What does it look like to breastfeed a 2 year old?

by Jessica Martin-Weber

Child with birthday balloon

What does it look like to breastfeed a 2 year old?  Is it gross?  Creepy?  Or is it just a continuation of the sweet and simple nurturing experience the mother and child already have together?  I can’t keep her safe and protected from everything but while she still wants to be in my arms and finds comfort at my breast, I’ll continue to do what I can.

What does it look like?  This:

This past weekend we celebrated Sugarbaby’s 2nd birthday.  The day was fun, special, and she understood it was all about her.  And cake.  With 6 big girls in the family, it was a loud and energetic, ushering in her next year of life with enthusiasm.

And without much notice, I now am breastfeeding a 2 year old.  This doesn’t feel significant to Sugarbaby, nor to my family.  The only reason this is noteworthy is because breastfeeding beyond the first 12 months is hardly normal in our society, let alone breastfeeding beyond the first 24.  Many myths surround breastfeeding in general and they just increase after the deadline some have assigned (see Six myths about breastfeeding toddlers and preschoolers).  For many, breastfeeding this long is strange, extreme, extended, and questionable, at best.  abusive, pedophilia, and psychologically damaging at worst.  A view point I don’t understand and research doesn’t support and when I asked a 12 year old that breastfed until she was 4 to share, she didn’t see what the issue could be either.

Breastfeeding beyond the first year makes many, many people uncomfortable.  Breastfeeding a child that walks and talks and plays, going well beyond the 2nd year makes most people uncomfortable.  It’s understandable too.  In our culture the majority of babies aren’t breastfed past 6 weeks and of those that are they usually are weaned off the breast by 12 months.  It’s rare in the majority of western culture to see a child over the age of 1 breastfeed, let alone 2.

But imagine you were in a different culture.  A culture where the average age of weaning was between 3-5 years old.  It would be common place to see a young child breastfeeding and nobody would think it’s odd.  In fact, if those people were to come here they would probably wonder why our children don’t continue breastfeeding at that age and perhaps find it unsettling and concerning.

What it boils down to in many ways is what we’re conditioned to.  The WHO and the AAP both recommend breastfeeding until it is mutually agreeable to the mother and child.  Which, for a good number of families would be well beyond that 24 month mark.  But we rarely get to see it.  For that to become an acceptable reality in the States it needs to be seen and not just as something to be laughed at in movies.  In other words, we need to start conditioning our culture to accept a new normal.  Which is totally possible.  Just look at standards of dress.  What was once considered in appropriate attire is now every day wear.  Adjusting our standards to accept a new normal is something that happens in culture on a daily basis.  Over time, we’ll get there and it may not ever be common place (though I sure do hope so) but it will seem less odd.  So while I don’t breastfeed to make any kind of point or in pursuit of any particular agenda, I do share the breastfeeding images and videos to help bring about that change.

breastfeeding 2 year old

This isn’t to say that women have to breastfeed beyond any point at all.  In fact, women don’t have to do anything and manipulating, shaming, or attempting to force someone to do something they really don’t want to do only serves to make the issue a controversial one and doesn’t help society to accept it as normal.  How could they when a portion of the population would resent it.  The messaging isn’t that it’s better to breastfeed longer or that those that don’t aren’t loving parents willing to sacrifice for their children.  The message is simply that there are reasons to and every family has to weigh those along with their personal reasons to make the right decision for their situation.

For our family it is simple.  Breastfeeding beyond societal accepted norms isn’t about anything but the simple, sweet, loving continuation of what we already have.  As I shared on Facebook, the decision to continue wasn’t about or for anyone else but us, and at 2 years old now she’s quite happy with our arrangement and blissfully unaware that others may look down on her continuing to find nourishment and comfort at my breast. A strong and confident little girl, I know that when Sugarbaby is ready to move on, she will have no problem doing so. For now though, I won’t be cutting her off even though some don’t understand. No arbitrary deadline can dictate how I care for my daughter and continue to meet her needs as she experiences them. Your breastfeeding goals, whatever they may be, are about you and your child, reach for them and don’t worry about what others think or say. Two weeks or two years (or more or less!), we support you.

For more on natural duration breastfeeding or breastfeeding beyond infancy, see what a toddler has to say here.

 

 

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Saving sanity- Transitioning from breastfeeding naps to quiet time

by Jessica Martin-Weber

needing a break bad mom

Sponsored post.  This post is made possible by the generous support of Arms Reach Cosleeper.

 

I recently wrote about quiet time over on our more general site, BeyondMoi.com, and was asked about quiet time and breastfeeding.  Hundreds of questions pour into TLB every day about breastfeeding and nap time, sibling transition, postpartum depression, overwhelmed moms, touched out syndrome, and general burnout are regular topics.  So here’s one of my sanity saving tips for families: quiet time and how to transition the breastfeeding child into independent quiet time.

The old adage to sleep when baby sleeps is all well and good when you have a newborn and only a newborn and that newborn sleeps.  But what about when they’ve grown into active toddlers?  Or when you have an extroverted preschooler and a newborn?  When do you find some time to recharge and rest during the day if you’re a stay at home or work at home parent and especially if you’re a breastfeeding mom?  Maybe you can find some rest helping them rest but when a part of your body is required to help someone else sleep, there can come a point when one’s very sanity is threatened.  So how do you find space and help the small children grow into adults that can appreciate time alone as well and develop respect for others’ sensitivities?

Parenting is hard.  Maybe not the hardest job in the world, but certainly a challenging demand with responsibilities 24/7.  No other relationship or career requires participating individuals to be so continuously available or interacting.  If I had to spend as much time with my friends as I do my children, chances are strong we wouldn’t be friends.  Getting space from each other, yes, even from my children, helps me interact as the mother I want to be when I’m with them.  In other words, I’m super grump mom when quiet time doesn’t happen and my children are too.  True, I’m an introvert (a shock to some, but an introvert is described as someone that gets energy from being alone and an extrovert gets energy from being with people) but even the extroverts I know appreciate a bit of space to themselves from time to time.  Being “on” all the time is exhausting.  In our family, with 9 of us at 2, 4, 6, 11, 13, 13 (foster daughter), 15, and two thirty-somethings, it is imperative to all our sanity that we find space in time to call our own.  Even just 45-90 minutes a day.

But what about the toddler or preschooler that is accustomed to breastfeeding for their midday siesta?  What about when they’re ready to drop a nap all together but quiet time is still needed for everyone?  How can everyone get the space and quiet time they need as stages and ages change?

Personally, I’ve transitioned 5 out of our 6 children from breastfeeding to sleep at nap time, to taking quiet alone time as toddlers and preschoolers and transitioned one of them from nap to quiet time without breastfeeding involved. Transitioning the breastfeeding toddler or preschooler from naps to quiet time isn’t a process that should be rushed.  Like night weaning, there’s no magic age but rather a collection of readiness signals for both mom and the child.  For us it usually doesn’t happen until sometime after 18 months, usually closer to 2 or 2.5 years old.  Signs of readiness include: down to one nap a day, able to play independently for 20 minutes or more, demonstrates a natural inclination for balancing being active and quieter play, and displays a secure attachment.  Whether transitioning to going down without breastfeeding or shifting to a quiet time rather than a nap time, something that can go back and forth for years actually, following the child’s cues helps make the transition easier.  When I’ve been tempted to force something they weren’t ready for it just stressed us all and set us back.  Still, there’s a balance to be struck, mommy martyrdom leads to burnout and stress for the entire family.  Quiet time may be the oxygen mask a parent needs, figuring out how that works for your family may be all that is standing between you and saving your sanity.

My own needs for space and quiet time as an introvert led to me noting the need to nurture the nurturer and to find ways to do so.  With my fingernails desperately clinging to the cracked foundation of my spirit during postpartum depression with my second and my first period as a stay at home parent, I croaked out to my husband how I was failing but couldn’t find my footing without having space to do so.  Fortunately, the sensitive, introverted man I am in love with didn’t hesitate to make some room for me to find that footing even as he helped secure my life line: quiet time.  Admitting I needed a break felt like some sort of failure.  Moms don’t need breaks!  They need aprons and bowls of cookie dough and a baby carrier for the littlest and everyone is happy then!  Right?  That I needed a break not just once in a while but every day felt like I wasn’t cut out for this mothering gig.  Which was incredibly problematic since I already had 2 children by this point.  What was I going to do, give them back?  The horrible reality that maybe I was a bad mom started to sink in and I wasn’t about to give in, I was going to do whatever I could to change that.  Maybe I was a bad mom but my kids were stuck with me and I wasn’t ready to give up, just had to figure out how to keep it together.

Quiet time did more than help me keep it together, it gave me time to drink a cup off coffee, fill the journal The Piano Man gave me with poetry and thoughts, and gave me the space to find my footing to be the kind of mom I want to be.  Needing a break didn’t mean I was a bad mom, just a human one.

So when my nurslings no longer need to breastfeed for naps or quiet time but we still practice the daily ritual of quiet time for everyone in our homeschooling home, we gently guide the transition.  If they are still napping, instead of nursing to sleep, we nurse for 10 minutes or just before sleep and then stop and read something together before putting space between us. Gradually decreasing the amount of time at the breast while still engaging in physical connection through a back rub, light foot massage (with some lavender oil, so relaxing), reading cuddles, etc., meets that need for physical attachment while helping them prepare for some alone space.  We start them out having quiet time in the same room, I’ll just be sitting in a chair across the room while they play in the bed. Sometimes even in bed together but I’ll sit and read my own book and not interact. Building forts or creating a nap nest or book nook helps too, working together to create the space, then have them go in and have alone time in the space. When they start to give up naps, a snack during quiet time can be helpful and a distraction. When we’re in the same space, I just tell them I won’t be talking to them and even avoid eye contact during the designated time.  Making use of a timer such as 30 minute sand timer (oh how the eyes get heavy watching the sad) or the alarm on a smart phone (pick a sound that won’t be too startling should they fall asleep) can give them a goal with a definite end point.  Now with big kids in the mix, sometimes a younger one will take quiet time with an older one, quietly side by side reading or coloring.  For extroverts, making sure the coming out of quiet time transition is one that engages them fully is so important. With our extroverts we like to ask them about their quiet time experience, what they did, what they thought about, what they created, etc. We just let them talk. Having the conversation while doing some other activity is good too, such as cooking or playing outside.

As with all transitions, it’s best if it isn’t abrupt.  One day she’ll settle just fine on her own and even tell me to go away, the next I may end up nursing her to sleep.  Being flexible and attentive to her needs as well as mine helps us all find the balance we need.

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Normalizing breastfeeding flying the friendly skies- Delta says yes

 

20140307-071439.jpg

Worried about what it would be like to sit next to a woman breastfeeding on a plane?
It would look like this.

When the internet exploded with the news that Delta airlines had informed a woman that asked on twitter if she could breastfeed on their aircraft during an upcoming 6 hour flight she was facing with her 10 week old sides were immediately drawn.  The response was incredible with some joining in supporting a woman’s right to breastfeed anywhere they have the right to be with their child, others defending the airline’s right to have poorly trained employees or to have no official policy on the matter, some ranting on how disgusting/inappropriate/unnecessary it was to breastfeed, a few wondering why the woman even asked, a startling number saying individuals advocating for breastfeeding rights were bullying the multimillion dollar company, and a handful mocking those that challenged the corporation to move beyond a basic PR apology (that sounded more like “sorry you got upset” rather than “sorry we screwed up”) to have an official breastfeeding policy expressed on their website and their employees trained accordingly.  It was both awesome and overwhelming to watch.

Isn't this tweet a gem?  Unfortunately, it wasn't the only one like this.

Isn’t this tweet a gem? Unfortunately, it wasn’t the only one like this.

So when I realized just a few days later that the flight I was taking exactly one week after I wrote this post about the situation was actually on Delta rather than the airline I usually fly (Southwest) I laughed at the irony.  And got a little nervous.  I booked my flight through Orbitz weeks before and had simply looked for the least expensive option to get The Piano Man, Sugarbaby, and me to where we needed to be by the time we needed to be there.  I honestly would probably have avoided the airline if everything had happened before I booked my ticket.

But I’m glad I ended up on that ironic flight to Chicago on Delta.  Because the time honored tradition of protesting treatment and policies that are not benefiting the people still helps influence decision makers and though the venue may have changed to online rather than physical protests, the impact has not.  The airline worked on their apology and even better, they added this to their website:

Delta Breastfeeding policy on website copy

Which meant I was totally comfortable doing this:

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9 Tips to Having More and Better Sex After Baby

by Jeremy Martin-Weber
This post is a partner post to one Jessica wrote, 16 points about sex after baby, on beyondmoi.com as part of a giveaway celebrating Valentine’s Day and expressing love beyond one day.  Find the giveaway information and widget to enter at the end of this post.

Running the risk of sounding like Cosmo, or Marie Claire, in honor of Valentine’s Day and all the men out there making strategic plans, hoping that their romantic equations will guarantee that they’ll get lucky, I’d like to offer a list of my own.  I don’t claim to be an expert, but my list is the product of 17 years of trial and error with my wife, and I can personally attest that as long as I stick to it, she simply can’t get enough of me.  Seventeen years and six children, and sex just keeps getting better, and we both want it more than we ever did before.

#LoveBeyondMoi The Leaky Boob Beyond Moi Valentine's Day giveaway

You too can have a better sex life; it’s not over just because you’re parents.  If you’re looking for ways to make her (or him) want to drag you to the bedroom, rip your clothes off, and have hot, steamy, sex with you all night long (that’s how those magazine covers read, right?), then this list is for you.

1. Help around the house… but not for sex

Everyone loves a partner who is involved, who takes time to help out with household duties.  Way back when we were first married, I first heard the notion that if I took the trash out, my wife would find that act so sexy she wouldn’t be able to help herself and would have to have me right then and there.  I thought that sounded rather strange and hadn’t noticed that effect on her before, but I really started paying attention the next few times I took the trash out, and here is what I noticed: she appreciated my help, but didn’t think it was anything extraordinary.  And that made sense.  But I also noticed that when we were both paying attention to the ways the other was helping out, we both appreciated the other person for doing so, and we felt closer for noticing, and feeling closer can easily lead to sexual feelings.  See how it works?  But it won’t work if you help around the house just to have sex.  There is no magic there.  My advice: do the dishes, help out with your kids, fold and put away the laundry, by all means take the trash out, and for extra credit, thank your partner for those same things and all the other tasks they do.  They may argue that they don’t do it for you, and don’t need to be thanked, but they’ll still appreciate you noticing.  Noticing is sexy.

That first tip isn’t just for parents, I admit, but it may be more relevant to parents because prolonged lack of sleep so effectively scrambles your brains that even very simple relational things can get sucked into that black hole (or driving your children to all of their extracurricular activities – that can scramble your brain too over time).  It’s very much the same for this second tip.

2. Get physical… but not for sex

Touch your partner.  Often.  Every day.  We can get so determined to get it on that we forget the thrill of simple touches.  You know how physical relationships are compared to a baseball diamond, each base representing more intimate acts of physical expression, ultimately culminating in sexual intercourse when you get to home base?  We can be so goal-oriented, or sexually frustrated, that all we focus on is getting to that home plate.  When Jessica and I were first dating, even the simplest of touches was thrilling because it carried so much meaning.  Caressing each other’s hands communicated love and care, romantic intention, and sexual desire all rolled into one.  A kiss was a gesture of commitment, a desire to be close, to be real and vulnerable.  Sure, at other times, a kiss was an expression of sexual desire, full of passion and wild abandon. But that’s exactly the point.  Physical expressions weren’t all just a means to a steamy, naked end.  Because of their variety, their commonality was clear: a communication of love.  And when I feel loved by my wife, I feel safe, trusting and sexy.  And I know she feels the same way.  And do you know what that leads to?  Great sex.  My advice: kiss your partner at least every morning and evening, wrap your arms around her, hold hands, maybe even take a few dance steps together, and savor each of those physical moments for their simplicity.  Because touching to communicate love is sexy.

3. Distance makes for sexier reconnection

Now that we’re all ready to touch our partners more, I offer a word of caution: it has to be the right moment.  Unfortunately, most of us have to find out through trial and error; that’s for both partners.  Jessica and I have both had to learn about ourselves how and when we like to be touched, let alone what our spouse likes.  If you try to touch your partner and you are rebuffed, don’t jump to the conclusion that they just don’t like your touch or don’t want sex (touching just for that end is already a big libido killer anyway).  Pluck up your courage, control your urge to scream and cry (if you actually have feelings, of course), and ask your partner about it.  The way our schedule works, one of us is often home with children most of the day while the other goes out and works at a coffeeshop.  It doesn’t matter which one of us it is, some days at home leave us wanting to find a dark, quiet, corner where we can hug our own knees and twitch for awhile as our brain tries to reboot, and our body relaxes from being touched all day long.  It’s not that we don’t love being home with our children, it’s that it’s not the easiest job in the world.  If you walk in the door and see a frazzled, bleary-eyed partner with a blank expression on their face, that is probably not the time for dipping your partner and a fervent I-missed-you-so-much-wasn’t-today-great kind of kiss.  If ever you’re unsure, I have the simplest solution: ask.  And follow it up with an offer to give them some space.  Ask how you can help before jumping in.  And then, by all means, jump in!  Find ways to give your partner a break on a regular basis.  Sometimes 20 minutes is all it takes to center ourselves.  Sometimes it may take a whole morning, or an entire day, but trust me on this: sex is way better with a centered partner.  Because getting time away is sexy.

4. flirt more… but not for sex

I think that every healthy, sexually mature human being likes to feel sexy.  One way to feel sexy is to get a good idea of what real sexy people look like by gazing at magazines, watching music videos, or checking out the latest blockbuster film, then looking in the mirror and saying to yourself: “Damn I look good!”  If I just described you, then this whole post probably isn’t for you at all.  For most of the rest of us, feeling sexy is deeply tied to feeling desired.  When Jessica gives me a sultry “Hey sexy” I feel a boost in confidence, my day gets brighter, and I feel sexy.  Granted, I have to fight off the destructive voice in my head giving me a 5 reasons why you’re not on the sexy list, and just trust that my wife is calling it likes she sees it.  This takes practice, but when I do it regularly, that vile voice in my head gives up and must go into hibernation or something.  I’m sure I don’t have to tell anyone that when you feel sexy, you’re more inclined to have sexy thoughts, and… you know.  So my advice to you is to give your partner a reason to silence that voice in their head.  All the time.  Okay, don’t be obnoxious about it, or you’ll come across as pushy.  Flirt, wink, do the Magnum P.I. eyebrow thing (if you don’t know what that is, well, then, never mind), make subtle suggestive comments; whatever communicates to your partner that they are desired, and desirable.  But don’t have your heart set on sex.  Because flirting is sexy and is an end in and of itself.

5. Spend quality time together… but not for sex. 

Developing togetherness has been foundational to our relationship and affects every part of it, including our sex life.  I realize that this concept may definitively put me in the hapless romantic category, but I don’t care, I am an unabashed hapless romantic who has great sex with his wife of 17 years so there.  We have this notion that relationships are living things, and they are constantly evolving, just as each person in the relationship is growing and changing daily.  This means that being static (not changing) is not possible.  You are either growing closer together and developing stronger bonds, or you are slowly drifting apart – unless you are a stone statue of a couple, and even then erosion does take its plodding toll.  So we intentionally find ways that bring us closer together.  There is no reason why you can’t still be as into each other as when you first got together.  Actually, we believe that you should cultivate your relationship keeping being into each other as a worthwhile goal.  Find common interests, and/or try new experiences together.  Play games together.  Make music together.  No, those aren’t references to sexual activities.  Cook together.  Hike or bike together.  Visit museums.  Go out for coffee or a fancy dinner.  Any activity that you will enjoy together, preferably with lots of eye contact, and with no electronic devices or screens (after you’re done reading this you should try it).  Because when you spend time being into each other, you end up wanting to explore all the ways you could be into each other.  (that was a sexual reference, by the way…).

6. Talk more… and I don’t mean about sex (and I don’t mean talk dirty more)

Spending time together, being more and more into each other, involves a lot of communication, and most of that will be through actual conversations.  With words and sentences and all that.  If you’re really getting into each other, developing that sense of togetherness that I mentioned in the previous point, then you’re going to want to communicate that you care about your partner’s life, about their day, every day, and that you’re interested in the details, the little experiences that you missed out on.  This may seem obvious, but you’re going to want to communicate that you missed your partner.  Because being missed is sexy.  And giving a damn is really sexy.

7. Help get the kids to bed, and again after midnight. 

So finally a practical tip!  I suggest that you don’t gloss over the relational mushy-gushy stuff that I took nearly 2,000 words to write about.  That’s the stuff that really leads to more, and great, sex.  The practical logistics of making sex happen won’t cut it by themselves.  Getting obnoxious distractions (i.e. children- only obnoxious when you’re hoping to make some whoopie) out of the way is essential to hooking up with your partner.  Bed time can be exhausting and time-consuming, and, depending on the age of your children, can burn a parent out and render them huddled in a dark, quiet, corner, hugging their knees, etc.  Or fast asleep before the kids.  It’s much better with two parents.  That way you communicate that you give a damn, that you want to do this together, that you’re willing to help, not to mention demonstrating to your children that you are there for them and their other parent.  Ways to make it more fun: text each other once the bedtime routine is finished but your haven’t extricated yourself from your children’s arms and legs.  A fun texting game we’ve played is where one of us sends the other a random emoticon, and the other has to guess what it’s supposed to mean.  Oops, now everyone knows: we’re dorks.  Dorks that flirt and have great sex.   This may or may not lead to sexting, by the way, which is always fun but possibly awkward and ill-advised if you’re still helping kids settle.  Getting kids to bed once may not be enough.  You may have to commit to moving a sleeping baby, 1 or 2 or even 3 yr old back to their bed after they have sweetly sought out your comforting cuddles around midnight and fallen asleep in the bed where, damn it, you were hoping to have sex (or just cuddle with your partner, or sleep on separate sides of the bed, depending on how grueling the bedtime routine was and how long you each need to huddle by yourselves in the dark, etc.).  Because a kidless bed with just you and your partner is sexy.  (This isn’t to say cosleeping damages sex lives, it doesn’t and we do cosleep, we just also have a “bed” for the cosleepers that they visit for us to have alone time in our bed.  And, if you don’t have teenagers around, there are plenty of other, though less comfortable, places in a house to utilize.)

8. Change the sheets!

Those of you who have known us for a little while know what this means, so feel free to skip this tip.  For those of you who don’t, I’ll let you in on our little secret: clean sheets are sexy.  Clean sheets are so sexy that my wife has this irresistible urge to sleep naked in them.  If it weren’t for the sheer logistics of children seeking cuddles, 8 of us in a house with one washing machine, and having to work and feed our family, I would probably wash our sheets every day.  Quick disclaimer: I have learned that just because my wife is naked in bed does not guarantee that we will have sex, or that she is logically interested in having sex.  You would do well to heed these words.  That being said, clean sheets may increase your odds; they certainly increase mine!  Also, mind-blowing as this may sound: sleeping naked together is sexy, and an end in and of itself.

And finally, if you’re still with me, the #1 thing you can do to have more sex as parents:

9. Stop asking for it.  

There is nothing quite like a whiner to kill a mood, or destroy any chance of there even being a mood to get into in the first place.  Asking for sex, or demanding it, damages your relationship with your partner.  Asking for it communicates only one thing: you think you have to have sex, that you deserve it, or that it is some kind of need.  It is not a form of flirting, it is not flattering, it is not sexy, it doesn’t communicate that your partner is desirable, it does not bring you closer together, it does not communicate that you care, or give a damn about anyone but yourself, and most of all, it communicates a lack of love and respect.  It is gross.  Even if the sheets are clean.  And if you helped around the house, and you flirted, and did your part in getting kids to bed, and spent time listening to every little detail of your partner’s day, and watched whatever stupid movie they wanted to, and this somehow means that you deserve sex, that they owe you sex, then you know nothing about what a healthy relationship looks like, and I would further venture to say that this is exactly the kind of thinking that leads to an abusive relationship.  Talk about it but in a carefully, respectful, and concerned conversation.  “I miss having sex with you” means a lot more than “We never have sex any more.”  And if you mention your sexual needs, like it’s some kind of basic human need, you should be slapped.  A basic human need is one where the human is at risk of dying if that need isn’t met.  Like eating, or drinking water.  Are you at risk of dying if you can’t have sex?  No.  And if you’re that horny and you feel like you just can’t keep it together without a release, then I’m sure your partner would appreciate you using your capable hands, rather than pressuring them or guilting them into letting you use their body for your own pleasurable end.  Because guilting your partner into sex is NOT sexy.  And pressuring your partner into sex will not lead to more and better sex, before or after baby.  Also, consider getting therapy.  Therapy can be sexy too.

There is one thing that effectively sums up my 8 tips to having more sex after baby (because that last one wasn’t really a tip, was it?): focus on your relationship with your partner.  All the rest will take care of itself.  And no, that’s not a sexual reference.

~ The Piano Man (aka: Jeremy from BeyondMoi)

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Happy Valentine’s Day!  

If you are looking for the widget to enter our huge Valentine’s Day giveaway, then look no further.  The widget is right below this text.  A couple of reminders before you go crazy with the widget:

1. Due to the varied shipping restrictions of our many, generous, sponsors, this giveaway is for US participants only.  We apologize for having to leave out our international followers.  We just can’t figure out how to better manage a giveaway of this magnitude.

2. Don’t forget that these same sponsors are also offering discounts and promotional codes just for TLB followers.  Don’t miss out!  Check them out at the giveaway post.

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The surprising barrier women encounter to getting breastfeeding help- breastfeeding advocates

by Jessica Martin-Weber
Support that makes a difference involves respect and thrives in relationship.  Meeting Leakies at MommyCon last year was all about mutual respect and relationships.

Support that makes a difference involves respect and thrives in relationship. Meeting Leakies at MommyCon last year was all about mutual respect and relationships.

Sometimes I hear stories of women who struggled with breastfeeding and never got help.  They didn’t know who to call or where to go or were too embarrassed to ask for help.  Or they didn’t have the money or insurance coverage for an IBCLC or there wasn’t even one in their area.  They may have tried a breastfeeding support group but felt intimidated and didn’t speak up.  Whatever the case may be, it isn’t as uncommon as you might think that we receive messages at TLB from women stating they have nobody to turn to or nobody they feel comfortable asking.  Only with the anonymous intimacy of the internet are these women comfortable even talking about their breastfeeding journey.  How, I wonder, could we have gotten to this place where asking for help for a normal body function that isn’t functioning normally is so hard?  We’re not even talking about waste or something sexual, we’re talking about feeding children.  How can we be so disconnected?

A cursory glance at infant feeding history will reveal that the introduction of formula marketing probably contributed to this break down as well as the cultural expectations developed in the early 1900s that only specific health professionals hold all the answers for our bodies.  As science became more elevated, anything that could be measured and formulated was seen as good.  Anything else, particularly of our bodies, was suspect as inadequate and less.

But still, why, with all the information about breastmilk now, why would women struggle to even ask for help?  Is it really just the effects of marketing and a left over fear from an era that held the doctor as god?

Digging deeper it’s not difficult to see that the over emphasis on the sexual nature of the female breast has contributed to the barriers some women face when they think of their breasts feeding their children.  Regular objectification can make it hard for women to connect with their own bodies on a good day let alone if things are proving to be difficult.  As society sends mixed signals celebrating female breasts to a point of idolatry yet reacting with disgust far too often when a woman uses her breasts to feed her baby, that disconnect isn’t far from turning into their own repulsion.

Again though, surely information and education can overcome these messages and women can see through the societal objectification of women to reach out for help in feeding their babies, right?  Sure, it’s a mountain of baggage to overcome but if we just get the information out there these women will climb that mountain to succeed in making informed choices of which we approve with our support.  Why is this so hard?

Maybe it’s because generations of women now haven’t been exposed to breastfeeding or if they have it has been either nominal or little more than entertainment.  Breasts are thrust in everyone’s face in TV ads, online images, magazine and newspaper pages, and blown up in store windows but many women have never seen breastfeeding aside from when it is used for comedic relief or perfectly staged and lit for a parenting magazine.

Those trends are turning though, more and more breastfeeding is visible in social media outlets and with increasing frequency in real life.  Celebrities and other influencers have taken to not only breastfeeding their own children but doing so openly and in the media’s eye.  We’re a long way from breastfeeding really being normal again in society but there is increasingly a precedent of support for breastfeeding moms.

So why are there still so many women asking for anonymous help with their breastfeeding issues?  Why is it that there are countless women who don’t feel able to ask for help when they encounter breastfeeding challenges?  How are we not closing these gaps with information and public breastfeeding support such that there are still women who feel that seeking out breastfeeding help is too much vulnerability for them to risk?  Where is the connection of women that should provide a safe space for infant feeding support?

I believe that one of the reasons our culture struggles so much with vulnerability and honesty is that when people dare to take the risk they are met with responses such as ‘you should be more like me, I don’t have those issues;’ ‘here let me tell you what you should do to fix your very broken self.’  When images and memes circulate demeaning women who don’t breastfeed or didn’t breastfeed long as not having tried hard enough, being lazy, giving their child poison, being unfit mothers, and deserving of guilt for falling short of the “best is breast” mandate or “biological norm” jargon, the connections we should have are torn down, not fortified.

A few months ago at a speaking engagement at an event with a “natural” parenting bent, a woman came up to talk to me.  Her voice and posture were defensive from the beginning and she led with “I’ve heard of you but I’ve never been to your site or online community because I knew what I would hear there.  I heard you today and I was surprised, I expected you to try to make me feel bad because I use formula.  What would you say to me if I told you I used formula?  Because I know that makes me the odd one out here and everyone thinks I’m lazy and give my baby poison.”  I told her that I would say I was glad she was feeding her baby and I was certain she was doing what was right for her family according to her specific set of circumstances.  I told her that I respected her and I understood what it was like being the odd one out in a setting.  By the end of our conversation we hugged and took a selfie together.  She had opened up about the breastfeeding challenges she was having and I shared some ideas and resources that could help her with those challenges should she so choose.  It didn’t matter if she was going to increase her breastfeeding and cut back on the formula, what mattered was that she was heard, she wasn’t alone, and she felt respected and supported.  My place was not to judge, pressure, or shame, my place was to respectfully care.

In a time when access to global community is better than ever, when information and support are freely available, when there are a multitude of voices offering support, women are still encountering pressuring messages of shame about their bodies and their choices.  Isolating messages.  Instead of finding help, many are afraid of facing belittlement.  They encounter mocking and dismissive responses to questions or vents about low supply: ‘didn’t you know, only 2% of women can’t physically make enough milk, you couldn’t possibly be in that 2% so you’re just not trying hard enough AKA you’re lazy.  If doing the best for your child is important enough to you, you’ll push through any difficulties’.  They encounter similar messages about pain: ‘it shouldn’t hurt, if it hurts you’re doing something wrong’.  They encounter callous responses to their challenges with societal pressures: ‘just stand up for your rights and stick it to the man or better yet, quit your job and stay home and don’t let someone else raise your child’.  And, they encounter unhelpful responses to their challenges with breastfeeding in public: ‘if other people don’t like it they can throw a blanket over their heads, don’t be ashamed to feed your baby’.   And these are just the messages that are intended to be helpful.

It can be down right dangerous to suggest that you are considering or *gasp* even have actually supplemented with formula.  If you do your very mothering ability could be called into question with accusations of feeding your child poison and comparisons of formula to human waste: ‘formula has CORN SYRUP, how could you want to give your baby poison?  Stick to breastmilk, at least it is never recalled and sure formula is better than starvation but so is eating your own shit’.   Seeking help with these messages of shame swirling around, knowing the people you would ask have at least seen these messages and may even agree with them and could very well have made or propagated them, can require heaps of bravery at a time when a woman is feeling very vulnerable and possibly already struggling with feelings of inadequacy.  Must a woman be brave to ask for help?

What if the very people claiming to advocate for breastfeeding and support families in their infant feeding experiences are the ones driving women away from seeking help when they are struggling?  Can it be that the messages coming at women meant to inspire, motivate, and inform actually undermine them?  Do we have a responsibility to maybe sit down, shut up and just be available?  Instead of telling women what they should do and are doing wrong without really listening to them, what would happen if we provided a safe space to just be, offering support without arrogantly assuming we know exactly what choices each woman should make in her individual circumstances with her available financial, emotional, and relational resources?

Imagine how connected we could be if we would just listen and empathize as our first response rather than isolate, shame, and suggest DIY fixes.  Meeting women where they are instead of where we think they should be.  Imagine the change this could bring if just a few of us decided that we will stand against bullying, unintentional and intentional, as part of breastfeeding support and simply be the safe community that respects each woman without condition of conforming to our own breastfeeding agendas and principles.

Margaret Mead quote

I have been called a bully for calling out breastfeeding activists that have used such tactics and recently, when I encouraged my readers to be careful with whom they align themselves with through their social media outlets, I was told I was shaming another breastfeeding advocate and people I should support even if I disagree with how they are behaving.  I have been asked how I could partner with someone like the Suzanne Barston from the Fearless Formula Feeder who supposedly should be my “sworn enemy” in spreading a message of support for all.  I have been approached by concerned breastfeeding advocates that perhaps I should put my efforts into creating a unified front for breastfeeding education and support instead of denouncing those in our camp that refuse to reconsider their strong-arm messaging of shame.  Though I’ve been vocal against such methods of supposed “support” in the past, I haven’t had the energy or the time to juggle everything let alone to add making those whose “camp” I should be in angry so TLB just quietly carried on with our core values in place doing the best we could to support.  But I’ve had enough and I can’t continue even appearing as though I’m part of a movement that often (yes, OFTEN) utilizes tools of shame cloaked as “inspiration.”

If standing against bullying and shame based motivators requires me to hand in my “lactivist” or breastfeeding advocate card, so be it.  You can have it.  The Leaky Boob is about people first and I will not throw that principle and my compassion under the bus of arrogant activism.  I have no doubt sometimes my own efforts of support are missteps and unintentionally hurt people and I know sometimes there are voices within TLB’s community that can be harsh.  This isn’t a step away from the belief that there are risks to formula feeding that parents need information about, it isn’t a divorce from the science that supports breastfeeding as the healthy normal food for a human infant, this isn’t a watering down of our commitment to help moms reach their breastfeeding goals, and it certainly isn’t a sugarcoating of the issues surrounding infant feeding and society.  Those issues remain and will continue to be something we respectfully discuss.  This is simply a more clear step toward expressing the underlying belief that pressuring moms and telling them what to do and how to do it is not actual support.  Whatever label or camp TLB falls under, I hope it is one that is hallmarked with compassion.  In agreement with those the asked me what about being unified, I call all breastfeeding advocates, all infant nutrition experts, all WHO Code champions, all individuals with an invested interest in infant and early childhood feeding to ask how we can all unite with respect as mothers and fathers first, remembering our humanity as more important than our individual lifestyles and choices.  As Amy West said:

Maybe the breastfeeding advocacy chapter is coming to a close; maybe fostering respect among mothers is the real cause worth championing.

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Guest Post from Suzanne of The Fearless Formula Feeder- Mean People Suck.

I’m happy to share this guest post from Suzanne Barston the a blogger and author of BOTTLED UP.  Suzanne writes over at the Fearless Formula Feeder, a blog – and community – dedicated to infant feeding choice, and committed to providing non-judgmental support for all new parents.  I asked to cross post her article because I thought it was well written and offered a perspective that should touch all of our humanity about how we treat others in the name of a cause.  My friendship with Suzanne has been growing and I deeply respect her, the work she does, and her heart because while it may seem at first glance that she and I are on opposite ends of the spectrum, we are, in fact, more similar than we are different.  I highly encourage my readers to quietly spend some time on her website and Facebook page listening and learning.  To genuinely support you have to first listen to what those needing support actually need and don’t assume you know better than they.  This article was originally published here.  ~Jessica

by Suzanne Barston

Back in the 90’s, before the age of memes, bumper stickers were the best of sending the world (or at least the person stuck behind you in traffic) a message about your political leanings, philosophy, or the status of your child’s “Good Citizenship” in school. People got seriously creative with these little strips of adhesive, but there was one that seemed to be strike a chord with the folks I typically associated with. The Birkenstocks-wearing, Ani-DiFranco-listening, liberal-arts-major types. The message that seemed to be stuck to the back of everyone’s used Volvo was this:

41NqAZthp0L

Mean People Suck.

Catchy, isn’t it?

But what I’ve realized in my late thirties is that mean people do more than just “suck”. The screw things up for the rest of us, in serious, systemic ways. They are the cops who brutalize minor offenders based on the color of their skin; the politicians who refuse to see the human side of their voting record, the instigators of road rage. And in the parenting world, they are the women who perpetuate the mommy wars (such a stupid and patronizing term, for a stupid and patronizing problem).

The thing is, mommy “wars” may be stupid, but their effect is far-reaching and profound. They make us believe we need to take sides, choose a team, thus dividing us and making it ridiculously easy to conquer us. And by conquering us, I mean keeping us from fighting collectively for better family leave, better maternal health care, better resources and options for our children and ourselves. We’re so busy trying to prove we’re an Alpha Female, conveniently forgetting that alpha males are generally assholes.

Speaking of Alpha Females, there’s a woman who has built up an impressive following on the Internet who I’ve tried to avoid giving airtime for the past year or so, after a few run-ins that made it clear her only motivation in life is to fight. I’ve tried thinking about her in a new-agey way, considering what made her the way she is, and trying to feel sympathy for her anger and vitriol rather than letting her make me act in turn. But when Jessica from the Leaky Boob – a woman I admire greatly and am proud to consider a friend – reached out to me about this Alpha person’s latest assault, I agreed to speak up.

I agreed to speak up because my friendship with Jessica is based on everything that this other person is trying her damndest to destroy. Jessica runs one of the most respected and beloved communities for breastfeeding women. I run a modest but pretty vocal community of people who take issue with the current state of breastfeeding promotion (as well as people who are totally cool with breastfeeding promotion, but ended up using formula for whatever reason and are willing to put up with the constant drama and debate because they have few other communities where they feel safe asking questions about formula feeding). We’re part of an informal community of breastfeeding advocates (and me, although I do consider myself a breastfeeding advocate, albeit a strange hybrid of one) where we discuss ways to better serve all mothers and provide REAL support and education. It’s actually really awesome to see how women can work together to find solutions even when they come from opposite ends of the parenting spectrum.

The Alpha individual operates on the premise that working relationships (and friendships) like this cannot – or should not – exist. Her page and blog are consistently dedicated to making fun of those who haven’t lived up to her own personal standards. Her work wouldn’t be worth mentioning at all, except for the fact that she has gotten the seal of approval from several notable breastfeeding researchers and advocates, including James Akre, who writes regular (and strikingly misogynist) guest posts for her blog. The woman knows how to get page views and Facebook likes. You have to admire her for that.

But in the immortal words of Stan Lee (and as I keep telling my Marvel comic-obsessed son), with great power comes great responsibility. And when someone with a fair share of public attention does something incredibly harmful, not only to a movement (those invested in creating a more supportive environment among mothers) but more importantly to an individual, that is an abuse of power, and seriously irresponsible.

Here are the facts: The blogger in question stole a photo of a woman in an emotional moment and used it to promote her recurring message that formula feeding parents are lazy and un-invested in their children. The photo was of a woman hooked up to wires, looking at least semi-unconscious, with a baby being held up to her breast. The blogger superimposed the word “obsessed” on the photo, meant in a “positive” way, as in, yes; this woman was obsessed with breastfeeding, which was a good thing because it meant she was properly dedicated. Unlike the rest of you nitwits.

The thing is, that was the antithesis of what this photo meant to the mom featured in it. This was, for her, a memory of something she went through with her child. I don’t know if that memory was positive or negative or something in between, as most postpartum memories are when something goes awry. It’s not my business to know. It’s hers. She didn’t intend for her image to be used this way. We don’t know the backstory behind the image, which I’m sure is human and flawed and beautiful and complicated.

But bloggers like the Alpha person are not complicated. They are simple. They are mean. And mean people suck.

They suck the life out of images like this; make them fodder for a contrived mommy war. They suck the life out of breastfeeding advocacy efforts, because they perpetuate the myth of the “breastapo” by becoming a caricature of that concept.  They suck the joy out of parenting, by making it a competition. They suck the intelligence and nuance out of what could be a productive debate between people who genuinely care about maternal and child health. And they suck the energy out of bloggers like Jessica and myself, who resent that we feel forced into a corner and made to confront this type of bottom-feeding behavior, when we could be focusing our collective efforts on something more productive.

Alpha types will always exist, these parasites that feed on fear, loneliness and feelings of inferiority. But parasites can be stopped if their food source is cut off. That’s why we are asking both of our communities to stop engaging. Don’t be a food source. Don’t visit her site. Don’t comment on the Facebook page, even if it’s to fight back against the hate. Just don’t engage.

If you see people you respect at risk of an infestation, let them know the true nature of the beast. Speak up when respected advocates are partnering with her or linking to her work. Let those around you know that this type of behavior does not advocate breastfeeding; it advocates bullying, shaming and hate.

And if you see one of her memes, post one of your own. One from a time before the internet allowed the best and worst of humanity to be distributed worldwide: Mean People Suck. Because they do.

Mean-People-Breed-Bumper-Sticker-(5567)

 

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Sleep dreams

This post made possible by the generous support of Arm’s Reach Concepts.

by Jessica Martin-Weber

To sleep or not to sleep, the question babies and little children everywhere wrestle with on a regular basis and parents pray will be answered with “to sleep.”  Sleep like a baby sometimes sounds like an oxymoron when it seems like your baby won’t sleep.  But sometimes it isn’t to sleep or not to sleep but rather, where to sleep.  The Leakies joined me in sharing pictures of where and how they have found their little ones sleeping.  Two of the funniest threads we’ve had on The Leaky Boob Facebook page were the result and an image collection of baby and little kid sleeping gold.  We couldn’t fit even all of our favorites here so be sure to head over to beyondmoi.com for more totally adorable and hilarious moments of sleep with little ones.  It could be one of the few times you will find yourself laughing about sleep as a parent.

Whatever you do, don’t lay down!  The couch is there for support, I’m just resting my eyes mid bounce…

sleeping standing on couch

I was going to go run but then this happened…

sleeping waiting for mom to be ready to go

sleeping standing back against couch

sleeping standing against the couch

I’m not sleepy, my head just got heavy…

sleeping standing against couch grouch need a nap now

sleeping standing against couch

It wasn’t that I was sleepy, it’s that the entertainment was boring…

sleeping sitting with sippy on couch

sleeping sitting nude

Wait, what just happened, I was in the middle of something important…

sleeping like daddy

sleeping on the toilet

sleeping on chair with balloon

It is important to keep your best friend company…

sleeping on the dog

sleeping propped against dog and eating chips

sleeping on dog as pillow

sleeping cuddling dog

Just getting into character…

Batgirl

This wasn’t exactly my plan…

sleeping between couch and stool

sleeping on couch and stool

sleeping outside on back pourch

Don’t worry, I’m on top of things…

sleeping on top shelf in closet

sleeping on the coffee table

sleeping on table dreaming of bike

sleeping on play table

sleeping on diaper bin

And under things…

sleeping under the table

sleeping under the coffee table

sleeping under the bed up to no good

sleeping under stacked chairs at church

sleeping under dog bed mom checked to be sure she could breathe

Look closely… find the toes…

sleeping under and between the couch and chair

sleeping under a trampoline

sleeping under a book

sleeping in the entertainment stand

sleeping burrowed under blankets

And in things…

sleeping inside a box

sleeping in the swing

sleeping in the laundry basket

sleeping in the bath

sleeping in play house

sleeping in mesh laundry hamper

sleeping in LL Bean tote

sleeping in laundry hamper trio

sleeping in green laundry basket

sleeping in glass bowl

sleeping in dresser drawer

sleeping in a laundry hamper 2

sleeping in a drawer

sleeping in a diaper box

And out…

sleeping sitting in snow

sleeping bundled up outside in chair

sleeping face against table

It’s always better with someone else…

sleeping twins in tub

sleeping twins outside

And if you think I’m cute when I’m sleeping, you should see when I wake up!

good morning cosleeper

This guy was too cute on the Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper Instagram feed.

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Sibling love- respecting it, working for it, and preserving it

#BecoSiblingLove walk mayou quote

Earlier I shared here some of what our 6 children have taught us in our parenting journey about sibling bonding.  Beco Baby Carriers joined us with a giveaway to encourage the connections between parents and siblings, because they believe that supporting family bonding is important and one of their core values.  While not everyone could win (the winners have been notified), we did giveaway 6 #BecoSiblingLove carrier packs and are happy that everyone wins a little with this great collection of tips and sweet photos from the Leakies shared here, on Facebook, Instagram, and twitter encouraging sibling bonding.  This collection of tips highlights respecting, working for, and preserving sibling love from the voices of experienced moms.  If you have some to add or a story of sibling bonding and adjusting to adding a new family member, leave us a comment, we love hearing from you.  Thanks to all who contributed!

More tips from the Leakies for adding a new baby in a family and promoting sibling bonds.

I like to talk to my two year old about the baby and all the things that we did with her when she was a baby. Things like, “He’s crying a lot because he’s a baby. You used to cry a lot, too!” ~Ginni, mom of two

My children bond with him by him doing things for him. And they bond with each other by playing mostly.  ~Danielle, mom of 6

They each love when I wear them and go for walks.  ~Joanne, mom of 2 under 4

We sing songs, read books, all three of us snuggle up on the toddlers bed for naps and they both fall asleep, take baths together and big brother helps with baby, when big brother loves on little brother we praise them both and tell big brother his little brother loves him so much.  ~Hannah, mom of 2 boys under 3

We’ve encouraged their relationship since I was showing. She’d kiss my belly and pat it. And its so moving seeing her noe pat the baby’s back and give him morning kisses. She actually is so in love with “brover” she gets mad if other people hold him and wants to kiss him as soon as she’s awake.  ~Tay, mom of 2 under 2

I actually encouraged him to babywear the other day because he wants to hold the baby while standing up.  ~Raina, mom to 2 boys, 6 years old and 6 months

#BecoSiblingLove

We encourage sibling bonding by letting the older one help get things like diapers, or juice for his little sister to make him feel like such a big boy. We love playing games together as well, stacking blocks is also something fun that they both enjoy! ~Cassandra, mom to 2 toddlers

I feel like we have encouraged sibling bonding by letting each child know how much they are loved and that love is endless and independent of any one else. We make them feel special as individuals, which makes sibling rivalry nearly non-existent.  ~Heather, mom to 4 girls

We are tandum nursing right now and I love to see them looking into each others eyes. It’s so sweet. I really hope nursing them together helps foster their bond.  ~Jinny, mom to one 3 year old and one 1.5 year old

Our older two boys (7 and 6) share a room. I have heard that sharing a room helps build a stronger bond for siblings in adulthood. I hope so because they have difficulty with each other now but they both adore their younger brother.  ~Melissa, mom of 4 boys

I made sure that I included big brother in everything that happened with the baby. When it was time to eat, I let him help me burp the baby. When I had to change the baby, he handed me the clean diaper and the wipes. At nap time, big brother would lay down on the play mat with the baby and watch a movie. It made him feel important and special!  ~Christian, mom to 2 boys and one on the way

Keeping them busy is the key.  ~Jenn, mom to one 5 year old and one 8 year old

Encouraging sibling harmony is definitely challenging with a fiesty 2 year old. Diligent supervision, guidance, and modeling appropriate conflict resolution are necessary with both his older brother and his younger brother as he has yet to learn boundaries.  ~Lurissa, expecting #4

#BecoSiblingLove sibling kiss

I try not to interfere with their spontaneous, happy moments but bring them up later during quiet times with our oldest.  ~McKenna, mom of 2 boys

I think it is important to include both children in everything we do but also make some time for each to have their moments in the limelight.  ~Cassandra, stepmom of 1 and mom to 1

I have 5 children, but only 4 are living. In many ways, number 4 dying has made a huge impact on their relationships with their other sisters- especially number 5. I have learned so much about love from watching them together. I love the way they always praise each others’ efforts. And I love that they are strong for each other, and work to keep each other safe. They have the courage to speak up against something dangerous, or even do things they don’t want, to protect the baby- because they don’t want to lose their sisters.  ~Anne, mom of 5, 4 living

I find my older does better if I tell her all the good and right things she does when she interacts with her baby brother.  ~Kari, mom of 2 under 3

#BecoSiblingLove b:w newborn kiss

I encourage bonding between the older and younger children by letting them help with bath time and eating snacks together, ect. My 8 yr d daughter is very involved with my youngest and I show her trust by letting her watch her while I take a shower or cook dinner.  ~Shelby, mom of 4

This Last Pregnancy my older girls were completely involved in all of the midwife appointments helped listen to the heartbeat etc. They were there for her birth also. I think that helped them have a huge Bond from the very begining.  ~Jessica, mom of 3 girls

We have 10 kids 8 boys and 2 girls ages 23 years old to 10 months old and love the way they all interact with one and another, they are their own best friends. We use baby wearing to get out and do the things with the big kids like camping, hiking and other out door activities that we wouldn’t be able to do with a stroller. ~Kathy, mom of 10

I have found that leading by example and oftentimes just letting them work things out on their own can lead to growth in their sibling relationship. Solving problems can be a wonderful way to build character and relationships. I find that if I don’t butt in, they usually get along better.  ~Jeannette, expecting #3

#BecoSibilingLove

We foster their friendship in everything we do. We make sure to get excited for each other when something exciting happens. Now, when my little boy does something neat, his sister will get excited for him and hug him. He’s potty training and when he goes, he waits for a high 5 from his sister b/c it’s important to him. When we wake up, they hug each other right away, it’s so adorable.  ~Shannon, mom of 2

We have a “Kindness Jar.” It’s an idea a got from Pinterest about a year ago. It’s a jar we decorated, that has a bunch of slips of colored paper and each one has a “act of kindness” on it. This has worked for us and I like that it encourages redirection, rather than focusing on disciplining.  ~Alexia

The older ones love feeling like they are big helpers so I have them do little things to help with the new baby like sing to him if he is crying.  ~Alicia, 4 children under 6

I encourage sibling bonding by reminding them to hug and kiss goodnight and goodbye – and when saying sorry.  ~Mandi, expecting #3

#BecoSiblingLove matching pajamas copy

One of the big ones I find is just to be observant and not in a hurry… if I see them connecting but we have to get somewhere I try to think which is more important in the long run? Being on time to wherever (getting whatever done) or what’s going on right now. ~Cindy, mom to two boys

My 2 girls are extremely helpful and you see this when they play together. I believe in loving them like you want to be loved. They will grow up with enough love to share with everyone they wish.  ~Nicola, mom to 3

Our kids love is to hear about when they were tiny — even my oldest still like to hear how she was nursed, how much we loved to snuggle her in bed at night, how we couldnt put her down, etc. sharing all their birth stories in the weeks leading up to a new sibling’s birth has become tradition.  ~Beth, mom of 5

The best thing a parent can do is to make sure they make special time for the older sibling every day, especially when the older sibling is a younger toddler. Kids who feel that they are not being replaced by a new baby will be far more receptive to bonding and taking on the role as a “big brother/sister”.  ~Taisha, nanny to many, mom of 1

I encourage the kids to all work together as a team so they have a closer bond, which they do.  ~Sandra, mom of 8

#becosiblinglove tandem wearing

Tandem nursing and co-sleeping have helped my boys bond.  ~Anne, mom of 2

When our middle child was a newborn we let her big brother help as much as he wanted to, and hold her whenever he asked to, even if it wasn’t necessarily a good time for us. We let him help her learn to sit and stand and walk, and have always celebrated every milestone as a family. Its the same this time around with the new baby. Granted her daddy or I may not be the ones holding her hand when she takes her first steps, but that’s ok. Our son remembers helping his little sister and is still proud of it. They know empathy and trust in each other, which is priceless.  ~Lacey, mom of 3

My four year old has learned the one year old’s calming song and she sings it to him every time he gets upset. It never fails to melt my heart!  ~Ashley, mom to 2

We bought our two year old a doll & started helping him care for it while explaining that these were all things mommy & daddy would need his expert help with when his sibling arrived.  ~Jennifer, mom of 4

I always include them with what I am doing with the baby. My 3 yr will nurse her babies when I nurse her brother because her babies are hungry too.  ~Heather, mom of 4

Getting out of the way and recognizing their cues that they need space.  ~Jennifer

One of her current favorite things is to have us whisper in her ears, then she whispers in ours. She just recently expanded the game to include little brother – “can I whisper in his ear?” *arm goes around the little neck, mouth smashes up to tiny ear*, “pssshh, whisper, whisper, hsss, I love you so much, Edward.” (yes, that is exactly what she whispers – every time).  ~Sarah, mom of 2

#BecoSiblingLove Big sister reading copy

Outdoor activities are the best!  ~Brandy, mom to 3

I like to encourage them to think about what the other is thinking/feeling and how they can help out. My two older girls love to read to the younger kids, and they all love to snuggle together!  ~Sarah, mom of 4

I always remind big brother how important he is & how his brother needs his help to grow up to be a superhero just like him.  ~Kristen, mom of 2

She was most excited when he had enough head control and she was strong enough to start wearing him (again, with a lot of hair pulling).  Cami, mom to 2

One thing that has encouraged bonding is tandem nursing. I love snuggling both children while they hold hands or while my oldest pets her brother’s head. I also let her help pick out his outfits and gather diaper supplies when she’s feeling helpful.  ~Jennifer, mom of 2

They have to bond because we spend so much time together. They have no choice!  ~Nicole, mom of 3

Momma time when there was a new baby~nursing became special snuggle time for all with babe at breast and older siblings tucked in close on teach side and a good book to read aloud and then the “big kids” were my special helpers assisting me in caring for younger siblings. Even to this day (my oldest ones are college bound) my children enjoy each others company, laugh together.  ~Beth, mom to 5

We kept big bro informed the whole pregnancy and I had him read the updates with me on the pregnancy app I used, to help prepare him and keep him involved.  ~Jessi, mom of 2

Our oldest has LOVED cuddling on, holding, and trying to carry baby sister from day one. We talk often of their love for one another (when 3yo makes 1 yo laugh I’ll say, “Oh, look at her smile! She loves her sister SO much! She thinks you are great!’ or during snuggles when baby-in-belly kicks, I say it is her hand reaching out to hold her big sister and encourage the 3yo to touch the hand back or give kisses to my belly/baby). I recently started the “got your nose!” game with my 3 yo which has morphed into a giggle-fit of “got your (any body part!)”. Her new favorite is to say she got my nursies (what we call breasts used for feeding), put them on herself, and tell me how she is going to nurse the new baby! <3 ~Michel, expecting #3

#becoSiblingLove babywearing copy

The very first thing we did with each older child was call the baby theirs while pregnant. So our 2yr old walks around talking to and kissing his baby. He will tell others MY baby. It seemed to work out well so when the new baby arrives they have somewhat of a bond already. Then when the baby arrived he helped with diaper changing and getting ready for feeds. Plus we have snuggle time before bed where they all get to hold the baby and snuggle.  ~Jessie, mom to 7

Games help build their bond as well as dress up/imaginary play. Sending them outside forces them to rely on each other and not a screen (or Legos). ~Jessica, mom of a 9yo, 7yo, and toddler

Juggling personalities and making sure everyone is heard and respected can be difficult. I try and foster a want of safety in my older kids, to keep the younger ones safe and happy. Whether that means watching someone while I shower or reading stories while I use the stove for a few moments. I want them to want to protect each other.  ~Chelsea, expecting #4

Reading has always been a wonderful time for us… it was for me growing up with my 5 siblings!  ~Mechelle, expecting #4

Any time any of the other kids ask to hold him I let them without question. I want their bond with each other to be the most important to carry for their lives.  ~Sarah, mom of 4

#BecoSiblingLove circle frame copy

 

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6 lessons our 6 kids have taught us in fostering sibling bonds + 6 #BecoSiblingLove carrier packs

by Jessica Martin-Weber
This post made possible by the generous support of Beco Baby Carriers.

E and C together outside

When I was pregnant with our second child, I was pretty good at keeping a journal for our first born with regular entries sharing not only what she had done and milestones she had reached but also my feelings along the way.  First child/new parent kind of thing, I’m not even kind of keeping up with journals for the girls now, they get about two entries a year.  A few of my entries from those early days record both my excitement and concern about adding a child to the family, all normal thoughts when adding a new baby.  Worried about how I would love another child as much as my first born, wondering how I would be able to give both the attention they deserved and I thought required, anxious about possible jealousy as a result, and afraid that my children wouldn’t get along.  That last one was one of my greatest concerns.  My own relationship with my siblings up to that point had been tenuous at best and I wasn’t sure how to foster a bond between my own children that would invite them to have a meaningful relationship with each other beyond “hey, we’re family, you’re supposed to love each other so get along.”

Today our 6 girls share a bond I could never have imagined and my relationships with my siblings is improving.  Though they have their share of squabbles, necessary interactions for learning how to manage conflict and establish boundaries (we utilize the Peace Path for helping our children develop conflict management skills), all six of our children have a connection they each treasure and actively cultivate which for all of them began before the new sibling was even born.  It hasn’t always been easy and there was a period of regression with our first when our second was born and we all laugh at how when our third came along her big sister regularly asked if the new baby could go back in my tummy for a few months.  But these minor hiccups have only served to strengthen their relationships, not weaken them.  As Erica E. Goode said:

Sibling relationships – and 80 percent of Americans have at least one – outlast marriages, survive the death of parents, resurface after quarrels that would sink any friendship. They flourish in a thousand incarnations of closeness and distance, warmth, loyalty and distrust.

Our eldest, 15yo Earth Baby, babywearing our youngest, 20 month old Sugarbaby in a Beco Soleil with our second youngest, 4yo Smunchie, babywearing her own baby in a Beco Mini.

Our eldest, 15yo Earth Baby, babywearing our youngest, 20 month old Sugarbaby in a Beco Soleil with our second youngest, 4yo Smunchie, babywearing her own baby in a Beco Mini.

Encouraging their connection has been intentional on our part.  As their parents, we have learned how us valuing their relationship helps them to value it as well, and truly valuing it, not having expectations of simply getting along to keep the peace.  Respecting their individual yet communal needs to develop their ties based on their own personalities and interactions in order to have authentic relationships because they want to, not just to make us happy, has given us all the space needed to know not only ourselves but each other.  We’re still learning but here are 6 of the lessons we have learned as we journey this path together.

  • Positive talk.  Before our children are even born we talk them up to their older siblings and their older siblings up to them.  It’s not fake either, we honestly believe that they are incredibly lucky to have the others in their life and that our children are some outstanding people, we can’t wait for them to meet each other.  Hearing us not only talk positively about their siblings but of them to their siblings is inspiring and confidence building.  We continue this long after birth.  I will never forget when our then 5 year old lovingly whispered to our 4th baby at a few months old as they were on the bed together while I cleaned up after a diaper change where she had assisted me as I talked her up to her baby sister: “mommy is right, I DO love you lots and lots.  I will never stop loving you.”  Cue happy mommy tears.

    Sibling love, Beco Sibling love #becosiblinglove

    The Storyteller and Lollie

  • Play Games together.  From the earliest age with rhymes, massage, peek-a-boo, and finger plays, connecting through play bridges age gaps and interests.  This Little Piggy, the Itsy Bitsy Spider, and other repetitive rhymes are perfect, even toddlers and preschoolers can enjoy sharing those with a younger sibling and may spare you some repetitions.  Don’t let siblings replace your own play time with baby, but involving older siblings and giving them one on one time to play together will have a lasting impact on their relationship.  Try some other creative activities as well, older siblings will love sharing these experiences of play together.  Our bigger girls always love making the newest baby laugh, it’s a treasure to share and games are an active way of connecting.  As they get older they build their game playing repertoire from recognized free-style games (hide and seek) to structured games (Candy Land) to made-up games that become family favorites.  Games can be a family affair but some of the deepest connecting times happen with one on one games.  Which brings me to my next point…

    We were missing one that day but that didn't stop their games.

    We were missing one that day but that didn’t stop their games.

  • Get out of the way.  It can be so easy and in many ways necessary to never leave your children to interact on their own together, particularly with a very young baby.  While it is important to supervise young children with an infant, giving them the space with you present to touch, play with, and connect with a new young sibling will have lifetime pay off.  Sitting on the couch well supported by pillows and mommy and daddy’s trusting encouragement at as young as weeks before turning 2 years old, each of our 5 big girls have glowed with love as they held their newborn baby sister.  As the get older, trusting them with their younger siblings even more, letting them do caregiving that we typically assume such as diaper changing and babywearing develops their own confidence and connection.  When the youngest is old enough we begin encouraging quiet times and naps with a sibling.  Our 20 month old and newly turned 4 year old share a room together now and one recent evening I heard the toddler cry out and by the time I got to their room they were cuddled up together in one bed sleeping peacefully.  They still join us in our room early every morning for a few hours but they have the giggles of going to bed together and the comfort of each other through the night.  Getting out of the way can be hard, finding a balance between safety and providing opportunity can be challenging (and do make sure everyone is safe) but more than likely it will be letting go of your own desire to control that will be the most difficult to overcome.  Though it may mean things won’t be done exactly how you would do them or there may be a bigger mess as a result, getting out of the way will allow your children to develop their own experiences together and define their relationship together outside of their parents.  Worth any cleanup required.

    #becosiblinglove, sisters

    Struck down with a nasty virus, sisters offer each other comfort.

  • Nurture their nurturing side.  Children, at least young children, like to emulate their parents and caregivers.  This aspect of their development is crucial to their learning life skills.  Helping with household chores, copying parents leisure activities (i.e. reading), and mimicking caring for babies and small children.  Dolls and plush toys can help meet this need but don’t limit it to pretend.  Even very young children can help with caring for their younger siblings in simple ways.  Toddlers can give kisses, help with bathing (wash baby’s toes with the wash cloth!), fetch toys and other items, perform to entertain baby (my toddlers love to dance for their baby sisters, not sure the littlest was ever impressed but the big sister felt important in that moment), offer comfort, and participate in snuggles.  There is something about a toddler gently patting a baby saying “it’s ok baby” that makes me melt.  Preschoolers can do these same activities plus play games with the baby, listen for baby to wake from a nap (hopefully not wake baby from the nap…), assist with feeding times*, distract a slightly older baby when upset or a parent needs to go to the bathroom, and many more activities based on their capabilities.  We have even let our preschoolers babywear their new siblings briefly with us right there to support.  It can take more time and it isn’t always exactly helpful but it is special.  School aged children can step it up even more including watching younger siblings for a parent to take a shower, introduce new games, babywear, respond to the baby’s cries (my bigger girls will actually call dibs on getting a crying little one), cuddle them when sick or tired, take them for walks, and more.  Be respectful of their capabilities and don’t expect them to take your place, our children know they can always refuse opportunities to take on these responsibilities and sometimes they do but overall they enjoy the chance to be the one extending care.

    2yo Squiggle Bug watching over 5 month old Smunchie while I observed from the sink doing dishes.

    2yo Squiggle Bug watching over 5 month old Smunchie while I observed from the sink doing dishes.

  • Gifts to share.  We don’t expect our children to share their personal belongings out of obligation but we do intentional have quite a few play things that don’t specifically belong to any one person.  Be it a bottle of bubbles to share together or a kitchen set, having playthings that belong to all of them and are more fun when shared with others encourages interactions together which goes a long way to securing those sibling bonds.

    #becosiblinglove

    3yo Squiggle Bug and 1yo Smunchie making felt food together.

  • Dolls and plush toys.  Copying mom and dad in caregiving helps little ones recognize the dependency of infants and toddlers as they care for their own “babies.”  My children have used their dolls to work through their own issues with their siblings, creating scenarios of jealousy or frustration that they coach their “children” through.  This important play helps them with their own feelings.  Transitioning the youngest to being a big sibling when a new baby is on the way is supported by encouraging them to care for their own babies and when they don’t get to be worn as often as before the new baby, having a carrier for their own baby makes that transition so much easier.
    #becosiblinglove, Siblings, Frejay dolls

    Sugarbaby isn’t a big sister but she loves taking care of her dolls too.

    Sugarbaby caring for her Frejay mom and baby doll even while she gets néné.

    Sugarbaby caring for her Frejay mom and baby doll even while she gets néné.

I love watching our children together.  My heart nearly bursts as I see the love they share.  So strong is their connection sometimes I feel like I’m intruding.  They will have conflict and at times jealousy but with empathy and conflict management skills the basis of their relationship will remain strong and true.  Our children are blessed to have each other and we are, in turn, blessed that they have each other.  Having multiple children may not be for everyone, certainly having a large family like ours is not right for all parents, but the friendships our children have built in through each other is one of the best things we’ve ever done for our children.

To see more of our 6 daughters’ interactions, follow me on Instagram at jmartinweber.

I don’t believe an accident of birth makes people sisters or brothers. It makes them siblings, gives them mutuality of parentage. Sisterhood and brotherhood is a condition people have to work at. – Maya Angelou

*Breastfeeding assistance can include helping mom get anything she needs, keep mommy company with a story, share a snack with mommy, etc.  Those that bottle feed can include preschoolers and older children in the feeding times by helping them give a bottle and instructing them how to do so and sharing the experience with them.  My babies have all received bottles at times when I had to be away from them for work reasons, left in the care of daddy or another trusted caregiver, their big sisters have loved getting to give them a bottle when I was away.  Once solids are introduced, be it baby-led solids or baby food, sharing the adventure of new tastes and textures can be a lot of fun for everyone.

To celebrate fostering sibling bonds, Beco Baby is giving away 6 sets of carriers in honor of our 6 girls and the connection they share.  Each prize pack includes a Soleil ($140 value) and a Beco Mini ($30 value) to encourage your bigger littles to practice their nurturing and copying mommy and daddy.  Use the widget below to enter the giveaway and happy bonding, happy babywearing to your family!  Open to USA residents only.

#becosiblinglove

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Gisele, breastfeeding images, and real moms

by Jessica Martin-Weber

Ah, the bru-ha-ha.  A celebrity shared a picture of herself breastfeeding her child.  She’s a hero!  She’s so natural!  She’s supporting women!  She’s a REAL mom!  She’s a show-off!  She’s a bitch!  She’s pampered!  She doesn’t look like us REAL moms!  She makes breastfeeding look unattainable!  She’s making women that don’t breastfeed feel bad!  She’s pressuring women to breastfeed!  She’s a sanctimommy!  BRU.freakingHA.HAAAAAAAAAA.

Everybody has an opinion on it from commenters on Facebook and twitter to talk show hosts and bloggers.  They all must say something about it.  Apparently, me too.

Would this picture have been such a big deal if Gisele was holding a sandwich in one hand and feeding herself claiming multitasking as her team worked on her?  Or if she had an iPad set up and was FaceTiming with her child as a nanny gave them a bottle?  Or if Gisele was spooning baby food into her toddler’s mouth?  I highly doubt it.  Because while the uproar appears to be about a great many things such as whether or not it’s multitasking, or that normal moms don’t have a beauty team, the flashpoint is clearly that breastfeeding is involved.

Oddly enough, the focus has not really been on that she was pictured feeding her 12 month old daughter, the age of her little girl has hardly come up at all.  And the team working on Gisele didn’t seem to notice or care at all.  Maybe we are making progress?

I’m not one to get starstruck nor do I care what celebrities are doing.  It’s not a big deal to me personally the fashion, decorating, or lifestyle choices someone famous makes, I’m going to do what I do because it feels right for me and fits my values and tastes.  Decisions like breastfeeding and how they birth hardly seem like a big deal, they’re humans doing what humans do.  I don’t want to herald every star that puts her baby to her breast to feed them, that just seems a little… extreme.

But I am committed to normalizing breastfeeding so I do see the value in celebrities sharing that they are breastfeeding because I recognize that people look up to them.  Just as stars can normalize a fashion trend, inspire people to get their colon checked, or connect with nonprofit charity work, so can others be inspired to view breastfeeding as normal or at least ok because someone with notoriety has done it.  And who am I to say how someone should be inspired?  They see Kim Kardashian, Gisele Bündchen, Pink, Angelina Jolie, Miranda Kerr or some other celebrity breastfeeding and think “hey, maybe it’s not so bad and I could do that” that’s a good thing so why not?

Just as I understand how a celebrity sharing images of breastfeeding their children or talking about breastfeeding publicly helps normalize it, so do, I believe, the efforts of us incredibly normal, average, non-celebrities.  When we share our pictures and talk about the realities of breastfeeding, we’re helping create a culture that will eventually stop considering it newsworthy when a celebrity does the very normal, average, human behavior of feeding their baby.  A woman using her body as it is biologically intended to feed her baby won’t cause gasps of shock any more, perhaps it will be as normal as the marketing we accept every day that uses the female form to sell stuff.  Eventually, all the trolls and naysayers won’t have any buttons to push on the matter.

Gisele has said some things in the past that have made me cringe and I have a funny feeling she’ll say something cringe worthy again.  But this moment of sharing a picture of herself feeding her baby while she was working isn’t one of them.  The majority of mothers don’t have a team available to them to do their hair, make-up, and nails.  The majority of mothers also don’t have to look impossibly impeccable as part of their career even after flying 15 hours and getting only 3 hours of sleep, they don’t have the pressure of adhering to an artificial standard of beauty for their livelihood.  The majority of us moms are short on sleep and long on too much to do but we all have our own version of what that looks like.  My multitasking doesn’t look exactly like yours and nothing like Ms. Bündchen’s.  My multitasking also doesn’t look like that of a women in extreme poverty in a third world country or a mother struggling to feed her kids in the slums of New York.  Doesn’t make any of it less real.  Dismissing someone’s version because we can’t relate or maybe we’re even jealous or because we judge them isn’t helping anyone.  Such immature responses could actually be damaging.  Declaring “REAL moms…” or “REAL women…” don’t experience life as or look like someone else objectifies that person.

People, particularly women and especially moms need to stop that right now.

What’s “real” has many different expressions.

Gisele breastfeeding with beauty squad

This is a real mom multitasking breastfeeding and work.

This is also a real mom multitasking breastfeeding and work.

This is also a real mom multitasking breastfeeding and work.

This too is a real mom multitasking breastfeeding and work (image from Snugabell).

 

Another real mom multitasking breastfeeding and work.

Another real mom multitasking breastfeeding and work.

These are also real women breastfeeding, not multitasking but still real.

These are also real moms breastfeeding, not multitasking but still real.

Mama and baby with bottle

This is a real mom feeding her baby too. (photo credit: David Castillo Dominici)

Is this the world we want for our children?  A society that trivializes the reality of someone else simply because they can’t relate?  A society that dismisses the good of an act because they are personally offended that it doesn’t look a certain way?  A society that attempts to marginalize someone that can have influence simply because they are jealous?  A society that can only support those whose reality is just like their own?

I hope not.

What all these women need is pretty simple: support.  Even if you’re different than me, even if your reality looks different from mine, even if your choices are ones I can’t understand, even if we can’t relate: I SUPPORT YOU.  Natural birthing or highly medicalized birthing, breastfeeding or formula feeding, safely cosleeping or safely separate sleeping, working outside the home or stay at home parent, no processed foods or all processed foods, and everything in between as long as you’re not intentionally abusing or neglecting your child and have the access you need to make fully informed decisions according to your personal circumstances and available resources: I SUPPORT YOU.  Because anything else only serves to divide, keeps marginalizing women, and drag us all down.

I’m going to go out on a limb and state the obvious here: celebrities are normal, real people.  Normal, real people that can help change things.

Gisele Bündchen has a life I can’t even imagine, bet she can’t imagine mine either.  I multitasked writing this post while cuddling a sick 5yo and breastfeeding an active 19 month old.  In my pajamas.  The same way I answered emails, talked with my site host, interacted on Facebook, texted with my children, and worked.  Sometimes I multitask breastfeeding my toddler while speaking to a couple hundred people about sex.  A typical day for me, normal and real, different from Gisele’s day which for her was no less normal and real.   Though I can’t relate to her life, I appreciate her and all the other women in the world celebrity or not, that are sharing the very real aspect of caring for their children through breastfeeding.  As they continue to do so, maybe when my own daughters are breastfeeding their children, there will be more important and interesting matters discussed by society and the media than how a woman is feeding her baby.

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