Susan Witte

Hello! My name is Susan Witte, I am (among other things) a journalist and this is my personal blog. I post here a lot of random stuff I write (in English and Portuguese); photos I take; videos I make; or anything else I found worth sharing. Feel free to leave comments, even if you don’t agree with me – I love to debate. I hope you enjoy my little space here and thank you for your visit!

Click here if you only wish to view posts in English.


Olá! Meu nome é Susan Witte e eu sou, entre muitas outras coisas, jornalista. Você está no meu blog pessoal, onde eu posto meus textos (em português e inglês), fotos e videos – ou qualquer outra coisa que eu achar interessante. Fique à vontade para deixar comentários, mesmo que não concorde comigo (adoro um debate!). Espero que goste desse meu espacinho de mundo e obrigada pela visita!

Clique aqui se só quiser visualizar posts em português.

Using Google Images in Class

Resultado de imagem para interactive boardTalking to a group of teachers the other day, we agreed how interactive boards were an amazing resource in the classroom. I mean, who needs flashcards when you have Google Images? Googling visual aid for students, however, can be a tricky business. Especially if you are an EFL (English as a foreign language) teacher like me, and might use this resource quite often, increasing the chances of checking out seemingly innocent words just to realise they have an obscene side. Google is always improving its filters, but sometimes even Safe Search filter fails to prevent students from becoming traumatized or teachers from having an extremely embarrassing experience.

Here are some ideas to help you use Google Images safely and words to avoid searching.


Rule 43

“If something exists, there’s a porn version of it”.

This is important to remember. ANYTHING can turn into porn. Odds are, if you scroll down long enough your Google results, from “Muppets” to “Suffragette”, you will find something disturbing. Most words, however, are safe to search if you don’t scroll down much.

Some words can show unwanted results from the first line of images, though. One fellow teacher found out the hard way that “thick” is also used to describe giant female bottoms. Here are some other unsafe words and groups of words:



Avoid googling words like “big”, “huge” and “enormous”. These usually refer to sexual organs.



Most nationalities can be tricky, and I’d be especially cautions with the words “Asian” and “Brazilian”.



This one leads to a number of inappropriate memes.



It’s relatively safe, but scrolling down can lead to nudist beach pics.



Don’t ever google that. A safe alternative is to Google “octopus” and point out the tentacle. Really, don’t google tentacles… you’re welcome.



You can kind of guess this one, right?


Young, old and mature

Yup, not very safe at all.



I know it sounds obvious, but sometimes you’re just thinking of actual missionaries. It’s not as bad as most of the previous ones, though.


Pokemon names

Most Pokemon names (Pikachu, Nidoking, etc) lead to porn for some reason. If you have children, you might want to watch out for that.



This one is pretty safe for Google Images, but so not safe for videos.



By itself, the word is pretty straight forward. It’s a fruit, that’s it. But Google images will show as one or the first alternative options, a Japanese manga (comic book) which is quite sexual. Also, if you google “lemon party” you’ll instantly regret.


Please let me know of any other words that are unsafe to google in class.


And whatever you do, don’t ever…   EVER google “blue waffle”.


Told ya.

The Hand of a Ghost – Why you should support the families of medical cannabis patients

In the mild Californian winter of 2011, something wouldn`t leave Jason`s mind: a gun. Any hand gun would do. It would be fast and painless. A bullet in his brain meant the end of all that suffering; a relief and peace he hadn`t felt in years. His son`s screams echoed in the distance as Jason contemplated this idea. With Jayden`s frequent visits to the E.R., that thought – a hand gun`s silhouette against his own temple – was becoming ever more tempting. However, the same screams that were driving him insane brought him back to reality.

Jason needed to focus; he couldn`t abandon his son. Amidst one of Jayden`s many daily crisis, whose screams now sounded loud and clear, Jason realized he needed help. He called his mother:

  • Jason and Jayden David

    It`s today, mom – he tried to explain what was happening as he cried for help – I can`t take it anymore! It`s over, mom! It`s over!

Knowing exactly what it was about, Jayden`s grandmother begged her son to go to church and focus on his prayers. Jason hadn`t given up faith, he kept going to the same churches, Shelter Cove and St. George`s, whenever Jayden was stable. He attended Sunday`s service and prayed for a sign. Knowing the situation Jason was in, the preacher asked everyone to pray for him and his son, asking God to send them a sign:

  • Not in a week, not in a month… Jason needs a sign today, Lord! Jason needs a sign tomorrow! – he shouted.

Jayden had a few weeks left to live.



Jayden was born with the SCN1A gene, unnoticeable until his first seizure, when he was four months old. The first seizures were grand mal – strong muscular contractions, visible even while happening under his clothes. He soon started having clonic seizures, causing involuntary movements. By the time he was two, Jayden had all types of seizures there are and the crisis would happen every day, all day. His parents took him to several different doctors to try to understand what was wrong, but no one seemed to have a clue.

A genetic test finally confirmed the diagnosis: Dravet Syndrome, a severe, incurable and virtually untreatable form of epilepsy. The syndrome usually manifests in children younger than one and the treatments available may or may not help control the seizures. As Dravet Syndrome is a rare disease – one every 30 to 40 thousand children are born with the gene – there is not a lot of investment by pharmaceutical companies in research, as there isn`t much profit to be made so it wouldn`t compensate the expenses. The available treatment options, therefore, are tried one by one to see what helps the best.

After the diagnosis, which is already hard to get (it took Jayden almost two years of exams and different doctor`s appointments to find a definite answer), the search for the right treatment becomes a race against time. With each seizure the child is closer to death, as they cause brain damage that could be irreversible. Jayden had cardiac arrests in some of his crisis and had to be resuscitated at the hospital. When Jason thought of spending time with his son he didn`t think performing CPR would become a major part of it. The syndrome doesn`t only paralyze a child`s life, it devastates the family. No wonder many parents can`t take the pressure and end up getting divorced, which was also the case of Jason and his wife.

When Jayden was four years old, he had tried every treatment available, among diets, natural treatments, chiropractic treatment and several different medications. Nothing seemed to work. Jayden took 22 daily pills, which ended up debilitating him even more. One of the pills, clobazam, commonly used for Dravet Syndrome and other forms of epilepsy, could cause some of the following side effects: difficulty with swallowing; fever; shakiness and unsteady walk; unsteadiness, trembling or other problems with muscle control or coordination; change in speech pattern; restlessness; slurred speech; trouble sitting still; trouble speaking; agitation; bleeding gums; blistering, peeling or loosening of the skin; chest pain; confusion; trouble breathing; hallucinations; seizures… and this isn`t even half the list.

The drugs would prevent Jayden from sleeping and eating, and he would cry for hours, afraid of his hallucinations and due to other unpleasant effects caused by the medication and seizures. By the time he was four and a half, Jayden couldn`t speak, walk or chew. All he did was scream and cry. The seizures were increasing and he had up to 500 severe muscle contractions a day. Jason ran off the jewelry store he worked as a manager almost every day as his son was being taken to the E.R. by an ambulance.

Two days after going to church begging for a miracle, the first sign finally came. Jason was walking to work when he received a call from the office saying his boss had given him four months off. His co-workers had written a letter to the shop`s owner about Jason`s case and asking for him to have some time off to spend with his son. The request had been promptly accepted.

The second sign didn`t take too long to come. A 15-year-old boy had been caught smoking a joint at school and was suspended. The local news decided to use the opportunity to run a report on drugs in high school. During the interview, however, the boy made a strange revelation: he suffered from epilepsy and weed helped control his seizures. His parents couldn`t tell whether he was telling the truth.

Jason couldn`t get the news report out of his head so he decided to do some research on the subject. He never expected to find out what he did: cannabis had anticonvulsant and antispasmodic components called cannabinoids. He was introduced to CBD (cannabidiol), a cannabis component that functions as a neuroprotector and antioxidant, exactly the kind of substance that could help protect Jayden. He was surprised to know that the United States government held a patent on the use of CBD and other cannabinoids for neuroprotection and antioxidation – the patent number 6630507. Nonetheless, the American government keeps cannabis classified as a schedule 1 drug, along with heroine and LSD. The schedule 1 substances are considered extremely dangerous, highly addictive and have no accepted medical use. None of that made sense.

Jason had an appointment with his doctor in San Francisco and decided to ask for his opinion. The doctor`s advice was of such flexibility it renewed Jason`s hope:

  • Your son is dying. It`s a matter of life and death now, it`s worth a try.

Convincing his family wouldn`t be that easy. He had the three-gram cannabis oil dropper for two weeks before he had the courage to give his son the first drops. Jason`s mother kept saying:

  • You are going to kill your son! Give marijuana to a child in this state? You are crazy!

Jayden was dying anyway and Jason had nothing left to lose. When he finally put the three  drops under Jayden`s tongue, Jason spent, for the first time since his son was four months old, and entire day with him not having a single seizure. He was seizure-free for another four days. That was to Jason, without a doubt, a miracle.


A revolution

The “miracle” has been part of our history for thousands of years. The neurologist Ethan Russo, a cannabinoids specialist, in his report “Clinical Cannabis in Ancient Mesopotamia: A Historical Survey with Supporting Scientific Evidence”, explains that the ancient Mesopotamians, at the dawn of civilization, knew about some of the medical uses of cannabis. He mentions  that their “topical ointments used in the treatment of an ancient malady called Hand of Ghost, now thought to be epilepsy, included cannabis as a key ingredient” (Russo apud Bennet, 2010, p.20).

In the nineteenth century, William B. O`Shaughnessy, an Indian Company surgeon, collected information about how the Indians and Chinese used cannabis medically. He tested the plant on animals and, after concluding it was safe for human use, gave it to his patients. O`Shaughnessy stablished a good reputation after using the exotic herb to control a little girl`s seizures and reliving rheumatism pain from other patients. He also realized cannabis was useful treating spasms and a series of other ailments (Conrad, 1997).

If all this information about cannabis having a myriad of therapeutic effects was available in its five thousand years of history, why was Jason, in 2011, the first to try treating Dravet Syndrome this way? Jason asked himself this questions over and over.

At first, when he initiated the new treatment with Jayden, he couldn`t be happier with the results.

  • It was paradise, you know. Every day Jayden is ok it`s like paradise.

One by one, he took Jayden off the conventional medication and the results were even better:

  • I took him off stiripentol and he stopped screaming; I took him off topomax, he took ten topomax pills a day, he started chewing and running. He couldn`t even walk before and he started running after that! Later I took him off Depakote and he started comprehending. Then I took him off a little bit of clobazam, we are on the last milligrams of clobazam but it`s very hard to get him off. He suffered too much with withdrawal syndrome.

Withdrawal syndrome is common when it comes to these highly controlled drugs, as they cause physical dependence. A sudden interruption of the medication could be fatal. Jason had to therefore remove each one of the pills slowly in the last few years. He says he is getting to know his son for the first time.

  • It`s taking me 22 pills to find out who my son really is. I can`t wait to meet him.

Jason was able to save his son`s life and he wanted other parents to know about it. He kept on researching and realized that the fact cannabis could treat severe seizures wasn`t new, but very few people knew it. He thought of all the families, all the children who had lost their lives slowly, suffering. It made Jason extremely upset.

Trying to get the word out wasn`t at all easy.

  • All the parents who are now fighting in other states were against me in the beginning – he says, referring to the parents who are fighting for their children to have access to medical cannabis in states where it`s still illegal – I was kicked out of every patient group, all the Dravet meetings, they thought I was crazy. Now they are all big medical marijuana advocates.

Jason hasn`t received any apologies, but he is happy with the result. From the small town of Modesto, California, he initiated a revolution that would soon take international proportions. Since he started treating Jayden with cannabis, several families have been doing the same. Paige Figi, who saved her daughter`s (Charlotte) life with a high CBD strain of cannabis, found out through Jason what to do. CNN made Charlotte`s case famous and the knowledge about the pediatric use of cannabis spread across the world. We can now see families working together in many different countries, to make sure cannabis can be recognized as a treatment.

Breastfeeding vs Bottle-feeding

Me, breastfeeding my then 21 month-old son on a train in Hamburg, Germany.

I`ve been meaning to write about breastfeeding for a long time, but didn`t feel like I was quite ready yet. And even though I`m doing it now, I`m not feeling very confident. My breastfeeding journey has not yet ended and I might not be the most entitled to give you advice on the matter. But, you know what, being a parent, especially a mother (I`m not being gender biased, misogyny is very present in a mother`s life), means your confidence is constantly being undermined by judgement, peer pressure (let`s say) and the daily struggles of raising a child. So let me use this very vulnerable moment to share an insider`s view on the matter. I hope you don`t mind my honesty.


“Breastfeeding is easy”

I had never given much thought on breastfeeding before. I worked with children since I was 14 and took care of some very young babies. I saw their mothers breastfeed and it seemed to me like the most natural thing to do. In Brazil, when mothers couldn`t breastfeed themselves, I`d heard of breastmilk donations, I had never really heard much about bottle feeding. I only realized mothers chose to bottle-feed when I came to the UK (I was already pregnant then).

That idea puzzled me. How can that light-yellowish powder be better than our own breast milk? I read about it and I realized it wasn’t better, in fact it was much worse. There were a number of risks involved, here are some examples:

  • “For infants, not being breastfed is associated with an increased incidence of infectious morbidity, including otitis media, gastroenteritis, and pneumonia, as well as elevated risks of childhood obesity, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, leukemia, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Among premature infants, not receiving breast milk is associated with an increased risk of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).
  • For mothers, failure to breastfeed is associated with an increased incidence of premenopausal breast cancer, ovarian cancer, retained gestational weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and the metabolic syndrome.” (Stuebe, 2009)

Why would anyone want these risks? I was determined to breastfeed my baby for at least two years or until he decided to stop.

When my son was born I started the breastfeeding quest. I had no idea it was going to be so hard. To make myself clear: it is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. More difficult than moving countries, than being pregnant, than getting divorced, than going through uni, than being a teenager… I could go on, but I think you get the point.

For starters, I had sore nipples. The term “sore nipples” is an understatement. They were cracked, bleeding, swollen, bruised, scabs would form and get ripped off the next feed. The pain was hard to bear. I didn’t know what was happening. No one had ever told me this was a thing. When people talked about sore nipples I imaged the pain you feel after you go to the gym for the first time in ages, or something like that. I never thought I would cry at every feed, that I would fear the next feed and that I would be repeating in my head, halfway through them: “please stop soon”.

I also wasn’t aware that babies can feed very often for a very long time and it’s absolutely normal. My son fed for about 1 hour and half every feed, and needed a feed every two hours or so (except during the night when he would wake up only once for a feed). So for the first week of my son’s life I was breastfeeding during a big part of my waking hours and in excruciating pain. I was close to breaking point.

Tired, confused and about to have a nervous breakdown – ok, I did have a few meltdowns, but I didn’t go insane – I thought there was something wrong with me. Was my milk not good or strong enough? Is that why my son was feeding so much so often? Was he starving? My (then) husband and his family supported my fears. “Try giving him a bottle”, they said, “Breastfeeding is not for everyone, you know”. So I did it, I gave him a bottle, and I cried every second of it.

I was devastated. I had failed my son. My body was defective and couldn’t offer my son what was best for him. That’s how I felt, and I cried most of that night, too.

Still, I wasn’t ready to give up. The break from the feeds had given my nipple some extra time to heal and I’d had enough rest to feel a bit more energetic in the morning. A friend of mine from primary school, Ana Marta Santos, had earlier congratulated me on my pregnancy and said that if I needed anything, especially while breastfeeding, that she would be glad to help. I didn’t understand at the time but I was now willing to take on that offer. Too many miles apart, I called her on Facebook and begged for help.

Ana Marta had gone through the same. She told me it took her 7 days for the new, stronger skin to substitute the cracked one and for the nipple to stop hurting. “The best thing”, she said, “is to let the nipple breath”. So I kept my breasts exposed as long as I could to let the wounds dry. When I had to walk around the house I’d only wear a light, thin shirt; no bra. Though milk would drip now and then, it was working wonders. The drier the scabs, the less it hurt. Ana Marta also taught me a mantra: “It shall pass. One day after the other”. I tried to remind myself of that every day, to take one day at the time as a little victory and remember that what I was going through would not last forever. Things would get better. Things would get easier.

My mother-in-law had kindly bought me lanoline cream, but it kept the wounds moist, so they took longer to heal. Ana Marta also warned me about these creams so I stopped using them.

Just as it happened to my friend, on the 7th day the pain was nearly all gone. It wasn’t gradual, on that day the pain just reduced by about 80%. It was magical. It’s hard to describe the relief I felt. By the 10th day the pain was fully gone. I felt revigorated. I was exclusively breastfeeding on demand and I was nailing it. Check-me-out!

This experience can be quite challenging and confusing. Another friend of mine, Gisela Bataller, who went through a similar situation with her second daughter, told me how she had mixed feelings about breastfeeding. She really wanted to breastfeed and it made her feel warm and loving, watching her daughter so content at the breast; but the pain made her hate feed times. I knew that feeling all too well, and I began to understand why many mothers give up breastfeeding.



Basically, when you breastfeed, your body is using loads of energy to produce this milk that is tailored for your baby. This process interferes with pretty much EVERYTHING in your body. At first, you lose all that weight you might have gained when you were pregnant. Great! Your body needs loads of energy to make the milk and it will take energy and nutrients from wherever it can to make the perfect milk. So if you don’t take care of yourself, don’t worry about your baby, his milk will be just as good, but you will keep losing weight and might get some health problems along the way. So, EAT! It’s common to crave sugars, but I recommend going for starchy foods as these complex sugars last longer and are more useful. Potatoes, pasta, bread, rice, grains, etc are all great choices, especially whole. If you feel hungry often, eat often, but avoid junk and industrialized food as they might not give you enough nutrition; and bring about some undesirable side effects.

Nevertheless, I was breastfeeding for long hours, with short breaks during which my son might fall asleep in my arms and it was hard to put him down to go get some food, even worse to make some. I didn’t have much help at home, my husband had to work all day and I would be at the house by myself. I was new in the country, so didn’t have any friends, and my family was miles away in Brazil. I relied mostly on sandwiches and microwave meals, which isn’t ideal but got me going. I still felt hungry a lot of the time and that made me impatient and tired. Ana Marta told me how she survived the first weeks after birth eating mostly white bread and cream-cheese.

The reason (probably… well, at least it’s one of them) why I didn’t lose my mind during this period, and continued to love my son more than anything else in the world even though he was causing me deep pain, is because I was stoned.

Most of us are aware of oxytocin. Known as the “love hormone”, this chemical is released in the mother’s brain when she breastfeeds. It works as an antidepressant and has a number of benefits in the body. But the chemistry of breastfeeding is ever more complex than that. Usually, if the regular amount of one chemical is altered, than the whole system adapts to the change. When we breastfeed, there is a lot going on in our bodies and brains.

After giving birth, a mother’s brain is flooded with endocannabinoids such as anandamide (Burgierman, 2011), which is analogous to Marijuana’s cannabinoid, THC. The chemical might play a role on pain management, and to help the mother feel calm and loving after such a traumatic event such as childbirth. Anandamide and 2-AG are also present in breastmilk and play an important role in child development (I’ll comment below). I suspect breastfeeding also increases the release of endocannabinoids in the mother’s body.

In the first weeks of breastfeeding, I felt quite different. Even though I was suffering a great deal, I felt mostly calm and warm. During one feed, I wrote down what I was feeling during 45 minutes, because I was fascinated:

  • I had a light headache, like a pressure inside my cranium. Just like when you overdue weed, I felt more aware of that pain. I also felt more aware of the my episiotomy’s stitches and the pain from it.
  • My senses began to change and started to give more attention to things I wouldn’t normally notice, like the warmth of my son, the softness of the sheets, the feeling of a slight breeze when someone opened the door.
  • Munchies!
  • My nipples then started hurting less, except for eventual short spikes of pain.
  • After half an hour, I still feel high and slightly dizzy.
  • Heating sensation in different parts of my body, especially tempers and back of my head.
  • No pain.
  • Body felt very heavy and I had no intention to move.
  • Emotional and high, I had a constant little smile on my face.
  • I felt very relaxed and sleepy.

It felt pretty much like smoking weed. After two weeks, these effects were no longer there during feeds. That’s because when you have too much of these endocannabinoids floating around, your body decreases the number of their receptors and you create resistance to their effects. You know how people who smoke cannabis everyday don’t get as high from it anymore and need to increase the dosage? Same idea.

The same does not happen with oxytocin, breastfeeding increases not only the release of this hormone but also its receptor. The more you breastfeed the more you feel the love.

“When a mother nurses, not only do her blood oxytocin levels increase, but her body makes more receptors, permanently increasing her feelings of love – and her ability to feel loved. Mom’s sensitivity to oxytocin’s power is one of the most fundamental ways she changes as a new mother” (Alpha Parent)

By insisting in the tough beginning of my breastfeeding journey, I let my body find a balance and adapt to the new chemistry needed for me to carry on. Once that was done, I felt much more confident and comfortable with my breastfeeding. And I loved it!


Getting help and support

Let’s get something straight: most health professionals are not prepared to deal with breastfeeding mothers. Though I received some great advice along the way, I also receive conflicting advice and warnings. At the hospital, nurses were very helpful showing how to breastfeed. Health visitors were at times helpful, at others scary. I co-slept with my son from the beginning. It makes things easier when you breastfeed because you don’t need to get up when the baby wakes up. I’d just turn around, lift my shirt and go back to sleep. I noticed I would wake up at the same time my son did, and that my sleep was a lot lighter than it used to be; so if anything went wrong I would be up and alert.

A health visitor frowned when I mentioned it, stating the dangers of bed sharing. I felt like I was doing something very wrong and dangerous, but my instincts were telling me the opposite. I tried to make my son sleep in his Moses basket, but he didn’t want to. I kept receiving the message that I had to try and force him to sleep on his own. I was too tired to keep insisting and I didn’t want my son to cry all night, so I gave up, but still felt like a criminal.

At a breastfeeding support group, another health visitor then said co-sleeping was actually a good idea. I felt much better after that. I later realised there are many benefits in co-sleeping and I wish I knew this earlier. It would have saved me a lot of hassle and anxiety.

Gisela, however, had a harder time than I did. Click here to read her story.


Shaming and judging

Once I was comfortably breastfeeding my son at the reception of Jobcentre Plus, waiting for my sister to sort out her national insurance number, when a female member of staff came to me and said: “Why don’t you breastfeed in the baby change, for your own privacy?”. She didn’t wait for me to answer, she unlocked the door next to me and kept doing hand gestures for me to get in there and repeating louder and slower: “It’s for your own privacy”. She’d heard me speak to my sister and she knew I was a foreigner; I’m not sure if she thought my English was bad or if I was stupid. Not given a chance to answer, I looked around for a friendly face to give me courage, but all I found were other members of staff, laughing at the situation, as if I was such a weirdo for doing such a thing in public. I felt so small. My eyes filled with tears as I walked in that tiny, smelly room and sat at the most uncomfortable wooden chair to resume the feed.

Later, when I mentioned what happened on a Facebook group, other mums kept saying I shouldn’t have gone in, I should have said something. It was the only time something like that happened to me and I froze. I didn’t know then what they were doing was illegal; I wasn’t confident I was following the country’s social behaviour correctly; I just never thought this would happen to me and I was unprepared.

When I first came to the UK I was told Muslims might have a problem with breastfeeding in public and that I should watch out for them. They never even looked at me. I’ve only been judged by white Europeans (that’s just my experience, you might have a different one and I acknowledge that). I heard things like: “Oh, but you are going to stop breastfeeding when he’s 18 months old right? It’s just ridiculous after that, they don’t need it”; “You shouldn’t breastfeed after he starts walking, it’s weird”; “Why don’t you give him a bottle when you are out?”; “This is a very private moment, are you sure you want to do it in a busy place like this?”.

To be fair, I also received several kind smiles and compliments from other women passing by while I breastfed. These little gestures remind you you’re not doing anything wrong at all.

My mum told me when me and my siblings had turned one she was embarrassed to breastfeed us. I can see why a lot of women feel this way, maybe even earlier, and give up breastfeeding. I have heard stories of breastfeeding mothers that heard awful comments in restaurants; that weren’t allowed to do it in a relative’s house; that are suing businesses for discriminating against them.

It doesn’t mean that bottle-feeding mums don’t get discriminated. Nasty looks and comments from breastfeeding mums may happen at any time. Shaming online is getting increasingly common, too. In some of this online groups, breastfeeding mums talk about bottle-feeding as if it was child abuse. I might not understand mothers who dismiss even trying to breastfeed with a comment like: “It’s not for me”; but I’d rather not judge. I don’t know what’s behind that decision and it’s too easy to point a finger when you’ve had a different reality.



Leakages, constant thirst and hunger, muscle aches from breastfeeding in the same position for a while are some of the regular inconveniences. When babies are teething they commonly bite, too. I won’t lie to you, it hurts. I get very tense sometimes, leaving a finger next to his mouth, ready to get him out of the breast if he starts biting. This phases come and go, it’s not a constant thing. Most of the time you don’t have to worry about them.

But by far, the worst “inconvenience” I had was mastitis. The first one (I had about six of them, I think… I lost count!) was the worst. A mastitis is when a milk duct gets blocked. It’s painful, but massaging it in the shower, breastfeeding more with that breast and expressing usually solves the problem. In my first one, however, it turned into an abscess – it got infected.

I wasn’t feeling too well, it felt like the beginning of a cold. Then my breast started hurting and I felt a lump, so I called my GP. She told me she would see me that day, so I got ready to go; put my son on his pushchair and stopped by a café to eat something on the way to the surgery. I then started to feel very sick and couldn’t eat my food. Pushing the pram became very hard because of the pain. The lump was getting bigger and I could feel it burn. By the time I got to the GP’s office, I was shaking, with a temperature of over 39,5C. I was prescribed antibiotics, which take two days to kick in, so I was very ill for those two days. I kept getting mastitis, but none as bad as the first.

Something that majorly still affects my life is the fact my son won’t go to bed without a feed. We tried to have someone else put him in bed but he will just cry endlessly and I don’t want him to sleep from exhaustion after crying for hours. That means we still co-sleep. His cot bed is next to my bed and he rolls there next to a feed or just falls asleep in my bed. It also means I can’t go out at night, because even after he falls asleep he might wake up, and if I’m not there to nurse him back to sleep he won’t go back to sleep.

When he started crawling he would wake up in the middle of the night and start crawling, even crawl in his sleep sometimes. He crawled out of bed twice, waking up after hitting the floor. I freaked out. The only solution I could think of was sleep training him so he would sleep safely in his cot. All these cry-it-out methods made me feel physically ill with anxiety. I just couldn’t let my baby cry.

Then I went to the UK Breastfeeding and Parenting Support group on Facebook and asked for advice. One of the suggestions was that I get rid of the bed and put my mattress on the floor, so even if he fell off the bed, my son wouldn’t get hurt. It sounded extreme to me, and to my friends and family. My Brazilian mindset was seeing this as being a weak mother who will spoil her child. But then I realised letting my son cry himself to sleep was way more extreme. Why were bed legs so important to me anyway?

I dismantled the bed and put the base on the floor with my mattress, next to his cot bed with an open side, and kept on breastfeeding my son to sleep. That is still how we sleep today, over a year later.


Worth it

Breastfeeding is extremely hard – I think I mentioned it before – but it’s worth it. Besides all the know health benefits of it, there are also the things that are hard to measure, such as the irreversible new brain connections that you and your baby will benefit from. All that chemistry that goes on in your brain also goes on in your baby’s brain and it helps him develop into an intelligent, loving child, who feels safe and connected. This may sound intangible but it’s extremely important. These early moments of a child’s life have a central role in determining what kind of adult they will become. By making sure they have all the oxytocin and oxytocin receptors they can have, helping them regulate their brain chemistry and neuronal connections, we are not only assuring them a healthier life, but one filled with love and warmth.

What we need to fight against is not bottle-feeding mothers, or whoever thinks differently, but disinformation and shaming. What we need to fight for is: professionals that are more prepared to support parents; clear, honest information for everyone and, above all else, empathy. That’s what I believe in, and that’s why I shared my story.

I’m still breastfeeding (only during the night, as per my son’s preference); my son is 22 months old. I still get mixed feelings about it. Sometimes I just want to stop. But then I lie down to feed him and watch him as he strokes my belly – I supposed that’s his way of saying “thank you for the milk” – and I’m taken by a happiness I just can’t explain. I’m sure when I do stop, I’ll miss it.

Hi, I`m an immigrant

Hey there, my name is Susan, and a lot of people hate me. They are very concerned with my impact on their country`s economy, and that I might be abusing the system. They believe I should be sent back to my country of origin and only come back if I have the skills they need. I`m an immigrant on benefits in the UK.

Let me clarify something, though: I do work. I just don’t make enough money to support my family, and I’m a single mother, so I get help from the government. I’m very grateful I am having the opportunity to live in a house that’s big enough for me and my family, that I don’t struggle to buy food, that my son can go to childcare while I work, that I get to spend time with him, too. I didn’t want to be in a situation where I need benefits and I’m working my way out of it so I won’t need help in the future. However, being in this situation was out of my control, so I’m glad I had this option. Others aren’t so happy about it.

According to a 2013 survey, more than half the British population believes that the cost of having immigrants outweighs the benefits. A lot of people are concerned about the “benefit tourists” and immigration is perceived as one of the most important issues the UK faces. This is one of the main reasons Brexit is happening, so this perception is causing major changes in the UK policy and may have a huge impact in its economy and politics.

Don’t get me wrong, I have never been mistreated and nobody has ever been rude to me or told me I should leave. In fact, when I catch people making negative comments on immigration and I remind them I’m an immigrant myself, I often hear: “But I don’t see you as an immigrant”, or “You’re not the problem”. The problematic immigrant is not usually the one close to you, it’s this distant image of an ill-intentioned, strange looking guy, speaking another language and taking advantage of anything he can. I don’t look like that guy. Personally, I don’t know anyone who looks like that guy. Most people don’t.

The Migration Observatory points out that “In something of a paradox, while vast majorities view migration as harmful to Britain, few claim that their own neighbourhood is having problems due to migrants”. Surveys show that a minority of the British population think the nearby migrants are the problem. In fact, the most contact people have with immigrants, the more positive is their view of them. It might seem a lot when we say that, in 2013, more than half of Britain believed there were too many immigrants in the country; but in 1970, about 90% of people had this view. The number of people who have this negative view of immigrants have been steadily decreasing since then, as the presence of foreigners increases.

There has been a spark in migrations to the UK since 2013, with a rapid increase of people arriving from a variety of countries. How did that affect the public impressions of foreigners? Positively! Though most people still believe immigrants have a negative impact on the economy and cultural life in Britain, this is slowly changing:

Similarly, in the US, the voters who most supported Trump, who based his campaign largely on the “immigration problem”, were the least likely to have contact with immigrants: the people living in small towns. Most of the big cities and areas with a multicultural environment, had less people vote for Trump, according to the exit polls (red is votes for Trump and blue is votes for Hillary):

It seems that, getting to know immigrants may actually change your view of them (really!). When you get to know them, you might realise they are not very different from you at all. Maybe the reasons why they came to the UK are actually something you’d do, if you were in their position. The UK is actually one of the countries where most nationals emigrate, with 8% of its citizens living in another country.


Why do people come to the UK?

Most people come here to work. The second favourite reason is to study and the third is to join someone, like a spouse. Moving countries is not easy and I had different reasons to do so. I think nobody moves to a different place for one reason only. I had to make huge sacrifices to be able to move here and it wasn’t a decision taken lightly.

I was married to an Englishman and we lived in Brazil for 5 years. He started missing home and his family a lot, so we decided to make plans for a move to the UK. That was 2014, I was in my last year in University and didn’t want to rush out of the country. My graduation research was going to be published into a book and I wanted to take care of all that before I left.

A couple of things changed our plans completely, they happened sort of at the same time. Brazil was entering a political and economic crisis, a lot of companies downsized, including the one my husband worked for and he was one of the many employees who were laid off. I then discovered I was pregnant. We lost our health insurance and were both working as freelance teachers, so there were a lot of uncertainties in our minds. We decided it would be best to move to the UK earlier than we had planned.

It wasn’t easy. We saved money, sold furniture and electronics, our car, gave lots of stuff away. Because the currency suffered a huge drop with the political crisis, our money wasn’t much when we arrived in the UK. We weren’t entitled to benefits (it’s not as easy as you think) so my husband had to find a job quickly. I wasn’t there for my book launch, I couldn’t attend any of the events I was invited to lecture at, I made huge sacrifices in my career.

Why did I do all that? For my son. It was important to me that he would have access to healthcare, to a good education, that he would be safe and that I’d be around to raise him instead of working ten hours a day like I was doing in Brazil. The UK is an attractive destination for migrants because it offers these basic human rights to everyone. In most parts of the world, basic human rights are a luxury.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Brazil and I miss it a lot. I often think about going back. I miss the social life, the weather and the friendly, happy people. But then I remember the stress and my son doesn’t deserve it. No one deserves it, but most don’t have a choice.

What do I mean about stress? Well, I noticed how stressed I was when I travelled to California in February, 2014. The day I arrived, a friend picked me up from the airport and parked outside a restaurant to pick up a takeaway and told me to wait in the car. As I waited, I didn’t relax. I kept looking at the review mirrors looking for a person or a motorcycle approaching the car. I was afraid of being robbed or kidnapped; it took me a few minutes to realise I was being silly, it wasn’t going to happen there. I was in California for a few weeks and the feeling of being able to relax a little for the first time in years is hard to describe.

I used to drive to work in Sao Paulo, the largest city in Brazil and there was a lot of traffic. While I was stuck in traffic, it was common to see a motorcyclist stop next to a car, take a gun out and ask the driver for money and valuables. There’s no escape, I was just sitting in my car wondering when it was going to be me. I would hide my bag under my seat and keep a fake wallet and phone near me, ready to give to the next criminal to approach me. It’s a risky move. If they realise you tricked them you might get shot. Luckily, though I’ve been physically attacked by muggers before, none of them had a gun. In fact, I was only held at gun point by police. What had I done wrong? Nothing. Where there’s a lot of violence and crime, the police tend to be more aggressive, too. It’s a snow ball.

Brazil has a high murder rate, worse than Iraq. A woman is raped in Brazil every 11 minutes. It has one of the worst wealth distribution. The government recently signed a decision to cut all investments in health and education for the next 20 years. I don’t want this for my son. If you are a parent, we probably have that in common.

Nowadays, I still sometimes hold my breath when I hear a motorcycle. When a stranger is walking towards me, I look at their hands, to see if they’re reaching for a gun or a knife. It’s only for a second, then I remember I’m not in Brazil and I relax. I can only begin to imagine what it’s like for a Syrian refugee when they have crossed the border and they hear an airplane. Imagine this: what does it feel like to feel panic, then realise it’s just a plane, not a Russian bomber? That’s an exercise we all need to do before we say no to refugees. Ask ourselves this kind of questions. What does it feel like when your one-year-old hears an airplane noise and says “bomb” before he’s even learned to say “dog”. What does it feel like for a ten-year-old refugee in Europe who doesn’t want to go to school because his school got bombed back in Syria and he saw his friends die?

I’m not saying all immigrants are good, all I’m saying is: get to know them. The odds are it’ll change your view on immigration.


But is immigration actually bad for the UK?

According to the Migrants and Citizens website, “there is no foundation for the claim that immigration is undermining the British welfare state. In fact, it looks like the opposite is true”. Almost 93% of benefits go to UK nationals:

The site further explains that:

“In fact, all the data points to the fact that the vast majority of EU migrants actually pay into the UK’s social security system without taking as much out. A 2009 UCL study, comparing net tax receipts with likely expenditure, suggested that Eastern European A8 migrants paid in 35% more than they were likely to receive in welfare services, while natives’ taxes were equivalent to only 80% of the money they received in benefits. These A8 migrants in the UK – are also 60% less likely than natives to receive state benefits or tax credits, and 58% less likely to live in social housing. Although different models of income and outgoings shifted the balance slightly in local citizens’ favour, the overall conclusion was clear: ‘A8 immigrants are unambiguously net fiscal contributors, while natives are unambiguously receiving more than they contribute’.These findings have since been confirmed by a follow-up study released late in 2014, which calculated that EU migrants who have arrived in Britain since 2000 have made a net fiscal contribution of £20bn (non-EU migrants’ net contribution over the same period was £5bn)”.

Basically, I’m the exception here. Most immigrants contribute more than they receive in the UK and I’m hoping to join them soon. Sending immigrants away may actually result in a cut on benefits and pensions for British citizens and less investment for the NHS, not the opposite.


My unrequested advice:

  • If you are British, get to know foreigners, learn more about their countries and the situation around the world.
  • If you are an immigrant, join groups that are working to inform and fighting for migrant’s rights in the UK. One Day Without Us and The 3 Million are examples.
  • When feeling discriminated, try talking sensibly about how you feel and avoid accusing others of wrongdoing (unless it’s clearly a case for the police), they might not have noticed they’ve done something. Do talk about it, though.
  • Empathy is underrated and should be exercised more often. Whether you are an immigrant or a UK national, try to imagine what it’s like to be in a different situation; try to understand the reason why people do the things they do.
  • Be sceptical of politicians who blame immigrants for the country’s problems, this is the oldest trick for manipulation. Make sure you fact check all of their claims.

Resposta a Luiz Felipe Pondé

Leia o texto de Pondé aqui.

A conta do sofrimento masculino com a emancipação feminina chegou, e ela se chama seleção natural. É isso, meu caro darwininsta, a evolução da espécie prossegue, quer você acompanhe, quer não. Quem não se adapta às mudanças do meio ambiente vai se perdendo na seleção natural. Mas, como Darwin defendeu – e talvez você tenha perdido essa parte do darwinismo ao perder seu tempo defendendo sua simplificação interpretada por Herbert Spencer – a sociabilidade é de suma importância para se obter vantagem evolutiva; formar conexões é tão importante quanto acasalar para a sobrevivência da espécie. Então, não se preocupe, nós feministas não o deixaremos para trás.

Vamos começar com alguns esclarecimentos. Em sua coluna, você pergunta: “O que será o homem do século 21?”. Ele continuará sendo homem, igualzinho antes. A gente só espera que ele seja mais empático, e isso serve para as mulheres também.

Tenho que discordar de que “à medida que se torna mais inteligente (…) mais ele ficará interessado em si mesmo”. Ao que tudo indica, quanto mais inteligentes, mais interesse temos nos outros. Isso não é um discurso feminista cheio de mimimi; estou falando de neurociência, psicologia social, teoria do apego. Vou explicar melhor.

No estudo do desenvolvimento infantil, sabe-se que as crianças mais bem apegadas – que possuem figuras de apego, como a mãe, pai ou outro adulto significativo – se tornam mais inteligentes (Sunderland, 2016) (Rifkin, 2009) (Mooney, 2010). Isso ocorre porque, ao se sentirem seguros, os bebês e as crianças estão livres para explorar e aprender; sem o stress da autopreservação, já que um adulto está cuidando disso para eles, há mais espaço para o cérebro se desenvolver (Zeedyk).

Em um experimento famoso desenvolvido por Harry Harlow, macaquinhos bebês tiveram as mães substituídas por uma mãe postiça. Metade deles recebeu uma mãe de pano, bem confortável, e a outra metade uma mãe de fios, menos agradável para se aconchegar. Ambas as mães davam leite, para que os macacos fossem nutridos adequadamente. Os macacos com as mães de pano sobreviveram com muito mais sucesso que os macacos com as mães de fios, mesmo quando o leite deixou de ser oferecido. O experimento demonstra a importância de o bebê se sentir seguro e conectado para sobreviver, algo que é semelhante em todos os mamíferos.

Quanto mais apego, mais carinho ela recebe, mais inteligente e resiliente se torna a criança, além disso, ela se torna mais empática. E a empatia é parte essencial na máquina evolutiva de nossa espécie. Sem ela, nos destruímos uns aos outros, sem nos preocupar com os sentimentos de nossas vítimas.

De fato, se a procriação fosse a principal chave da sobrevivência da espécie humana, como explicaríamos a homossexualidade? Fosse assim simples, os genes que determinam predisposição para a homossexualidade já teriam sido extintos na seleção natural, já que a procriação é rara em relacionamentos homo afetivos. A ativação dos “genes gays” ocorre como uma ferramenta de sobrevivência, de acordo com o Dr. James O’Keefe. Quando há um desequilíbrio de gêneros na população, nascem mais gays. Isso ocorre porque, como expliquei anteriormente, nós dependemos de afeto, de relações sociais e conexões para sobreviver. Quanto mais filhos homens uma mãe tem, maiores as chances de o próximo ser gay. O quinto filho homem tem 33% mais chances de ser gay que o primeiro.

Então, quando você diz que as meninas partirão “para a experimentação lésbica por puro desespero”, você está errado. As lésbicas serão lésbicas, as hétero serão hétero. E trans não é moda. Toda essa comunidade LGBT vem de uma ativação genética que a mãe natureza talhou com o maior cuidado para ajudar a nossa espécie. O mesmo gene que determina a homossexualidade também determina maior capacidade para inteligência emocional. O’Keefe explica que, as pessoas que tiram as notas mais altas nos testes de inteligência emocional têm mais de 50% de probabilidade de ser gay. É o gene da empatia.

A homofobia é, portanto, uma afronta à evolução. Isso também vale para o machismo, racismo e todos os tipos de discriminação que indicam um baixo nível de empatia, de consideração pelo bem-estar alheio. O feminismo luta a favor da evolução, das conexões, da empatia, do bem-estar coletivo. E, não se preocupe, nós temos parceiros, maridos, namorados, filhos. Não somos essa figura estereotipada que você pinta em seu artigo.

Agora, vamos combinar, ser darwinista e depois fazer, no mesmo texto, um comentário criacionista é meio contraditório. Também é contraditório dizer que homem é complexo e listar as fantasias sexuais mais cliché da caixa de prazeres. Talvez quem está precisando fazer experimentações sexuais é você, Pondé. Vai lá se descobrir, seja sozinho ou com uma mulher que confie e respeite, e tenta dar uma relaxada. A mudança acontece mesmo, não precisa entrar em pânico. Embarque na evolução que nós não queremos te deixar para trás. Nós só estamos pedindo respeito e igualdade para todos.

E é claro que vamos respeitar seus sentimentos, até mesmo seu temor pelo fim da espécie; mas preciso te lembrar, também, que o ocidente não é mercado de carne, e mulher não é filé para você ir lá catar uma que satisfaça o seu apetite. Até entendo você estar invejando os homens de sociedades menos igualitárias, mas tenho fé em você e a certeza de que você supera isso.

Também vale lembrar que doçura não quer dizer submissão. E submissão é a única característica que você não vai encontrar em mulheres feministas.

Gisela’s Breastfeeding Journey

Gisela breastfeeding Lilly

For a moment that looked like an eternity, Gisela was mute. The voice on the other side of the line didn`t seem to notice her heart racing and her chest turning cold. She was told her midwife had voiced concerns about her daughter and that she was to bring her 10-week-old to the hospital as soon as possible. A million things went through her mind between then and the time she arrived at the hospital at 7pm. Among them, the idea that she had done something wrong, that she was just being stubborn; maybe she should have listened to her family and given little Lilly a bottle. She seemed so healthy, so happy, though. What could be wrong with her except her weight gain not following the standard curves in her red book? Gisela was determined to figure that out as she headed to the hospital.

Hoping for the support and understanding of the staff, Gisela soon felt like she was battling against them. One of the first things she was told as she arrived at the children’s ward was that there wasn’t a bed for her and that she should leave her daughter overnight for observations.

Leave her daughter.

They might as well have asked her to leave her arm for a biopsy.

Because there was no bed for her. Did they expect her to go home and sleep after such amputation? They knew very well Lilly was exclusively breastfed. How could she be separated from her mother for more than a few hours? – Gisela asked herself. It all made no sense. Did they suspect Gisela was neglecting or not offering her daughter proper care? All these ideas came rushing back through Gisela’s mind as she kindly responded:

– Absolutely not!

Followed by a lot of “nos”. Her emphatic response did not stop, however, the doctors who came to check on Lilly to, again, ask Gisela to leave her daughter at the hospital and go home. She wasn’t so kind this time:

– VETE A LA MIERDA! – she’s not sure if her words came out, as her heart must have been blocking her throat.

By the way, I’ll let you Google translate that.

Though the doctors did not speak Spanish, they understood she wouldn’t leave her daughter’s side.

– I either stay with her or I’m taking her home – she said, feeling her blood boil gradually from her chest to the top of her head and tip of her toes.

Though normally patient, Gisela found it hard to sit still and listen to the doctors. Her surly response worked: they decided to run some blood tests and soon discharged Lilly by midnight, as there was nothing wrong with her. Relieved, though slightly traumatized, Gisela took her baby home and resumed her breastfeeding journey. It hadn’t been easy from the start.


It all started with her first son, Chris. He’d been born in Spain, by emergency C-section. Though Gisela had always wanted to breastfeed, she soon realised it was harder than she could have imagined.

She had little support. Though nurses assisted her in the first week, as Gisela was in hospital fighting an infection in her scar, she was on her own when she went home. Her partner (British) had to go back to the UK for work and her mother had never breastfed. Chris was losing weight and Gisela’s nipples hurt intensively, to the point she was scared of the baby being brought to her.

She found herself in a really dark place. She loved her son as she had never loved anything before, but she didn’t enjoy nursing him. Chris seemed to always want the breast, it was like he was never satisfied. Tired and in pain, Gisela thought she didn’t want to be with her baby.

Her mother had had enough of it. She went out, bought some formula and gave Chris a bottle. He drank it eagerly, as if he was being fed for the first time. Gisela was told her milk was probably too weak, not enough for her baby. She asked her doctor for a pill to stop her milk supply, and that was the end of her terrible breastfeeding experience.

Her situation only deteriorated after that. Gisela felt like a failure and sunk deep into a postnatal depression. She needed therapy and medication. It took her years to recover.

Six years later – she lived in Blackpool at the time – when she found out she was pregnant again, she was determined to make breastfeeding work. Realizing she might have been able to do it the first time if she’d had appropriate support, Gisela started gathering as much information as she could and preparing in advance. She took prenatal courses, got in touch with as many breastfeeding mothers as she could, joined all the support groups online and took note of all the support meetings in her area. She bought breast pumps and bottles in case she needed them and got herself a Star Buddy.

When Lilly came – also through a C-section, but a lot less problematic than the first – Gisela managed to help her latch on to the breast and things started so smoothly she couldn’t be happier. Her Star Buddy came to the hospital to meet her and introduce her to their system. Gisela was given a contact number to call whenever she needed. The nurses were helpful and always checked to see if breastfeeding was going well. “At first it seemed easy”, says Gisela, “but it wasn’t”.

Just like Chris, Lilly was on the breast all day. Yet, when they went home and the midwife came to check on her, Lilly had lost quite a lot of weight. Gisela was told to keep breastfeeding as usual. Every two days someone would come and check on Lilly. Everything seemed normal, except she was still losing weight. She had been born with more than 4 kg, so she wasn’t tiny, but there was a concern her weight loss wasn’t normal.

To add to the stress, Gisela had sore nipples. “I started to panic, it was Chris all over again”. She bought herself some lanolin cream and carried on; she wasn’t ready to give up. Her Star Buddy visited several times and helped her with the breastfeeding position, giving her plenty of advice on how to handle the situation. A breastfeeding consultant online suggested Gisela took Lilly to the hospital to check for tongue or lip tie, but that wasn’t the case. While in the hospital, “we got assisted during a full feed and I was corrected in how to position her and feed her”, explains Gisela. The pain persisted. Her nipples looked very wounded and would often bleed.

Gisela then found La Leche League. A local member, who was also Spanish, contacted Gisela. “She came in a couple of times”, says Gisela, “again I was given advice and help. And company, which was something I needed the most”.

The pain lasted almost three weeks and then ceased. Gisela was proud of herself for persevering and felt like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders. Without the pain, she felt she could overcome any challenges ahead. But Lilly’s weight kept going down until she had lost 11% of her initial weight.

During all this time, Gisela’s family were very concerned and kept telling her to give up and give Lilly some formula. Bombarded with guilt, Gisela found refuge online, talking to other mothers who had gone through the same. She would write all of her concerns down on Facebook support groups and get lots of support. By venting and breastfeeding like there’s no tomorrow, Gisela managed to keep the depression away. “Lilly was my rock”, she explains, “I was always with her”.

By six weeks Lilly finally started gaining weight, but not as fast as she was expected by protocols. After the nightmare hospital visit, Lilly’s weight gain started improving. It was still not ideal, but the midwife and Star Buddy were pleased. “A gain is a gain”, they said. “It was taking long, but we were finally succeeding”, smiles Gisela. Every weight gain was a reason to celebrate.

When Gisela took Lilly to Spain to meet her family, she found out her mum had booked her an appointment with the family’s paediatrician. “I trusted him, so I didn’t mind”. The GP expressed his concerns about Lilly being so light and the slow weight gain. He recommended that she didn’t stop breastfeeding but offer her baby a top up with formula after every feed. Gisela’s mum was pleased with the solution found, but Gisela felt devastated: “I felt like a failure, but I had managed so much against all odds”. She carries on:

“I didn’t want to give her the bottle at first. I was scared she wouldn’t take the breast after. But I thought he wouldn’t lie to me and that at the end of the day her health was at risk and I was not going to chance it”.

She started giving Lilly a supplement of 60ml of formula after a normal feed, but only three times a day, not after every feed as she was told. To her relief, Lilly never stopped wanting her breast and her weight gain stabilized; but Gisela noticed a decreased in her milk supply, so she went on the Facebook group for advice. “I was quite attacked about it, and got told that my doctor was not good for the advice and all”. Some mothers shared they were doing the same thing as her, but others shared assumptions that Spanish doctors weren’t that good. It pushed Gisela away from support groups online.


Gisela has been breastfeeding for the last ten months and is very pleased with her daughter. Lilly is happy and healthy, eating all her solids and still enjoying her mother’s breast. In fact, when Gisela comes home from work, Lilly won’t let her do anything before picking her up and giving her a feed. To Gisela, breastfeeding was the hardest thing she has ever done, but it was definitely worth the struggle – it still is, as her breastfeeding journey has not yet ended.

Polarização e política do medo


polarizacao-azul-vermelhoHá duas salientes linhas de pensamento hoje no Brasil. Eu as chamarei de A e B, e descrevo as duas abaixo:


Linha de pensamento A

Há um plano de ação em processo, com a intensão de implantar o comunismo/socialismo totalitário no Brasil. Para alcançar esse objetivo, os orquestradores desse plano (muito representados por políticos de esquerda), pretendem trazer abaixo todos os valores cristãos, que são a principal barreira impedindo que esse desejo se concretize. Para tal, esse grupo esquerdista é capaz de qualquer coisa, até mesmo corromper crianças através do homossexualismo e a pedofilia. Esse plano se disfarça de uma coisa boa, se manifestando na forma de movimentos por direitos humanos, direitos LGBT, feministas, etc, ganhando assim muitos adeptos. Mal sabem eles que são “massa de manobra” para fins sinistros.


Linha de pensamento B

Há um plano de ação em processo, com a intenção de implantar uma nova ditadura no Brasil. Os orquestradores desse plano – representados por políticos de direita em parceria com grandes corporações – contam com o apoio de muitos religiosos, que são facilmente manipulados por pastores (especialmente da igreja evangélica). As pessoas que apoiam esse plano, religiosos ou não, costumam ser racistas, homofóbicas, preconceituosas em geral. Eles acreditam numa forma moderna, mais disfarçada, de escravatura através do trabalho; pois a maioria deles são pessoas com dinheiro, e carregam um grande rancor do pobre.


Se você achou a primeira linha de pensamento absurda, é bem provável que a segunda lhe soe plausível. Se o pensamento A faz sentido para você, você deve ter achado o pensamento B completamente insano. Isso é a polarização.

Qual das duas linhas de pensamento está correta? Nenhuma. O motivo pela qual uma delas provavelmente soa plausível para você (e para mim, eu não estou imune a esses processos) pode ser explicado pela heurística.




Segundo a Wikipédia, heurística “é um método ou processo criado com o objetivo de encontrar soluções para um problema. É um procedimento simplificador (embora não simplista) que, em face de questões difíceis, envolve a substituição destas por outras de resolução mais fácil a fim de encontrar respostas viáveis, ainda que imperfeitas. Tal procedimento pode ser tanto uma técnica deliberada de resolução de problemas, como uma operação de comportamento automática, intuitiva e inconsciente”.

626381112Nós fazemos isso o tempo todo. O cérebro humano desenvolveu técnicas de solução rápida de problemas, que podem ser muito úteis, mas que muitas vezes causam falhas de julgamento. O exemplo mais clássico é o da heurística da disponibilidade, na qual um julgamento é feito baseado no primeiro pensamento que vem à mente.

O Dr. Jerome Groopman (apud Skeptical’s Dictionary) exemplifica essa heurística com o caso de um médico que diagnosticou vários casos de pneumonia viral no decorrer de algumas semanas. Uma paciente então apresentou sintomas similares, mas não apresentou as características manchas brancas no raio-x do pulmão, típicas de pneumonia viral. O médico a diagnosticou como estando nos estágios iniciais de pneumonia. Ele estava errado. Outro médico apresentou o diagnóstico correto: envenenamento por aspirina. O julgamento do primeiro médico havia sido atrapalhado pela grande disponibilidade de casos com o mesmo diagnóstico.

Nós não compramos um bilhete de loteria pensando nas chances extremamente baixas de recebermos o prêmio, mas nos casos de vencedores que vemos nos jornais e nos comerciais. Essas imagens estão mais disponíveis do que os números concretos da probabilidade, levando muita gente a superestimar suas chances. Assim, também, sempre que os noticiários estampam o rosto de terroristas islâmicos na TV, aumentam os ataques a estrangeiros (principalmente árabes, mas muitas vezes também mexicanos e indianos) nas ruas dos Estados Unidos. As chances de ser morto por um americano branco, por um bebê ou por um cortador de gramas são muito maiores do que por um terrorista mulçumano, mas a heurística da disponibilidade faz com que as pessoas vejam o mulçumano como uma ameaça maior.

Evitar esses erros de julgamento dá trabalho. É preciso ponderar, buscar o máximo possível de informações sobre o assunto, analisar versões com pontos de vista diferentes, etc. O uso das mídias sociais também colabora para intensificar a ocorrência de heurísticas.

As pessoas recebem grandes quantidades de informações através da internet, o que as força a fazer julgamentos ainda mais rapidamente. Além disso, o sistema de mídias sociais como o Facebook, intensifica a disponibilidade cada vez mais radical de um ponto de vista. Quando você clica em um artigo que foi compartilhado por um colega, o Facebook recebe essa informação como uma indicação de interesse por determinado assunto. Baseando-se nessa informação, ele passa a disponibilizar mais links sobre esse assunto, autor, veículo, etc. Então digamos que você clique em um artigo de uma revista de ponto de vista predominantemente de direita. Mais artigos de direita vão aparecer e você vai clicando. Em um determinado momento, todos os links vão apresentar um ponto de vista mais de direita, te deixando sem a opção de visualizar um ponto de vista diferente.

É comum, também, participar de grupos online onde mais pessoas compartilham um ponto de vista. Stuart Sutherland, em “Irrationality” (1992), explica que, quanto mais se convive com pessoas de um mesmo ponto de vista, mais essas pessoas se radicalizam para aquela linha de pensamento. Pessoas com o mesmo ponto de vista, validam e encorajam esse pensamento, e a falta de contra-argumentos – por evitarmos pessoas que pensam diferente – faz com que crenças se intensifiquem cada vez mais. Nós agimos assim por gostarmos de sentir que estamos corretos e receber a aprovação do grupo; encaramos a discordância como uma afronta, uma ofensa.


O medo


Suzanne Zeedyk explica o sucesso de Hitler através do medo e, acima de tudo, a origem do medo. O cérebro em desenvolvimento possui um sistema FEAR (medo) que funciona como um músculo; quanto mais ele é ativado na infância, mais sensível ele fica. Crianças que sofreram abuso, por exemplo, costumam ter esse sistema muito sensível. É como um alarme automotivo que dispara toda vez que alguém encosta no carro. O menor dos estímulos pode desencadear um ataque de pânico, ansiedade, agressividade, ou qualquer que seja a reação. Isso pode perdurar até a vida adulta. A geração de Alemães que apoiou o nazismo de Hitler, viveram uma infância na qual o “conselho da moda” dado aos pais era de uma criação autoritária dos filhos. Na criação autoritária predomina a disciplina, alcançada através de punições (sejam físicas, castigos ou humilhações) e ameaças. Esse tipo de criação ativa o sistema FEAR do cérebro em desenvolvimento com muita frequência.

Na vida adulta, quando esse sistema continua sensível, há um medo irracional de ameaças externas. Para justificar esse sentimento, essas pessoas criam um inimigo, que pode ser, no caso da Alemanha nazista, os judeus, negros, etc… As pessoas se unem contra esses inimigos em comum, sentem-se parte importante de uma comunidade, sentem-se mais seguras. Onde há medo generalizado, há sempre uma pessoa (ou mais pessoas) disposta a usar isso para alcançar o poder. Hitler não teria sido tão bem-sucedido, e feito o estrago que fez, não fosse o apoio que recebeu das pessoas (lembrando que não foram todos os alemães que apoiaram Hitler; não é preciso que todos, ou mesmo a maioria, apoiem uma pessoa como ele para que ela seja bem-sucedida).

O mesmo acontece hoje em dia. Figuras totalitárias recebem apoio das massas por representarem um sentimento de segurança. Para uma pessoa com o sistema FEAR soando o alarme constantemente, é beneficial sacrificar sua liberdade em nome da segurança.


A polarização é um fenômeno que costuma preceder um momento histórico traumático, guerras civis ou guerras entre países, por exemplo. Em pleno 2016, ela tem acontecido no mundo todo, acelerada pela internet e viabilizada pelo medo. No Brasil, ela se manifesta na forma dos times A e B, que seguem os pensamentos A e B mencionados acima. Não é preciso que você concorde inteiramente com um deles, se identificar em parte é o suficiente para ser acatado por um grupo e se tornar inimigo do outro; aos poucos a sua afinidade com esses ideais deve se intensificar.

Enquanto o time A e o time B brigam entre si, o pequeno grupo de pessoas no poder lutam por elas mesmas; fazendo alianças com quem lhes for conveniente, apoiando o time que lhe for conveniente, promovendo e executando ações que lhes são convenientes, tudo em nome da manutenção do poder. Quando mais intensa a polarização, mais facilidade essas pessoas têm de permanecer e aumentar seu poder, se preocupando somente com as falcatruas e picuinhas entre eles mesmos.

Enquanto a população brigar entre si e enxergar uns aos outros como inimigos, continuaremos em declínio. Quando aceitarmos diferentes opiniões e o constante debate como parte fundamental para a manutenção da democracia, as coisas tendem a fluir. A população mais crítica, unida e reflexiva é mais forte para se defender contra a manipulação de oportunistas em busca de poder.


debate1O que fazer?

– Reflita sobre si mesmo, sobre o motivo para suas opiniões e pontos de vista; busque ser mais aberto a novas informações e mais flexível; tente reconhecer os momentos em que seu julgamento foi afetado por heurísticas.

– Se relacione e converse com pessoas que pensam diferente de você. Mesmo que você não concorde com elas, tente entender porque essas pessoas pensam assim e acima de tudo, respeite-as.

– Pratique a empatia com mais frequência; tente sentir o que o outro sente, se colocar em seu lugar e imaginar como é essa realidade. Procure não enxergar outras pessoas como “inimigos”, mas como pessoas que viveram outras e experiências e discordam de você. Tanto ela quanto você podem mudar de ideia um dia e acabar descobrindo que têm muito em comum.

– Debata com pessoas diferentes. A única forma de validar um ponto de vista é tentando provar que ele está errado. Escute argumentos conflitantes e reflita novamente sobre seus conceitos. Você pode manter a mesma opinião, adaptar seu ponto de vista ou mudar de ideia completamente.

– Procure saber mais sobre um assunto antes de expressar sua opinião na internet. Use fontes com pontos de vista opostos para elaborar sua opinião.

– Tente ver o mundo como um espaço para a colaboração e não para conflitos.


Observação: eu não me excluo dessa lista. Tenho tentado seguir esses passos (é um processo contínuo) e acabei descobrindo muitas coisas sobre mim mesma, meus preconceitos e vieses, e também tenho aprendido muito sobre pessoas com vidas completamente diferentes da minha. Ainda tenho muito a aprender, mas sinto que a minha vida se tornou muito mais fácil e positiva depois desse choque psicológico e por isso recomendo.

Sobre o mau comportamento

diego2No ano passado, o vídeo de um menino de sete anos – vamos chama-lo de Diego – na cidade costeira de Macaé, no Rio de Janeiro, se tornou viral. No vídeo, o menino vira cadeiras, mesas, joga objetos pela sala, faz uma bagunça danada. Os professores ficam a sua volta, parados, sem saber o que fazer. Uma funcionária, acredita-se que seja a diretora da escola, diz: “Eu quero saber com a orientação educacional, com a assistente social, com a polícia, o que a gente faz com uma criança dessas?”. O vídeo foi compartilhado quase 30 mil vezes, recebendo mais de 23 mil comentários, muitos dos quais são perturbadores.

First comment: "lack of a beating"; second comment: "thank god my parents beat me up as a kid so today I`m not a worthless criminal or a thief, always respected everyone including my parents". Third comment laments that, in Brazil, psychologists and human rights restrain people from providing "proper education" (?) imposing limits to children.

First comment says "beat him up"; the other suggests he`s taken to a prison so the police would "freak him out".

Ainda no vídeo, um dos funcionários (talvez a diretora) instrui os outros a não tocarem na criança e esperarem até que sua mãe chegue na escola. “A gente não pode bater nele, não pode segurar ele”. Não, não pode; mas também não deve (voltarei a falar sobre isso mais para frente). O garoto acabou indo parar no Fantástico, onde os especialistas entrevistados lamentam o fato de professores se sentirem presos e não poderem impor limites em crianças como ele.

O que mais me chateia – além da grotesca exposição dessa criança – é que isso mostra o quão despreparados, não apenas pessoas em geral (incluindo pais e responsáveis), estão educadores, psicólogos e outros profissionais ao lidar com uma criança de comportamento difícil. E isso não é exclusivo do Brasil. No Reino Unido, em 2012, “mais de 40% dos pais admitiram ter punido fisicamente ou batido em uma criança no decorrer de um ano (…) e cerca de 77% gritou com os filhos” (Sunderland, 2016, p.178).

Eu não os culpo. A maioria dos pais aprendeu que se deve “disciplinar” os filhos para que eles se comportem bem. Eu também já pensei da mesma forma, mas eu tenho aprendido muito desde que me tornei mãe e trabalhando com crianças – e eu gosto de compartilhar aquilo que aprendo, então vamos lá. A seguir, explicarei porque crianças se comportam mal e o que fazer a respeito.


Pequenos cérebros, grandes emoções

Os seres humanos nascem com o lobo frontal subdesenvolvido. Trata-se da parte do cérebro responsável pelo pensamento claro e intenções. Isso significa que não nascemos com a habilidade de controlar nossas emoções. Nós aprendemos isso através de nossas conexões com os adultos a nossa volta, como familiares, educadores, etc. Dessa forma, o mau comportamento costuma ser resultado de um cérebro imaturo.

frontal lobe

Em contraste com o lobo frontal, desde o nascimento, a parte inferior do cérebro humano está funcionando completamente. Essa região do cérebro

“contém sete forças hormonais enormes – os sistemas emocionais geneticamente arraigados. Há três sistemas de alarme – RAGE (frustração, irritação), FEAR (medo) e PANIC/GRIEF (pânico, perda, angústia da separação) – e três sistemas calmantes, de bem-estar e pro-sociais – CARE (afeto), SEEKING (procurando, desejo, antecipação) and PLAY (brincadeira, alegria, despreocupação) – e, finalmente, LUST (acasalamento). Esses sistemas são como músculos, quanto mais os ativamos, mais eles se tornam parte da personalidade”. (Sunderland, 2016, p.19)

Para uma criança, pequenas coisas como cansaço e fome podem ser motivo para uma crise de mau comportamento. Por causa do lobo frontal desenvolvido, adultos possuem a habilidade de compreender porque estão irritados e ir buscar algo para comer, descansar, caminhar ou qualquer coisa que os faça se sentir melhor. Crianças precisam de um adulto que as ajude a entender e lidar com seus sentimentos. O que parece pouco para um adulto, para uma criança pode ser super estressante.

Quando crises de mau comportamento não são lidados apropriadamente na infância, elas podem continuar ocorrendo na vida adulta. Se você trabalha com atendimento ao cliente, provavelmente já se deparou com um desses adultos.


Motivos para o mau comportamento de acordo com Sunderland:

– Fome ou cansaço;

– Alimentação (açúcar, adoçantes e certos aditivos nos alimentos podem afetar o comportamento da criança);

– Cérebro emocional ainda pouco desenvolvido (conforme explicado anteriormente);

– Cérebro pouco estimulado (enquanto adultos podem ligar o rádio ou algo do tipo, crianças podem tentar estimular a si mesmos causando uma situação com seu comportamento);

– Necessidade de reconhecimento (crianças que estejam buscando a atenção de adultos podem usar o comportamento como uma forma de consegui-la);

– Necessidade de estrutura (falta de estrutura, como uma rotina clara);

– Necessidade de ajuda com um grande sentimento (tensão devido a um evento em particular na vida da criança);

– Absorvendo o stress dos pais;

– Parte errada do cérebro da criança sendo constantemente ativada.

O último ponto merece atenção especial, pois nesse caso é preciso que os pais, responsáveis ou educadores mudem sua forma de se relacionar com a criança. Sunderland explica que

“Um dos principais motivos que levam crianças a se comportarem mal é devido à forma como os pais se relacionam à criança, ativando a parte errada do cérebro. Você terá mais dificuldades com os filhos se a criação estiver ativando os sistemas RAGE, FEAR ou PANIC/GRIEF do cérebro inferior. Você terá momentos mais agradáveis se ativar os sistemas CARE, PLAY ou SEEKING”.

Gritar, punir fisicamente e ameaçar a criança com frequência irá superestimular os sistemas RAGE, FEAR e PANIC/GRIEF, tornando a criança mais suscetível a crises de mau comportamento; e não o oposto, como a maioria das pessoas comentando no vídeo do Diego parecem acreditar.

“Da próxima vez que estiver prestes a dar bronca em uma criança (normalmente por causa de um comportamento que você não gostou), pergunte-se se há uma forma mais gentil de se expressar – por trás de todo comportamento há uma necessidade emocional, e não é a necessidade de levar bronca”. (Suzanne Zeedyk)

Há dois tipos de crises de comportamento, a crise aflitiva e a de Pequeno Nero. Ambas devem ser levadas a sério e tratadas apropriadamente, de maneiras diferentes.


Crise aflitiva

Use your developed frontal lobe to control your emotions and deal appropriately  with a challenging child.

Use o seu lobo frontal desenvolvido para julgar a situação e lidar com a crise da criança apropriadamente.

“Uma crise aflitiva indica que um ou mais dos sistemas de alarme foi fortemente ativado. Esses sistemas de alarme são RAGE, FEAR e PANIC/GRIEF. Isso resulta no estado de alerta da criança se desequilibrando, com níveis excessivos de componentes do stress fluindo pelo corpo e cérebro”. (Sunderland, 2016, p.184)

Esse tipo de crise pede uma aproximação do adulto, para acalmar a criança. Segurar a criança com carinho, oferecendo palavras calmantes, ajudará a fazê-la se sentir segura novamente. Então, assim que a criança estiver se sentindo mais calma, a melhor coisa a fazer é distraí-la – com uma canção, mostrando algo interessante, etc.

Castigos e punições, isolar a criança em um quarto, ignorar ou não dar atenção a essas crises de comportamento pode ser prejudicial, podendo levar a crises mais longas e mais frequentes.


Crises de Pequeno Nero

Essa é bem diferente da crise aflitiva e pede uma resposta diferente. O adulto, nesse caso, deve dar menos atenção à criança. Essa crise reflete o desejo de manipular o adulto – quando a criança quer um doce, por exemplo, e tenta convencer os pais a compra-lo gritando e não cooperando. Se a criança consegue o que quer, ela continuará tendo uma crise toda vez que ouvir “não”.

Não adianta tentar argumentar, negociar ou persuadir a criança durante a crise de Pequeno Nero, pois só estará dando a ela a atenção que ela está pedindo. Não grite com a criança, pois ela irá aprender que esse é um comportamento aceitável.

Normalmente, a criança que está tendo uma crise de Pequeno Nero vai parar ao ser ignorada; ou quando compreender que receberá atenção do adulto quando estiver calma e pedindo algo educadamente. Entretanto, algumas vezes, uma crise de Pequeno Nero pode escalar para uma crise aflitiva. É importante saber distingui-las para que sejam lidadas corretamente. Se a criança muda de um comportamento onde ela dá comandos ou exige algo incessantemente para um estado de dor genuína, a criança precisará de ajuda para lidar com seus sentimentos.

Suzanne Zeedyk nos lembra que “mesmo crises de Pequeno Nero refletem uma criança tendo dificuldades ao lidar com seus próprios desejos; então, carinho sem limites” é sempre a melhor abordagem.


No caso de Diego, ele não estava exigindo nada; ele silenciosamente destruía a sala dos professores. Eu diria se tratar de uma crise aflitiva. Ele estava tentando lidar com um sentimento muito forte e não sabia como, resultando no seu comportamento destrutivo.

Pessoalmente, essa é a minha forma de lidar com a situação – apesar de haver outras formas de lidar com ela: eu o levaria (sem machucá-lo de nenhuma maneira) para algum lugar, provavelmente do lado de fora, onde ele não pudesse causar muitos danos ou se machucar. Eu usaria frases calmantes, como: “Está tudo bem; ninguém está bravo com você; não se preocupe; vai ficar tudo bem”. Eu esperaria ele se acalmar e me sentaria ao lado dele, talvez colocando uma mão no seu ombro ou costas (se ele deixar) para oferecer conforto. Eu então conversaria com ele, para tentar descobrir o que causou a crise. Perguntas simples, como: “Como foi o seu dia?” , podem ser bem elucidativas. Talvez houve um desentendimento com um colega, talvez ele sofreu bullying, ou talvez algo esteja acontecendo na casa do garoto. Pode ser que ele não diga nada ou queira falar sobre outra coisa, ou brincar. O importante é que ele agora está mais calmo e pronto para retornar a sua rotina.

É importante lembrar que para lidar com crianças com frequentes crises de comportamento é preciso muita paciência. Crianças precisam de tempo para aprender a lidar com seus sentimentos ou pedir ajuda a um adulto. E que gritar, punir fisicamente, isolar ou humilhar a criança não são métodos eficientes. Diego foi filmado e exposto a milhares de pessoas, muitas das quais expressaram o desejo de puni-lo agressivamente e usaram palavras ofensivas para se referir a ele (trombadinha, marginal, futuro criminoso, diabo, etc). Isso é um abuso (coletivo) verbal e emocional de uma criança; sendo essa uma das principais causas para crianças e adultos se comportarem inadequadamente. Eu espero que Diego esteja bem, mas eu não me surpreenderia se depois disso tudo o seu comportamento não tenha melhorado. Eu espero que um adulto sensato e carinhoso o esteja ajudando a lidar com seus sentimentos.

When children behave badly

diego2Last year, a video of a seven-year-old – I`ll call him Diego – in a coastal town of Rio de Janeiro state called Macae, in Brazil, destroying the teacher`s lounge of his school became viral. In the video, the child knocks down chairs, tables, throws stuff around, makes a huge mess. The teachers stood around him, not knowing what to do. One staff, thought to be the principal, is heard making comments like: “What do we do with a child like this? Call social services, correctional office, the police?”. It was shared nearly 30 thousand times on Facebook, receiving more than 23 thousand comments, much of which were disturbing.


First comment says "beat him up"; the other suggests he`s taken to a prison so the police would "freak him out".

First comment says “beat him up”; the other suggests he`s taken to a prison so the police would “freak him out”.

First comment: "lack of a beating"; second comment: "thank god my parents beat me up as a kid so today I`m not a worthless criminal or a thief, always respected everyone including my parents". Third comment laments that, in Brazil, psychologists and human rights restrain people from providing "proper education" (?) imposing limits to children.

First comment: “lack of a beating”; second comment: “thank god my parents beat me up as a kid so today I`m not a worthless criminal or a thief, always respected everyone including my parents”. Third comment laments that, in Brazil, psychologists and human rights restrain people from providing “proper education” (?) imposing limits to children.

In the video, one of the teachers (or maybe the principal), instructs the others not to touch the boy and wait for his mother to come and pick him up. “What can we do? We are not allowed to beat him or restrain him”. No, you are not allowed. But, also, you shouldn`t (I`ll talk about that in a second). The poor boy ended up in the news, and the experts interviewed regret the teachers feel they are not allowed to impose limits to children like him.

What upsets me the most – besides the gross exposure of this child – it`s that it shows how little prepared, not only people in general (including parents and carers), but educators, psychologists and other professionals are to deal with children with challenging behaviour. And this is not exclusive to Brazil. In the UK, in 2012, “more than 40 percent of parents admitted to physically punishing or hitting a child in the past year; (…) and around 77 percent yelled at their children” (Sunderland, 2016, p.178).

I don`t blame them, though. Most parents learned they were supposed to “discipline” their children in order for them to behave. I once thought the same way, but I`ve been learning a lot since I became a parent and by working with children – and I like to share things I learn, so here we go. Here`s why children misbehave and what to do about it.


Little brains, strong emotions

Humans are born with an underdeveloped frontal lobe, which is the part of the brain responsible for clear thoughts and intentions. This means we`re not born able to control ourselves, we have to learn it. And they usually learn through their connection with parents and cares – and also other adults around them, such as family members, educators, etc. So most misbehaving is a result of an immature brain.

frontal lobe

In contrast with the frontal lobe, from the moment we are born, our lower brain is fully functional. This area

“contains seven huge hormonal forces – the genetically ingrained emotional systems. There are three alarm systems – RAGE, FEAR and PANIC/GRIEF – and three calm and well-being, or pro-social systems – CARE, SEEKING, and PLAY – and, finally, LUST. These systems are like muscles. The more we activate one of them, the more it becomes part of the personality”. (Sunderland, 2016, p.19)

For a child, little things like hunger or tiredness can be a reason for a tantrum, or an outburst of misbehaviour. Adults are more able to understand why they are irritated and go get some food, rest, take a walk or whatever they know will help them feel better. Children need an adult to help them cope with their feelings. What seems like a small thing for an adult can be overwhelming for a child.

When tantrums and misbehaviour are not appropriately addressed in childhood, they might continue later on in adult life. If you work in customer service, you probably know what I`m talking about.


Reasons for misbehaviour according to Sunderland (2016):

  • Hunger and fatigue;
  • Food (sugar, sweeteners and a number of additives can affect children`s brains);
  • Undeveloped emotional brain (as previously explained);
  • Understimulation of the brain (while an adult might turn the radio on, children might stimulate their own brains by causing a situation);
  • Recognition hunger (children might be seeking adult attention and realises a tantrum gets a reaction);
  • Need for structure (a lack of structure, like a clear routine);
  • Needing help with a big feeling (tension due to a particular event in the child`s life)
  • Picking up on parent`s stress;
  • Wrong part of the child`s brain being activated.

This last one deserves especial attention, because it requires parents, cares and educators to change their approach. Sunderland explains that

“One of the main reasons why children behave badly is because the way a parent is relating to a child is activating the wrong part of the brain. You will have an awful time with your child if your parenting activates her lower brain RAGE, FEAR, or PANIC/GRIEF systems. You can have a delightful time if you activate her lower brain CARE (attachment), PLAY or SEEKING systems”.

Frequent yelling, physical punishment and threats will overstimulate the RAGE, FEAR, or PANIC/GRIEF systems, making the child more susceptible to bad behaviour and tantrums, and not the opposite as most people commenting on Diego`s video seem to believe.

“Next time you find yourself about to speak sharply to a child (usually for some bit of behavior you didn’t like) ask yourself if there is a gentler way you could convey your thoughts – because underneath all behavior is an emotional need, and it isn’t a need to be told off.” (Suzanne Zeedyk)

There are two types of tantrums, the distress ones and the Little Nero tantrums. They need to be taken seriously and require different responses.


Distress tantrums

“A distress tantrum means that one or more of the three alarm systems has been very strongly activated. These alarm systems are RAGE, FEAR and PANIC/GRIEF. As a result, your child`s arousal system will be way out of balance, with excessively high levels of stress chemicals searing through his body and brain”. (Sunderland, 2016, p.184)

These type of tantrums require the adult to get closer to the child, soothe her. Holding the child tenderly, offering calming words, will help her feel safe again. Then, once the child has calmed down, the best thing to do is to distract her – with a song, showing something interesting, etc.

Use your developed frontal lobe to control your emotions and deal appropriately with a challenging child.

Use your developed frontal lobe to control your emotions and deal appropriately with a challenging child.

Time-out techniques, putting a child in a room by herself or ignoring or disregarding this kind of tantrum can be harmful, possibly leading to longer, more frequent tantrums.


Little Nero tantrums

This is very different from the distress tantrums and requires the adult to react the opposite way, giving less attention to the child. This tantrum is about the desire to manipulate the adult – when a child wants sweets, for example, and tries to convince her parents to buy them by screaming and not cooperating. If the child gets what she wants, then she`s going to keep on doing it every time you say “no”.

There`s no point trying to argue, negotiate, reason or persuade the child, as that would grant her the attention she`s after. Also, don`t yell, as the child will learn this is acceptable.

Normally the child having a Little Nero tantrum will stop once ignored. Although, some children might move from a Little Nero tantrum to a distress tantrum. It`s important to distinguish them so they can be addressed correctly. If a child goes from nagging or giving you commands to a state of genuine pain, the child will then need help dealing with her feelings.

Suzanne Zeedyk reminds us, though, that “even Little Nero tantrums are still a child struggling with desire; so kindness without boundaries” is always the best approach.


When it comes to Diego, as he wasn`t demanding anything, he was quietly wrecking the room, I`d say he was having a distress tantrum. He was having to deal with really strong feeling and didn`t know how to, which resulted in the bad behaviour.

This is my personal approach to a situation like this, what I would do – though there are other ways of dealing with the situation: I`d take him (making sure I`m not hurting him in any way) somewhere, probably outside, where he can`t do much damage to property or himself. I`d use calming words such as “it`s ok; nobody is mad at you; you are ok; it will get better”, etc. I`ll wait for him to calm down and sit next to him if he lets me, maybe put my hand on his shoulder or back for reassurance. Then I`d talk to him and try to understand what triggered the tantrum. Simple questions like “how was your day” can lead to very elucidating answers on what could have winded up the child. Maybe there was a misunderstanding with other children, maybe he was bullied, maybe something is going on at home. He might not talk to me this time, or might prefer to talk about something else, or play a game. What matters it`s that the child calmed down and is now able to return to his routine.

It`s important to remember that dealing with children who often behave badly requires a lot of patience. It takes time for them to learn how to ask an adult for help and cope with their feelings. And that yelling, physical punishment, isolation and humiliation are not effective. Diego was filmed and exposed to thousands of people, many of them expressed the desire to physically punish him, and many others used unkind words to refer to him (calling him a future criminal, devil, rascal, etc). That`s collective verbal and emotional abuse of a child; one of the main causes for children and young adults to behave badly. I hope Diego is ok, but I wouldn`t be surprised if his behaviour hasn`t improved. I hope a sensible, caring adult is helping him deal with his feelings.

What my vegan baby eats

Healthy vegan baby

Healthy vegan baby

Raising a vegan child isn`t always easy. Not because of the food options, but because of people`s misunderstanding of what veganism is. I have been accused of depriving my child from his basic nutrition; loving animals more than my son; putting him at risk of malnutrition and anaemia; and a number of other less dramatic wrong-doing. Most of the time, when people find out about our diet, they fill me with questions and I can`t blame them; there is a lack of information and abundant misconception on the subject. So I try to take all the questions seriously and always answer them as well as I can, but there is so much to say it`s hard to squeeze it all in a few minutes of conversation before people get bored of the subject and start talking about how delicious steak is. So for those who are truly interested – and for my sake – I decided to write about the main questions I normally hear, one post at a time.

Probably the most frequent question I hear is: “What do you eat”?

First of all, I need to clarify something: we do eat. We don`t eat less than other people – if anything we eat more – and we don`t hate food, we`re not fussy (most of us, at least), and we are not just trying to lose weight (again, most of us). Also, veganism doesn`t have a standard menu we`re supposed to follow. It simply means we do not consume any animal products. That`s it. There are infinite ways of being vegan, including healthy and unhealthy ones. So it can be absolutely suitable for babies from weaning – or from birth in the case of formula-fed babies.

Now this is my son`s case:

My son was exclusively breastfed for over five months. Just before he turned six months, he seemed ready to start eating solids, so I gave him pureed butternut squash. He loved it. He also seemed very interested in feeding himself so I did a mix of baby-led weaning and pureed food – sometimes he would only eat if I fed him with a spoon, go figure. I kept breastfeeding on demand but would always try to give him food first so he would depend less and less on the breast.

For the baby-led part of his weaning I gave him pieces of fruit and veggies, such as cucumber, apple, banana, peaches, oranges, cooked potato and carrots, pasta (I recommend penne over spaghetti, way less messy) with tomato sauce and bits of veggies, things like that. Some of the fruit he wouldn`t eat whole, he would eat in a puree, like strawberries, so I blended some fruit together to feed him with a spoon. I also prepared porridge the American way, mixing oats and boiled water. I add pieces of fruit, mashed banana or purees to it for flavour – he loves it.

After a few months he was eating pretty much the same as me. This is how I plan our meals:

I have a whole-food, plant-based diet that`s also starch based. That means I don`t eat any animal products such as meat, dairy or eggs. It also means I cook from scratch, from real food, trying to avoid processed food (especially white flour, white bread, white anything) as much as I can. To be fair, I do buy some baby snacks for those occasions I don`t have time to prepare anything and need to be out with my son during most of the day. Most of our meals, though, are real food. To base your diet on starch means a big part of my meals is starchy food. So for every meal I either have a generous portion of grains (mostly rice and beans, because I`m Brazilian and this is culturally what we add to anything we eat), whole grain pasta or starchy root vegetables, like potatoes. The starchy bit is our main source of calories. Then I add veggies we like, trying to vary as much as possible so we get all the vitamins, minerals and amino-acids we need. My son eats about five times a day: breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack and dinner.

These are some examples of typical meals:

1 – For lunch or dinner: Rice (preferably brown), black beans, roasted potato + carrots + parsnips, steamed broccoli and cucumber salad. Fruit for dessert.

2 – For lunch or dinner: Lasagne (whole grain sheets) made with tomato sauce, mushroom, aubergine, onions, leeks, carrots and courgettes. Vegan cake (with whole flour and brown sugar) for dessert.

3 – For lunch or dinner: Rice (preferably brown), potato curry with bell peppers and onions, lettuce and tomato salad. Vegan flapjack for dessert.

4 – For breakfast: oatmeal with fruits.

5 – For snack: fruit, rice cakes, chopped veggies, etc…


I know what you`re thinking: “How about the protein”? Believe it or not, there`s plenty of protein in these meals I just mentioned. All plants have protein and me and my son are doing very well. He is 15 months old now and he is still gaining weight nicely, is very active and energetic, very smart and growing up fast, as any other healthy child. My last blood tests came out great and I don`t take any supplements, neither does my son (Though I keep an eye out for vitamin B12 and D, I`ll write more about it on another post).

If you are interested and want to know more about the subject, I recommend the following books, videos and websites:



The China Study


Swallow This




Forks Over Knives



Starch Solution

101 Reasons to Go Vegan



Vegan Society

Nutrition Facts