This is Ten

This is Ten

WO This is Ten Art 2By Lindsey Mead

This essay is excerpted from Brain, Child’s book, This is Childhood Book & Journal.

I spent my teenage summers at a wonderful, rambling house on the Massachusetts shore with several families. There was always a tangle of children and we got in the habit of going for swims after dinner. One summer, there was phosphorescence. I have never forgotten those unexpected, bright swirls of light, otherworldly, as blinding as they were fleeting

Ten is like that. Ten is phosphorescence. Ten blazes brightly and vanishes so quickly you wonder if your eyes are playing tricks on you.

Ten is a changeling. In my daughter’s mahogany eyes, I see the baby she was and the young woman she is fast becoming. In one moment she’s still a little girl, clutching her teddy bears before bed, and in another she is a near-teenager, dancing and singing along to Nicki Minaj. She oscillates between wanting to bolt for the horizon of young adulthood that she can see and wanting to shrink from it, nestling instead in early childhood with me.

Motherhood has offered me more surprises than I can count, but the biggest one is how lined with loss it is, how striated with sorrow. I am blindsided, over and over again, by the breathless rush of time. For every single thing that will never come again, though, there is a dazzling surprise, a new skill, a new wonder, a new delight. All of parenting is a constant farewell and an endless hallelujah wrapped together, but ten feels like an especially momentous combination of the two.

Ten is evanescent, liminal, unquestionably the end of something, and just as surely the beginning of something else. As my daughter noted, in tears, the night before her tenth birthday, she will “never be single digits again, ever.”

The only thing ten wants more than her ears pierced is a dog. She still laughs uproariously as she flies down a sledding hill, but she also shrugs nonchalantly at the top of a black diamond slope before turning down it and executing perfect turns, her duct-tape-covered helmet a blur of color against the snow.

Ten wears tall Ugg boots I can fit into and impossibly long yoga pants that I mistake for my own when I am folding laundry. Ten organizes her crayons in rainbow order, and I can see the alphabetized spice rack that lies ahead.

Ten swings masterfully across the monkey bars, dribbles a soccer ball all the way up the field and scores, and plays good enough tennis that we can play actual games. Ten loves board games and Club Penguin, and the door of her closet is covered with posters of Selena Gomez and Taylor Swift. When will these girls be replaced in her affection by boys, I wonder? I hope not too soon.

Ten is streaks of brilliance in the dark sea, whose provenance is unknown, which vanish as fast as they appear.

Ten sat on my lap this week, her toes brushing the floor on either side of my legs. I ran my fingers over a temporary tattoo of a shooting star on her arm, and thought: that is what ten is. Ten is a shooting star. An explosion of light and kinesis that will never come again. Blink and you’ll miss it.

Ten leaves heartfelt, tear-jerking notes for me on my pillow, professing her love, devotion, and thanks. Ten sometimes walks icily away from me at school drop-off, refusing to turn around, angry about something.

Ten is sensitive and easily bruised, confused by the startling meanness that can flare in other adolescent girls, desperate to be liked. Ten is alternately fragile and fierce.

Ten is vehement attachment and lurching swipes at separation. When ten grows up, she wants to be a veterinarian, a mother, and a writer. In the “about the author” section of a book she wrote at school, she said that the author took five years to write the book, because she was also raising her children. Ten doesn’t miss a single thing, and what I do matters a hundred times more than what I say.

Ten kneels in front of the “fairy stream” at a nearby park, breath drawn, and I swear that enchantment still brushes past her, like her heroine, Hermione, running by under the invisibility cloak. Ten caught my eye last Christmas when she said something about Santa, conveying in a single look that she knew he wasn’t real but that she didn’t want to ruin it for her younger brother.

Ten is the child who made me a mother, my pioneer, my trailblazer, walking hand-in-hand with me through all the firsts of her childhood and my motherhood. Ten is grace. Ten is my amazing Grace.

Anne Sexton said, “I look for uncomplicated hymns, but love has none.” Ten is a complicated hymn, a falling star, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment in time, an otherworldly flash of green gorgeousness in the dark ocean.

Author’s Note: I studied English in college, and wrote my thesis on poetry and motherhood. After graduation, however, I took a sharp turn into the business world and stayed there for many years. It was watching my children, finally—particularly their here-now stubbornness and simultaneous persistent reminder of time’s passage—that prodded me back to the page. Many things about parenting have surprised me, but none more than how unavoidably bittersweet it is. “This is Ten” is one of many pieces I have written about my daughter and son in an attempt to remember the small, mundane, yet blindingly beautiful details of their (and our) everyday lives.

Lindsey Mead is a mother, writer, and financial services professional who lives outside of Boston with her husband, daughter, and son. She graduated from Princeton with an AB in English and received an MBA from Harvard. Her work has been published in a variety of print and online sources. She writes regularly at A Design So Vast.

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The Art of Self-Care

The Art of Self-Care

Hands cupped holding a big heart. My original hand painted illustration.

By Julie Burton

As a survivor of an eating disorder, I thought my newly strengthened and enlightened self-care voice was infallible. I was certain that with a strong marriage, a good job, a network of friends, and a healthy lifestyle, I had this self-care thing down. And I did—at least, at a time when I felt that I had control over my life, my decisions, and my relationships, and that I could manage what was on my plate. But at the age of twenty-seven, I could never have predicted how much more I would need to learn about self-care, and how challenging it would be to hold on to my sense of self, the moment I locked eyes with my newborn daughter’s wanting and needing eyes. With goose bumps on my arms and my heart exploding with love for this child, I felt the “commitment for life” concept sink heavily and purposefully into the depths of my being. As I held her tightly in my arms, and took in the sight, smell, and feel of her, I promised her, and myself, that I would always protect her, love her, and care for her—that I would become a “baby whisperer,” able to anticipate and accommodate her every need

I basked in the euphoria of my newfound sense of purpose and of the endless supply of powerful, all- consuming unconditional love that I didn’t even know existed within me. I fell almost desperately, addictively in love with the feeling of being needed, revered, and loved by my daughter, and by my three subsequent children. And yet I didn’t know that my motherhood journey would be twofold. Underneath this incredible, illuminating euphoria, there was something deeper—a residual, nagging anxiety that emerged from the scars within my heart, scars that had lain dormant since my recovery. Not until much later in my motherhood journey would I come to understand that the unresolved feelings that gnawed at me, wrestling with the joyous feelings of motherhood, were intricately connected to self-care; and that, as amazingly wonderful as motherhood often is, it is also really, really hard— and that sometimes I was in way over my head.
It would be years until I fully grasped how my almost obsessive desire to protect my daughter and subsequent children was more than just a mama bear’s “I want to keep you safe from harm” sort of quest. It definitely was that. But it also included an unspoken promise to protect them from the pain, the loneliness, and the despair that I had experienced as a child. And despite the fact that I put a lot of pressure on myself to “be there” for my children, in doing so, I continued to heal myself.

When my oldest daughter hit that ever-so-uncomfortable stage known as puberty, she began expressing some negativity toward the changes happening in her body. Initially, I was overcome with a sense of panic and dread. But quickly, I propelled my fear into a plan of action. The buck would stop here! I would take the lessons I had learned through my experience, through healing the wounds I’d endured while intently watching my mother fight her own food and body-image battles as I grew up. I would acknowledge my overwhelming responsibility to teach my daughter about all things related to body image, food, exercise, and nutrition. And after every discussion (and there were hundreds), I made sure she understood that all of the above-mentioned subjects are directly tied to self-love, self- respect, and self-compassion. I made a concerted effort to be a good role model for her in my approach to food and exercise, and kept the lines of communication open, checking in with her regularly to see how she felt about herself as she transitioned from girl to young woman.

I approached this issue with seriousness and intensity, practicing what I came to think of as a kind of double mothering, in which I cared for my daughter by reaching back deeply into my own childhood, providing love and compassion for both my daughter and my younger self. I held her when she cried as hormones surged through her confused preteen mind and body, and I gave her heavy doses of love, acceptance, guidance, and understanding during these trying years. I compassionately and gently helped her establish her foundation for healthy eating habits and body image in the way that I would have wanted to learn them myself. And thankfully, at the age of twenty, she has one of the healthiest attitudes toward food and body image of anyone I know.

All three of my older children hit rough patches in middle school, difficulties that most kids cannot avoid as they are trying to figure out who they are, how they fit in, and who their real friends are, at the same time as they are pulling away from their parents. My kids experienced bullying, academic challenges, and self- esteem issues. As I write this book, in the fall of 2015, I am bracing myself for my youngest daughter’s entry into middle school.

I worried tremendously about my kids during these trying years, as some of the pain of my own adolescence resurfaced. I did my best to give them as much love and attention as I could when they were struggling. But I also was very aware of the points at which I knew I needed to bring in outside support. Whether it was a school counselor, a tutor, a rabbi, a coach, a teacher, or a therapist, I did for them what I did not do for myself when I struggled: I asked for help. I knew I could not handle all of their challenges on my own, and I wanted them to feel that they were not alone in them—and that I wasn’t either.

In mothering all four of my children through their various challenges, I have been able to mother different parts of the wounded child within me. My kids always know that I have their backs. They always know that they are not alone, and that I am able and willing to go down into the deep trenches of their lives and their psyches with them, in order to help them navigate life’s inevitable twists and turns, as well as to help them develop a reflective, connected understanding and acceptance of themselves. They have learned that it is okay to ask for help, to trust in others, and to believe that there is a wide and strong net of people who care about them and who will catch them when they fall. And in doing that for them, I continued to trust that I could rely on the same reinforcements for myself. However, because of my tendency toward extremes, and my deeply rooted “die on the sword” mentality, my “double mothering” would propel me in both positive and negative directions. It served as a constant push for me to become the best mother I could possibly be for my children and for the child within me, but it also provided a breeding ground of opportunities for me to be brutally hard on myself. While it was easy to feel good when the things I did to help my children worked out well, oftentimes my efforts did not yield the results I thought they would or should, or my children’s behavior did not change at the speed at which I expected—as it goes with parenting. The old tapes containing messages of failure and disappointment played back in my head, sometimes even prompting me to look for “evidence” that I was indeed a failure as a mother. If my son got in trouble at school, well, guess whose fault that was? If my daughter didn’t do well on a test, I should have helped her study more.

Needless to say, this critical self-care challenge caused me a great deal of angst and confusion before I understood that self-care lies far below the surface, in the place where our most wounded self resides. I realize now that my first decade of mothering provided me with a new platform for my embedded feelings of guilt and self-doubt, and my striving for unattainable perfection, to reappear. Slowly, subconsciously, and unintentionally, as my pattern would go, I began to slip away from who I was. I let go of many of my personal and professional goals, as many moms do (at least for a period of time), and I convinced myself that my only real purpose was to give to my family—until, years later, these feelings finally knocked me down and left me in a heap on my sister’s living room floor.

Although I had worked diligently on solidifying my self- care voice throughout the process of my eating-disorder recovery, and was very grateful that I was even able to bear children (given the damage I had done to my body in my teens), I frequently felt alone, drained, unhappy, and unable to find solid ground. I did not yet realize that mothering them, obsessing about every little detail of their lives, would not bring me the fulfillment I needed to feel whole, nor would the idea that sacrificing my need to care for myself for “their sake” could be a healthy guiding principle for me, or for any mother.

The past two decades of being a mother and studying motherhood have taught me that I am most certainly not alone in this conundrum. Most mothers, while they nobly attempt to care for their children, struggle with defining their boundaries—which often leads mothers to neglect themselves. In a blog post on the website PsychCentral, journalist Margarita Tartakovsky explains why the mother-child relationship can feel so complicated. “Your relationship with your child isn’t just symbiotic,” she writes; “it’s parasitic because it isn’t a mutual relationship.” She illustrates this point further by quoting psychotherapist Ashley Eder, LPC, who says, “Your children are—adorable [and] beloved— parasites, and you are the host, and that’s normal and healthy.” But in the spirit of self-care, the most important aspect of Eder’s mother-child, host-parasite analogy is this: “The survival of a parasite is dependent upon the health of the host.”

When a woman makes the transition to being a mother, and she feels the nurturing cells multiply by the second (or for some mothers who suffer from postpartum depression, it can be fear or even some resentment that kicks in), she is less inclined to be thinking about how to keep herself, “the host,” healthy, and more likely to spend her energy on figuring out how to take care of her new “parasite.

Almost every mom I interviewed could connect with the feelings of frustration that often arise when talking about motherhood and self-care. In fact, if you pull a chair up to any table at Starbucks, an exercise class, park bench, set of bleachers, or office water cooler where a group of mothers are gathered and the topic of self-care comes up, you will hear many moans: “UGH, I just do not know how to do that anymore. Who’s got the time?” “I have been trying to get to this exercise class for two weeks but my kids have been sick, my husband is out of town, and I am beyond exhausted. It is a miracle I am here!” There will be a unanimous consensus that finding ways to care for themselves while mothering children is one of the trickiest things they have ever done. They will compare notes on how much time and attention children demand, and then throw in their partners, work, friends, and other family members as other forces that tug at their energy.

For most moms, the idea of “self-care” can feel like just one more item to add to their already overflowing to-do list. And to some, like those quoted above, it can feel unattainable. For other moms, self-care practices will go in fits and starts. They will try. They will have intentions of taking good care of themselves, but will often get swept up in the needs of others and allow their own needs to fall by the wayside. They will express frustration, and sometimes even resentment: “I wish I had more time for myself but something/someone usually gets in the way. I was planning to go meet my girlfriends last night for dinner but Billy wanted me to stay home and help him with his homework. He didn’t want his dad to help him, and even though I was angry about it, I stayed home to work with him. I feel so trapped.”

In 2012, I attended a workshop for yoga teachers. One teacher, Megan, asked the workshop leader, Matt, a father of three children, including three-year-old twins and an eight- month-old, what we should do if we believe one of our students is battling depression. Megan went on to talk about one of her students who is a mom and is taking care of her young kids and her aging parents as well. The woman confided in Megan that she often felt resentful, anxious, and depressed because she was pulled in so many directions and felt completely tapped out.

Matt paused for a moment and replied, “It’s like this.” He grabbed a marker by one end and handed it to Megan, who took hold of the other end. But Matt did not let go of the marker. As Matt held on to one end of the marker and Megan the other, you could see the push-pull effect between them as they both grappled for the marker.

Then Matt said to Megan, “Maybe I don’t really want to give you this marker and I would rather keep it for myself, but I am not sure how to do this because now you want and expect the marker that I offered you and I can’t really take it back. But I realize I really need it.” He explained how sometimes we give things (or parts of ourselves) to others even though we don’t want to, and truly need to keep these pieces of ourselves intact. So we keep hanging on but feel like we “should” give it away. This can certainly provoke anxiety, and is a reality for many mothers who give of themselves to those who need them (children, partners, parents, bosses), but struggle to hold on to important pieces of themselves.

The fact is that it doesn’t work to give away something that you desperately need for yourself. Mothers’ limbs, hearts, and brains are constantly being pulled in various directions; think of Shel Silverstein’s classic children’s book The Giving Tree, which can be read as a parable of the self-destruction that comes to those who offer too much to others, while keeping nothing for themselves. But your trunk needs to remain steady and strong. You learn about your strengths and weaknesses as your children coerce, push, and challenge you. The only thing you are truly in control of is yourself. By taking care of yourself mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, you are more likely to be able to be strong for yourself and your kids and to be able to withstand the storms that come through your life and their lives.

Excerpted from The Self-Care Solution, now available on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Julie Burton is an experienced writer specializing in self-care, parenting, and relationships. She has written for many local and national websites and publications. She blogs at, is the co-founder of the Twin Cities Writing Studio, and teaches writing and wellness workshops to adults and teens. Julie lives in Minnetonka, MN, with her husband and four children. Connect with Julie on her website, on Facebook /unscriptedmom or twitter @juliebburton.

Illustration © Andreus









Excerpt: The Science of Mom

Excerpt: The Science of Mom

 Scince of Mom CoverA Note from the Author:  The Science of Mom, is about how science can help us make smart parenting decisions, particularly in the first year of a baby’s life. It focuses on some of the major questions of infancy, including those of newborn health, sleep, and feeding. There are lots of controversies among these topics, and parents often debate what is right. Sometimes, science can help us settle those debates. Other times, the science is still evolving, and the complexities of families leave plenty of room for us to make different choices. The following excerpt is the start of Chapter 5, entitled “Milk and Motherhood: Breast Milk, Formula, and Feeding in the Real World.” The remainder of the chapter delves into the science of both the benefits of and very real challenges to breastfeeding. It was one of the most challenging chapters for me to research and write, but it is also one of which I’m most proud.


When Cee was handed to me just after birth, she came screaming and red-faced, with her eyes squinted shut. I said hello to her, and she stopped crying, opened her eyes wide, and gazed alertly into mine. And then, within a couple of minutes, she started moving her cheek against my breast, rooting for milk. I opened the hospital gown and held her clumsily, trying to remember the holds I’d practiced with a baby doll in my two hours of breastfeeding class a month before. A nurse confidently arranged a pillow under my arms and guided my hands in place. Cee did all the rest. She latched on and started nursing with the confidence of a pro. It was good that her instincts were so strong, because I’m not sure mine had kicked in yet.

I was determined to get everything right about motherhood, and feeding was no exception. I always planned to breastfeed, and between the two of us, Cee and I figured it out pretty quickly. After the first couple of weeks of nipple soreness and constant nursing, we settled into pleasant feeding routines. I loved this time with her, and it was empowering to know that my body could make this perfect food that could nourish her so completely. Breastfeeding was a big part of my identity as a new mother, and it was a source of pride. I relished the approval from my pediatrician, family, and friends, and I enjoyed the supportive glances from strangers. (I know many moms experience an overt lack of support when they breastfeed in public, so I consider myself lucky that I never did.) Because my experience was so positive, it was easy for me to be a little judgmental of women who didn’t breastfeed, given the long list of benefits for both mother and baby.

Three years later, my brother and sister-in-law, Jordan and Cheryl Green, welcomed their own baby girl, Amy Bell. Cheryl planned to breastfeed and, like me, was surrounded by support, from Jordan, her grandmother, and her friends, among them lots of moms experienced with breastfeeding.1 But beginning at the hospital, Cheryl’s plans quickly unraveled. Amy Bell struggled to latch on correctly, and although she appeared to be feeding, her weight was dropping rapidly. Within her first couple of days of life, she lost 12% of her birth weight, and a lactation consultant urged Cheryl and Jordan to supplement with formula. For the next three weeks, Cheryl kept up a labor-intensive cycle of attempting to breastfeed, pumping, and supplementing with formula. Everyone–nurses, lactation consultants, and her friends–told her to keep trying, that it took time and practice, but still, Amy Bell didn’t latch on, and very little milk came through the pump. Cheryl was scheduled to return to work at four weeks postpartum, and she didn’t know how she would keep up these efforts on the job. Reluctantly, she and Jordan began exclusively feeding formula to Amy Bell.

Cheryl says she still feels a little guilty about not breastfeeding for longer, and she wonders if she missed out on a special bond with Amy Bell. But, she told me, it was also really helpful to be able to share feeding responsibilities with Jordan as they both learned the routines of new parenthood. For Jordan’s part, he had been very attached to the idea of Cheryl breastfeeding their daughter. He grew up around breastfeeding, and he saw it as the normative and natural way for babies to be fed. But Jordan told me that he now appreciates that feeding, like all of parenting, is a “balance between ideals and practical realities.” Thinking about Amy Bell, he said: “Now that I’ve watched her grow into an active, alert, engaged, and advanced baby, I feel confident that her needs are being met.”2

Jordan is only bragging a little when he says that his daughter is advanced. Amy Bell is now 10 months old. It seems like she’s hit nearly every milestone a little ahead of schedule, and she’s never really been sick.3 She and Cee are both beloved in our family, and nobody would ever think to wonder whether they’d been fed differently as babies.

Comparing my and Cheryl’s breastfeeding stories, however, there is an impulse to call one a success and one a failure. That haunted me as I started working on this chapter. Cheryl’s experience was riddled with challenges that I never had to face, and she tried harder than I ever had to. Her story of struggling to make enough milk is just as common as my happy story of breastfeeding for two years. And by most reasonable measures, Amy Bell and Cee are both big successes: They’re happy, healthy, and well-nourished children, and both of our families have found our own ways of adjusting to new parenthood.

But for new mothers, it can be hard to find that perspective. Beginning in pregnancy (and often before), we all hear the same message: good mothers breastfeed–it’s one of the most important gifts you can give your baby. This message translates into tremendous pressure to breastfeed, and we’re quick to judge ourselves and each other if it doesn’t work out. It is because of this pressure and judgment that how we feed our babies has become one of the battles in the “mommy wars.” This is an unfortunate way to talk about feeding, one of the most important ways we care for our babies, whether by breast or by bottle.

Breastfeeding and its role in modern parenting is in part a story about science: how science has paved the way for good substitutes for breast milk while at the same time revealing the intricacies of breast milk, which no substitute is likely to replicate. But it’s also about how science is translated to real life. How is it molded into public health messages intended to alter women’s behavior? And what happens if breastfeeding, which should be the most natural way to feed babies, just doesn’t work?

A Short History of the Science of Infant Feeding

The ability to make milk to feed our young is what makes us mammals, and as humans, we evolved to produce a milk uniquely suited to meeting the nutritional and immunological needs of human babies. Breastfeeding is the biological norm, and it is how the majority of young infants have been fed throughout most of the history of our species.

There have always been substitutes for breastfeeding, though, and following their history is a fascinating way to follow the science of milk. For a long time, there was no science to guide infant feeding strategies; mothers and other caregivers just pieced together what they could. If a mother didn’t make enough milk, had to work away from home, or died in childbirth, or if a baby had an oral handicap that impeded nursing, then other options were needed. Sometimes this meant another lactating woman, maybe a family member or friend, would help nurse the baby, and sometimes a wet nurse was hired expressly for this purpose. Records of wet nurses go back at least as far as the third or fourth century BC.4

But if human milk wasn’t available, substitutes were used. Since wet nurses were being paid to feed another woman’s baby, sometimes their own babies would be denied enough milk from their moms and would need these substitutes.5 Almost as soon as cows and other dairy animals were domesticated, their milk was used for infants, sometimes placing babies directly on the teat to nurse.6 Infant feeding vessels have been found in children’s graves throughout the Roman Empire, dating back to 4000 BC.7 By the 1400s, soon after the invention of the printing press, printed books offered advice and recipes for homemade supplements called pap or panada. These usually contained a cooked combination of several ingredients, including cow’s or goat’s milk, bread crumbs, flour, meat broth, honey, egg, and sometimes even wine or beer.8 These concoctions could be used as the primary food for a baby or as a supplement to breast milk. Cross-cultural historical records indicate that two-thirds of preindustrialized societies introduced some solid foods to babies before 6 months of age, sometimes as early as a few weeks of life.9

Throughout most of history, it was probably self-evident that substitutes were inferior to breast milk and often resulted in illness. Ironically, this situation became especially dire in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when it was a common belief that boiling cow’s milk made it less nutritious. Raw milk was usually swimming in bacteria by the time it traveled, unrefrigerated, from farm to baby.10 During this time, babies fed breast milk substitutes suffered and died disproportionately from diarrhea, particularly during the summer months. In the late 1800s, nearly all bottle-fed infants in New York City orphanages died.11

Enter science. In the late 1800s, Louis Pasteur’s work showed that bacteria caused disease and that they could be killed with pasteurization. Water chlorination and modern sewage systems meant clean water for feeding and for cleaning bottles and nipples. By the early 1900s, the availability of kitchen iceboxes and canned evaporated milk meant that relatively safe formulas could be made at home.12

The study of nutrition was also exploding. By the late 1800s, scientists understood that not all milks are alike. Cow’s milk has more protein and less sugar than human milk, so scientists and pediatricians began recommending recipes meant to be a closer match. A common recipe that could be made at home called for one 13-ounce can of evaporated cow’s milk, 19 ounces of water, and 1 ounce of Karo corn syrup. Scurvy and rickets were common problems, but by the 1920s, supplementation with fruit or vegetable juice and cod liver oil decreased the incidence of these vitamin deficiency diseases.13

As science revealed more and more about nutrition, the recommended formula recipes grew more complex. Food companies stepped in to offer commercial products, relieving hospitals, institutions, and moms of having to make their own and creating a huge, profitable market. By the 1950s, commercial formulas had gained popularity and began to replace homemade recipes.14 These products were, for the most part, nutritionally adequate, clean, and consistent. For the first time in human history, babies could be exclusively fed a breast milk substitute without a noticeable risk to their health. Most parents and pediatricians assumed that formula was just as good as, if not better (being more “scientific”) than, breast milk. Mothers increasingly turned to doctors for advice, and doctors recommended that breastfeeding moms feed their infants on a schedule, typically every four hours. If that didn’t seem to satisfy the baby, then supplementation with formula was needed.15

Other societal changes made formula feeding the preferred choice for modern women. By the mid-1900s, most women were giving birth in hospitals, where they were separated from their babies soon after birth and allowed only brief, scheduled visits for feeding, making it difficult to establish breastfeeding.16 But women were also looking to break free of their duties as full-time mother and housewife. Particularly during World War II, formula allowed women to fill important jobs in the workforce, and after the war, they didn’t want to give up their careers.17 Breastfeeding went from necessary to optional to out of style. By 1970, it had reached an all-time low: only one in four infants were breastfed past one week of age.18

But around the same time, women began fighting for more freedom from medical authority in childbirth and parenting, and a renewed appreciation for breastfeeding was part of this movement.19 Scientists, meanwhile, were beginning to take a closer look at breast milk and were finding that it was much more than just a collection of nutrients. While formulas based on cow’s milk or soy can be made to contain a similar amount of protein, fat, and carbohydrate, these nutrients are of better quality and more easily digested in breast milk than in formulas.20 Breast milk also provides a dynamic suite of immunological proteins, growth factors, stem cells, digestive enzymes, hormones, and prebiotics.21 We can now appreciate that breast milk probably evolved to include many of these components because they’re good for babies, and investigating health outcomes in breastfed and formula-fed babies has been a very active area of research for the past several decades.

The history of breast milk substitutes is a reminder that they’ve always been needed, but only in very recent human history has science allowed for a safe alternative. That there is even a debate over breast versus bottle is made possible by science. It’s also fueled by the science examining potential benefits of breastfeeding. This science, however, is difficult to do and even harder to interpret in a meaningful way.


Read Brain, Child’s exclusive Q&A with Alice Callahan, PhD.

Alice Callahan, PhD is a former research scientist and now a writer and teacher. You can find more of her writing about parenting and science at her blog, Science of Mom.


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Excerpt: Mama Gone Geek

Excerpt: Mama Gone Geek

MamaGoneGeekThis is a sponsored excerpt from Lynn Brunelle’s  Mama Gone Geek: Calling on my Inner Science Nerd to Help Navigate the Ups and Downs of Parenthood.

Chapter 25

Sucking the Bounce

I can’t jump on the trampoline with my kids anymore.

Hell, I know it’s not even safe to let them do it in the first place; but there it is. I think the plusses outweigh the minuses.

Our trampoline, also known as a huge “attractive nuisance,” sits in the backyard right next to the awesome zip line Keith put in when he turned fifty. (Is there a correlation? Maybe.) Anyway, the trampoline has enabled my guys (and myself) to bounce-bounce-bounce in the loveliest of ways. It’s just wonderful to use that potential energy and transfer of energy to get so high in the air. God bless you, Isaac Newton!

“Mommy, Mommy, bounce with us, PLEASE!” Kai and Leo plead in tandem.

At first I thought it was because they just loved being with me and playing together. I cherish these moments, because as they get older, I know it’s only a matter of time before they won’t be able to handle the embarrassment of seeing their mother on the trampoline.

“Of course!” I say. No matter what I was doing, I would drop it and bounce. It’s fun! And not without side benefits. My aerobic capacity has increased, and my legs are downright steely.

It took me a while to realize what was really going on.

Leo’s agenda was to perfect his flips, twists, and other acrobatics. My job was to sit on the trampoline and watch him twist and spin through the air and then attempt my own version of “flipping,” which was a baby roll. Sad, but elegant in its way. Leo utilized my efforts as a benchmark of comparison to which his own stunts reflected like gold.

Anyone would look like an Olympian next to me. I was happy to serve my role.

While Leo perfected his gymnastics and his confidence, Kai was working some serious physics.


“Yes, Honey?”

“How does the trampoline make me bounce so high?”

“How do you think it might work?”

“I bounce down and it bounces me back up?”

“Exactly. Look, there’s a frame made of metal and all these springs. Then there’s the stretchy fabric. That’s a trampoline. Bounce down on it and you are loading this thing with energy. The springs stretch out and are loaded with power. When they snap back, they pull the fabric tight, and all the energy you put in with your jump flings you right back into the air.”

“So a big bounce makes me fly higher?”


“And the more I weigh, the bigger the bounce?”

“Yup. The harder you push down on the trampoline, the more energy is stored, the more powerful the snap back will be that will send you soaring through the air—”

“Come on Mom, BOUNCE!”

We did; but suddenly I was no longer sailing joyfully into the air. I was bouncing and working hard, but getting no lift. Kai, on the other hand, was flying higher than ever. He was figuring out how to jump at the exact spot and time to suck the energy from my considerable bounce and use it to fling himself sky high.

It was brilliant and exciting. It was also physically deflating and exhausting for me. My jumps were no longer high flying, but Kai’s were off the charts. We would go on like that for a time, and then I would collapse in a heap on the trampoline. Kai would join me and we’d look up into the trees overhead. One of us having sucked the bounce, the other sucking wind.

“I go SOOO high when I bounce with you!”

“Yup.” Pant. Pant. “Technically, the entire total of your energy is made up of the moving energy called kinetic energy plus the stored-in-the-springs energy—your potential energy.”

I may make a huge bounce and only be capable of a baby roll, but I could still pull my weight with science at least!

“Mommy, you have a LOT of stored energy!”

What mother wouldn’t love to hear that?

“Thanks, Honey.”

Kai was up and bouncing. Ready to make more experiments.

The fact that Kai used my energy to fly higher was a metaphor I could understand. It was beautiful in its way, but kind of frustrating. I still wanted the air.

Hell, I needed the air at that moment. I lay flat on the trampoline as Kai bounced. I breathed deeply. Still gasping. It was all I could do to keep up with my boys, but to launch them to new heights was exhausting my resources.

I gazed up into the air. It was late summer. The light slanted through the pine trees and the air itself with dotted with dandelion fluff, tree fuzz, and various tiny seeds and spores. It dawned on me that this trampoline dance of ours was more than just a metaphor for the energy that we put into parenting, it was a symbol for the nature of all things. Parents of all sorts stand up to launch their offspring—from the top of the heap right down to the bottom dwellers—as best they can into the world. It wasn’t just me. It was the throbbing life on the planet, all doing the same thing.

Ponder, as I did prone on the trampoline, the microscopic dung-loving fungi (called coprophilous—if you must know). It’s not an elegant job they provide but a necessary one. If not for microbes like these, we’d be up to our eyeballs in cow dung, horse dung, llama dung, and any other array of friendly herbivore dung. Not good.

The mature fungi have a challenge. In order to survive, they need to make sure their spores are eaten by the herbivores that produce the dung. It’s their circle of life. Think about that the next time you’re having a rough day. Spore into the cow—fungus pooped out.

Here’s the thing—even the dimmest herbivore knows not to graze near where it poops. Since poop is where the fungus lives, and it doesn’t have any legs to move around with, that makes it tough for a fungus to get its spores far enough away and into the path of a hungry herbivore. Its job is to make sure its spores are going to be eaten.

So these fungi have developed ways to really launch their spores out into the world: the stalks that grow out of the dung swell with fluid. The spore is perched on top. The fungus matures. It measures about 1/20 of an inch tall. The fluid builds up at the end and then BLAMMO—it explodes, shooting the spore at speeds of thirty-five feet per second! That’s the fastest recorded flight in nature! The spore gets height as well, reaching peaks of over six feet and landing eight feet away from the parent fungus. Technically the fungus can launch its seed over a cow from a dung pile to a patch of tasty grass in the blink of an eye. The mature fungus then collapses. Its job is done. Energy expended. Spore launched.

The irony is not lost on me.

Our boys were experimenting and staring down limitations of physical and epic proportions. It synced up perfectly with the beginning of the bittersweet journey into separation and identity, puberty, and beyond.

Kai and Leo needed me now. I was helping to load their springs. I know it won’t be long before they dazzle the world with the flips and heights they’ll reach on their own.

* * *

Mega Bounce

Use a basketball and a tennis ball to bounce the tennis ball higher than the roof.

What You Need

  • A basketball
  • A tennis ball

What You Do

  1. Hold the basketball at shoulder height, and with your other hand, hold the tennis ball directly on top of the basketball.
  2. Drop both balls at the same time.
  3. The tennis ball should bounce off the charts!

What’s Going On?

The basketball hits the ground, but that’s not all. The ground also hits the basketball giving it the energy for a “bounce.” The basketball is way heavier than the tennis ball, so it’s got a lot more energy in its bounce. With the tennis ball on top of the basketball, the basketball hits the ground, it bounces back up and hits the tennis ball. So now some of the basketball’s energy gets transferred to the tennis ball. It may not be much to the basketball, but to the tennis ball, it’s a huge amount of energy. The basketball kind of flops. It doesn’t bounce high at all. But the tennis ball bounces super high! It gets launched! It’s all about energy transfer!

Read an interview with Lynn Brunelle.


Excerpt: Not Exactly as Planned

Excerpt: Not Exactly as Planned

NotExactlyAsPlanned-FrontCoverSix Years In: A Diagnosis

This is a sponsored excerpt from Linda Rosembaum’s memoir Not Exactly As Planned. To be published October 20, 2014.

My husband Robin and I trudged off to The Hospital for Sick Children, our 6-year-old son Michael in tow. We were told that a child psychiatrist would collect background information about Michael at this meeting, followed by neurological tests a week later.

A tall man in a white lab coat met us in the waiting room. He introduced himself to Robin and me, and explained that he was a teaching fellow working under the clinic’s director. I was a little uncomfortable because he hadn’t introduced himself to Michael. Perhaps I had made a mistake by bringing him. The doctor assured me otherwise and led us to his office.

Without yet making eye contact or any other form of connection with Michael, he opened a file containing blank sheets of paper. He grabbed a pen, and began the questioning.

“Tell me when problems with Michael began to surface?” he asked. “When did you start to notice he was different?”

Robin and I looked at each other but said nothing. A little confused about what was happening, we just stared at the doctor, as if we hadn’t heard his question.

“Perhaps it might be easier for you to tell me what makes Michael so difficult.”

My stomach was churning. I could see the doctor getting frustrated by our silence but he pursued his line of questioning. “How does Michael differ from other children his age?”

Neither my husband nor I were about to answer. They were fair questions, all of which deserved answering. But we were not going to rhyme off a list of Michael’s problems in front of him. We were there to get help for Michael, not make him feel bad about himself. What were we supposed to say: “He was trouble from the day we brought him home?”

The doctor put down his pen and looked at us as if we were idiots, but carried on with his line of questioning. Both Robin and I remained tongue-tied.

“Tell me about the problems Michael’s birth mother had.”

I’d had enough. Michael’s birth mother had plenty of problems, but nothing Michael needed to learn about in a doctor’s office, if ever. It took me too long, but I eventually mustered the nerve to say, “Could I speak to you outside?”

The doctor and I got up and walked into the hallway. I shut the door behind me.

“I’m sorry to sound rude,” I said, noting that I was saying “sorry to sound rude” more and more before I said something, usually rude. “But I think your questions are inappropriate to discuss in front of Michael.” I was on a roll that I wouldn’t be stopping anytime soon.

“He doesn’t know the sordid details of his birth mother’s life, and you’re asking us these questions before even saying hello to Michael or explaining who you are?” I wasn’t sure what to say next, so ended with “I don’t want to go on with the interview.”

I thought the doctor’s eyes might pop out in front of me.

I excused myself, went back into the office and told Robin and Michael to pack up. “We’re leaving,” I said, and from my tone, they knew not to ask why.

I put in a call the next morning to the director of the Child Development Clinic to explain my actions during the previous day’s fiasco. I started with my usual apology. “I’m really sorry to be making trouble, but…” Though furious with yesterday’s doctor, I made sure not to rant and be dismissed as a lunatic. I took a deep breath and calmly explained what I felt the problems were with the previous day’s interview. I let the director know I hoped I hadn’t done anything to stand in the way of Michael’s getting proper care. “We need the clinic’s expertise.”

The wonderful Dr. Wendy Roberts listened, sympathetically. She understood my point of view. She would be pleased to take on Michael herself as his doctor.

Robin and I took Michael back the following week. Dr. Roberts and several members of her staff spent a day interviewing Michael, reviewing his medical and growth charts, testing his cognitive and neurological abilities, measuring social interactions and developmental milestones. Robin and I were on hold emotionally. On the one hand, we were scared to think there might be something seriously wrong with Michael. On the other, if there was something wrong, we could fix it. Right?

We still had self-doubts about our parenting, but among the many gifts our daughter Sarah had given us was the belief that maybe we were not so bad after all. Everything seemed to come so naturally for her, and therefore for us. If we hadn’t adopted Sarah to retest our parenting, Robin and I would have felt even guiltier than we did, assuming we were the central cause of Michael’s difficulties. Many friends had tried to reassure us with the phrase “It’s not you,” but that only helped a bit. It didn’t compete with the cold stares we had to endure in public places when Michael was wailing, or comments from strangers about his need for “more discipline.” All added to our self-doubt and chipped away at our strength.

The following week, we returned to Dr. Roberts’ office. Greeting us in the waiting room as before, she smiled warmly, offered a firm hand, and led us to her office. “I have the results from last week’s tests on Michael,” she told us. “I’m sure the wait was difficult.”

She was right. It was difficult, but it wasn’t only the week that had been hard. In some ways, we had been waiting for this moment since Michael was born in 1987. It was now 1993. During that wait, there were times I actually hoped one of Michael’s doctors would find something wrong so we could get on with the business of fixing it. More selfishly, I thought a diagnosis could expiate the never-ending stream of guilt and shame Robin and I were drowning in from Michael’s problems, and our inability to make them go away. Of course I felt shame having these thoughts. What kind of mother wishes for doctors to find something wrong with her child?

I watched as Dr. Roberts rummaged through a rumpled stack of papers on her desk. I tried to read her face. She was giving nothing away.

“After discussion with my staff,” she began, “we’ve settled on a diagnosis.” The fluids in my stomach took a nosedive.

She continued riffling through her piles, eventually pulling out two photocopied sheets of canary yellow paper. Without saying a word, she handed a copy to both Robin and me. A hand drawn outline of a child’s face was sketched on the page. Features, including eyes, nose, ears, and mouth were filled in and had handwritten labels attached to them.

Robin and I looked up from our sheets and stared at each other. I was the first to break the silence. “It looks exactly like Michael,” I said flatly, as if shell-shocked.

“The resemblance is uncanny,” Robin added. “It’s eerie.”

“The drawing is used as a teaching aid at medical schools,” Dr. Roberts said, “to train budding pediatricians.”

I looked at the drawing again, and for the first time noted the small letters printed on top. The sheet was titled Common Facial Features of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. I looked at Robin, also studying the drawing, and noticed a slight smile forming on his lips. I understood. He must have just read the title too. It was the smile that comes upon discovery of something excitingly new, beautiful, profound, or so wrenching you can’t deal with the feelings it brings.

“Oh my god,” he said in a subdued voice, eyes still glued to the paper.

There was no room for disbelief or protest. Flat midface, short nose, indistinct philtrum (the area above the upper lip), thin upper lip, minor ear abnormalities, low nasal bridge. Check. Check. Check.

All I could think was, “Kira had been drinking with Michael too.” The liar. Why hadn’t we put all this together earlier?

Even though Michael’s half-brother Andrew had been diagnosed with fetal alcohol effects (now known as “alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder” – ARND), considered a lesser form of the syndrome, our pediatrician never suggested the same might be true for Michael. In retrospect, I wasn’t sure why. Whatever the reason, we must have engaged in a strong case of denial on our own part. When we heard about Andrew’s diagnosis, why hadn’t we questioned whether Michael should be checked too? But because of Andrew, I had done a bit of reading about the syndrome. Enough to understand that the diagnosis Dr. Roberts just gave us meant our son was brain-damaged.
If we had been in denial, we were no longer. A part of our Michael’s brain was destroyed while in his birthmother Kira’s womb. He was damaged in a way that said, if you looked at the statistics of the time, our son would quit school, never be able to hold a job, live on the streets or worse. We would have the next ten or fifteen years, at best, to see if we could change the prognosis.

Tears streamed down my face. Robin, knowing me well, had come prepared. He reached into his pocket and handed me a tissue.

Dr. Roberts finally spoke. “You’ll recognize Michael when I tell you that the earliest characteristics of FAS during infancy include trembling and irritability. The child may cry a lot, act agitated. As the child gets older, he may ‘flit’ from one thing to another; have short attention spans; be prone to temper tantrums and non-compliance; is easily distracted; often hyperfocuses and doesn’t respond well to changes, particularly when required to move from one activity to another.” The list went on.

“But Michael’s birthmother said she didn’t drink during her pregnancy,” I said, noting how little conviction I had in my voice.

“If at all possible, I suggest you go back and check with her again. Unfortunately, we’ve seen this before. The drinking history she gave you is incorrect.” Dr. Roberts left no room for doubt. After seeing the line drawing, we knew she was right. Yes, Kira had lied.

Dr. Roberts explained that fetal alcohol disorders vary and are manifested in different ways, depending on when the mother drank and what areas of the fetus’s brain were affected. Tests showed Michael’s brain damage manifested as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); possible oppositional disorder and severe learning disabilities. His relentless skin picking was possibly some form of obsessive-compulsive disorder, or perhaps a Tourette’s syndrome type tic.

“I know you won’t be surprised to hear that Michael has some autistic characteristics too,” she continued. “They showed up in his interactions with other children, but aren’t significant enough to be labelled Asperger’s syndrome, the type of autism he is considered closest to. But that explains his tendency to parallel play rather than interact directly with other children.”

Dr. Wendy Roberts was a pioneer in the field of FAS and was devoting her career to families with children like Michael. She was one of the few pediatric specialists in Canada who could diagnosis the syndrome, unnamed and absent in the medical literature until 1973. That explained why Michael had been to so many doctors during his short lifetime, yet none of them even hinted at the possibility of FAS. Nobody knew anything about it. The problems associated with drinking during pregnancy eventually became common knowledge, but very few medical professionals had ever heard of fetal alcohol syndrome at the time of Michael’s birth in 1987.

To Dr. Roberts’ great disappointment, the syndrome had been studied minimally since first named, though interest was starting to gain momentum. She was disappointed that more attention, money and research had been directed to crack babies. Despite the mythology and sensationalized media hype surrounding these newborns, evidence was showing that crack was much less harmful in utero than alcohol.

“The toxic effects of alcohol are devastating to the fetus,” Dr. Roberts added. “I personally don’t think there is any safe limit, though the jury is still out on the issue.”

“What does all of this mean for us, Dr. Roberts? What can we expect, what should we do?” I asked.

“Unfortunately, there’s little research to tell us what the future holds for Michael. Recent findings are based on children diagnosed in their teens,” she said. “It means they hadn’t been diagnosed early enough for caregivers to make significant interventions in their lives.” She was trying to soften the blows of the dismal futures predicted in the literature. It wasn’t hard to see the effect her words were having on us. Robin was slouched in his chair, his eyes moist. I was unusually quiet, unable to dam a torrent of tears.

“If early interventions had been made,” she continued, “the children might have fared better.” The majority of those studied led lives as predicted. They had dropped out of school, were living on the streets, unemployed or on welfare and were repeatedly in and out of jail by the time they hit twenty.

“The part of their brain that affects impulse control is damaged,” she continued. “So is their ability to learn from their mistakes or understand cause and effect as we do. They may feel remorseful after doing something wrong, but it doesn’t mean they will have the impulse control not to do the same thing again. That may explain why they’re in and out of the prison system.”

“I don’t want you to be too upset from all this literature,” she added, seeing our distress.

“Michael is only six. With early diagnosis and intervention, he has a better chance than those kids for success in life.” She suggested we make an appointment for the following week to discuss the possible use of meds to help with some of Michael’s symptoms.

“You two have already done a wonderful job with Michael. Most kids with FAS can’t bear to be touched and many don’t bond with their parents. The fact that he is so warm and connected with you is a testament to your love and hard work. He’s lucky to have you.”

Hearing the kindness in her words, desperately welcomed and needed, my sobs deepened. Tears of sorrow. Tears of relief – a diagnosis telling us something was physically wrong with Michael relieved some of the guilt. And tears of rage – at Kira, the world, the gods, the Fates, everything and everybody – except Michael.

In my gut, I had believed something was wrong with Michael, no matter what doctors said. Now, I no longer had to pretend everything was fine. I wouldn’t have to make excuses for Michael, Robin or myself. We no longer had to listen to someone telling us Michael was bad. We didn’t have to live with the confusion of ambiguity. We could take action, move forward. We could help Michael and turn the tide of expected events.

“I feel hopeful,” I said to Dr. Roberts, with remarkable energy, then looked over to Robin. He was still slouching in his chair, bleary-eyed. I sensed it would be best to keep my momentary optimism to myself. Who knew how long it would last. Probably not very.

Linda Rosenbaum ( is an award-winning writer and lives on Toronto Island where she raised her children. She has worked in TV, documentary films and advocates on behalf of children with special needs. Her story about her son, “Wolf Howling At Moon,” won the Readers Choice Award in the 2013 Canada Writes literary contest for creative nonfiction.

Interview with Linda Rosenbaum

NotExactlyAsPlanned-FrontCover Excerpted from Not Exactly as Planned,Copyright (Demeter Press © 2014) by Linda Rosenbaum. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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