5 Benefits of Breastfeeding From a Minimalist’s Perspective

**Disclaimer: This article is simply about the benefits of breastfeeding from a minimalist’s perspective. I am aware that, “not all women can breastfeed.” I have seen a couple of mother’s who wanted nothing more than to breastfeed their child and have a really hard time. It is heartbreaking. Instead of sweeping the issue of breastfeeding vs. formula/bottle feeding under the rug as an attempt to not offend some, I prefer respectful sharing of proper breastfeeding education and encouraging more breastfeeding support for new moms. With more proper education and support for women we can have better breastfeeding outcomes for mothers and their babies. The truth is that nursing our babies is important. No woman should EVER be shamed for how she is feeding her baby, AND it’s still important that we keep the discussion going. Babies lives quite literally depend on it. If you’d like to learn more about the health benefits of breastfeeding for a year and beyond, you can read about them here, here and here.**

Breastfeeding is one of the best things you can do for your baby. The body naturally makes this perfect food for your young with health and healing properties that are nothing short of magic. There is now a lot of science backing the importance of breast milk, and more and more women are educating themselves on the benefits of nursing for a year and beyond.

I like to think of myself as a minimalist, and I have been described as such. I am not a big consumer. I don’t own much stuff, and I am in the process of downsizing even more. I buy second hand or friends give me things for free. I have dumpster dived. I own a single pair of jeans and one (maybe two?) pair of shoes. I don’t own cable TV (or even a TV for that matter). I didn’t have that urge to make a nursery for my son before he was born, so I didn’t. My food is for the most part, clean and simple (because who doesn’t like a vegan doughnut from time to time, eh?). I have been a member of the no ‘poo club for coming up on four years, and don’t remember the last time I have taken so much as an Advil. I rely on herbal tea, healthy food and a lot of rest to get me through my aches and ails. I don’t go to the doctor and I get a little hard on myself when I forget my reusable bags when I go grocery shopping. I forget that people still buy things like paper towels and trash bags. For me, I have learned that in many ways less is better. By doing and having less in so many areas of my life I have gained more in the areas that are valuable to me. I now have more happiness, more time, more freedom and more healthy days.

That’s great and all, but what does this have to do with breastfeeding, you ask? Well, although I knew I would breastfeed my son for all the health benefits, I would sort of be lying if I said it wasn’t because it serves the minimalist in me, too. Maybe you already know the health benefits of nursing, but you wonder, is it easier? Is it efficient? The short answer is yes. If you’re on the path to becoming minimalist then breastfeeding is still the perfect option for you. Here are 5 benefits of breastfeeding from a minimalist’s perspective:

  1. It’s free.

We minimalists love free shit. Anytime you don’t have to spend money feels like hitting the jackpot for a minimalist. Some people call it being cheap, I call it being resourceful. The world already has so much stuff and everything we need. We don’t need to keep buying things brand new. It’s wasteful and unsustainable. They say the best things in life are free and breast milk is no exception.

2. Less STUFF.

I heard someone say one time that the majority of life is just moving around piles of stuff. Minimalists hate clutter and owning a bunch of stuff. More stuff equals less freedom for a minimalist like myself. Not just at home, but even when I am out and about or traveling I can’t stand lugging around a bunch of stuff. One light, medium-sized bag is all I need and that didn’t change when I had a child. A couple of diapers, a change of clothes, a snack and I’m out the door. My home is no different. I feel best with less occupying my drawers, shelves, cabinets and counter tops. If you so choose to feed your child from the breast then you get to avoid bottles, pumps, drying racks, brushes, storage bags, bottle warmers, etc. People will always try to give you more stuff when you have a baby. It’s good though because it all makes for nice re-gifting items. AKA more free shit.

*I know certain circumstances require a mother to pump. I think it’s important to give your baby breast milk the best way you can, even if that means through a bottle. Remember, I am simply writing about breastfeeding from a minimalist’s perspective and to be a minimalist or an aspiring one doesn’t mean you have to be perfect at minimizing every aspect of your life.* 

3. More time for other things.

OK-Does pumping bottles, prepping bottles, warming bottles and cleaning bottles take up THAT much time? Maybe not, but it can add up. Minimalists like me like to maximize their time in order to have freedom to do things they enjoy doing. One way we do this is by not doing things we find unnecessary or tedious. Having a baby is already a lot of work in itself. The less I have to manage, clean and take care of, the better, because babies can be a handful, especially if you have more than one to look after.

4. It’s better for the environment.

A significant part of being a minimalist is minimizing your carbon footprint. The manufacturing and packaging of bottle feeding products such as paper, plastic and tin contributes to A LOT of waste and toxins. Not to mention the effects the dairy industry-who makes the formula- has on the environment. The dairy industry is known for contributing to air pollution from methane gas and water pollution because of sewage from dairy cows and water runoff of soil, pesticides and manure. You also have to take into consideration the toll transporting all these products has on the environment. For a very detailed and thought provoking outline of the many ways not breastfeeding effects the environment, read this article, BREASTFEEDING AND THE ENVIRONMENT. Some pretty interesting stuff that we often never even consider.

5. Less sick days, doctor’s visits and medication.

One result of minimizing your life is that you get healthier. I think it’s a combination of less stuff = less stress, eating healthier whole foods as a result of not buying a bunch of packaged processed food and making your own meals at home from scratch vs eating out. Ever since I began my journey as a minimalist I haven’t taken any medication, been to the doctor and I am rarely sick. When I do get sick I get over it very quickly, as in like less than a day in many cases. I have also drastically changed my diet but that’s another blog post! Studies show babies who are exclusively breastfed are sick less often than formula fed babies and experience less gastrointestinal issues and ear infections. They also are less likely to develop diabetes and certain cancers. Breastfeeding also lowers their risk of obesity. Don’t even get me started on all the health benefits it has for us mothers, too! If you want to know about all the things that breastfeeding helps prevent then see the links I provided in the disclaimer at the top.

My 15 month old has only been sick once during a difficult bout of teething, he’s never been to the doctor or been on any type of medicine. I attribute this largely to him being breastfed. You know what you also get when you’re not spending so much time in the doctor’s office? See number 3 🙂

That’s my complete list of breastfeeding benefits from a minimalist’s perspective? Are you a minimalist? Or do you want to be one? 

 

 

Crunchy Mama’s Play Day Bars (V + GF Recipe).

Many people might not know that I spend a lot of time in my kitchen. It’s basically where you can bet to find me if I’m not outside or sleeping. Preparing food is like a meditation for me that puts me right in my element. It is a place I feel confident and nourished. Not only  by the food itself, but in the preparation of it. I have always loved food, but the way I love it has changed over the last 6-7 years as my diet has evolved. I grew up ailed with many issues ranging from extreme allergies to anxiety and depression. With a lot of research I cured myself without the help of western medicine. My passion for food turned into using it as something that nourishes, heals, and prevents sickness and disease.

My family and I follow a plant-based diet. I love juicing, cooking, preparing, baking, and whipping up smoothies. I get so much satisfaction out of attempting to recreate plant-based versions of my favorite foods. Not to toot my own horn, but I am pretty good at it. I think that is why I enjoy it so much. As a minimalist and someone who finds eating healthy really important, I like my recipes to be clean and simple. Not to mention quick and efficient. I do have a 14 month old at my feet, after all.

These food bars are a perfect mom and toddler food for a couple of reasons:

One, they are a dense energy food. Good for on the go moms, breastfeeding moms, and moms who wanna be healthy but crave sweet treats. I could eat a whole batch and not feel guilty. They are good for toddlers because they are easy to chew, hearty and healthy for a growing child.

The other reason these are so great is that you can make them in 20 minutes and they last for days. With kids it’s not always easy to prepare healthy food. Well, I could argue that, but that’s the idea, right? As far as food, nothing sounds better to a mom than quick, easy AND healthy.

Lastly, these food bars are versatile. You can make them many different ways and customize them to fit your taste preferences. More on that in a bit.

But who am I kidding? These are good for anyone, kids or no kids.

So let’s get started!

What you will need:

  • A food processor or Vitamix (or any good quality high speed blender)
  • A mixing bowl
  • oven or dehydrator
  • 9″ pan or oven safe dish (if you use the oven option)
  • Spatula or smooth wooden spoon

 

Photo_2016-01-17_03-25-19_PMIngredients:

In this recipe there are only 3 main ingredients. Everything else is optional. The three must have *ingredients are:

  • 2 medium-sized ripe bananas
  • 1 3/4-2 cups gluten free quick rolled oats
  • 1 cup soaked dates or soaked dried figs

*organic if possible

Optional ad-ins include things like:

  • nuts (pecans, walnuts, cashews, etc.)
  • dried fruit such as apricots, blueberries, raisins, etc.
  • shredded coconut
  • chocolate chips
  • sprouted buckwheat

The possibilities are pretty endless. It’s whatever your heart desires, or simply what you have on hand. For this recipe I sprinkled in pecans, organic shredded coconut, and organic raisins.

-The first things you’ll want to do is soak the dates or figs in warm water, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. You will want the dates (or figs) to soak for at least 20 minutes.

-Next, blend the two bananas in the blender until creamy smooth. You might need just a tiny bit of water to get the blades going.

-Then pour the oats and the blended bananas into the mixing bowl. Sprinkle in your favorite ad-ins, like the nuts and dried fruit, and stir it all together.

-Now clean out the empty banana blender and throw in the dates (or figs). Again, add just enough water to get the blender going. You want it to turn out like a paste, not watery. Also, I added a teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg to my dates (yummy). Turn the blender or food processor on high until it becomes a thick, pasty consistency. Keep it in the blender.

-Take your pan and give it a little coat of oil so your bars won’t stick to the pan. I use coconut oil. Take your oat/banana mixture and half it. I just put half on one side of the bowl and the other half on the other side.

-Take the first half and smooth it out into the pan with your hands until it covers the bottom surface.Photo_2016-01-17_03-22-41_PM

-Then take a spatula or smooth wooden spoon and add a generous layer of date (fig) paste to the top of the oats until it covers the surface of them. Photo_2016-01-17_03-23-48_PM

-Finally, add the second half of oat/banana mixture to the top of the date (fig) layer, and smooth it out just like you did with the first half until it covers the top surface. So now it’s like a sandwich with oats on bottom, dates in the middle, and oats on top. Capeesh?

Now throw that bad boy in the oven for 12-14 minutes.

*If you’re doing the dehydrating option I am not sure how long they need to be in there, but until they are a more solid, chewy consistency. 

When you take them out, give them a minute to cool and then you can cut them into squares. Here’s the chewy gooey goodness:

IMG_20160117_095555

There ya go! Enjoy ’em, peeps!

 

 

*If you make them, let me know how they turned out in the comments below!*

 

 

 

6 Things to Do Instead of Helicopter Parenting Your Young Children

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*Note: the information I am writing about here mostly applies to children 3 years of age and younger since that’s the age I am around and witness the most. I do talk briefly about older children, too.*

The other day I was at the playground with my partner and our 14 month old son. I kept hearing a man’s voice shout over and over, “Emily! Emily!” At first it was simply background noise, but after a while of hearing him I started to wonder what it was about. Eventually I focused my attention on the man and who I am only assuming was his daughter (Emily). Once I got more present with their situation he sounded more like this:

“Emily! Over here, over here! This way! Emily, look look! Turn it this way, Emily. Now the other way. Look over here! Come here! Sit down. Slide down now. Yea, good girl!”

It was yet another situation of Helicopter Parenting, and in this particular instance the parent was heavily invested in leading and being in charge of the child’s play. Unfortunately though, with this much direction from her dad, it turns out to not be much for play at all.

Urban Dictionary accurately describes a Helicopter Parent as: “A parent who hovers over their child, regardless of their child’s needs and desires. An overprotective parent who does not want their child to face any difficulty without their parent’s help.”

I could literally write a short book detailing all of the instances of helicopter parenting I have witnessed and that my son has been effected by. Some borderline on neurotic at best, insanity at worst. On several occasions I have posted on social media about a few times helicopter parenting has come into my reality and pissed me off. Now I am writing a blog about it, so some people may be wondering why I care so much or why this is important to me. The reason is this:

The urge and insistence to have so much control over our children comes from a deep cultural (often unconscious) belief that children are dumb (or not as smart as us) and that they don’t require or deserve the same respect we pay our adult peers. Therefore, children often grow up on some level to be psychologically, emotionally, and even physically stunted. Because this behavior towards infants and kids is so common place in our culture, what is accepted as “normal” adult human behavior and abilities is often below the reality of true human potential. I often hear the argument, “My parents did XYandZ and I turned out fine.”

Yes, we are fine in a culture with depressingly low standards of “fine.”

I don’t mean to sound dramatic or harsh on anyone. I am not perfect. I was not raised perfect. No one is. What I do know is that we can do better, and part of doing better is cultivating a deep sense of trust and respect for our children. They desperately want it from us. Sometimes their way of asking for it can come out in ways that we interpret as “bad” behavior. Then our image of them is that they are “bad,” so we tighten the rope a little more and the cycle continues. Let’s break the cycle.

Maybe after reading this far you have identified yourself as a helicopter parent. If you find yourself saying, “Yes, this sounds like me, but how do I begin to stop and give my child more freedom,” then keep reading. It might feel difficult at first, unnatural even, but over time I truly believe that you and your child(ren) will be much happier because of it. Shifting the fundamental way we see and engage with our children will inevitably grow you as a person, as well. I came up with 6 ways you can actively start giving your child the respect and freedom he deserves. The first one is:

1.) Let the child lead their own play. 

At the beginning of this article I gave the example of the dad who was directing his daughter on the playground. Literally, the only thing you need to do is follow your child, or know where they are at depending on their age.  Play comes naturally for them, especially at such a young age where everything is new. They don’t need us to tell them how to play. Many times, following my son means we end up in the bathroom or some other place that is no longer the designated play area. We live next to a grocery store that has a children’s playscape outside that we frequent. Our son often wanders from the play area and leads us onto the deck, into the store, he climbs up the stairs and plays with things on the shelf. When he does stay on the playground nothing is off limits because of his age. We let him try to climb the highest surfaces, go up the many steps to the slide and wait for him on the other side of long tunnels. Which leads me to number two..

2.) Spot your child, but don’t hold them.

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Baby is clearly unhappy on the right.

This is so important because often times we think little kids are naturally wobbly and uncoordinated. This couldn’t be further from the truth. They are this way when we constantly hold them as they are trying to walk or climb and pick them up and put them on their feet when they fall. They can never get a feel for their balance or master the repertoire of motions needed to be strong, steady, and coordinated with their movements. I can give you a couple of examples.

One time I saw a little girl about two or three years old walking through the woods on a trail with her mom. The mom stood behind her, holding the little girl’s hands up above her head, thinking this was giving her balance and ease as they went over rocky terrain. If she ever did let go of her hands, the little girls legs were wobbly and she would fall very easily. When she would fall her mother would pick her up, put her on her feet and proceed to hold her arms up again. This little girl didn’t have a chance to fully sense and get a feel for her environment with her own body.

Another thing I see often is with little babies under a year of age and a little older who have yet mastered many skills. On the playground, since they can’t climb or sometimes even walk yet, I see their caregiver pick them up as they are attempting to climb the steps and put them on the platform where the slide is, or even sit them on the top of the slide. The unconscious idea is that the baby has a goal (get to the top or go down the slide) and that they can’t so we have to put them there. The thing is, at that age they are learning and exploring their range of movement and learning new skills. All they see is THIS step and they want to learn to master THIS step. Again, by directing their play and assuming the goal or the point of play for the child, we’re keeping them of learning important skills for optimal physical development. I am not exaggerating when I say that I get comments on Rahzi’s physical ability daily. He’s so “fast,” “sturdy,” “coordinated,” and “good on his feet,” they say. I don’t say this to brag (well, maybe a little), but to display what a 14 month old is capable of. He already climbs up the steps and goes down the tall slide all by himself. He runs fast and goes up and down stairs without holding the side rail for support, and he loves climbing up and down rocks. Our son has also never worn shoes, which helps immensely with stability and posture, but that’s another blog post. An alternative to holding your child’s hands and body and picking them up to do everything is to be close by and spot them. That way if they fall you can quickly catch them. Also, be the judge on what’s a good fall and what’s a bad fall. It’s okay if they fall a few inches on packed dirt. They learn to fall gracefully.

3.) Learn to be okay with breaking some rules and getting some stares because of it.

Let’s face it, many of us don’t live in a world that values radical freedom for children. When you start to let your child lead more they might start to do some unruly things, let me tell you. They might crawl up from the bottom of the slide rather than slide down from the top. I am serious. I have been very surprised with how many parents take serious issue with the way their child is using the slide. What do we come to the playground for if we can’t loosen up? Making sure a toy or object is used exactly how it is intended to is very important in helicopter land, but you gotta LET IT GO. LET IT GO-OOOO!

All Frozen references aside, if your child wants to crawl up the slide or use a drum as a launching pad then we will all be better off if you could bend the rules a bit. I am not suggesting no boundaries or condoning the destruction of property. You know the difference.

The other day we were at a children’s museum and a little girl younger than two kept throwing a fake, plastic egg on the floor. Her mother repeated over and over to her, “Don’t throw it. No throwing. We don’t throw toys.” Really, though, what is throwing it harming? It’s can’t break and she wasn’t throwing it at or near anyone. I think often times the behavior of our children has less to do with them and more to do with what we think other people will think of us. Plastic egg throwing?! Savage, they say! Again, let it go. People’s opinions will be there no matter what. Kids have a lot of energy and sometimes throwing things and banging sticks is a way to release that energy. Our job isn’t to stuff it down and stop them, but rather, our job is to provide a safe environment that is conducive for that behavior.

“Yes, you can bang the stick, but make sure you hit the ground or a tree, not people.”

“Yes, scream, let it out. If you want to scream go outside, or here, scream into this pillow.”

I actually take joy in watching a parent tell their kid to not do something and then not stopping or managing my son when he attempts the same thing. In many instances it gives the other parent permission to relax and give in to their child’s innocent desires. My son likes to throw things. One thing he likes to throw are my glass bottles of essential oils when we are in the bath. I usually redirect him and show him he can throw them in the water where they are safe. Of course, there are going to be times when your child wants to throw or play with something that is actually off limits, like Aunt Debbie’s china plate. At these times it is appropriate to set gentle boundaries.

4.) Give children the opportunity to solve problems on their own (yes, even little babies).

The most common form of helicopter parenting you will probably see is parental intervention in times of conflict. This displays our lack of trust in children as capable problem solvers. It often looks like telling and forcing children to share. I can’t tell you how many times my 14 month old has walked right up to a kid, snatched a toy from their hand, and when the child rightfully attempts to take it back, a parent immediately jumps in saying, “You need to share. Share with the baby.” No, your child doesn’t need to give up the toy he was playing with just because someone decided they wanted it. The same way we don’t need to give up our cell phones to anyone who comes up and takes them from us. Plus, I wouldn’t want my child to think that people have to give up their belongings simply because he takes it from them.

I think we project our deeply held beliefs about ourselves onto our children. The quick insistence to make our children sacrifice their things and always accommodate to others (often shows up as “get out of the way for these people/kids”) is a reflection of many people’s ideas about themselves being in the way or not worthy of having exactly what they want, etc. 

I have been blessed with a few occasions where for whatever reason the parents didn’t intervene during a conflict. What happens is truly remarkable and proof of how amazing children are. Yes, even babies. What happens is they either decide on their own who gets the toy and the one who doesn’t want it bad enough happily walks away, or better, they make a game out of it and the conflict turns into play. Sometimes they will be in a deadlock and emotions will run high. I watched my son get incredibly frustrated with a child who was NOT willing to give up his toy. My boy had met his match, and it made him very upset. It’s okay then to step in as a helper and guide, but still important that you aren’t making decisions for them. I think in this particular instance the struggle was about over by the time I stepped in, and I reflected back what was happening. “You both wanted that toy really bad. You are very frustrated now.”

Hitting and biting.

Another frequent occurrence, especially for toddlers, is hitting and biting. Know that this behavior is normal for not yet verbal children or children who are not taught to properly communicate their wants and needs. While normal, it still doesn’t feel good, so if our child smacks another on the face it can feel like a knee jerk reaction to aggressively reprimand her. It’s important that you don’t because it is easy to rob your child of the opportunity to feel empathy for the person they hurt, and feeling another’s pain is what will make us not want to hurt them again. If when they hit someone and you immediately start shaming, punishing and forcing apologies, then their attention goes to the feelings of shame and embarrassment, or confusion if they are really young. They don’t feel the other person, they just feel like a bad person. We never want our child’s motivation to be from a place of shame and fear. If we can pause and let them see and feel the other child as they cry then they can learn empathy. You can tell them how it feels when they hit, and show the other child your own empathy for them. If you’re close enough to your child and you know they are about to take a swing before they do, then blocking hands and redirecting is helpful, too. This is really hard for many because we can look really apathetic to other parents if we don’t show much action after our child hits someone. We think they are expecting us to punish our kids, and they probably are. Maybe they don’t understand, but only we know what is best for our child. Leading by example and showing other people a radical new way of handling things can be a gift. Also, note that aggressive behavior is sometimes a sign of an unmet need that only you the parent can investigate to see what that is.

5.) Give choices, not demands.

This one is pretty straight forward. It displays respect when we give our children options instead of orders. Let your child be in charge of their life as much as they can be. Just because they are little doesn’t make them less human. Living isn’t something to be earned with adulthood, it is a birth right that starts the moment you are born. As parents we have the job of providing our children with all the information and resources to make the best decisions. If this isn’t something you are used to you can start by asking them what they want for lunch and letting them choose what they wear. Yes, even if the outfit is totally bizarre by your standards. To take it a step further, ask how they want to spend their time. I am pretty radical, so when my son is old enough I will leave it up to him if he even wants to go to school or not. To some people this might be extreme, but this is his life. A person spends a lot of time in a classroom when they choose a traditional schooling route. Why would I force him to spend a lot of his life doing something he didn’t enjoy? Life is happening NOW. Not after high school, or college, or after you get married, or get the career you want. It’s now.

For really little ones giving options can be as simple as asking questions.

“Do you want to put your shoes on yourself or do you want me to help you?”

For us it’s more like, “Do you want to wear shoes or not?”

“Do you want to walk or would you like to be carried?”

You get the idea..

And last but not least,

6.) Start seeing your child as if they already know everything they need to know up to this moment.

This is where we fundamentally shift the way we see our kids. I think the common way we view babies especially, is that they are born with nothing, void of knowledge and wisdom, and it is our job to fill them up with the proper information and teach them the ways. On some level this is true, we do offer the role as their guide. The way I see it is that children are born with everything they need to know and our job is to simply provide the environment to let their innate self, knowledge and wisdom to unfold. They don’t need to be taught how to be. They need space and love to feel safe, respect to foster their confidence, and freedom to be the mystery of who they already are. Meet your child with a curiosity and desire to know who they are rather than assuming who they are and will be and trying to fit them into that box. Curiosity makes parenting way more fun and less stressful. Not to mention, trying to control a free being is exhausting.

Before I end I want to note that this isn’t neglectful parenting. It’s about being there when it’s necessary and not when it’s not. Along with what I talked about here I am also a passionate advocate for attachment parenting, which is the opposite of neglectful parenting. This also isn’t passive parenting. You can still implement loving, healthy boundaries the same way you might with a friend. It’s okay to say no, just look closely at what you are saying no to. Aim to be a yes as much as possible, even if that means you have to negotiate with your child. John Holt says,

“Trust children. Nothing could be more simple or more difficult. Difficult because to trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves, and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted.”