When I first entered the online crunchy mom cybersphere (mothering.com, diaperswappers.com, car-seat.org, offbeatmama.com and many more), I didn’t know what a lot of these crazy acronyms meant. I would see them in people’s signatures: “I’m a CDing, EBFing, ERFing, BWing PT WAHM to DS1, DD1 and DD2.” (In normal speak, that’s “I’m a cloth diapering, extended breastfeeding, extended rear facing, babywearing part time work at home mom to my son and two daughters.”) Whew! That’s a lot to keep track of. I figured out most of the stuff pretty quickly, but ERF was something I had to look up.
ERF means extended rear facing — or keeping your child in a rear-facing car seat past one year old. Turns out, lotsa people don’t do this. They read on the box the car seat comes in that you can turn your kid around at one year old or twenty pounds (if he hasn’t reached twenty pounds by one year) and don’t really think further than that. Some even see forward-facing a child as a milestone — like standing up, crawling or uttering a first word. Whatever the decision may be — forward face or rear face — it is NOT milestone. A milestone is something your baby accomplishes; turning a car seat one way or another is completely controlled by YOU.
Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. A milestone it is not. But why is it a big deal? It’s legal in the US to face your kiddo forward at a year, and after all, our parents never thought this much about car seats anyway. (I for one don’t EVER remember being in one, and don’t really recall a time I had to sit in the back seat. Now kids are in seats or boosters until they are 70 or 80 pounds.) I actually recall seeing kids I babysat for (years ago) in car seats and thought how weird it was that they were 8 and 10 and still sitting in car seats. It seemed like, at the time, a weirdo parental I-want-to-totally-control-my-kids thing to me. But it’s not. It’s about safety, and updated safety standards, and many many studies showing the effectiveness and safety of car seats. Extended rear facing is one of the things that has been studied over the past several decades since I was of car seat age. And wow, it’s pretty important.
I posted this video on my blog’s FB page (like me if you haven’t already! I post tons of links there) a couple of days back. This is a good visual representation of why rear-facing your child past one year is a pretty darn good idea. There are also tons of studies that show the same (a 2007 study here, a British study from 2009 here and a 2007 study showing that leg injury occurs far more often in forward facing seats here, for example). As demonstrated in the video and in the second study listed above, the biggest concern is the spine — when a car crashes, the body of the infant or toddler is often thrust forward in a forward facing car seat, and tragically, the neck can break quite easily when this happens. From car-seat.org:
Infants and young toddlers have spines made of soft bone and cartilage that doesn’t begin to harden until around age 3. As a result, the spinal column can stretch up to 2 inches; however, the spinal cord will rupture after being stretched after only ¼ inch. This damage cannot be repaired.
I included the third study to show that lower extremities are not exempt from injury in forward facing seats, as one might imagine. In fact, it is far likelier that your child will be injured in any way while forward facing. It’s a simple, proven fact: rear facing well into the second year of a child’s life, if not the third, is far and away the safest thing to do. (Here’s a great guide to lots of different links about rear facing.)
Why doesn’t everyone do this? There are lots of reasons. As mentioned above, some believe it is a milestone to put your child in a forward facing position at one year. As parents, we’re all eager for the next thing. Another reason is that when babies get to be about eight to ten months, they enter a fussy phase where it gets hard to put them in any kind of car seat — and parents often just think it is easier to have them forward facing (and it IS easier; fitting a kid into a rear-facing toddler seat can be a total pain). Last, some kids have real problems with motion sickness when facing backwards. (See a fabulous article by a mama who weighed the risks, and made an informed decision to go forward-facing) And it also just seems like it would be uncomfortable for a kid to be rear-facing as they get taller and older (if you check it out, Youtube has lots of slideshow videos that show some happy, passed out, cheerful kids with their feet pressed up against the back seat).
Whatever your decision is, make sure that you inform yourself of the risks and benefits to each car seat position — and each car seat! Great options for extended rear-facing include: the Sunshine Kids Radian XTSL (RF to 45 pounds), the Sunshine Kids Radian 80 (RF to 45 pounds), the Britax Boulevard (RF to 40 pounds), the Graco My Ride 65 (RF to 40 pounds), the Evenflo Triumph Advance (RF to 35 pounds), and the highly cost effective Cosco Scenera (RF to 35 pounds). What did we decide on? A Britax Boulevard for my car and a Cosco Scenera for Eric’s little car. (As for an infant car seat, it should always face the back of the car unless there are major carsickness issues.)
And that’s what ERF means.
Tonight, I toured my second daycare since the new year began. This seems odd, since we currently have a great sitter for Sam the two days a week I’m in the office. (I found her through P and E Babysitting in DC Metro area.) But I have decided to get Sam into daycare full time around the time he turns one. He’ll be beginning to be more social at that point, and I will be returning to work full time (which for my job is not 40 hours a week; it can be more like 50 or 60). And I just can’t afford a sitter for that amount of time.
I’ve found that every daycare has a waiting list, and that most waiting lists are six months or more. I’ve even come across a daycare that has a waiting list of two years! In two years, Sam will be ready for preschool! On that note, my coworker suggested that I start looking at preschools for Sam. After all, I need to go ahead and get him on the waiting list.
Perhaps this is the same everywhere, but I bet the waiting lists are longer and stronger in major metropolitan areas. I would probably have to get a baby on a preschool wait list as soon as I got a positive pregnancy test in somewhere like New York or San Francisco. That doesn’t make this search any less annoying — it just is what it is. Eric and I live here because of the jobs, and so does everyone else!
Not only do you have to get your kid on a wait list round these parts, you have to get them on several, and you have to Pay, Pay, Pay, Pay and Pay. The registration fees (really, let’s be honest, “registration fees” are simply bribes to get your kid on a list — and they may or may not get a spot, depending) range from $90-$150. Ouch! And the day care facilities themselves charge a dang pretty penny after your kid starts attending. The average is around $1600 a month for the bigger name facilities, and the cheapest I’ve found for home daycare is $1000 a month.
Ah my dream daycare. It lies just up the street from us. A tiny, obsessively organized lady runs it out of her home. It is immaculately clean, bright and cheerful, and generally just perfect. She makes all organic food, brings in a teacher to prepare the toddlers for preschool, and works on the bigger kids’ potty training habits. Of course, there’s a waiting list. And no, I’m not going to tell you where it is or how to get there. After all, I’m going to need that waiting list spot.
I also toured a big name daycare earlier this month. It was very nice and the ladies working there were very sweet. Children were sleeping peacefully, and everyone seemed to be well taken care of. But … the price was higher and the facilities just seemed … very … sticky. I feel like I’m a home daycare convert after today. I’m quite sure it depends on the daycare, but ah, this place was wonderful.
How do you find the perfect daycare? I have yet to figure out a precise method, but this is how I’ve started:
- Searching Google for day care facilities in the area and reading reviews
- Looking for lists of local day cares in the area (your county government’s webpage may have a list)
- Emailing day care facilities to set up tours or ask questions
- Making a spreadsheet comparing my favorite day care facilities in the area
Of course my dream day care is in the lead, for price and for loveliness, but I’m going to need to make sure we have Sam on several lists so that he can go somewhere when mama returns to her job 40+ hours a week.
I never knew it could all be so complicated!
For all you new mamas out there, make sure you are proactive in finding your perfect day care!
And preschool … I guess I better start looking at those too …
If you’re already a parent, you’ve already received unsolicited advice. You may have given it too. Everybody’s an expert when it comes to raising a child — getting them to sleep, getting them to eat, when to breastfeed, when to start formula, and when to start solids. You may have gotten advice on what stroller to purchase, or someone may have told you to skip the stroller altogether and just use an Ergo carrier. Your mom may tell you to let the baby cry it out, while your mother-in-law tells you to sleep with baby in bed. Your cousin may tell you to nurse until three while your sister tells you to have an elective c-section and start formula right away.
Believe me, I’ve heard it all by now. I can barely walk around among people I know without picking up some kind of advice, sticking to me like so much lint. At first, I let it get to me — I felt like I must be doing something wrong about some little particular. Recently, I’ve been highly concerned about Sam’s sleep schedule, and I keep getting lots of advice about the whole thing. (Put him down – let him cry. Let him sleep with you – take a nap when he does. Rock him back to sleep when he wakes up. Put him on his stomach. Let him self soothe.) I’ve been tearing my hair out about this, and I’ve beat myself up about every piece of advice.
I think the thing that gets to me most is … “You mean you don’t … [do such and such]?” Or “Doesn’t Sam do [such and such]” “Haven’t you tried … [something or other]?” Every implication with such language is that I’m not doing something I’m supposed to be doing, or that I am doing something I am not supposed to be doing. As a mother, I’m beginning to find it pretty infuriating.
I think these type of questions are tantamount to bullying — they make the speaker of the question feel quite superior about her (or his) type of parenting. It makes the speaker feel like she has all the answers, and that you are doing something wrong, perhaps potentially damaging, to your child. What a marvelous feeling for the speaker, but what a terrible feeling it evokes in the receiver of the unsolicited advice. Why do we, as parents, seek to divide? Why do we feel one style of parenting is better than the other? Why do we think the decisions we make for our own children are better than the ones made by our sisters, friends, cousins, brother-in-laws or mothers? Is something different so threatening?
The answer seems to be yes. I have a theory why. I think that the first few months of a child’s life are so unusual and so stressful that a parent who survives those months thinks to him or herself, “Well, I figured out how do do things this way, so this must be the only way.” So, a parent with a baby who has reflux says to a parent whose child has colic, “Well, why haven’t you tried such and such?” But of course, it’s not the same situation. It never is. A parent with a good napper says to a parent with a child who hates naps, “Well haven’t you tried …?” Thus, the cycle of unsolicited advice continues.
With Sam, the answer is — yes, we’ve tried it. He doesn’t stay in a swaddle (hasn’t since about three weeks old), rarely responds to rocking, doesn’t respond to shushing, wakes up after thirty minutes, will only rarely soothe himself to sleep, and hates a pacifier.
After this experience, I’m trying to vow not to do this to other mothers. If they ask my advice, I will give it. If not, I will try to keep my big mouth shut. Of course, I do have a blog — so I can spout advice all I want — and you don’t have to read it if you don’t want. I’m just one woman, and I read a lot of stuff. I write about it, and perhaps
What is right for one parent is not right for another. I had to catch myself when talking to a friend about circumcision. My viewpoint simply doesn’t apply — it’s her child, and it’s her decision.
I have to remember I’ve gotten a lot of unsolicited advice. I should use disposable diapers, feed my baby rice cereal to get him to sleep longer, start formula when he gets teeth, put him in the crib and let him cry, put him in my bed, never have a home birth, give him a bath every day, not give him a bath every day, carry him in a sling, swaddle him, and give him a pacifier to calm him down. I can’t take all of that advice, and some if it doesn’t even apply. My decisions — my child. I need to let the advice roll off of me like water.
It’s easy to feel like you have all the right answers, and it’s easy to get bogged down in a bit of advice or a parenting philosophy that is supposed to be the “best” or the “right answer” for your kid. Well, I gotta say, no child is one size fits all. Just like adults, they are all different. Each day, we as parents try to make it to the next, giving love and discipline, setting boundaries, and making decisions. We navigate the complicated pathways of having a child or two, and we carry on as well as we can. Nothing is the perfect answer, or something might be, but it’s not the perfect answer for everyone.
I’ll make a deal — try not to judge me, and I’ll try not to judge you. I’ll keep my advice to this one sphere of the internet, and please, at least say it nicely if you’re telling me what to do.
1. Favorite Book: Mama, Do You Love Me? by Barbara M. Joose. Actually, this is my favorite, and I read it to Sam just about every night, so of course it’s his favorite too. It’s a beautifully illustrated book, and the bright colors and intricate designs stimulate Sam to touch the pages. It’s also not too long for his attention span (like some of the Dr. Suess books). The story is also sweet and reassuring and contains a cultural component to pique his curiosity in later years. Love it!
2. Favorite sleep aid: Cloud B Sleep Sheep! This is an extremely cute, fuzzy sheep. It also plays several white noise type sounds — rain, the ocean, a babbling brook, and whale song. (I’m not sure why a sheep would have whale noises, but it’s cool I suppose. I really like whales.) You can set the sounds to run 25 or 45 minutes in order to get Sam through his fitful sleep cycles at the beginning of falling asleep. The best part is that the sounds are not annoying — Eric and I can fall asleep to them as well. This is a lifesaver for fitful nights and unwanted naps!
3. Favorite stuffed animal: Jellycat Bashful Bunny. Sam’s bunny is his new lovey for night time and nap time. He holds onto it (picture in previous post), and he loves touching the ears and … well, chewing on its face. That’s the best thing ever right now in his life. Chewing on faces.
4. Best teething toy: Sophie the Giraffe! Sophie is soft, bendable, and non toxic. She also has thin legs and a thin neck — perfect for little infant hands to grasp. As with his Bun Bun, Sam likes to chew on Sophie’s face. Yum! I see Sophie everywhere! She must be quite popular with all the kiddies.
5. Favorite all-around toy: Manhattan Toy Winkel. Whatever this is, it’s a big hit. Sam loves to hold onto it and gnaw on all of the loops. He also loves to look at the colors and shake it to hear the rattle. A definite must!
The best thing is that these were all gifts! Many thanks to Lucila, Nicole, Emily, Lynn, Deb and the SLUTS (Southern Ladies Under Tremendous Stress — my aunt’s friends, who really have the best name of all). Sam is so lucky to have so many people who love him and give him such wonderful things.
Pregnant ladies, in particular — these are great items for your registry, birthday list, or holiday 2011 wish list!
Welcome to the Savvy Mom Space
I’m a liberal feminist that believes that liberal, feminist ideals should gel with embracing your gender and motherhood (if that’s what you feel like doing). I support all kinds of moms and dads and parents. Oh and, although I totally love that natural vibe and not harming the environment, I supplement my organic milk and fresh fruits and veggies with the occasional Twix, the frequent Oreo, and the daily Coke Zero. I’m opinionated, not easily offended, and a loudmouth in person and on the internet. I am what I am. Welcome.