The Tapestry of Guilt- The Truth About Guilt and Parenting

by Jessica Martin-Weber

Trigger warning- sexual abuse mentioned.

Blooming amongst the hard places

This post is talking about guilt, settle in, it’s a long one because… guilt.

If I had a dollar for every time I hear a mother share her infant feeding story under a thick layer of guilt, I would be a wealthy woman. If I had a dime for every time I hear a mother share her pregnancy story, her birth story, her postpartum/newborn story, her parenting decisions and realities under that stifling wet blanket of guilt that turns so many beautiful stories into a dark, twisted confusing drama, I would be an incredibly wealthy woman. Lots and lots of companies are getting wealthy capitalizing on mothering guilt, it’s big business. Be it for the length of time they breastfed, how involved their partner could be with them breastfeeding, their child’s health issues, how many bottles their child received, if they used formula, how well pumping went for them, or how she feels about breastfeeding, often guilt is a regular theme in these stories. Permeating the pregnancy journey, birth experience, first days, recovery, relationships, the learning curve, sleep experiences, solids, purchases, you name it, guilt underlies even many of the joys. Guilt, regret, and grief. Bittersweetness. Through their tears or defensive tone, guilt and sometime shame underlie their words, a framework on which to hang their tapestry of fear that in reality they are inadequate.

And it hurts.

This guilt upon which their story is spread causes many of them deep yet inescapable pain. For some that pain has made them feel vulnerable to the attacks of others or even what they simply perceive as attacks from others when they share. For some that pain has made them harden, putting up their defenses and adding caveats to the stories of others. For some that pain threatens their very confidence, adding a sinister voice to the question so many find nagging within: am I enough?

I know guilt well. Far too well.

This emotion is triggered when we’ve done something wrong or wonder if we have done something wrong. It can be a very good thing, alerting us when we’ve gone off course or ignored our moral compass, inspiring education to learn how to do better. I’ve been grateful for guilt at times, it has helped me be a better person, a better friend, better worker, better partner, and a better mother. With an important purpose, guilt can help us keep our actions in line with our values. Brene Brown explains that guilt is about what we’ve done whereas shame is about who we believe we are. That’s where things get blurry. Sometimes guilt grows into shame and we question not only our actions but our very worth as a person as a result of those actions. Usually starting with “what kind of person/mother/partner/friend/daughter would DO that?”

Sometimes guilt is legitimate, we’ve done or not done something that doesn’t aline with our values. Sometimes we bring guilt on ourselves unjustly. Either because of the importance we’ve placed on something (i.e. I must have this kind of birth because it is the best and science says my child will have a better life if they are born this way) or because we punish ourselves for what we didn’t know. Sometimes guilt is a result of privilege, easily missed as being artificially manufactured from a culture of expected norms based in privilege. Sometimes guilt is triggered by someone else wanting us to feel guilty in an attempt to control us or make themselves feel superior. Some of us have mothers that are particularly skilled in this manipulation. True, nobody can make you feel anything without your permission but we are social beings who need community and our feelings are a part of that dynamic and they matter. Why else would we even want to be with other people and take that risk?

Guilt has woven in an out of my own mothering stories, still does. I have felt guilt over a great many choices, accidents, ignorances, and situations entirely out of my control in caring for my children; from how I ate during my pregnancies, how their births went, what I have fed them at meal times, car seat mistakes, educational choices, health care decisions, discipline choices, the mess of my house, you name it. In 16.5 years of parenting, my mothering guilt has built up quite a rap sheet. But it all pales in comparison to my greatest grief as a mother. In the shadow of this one thing, I see these other areas for what they really are: mistakes or insignificant variations from my plan that are nothing more than blips on the radar.

I may have wept when breastfeeding my 2nd daughter ended at 4.5 months, 8 months shy of my goal. Guilt accompanied me for a time that I wasn’t strong enough to push through excruciating pain, couldn’t manage her screams from reflux, and wasn’t able to find the bonding promised in breastfeeding and instead found each feeding session a blow to my already fragile mental health in the midst of fighting postpartum depression. It felt real and devastating at the time and I won’t minimize anyone’s struggle through such an experience, it isn’t easy. A few years later though, for me that seemed as small as guilt in having to throw away a ruined meal due to forgetting to set the timer.

No, the guilt I hold and have gone to therapy for years over stems from when I failed to identify someone who would hurt my children and failed to notice they were experiencing ongoing sexual abuse at the hands of someone I loved and trusted. That two of my children were used, their bodies abused and their spirits crushed because of a person, a 13 year old boy I brought into their lives and I couldn’t tell it was happening… that is a guilt and grief I have lacked the words to explain for 10 years. How could any good mother miss that? How could I have missed the warning signs that the perpetrator was a risk? How could I not have known? How could I have failed them and allowed them to experience so much pain?

Maybe I didn’t deserve to be a mother. Maybe my children weren’t safe in my care. Maybe… maybe I wasn’t enough.

I haven’t been alone with this guilt, my husband, their daddy, has battled it too. It has brought out in both of us at times protectiveness, aggressive fury, self loathing, depression, and fear. Oh so much fear. And shame. For a long time that’s really all there was, guilt, fear, and shame.

That was a terrible place to parent from. No confidence, nothing healthy. Nothing to help our children heal and recover. We were trying but it wasn’t working.

The abuse wasn’t really our fault but it kind of was too. Our therapist and friends would try to encourage us by reminding us that the one responsible was the one who did it. That’s true, he is responsible but then, we’re the ones responsible for our children. It could happen to anyone, they would say, and that’s true too, but it happened to our children and we were supposed to stop it. We did as soon as we found out and we fought hard for them, demanding justice, accountability, and help for their abuser. But it still happened. As our eldest fractured before our eyes, splintering into little shards of herself losing her kindergarten year to nightmares, outbursts, and locking herself in the bathroom to cry wracking sobs or worse, sit curled up in the corner without a sound as she picked at her skin, we could only blame the one that did this to a point. When you point one finger out, there are 3 pointing back at you.

Guilt sucks. Shame is an asshole. Fear is crippling.

Our daughters were hurting and they needed us. As much as I didn’t feel like I was the right mother for them, as much as my confidence was shattered, as much as I had already failed them, I was the mother they had. After CPS had investigated and cleared us, our children were stuck with us, failures and all, we were the only parents they had. It became time for guilt to do something positive, it was time for course correcting, time to educate ourselves and learn how to do better, time to grow. We had little confidence in our abilities as parents, just enough to believe that maybe our love for our daughters would be enough and we could learn and grow.

We did. The approach to parenting we had taken was ditched and we started over from scratch after careful analyses of what we had believed and practiced as parents. Not only did we want to change our parenting because we felt our approach had failed our daughters and enabled abuse, we also were creating mindful changes to support their healing. With a critical eye we dismantled it all. Reading sources on child development and parenting that took a different approach than what we had tried before and intensely scrutinizing our parenting that may have contributed to the abuse or made our children more vulnerable, we gradually developed a parenting philosophy we could put into practice that was drastically different. Proactive in getting our daughters help and altering how we parented led to healing and over time, confidence building for all of us.

Guilt, whether it was rightfully placed or not, helped us get to that place. Guilt that broke us.

We could have stayed in that place of guilt, eventually embracing and internalizing shame as parents but that would have been an even greater failure of our daughters. Moving on wasn’t the answer, getting over it, letting it go, wasn’t what helped us, it was moving into and through it that made the real difference. With the help of therapy and the sharing of a few other bold individuals, our family found our way to healing that led to thriving, strength, and confidence.

Guilt hasn’t disappeared from my life, I still make mistakes, still am disappointed with myself from time to time, still hurt when I can’t manage to be the “best” parent I have idolized in my head. From worry and guilt about what I did before I learned differently (car seat safety, sleeping arrangements, etc.) to guilt that we sometimes find ourselves short of the resources to help our children reach their goals (such as our eldest’s dance training- still so far from the funds she needs). It’s still there, still pushing me to learn and grow and sometimes to change and figure out how to do better. But it doesn’t get to stay around for long, my children need me too much to sleep with guilt. Now, as our eldest is 16, she’s taking her sexual abuse experience and turning it into something powerful. From my guilt has come this overwhelming pride confusingly mixed with humility. (Read her story here and listen to her share in her own voice here.) And I’m done wasting time feeling guilty about things like formula feeding my 2nd (never had much guilt there actually, it was necessary and right for us), over guilt for things I didn’t know, past guilt issues out of my control, and moved on from guilt that I am human and make mistakes. Now when guilt pops up, I sit and examine it, question the source, and assess if it is genuine or artificially manufactured. Then I determine what I need to learn from it and dismiss it from my life so I can get on with the growing and learning. There are those that want me to wallow in it and try to throw it in my face from time to time, those that attempt to feel better about themselves by attempting to provoke guilt in me, and even those that try to turn it into shame so I question my very worth. They are powerless over me now because I’m no longer afraid of guilt, I can use it to grow. In the big picture, so much of the guilt we hold onto is for mistakes, wrong-doing, ignorance, or bad choices that are not lasting issues. I’ve survived true guilt for something so terrible, I already know the truth.

Even with my mistakes, even with my failures, I am enough.

And I don’t judge other parents or wish guilt or shame on them. Because now, I know it can happen to anyone. Even accidentally leaving a child in the car on a hot day.

I am a rich woman today, not in material possessions or my bank account. The wealth I treasure today is the intricate tapestry of experience in my family. Guilt has a place but it doesn’t own me or define me and it is my hope that every parent that truly loves their child and is willing to grow and learn as they parent will take the inevitable guilt they will encounter as they care for their children and turn it into something beautiful and enriching. Because when we know we are enough, our children can believe it for themselves too.

 _________________

My eldest, 16 year old Ophélia talks openly about her experience healing from sexual abuse, you can learn more about how she is now working to help others even as she continues to grow and heal by going here. To support her in that journey, see her fundraising video (she’s still a long way from her goal) here.

_________________

Share

Six Ways To Support Someone With Postpartum Depression/Postpartum Anxiety

by Jessica Martin-Weber, illustration by Jennie Bernstein

12may15tlb1a3

I can’t tell you the number of times each day we receive messages or have posts in the community group or on The Leaky Boob Facebook page wall from women just beginning to wade into the waters of acknowledging their struggle with postpartum depression and anxiety. The numbers, if we tracked them, would be staggering.

But they aren’t surprising.

According to the American Psychological Association, it is estimated that 9-16 percent of women who have had a baby will experience postpartum depression. Of those, 41% will go on to have it again after subsequent babies.

Which means chances are strong you or someone you know is struggling with postpartum depression or has dealt with it in the past.

The American Psychological Association describes the symptoms of PPD thus:

For mothers, PPD can:

  • affect ability to function in everyday life and increase risk for anxiety, cognitive impairment, guilt, self blame, and fear;
  • lead to difficulty in providing developmentally appropriate care to infants;
  • lead to a loss of pleasure or interest in life, sleep disturbance, feelings of irritability or anxiety, withdrawal from family and friends, crying, and thoughts of hurting oneself or one’s child;
  • be particularly problematic because of the social role adjustments expected of new mothers, which include immediate and constant infant care, redefining spousal and familial relationships, and work role.

The day I knew something was wrong with me was when my second baby was 5 weeks old and I was standing at my kitchen counter, staring blankly into the chocolate milk I was stirring, wishing I could get caught in the whirlpool swirling in my glass. I realized that I was fantasizing about committing suicide in my chocolate milk. That’s nor normal and that’s probably not good, I thought, then I took a drink of the chocolate milk I had just imagined drowning in and numbly turned back to my two children. They needed me, I was the one that was so weak of a person in character that I couldn’t handle it and wanted to die. My thoughts were that I needed to buck up, develop stronger character, and just be a good mom who loved being a good mom.

But I couldn’t try my way out of it. I was certain I was inadequate in every way possible.

The day my husband knew I needed help (he knew something was wrong before then) was when he came home to find me hiding in our closet while the toddler was crying downstairs and the baby was screaming in her bassinet. I had put myself there because I was afraid I was going to hurt my children. Standing above my baby’s bassinet where she was once again screaming, I hadn’t felt sympathy or concern for her, all I had felt was overwhelmed, failure, and the desire to throw her against the wall. Feelings that were so foreign to me and so strong that I became afraid for my children, afraid of what I could be capable of. I hadn’t even known I was capable of feeling that way in the first place. My husband called my midwife and appointment was set that would lead to other appointments and some medications.

Coming through that time was like being caught in a whirlpool, fighting a rushing current that threatened to suck me down. Sometimes I didn’t have the fight for it. Sometimes I did. Sometimes I didn’t but found the fight inspired by my children, my husband, and my friends. In the beginning, that was often the only way I found the fight.

Telling the people around us was a game changer. We were in a transitional time of our life, having just started being a part of a new community a few months before. Our previous community had splintered, we had just moved, and we felt disconnected from friends and never had been very close with our families and I just lost one of the closest family members I had to dementia then death the very day my daughter was born. My family, so far away, was already dealing with a hurt and loss so big I didn’t want to be responsible for adding to it. Hundreds, even thousands of miles and relational fractures separated us from the people in our life that previously had been our people. We were just starting to find that again and I was terrified that this depression, this overwhelming, all consuming inner oppression would drive them away and destroy my family’s chance at having a place to belong and people who cared.

Then something amazing happened. Those people cared anyway.

A small group of friends who we played in a band with and did shared faith with dared to care. Without us even telling them at first, they began to push into our lives a bit, even when I pushed them away. Eventually, we opened up and shared our struggle.

It was then they all grabbed an oar and began paddling my lifeboat against the current of that whirlpool even when I couldn’t. They helped save me. They also helped me find my own paddle not only for myself but to jump in and help when I have friends in the same boat.

As a society we don’t talk enough about mental health and postpartum depression gets little more than a checklist run through with our care providers. So much shame, stigma, and fear comes with admitting struggles with mental health even when we know that it isn’t an issue of good vs bad character. For those of us in the midst depression it can be difficult to express what we need, we may not even know ourselves. For those of us loving someone in the midst of depression it can be difficult to know what our loved ones need, how to be there, or how to help. For those of us with friends and acquaintances we suspect may be floundering, it can be difficult to know. I’m still learning but here is what my friends have taught me in truly supporting someone dealing with mental illness:

  1. Acceptance. Don’t argue that they don’t feel the way they feel, don’t point out they seem to be ok. Accepting what I admitted was what I was experiencing helped me accept it as well. That is the first step for getting better.
  2. Listen. Even if they don’t have anything to say. Even if they do and it takes them a while to figure out how to get it out.
  3. Wait. You may think you know exactly what they need but jumping in with all your suggestions to fix it can be crippling for the one who is not well. Wait with them, along side them but don’t tell them every idea you have for how they can better. Please be quiet about your oils, the diet suggestions, your faith belief promises, your books, your conviction that if they just count their blessings everything will be better, your recommendations for fresh air, and to get moving. Just wait with them. Be with them.
  4. Be there. One of the many sucky parts of depression and anxiety is that it often tells the sufferer they aren’t worthy, aren’t good enough for love. Messages of inadequacy may flood their spirit and in attempting to avoid that pain, they may attempt to avoid the people that want to be there through it and beyond. Be there anyway. Gently, patiently, persistently. Respect your boundaries while you be there and don’t tolerate abuse, but if you can continue being there even when you are pushed away, you may very well help them anchor themselves enough to fight against the current of depression and anxiety that tells them they aren’t good enough.
  5. Share. Knowing others have gone and are going through similar struggles can help. Comfort that maybe they aren’t alone, that others may understand, and that they are not a freak can help those suffering with mental health issues find their own inner power. And to know that others have gone through and emerged able to talk about it and having found a path that worked for them is a message of hope.
  6. Help. Oh this one is hard. How do you help without being pushy? How do you help without trying to fix them? My husband explains it this way: fight along side them, not in front of them (they don’t need a knight in shinning armor), not against them (distracts from the real battle), not behind them (makes them feel they need to watch their back), along side them. My friends helped me most by coming over and playing with my children, holding my baby even when she was screaming (she had reflux, she was often screaming), by sharing their personal experiences with depression and anxiety, by asking me and really wanting to know how I was doing, and by celebrating my good moments when I wanted to celebrate them.

Have a friend or partner you are concerned about? You can help her and by helping her you are helping her children as well. The road to healing isn’t always easy but it’s better when we’re not alone.

Not sure if you or someone you love is experiencing normal baby blues or postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety? This list may help put things in perspective.

 

 

Share

Postpartum Depression and Anxiety: When No One Knows

by Kileah McIlvain

TRIGGER WARNING: This post contains experiences of depression and anxiety and loss and may be triggering to certain individuals. Please read with care.

postpartum depression postpartum anxiety, monster within.

photo: urban bay photography

I sat there. On the park bench in the middle of Laurelhurst a year ago today. He sat on the other end. I felt like a NOTHING. A Void. A Black hole from which and out of which nothing good could come. I wanted to hurl myself into the quiet duckpond while the local shakespeare players were acting out a scene from Macbeth on the other side of the trees. The feelings of exploding, of darkness, of drowning, of feeling like nothing but a walking corpse never felt more present. What was the point? Why the hell was I put on this earth if God was going to play russian roulette with my life? What the hell was I supposed to do with this gnawing grief of  a past miscarriage and the overwhelming demands of  trying to meet my family’s needs? Why couldn’t I just be kind? Why couldn’t I be strong and be good and just BE who my kids and my husband needed me to be? The questions that had taken root in the dark and walled-up places of my heart began to erupt. The rotten rags that I’d used to stuff up all of the leaks and holes riddling my soul began to surface from these murky depths. I was thrashing around in the gaping maw of my own personal monster. I couldn’t move anymore. I was going to sink. I wanted to sink…and be nothing. It was terrifying.

I. Wanted. To. Die. 

The strange thing is. No one tells you. Either because they don’t know what to say or they don’t even KNOW. It’s easy to smile and nod, and pretend you’ve got it together. Because that’s what you do. It’s invisible, this monster. It chews at your mind and sucks your soul until you feel hulled out…like a painted eggshell that looks great to everyone around you…but you’re hollow and fragile. And no one has a clue. They don’t know that you want to run away. They don’t know that it terrifies you to say anything because you’re sure that if you do, someone will call CPS or SPCC and take your children away. You’re convinced you’re a bad mom. That you aren’t capable of caring for these little humans you gave birth to. The yelling, the blackouts where 15 minutes later you don’t know what was done or what was said. The deeply-ridden shame and anxiety and the panic attacks triggered by the hot water in the shower. I remember the earliest days of my darkness when I laid my son down two weeks after becoming a new mother and cringing because the thought of touching him repulsed me. Because I didn’t want him to touch me. His crying and my exhaustion and me feeling like I couldn’t do anything right (including breastfeeding challenges)…it was overwhelming. And it didn’t stop. With each new life I birthed into this world, my darkness found new depths and more desolate places to dwell. This happened to me. This silent inner monster had blackened everything…and it didn’t go away.

I reached that breaking point a year ago today. I realized that I was unwell. That it wasn’t normal to want to die. That it wasn’t normal to be experiencing panic attacks and blackouts and physical pain because you didn’t want to move or deal or face anyone or anything. That running away from bonding emotionally through touch wasn’t normal.

I’ll tell you what didn’t help.

  • The very cautious ventures into the world of mental health and community before my breaking point had so far amounted to bible verses being shoved down my raw throat (If you just do ABC, God will make it all better!) and people frustrated with my questions because “How could you think this about God? It just isn’t true, and you have to figure that out!”
  • I was told “You’re breastfeeding! There should be tons of lovey warm hormones flowing through you. That isn’t possible!”
  • I was told “Well I got over it, I just had to make up my mind to pull myself up out of this funk.” To which I said “Really? Because I’ve been trying for 5 years and 3 more kids now…and it isn’t working.”
  • I was told “It’s just the baby blues. You just need  YOU-time.” And while that may be the healing ticket someone needs to start getting better…it wasn’t mine. It was only a small number in the equation that was my situation.

What did I do? Well, nothing huge to start with. But talking to someone about it helped. (for me, that was my partner.) No, he wasn’t perfect, but he sat there. And listened. I told him that I was terrified. All the time. I was angry. Angry that God allowed my life to experience what I have. That it wasn’t necessary. That everyone’s life would be better off without me in it. That I wasn’t what anyone needed and I wasn’t healthy for anyone to deal with. I was scared of repeating the harm and emotional and relational damage that was done to me in my own childhood. That started my own journey to health. Reaching out, finding resources, wanting better.

I found a few resources online to point me in the right direction. I was currently breastfeeding my 4th little one and didn’t even know if there were medication options available for me. I didn’t know WHAT I needed, exactly. I just knew that up to that point? Nothing was working. And it needed to change. This had been going on for 5 years. FIVE. YEARS. I didn’t even know what normal meant for me anymore…I only knew THIS. I found a therapist through my state’s mental health resources. I was connected with people that didn’t look down on me like I was some unfit mother…but as a valuable human being who had a condition and in need of help navigating through my depression and anxiety so that I could be healthy again.

Postpartum depression and anxiety isn’t just in your head. It isn’t imagined or something you can just will away or pretend it doesn’t exist.

Postpartum depression and anxiety IS real.

Postpartum depression and anxiety IS a monster.

But it’s a monster you DON’T have to try slaying on your own.

photo: urban bay photography

photo: urban bay photography

Am I there yet? No. But some days I am better.

Sometimes I can look up now and notice that the way the wind moves through the trees is beautiful. I can catch glimpses of hope in my eyes when I look in the mirror. Some days are dark. Really dark. But they are not ALL dark, now. I am not alone. I know now that it’s ok to reach out to the people in my life who are helping me through this. My husband. My therapist. My councilor.  My mind…is better. Medication,therapy, counseling, therapeutic touch, acupuncture, babywearing, herbal supplements, meals…those are a few things that are helping me.  The biggest catalyst for me? Speaking up. Spreading awareness of just what postpartum depression and anxiety feels like and what it can do and resources that are out there to help mothers struggling. Because I am there. WE are there. And things CAN get better. WE are not alone.

Photo: Urban Bay Photography

Photo: Urban Bay Photography

Speak. Don’t stay silent.

Your voice may shake. Your knees may buckle. The monster inside may scream at you. But know you are enough. There IS help. The world IS more beautiful because you are in it. Courage, dear heart. You are enough. And this heart of yours is being forged into a masterpiece. You. Are. LOVED.

Some resources that helped me understand my postpartum depression and anxiety:

-Artistic infographics on what it feels like to live with depression and anxiety. Good for people who want to help but don’t know what to do.

-A helpful collection of comic strips because a different perspective and sense of humor can help.

-A great checklist and resource page that helped me in recognizing PPD and PPA.

 

Share

“The One Where We Nurture The Nurturer <3” The Leaky Times Newsletter, Vol. 4

Welcome to The Leaky Boob’s latest newsletter: “Weaning and Beyond!”

Some of the formatting didn’t adjust to our website just right; to see it in a new window the way it was meant to look, click here!

Tell us what you think in a comment below! How do you like it? What feature would you include in future newsletters? What is your favorite feature?

If you would like what you see and would like to subscribe to future TLB Newsletters, you can do so here:

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required



The following is a little preview of what’s included in this week’s newsletter:

Hey there, Leaky! This week we’re talking about Nurturing the Nurturer. YOU. Taking care of yourself so that you can thrive in this season of your life! We have some fantastic interactive links and articles designed to encourage you in self-care and celebrate in anticipation of Mother’s Day on May 10th! Keep scrolling for some YUMMY recipes, new Leaky Comic, our upcoming MILK conference, and our LAST giveaway for TLB’s Birthday celebration. You don’t want to miss out! 

In The One Where We Nurture The Nurturer you will find:

Newsletter exclusive: letter to the Leakies from TLB founder, Jessica Martin-Weber.

Our BEST articles and advice on taking care of YOU.

Information on MiLK: An Infant Feeding Conference.

Ask The CPST Feature.

Boobs and Bottles Around the Web.

Leaky to Leaky Tips for Self-nurturing.

Leaky Chronicles.

A special recipe from Our Stable Table.

Highlights from our sister sites.

TLB Comics.

To access all this and more, read the newsletter here and be sure to sign up to have it delivered directly to your inbox.

Share

5 Breastfeeding Changes That Happen After Baby’s 1st Birthday

by Jessica Martin-Weber and artist Jennie Bernstein

breastfeeding a 1 year old

 

There is something about that 1st birthday, everything just seems to change. In an instant, instead of seeing diapers stretching endlessly before you, you’re thinking cap and gown and you begin to fret about that college application. Kids really do grow up fast, how you’ve been idle for the last 12 months  when it comes to planning little Johnny’s future, you’ll never know. What were you thinking? The kids is going to bust out in Pomp and Circumstance any second now!*

Everthing changes from that point on, and, as at least half the internet and maybe most of your friends will tell you, that includes breastfeeding. If you haven’t heard already, if you’re still breastfeeding your child at 1 year and 1 day, you better start preparing for how to wean your teenager and cross your fingers that you’ll be able to find a nursing dress for graduation and an open spot in the college dorms for both of you. Now, since there are all kinds of recommendations to continue breastfeeding after the first birthday and since 1st birthdays have a way of sneaking up on parents, more and more moms find themselves following, often unintentionally, in the age old tradition of breastfeeding their kiddo through college.

At 1 year and a day, everything about your kid changes, everything about breastfeeding changes. Everything. You’re practically breastfeeding an adult. Here’s what you need to know about the changes to your breastfeeding kiddo past their first year if you don’t wean your child off the boob by 1 year and 1 day.

  1. The number. The go from 11 months to 12 months. That’s huge. That number increase in the one’s position means you can officially start counting their age in years rather than months because everyone knows a 12 month old 1 year old is the same developmentally as a 22 month 1 year old. They’re also so much closer to filing their own taxes.
  2. They’ve had cake. Their palate has totally changed. In our family we take the recommendations for only whole, unprocessed foods for our baby’s first foods and no refined sugar (or honey) for the first year. From day 1- 11 months and 30 days, we vigilantly keep refined sugar out of our baby’s diet. Naturally, we celebrate those health efforts with a cake entirely of their own and cheer when they smash it, diving in head first to instantly become addicted to the very thing we’ve avoided the 12 months prior.
  3. They can ask for it. The day before? Not so much. You always had to wildly guess when your baby wanted to breastfeed, randomly whipping your boob out for them if you thought maybe it was time because up until their 1st birthday they had no way of letting you know they wanted to nurse. But at 1 year and 1 day, they may just start asking for it.
  4. They are bigger. Boom, over night, transition from baby to toddler, even if they aren’t actually toddling, is complete. They may not walk yet and they only have about 3 words, but it’s clear they are big kids now. Now you’re not breastfeeding a baby, you’ve got a full-fledged almost toddler, AKA teenager, on your hands.
  5. They love it. With how grown up they practically are you’d think they’d be over breastfeeding. Instead it tends to become an obsession. It is as if they realize that you’re also getting old and they want to hold on to you forever and keep you from growing away from them. They’re trying to keep you their mommy forever. And you thought the newborn nursing around the clock stage was over.

Brace yourself, breastfeeding a 1 year and 1 day old child is completely different from breastfeeding an 11 month and 30 day old baby. If you find you need help weaning before graduation, we have some suggestions here.

*This piece uses sarcasm and satire in an attempt to make a humorous point. It is possible it fails entirely and the reader may assume the author is serious. This note is to clarify that the author is, in fact, seriously not serious and just a bit of a smart a**.
Share

Leaky Boob and Earth Mama Support with Integrity

Earth Mama Celebrates The Leaky Boob and My Story Matters.

 

#MyStoryMatters #TLBsupportForward

Was breastfeeding a piece of cake for you? Or were you a mama who struggled every day? Was your time so short you don’t think you have a story, or so long you’re reluctant to mention it? Did you have the support of everyone, or were you discouraged from your choices? Every story is important, and every story matters: every time a breastfeeding mama tells her story it helps others see themselves and find courage and support. There is not ONE model for breastfeeding, and it doesn’t matter what your story is, we all need to commit to supporting each other.

 

In honor of The Leaky Boob’s Fifth Anniversary and My Story Matters, Earth Mama is renewing the Support With Integrity Pledge. The Leaky Boob’s open, supportive, non-judgmental environment is a perfect example of criticism-free breastfeeding help, with acknowledgment that there are as many ways to get your baby fed as there are types of nursing pillows. The Leaky Boob encourages “acceptance no matter if you use a pillow from the bed or one that’s branded – if one kind of pump works better for you then hallelujah! Nobody lives this life exactly the same way. That includes different breastfeeding “methods”. If the mama is happy and the baby is healthy that’s perfect. And we can encourage a community of people who are there to support, not criticize or judge.” Sing it, Leaky!

 

The Support with Integrity Pledge gives props to women who choose to lift each other up, and not tear each other down. There are so many opinions and choices when it comes to breastfeeding: whether or not you should even be using a nursing pillow, which brand, how often, on a schedule not on a schedule, a nipple shield or not, and don’t get us started on position! Football, side laying, upside down yoga baby… there is so much overwhelming information, and everyone has a different experience.

 

Instead of judging choices that are different from ours, let’s choose to be each other’s cheerleaders. Let’s choose to acknowledge that breastfeeding can be hard, or easy, or both, and it can be different for different children of the same mama. Let’s stand down from judgment, and jump toward supporting every mama’s personal decision. Let’s strengthen and unite the efforts of breastfeeding supporters, who focus on getting the baby fed, and not take sides about how it’s done, or being right.

 

So often when you find an exhausted mama, a crying baby, and frustration at trying to make this breastfeeding thing work, you also find people wanting to help. And help is wonderful, of course, but sometimes it comes with an edge. Some who are very invested in a certain way of doing things can sometimes forget to, first and most important, be kind and supportive. Maybe you’ve been the mama, maybe you’ve been the supportive friend, maybe you’ve even been the one pushing an agenda a little too hard. We’ve all been there, and we all mean well.

Need some help trying to figure out what’s helpful and what’s not? Here are some ways to support mamas who may not be making the same choices as you:

 

Helpful

 

  • “You are doing great, mama.” This little phrase can mean so much, especially when a mama is feeling confused and exhausted.

 

  • Suggest she find a support site or Facebook page similar to HER values, not yours. The Leaky Boob is a welcoming breastfeeding community that offers judgment-free support and helpful resources.

 

  • “How can I help? I will keep my opinions to myself and do whatever you need!” And then button your lip and do it!

 

  • Help defuse aggressive questioning or pointed comments with a, “I’m so glad your nursing choices have been beneficial to you and your baby, but my friend has chosen a different way and she could really use our support!”

 

 

Not Helpful

 

  • Piles of research on the “right” way to breastfeed – we can find all sorts of conflicting information on the Internet. Respect that your friend has chosen a way that works for her, even if you disagree with it.

 

  • Scary stories information about other people’s bad experiences.

 

  • “It was easy for you before, why can’t you do it this time?” Remember, different babies have different breastfeeding experiences.

 

  • Any unsolicited opinion about method, equipment, position, or schedule – you don’t know the whole story, and if the baby’s being fed, just smile and admire that there are lots of ways to get the job done!

 

 

And now, go take the pledge! “I agree to hold hands and help mamas get what they need to make breastfeeding work for them, no matter how they choose to do it. If a mama and baby are making it work, I’ll stand and cheer them on from the sidelines.”

 

Sign on now here!

____________________

Share with us what you find to be helpful and respectful support and what you have found not to be helpful nor respectful support in the comments below.

____________________

Share

Leaky Boob Looks: Nurturing YOU- Edition<3

by Kileah McIlvain

I know. You know. Mother’s Day is almost here. This particular day can come with a mixed bag of emotions for some of us. Whether it’s loss, joy, infertility, longing, expectation, abundance, joy, anticipation or loneliness. Mothering is hard. Being a human can be hard. BEING requires so much of us…sometimes more than we think we have. Days are sometimes met with an exhausted yawn and aching bones after multiple nights feeding a little one or tending the wake of a tummy bug (that ALWAYS shows up at night, it seems). We end up feeling poured out like a pitcher of water over dry sand. Sometimes, all I can think of is how EMPTY I feel. Sacrificing, pouring out, mending, caring, nurturing. I get lost in the foray. Then? I realize that I need to be nurtured. I need to be cared for. I need to be filled. I MUST be nurtured. I need to be kind to myself. We are, each of us, unique. There are things whether they are small or big, that nurture us. Whether it’s a person, a moment, a ritual, a prayer, an object. This week, I want to focus on looks for you that are rooted in simple comfort. In loveliness. In empowerment and loving ourselves and these mama bodies that we are constantly using to nurture those around us. We love you, Leaky! Let us be empowered and nurtured so that we can empower and nurture those around us. <3

 

Leaky Look #1: Lovely Mama

I wanted this look to center around feeling lovely and strong from within while being texturally soft and versatile. This is the Ready, Set, Vacay Dress from Modcloth. Easy feeding access, comes in a great range of sizes, flattering lines and great bodice detailing. I added the uber-soft Seashell Pink nursing bra from Nursing Bra Express, a structured chambray blazer, and some great leather gladiator sandals. The leather handbag IS actually a diaper bag crafted by Oemibaby-a great wardrobe piece you can transition with from moming to self-caring seamlessly! The accessories are handmade from Etsy. What better than to finish off this look with the gorgeously-soft Ergo Organic baby carrier in “Dandelion.” (Yes. there are sweet dandelions printed all over it!)

Lovely

Leaky Look #2: Comfy Glam

This look reminded me of one of my favorite magazines (Dwell). This top is the Black Tilla top from Purple Impression (my newest obsession! Seriously. Their mission, brand, ethically-stitched clothing, breastfeeding friendly…and the causes they are involved with in supporting women. Read more HERE.). I paired the top with some simple nursing tanks from Target, comfy harem pants from Gap, Arizona Birkenstocks, and a Storksak bag in “Noa” from Nordstrom.com. A Beautiful brass medallion necklace from Modcloth compliments the hand embroidered sleeves on the top and my FAVORITE Tekhni woven wrap in Delta Gothic makes this gorgeous look chic, functional, extremely comfortable, and versatile for various activities/lifestyles.

Gothic glam

Leaky Look #3: Zen Mama

One of the best ways we can nurture ourselves is by challenging/caring for our body! This look is centered around a pink workout top from Belabumbum, a blue bamboo cardigan, and the adjustable “3 reasons support bra” from Title Nine. Yoga is a wonderful way to center yourself and strengthen your body and mind, so I added in this lovely Yoga bag from REI and a colorful Girasol woven wrap from Paxbaby for a local baby and me yoga sesh! Simple things like Earth Mama Angel Baby lip balm and water in a double-insulated ThinkSport water bottle are perfect ways to invest in taking care of yourself and helping you to thrive in a healthy state of being.

Fitness

I sure hope you like this week’s feature! Let us know what special things help you recharge and inspire you to nurture yourself!

Tag us and use #LeakyLooks #booboutFashion #nurturethenurturer

Share

#MyStoryMatters: Monica and Molly- Loss And Renewal

Trigger Warning This post talks about loss.

 

We all have a story to tell and each of our stories can be the change this world needs.

My story is long. It is full of life’s threads that have made me who I am today.

One day, one of those threads came undone.

It put my family on a path that would forever change our course.

IMG_8647

The author and her family today.

We were expecting our fourth child and second daughter, her nursery was not yet planned and her shower was a few weeks away. After all, she was the last one we had planned on having and I was not quite as particular about things anymore. At the time I was a full time nurse, we had just moved from Florida to Georgia and I had worked in Pediatrics at the hospital for 10 years, and did other jobs in nursing for 6 more years. So I was a confident pregnant momma not expecting anything to happen to this precious baby we were so thankful for.

It was Christmas time and I was 28 weeks along. Customarily we would never travel over Christmas because we liked the kids to wake up in their home on Christmas morning, but this year we decided to go back to Florida to see the family. Early morning Christmas Eve, sitting in my parent’s bathroom my cramps began. Then the pressure and bleeding started. I had never experienced any difficulties in past pregnancies, and because I was a nurse, I knew too much already. I was in labor.

I cried for God to stop it, I cried out for my husband who was still sleeping, and we were heading to the hospital while the house was quiet and still.

The particular thing about nurses is that you cannot tell us anything we don’t

already think we know. You also can’t argue with us. It’s a curse. (Much like a baby-wearing cloth diapering momma!) When the emergency room doctor told me I was not in labor, he quickly regretted it and sent us up to labor and delivery. Mommas know their bodies.

The ultrasound machine told us everything we needed to know. Molly’s tiny heart had stopped in transit to the unit. My world started to crash in at that very instant. I did a mental checklist over and over, but the results were the same. I could not think of how or why this would happen, I did everything “right”!

We delivered our beautiful little blonde headed baby girl about thirty minutes later and we held her and kissed her and told her to tell Jesus we said hello, and we held her some more. We knew she was serving our mighty God. Her life humbled me. Life’s fragility. Its beauty. Its cruelty. It’s really humbling.

Months later, I was researching stillbirths and I repeatedly came across studies done in other countries about harmful chemicals and how they permeate through our skin and they are found in breast milk and our blood. How these harmful chemicals can cause changes in DNA and can alter our hormones, which regulate every process in the human body and are especially imperative to the development of a fetus. I read how some harmful chemicals are changing the health of sperm, reproductive organs and how others are carcinogenic. I dug deeper, researching studies and reports. Calling experts in the field that would talk to me to help me understand this research I discovered.

I learned that in the United States there are 80,000 chemicals approved for use in our products but they only tested 200 of those chemicals for human safety. Those tests were done on men, not women or children. Then I found a cord blood study done by a physician on his own granddaughter’s umbilical cord blood, her daddy was also a physician. This study concluded that there were many hazardous chemicals in cord blood and it was one of hundreds of studies that proved this. Our babies are losing a battle they don’t have the choice to fight.

That was it for me. I knew I needed to let everyone who would listen know that they had to start taking charge of their own bodies and know what was going not only in them, but on them as well. After all, we all know our skin is the largest organ, but many people do not realize that if the skin’s pH is altered, the harmful chemicals will go through that skin-blood barrier. Harmful household chemicals and pesticides are found in breast milk, our urine, and blood.

I got a huge black trash bag out of the garage and began throwing away everything under our kitchen sink, our laundry room cabinet, and our bathroom cabinets that was not “natural.” I began researching the products I had left, and most of them followed the conventional items into the trash. The word “natural” is so misused in today’s marketing. We did slowly add items back into the home, using resources like EWG.org and other fantastic websites and research that help decipher all of this crazy information. It was so overwhelming, baby steps with this stuff was really the way to go. I made several of my own products in the beginning of my quest until I could find a safe alternative to the store bought items.

Conventional laundry detergent was the one product I could never feel fully comfortable with. I read studies about how polluting they are to our waterways and fish, and how certain chemicals in detergents are found in breast milk and blood. The ingredients mostly came from China where the ingredient integrity can be questionable and mostly synthetic ingredients are used…even when there is a safer raw option- because they are cheap. In America, where Procter and Gamble spends multi-millions in marketing and brainwashing people into thinking we need lots of foaming and bubbles and we have to have scent for our items to be clean, it’s no wonder we have limited options on the shelf that are safe.

I decided we had to do something. I knew too much to sit at the wayside, and all the research came at a great price. Molly’s Suds was born. It is a tribute to her and to all that her death allowed my eyes to be opened to. It is a promise of strict ingredient integrity and safer chemicals that truly clean.

074A5853

We began formulation in 2008 and had a shelf ready product in 2010. We sold our products in farmer’s markets, co-ops, mom groups and other smaller markets at first. I taught classes on ingredient integrity,what chemicals to avoid and why and basically spoke to anyone who would listen. It was awesome. Most people eat organic, but don’t give a second thought to what they clean their home in or wash their clothes with. It opened people’s eyes to become wise and to do their own research. That is still the goal today. Teaching our customers, moms, retailers, local groups, and even our friends and family about ingredients, about harmful chemicals, what is safe and what is not, and how they can find the research. I don’t judge people for what they use, I think we all are just doing what we feel is best for our families and ourselves. But empowering them with the knowledge and then letting them do what they want with it is half the battle!

074A5838

We continue to grow here at Molly’s Suds in St. Petersburg, FL. We love what we do, encouraging a workplace where our employees can feel like they are making a difference. Our children also know the hard work that goes into running a company and help out on their days off school. We are both humbled and excited about Molly’s Suds, the adventure we have been on, and how God has allowed good to come out of our tragedy.

 

Attachment-1

 

 

 

 


074A5702

 Monica Leonard, founder of Molly’s Suds, is an inspiring, mission-driven woman with a huge heart, passionate about continuously educating herself and consumers about the  harmful chemical dangers we come across in our daily lives, and how to steer clear of them as much as possible. Mother of four, and originally a pediatric nurse, Monica’s experiences, faith and compassion drove her to develop a line of truly safe household products. Molly’s Suds is a way for her stillborn daughter, Molly, to live on, teaching and motivating others to be wise and do their research before simply accepting and trusting major conventional brands on the shelves. Monica’s ongoing goal is to continuously and responsibly grow Molly’s Suds, cultivate eco-responsibility throughout all practices, and continue educating as many consumers as possible along the way.

Share

The Mothering Oxygen Mask- 4 Steps To Breathing Normally Again

by Jessica Martin-Weber
Photo Credit: Meghann Buswell, Your Street Photography, Portland, OR.

Photo Credit: Meghann Buswell, Your Street Photography, Portland, OR.

See those 4 darling little girls enjoying a magical tea party outside? They are precious and 4 out of 6 of the most amazing people that I get to have call me mom. I’m lucky enough to breathe them in deeply daily. I’m crazy about them. Crazy. Sometimes I’m crazy from them too. Sometimes I end up breathing rather labored because of them.

Sometimes I need to breathe in deeply away from them.

This is a little risky to admit. The internet loves to judge mother who admit they find, well, being a mother can be… difficult. Even more so loves to hate those that admit they don’t always like being around their own children all the time. But I’ll take the risk.

On commercial passenger airplanes, safety instructions are given each flight before take off on what to do in the case of an emergency. Flight attendants (or a video) explain that in the case of pressure changes, oxygen masks should drop down and passengers should place them over their mouth and nose and breathe normally. For those flying with small children or someone that would need assistance, instructions are given to secure your own mask before helping someone else with theirs. The reason for this instruction isn’t given but should you help someone else before securing your own mask, it is very possible that you could end up deprived of the oxygen your brain needs and pass out before your own mask is in place. Should that happen, you wouldn’t be able to help take care of anyone and worse, would be at even more risk.

Are you breathing normally?

Do you know where your oxygen mask is?

When was the last time you did something for you, truly for you? For many parents, particularly mothers, doing something for ourselves can be very difficult. It feels selfish, wasteful, extravagant, unnecessary, and laden with guilt. If we can pass it off as being for the whole family, such as a family vacation, then it is ok, but when taking care of ourselves really is just for ourself it can get much, much more difficult.

Parenting requires sacrifice, it’s true. We give up a lot for our children, getting in exchange such beauty and joy. But are we really able to care for our children if we can’t breathe normally ourselves? If we lose our selves? For a long time I believed that being a good mother required not only sacrifice but a sort of martyrdom, losing one’s self to build up one’s children. That was what I saw modeled for me in my own mother and what I thought I would need to do as well. Some women are able to do this and find it quite fulfilling, maybe even more in touch with who they really are. I was not one of those women. Losing myself, sacrificing so much I didn’t even know who I was any more, being constantly burnt out, led me into a deep and dark depression and instead of being a good mother, I was too lost to care for my children.

I needed an oxygen mask.

I needed to be able to breathe.

As admirable as it is that my mother gave up so much for her children, the truth is to this day I don’t really know her. What I know is the woman who loves me and did her best to care for me as a child even when she was constantly depleted of much needed air herself. As depleted as she was, she gave so much but often it wasn’t what my siblings and I really needed as much as it was what she thought we needed. She was too spent to assess what care was actually required. Our family suffered. Realizing I was headed down the same path, I knew something needed to change. I needed to nurture the nurturer.

My 4 steps to finding my oxygen mask

1) Change wasn’t easy. It would require asking for help. Asking for help would require admitting I needed help. Admitting I needed help would require letting others know that I couldn’t handle it all on my own. I saw that as failure. Failure to live up to a standard of motherhood of a perfectly decorated and cleaned house, perfectly cooked healthy meals, perfectly executed crafts, perfectly planned parties and play dates, perfectly perfect children, perfectly perfect family, perfectly perfect life, perfectly perfect me. This was hard, in fact, it ended up being the most important sacrifice I would ever make in my motherhood journey: sacrificing my pride in presenting a perfect facade by admitting I needed help.

2) Equally challenging admitting that the help I needed was so I could have a break. Time away from my children. Space to do something just for me. A break. In my head it sounded like I didn’t like my kids and the truth was, from my burnt out place, I didn’t. But it was way more than that, it was finally recognizing in myself that there really isn’t anybody I can be around 24/7 and not get tired of them and, for me, that though I seem like an extrovert, I actually get energy from being alone with my thoughts and having time to be creative by myself. What I would come to discover is that I actually really, really like my children but I needed some space from them from time to time to be able to truly appreciate that connection more.

3) At first I didn’t know how to make that space for me, I wasn’t even sure where to find my oxygen mask. With no family close, who could watch my children? My husband was more than willing to equally parent, it wasn’t him that was a barrier, it was me. I felt as though I was slacking, being a lazy mother to let him. Or that he wouldn’t do it as well as me. It wasn’t until I realized that he could parent differently and still not only be capable, given how burnt out I was, he was probably better. Now I love that we have different approaches and styles with our children, agreeing on certain non-negotiables and being flexible on grey areas. Beyond my own partner though, how could I find the space? We couldn’t afford sitters at the time, we didn’t have family near us, and we struggled to trust others. Eventually it was in intentionally finding and cultivating community, finding space for myself in friendships and gradually building trust. Today our family has several dear family friends that are like family, stay with our children for short and long periods of time, join us for meals and events, and swap helping each other find space as parents needing oxygen masks. This parenting thing isn’t meant to happen on an isolated island, being alone isn’t healthy, it isn’t what we would want for our children, we need to be aware of what we’re modeling for them in our own lives. Be it family or friends, we need to put effort into finding our tribe, not just online, but in real life.

4) Eventually I realized that my oxygen mask had some variety. There were big ones and small ones. Some were actually easily accessible right in front of my but I could only see them once I had a shot of fresh air. Making my own self-care a priority gave me the energy to grow as a person and a mother. The little daily hits on my oxygen mask rejuvenate me, giving me the clarity I need to care for my children in a sustainable way. Many of these 22 ways are a regular part of my self-care now.

Now, with my children, I teach them the importance of self care as well because there are times when everyone needs their own oxygen mask.

There is no one-size-fits all and what you may need during one season of parenting may change in the next season. Find what works for you and consider how you can be in community with others and help them find their’s as well. There is no firm how to use it or what it looks like for you, what’s important is just that you use it.

Your children will thank you one day and will know you not only as their loving, sacrificing mother, but as the thriving individual of value that you are.

__________________

Are you burnt out? Even as you love your children and enjoy parenting them, are you ever in need of a break? What steps have you found to making that possible?

__________________

Share

Touching After Weaning

by Cindy MacDougall
Cindy and Eddie

The author and her son.

 

My youngest child, four-year-old Eddie, likes my breasts. He likes to hug them, and he will sneak a hand down my shirt occasionally. The family joke is that E. is a boob man.

Eddie loved to breastfeed, and continued to do so until his fourth birthday. When we finally weaned, it was a long and gentle process, which I wrote about in my parenting column here.

After weaning, Eddie still showed a need to touch the “babas” that far outweighed my patience for being touched. I had given him four solid years of nursing, and had been breastfeeding for a total of about nine and a half years over four kids. I was more than ready to have my body to myself.

What I hadn’t counted on was that Eddie and my breasts seemed to have a relationship entirely independent form me – at least in his mind.

“The babas are nice and soft,” he explained once. “I love them. I want to hug them, please.”

“But I don’t want you to touch me right now, Eddie,” I said.

“Oh, I’m not going to touch you, Mama,” he reassured me. “Just the babas.”

Another time, I explained to him that he was a big boy who had been weaned, and that meant no more touching my babas. He erupted in floods of tears.

“But mama, I gave up drinking the babas like a big boy,” he sobbed (taking the opportunity to lay his head on my chest.) “I didn’t know I had to give up touching them. I have to touch them, Mama, sometimes.”

We know from childhood development experts that children need touch in order to properly grow physically, mentally and emotionally. I touch and hug my kids often, as does their dad.

But I had never thought about my children’s needs to touch me back, and especially about a former nursling’s need to occasionally reconnect with the breast as they continue to grow away from being a member of a breastfeeding dyad.

I know Eddie is not alone in this need, as my other children liked to touch my breasts after weaning (though not nearly as much) and I had watched friends go through this same struggle. But I didn’t know how common this need is amongst children, so I did a bit of Googling to find out.

The La Leche League International message board has several long threads of posts about toddler and pre-schoolers touching breasts after weaning. One mother there described her child as “boob-obsessed,” and others described patting, rubbing, pinching and touching. Some kids were sneaky about it; others outright asked; some needed to touch the breasts to fall asleep.

Dr. Laura Markham, a clinical psychologist and founder of the parenting web site Aha! Parenting, wrote about weaned children touching the breast in her “Ask the Doctor” feature.

“It is very common for toddlers to need to touch their mother’s breasts for comfort or to fall asleep for as much as a year after weaning,” she wrote to a concerned mother. “Your breasts symbolize comfort and safety and love to her…. So if she is clingy, just give her lots of extra reassurance and realize that this is the final stage of weaning.”

It’s good to know Eddie is normal, if enthusiastic, in his need to have some cuddle time with his, ahem, my, “babas.” And the closer we move to his fifth birthday, the less often he seems to need to touch them.

If you’re dealing with a similar situation, there’s no need to change or challenge the habit if you’re both happy and comfortable.

However, if it’s driving you bananas, think of this as an excellent opportunity to teach your child about body autonomy. Your breasts are yours, after all, and it’s important to teach kids that each of us own our own bodies, and no one can touch us, or them, without consent (barring medical necessity, safety, etc.) That gives permission to set the same limits with their own bodies, to be able to say “no” to unwanted touch.

With Eddie, I made rules: no touching the “babas” unless he asked, only at home, and only a hug or cuddle. He seems to be approaching the end of this “final stage of weaning” and hasn’t asked in a while.

Despite what our society tells us, touching each other, with permission, is generally healthy. For small children, the breasts are about love and nutrition, not sexuality. If we are comfortable with that and allow them healthy touch, it teaches them good things about the body and physical forms of affection.

 _________________________

Cindy MacDougall is a writer, a mother of four children, a public relations professional, and a former parenting columnist with the Victoria Times Colonist. She covered health issues for CBC North Radio One for seven years, and is a recipient of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada’s 2004 Journalism Award for Excellence in Women’s Health Reporting for her radio series “Into the Mouths of Babes: Breastfeeding in the Northwest Territories.”
Share