Parenting is good. Given that the authors work with babies and have 8 children of their own, they come across as fairly credible sources.

To summarize:

Babies cry because they are trying to communicate. They can't talk, they can't do things for themselves, all they can do is cry.

When you respond quickly to your baby, it learns that it is cared for, that people are listening, and that you love it. Baby will grow up to be happier and healthier.

Many people believe in something the authors call 'detachment parenting'. This parenting method hypothesizes that picking a baby up when it cries will reward the baby for crying, which will teach the baby to cry more. Detachment parenting teaches that one should ignore the baby when it cries, and only feed it/change it/hug it etc. on a pre-set schedule.

The problem with detachment parenting, as the book points out, is that babies do not have other ways of telling us that things are wrong. If you ignore a baby who is crying because they are sitting in a pile of shit, the baby will not suddenly walk over to you, tug on your hem, and say, "Excuse me, ma'am, but do you think you could remove this excrement from my diaper?"

Ignoring baby's cry does not teach them to be 'good', it teaches them that you don't care if they're hungry, tired, need to be held, or just pooped.

The book outlines 7 'Baby Bs' which it uses to highlight important aspects of Attachment Parenting:
Bedding close to baby
Belief in Baby's cry
Beware of baby trainers

Obviously not everyone can do all of these things, nor will they work for everyone, but they help get you in the general mindset of how attachment parenting works.

Bonding is a fairly obvious one, but in this book it specifically refers to being with your baby immediately after birth. If possible, try to hold the baby a bit before the nurses do all of the washing, measuring, etc. Skin-to-skin contact is best (especially since it makes it easier to breastfeed.) If you are staying overnight in the hospital, it is better to have the baby in your room with you than in a nursery far away. The most obvious advantage to this is that when the baby starts crying, you can pick it up and comfort it immediately, while it is still only moderately unhappy, rather than after it's been crying for several minutes already while a nurse had to bring it to you and is now desperately unhappy.

Even premature babies who have to be in special care units can still benefit from bonding with their parents.

Breastfeeding may be a little harder to convince people of than bonding. I know I started out a skeptic--the idea of other creatures using my body like we use cows seemed downright disgusting. However, the scientific data (which I'm going to be bad and not cite) is pretty clear on this issue: human babies are supposed to drink human milk. Babies which are breastfed are healthier and smarter than non-breastfed babies, and their mothers receive numerous health benefits as well.

The book talks about breastfeeding in more detail; how it benefits you and baby; what to do if there are problems (buy a book on breastfeeding or hire a lactation consultant;) etc. Breastfeeding also provides an opportunity for more bonding.

Babywearing is exactly what it sounds like. You've probably seen those little baby kangaroo pouches people wear, and possibly even baby slings. Keeping your baby close to you like that keeps it warm, comfortable, and in a place where you can easily observe its moods and activities, thus alerting you before it starts crying that, for example, a load of poop was just deposited in its diaper. Additionally, babies which are carried have a more interesting perspective on the world--there's very little to be seen from the level of a pram or stroller other than big people's knees. A held baby will have more interaction with people face-to-face, have more opportunities to observe social interactions, etc.

Balance means taking your baby to baby gymnastics classes every morning--no no, just kidding. It means not letting the baby take over your life to the point where all you ever think about is babybabybaby and the rest of your family members feel lonely and you feel like you're going crazy. Everything should be in balance. Attachment parenting is about giving baby what baby needs--not everything baby wants. (Obviously that becomes more of a problem as baby gets older.)

Bedding close to Baby When my husband first mentioned the idea of sleeping with our baby, I threw a fit. ABSOLUTELY NOT. I was convinced we would roll on top of it and kill it the moment we crawled in bed together.

This book has done a full 180 on my thinking. While it doesn't exactly go into hard scientific data or cite a bunch of studies (I imagine such things would bore the average reader,) the evidence seems pretty clear that not only do most parents not roll onto their babies at night while co-sleeping, the babies have a lowered chance of SIDS. There are some modifications which need to be made to make a normal bed baby-safe, of course, but the number of babies who die each year from getting caught in a headboard or squished in a normal bed is about an order of magnitude lower than the number of babies who die in their cribs each year from SIDS.

Besides which, babies find it easier to nurse and bond when they're lying next to their parents, rather in the lonely, cold dark in another room.

Belief in baby's cry I already talked about this one, so no need to rehash it ad naseum. Babies cry to communicate, not because they're being naughty. Stop listening to your baby, and either the baby will try harder to communicate, or will stop communicating at all.

Beware of baby trainers: In a nutshell, believe in yourself! Don't listen to people who try to make you feel insecure, who insult your parenting style, etc. And most of all, don't listen to people who tell you to ignore your baby. After all, only you know what's best for your baby.

Overall, I would say that I enjoyed this book, though I think it could easily have been half the length and contained all of the important information. But it's a short book, so no harm done.
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