Toddlers, Breastfeeding, and Boundaries

by Adina Henry

When our babies are first born and trying to get the hang of breastfeeding and regulating Mommy’s supply, we may feel like they are attached to our breasts 23 hours a day. Every time the baby fusses we stick a boob in their mouth, because it works and please child, stop screaming at me! And then we keep nursing, because everyone is happy and it’s working!

Then one day you look at your tiny baby and she’s a tornado of a toddler, “sharing” your whole plate of lasagna before you can get a bite for yourself and talking in sentences, most of which have the word “mine!” figuring prominently. And you’re still nursing, because everyone is still happy and it’s still working, except maybe Momma isn’t always so happy anymore. (Because the nipple twiddling, for example! Gah!)

(Related: The breastfeeding toddler explains when it is an appropriate time for a toddler to breastfeed.)

It looks like it’s time for some boundaries. My training and years as a preschool teacher/director have helped me when I need to set boundaries with my own daughter, and I can tell you first-hand that boundaries can save you.

When establishing breastfeeding boundaries for your toddler, it’s good to keep in mind that it’s healthy and helpful for both Mom and toddler to have limits. You are a person and a full half of the breastfeeding dyad and your feelings and needs matter. Your child is not being punished for growing up. It’s ok to set limits as both of your needs change. Boundaries are your personal choice. The boundaries for one mom at a certain time in their breastfeeding relationship may be entirely different from those of another mom’s. Even from child to child boundaries don’t have to be the same. Maybe it’s time to only nurse before sleep. Maybe you just want to start using the bathroom alone (Crazy talk! I know!). Maybe nursing sessions need to last 10 minutes, not 45 minutes. Whatever your needs are, the approach can be the same: The key is communication, and with good communication we can set ourselves and our children up for success.

Breastfeeding boundaries for toddlers

Here’s the most important part: Talk with your child about the change that will be happening. We are so used to doing things for our babies that it’s easy to forget to fill them in on the plans. Think about how you like requests to be made of you and go from there. From a very young age, younger than most of us expect, our children can understand more of our communication than we realize.

If you think of yourself attending to your child the way we would hope a nurse would attend to us in a hospital, a new, helpful perspective may be found. Picture yourself in the hospital for whatever reason. It’s the middle of the night and you’re thirsty and so you press your call button and wait for someone to come help, but she never shows up. Or she does come, but when she arrives and you ask for a drink she announces that the new hospital policy, as of now, is that no liquids are given at night anymore. You probably wouldn’t be happy about either of these scenarios hitting you without warning. But what if you were warned ahead of time? What if, earlier in the day, when you weren’t tired and upset, but just reading a magazine and doing your thing, a nurse let you know that there was gong to be a change in the night staffing routine and let you know what was coming. And even better, if she then reminded you again later, just to make sure you heard the message. You might prepare for the night by making sure you have a little bottle of water next to your bed. Or, at least, you might not be so confused when you wake up looking for assistance, but then remember the new policy.

Giving your child a “heads up” about what’s coming is a great way to help them transition to whatever’s next. Babies and toddlers can be more receptive than you might think about being talked to about what’s happening around them. Their brains are little sponges. Remember that children are paying attention to how we talk to them and will later talk to others in the same way.

How to bring up the change in routine? Make your request positive. We all generally respond to positive ideas and solutions better than roadblocks and problems.

Think back to the nurse in the hospital scene. You’ve just had your super delicious tray of hospital food and your blood pressure and temperature have been checked for the 1200th time that day. The nurse comes in to tell you about the new “no drink refills at night” rule. She can say, “I want to let you know that we’re cutting you off for snacks at night and no matter how much you want it, you can’t have any drinks after 11pm.” Or, instead, she might say, “We’re having a change in policy later this evening and we won’t be delivering snacks and drinks throughout the night anymore. I want to make sure you’re comfortable though, so I’ve brought you an extra bottle of water you can keep by your bed in case you get thirsty. And even though the kitchen will be closed during the night, if you find yourself in pain or with a problem, I’m still here.” Personally, I would respond much better to the second option.

Now that you’ve begun to set yourself up for success, talk about it more. When it’s happening, talk about it. “Remember how we talked about how when we’re having milkies, your hands can pet me gently, but aren’t going to pinch? This is what we were talking about. I’m going to help you touch me gently by showing you that gentle touch again. Remember this? Ah, this is nice. Thank you.”

And then talk about it after, and acknowledge any efforts on the part of your child to cooperate with this new boundary. “You did better with touching me gently during nursies. Thank you! It felt better to have cuddles like that!” Or, “I know it was really hard to not have milkies right when you wanted, but you got through that frustration and are ok now. I feel much better now that I actually got to eat dinner using both of my hands and while able to reach my plate. Thank you. Next time, it will be easier, I think.”

Here’s the kicker though; toddlers will hear a really good swear word once and use it correctly everyday thereafter, but it takes 5 million repetitions of “Please wash your hands after you use the toilet” for it to become second nature. You may need to repeat this process many times before you are successful.

But it will be worth it and setting you and your child up for a beautiful future together supported by healthy, respectful boundaries.

You can do this, Mommas!

____________________

Adina Henry
Adina Henry is a preschool/daycare director and teacher, as well as a mother. She has been teaching young children in schools, homes and playgroups since 2003. Incorporating play, music, movement and imagination into each day, Adina believes that children learn best through play and exploration. In addition to being an admin in The Leaky Boob Community of Facebook, Adina bellydances when she gets the chance, and encourages you to dance too.
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Making The Mothering Season Matter: Summer Edition

by Carrie Saum

This summer, I made a few promises to myself. Kind of like a reboot of my New Year’s resolution except better, because SUMMER.

  • I will eat all the vegetables I grow in my garden. (I’m winning that one.)
  • I will take my toddler for an outdoor adventure everyday. (This has happened every day except when we have had record breaking heat.)
  • I will take a shower every single day because I stink when I don’t. (Hahahaha! Yeah. NOPE.)
  • I will eat a real breakfast and no longer count a handful of trail mix and a cup of coffee as a complete meal. (I have replaced trail mix with scraps of my toddler’s rejected breakfast. I’ll call this a wash.)
  • I will pack up the car once a week and take an adventure with my son during the day. (I’m killing it!)

The last two summers have absolutely sucked. I mean that literally and figuratively. I pumped exclusively for my baby for 21 months, spanning the length of two summers. Lugging around the breast pump and a newborn and then a toddler made it tricky to do activities on my own with my son. I still did it, but we stuck closer to home and the mental/emotional/physical/logistical effort was just TOO MUCH.

But this summer? This summer has been redemption.

My BFF and I have been dreaming of having babies and doing fun things together with them. We chose an easy spot close to home for our first excursion. We loaded up all of our stuff and our babies and our courage and struck out for a nearby river. ALL BY OURSELVES.

Echo Adventure Travel

Our sons were less sure than we were about this.

Sweet, child-riddled-but-still-doing-it-anyway Freedom.

We were wild mamas, spreading out blankets and packages of seaweed snacks and mango and splashing in the frigid river with our babies who seemed completely immune to shockingly cold water. We doled out food and milk and took turns corralling our sons who only wanted to eat the sand and make big splashes in the water.

We upped the ante for our next adventure. The coast is about 90 minutes from our front door, so we gathered our courage, planned for the entire day, and set out for the Pacific Ocean like mommy pioneers. In fact, I’m certain we had enough gear to fill a covered wagon.

After two tantrum stops, lunch at a café where our boys behaved like tiny well-behaved adults and never threw a single bit of food or fussed once, a stop for an over-priced dark chocolate bar and lattes, a pee break, and quick conversation about which actual beach to go to, we arrived. A mere four hours later. We were so jubilant that we made it, we didn’t care how long it took us.Echo Beach River

We splashed and played and chased our tiny monsters all over the beach with abandon. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you those 2 hours were positively magical. We learned that beach sand is just as delicious to toddlers as river sand, and nothing is funnier than watching mommy run full speed into the surf to rescue a ball before it is lost to the sea forever.

There were many other adventures this summer, and sometimes involving long rides in the car, and others just a walk around the neighborhood with a low key brunch and bit of thrift store shopping.

There were tantrums and mishaps and close calls and moments when we questioned our sanity, but WE DID IT. And we will do it again.

As autumn approaches, I’m already dreaming up more adventures. It gets a little tricky because of the cold and rain, not to mention indoor play spaces are a total no-go for us because of severe food allergies. But we will keep trying, enjoying and relishing every season. Even if it’s simple.  Even if it’s hard.EchoMommyBeach

We only get to experience our children as children once. It doesn’t need to be magical, but it needs to be memorable for all of the right reasons. For both of us.

____________________

Carrie Saum, headshotCarrie Saum brings a passion for wellness and over a decade of experience in health care to her clients. A certified Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor (AWC) from the Kerala Ayurveda Academy, she empowers individuals and families to achieve health and balance through time-honored practices and health knowledge. Carrie has extensive first-hand experience in vast array of medical and service fields.
With background in paramedic medicine, Carrie spent ten years serving in the non-profit sector managing organizations, programs, and orchestrating resources to meet health needs of people across the United States and abroad in countries such as Guatemala, Mexico, Kenya, and Zambia. As an AWC, Carrie currently coaches her clients and their families about topics including nutrition, weight loss, and stress management. In addition to her work as a wellness counselor, Carrie is a passionate “foodie” and the voice behind OurStableTable.com. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and young son.
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TLB Comics- Six Reasons Moms Continue Breastfeeding For Themselves

by Jennie Bernstein and Jessica Martin-Weber

Breastfeeding toddlers for mom's benefit reality check

 

It probably seems obvious to anyone that has breastfed a toddler that doing so is clearly all about the mom’s desires.* What a mom gets out of breastfeeding her toddler is nothing more than a relaxing, pleasurable experience that makes her feel just like she did when she was breastfeeding her child as a newborn. In fact, it’s almost exactly the same. Breastfeeding beyond 6 weeks/6 months/12 months/18 months/6 years really is all about keeping their “baby” truly an actual baby.*

Still, some people just don’t understand. This list of 5 reasons moms continue to breastfeed their babies after the arbitrary acceptable cut-off date enforced by random strangers or other individuals such as family members and friends who aren’t actually whipping their boob out for their 3 year old “infant” to suckle may shed some clarity on the matter.

  1. To hold on to those baby months years. By continuing to breastfeed, her child won’t grow up and will stay an infant forever. This one is obvious. She just loves changing diapers, waking multiple times a night, and screams for communication that she is using her magic milk coming from her magic boobs to keep her child an infant. It’s just so fulfilling. After all, with no baby to baby, what would she do anyway?
  2. She is preparing to enter American Gladiator. Or Wipe Out. Breastfeeding her toddler/preschooler is the perfect training. With all this preparation, there is no doubt she’ll be winning that cash prize.
  3. She’s lazy. Can’t be bothered to teach that kid to eat real food or clean up after the inevitable mess it will make eating real food. So naturally she’d rather wrestle an octopus with her boob. Oh, and the octopus still wants food to throw.
  4. Lack of discipline. Too much of a softy to tell her kid no, she pulls out her boob for the little tyrant any time it is demanded. There’s probably nothing she says no to, like candy, knives, or running in the street…
  5. Looking for attention. Because everyone knows how fun it is to have everyone you know commenting on how they think you suck at parenting and finding just one more way for others to disagree with your parenting choices is just the most. fun. ever!
  6. Her pleasure. That’s right, this is really what it’s all about- her own personal pleasure. Round house kicks to the head, nipple twists during gymnurstics, niplash, you name it, they’re all for her pleasure. She’s just using her child for her own selfish desires and satisfaction which is why she agrees to breastfeed a truck from time to time and has perfected controlling her reactions to getting a finger jabbed into her eye.

 

_________________

What would you add to your list as to reasons why moms may continue to breastfeed their toddler or preschooler?

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*This piece uses sarcasm and satire in an attempt to make a humorous point. It is possible it fails entirely and the reader may assume the author is serious. This note is to clarify that the author is, in fact, seriously not serious and just a bit of a smart a**.
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Why Would You Wear Your Toddler or Preschooler When They Can Walk?

by Jessica Martin-Weber
This post made possible by the generous sponsorship of Beco Baby Carriers.
Why wear your toddler when they can walk?

Photo credit: Your Street Photography, Meghann Buswell. Love this carrier? There are only two like it the whole world and you can win the other one by going here!

Once upon a time I found the whole idea of wearing a child who could walk completely… ridiculous. Seriously, how is that helping them? They can walk, you’re just trying to keep them little longer and probably inhibiting their development. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO, CARRY THEM ALL AROUND THEIR COLLEGE CAMPUS?

*If you just want the quick points on why maybe you should wear your toddler, skip to the end.*

I figured if you kept carrying your child after they learned how to walk, you’d end up looking like this.

Beco Carrier teenager

Photo credit: Your Street Photography, Meghann Buswell

Then I had a kid. Our first turned out to be a late walker and didn’t really become mobile until between 15 and 16 months old. By that point the other toddlers in our circles were running circles around her and I began to panic, in spite of our pediatrician’s reassurance, that she was never, ever going to walk. Worried that her my dreams of an Olympic gold medalist were fast slipping out of reach, I become a little pushy to get her to walk. And also because carrying her was killing my back and arms, back then we didn’t have any carriers with a high enough weight limit and I just plain didn’t want carry her. Well meaning people around me warned that she was just using me, being lazy, and would never become independent if we “let” her make us carry her all the time. We were “spoiling her” and we’d have to carry her FOREVER. So I pushed. Walk, you’ve got two legs, use them! Besides, you have to become self sufficient and independent some day. Sheesh.

You guys, she was really still just a baby.

But even after she started walking she wanted to be held a lot. In fact, she was timid and scared and insecure. To “help” her through that, I pushed her to be more independent. I’m not proud of this, in fact, it makes me sad. Looking back, me pushing her to walk when she wanted to be close to me was really a jerk thing to do. I would refuse to carry her or carry her for just a moment and then put her down even if she wasn’t ready. My fears were completely unfounded, today she walks and runs and dances ballet just fine. Not only that, after some therapy and healing, she is a self sufficient independent introverted 16 year old who has taught me that connection is more important and respecting individual personal ways of interacting with the world is what makes you not be a jerk of a parent. She didn’t need me pushing her to walk, she needed me available for lots and lots of connection until she was ready. To this day she prefers to observe the world from a bit of a distance before racing into it. But when she does race in, watch out, she has found her confidence and her voice to make a difference.

Since our eldest taught us about respecting our children as individual people, we’ve had 5 more children but it wasn’t until our 3rd that we began to wear our toddlers on purpose. Another introvert, our third daughter felt safest close to a parent and would for several years. Meaning when she was three and four, she still wanted up in certain settings. Instead of traumatizing her with environments she wasn’t ready to navigate independently, we listened to her. When she was ready, she would progress into the world around her on her terms and now confidently moves through the world secure in her steps and returning to us to share her adventures and discoveries. Now, with our almost 3 year old Sugarbaby, we let her set the pace for how she interacts with the world. All 6 of our children have unique personalities, some have loved being close and super snuggly for a long time, others just have moments they need to check in before rushing off again. Every single one of them has, at times, requested to be held and carried even after they could walk. Sometimes for physical reasons, sometimes for emotional reasons. All of their reasons are valid.

And so far, of our older girls, they each also reach a point where closeness doesn’t require us carrying them and we grow together in developing other ways to connect.

Because it turns out, you can’t spoil them by respecting them, they will eventually not want you to carry them everywhere.

Todllerwearing Beco

Photo credit: Your Street Photography, Meghann Buswell

Last year, just before she was 2 years old, Sugarbaby accompanied us to India, a culture of amazing people that adore children and love to touch young ones. Another introvert (we have a pretty even blend of introverts and extroverts in our home), she quickly learned 2 things: how to clearly say “go away, don’t touch!” and “Beco up!” From her safe position on my back she would offer high fives to the people who wanted to hold her, kiss her, and touch her face. Happy and secure in a place she knows to be safe, she interacted with those we encountered in a way that respected her unique way of being in the world. She runs, dances, jumps, and climbs freely but when she needs to be close or when her little legs are tired from all that exercise and strengthening, up into a carrier she goes on mommy, daddy, or even a big sister. Our long family walks or forays into downtown to go to markets and explore happen with a combination of her walking, running, hoping, and twirling (always twirling, she doesn’t really walk right now, she twirls everywhere) and when she’s tired, on somebody’s back. Occasionally she keeps me company during meal prep on my back when she tires of her spot on a stool.

And from the spot on my back and sometimes on my front she whispers in my ear “I love you mommy.” I don’t know how much longer she’ll ask to “Beco” but I’m willing to as long as she does.

For me the question isn’t why would you wear your toddler or preschooler, the question is why wouldn’t you.

Beco Toddler Two of a Kind

Photo credit: Your Street Photography, Meghann Buswell

7 reasons to wear your toddler/preschooler

Want a shot at winning a carrier just like the one in the photos here? Enter here!
  1. Who doesn’t love snuggling? Besides, science shows us that positive physical touch is soothing and healing at all ages, it can even reduce pain. “To touch can be to give life” – Michelangelo
  2. Not only does touch heal, soothe, and connect, neuroscientists have found that physical human contact activates the brain’s orbitofrontal cortex, which is linked to feelings of reward and compassion. All good stuff!
  3. Touch can reduce stress. Young children often ask to be held when they’re experiencing stress such as fear, anxiety, or uncertainty and for good reason, touch can calm them, lower their heart rate and blood pressure, and of course releases positive hormones such as oxytocin. Wearing a child who is experiencing stress can provide them just the support they need to successfully navigate that stress when they’re ready.
  4. Young children can become overstimulated quickly, having a safe place to work through that overstimulation can mean the difference between a toddler becoming a destructive force in the world around them, having a meltdown of tears and screams, or observing and interacting as they see modeled from their safe perch on a trusted adult’s chest or back.
  5. Running. Need I say more? Parents are all excited when their baby learns to walk but in a no time they realize their excitement was misguided. Walking leads to running. You know what you can’t lose at the children’s museum? THE KID STRAPPED ON YOUR BACK. Sure, you have to let them down from time to time but when their running is running you ragged and reminding them to walk 3,342,438 times has made you horse, a ride on mama’s back (hey, let’s play horsey!) is a relief.
  6. Strollers are awesome, a great tool and we use ours still. But strollers are not always awesome. The view is limited for the rider and sometimes the world just feels like an obstacle course when you’re dealing with one. An assisted piggy back ride with a carrier is much easier to contend with than a stroller in many settings.
  7. They love it. Not always and as they grow in their own desire of “I DO IT!” they will have times they most certainly do not want to be worn. But toddlers and preschoolers aren’t really much bigger than babies and they still love to be close. And that’s the best reason. There are plenty of times in life where we have to tell our children no and deny them what they think they want. Being close, being held, having our touch should never be one of them.

_____________________

Do you wear your toddler? Want to but aren’t sure if you should? What are your thoughts on toddlerwearing?

_____________________

For a limited time you can enter to win the same carrier pictured in this article by going here.

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Sugarbaby’s New Year’s Pro-Breastfeeding Tips and Resolutions for the New Year for the Breastfed Baby

by Jessica Martin-Weber with Sugarbaby
Sugarbaby eats dirt

Sugarbaby eating dirt when she was still a little nursling.

It’s a new year, my 3rd new year to celebrate so I am old hat at ringing in the new year and making resolutions. My mommy says any time is a good time to decide to make changes but lots of people think there is something about the new year that makes it the perfect time to resolve to do things differently. So, to help you get this new year started out right, I’m sharing with you my best resolution tips for breastfed babies.

1) Start sleeping through the night. Your parents, specially mommy, will have more energy to do fun things like build block towers for you to knock over, create Pinterest worth play dates, and make you handmade outfits. Maybe even wash her hair every day.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Just kidding, you don’t want to do that! Specially not if you’re still breastfeeding lots. It’s SUPER DUPER important you wake up lots and lots to have mama milks at night and sleep nurse too, check it out here. Did you know that mommies’ bodies make more milk at night? By breastfeeding all the time at night, you help mama make more milkies for you and that’s even better than block towers. Pinterest play dates are over rated anyway and let’s be honest, you’d rather be naked than wear a cute outfit that you’re just going to get snot on anyway.

2) Teeth mostly at night. Those chompers HURT coming in but once you have them and you can eat things like carrots, you’re going to be glad you have them. But getting them is no fun. The best way through that though is to make sure you have undivided parental attention which means, night time. There’s nothing else going on, they’re just trying to sleep and you know how boring that is, which means they have nothing better to do than just hold you while you loudly inform them of your suffering. And that also means it’s good mama milks time which can help you feel a little better. Sometimes. Sometimes everything hurts no matter what but at least you have mommy right there all night long.

3) Build up your immune system. What’s the immune system? I don’t really know but I know my mommy sometimes loves my immune system and sometimes hates it. I’ve learned somethings though, like getting exposed to stuff helps your immune system and though my mommy doesn’t like it when I put stuff in my mouth I find on the ground, she says hopefully it’s just building a strong immune system. So I like to help. By licking shopping cart handles, chewing on tables when we’re out to eat, and finding out what the poles we find on our walks taste like. My mommy doesn’t like it but I’m just helping my immune system. You don’t want a weak one, start tasting the seats the next time you go to the doctor’s office!

4) Be patient while mommy showers, best if you nap during it. Mommy’s get stinky. You don’t want a stinky mommy, this year, help her get clean. Her hair will be so pretty and when you give her snuggles she’ll smell so nice.

Tricked ya!

I understand playing in the water, I love baths and going swimming but I don’t understand mommy’s fascination with dumping water on her head and using soap. Yuck. Worse, she washes away her yummy mama smell! I hate that. So as soon as she gets out of the shower, when I’m done freaking out because I see with my own eyes that she didn’t totally disappear and wash away forever, I have to have mama milks. RIGHT AWAY. Before she is finished drying off, before she gets dressed, and before I forget. You must do this every time, having some bobbies will help her smell much better after a shower. If you can, help her get some mama milk all over by dribbling it on her tummy, spitting up on her clean outfit, or crying as she’s getting dressed so she leaks on her clothes. That will fix it right up, if you do it right, she won’t even smell like she ever even took a shower within an hour.

5) Smile. A smile is like magic. When you smile, people smile back. When you’re really little, smiling is just fun. When you get a little bigger, smiling is a tool. Like when you wake up in the middle of the night crying, when you see a parental unit, smile and even if they aren’t too happy about being woken up (serious question here, why do grown ups actually seem to like sleep? Isn’t that silly?) they can’t help but smile back. When you start being able to climb and you climb something you’re not supposed to (I know, I know, why did they put it there if they didn’t want you to climb it?) charm them as they attempt to redirect you (don’t lose your focus though!) and they’ll start thinking maybe it’s ok for you to climb because you smiled. Then you’ll really know how to use a smile when you do the fun things you’re not supposed to, like rub all the diaper salve all over mommy’s bedspread, or pour shampoo all over the bathroom floor and have all your toys go skating in it, or climb up the counter and use the fluffy flour stuff to make it snow in the kitchen… Fix it all with a smile. When they find you (I find the best time to do this is when they go potty and actually close the door so you can’t keep them company, why don’t grown ups want company when they go poopie?), give them a BIG smile and invite them to join you in the most fun ever! It helps a lot and maybe they’ll let you keep having fun (probably not).

Smile! Sugarbaby thought this was ok because it seemed like a game of "jump out of daddy's arms to get to mommy."

Smile! Sugarbaby thought this was ok because it seemed like a game of “jump out of daddy’s arms to get to mommy.”

6) Think about liking other grown ups. Mommy is your favorite, obviously, she has the mama milks. But you could consider sometimes hanging out with another grown up for a little bit. It could be fun. You could discover something new. You might even like it.

HAHAHAHAHAHA! Gotcha again!

You don’t want to do that! She might SHOWER! And it’s important you always keep an eye on the mama milks, silly.

That’s it babies, hope your new year is off to a great start. Share your wisdom here for other Leaky babies, we all have to stick together! Happy New Year!

Happy Breastfeeding,

~ Sugarbaby

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How to Wean Your Teenager

by Jessica Martin-Weber with Ophélia and Lavinia Martin-Weber

How to wean a teenager

It is a well known fact that if you don’t make sure you get a baby off the boob by the end of their first year or definitely by the time they are two, they will never, ever stop breastfeeding and you’ll have to go to college with them. This is a fact known by every Tom, Dick, and Harry, Cindy, Karen, and Amanda. If you’re not aware of this, don’t worry, any conversation about breastfeeding beyond infancy in person, on an online article, blog posts, and of course, social media, will eventually become about this very fact. It is an inescapable truth: if you breastfeed past infancy your child will never wean and you will find yourself breastfeeding a teenager or young adult some day. Once they can ask for it you have to cut them off or they will never stop. Clearly breastfeeding is more addictive than chocolate, alcohol, crack, speed, shopping, and independence.

Because everyone knows that 3 and 13 are pretty much the same thing, you just stick a one in front of that 3. Teens are, according to most people, really just toddlers in bigger bodies, with raging hormones, pimples, and a slightly larger vocabulary. The temper tantrums are pretty much the same. Childhood goes so fast, don’t blink because you’ll miss it if you do and the next thing you know your 6’ 1” teenage boy will be folding himself onto your lap and tugging at your shirt saying “nene please mama.” Fact.

*Disclaimer: I have teenagers, they were breastfed as babies and toddlers but they never breastfed beyond early childhood so I can’t say I have any experience with this fact myself, nor have I ever encountered a breastfeeding teenager and unless my friends are lying, neither have they. But thousands of people say it is true. I know, I read it online.

But let’s say you’ve done it, ignored all the warnings and breastfed your child after their 1st birthday and then even after their 2nd and 3rd and 4th birthdays, now what? If you haven’t already, you’re headed straight to meeting them at lunch in high school so they can have mama milk. And if you have more than one child, you really are in big trouble. Juggling all those schedules to get your kids their babas is going to get really challenging.

It’s true, I guess, you’re just going to HAVE to cut them off at some point unless you really are ok following them to college and then some day on their honeymoon. There could be bonding moments in the future as you breastfeed your grown son while his wife breastfeeds their son. If that just won’t work for you though, how are you ever going to get that teenager to stop breastfeeding? When is it really time to wean and how do you do it?

I turned to my resident experts on teens: Earth Baby, 16, and Storyteller, 13. They were a bit shocked when I initially brought it up to them:

Me: “How should a mom wean their teenager from breastfeeding?”

EB: “Wait, WHAT?”

Storyteller: “That’s a thing? I don’t think that’s a thing.”

Me: “It’s totes a thing, I read it online.”

*At this point I got “the look” from Storyteller.

Storyteller: “You should never say ‘totes again’ and now I know that’s not a thing.”

EB: “Wait, WHAT? Are you really asking what I think you are asking?”

Me: “What’s wrong with me saying ‘totes’? And yes, I’m really asking.”

EB: “I don’t think any of my friends have conversations like this with their moms…”

Storyteller: “OMG, I know mine don’t. They also don’t breastfeed. Or say ‘totes.’ People saying teenagers breastfeed are severely lacking in intelligence. You can’t say ‘totes’ because you’re too old.”

EB: “Our family is weird, isn’t it?”

Me: “They either don’t breastfeed because their mom weaned them when they were young enough or they do breastfeed in secret. Some of them have to because I read it on the internet. Why am I too old to say ‘totes’?”

Storyteller: “You do know you can’t believe everything you read on the internet, right? It’s just dumb to think that kids that don’t stop breastfeeding when they are little will end up wanting to breastfeed as teenagers. Saying ‘totes’ is dumb too. What is wrong with people?”

Me: “I write on the internet, of course you can believe everything you read on the internet!

Earth Baby: “This is ridiculous.”

Earth Baby and Storyteller how to wean teenagers

Storyteller (left) and Earth Baby (right).

It took a while to get them to just go with me on this but that was an excellent example of just how hard it could be to wean a teenager. They’re stubborn creatures and smart too, they can argue until you’re blue in the face and they’ll still continue. Weaning a breastfed teenager could be intensely difficult! I can see why there are so many warnings to wean while they are still young.

Besides, can you imagine breastfeeding through the dreaded wisdom teeth stage?

After bribing them, they came up with some ideas. I shot down a few, such as the suggestion that you just tell them no, that it’s all done. Oh puh-lease, teenagers and “no” go about as well together as oil and water. I’m not so great at taking a direct “no” either so I know it’s best to save them for the big things such as “no, you absolutely can not surf on the hood of a truck going down the highway.” They agreed that “no” wouldn’t work given our family’s own personal experience with how well “no” is an effective strategy for a teenager. #itsnoteffectiveatall

Here are the ones we all thought might be most effective though, all approved by the teenagers in my house:

Gentle conversation. According to my 13 year old, teenagers are reasonable.

BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Moving on.

Bribe them with cake. That’s right, offer cake and tell them if they give up “bobbies” they can have cake. Also acceptable would be cake pops, frappuccinos, mini doughnuts, and iTunes gift cards.

Wean to drive. They can’t drive or get a drivers license until they give up the mama milks for good. No exceptions. It would be so important for mom to hold strong when the whining starts after they’ve started driving and start whining about how badly they need their nene.

Entertainment options. If you’re trying to wean a younger teen or maybe a tween, you could try saying no PG 13 movies because those movies are for big kids and big kids don’t get to breastfeed any more. This will work because all their friends will be talking about the next Pitch Perfect movie and they’ll totally be left out which would even be worse than weaning.

Smart phone. Like breastfeeding, all the teens are smartphoning these days. It’s simple though, mom will have to get another job to afford the bill so she can’t breastfeed any more. If they want a smartphone to fit in with their friends, they’ll be more than willing for mom to hang up her nursing bras and go to work.

Dating. Explain that any possible dates will be a little horrified if they found out they were still breastfeeding. It could really hurt their chances of finding a date… ever. But since embarrassment is worse than death for teens, simply posting a breastfeeding selfie and tagging them on social media would possibly do it. Also, would take care of the whole talking to you thing.

Prom. There’s just no way you could find an on trend yet age appropriate prom dress that has easy boob access. Show them what you’d have to wear to prom so they had mama milks when they needed it. They’ll never want to breastfeed again.

Charge. Teenagers are the largest demographic with a disposable income. Use it to your advantage, my 13yo thought that $1/1 minute sounded about fair if a teen wanted to continue breastfeeding. That would encourage them to wean real quick: buy a new outfit or get some “bob bob” and the decision would be pretty simple.

Just say no. My teenagers maintain that saying “my body, my choice” would be a firm boundary no teenager would cross. Specially if you’re already teaching them to respect themselves and others.

So, tell us, what are your tips for weaning teenagers?

 

*Please note: this is intended to be humorous with a bit of satire.
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Ask the CPST- of spit up, screaming babies, turning to forward facing, and tethering

This post features questions from readers for a CPST (Child Passenger Safety Technician) focusing on car seats and is made possible by the generous sponsorship of clek who have made their staff CPSTs available to The Leaky Boob community in order to answer your questions and help you keep your children safe. 

smelly car seat

 

Dear Julie,

My daughter spit up badly in her infant seat and now the straps smell like spoiled milk. My sister-in-law told me that if I wash the straps it will ruin them and the car seat will be ruined. The whole car smells like old spit up, what can I do? 

Sincerely,

Gagging in Florida

 

Dear Gagging in Florida,

That spoiled milk smell is always a tough one to get out of anything! The answer to this question can vary widely based on manufacturer. The first course of action would be to refer to the instruction manual that came with your child’s car seat. Typically there will be instructions included within the manual that cover cleaning the harness system. If for some reason you cannot find this information in the manual, or the information provided doesn’t help remove the smell, then it might be time to give your seat manufacturer’s customer service department a call. They will be able to give you more personalized advice based on your individual situation. Sometimes, depending on the seat you have, replacing the harness straps may be necessary. I hope you are able to get the smell under control quickly and back to enjoying car rides.

Ride On!

Julie At Clek

 

Dear Trudy,

My son is 9 months and a big boy at 24 pounds. He hates his car seat, crying when we even start walking toward the van and when he is in it for much longer than 20 minutes or so, he starts vomiting. My husband wants to turn him around but I had planned to do extended rear-facing. I’m at a loss, what are our options? Is there anything we can do to help him? I’m not sure if he’s experiencing motion sickness in the van or if he’s just mad and ends up throwing up because he’s upset. We have older children with events and activities so just avoiding trips really isn’t possible but we’re all on edge any time we go anywhere because of his screaming. Please help, I hate seeing him so miserable.

Thank you,

On Edge Mom

 

Dear On Edge Mom,

It sounds like your little guy is having a tough time on car rides. I can sympathize with how stressful car rides are for your family right now. Sometimes kids just hate being in the car and buckled in, but a lot of times their crying is a way of communicating with us and telling us that something else is wrong. I’ll do my best to give you a few tips that will hopefully help to make car rides a little easier for everyone in your family.

If your son is still in his rear-facing only seat, then my first suggestion would be to move him to a rear-facing convertible seat. Sometimes a baby’s fussing is specific to one seat. Kids will often find infant seats to be more confining and uncomfortable as they get older, so if this is a relatively new problem, you may find switching seats solves your problem. Likewise, if the fussing started after moving him to a convertible seat, it’s possible that there is something in the seat that he finds uncomfortable – every seat is designed with different features, and while most babies aren’t picky, I have seen babies who cry in one seat but are happy in another. If the fussing just started when you moved to a rear-facing convertible seat, then you might consider trying a different seat if you have a trusted friend who might be able to lend you one. You’ll notice a change almost instantly if it is comfort related.

Some other tips that work with some children is having a variety of soft toys that they are given only in the car. At his age he might appreciate a cloth book with the corners that have the different teething textures if you can find one.

Sometimes unhappiness in the car around his age can be a bit of separation anxiety. If it’s possible to test another adult sitting in the back with him on a trip some time, that may give you a way to check and see if that is the trigger. That cause can be a little bit harder to deal with sometimes – but finding the cause is more than half the battle.

Rear-facing is absolutely the safest way for infants and toddlers to ride and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a child ride rear-facing until at least their 2nd birthday. It’s great that you’re seeking out solutions to try and keep him safe and also solve his fussing. I hope these ideas help make car rides a little less stressful for your family and wish you well in finding a solution that helps your son be more content on drives.

Kind Regards,

Trudy At Clek

 

Dear Julie,

Our vehicle is from 2001 Mercury Villager and while we’d love a new van, we can’t really afford one at the moment. My parents got us a nice convertible car seat though and we’re ready to turn our 4 year old forward facing on her birthday but how do we use the top tether in such an older vehicle?

Gratefully yours,

Confused in New Mexico

 

Dear Confused in New Mexico,

First off, I’d like to commend you for keeping your daughter rear facing past the minimum recommendations! It is after all the safest way for children to travel. At Clek we are strong advocates of extended rear-facing. Our convertible seats, Foonf and Fllo, were designed to international best practices for extended rear-facing use, which is to accommodate children in a rear-facing installation until their 4th birthday.

In regards to your question about the use of top tethers in older vehicles, I’m going to answer yours specifically, and then provide some general information for other readers that might have a similar situation. I’m happy to inform you that your 2001 Mercury Villager is already equipped with not only top tethers, but lower anchors as well. Location of these is dependent on what type of seating layout you have in your Villager. Locate your vehicle Owner’s Manual and read the section that discusses installing child restraints. In that section you should find mentioned where the top tethers and lower anchors are located in your vehicle. If ever you find that you need help with something pertaining to using your car seat, first reach out to your car seat manufacturer. Most will be able to direct you over the phone, or help locate a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) near you for some in person assistance. You can also locate one online by visiting cert.safekids.org.

Now I’m going to give a little background on top tethers and lower anchors. LATCH (which stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) became a standard for 2003 or newer model year vehicles. Vehicles since that date are required to have at least two seating locations with LATCH. There are also some 2001 and 2002 model year vehicles that included LATCH prior to it being mandated. Those vehicles will have this information in their Owner’s Manual.

Top tethers themselves, however, can be found in vehicles dating back to model year 2000. Approximately 80% of model year 2000 vehicles came with tether anchors already installed. Why is this important? Top tethers help to minimize the forward motion of a car seat in a collision. So what happens if your vehicle doesn’t have top tethers? Many vehicle manufacturers can provide consumers with a tether anchor kit to be able to retrofit your vehicle with a tether anchor. Some vehicle dealerships will even install the kit for you free of charge.

The Owners Manual for both your vehicle as well as your car seat contains a wealth of information and is always my first recommendation for clients when they have a question. And when questions still go unanswered, Customer Service is standing by to lend a helping hand.

Safe Travels,

Julie At Clek

 

If you have questions about car seat safety, feel free to ask on the clek Facebook page, send them a tweet, or email your question to be included next time to [email protected]

 

Trudy SlaghtTrudy Slaght, Clek CPST, CRST-IT As Clek’s Child Passenger Safety Advocate, a previous board member of the Child Passenger Safety Association of Canada, and a CRST Instructor from Edmonton, Alberta, Trudy Slaght pretty much breathes, eats, and lives child passenger safety. With her brain crammed full of valuable tips and advice, Trudy attends and speaks at various industry conferences across North America and provides everything from simple helpful guidance to advanced technical support for parents, caregivers, and even fellow technicians.
A mom of two, Trudy has been involved in the field for over 7 years, spending lots of time thinking about, practicing, and preaching the best methods to keep our little ones safe for the ride. And, even with all this on her plate, Trudy still somehow has the passion and energy to be a contributing author to Canada’s National Child Passenger Technician Training curriculum.
Julie_LR copyJulie McCuen, Clek CPST Since becoming a Child Passenger Safety Technician in 2012, Clek CPST Julie McCuen has willingly sacrificed her digits and limbs all in the name of keeping kids safe. After feeling inexplicably drawn to learning about weight limits, velocity factors, and Rigid LATCH connectors, Julie enthusiastically entered the wonderful world of child passenger safety to help families install and use their car seats properly every single time.
Despite a few bruises and broken nails, Julie’s fervent curiosity and commitment to safety hasn’t waned one bit. She’s now working towards becoming a CPST Instructor so she can pass along her valuable knowledge and insights to others who are equally eager to learn. When not working with Clek, Julie spends her time raising her three beautifully unruly children who are 9, 6, and 4 with her husband of 10 years.
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7 Risks To Feeding Your Child- You’re Screwed No Matter What

by Jessica Martin-Weber

 

risks to feeding children

You have a kid?  Congrats!  What should you feed them?  Trying to decide?  Weighing all your options and carefully assessing the risks?  Great!  You should do that.  Also, you’re screwed no matter what you do.  In 15 years of parenting 6 kids, having both breastfed and formula fed, and gone through phases in nutrition standards (yeah, there was a period with lots of Hamburger Helper and soda pop at each dinner and then a period of only organic, homemade, but most of the time somewhere in the middle), I have found that the “right” way was not only subjective but also highly circumstantial.

That there are some actual risks associated with formula feeding and breastfeeding is undeniable, if heavily debated.  Risks such as possible lowered natural immunity and increased chance of ear infections with formula feeding or risks of mastitis and dietary sensitivities with breastfeeding.  Nothing in life comes without risks.  Yep, you’re facing being screwed or screwing up your kids no matter what you do!  As parents all we can do is try our best to mitigate the risks our children face without putting them in a bubble.  There’s risk to that too, what with BPA concerns, the possible damper on social skills development, and the need for oxygenMay as well let them live in the big bad scary world.  Carefully weighing all the possible options, doing personal research, and making the best informed decisions we can according to our personal circumstances and resources means we have to learn to live with some risks.  Regardless of how you feed your child, there are risks you face no matter how carefully you studied, planned, and executed your decision.  Be it breastmilk straight from the tap, pumped breastmilk, donor milk, or formula and then eventually, before you know it, store bought baby food (organic or not), homemade baby food (organic or not), or baby-led solids, followed by McDonald’s Happy Meals, Whole Foods shopping carts, homemade, or homegrown; there are a few unavoidable risks to feeding your child.

  1. There will likely be times you question yourself.  Is this really necessary?  Am I doing it right?  Am I doing it wrong?  Am I stressing out about nothing?  Have I ruined my child for life?  Has my child ruined me for life?  The answer to all these and more is: probably.
  2. There is little doubt that new information will come out that you have, in fact, made the wrong choice.  Those organic apples weren’t actually organic, breastmilk can have toxins in it (have you had yours tested?!), formula used an unnecessary ingredient now deemed dangerous and cancer causing, the baby food company didn’t list all the ingredients they actually used, artificial colors not only suck the actually cause two horns and a tail to grow on some kids… whatever it is, there will be something that’s bad about the choice you made.
  3. Your child will grow to like junk food.  Like moths to the flame, little kids love toxic laden junk food, the more carcinogens the better.  Try as you might, they will discover the joys of foods you’d rather they not consume thanks to a grandparent, a little friend, a mother more lazy and uninformed than you (admit it, you have been judging her and she knew it), or more likely, daddy. And they will, at some point in time, eat something disgusting off the ground or the floor of your minivan.  They will also pick their nose and eat it.  They will lick something that will make you gag.  No matter what you do to cultivate their palate to make discriminating food choices, they will be drawn to the junk and you will wonder if it ever even mattered.
  4. The growth chart will scare you.  Too big, too little, too average, whatever it is, you’ll probably have at least one appointment with your child’s doctor that will make you concerned about your child’s growth pattern.  Because if there’s anything that can be truly charted, it’s that kids are predictably unpredictable.
  5. Statistics aren’t guarantees.  All the scary stuff that isn’t supposed to happen/is supposed to happen based on how you’re feeding your child doesn’t come true.  The proverbial “they” said if you feed your child “this” way they won’t get sick, or that’s what you understood anyway, and yet you’re wiping green snot off your child’s face every day for months.  And someone is bound to point this out to you, trumpeting how their kid is never sick.  Immune systems can be such ignorant traitors clueless on the what all those studies say.
  6. You will be judged.  Pull out a breast or bottle to feed your baby and watch the judgment fly.  Too long, too brief, too-not-what-they-did.  Bad mom, exhibitionist, endangering your child, endangering other people’s children (their poor eyes may see the choice you’ve made and confuse them!), pouring toxins into your child, doing that in public, you name it, judgment will come from all directions no matter what you do.
  7. You can make yourself crazy.  Trying to do it perfectly right could be exactly what drives you over the edge of sanity.  A very real risk.

And if you think it’s bad when they’re infants, just wait until your child is begging for cheetos and refusing the organic avocado and kale chips at playdates.  No matter how you feed your children as infants, they will someday inevitably grow into toddlers eating their own boogers (and sometimes those of others), tasting dirt on the playground, sucking a sucker they found on the floor of the public bathroom, and licking the railing at a public park.  The good news is, most of the time they really are going to be just fine even though.

Breast or bottle debate humor

Which is why it’s a good thing we don’t feed our children for others.  Good luck!  Whatever you do, there are risks.  This is just one aspect of parenting, have confidence, there are even bigger risk you face in this journey.  Go on, feed your kids, take a deep breath, and take the risks as they come.  You’ve got this.

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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 2-5 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 and we need to start doing it ourselves.  Which is totally possible.  Just look at standards of dress.  What was once considered inappropriate 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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