New community project for bilingual families

I have a new motherhood project: creating a community of bi-lingual parents to share resources, tips and stories about raising children with two (or more) cultures and languages. I know I would benefit from polling my friends and their friends to help me build a rich identity for my child as I try to get her familiar with her Hispanic roots while living in the U.S.

My first trial as a bi-cultural mom was my daughter’s name. It was important to me that she had a Spanish name (Alma Lucia) since her father is American and thus her last name was going to be in English (Miner). I really didn’t want to bastardize the family name by hyphenating it because the Miners have a looooong history in the U.S., like Mayflower-days type of thing. Thomas Minor founded Stonington, CT and from there on there’s a few family books and associations that track generations right down to my baby girl. Unfortunately, we can’t go that far back on my side of the family.  All I know is that like the majority of Latinos, I come from a huge mix of people — from Venezuela, Argentina, Italy, France, Spain, indigenous Guayus, Andinos (from Venezuela) and Germans. I myself grew up ‘bi-cultural’, while I was born and raised in Venezuela, my dad is Argentine and his culture is quite different than the Venezuelan one. I always felt a little different, a little alienated in my own country, and only as an adult have I really embraced and felt lucky to have such a different upbringing.

Now as a mom I face this journey of raising my child in a foreign country that I now claim as my own. I hope she is able to feel proud of being Hispanic-American or whatever the appropriate hyphened description is. I also hope she learns to be critical and see deeper into our world beyond the headlines, as it’s not just about speaking a language, or eating yummy food like FRIED PLANTAINS!

Here’s the link to Facebook and you can follow me on Twitter @friedplantains
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Baby book craze


The two first weeks of a mother were one of the most scariest and anxiety driven weeks of my life. Not knowing what to do with a newborn (and the hormones!),  I did what I always do when I face new situations; I studied. I bought lots of books and with 2-3 hours of sleep I read through as fast as I could — yes, I had read some books before the baby arrived, but I didn’t understand what they were talking about.

My conclusion is that you can read books and drive yourself crazy. The thing is that that the more books you read, the more confusing it is…they all contradict each other, or say the same things in many different ways that they ‘seem’ to be saying different things because their approach is ‘unique’. Don’t get me wrong, they contain good information, but you have to be ready to consume this information and then decide what to do for yourself and just feel OK that you trying to find out what’s right for you. Easier said than done, as I’m still plagued with doubts, but as days go by I discover the little things that work for Alma and us. I borrow a little from here a little from there. So here is my take on some of the popular baby books:

Basic info here. Good for quick reference but nothing in depth. Month-to-month format is easy to follow, especially if you read the What to Expect when you are Expecting version, which I bet you did.  Not a lot of troubleshooting help, but good when you are wondering, what the heck  is that? I.e. diverse poop situations.

Sears has this approach called, “attachment parenting,” which just sounded bad to me from the get-go.  Is the opposite then called “detachment parenting?”  As I read I felt even worse, as the authors are highly opinionated, and I immediately react poorly to being lectured by a book. Oh yeah, they also call fussy babies, “high-need babies,” because that is more ‘positive’. Honestly, it sounded like a bunch of overly-compensatory parenting to me that made me feel guilty if I was anything short of holding my child 18 hours a day.

Karp’s book explains the 5-S approach. A voodoo-like technique to calm babies: Swaddle, Sideways, Swing, Shoosh and Suck. You are basically trying to imitate the womb environment. Why? Because according to Karp, humans are born a trimester early, compared to our primate relatives, because we walk – or something like that. Sleep deprived as I was (note, was, ’cause my baby is sleeping 4-5 hour stretches at night!)  I found the explanation utterly insane, but we routinely use this method and so far it works pretty well. Many friends, my pediatrician and even the nurses that taught childcare classes are fans of this.

Gina Ford’s method is British. Wickedly rigid. I love to bash this book, from its all-white baby cloth that you must boil to the “change her nappy, feed her 25 minutes from one breast and put her back in her cot, this should not take more than an hour” – hmmm, yeah, what about burping?!  But as much I love to complain about it is a) written concisely and b) it actually gives you a schedule, and while I don’t follow it it gave me a general idea on what to do with a baby through out the day and I have to say that while we have many fussy days, for the most part it has given me somewhat of a routine that makes me feel a bit more in control.

Weissbluth has some good scientific explanation of baby sleeping habits, but the format is really hard to follow when you are tired. He criticizes Ferber and Sears as profoundly ignorant books because they have no scientific base. That’s great, but I’ve read portions of it several times and still don’t get what am I supposed to do. It freaked me out that at six weeks is when I can mess up her sleeping habits and scar her for life. He compares sleeping on parents arms, strollers etc as junk sleep like junk food, which prompt me to rule out any sleep other than her crib, As a result I panicked for 2 days that I was giving my baby ‘McDonalds sleep’, but then I read another book and felt better.

This was a helpful book with many tips about breastfeeding. Most of it’s in the Baby book, but it was nice to have a book dedicated to the subject that concerned me the most in the first month. Still when it comes to breastfeeding the advice of a lactation consultant has been by far more helpful and reassuring.

Pansley’s The No Cry Baby Solution book is one of the few alternatives to the let it cry solution and boy, she’s persistent about it. She says she’s writing for the exhausted parent and doesn’t want to go on on and on…and then she does. Very few of these book get to the point quickly. However, I use some of the techniques suggested and feel good about not letting her cry at this stage.

By far the book that has made me the happiest these days is the Sleepeasy Solution. Why? Because it told me not to worry about bad sleeping habits until 4 months. Phew! It’s OK to rock her and I can even wait to start a bedtime routine (I was stressing about this). So, while I didn’t read the whole thing, those 4 pages that said do whatever you can to soothe your baby, were the best 4 pages period.

Anyway, books or not, I’m sure I’ll find ways to freak myself out. The truth is loving family and friends are the best support groups. They share their experiences and are they just as full of conflicting advice as the books, but they will listen patiently to your trials and they all say lovingly, “you’re doing a great job,” and for me that’s all I need to hear (everyday). So, to all my support group of friends and family, THANK YOU.