June 23, 2016

I remember when all three of my children weaned.

My plan for Phoebe was to nurse for one year.

I figured I could avoid formula and bottles if I nursed her for twelve months.

At my baby shower for her I received 36 bottles! I had not registered for anything and told people I would be breastfeeding. We did not have a dishwasher. The thought of washing bottles overwhelmed me and made me want to breastfeed even more.

Laziness was a motivating factor initially in some of my parenting choices. Breastfeeding and co-sleeping were the bomb!

Though we struggled together initially, nursing became an extension of my mothering Phoebe.

As her first birthday approached I got anxious about the weaning process. How would I do it? Who would it benefit? How would I calm a tantrum or get her to sleep?

photo Read the rest of this entry »

Uniforms and Fairy Dust

January 30, 2015

Why do new parents seem so guarded or opinionated or defensive? Well, much of it is that they are protecting their new family.

Another thing I have noticed is that parents feel they have to subscribe to a specific style. In the years since I first became a new mom – over nineteen years ago, I have noticed that so much around parenting is trademarked. I believe that is all about marketing. I have written about how poor parents are the biggest target of marketing these days.

I remember when it was time to start feeding Phoebe solid food a mom at a La Leche League meeting suggested baby led weaning. This made sense to me – let her take food off the table – I would bite off a tiny piece of apple and let her chew it, I would continue to nurse her. Eventually I became a La Leche League Leader. A couple of years back at a meeting I was leading for toddlers a mom mentioned baby led weaning and I was thrilled to hear this concept being embraced until I heard about all the “rules around it. Rules? There is a book! Wow. I thought it was about being instinctive with a few guidelines about what foods to give and which foods to avoid so that they would not choke.

Baby Chloe 1

I also noticed how people would comment on how attached Phoebe and I were. Of course, I am her mom, we are together (the company I worked for closed while I was on maternity leave and I was a full time mom then.) Then I learned there is an organization called Attachment Parenting – which I love! But I hear moms asking, “Is it is AP to . . . “ Or “does it go against AP if I . . .”

Then there are the breast feeders and the bottle feeders and the co-sleepers and the baby never comes into my bed, and there are “Never let the baby cry” and the Cry It Outs.

I belong to way too many groups on Facebook and I hear so many new moms asking permission to go outside of the rules of whichever category they have chosen to join. I hear arguments about how you cannot do this or you should do that.

Titles: Tiger Mom, Hippie Mom, Crunchy Mom, Stay At Home Mom, Working Mom

Does one need only belong to one “club?” Does anyone only do things exactly as planned out in a book? Do breastfeeding moms never give their babies a bottle? Do most parents have their kids in their bed at least some of the time? Do the families that make their own baby food sometimes use a jar or sometimes eat convenient food? Do the touchy feely moms yell? Does the Tiger mom cuddle? Does the home-schooling mom want to send her kid away to boarding school? Does the mom with the most awesome and fulfilling career want to quit her job and stay home?

If you asked these questions to these parents you would get a resounding YES from time to time.

It seems like a new mom has to wear armor to defend herself and her choices. She has to seek permission to care for her baby. Whatever happened to instincts? Have we cultured intuition away by writing books and coining phrases and categorizing everything and everyone?

Maybe the extended family has done things differently so a new mom feels she needs to defend her choices. Perhaps she is faced with criticism and needs to wear a uniform.


Whatever it is I wish I could hug all new moms and blow some instinct like fairy dust at them and let them take it in, take in their babies. I want them to clear out the noise so they can hear. So they can hear that voice inside them that tells them: this is your baby, your child, do not strive to fit in, strive to find love, strive to find the wonder in your little person, strive to grow along with them.


In the meantime I will interject my thoughts in those groups when I have it in me to do so. I imagine fairy dust with each click of the keyboard.IMG_7271

This morning I attended a panel discussion of the Children’s Health Council at Cornell Weill Medical College on New York City’s upper east side. The topic was Tots to Teens: Sleep and Your Child.

The panelists were Vikash K. Modi, M.D., FAAP, Haviva Veler, M.D. and Mary J. Ward, Ph.D.

The topics they addressed are the things I discuss with my clients: routine, rhythm and consistency for good sleep hygiene. The topic of co-sleeping was mentioned but was never actually addressed during the panel discussion. It was great to hear these panelists discuss normal sleep behavior and when medical conditions get in the way.

Then they talked about the importance of letting babies learn to sleep on their own. They even encouraged Cry It Out. What was especially compelling was the fact that the two moms on the panel confessed their own discomfort with letting their own babies Cry It Out. I was relieved to hear this because it confirmed I was listening to real people with real life experience. But I wonder why. Why they have expectations that others should “do as they say, not as they do?”

They discussed the problems of electronics and irregular schedules. They discussed how light disrupts the excretion of melatonin.

They never discussed diet. They touched on allergies, mostly airborne allergies causing inflamed adenoids and obstructing airways. But they did not discuss what and how babies are fed. I wonder if they considered this in their research.

They talked about sleep associations like music, blankets and parents. They insist these “objects” need to not be there when the baby falls asleep or they will need these associations when they wake in the middle of the night. They did not discuss breastmilk or the melatonin levels that change throughout the day to help babies to sleep more. They discussed circadian rhythms.

I learned the two factors that determine the need for sleep are 1)circadian rhythms and 2)how much time has elapsed between sleep sessions.

During the Question & Answer period there were many parents asking about their own children’s sleep issues. Luckily I got a chance to ask my question. Into the microphone, I spoke, “I am a Private Practice Lactation Consultant and one of my favorite things to show new families is how to SAFELY lay down and nurse their babies and to know how to SAFELY fall asleep if that were to happen. Why then when families pass into the borders of the United States do their bodies suddenly become dangerous?”

Dr. Ward admitted that she may be biased toward Western philosophy and mentioned a study that showed most parents do not like sleeping with their babies or children.

It made me wonder if the participants in that study answered that they don’t like it because they are conditioned to think it is bad? Are they conditioned culturally to think that babies are not supposed to cross the border of the marriage bed? Maybe I am reading too much into it. Maybe my personal bias towards wanting more sleep and wanting to breastfeed comfortably colors my thoughts on this controversy.

Gerald M. Laughlin, M.D. suggested that in this country the mattresses on adult beds as so soft as to cause suffocation as opposed to the hard mattresses in Asia where co-sleeping is the norm. I am not an anthropologist but I do sit on a lot of beds and very few I have examined are soft enough to cause a risk for babies.

Dr. Veler stated that there is research that states that there is an increase in SIDS when sleeping with parents. I told her I have research that negates that untruth.


I brought along two copies of Sweet SleepNightime and Naptime Strategies for the Breastfeeding Family, the new book by Diane Wiessinger, Diana West, Linda J. Smith and Teresa Pitman published by La Leche League International. This book debunks many myths around sleep. The authors really went through many studies with a fine tooth comb and proved that in specific circumstances co-sleeping is the safest for babies.

They talk about the Safe Sleep Seven. For this to work a mom needs to be:

1) a non-smoker

2) sober

3) breastfeeding

the baby needs to be:

4) full-term and healthy

5) kept on his back when he is not nursing

6) unswaddled, in a onesie or light pajamas

and they both need to be

7) on a safe surface.


This is nearly a five-hundred-page book so if you are really interested I recommend you check it out – many of those pages notes with citation of studies and research.

I gave one to Dr. Veler and the other to Dr. Loughlin.

It is my hope that these doctors will really look at them, take in the research and consider their words when they are asking parents to do what goes against their instincts.

I did take away some good information about my own older children. I learned how sleep works. My knowledge of the technology interfering with sleep is a real thing. I learned that it is absolutely normal for my thirteen year old to not want to wake up early in the morning.

I also learned that by trusting my instincts and paying attention to my children’s sleep I know what works against them getting good sleep and what helps. As babies we all slept better together. I did not mind being their sleep association “object.” It reminds me of the time when Phoebe was a toddler and she was holding onto her little red Elmo and another mom asked me, “Is Elmo her security object?” I was stunned then I realized what she was asking. “No.” I replied. “Well, what is,” she needed to know. “Um.” A beat, then “I am,” I beamed.

Those Eyes

November 13, 2014

Looking through old photos of Phoebe I was taken back to the moments she was born. The thing I remember more than the pushing, the pain, the fear of what was going on with my body, more than thinking about our apartment move as I was in labor, more than thinking about moving out of Manhattan, more than thinking of whether she would be a boy or a girl, about what we would name her, I remember those eyes. Those eyes saw right into me. More than thinking if I would be a good enough mother, more than thinking about breastfeeding I remember those eyes.

She is a young adult now and I am still taken with her eyes. Looking at this photo when she was about two years old, the image is a bit blurry but look at those eyes.

Little Phoebe

I would wonder what was going on behind those eyes, what she was thinking.

There are certain moments in mothering that leave indelible images in my mind. There was when Chloe, at three weeks of age told me she did not like the light in her eyes while she was nursing – she pulled off my breast, turned her head toward the lamp beside the bed and fake cried then turned back toward me and stopped – she repeated this action until I figured out to turn off the light. She then happily latched on and nursed herself to sleep in the dimmed room.

There was the moment when two year old Finn looked up at me, a stressed moody mama trying to get out the door and get three children to school on time on a rainy day – you know that level of stress – I began to raise my voice, speak angrily. Instead of heading my demands to get into the stroller he stopped, crossed his little arms across his chest and proclaimed, “you have to be patient, Mama.” A tear rolled down his check. I listened.

There are many stories like this but there is nothing like a first. Phoebe’s first look into my soul made me the mom I am. Never forget to look into your child’s eyes. Never forget to watch your baby’s actions. Never forget to listen to the wisdom of a two year old.

Remember this story: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/10/opinion/sunday/10sex.html

And then I wrote this:

Dear Erica Jong

July 13, 2011

Dear Erica,

I read your essay in the New York Times “Is Sex Passe?”

This passage really got my ire up!

Better to give up men and sleep with one’s children. Better to wear one’s baby in a man-distancing sling and breast-feed at all hours so your mate knows your breasts don’t belong to him. Our current orgy of multiple maternity does indeed leave little room for sexuality. With children in your bed, is there any space for sexual passion? The question lingers in the air, unanswered.

Well allow me to answer!

I remember when my first child, Phoebe, was a few weeks old and we attended an afternoon barbecue at my in-laws. The topic of sleep – the ultimate new parent topic – arose I shared that we had Phoebe in our bed. Cousin Norma jumped right in, “You can’t do that! It will ruin your marriage!” I was shocked.

I kept Phoebe in our bed initially as a survival method. When I placed her in the bassinet at the end of our bed in the tiny house in the NYC suburbs she looked like she was in California. Neither Rob nor I needed to leave our bed to attend to our baby. We adored her and loved having her close to us. It also made it much easier to feed her through the night. Rob and I could cuddle and make love without disturbing her. Having a baby in bed increased our intimacy. We were more focused, more intense.

At this backyard shindig I learned that Cousin Norma had  been married and divorced three times. She was the one with marital problems.

And Erica, I know you breastfed your daughter. Did you co-sleep? Did you put Molly between you and your husband?

When you parent you have to have a sense of humor. You have to laugh if one moment you are a sexual goddess caught up in the moment and suddenly you switch gears, twist your body toward your baby, offer a breast, keep skin-to-skin contact with two people, be two at once, settle the baby down and go back to being the passionate goddess. You have to be able to laugh.

You do not have to divide yourself into sections. Similar to parenting more than one child – you meet the needs of a younger child and an older child. You can be a present wife and mother.

Oh, dear Erica, I think you feel you need to be an orange – all segmented. Me, I am a juicy peach- no segments, a complete package.

After 18 years of marriage, twelve years of breastfeeding and even more years of a family bed Rob and I are a happy couple with an enviable sex life.

As a woman who writes essays about the guilt of mothering and feminism please do not discount attachment as anti-woman. You are stoking the Mommy War fires.


Leigh Anne


Well, I sent my letter directly to Erica as the New York Times was no longer accepting responses. And she wrote back.

Leigh Anne–

Thanks so much for writing. You’re right: we don’t need to be segmented. 

I don’t think I was writing so much about myself as about my view of other parents who are not as whole and loving as you.
I so appreciate your taking the time to write your beautiful letter!
Erica Jong
I imagine as a writer you have to stir things up a bit. I will take her lead and not hold back. Not always be the sweet polite southerner. I can be tough and opinionated! So look out, y’all!