Why I hate “fed is best”

For those who are unfamiliar, “fed is best” is a counter slogan to “breast is best.” In the not so distant past, baby formula was seen as equal, if not superior to breastmilk. In an effort to promote breastfeeding, the slogan “breast is best” was created in the 1990’s.

Happily, the culture around breastfeeding has changed drastically since then. While issues surrounding nursing in public still remain, it is now widely known and accepted by parents that breastfeeding is superior to formula. It IS the best source of nutrition (and antibodies!) for infants.

Of course, as a result, there are always those lovely people that assume that if you aren’t breastfeeding then you must not love your child and are either horrible, ignorant, or both. To them, “breast is best” is an opportunity to brag that they’re the best.

Enter “fed is best.” Basically, “fed is best” is a shorthand way of saying: “For those of you who don’t breastfeed, I’m not judging you. I know you have good reasons for using formula, and I’m not trying to make anyone feel guilty. You are a good, capable parent.” Which is a fantastic, important sentiment that I agree with. But I HATE when people use this phrase!

First of all, breastmilk IS the best source of food. Countless studies confirm this. It’s not even slightly up for debate. So, in a way, the statement “fed is best” is a bit misleading. I worry that people may hear this phrase and think that the benefits of breastfeeding aren’t actually that significant.

Secondly, we don’t do this with anything else! When your kid (or someone else’s) pukes on all their clothes and the only things left are a tie-dye shirt with a hole in it and plaid shorts, we don’t say “clothed is best!” Once they’re older, and you feed them donuts instead of wheat berries with coconut flakes and agave nectar, we don’t say “breakfast is best!” We acknowledge that life happens, things aren’t always optimal and move on!

Lastly, and specifically, the statement “fed is best” is just dumb. It essentially means “alive is best.” Ummmm, yeah. I think we can all agree that babies staying alive is indeed best. Do we really need a slogan celebrating this?

We can be compassionate and kind to our fellow parents while not diminishing the medical fact that breastmilk is better than formula. We don’t need to use the slogan “fed is best.”

Why and how to learn a language

It’s weird to say, but I’ve actually lived more of my adult life outside of the US than in it. Even though I identify as one hundred percent American, when it comes to common place topics like work culture or politics I often end up prefacing my statements with “I don’t know how it is in the US right now but in (country I’m living in)…” Darn plane tickets! Someday I’ll be rich enough to visit home as often as I want.

To date we’ve lived in Korea, Japan, and now Germany. We’ve loved traveling and it has given us lots of interesting experiences and insights.

Every country we’ve gone to we’ve tried to learn the language. Why? Well, from a purely practical standpoint, not everyone speaks English! Speaking the language makes life way easier (“Where can I find the milk?” “Aisle 7.”) and allows you to have more meaningful connections with the people in your host country. Also, it makes you feel less dumb.

Feeling Dumb
This is a topic not often mentioned on blogs glamorizing travel and the tech nomad lifestyle, and I wish it was. Feeling stupid is a big problem and hurdle for everyone I know (myself included), who’s lived abroad. Not knowing the language basically means you are illiterate, have a limited grasp of any given situation, and are completely dependent on someone who does speak the language. That’s right. You’re basically a three-year-old with more money and motor skills.

The Language Immersion Myth
There are many expats who are unprepared for this experience and think being immersed in a new language and culture will be a fun adventure. And it IS! But you need to be prepared for that feeling of dumbness. I think many people have this romanticized notion that they will effortlessly “pick up” the language without any overt study or effort. This is simply not true. Language learning takes time, dedication, and constant effort. So what can you do?

Simple but Important Strategies for Learning

Don’t be afraid!
The most important thing is not be afraid! Even though you may sometimes feel like that illiterate three-year-old who wants their mommy, you have to USE the language to get better. As adults, we can really hate doing things we’re not good at. But unsurprisingly, you have to start somewhere. (This may not apply to everyone. My husband is always super excited to try out his new language skills! I’m super envious of his cheerful and fearless attitude!)

Small Efforts!
See a sign? Label on your food? Advertisement on the train? Look it up! These days we almost all have smart phones, so this literally takes only seconds. Even if you aren’t saving these words to review later (which you really should), the constant repetition of common words will help you. One passive thing we like to do is turn on German subtitles for the American shows we watch. When we see new words, we either look it up in the dictionary, understand it from context, or simply ignore it completely. But we definitely learn a lot of new words this way!

Formal Study-Your way!
While you can stumble your way through copying what you hear and waiting for helpful people to correct you (this is how we all learned our native languages), everything will go faster with explicit study. People love to talk about how children learn languages so naturally without studying, but remember, it takes children 2-3 years to start talking! As adults we can (and should!) learn a lot faster by actual study.

So how do you study? I think here it’s important to understand your own personality. For me, the most effective way to learn is through formal lessons where the teacher leads me through with specific vocabulary lists, exercises, and of course, the accountability of formal lessons.

My husband is the exact opposite. He finds a reputable grammar book and flashcard app with the 3000 most common words and works his way through both with constant review and practice. He is then free to get additional study from fun sources like books and TV shows. Sadly, I lack this kind of discipline!

When we lived in Japan, I did most of my study on my own with the help of books and online resources. In Germany, I enrolled in a 6 month intensive course. The difference in my levels of fluency is night and day! I do WAY better when authority figures spoon feed me information, keep me accountable, and tell me exactly what to study every day! 🙂

Have fun with it!
I have a special love for language learning. There are moments of silliness that only you as a multi language speaker will understand! Like seeing potatoes in the grocery store labelled “extra dick” (dick means thick in German ;-))! Or the used appliance stores in Japan called Hard Off.

There are also moments of deep thought about cultural differences and communication strategies. In Japan, being indirect is considered more polite as it causes less conflict or embarrassment, whereas Germans value blunt directness so that there’s no room for misunderstanding. These nuances are what make language learning such a fulfilling part of living abroad for me.

I truly believe anyone can learn a foreign language. It may not be easy and effortless, but it’s not complicated either. You can do it!

Low Birth Rates and Disenfranchising Families

A few months back, I was kicked out of a movie theater. Not for screaming at the screen or filming a bootleg copy, but for holding a baby. That’s it. A quiet, almost asleep baby

Apparently, in teeny tiny print on the asterisk next to “children’s tickets” online it read “children ages three and up.” My baby is not big enough to sit in his own seat, so I had never even seen the asterisk when I bought our tickets online. And of course, the employees at the movie theater helpfully scanned our tickets, sold us 3D glasses, watched me nurse my baby in the lobby, said nothing, then waited until we were in our seats and the the commercials were starting before telling us we needed to leave. Not only that, but they were unable to issue us a refund and told us to contact customer service online.

Great. Just the evening out we were wanting. To add insult to injury, customer service refused to give us a refund and instead tried to give us a voucher. Thanks Cinestar, but by the time my child and any future siblings turn 3, I still won’t want to return to your movie theater.

Anyways, so what is the point of me sharing this terrible experience? Germany, like many modern countries is suffering from negative population growth. There are a myriad of policies to help combat this here: monthly stipend for children, reimbursed parental leave for up to a year(!), subsidized (and sometimes free) child care, and much more. These programs are great for addressing the financial reasons people may hold back from having children. However, they don’t address the decreased desire to have children. I think one aspect that policy makers are missing is creating a more inviting, family friendly environment.

Whenever establishments forbid children, or make bringing children inconvenient, they are sending the message that families and children are undesirable and unwelcome. And if you choose to have more children, you are only prolonging your exclusion.

“Why not just get a babysitter?”

Babysitters are a great resource for when you want time alone as a couple, but if everywhere you want to go requires a babysitter, then when are you spending time with your children? This further enforces the idea that you are only welcome when you’re without children.

Babysitters are also cost prohibitive, particularly for young families. If a babysitter costs on average 10 USD an hour, and you want to see a movie (Marvel’s Endgame is three hours long), you are essentially charging an extra 30 dollars to anyone with children. And that’s not including travel time!

It unfairly impacts those who breastfeed (and don’t pump, like me) or anyone else who can’t be away from their children for long periods of time. Requiring a sitter also means planning. Requiring planning means going places with children is less convenient and less enjoyable.

I will admit that there are places that definitely need to be quiet and distraction free. However, these should be exceptions. Exceptions that we can find creative solutions to. Libraries, famous for being quiet, are a great example! If we want to make having children more desirable, we need to make it natural and easy to bring our children with us where we want to go.

What do you think would help make your community more welcoming to children? I’ll go first!

I wish there were more places with changing tables and high chairs. I’ve had to change a diaper on the floor, and once on that half foot gap between sinks in the public restroom! Trying to eat while preventing my baby from overturning my plate of food is also not fun! I’m pretty sure high chairs at Ikea are only 15 euro; it’s not that expensive of an investment, guys. Let’s do this! 😀

Your turn! What do you think would make your community more welcoming to children?

Simplifying Meal Planning

So, for the past two weeks now, I’ve made a radical change to the way I plan meals. We now eat the same thing every week. I thought this would be super boring, but actually it’s awesome because I get to eat my favorite foods every day!

I think I first heard of this idea when my husband was reading a book on reducing waste. Apparently, a huge whopping percent of waste is uneaten food and groceries. And while I care about the earth, I probably care about my wallet more. Wasted food = wasted money. Wasted money = sad wallet.

Of course, I didn’t think this applied to ME. I meal plan. I plan for leftover vegetables. I…have big plans for recipes I want to try out, but by the time evening comes around I am too tired to cook and instead find myself searching for the box of Dino nuggets in our freezer. Oopsies, guess we had a lot of unused groceries after all. Cooking simple recipes I know well is much quicker and doesn’t require nearly as much energy.

Also, while I do LOVE trying out new recipes, they don’t always turn out. For every AMAZING recipe out there that you know you’re going to want to eat again, there’s a mix of not so great ones. Especially when you’re a picky eater have a discerning palate like me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to try new recipes, but not more than one every other week or so, at least when it comes to dinner time.

So that’s it. That’s how I’ve simplified my life. And now I’m eating my favorite foods every day and loving it! In case you’re curious, this is what we’ve been eating for dinner:

Thom ka gai soup (sometimes with fried rice), bibimbap, Turkish red lentil soup with crusty bread, spaghetti, mapo doufu, tteokbokki, bean and cheese burritos, and the seventh one is whatever I feel like that week/still being chosen.

Eventually I’d like to work in lunch and breakfast, especially meals that incorporate more dark leafy greens, but for now this has been a huge help.

Boobs are awesome and so is breastfeeding

TLDR: Boobs are sexy, milky boobs are sexy, babies need milk from boobs.

As a new mother, I’m constantly amazed at my body. I made that! Yes, that baby there! I mean, sure my husband helped. But my body grew him to size, birthed him, and now that he is out here in the world, my body is still “growing him” by producing milk for him to eat.

This is still surreal to me. Milk literally comes out (sometimes SHOOTS OUT) of my body. Cued not only by a suckling baby, but also my baby crying, looking at my baby, or even thinking about my baby. At one point, I’ve even observed my baby screaming at my nipple, which then started shooting milk into his open mouth!

So yeah, I think my body, and its ability to breastfeed is amazing. Not only does my body produce nutrition for my baby. It also produces the BEST nutrition (and antibodies) possible. Because I have the time and ability, my baby’s breastfed. Therefore, if my baby is hungry, I’m going to feed him. Even if it’s in public.

To be perfectly honest, I’ve never experienced any kind of negativity nursing in public, possibly because I live in Europe. However, in America breastfeeding in public is always a big topic.

There seems to be a prevalent argument among pro-public breastfeeders that goes something along the lines of “breasts are made for babies to eat from, not for men to play with! You should not be turned on by women breastfeeding. Boobs are for FOOD. Therefore it’s fine to breastfeed in public.”

Ummmm, excuse me? I would be very sad if my husband told me that my breasts are no longer attractive because my baby eats out of them. I love my boobs, and think they look nice.

If I’m out in public and need to nurse, I do. Because my baby is hungry, and I think breastmilk straight from the breast is superior to any other form of nutrition. However, I don’t think my breast automatically becomes asexual because I’m holding a baby near it.

I DO think my baby eating is more important than anyone’s discomfort. I would hope that any males (or women who are attracted to women) would try to give me some privacy if possible and look away, because they, too, understand that babies need to eat. Or would also like my baby to stop crying ASAP.

I’m sure someone out there is asking “but what about covers?” As a first time mom, I consider mothers who use covers breastfeeding ninjas. Like, seriously, HOW DO YOU DO IT?!

Learning to breastfeed was very difficult for me and baby, so I never used a cover (it made it easier to see what was happening). Now, if I attempt to use one, my baby thinks it’s some kind of peek-a-boo game. Even without a cover, my son enjoys pulling off my breast to smile at everyone around him as if to say “Look what I get to eat!” While I frantically try to block my nipple from view and then stuff it back in his mouth.

For me, breastfeeding rooms are a huge help, but not everywhere has them, and there can be long lines, so I often end up breastfeeding in public.

If you need to feed your child, you should do it. But don’t try to apologize for it or rationalize it by saying boobs aren’t sexy. THEY ARE! Moms already face so many negative stereotypes about their bodies post-baby. Lies such as “you’ll never get your body back” or “having children means you lose your figure” are rampant. We should be celebrating the beauty and sexuality of mothers’ bodies, not telling them that having children is their consolation prize for becoming dumpy and tired. People with children can and do have sexy bodies. I like to think that I’m one of them.

So nurse in public. Do it because your baby is more important that people getting a peek at your sexy breasts. Not because your breasts aren’t fantastic and might give someone a hard-on 😉