Guest Post: It’s Okay to Buy Plain ‘Ole Milk

Today’s guest post comes from Joanna Samuelson Lidback, a Vermont dairy farmer and a friend of mine from my undergraduate days at Cornell. I invited Joanna to submit a post about the differences in organic and conventional milk from both a farmer’s and a consumer’s perspective. I’m glad that she accepted, because I think her voice is important. Most of us buy milk every week, and yet when was the last time you sat down with a dairy farmer and talked with her in-depth about her farming practices?

Joanna’s story is personal; she’s writing about her family history and her livelihood. I expect that some of you will disagree with her conclusions about the value of organic milk, and that’s OK. I hope her post raises the level of awareness around farming practices in general and stimulates respectful discussion about our buying decisions. And if anyone is interested in submitting a guest post with another view, I always welcome that, as long as it is backed by science and/or personal experience.

Without further ado…

It’s Okay to Buy Plain ‘Ole Milk

By Joanna Samuelson Lidback

I was pretty excited when Alice asked me if I wanted to take a stab at this topic. In an effort for full disclosure up front, my husband and I are dairy farmers and fall into the conventional category, though we don’t use rBST either. We do support all dairy farmers, however, and support offering choices for consumers when it comes to food. I tried to remain as neutral as I could as I wrote this post, which was itself a lesson in humility for me. I have friends who are organic dairy farmers and of course did not want to offend them in my writing. I do have great respect for what they do and the added layers of management to maintain certified organic status. And oh, by the way, I’m not usually as research-oriented as Alice is, but I gave it a shot!

My husband dairy farmer (DF) and I have a 30-cow dairy farm. That means we milk 30 cows. We also raise our own “youngstock” (young animals not yet in the milking herd) plus a few steers; so we have a total of about 65 head of cattle that we care for, both Holsteins and Jerseys at our farm. The Jerseys go back to a 4-H dairy project that I started with my family when I was a kid. They are all registered with names and unique personalities. Some of them have been with me for a long time, with one family going back to the very first calves we owned. The Holsteins are my DF’s and they too have their own personalities but numbers instead of names, as they are not registered. We do have pet names for some of them, though, typically related to appearance or something that happened – like Pip, Slurpy and Whitey. Regardless, they are all now “our” girls.

My guess is that as you approach our place and see our girls grazing our rolling green hills in Northeast Vermont, you would maybe assume we are an organic herd. We are not, and I will get into the why not at the end of this post. Continue reading

Every Kid Deserves a Good Pair of Boots

We are blessed with lots of rain here in the Pacific Northwest. After living in the desert of Arizona for 3 years, I LOVE the rain. I appreciate how much life it brings to this valley. And we’ve almost survived our first rainy season here. Locals tell us that we should be prepared to get wet up until the 4th of July, but we’ve seen a definite turn towards spring in the weather these last few weeks. We’re enjoying warmer temperatures and more sunshine, plus we’re getting to reap the benefits in blooming trees and fresh produce.

But, I’m not going to lie. The rainy winter is long. In January and February, weeks would go by without sunshine, and that wears on everyone. It’s tempting to cozy up inside with hot tea and watch the water run down the windows all winter. Thing is, I know a certain toddler and a certain dog that need to enjoy the freedom of being outside every day. And it turns out, I have that need, too. I just get internally grumpy when I don’t get my outside time. Kids and dogs get very externally grumpy.

Another thing we’re blessed with in our neighborhood: a meadow. It takes up about half of a block, and it is just open space cared for by folks in the neighborhood. It is edged by flowering trees and some native plants chosen to attract pollinators. (Yesterday, BabyC met her first bee in the meadow, and I think all the buzzing that we do when we read books about bees finally made sense to her.) The grass is wild and overgrown, and there are plenty of interesting sticks to play with. There are even a few stumps that BabyC loves to climb. And when it rains, there is water. But that’s it. No playground equipment and no sandbox. Yet, BabyC is happy to wander around the meadow for an hour at a time.

Continue reading

The Apparent Breastfeeding Paradox: What is optimal nutrition for a premature baby?

Last week, I wrote about some of the unique challenges (and one potential solution) to breastfeeding a baby born prematurely. Another study recently published in BMJ Open provides more food for thought on breastfeeding preemies (1; full text available here).

A team of French researchers examined the relationship between breastfeeding, growth, and neurodevelopment in two observational cohorts of babies born very prematurely, at less than 32 or 33 weeks of gestation.

Between the two cohorts, a total of 2925 very preterm infants were included in the study. These babies were in the hospital for 50-60 days before they were allowed to go home. In the two cohorts, 19% and 16% of babies were breastfeeding at the time of discharge from the hospital. The study looked at associations between type of feeding at discharge (breast milk or formula), growth during hospitalization, and growth and neurodevelopment at 2 and 5 years of age.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

What were the findings? In these cohorts, formula-fed babies had gained more weight by the time they were discharged from the hospital. However, at 2 and 5 years of age, the formula-fed babies scored lower on neurodevelopment assessments compared to the breastfed babies. Breastfed babies also had greater head circumferences by 2 and 5 years of age, suggesting improved brain development, and they appeared to catch up to formula-fed babies in height and weight. Continue reading

How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm (Review and Giveaway)

As a new parent, still finding my way, I’m drawn to stories from other parents. I think I am looking for some commonality in our experience. I want to read stories that make me think, “That’s how I feel, too!” I also want to read stories that might enlighten me to a different way of understanding my child and motherhood.

Mei-Ling Hopgood’s new book, How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm, is full of these types of stories. On the surface, this book is about cultural differences in parenting practices around the world. But by the end of the book, I was left with a feeling of kinship with parents around the world. I might have gleaned a few new parenting ideas from this book, but more importantly, it broadened my perspective of the many wonderfully different ways to raise a child.

I first heard of this book through a cool blog I discovered recently, Ms. Mary Mack. Created by the fabulous Nicole Blades, Ms. Mary Mack “takes an anthropological approach to motherhood.” A couple of months ago, Ms. Mary Mack hosted an interview with Mei-Ling Hopgood about what she learned from writing the book. I was intrigued and actually won a copy of her book through that post. Lucky me! I enjoyed this book so much that I wanted to review it myself and share it with you. (Nicole and I have also talked about exchanging guest posts, so stay tuned for more from her. In the meantime, definitely check out her blog, especially her Global Mamas series if you want to hear more cross-cultural parenting stories.)

How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm is Hopgood’s exploration of parenting practices from around the globe. Continue reading

Balancing Media Use and Motherhood

Last week, I posted about my struggle to remain present and connect with BabyC in the midst of so many opportunities to connect online. It turns out that I’m not alone in this struggle, and many of you shared your methods for limiting your online distractions in the comments on that post.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

I’ve tried setting some specific limits for myself over the last week as well. I thought I’d share them here, in part so that I am more likely to stick to my plan.

I thought about calling this my new media “diet,” but I’ve never been a big fan of dieting. In the context of food, dieting doesn’t work. Restriction and deprivation don’t work. What works is balance, moderation, and developing healthy habits. With that in mind, I’m not necessarily trying to decrease my time spent online. As I said before, these online interactions help me feel sane and connected with other adults. What’s important is that my online time doesn’t detract from my in-real-life relationships and that it doesn’t prevent me from accomplishing the things that I really want to be doing, the things that make me feel productive at the end of the day – like writing.

Here’s my plan:

1. Gadgets (phone, iPad, computer) are off-limits during “together” time: Continue reading

Pump up the music: Improving breast milk production in the NICU

The breast pump is a fabulous invention. It is what gives modern moms the option to pursue a career and breastfeed. And for moms of babies born prematurely, it is everything. Their babies get a great start with breast milk, and moms can establish milk supply even if they are separated by prolonged stays in the NICU.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

In a study published in Advances in Neonatal Care last week, Douglas Keith and colleagues reported on their attempt to increase production in moms pumping milk for their preemie babies [2]. 162 moms of preemie (average 32 weeks) or critically ill newborns admitted to the NICU were given a hospital-grade breast pump and encouraged to pump 8 times per day. They were randomly assigned to one of 4 groups. A control group received standard support for breastfeeding, and the remaining 3 groups were given a recording to listen to during pumping. The second group received a recording with a spoken guided relaxation. The third received the same guided relaxation, but it was accompanied by soothing guitar lullabies. The fourth received the relaxation/guitar recording, plus a video player with images of their own babies. Milk production and milk fat content were measured over 14 days.

What effect did a little music and pictures have on milk production? The results were actually quite striking. Continue reading

Put down the phone, Mama!

We were getting settled for nap time. As I changed BabyC’s diaper, I talked with her in a quiet tone and told her that we were preparing to rest. We did one slow and whispered round of “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” on the changing table. I closed BabyC’s curtains and dimmed the lights. We fished her special doll and blanket from her crib, and then we all sat down into the rocking chair to nurse. BabyC was still a little wound up, though, and as we were getting settled, she swiped my phone from the side table. I don’t usually let her play with my phone, but in the interest of keeping things mellow, I figured I’d let her hold it for a while. She latched, and we both started to relax.

But then, BabyC turned on my phone. She started swiping her finger across the touch screen, just as she watches me do throughout the day. She hit at icons and watched colors flash on the screen, her eyes darting around. Suddenly, she was opening the address book and initiating a FaceTime video call with – who? Oh, an old college buddy of Husband’s, someone I’ve met once, about 5 years ago. Yikes! A surprise video call from my boob is probably not the best way to get back in touch. 

OK, BabyC, no more phone. I felt annoyed. I wanted BabyC to snuggle up with me and enjoy calming milk and our time together. It seemed ungrateful for her attention to be somewhere else entirely. Continue reading

6 Little Secrets of a Sleeping Baby

So, here we are, six posts and two months after my declaration that I would get to the bottom of this little issue of infant sleep. It shouldn’t have surprised me that it has taken me this long to begin to understand this topic. After all, it is a field with decades of research and thousands of published papers. If I was only interested in finding support for one side of the issue, I could have dug up a few papers in an hour or two and whipped something out, but I needed a more complete understanding – for myself, if for nobody else. My experience was quite beautifully summed up by a reader’s comment on my last post:

“…wide reviews of research (rather than simply focusing on the work of one or even a few researchers or studies) tend to show that dogmatism on many parenting issues is rarely justified.” ~Becky

I couldn’t have said it better myself. My conclusion: do what works for your family.

I want to wrap up this project by sharing some of the major lessons on infant sleep that I learned along the way, both from the science and in reflecting on my own experiences.

These first 3 are things we can do from the very start:

1.    Know that crying is normal. It is how we respond that matters.

When I was pregnant with BabyC, I knew that for the first few months of her life, she would wake often during the night, but I envisioned sweet nights with her – a dim light, a comfortable rocking chair, nursing her until she faded back to sleep. And in my imagination, these scenes of maternal bliss were always quiet. So I was not prepared for the nights during those early weeks when BabyC would wake at 2 AM and I would do everything I knew to do – nurse her, burp her, change her, hold her, rock her, try nursing again – and she would only cry. There were nights when she would wail, eyes squeezed shut, for hours, while I tried everything to soothe her. Looking back, I realize that in my mind, I believed that my success as a mother was tied to my ability to stop my baby’s cries, as quickly as possible. If she cried, I felt that I was failing. Continue reading