TLB Comic: “..But I Can’t Lactate!”+ Bonus Frame

by Jennie Bernstein
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TLB Comic: Male Lactivists + Bonus Frame

by Jennie Bernstein

 

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comic 3.4

 

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TLB Comic: The Baby/ Toddler Balance..The Struggle is Real + Bonus Frame

by Jennie Bernstein

 

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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!

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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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TLB Comic: Who Did It?

  by Jennie Bernstein

 

TLB comic, funny Friday

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Six myths about breastfeeding toddlers and preschoolers

Breastfeeding beyond the first year has been something of a hot topic over on The Leaky Boob page this week.  It started when I shared this image from Health Canada.

Healthy Canada extending breastfeeding image, breastfeeding is not just for newborns

The conversation quickly went from “YAY!” and “awww!” to “gross,” and “that’s sexual abuse of a child.”  You can check it out yourself here but it may not be too good for your blood pressure and that’s with having deleted the worst of the comments.  The next day I shared another related post presenting the perspective of a rather well-balanced 12 year old that remembers weaning at 4 years old.  That thread on Facebook got pretty ugly too.

As I read through the comments I was a bit puzzled as to what the outcry was about.  Putting the pieces together I began to see that it came down to what is really just some misunderstandings.  Myths about breastfeeding beyond the first year and the women that are willing to do so fueled these passionate (AKA really, really angry) responses to these posts.  Then the mothers that are fine breastfeeding beyond the first year were hurt, feeling judged based on myths that they did not find to be true of themselves.  Some got defensive.  And then more misunderstandings happened.  It was a vicious cycle.

To help clear up the misunderstanding, let’s take a look at some of the (surprisingly) common myths held about natural duration breastfeeding.

Myth #1: Moms that breastfeed beyond the first year and definitely into the 3rd year or beyond are trying to keep their children as babies and can’t let go and let them grow up.  If you don’t stop when they are young, they’ll never stop.

I’ve never met a parent that didn’t experience their child growing up and leaving various stages as bittersweet.  We go into parenting knowing that’s the deal, and let’s be honest here, we’re all looking forward to being done with diapers when the time comes even though we’ll be sad when they don’t quite fit to cuddle on our laps any more.  The moms I’ve talked to and from my personal experience, breastfeeding beyond 12 months isn’t about holding on to our child’s infancy, but there is a lot about embracing where they are in the moment.  If they still want to breastfeed, fine, no arbitrary date on a calendar they can’t read dictates their needs or our response.  As of yet there is no record of an adult needing their mother with them because they never weaned, really don’t think we need to worry about that.

Besides, breastfeeding a toddler or preschooler really is nothing like breastfeeding an infant.  Gymnurstics, squirmy excitement, multitasking, etc., one can’t be breastfeeding a toddler and think “aw, it’s just like cuddling them that first day!”  Even when they are falling asleep at the breast and miraculously still (and mom likely is falling asleep finally too) there’s nothing to confuse between those newborn tiny baby days where they fit into the crook of your arm at 7 pounds and the big ol’ toddler days with 30 pounds of limbs covering your lap.  I am never more aware of just how fast my daughter is growing up than in those moments and breastfeeding isn’t helping me hold on, it’s helping her hold on as she gradually transitions from baby to toddler to preschooler to school aged child.

Myth #2: Breastfeeding beyond the first year is for the mom’s benefit, not for the child.

This could only be said by someone that hasn’t breastfed beyond the first 12 months.  I can’t quite grasp this, I can’t get my child to give me a kiss, put on her shoes, or eat her food if she doesn’t want to, how in the world am I going to force her to breastfeed?  And why would I?  I mean, seriously, there are teeth in that mouth, for me to be willing to allow that mouth on my breast there has to be some very rearust established and I’m not going to risk getting bit just “for my benefit.”  And breastfeeding a toddler or preschooler isn’t all rainbow farting unicorns either, it can be very challenging and while I’m no martyr I’m also honest and realistic enough to admit that not only are there some special sweet moments breastfeeding beyond the first 12 months but there are also some crazy hard moments that I can’t stand.  Breastfeeding beyond the first 12 months isn’t for the mom’s benefit, it is for the mom and child’s benefit together.

Myth #3: Natural duration breastfeeding means a child won’t learn how to eat solids or use a cup.  Breastfeeding should stop when the child gets teeth.

Say whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?  Where did that idea come from?  Seriously, I can’t even begin to understand how someone made that rather large leap.  Some babies are born with teeth, some cut them as early as a 2-4 months.  Having teeth does not negate the nutritional and developmental requirements a child has.  Not all babies warm up to solids right away but generally toddlers grasp the concept of eating solids and drinking from a cup quite well.  One word for you: cheerios.  All my girls that breastfed beyond the first year were well into solids and drinking out of a cup by the time their first birthday rolled around.  Cake smashing was an event they enjoyed.  Avocado was a favorite first food as well as banana, sweet potatoes, and chicken, and more, all by the first year.  I have had my toddler finish at the breast and immediately sign “eat” or “drink.”  She’s not confused, she just wants to have her boob, her cup, her cake, and to eat it too.

So let me set the record straight: breastfeeding for long beyond the first 12 months will not inhibit a child’s developmental ability to eat and drink other foods.

Myth #4: Mothers that breastfeed beyond a year are trying to force all other mothers to breastfeed beyond a year even if other mothers are uncomfortable doing so.  Also, they judge any mother that doesn’t breastfeed beyond a year.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve got my hands full trying to get my own kids to do things, I have absolutely no desire to try and get anyone else to do anything else.  Sharing information and promoting conversation is great, I’m all for it, but I don’t have the energy to force anyone to do anything.  Breastfeed, don’t breastfeed.  You don’t need my approval and I’m not looking to give it.  You can breastfeed for 3 minutes, 3 days, 3 weeks, 3 months, or 3 years, I will support you.  You may not breastfeed at all and whatever your reason, I can still support you as a person and fellow mother.  My choices are not a reaction nor a judgment on yours.  The information I share is not intended to guilt or to shame, simply share.  Conversation is great but if you don’t want to talk about it, that’s fine, there are lots of other people that do.

So now that we got that cleared up, let’s be friends.  You take care of your kids, I’ll take care of mine.  If we can learn from each other and encourage each other along the way, that would be awesome.  If not… I bet there’s a place where you can find that and it will work for you and some place else for me.

Myth #5: Breasts are for sex so breastfeeding past 12 months is sexual abuse.  Breasts are genitals and having a child suck on them is pedophilia.

Just… no.  This myth is one giant ball of NO.  Stop and think about it for just a minute.  There is nothing, I repeat NOTHING that would constitute as sexual abuse at 18 months that was acceptable to do to a child at 6 weeks.  People, please.  No.  Breastfeeding doesn’t suddenly turn into a sex act simply because of a birthday (or two or three).  Breasts have a powerful sexual attraction to them, biologically men are drawn to find female breasts attractive in looking for a mate.  Which makes sense because if they mate, well, breasts will be needed to feed the end result of that mating.  Babies need boobies.  Men are attracted to a mate that can feed babies.  It’s all kind of linked.  That doesn’t mean a child suckling at the breast is performing some kind of sexual act.  GIANT BALL OF NO.  Children are not sexually mature and hopefully a 3 year old hasn’t been exposed to the lies from society telling them that a woman’s body is first and foremost for the pleasure of others and selling things and all they know is that their mother is safe and warm and her milk is for them.  Children do not understand the concept of sex, that would be projecting adult ideas onto them.  In other words: if you see breastfeeding as a sexual act you have your own issues to deal with and you should leave the child out of it.

Myth #6: Breastfeeding after 12 months will cause a child mental health issues.

Thankfully, while there is a rise in mental health issues amongst today’s teens, breastfeeding does not appear to be related.  At. All.  Is “extended breastfeeding messing up our kids?”  The answer is a resounding no.

I’m willing to bet that if these naysayers against natural duration breastfeeding actually met most mothers who practiced natural duration breastfeeding out with her child, unless her child was actually breastfeeding when the encountered them, they would think she was a normal, healthy mother lovingly caring for her children.

And they would be right.

Because she is a normal, healthy mother lovingly caring for her children.

Maybe breastfeeding beyond a year isn’t for you, maybe you’re uncomfortable seeing it.  Maybe it’s no big deal to you and you have enjoyed that connection with your own child.  Let’s let the myths go, they cloud the issue and distract from open dialogue, breaking down what could otherwise be a supportive, encouraging exchange of ideas in conversation.

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What other myths have you heard related to breastfeeding past the first 12 months?  What has been your experience breastfeeding beyond a year?

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Parenting and Flexibility and Boundaries- more than surviving

Sponsored post by Itti Bitti cloth diaper company, featuring 20% off all products for Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend.  Find a retailer near you or online here.  Itti Bitti is also giving away 3 huge prize packs of over $200 value each for Leakies right now.

wall stretch, wall split

My eldest daughter can sleep sitting up, folded in half.  With her flexibility, her stretching classes for ballet offer very little challenge and her instructors are regularly encouraging to explore her limits further to find where she is challenged.  And so she does with oversplits and wall stretches and more.  But with flexibility comes the safety of boundaries.  A couple months ago Earth Baby injured her back by not respecting her own boundaries and in search of a challenge pushed her limits a little too far.  The consequence was a back worn out and unable to maintain her usual level of dance.  Rest and alternating heat/ice were prescribed along with arnica oil massages, baths, and very careful stretching.  It took her young body about a week to heal to a point where she could begin dancing again and in ballet a week is a very long time.  Particularly in the critical fall casting season.

Like Earth Baby, I have been growing in the areas of flexibility and boundaries, suffering consequences of putting one above the other along the way.  Nothing has developed these more in me than parenting.  Just as wanting to develop patience means more opportunities to practice patience, flexibility and boundaries become more tangible when we are aware of our need for them.  Children act as a magnifying glass on that need.

With breastfeeding we start out feeding on demand, their itty bitty tummies no bigger than a small marble or chic pea, they need food when they need food.  The relationship of milk supply and the infant suckling at the breast is so tied together that flexibility in being able to respond to our baby’s needs can have a critical impact on not only their immediate growth but future milk supply as well.  Recognizing normal infant behavior, we are the ones in the position to be flexible in order to meet our new baby’s needs.  But as time goes by, after that first year while flexibility is still important in our relationship with our child but lest we be pushed too far and become worn out, some boundaries may need to be put in place.  With supply firmly established and many successful feeding sessions under the belt, a toddler can not only handle but benefit from appropriate boundaries in the breastfeeding relationship.  Waiting a few minutes for mommy to finish the task she was working on when they wanted to breastfeed (such as dinner for the rest of the family, my toddlers always want to breastfeed when I’m making dinner), not permitting certain behaviors at the breast (pinching is a no go for me, I will not be pinched), or expecting a certain level of attention while at the breast (play time is play time, feeding time is feeding time, etc.) can not only save mommy’s sanity, it can begin to introduce boundaries as a part of a healthy, loving relationship.  A lesson I struggled to understand until well into my adulthood.

Western culture seems to be a little polarized regarding flexibility and boundaries in parenting, emphasizing one over the other as either good or bad parenting. In my experience the truth is we need both, flexibility and boundaries.  One without the other leads to either burn out or rigidity.  As a parent, flexibility helps me not only get through the hiccups that inevitably happen to my plans with having children, but enables me to enjoy the detours I discover with them.  With six children ages 7 months to 14 years, we all benefit from being able to go with the flow and adapting in order to be sure everyone’s needs are meet.  Boundaries are so important with our children, by modeling boundaries for myself in my relationship with my child at a developmentally appropriate stage, I’m helping her establish her own boundaries.  By being open and available to her with those boundaries in place, I have seen my children develop confidence that boundaries are a part of love and they are not insecure when they experience boundaries in other situations.  WIth age appropriate boundaries, it also encourages me when I feel my flexibility is becoming brittle and I’m wearing down because I know that there is a new stage coming where they will be capable of respecting new boundaries.

At 4 years old, Squiggle Bug is learning a lot about respecting other people’s boundaries in her relationship with her littlest sister.  A common phrase to hear in our house right now is “respect her boundaries please, does she need space?”  Increasingly I don’t even have to ask the question and after loving on her little sister, hearing a bit of a fuss, Squiggle Bug will back away saying “space, here’s some space.  I’m respecting your boundaries!”  Nine year old Lollie has discovered the importance of retreating to her room when she needs to clear her head and find some quiet admits the regular flow of energetic chatter that fills our home.  And I know that I’m better at being flexible the rest of the day if I ensure a 45 – 60 minute quiet time happens every day.  Boundaries are the fuel for my flexibility.

But perhaps most important are the boundaries and flexibility we have for ourselves.  In talking about boundaries and flexibility with my friend Sue, she shared: “Honestly, it was and is the most challenging thing to be flexible with myself, to give myself grace when I don’t measure up.  Other people’s expectations I can usually blow off, what do they know about me, but allowing myself the ability to fail without completely eviscerating myself in my thoughts- that’s hard.”  I can relate.

itti bitti cloth diaper

Sugarbaby in an itti bitti cloth diaper

After making the decision that we would cloth diaper I felt very strongly that we would never use a disposable diaper again.  So when a trip that would be impossible to do with cloth came about I tried so hard to make it work.  Flexibility to adjust as needed and boundaries about what I’d actually be able to do eventually won out but not without some self abuse that I wasn’t achieving my goals.  When I realized that I was not behaving in a way i would want for my children I had to relax and accept this new, temporary reality by using flexibility to help me respect my own boundaries.  Being flexible and adapting as the need arises is not a sign of failure or weakness, my family and I all benefit when I’m able to let myself adapt to respond to my children’s needs.  Neither is having boundaries any kind of failure, respecting my needs gives my family and me opportunities to grow.

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 Do you find the need for flexibility and boundaries?  How does this impact your parenting?  What examples of flexibility and boundaries have you experienced?  Do you find it more more challenging to be flexible and have boundaries in relating with others, your children, or yourself?  

How would you like to grow in these areas?

 

 

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Breastfeeding: a Piece of the Larger Puzzle

 by Christie Haskell

image credit: flickr user ned the head

I’m sitting outside, laptop on a picnic table, watching my almost-3 year old daughter run around, play in dirt, draw on the patio with chalk and talking to the neighbor girls through the fence. Little things that seem menial mean so much to her. A robin landing on the ground to eat fallen crabapples fascinates her, and has created a whole interest in birds, of which she can now identify many. Childhood, the large and small parts, is so important for the framework that determines who our kids become as adults.

We let them play in dirt because it’s not harmful, it’s fun, and we know it’s good for their immune systems.

We let them explore as much as we can so they can learn about their environment, but still pull them back before they can do something that would really injure them so they can learn to explore, but safely.

We allow them treats because life is supposed to be about enjoyment, and a popsicle on a hot day is one of those things that makes childhood wonderful, but we also give them healthy meals because it’s important for their bodies to grow strong, their immune systems to function and for their lives.

I think it’s fair to say all of those things are true, yes? But it’s funny to me, because when discussions about certainly parenting choices arise, it’s inevitable that at some point, someone will say something like:

“In fifteen years, if you walked into their classroom, you would have no idea who was breastfed and who wasn’t.”

That’s true, of course. I can’t look around at teens and say, “Yup, nursed. Not nursed. Supplemented for two months.” No way. It’s not like breastfeeding or formula feeding creates purple kids and orange kids. However, it’s the sentiment behind it – that your choices when they’re children don’t matter – that is inherently flawed. Just like the examples I gave above, we know that the things we do for our children whether they’re newborns, toddlers, in elementary school or teenagers has an effect on them in the future. If it didn’t, why would we bother?

Some people eat junk food and stay thin and don’t have vitamin deficiencies, but that’s certainly not something you count on. We are safe to assume that a child is going to be healthier, stronger, grow to a better potential and even do better in school when they have a breakfast of eggs anf fresh fruit than a bowl of Cocoa Puffs every morning, or a dinner of baked eggplant parmesan instead of McDonald’s. In fact, it’s not just safe to assume, it’s kind of common knowledge and no one in their right mind would argue that the child eating unhealthily is better off than the other child, or that it would have no affect on the child’s future health or day-to-day function.

image credit: flickr user clogsilk

So, why when the discussion turns around to breastfeeding, is this truth, that their diet and bodies affect them both at the moment and long-term, suddenly dismissed?

No, I can’t walk into a high school classroom and tell you who is breastfed or who was formula fed or any combination of the two. I would never presume to be able to. However, what is true is that if you broke the children up into groups, of those with illnesses, allergies, those who were overweight or missed school often from weaker immune systems, you’re likely to find some similarities there.

I’m not saying the healthy kids would all be breastfed, not at all. I’m saying that you’re more likely to find that the healthier groups have families who eat healthy, are more active, and yes, ALSO that the children were more likely to be breastfed. I’m sure you’d find some exclusively formula-fed children whose families eat healthy there as well, because we all know it’s not just breastfeeding or just diet or just genetics, but a combination of everything, a bunch of little puzzle pieces that make up the whole picture that is your child.

We accept that there are certain ways to raise children that promote health more than others, and breastfeeding is no exception to that.

No, again, I can’t walk into a classroom and single out the breastfed children, however that may be the puzzle piece that makes the difference between which group of children your child stands in. When you put together a puzzle, you work hard to put every single piece in the right place. You wouldn’t get rid of some of the pieces that are harder to fit, because who knows if that one piece is actually a very important part of the final picture? Children are just the same – we can’t claim on one hand that healthy diets for children create healthy habits and healthy adults, and on the other hand say it doesn’t matter if you breastfeed because no one will be able to tell.

It’s not what people can see from the outside that matters anyway – I also couldn’t walk in and tell you which child has been raised as a homophobe or which one kicks his dog when he’s mad. Each puzzle piece that makes up your child is unique, is important, and deserves your best effort to put in the right spot so the final picture is as healthy, as happy, and as good as you can possibly make it.

 

 Christie Haskell is a writer, coffee addict, and mother to two adorable, hilarious and exhausting  children. She has written for CafeMom’s The Stir, Daily Momtra, Attachment Parenting International and Brio Birth, where she currently now tells other writers what to do as well. She’s a  huge car seat advocate after her own traumatic accident as a teen, and babbles endlessly about babies,  birth, breastfeeding, boycotting (Nestle) and other crunchy things that don’t start with a P.  Find her on Facebook here.
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Our night weaning journey, even more questions answered.

This post is made possible by the generous support of Arms Reach Concepts makers of ARC cosleepers.

After Dreaming about sleep for years, The Piano Man and I decided to try Dr. Gordon’s method for sleep changes and the family bed and blog about it.  You can read about night 1 night 2 night 3 night 4 night 5, night 6night 7 and the one month update.  I also answered one round of questions about our experience here and a second round here.

 

Originally I tried to answer all your questions in one post but it was too darn long, you can find more questions here.  Much too long for sleep deprived people to read any way.  So I broke it into two parts.  I need to make it clear, I am not an expert, not a doctor, and have no background that qualifies me as an authority on the subject.  All I have is my experience as a mom and what I’ve learned along the way.  I’m happy to share my opinion with you but please keep in mind it is just that, my opinion and based on my own personal experience.

 

What do you do if baby just screams bloody murder when DF/DH/partner goes in to settle them? Do u finally give in and give em the [email protected]@b?

First I would try to sooth them without the breast but with cuddling with me.  Sometimes I think it works great to have the non-breastfeeding partner to do the soothing when night weaning.  Other times I think the child becomes confused, not only do they not get to breastfeed, they don’t get their mommy.  There is a significant bond between mother and child and that bond still needs to be honored.  Smunchie still wants me at night, even if it’s me without the bobbies.  Honestly, I think being denied access to the mother could be traumatizing if her presence is truly what the child needs.

If that still didn’t work and if the crying crossed the line of what I can comfortably accept as just expressing anger into feeling abandoned or betrayed then I would nurse.  I would do so because I would have to consider that my child is responding this way simply because they are not ready to night wean.  In Dr. Gordon’s plan he warns that there may be a few nights that are really rough but by this point most parents would be doing this they would know the difference between angry cry and totally confused, scared cry.

 

Could you have coped with this method on your own, or do you think it worked so well because you had the help of your husband on the *worst* nights? (Single mother here, trying to work out how best to go about on my own)

Yes, I do think it would have worked on my own.  There were a few nights that I did it completely on my own because Squiggle Bug needed The Piano Man.  The hardest part for me on my own was staying awake enough to follow through with the plan and not just nurse so I could try to sleep.

 

Do you regret not night weaning sooner? Also, sometimes my 12mo will wake up and be up for 1.5-2 hours at time. Does night weaning help with this problem also?

Part of me wishes we had tried it sooner but only because I was feeling so incredibly burned out as a parent and getting sick of breastfeeding.  Those feeling have completely lifted with the night weaning, not that I always love breastfeeding but I am enjoying it more and can relax to be more in the moment.  However, I’m not convinced that earlier would have been right for Smunchie and would not have ended well.  So I don’t regret the decision to wait until I felt she was ready.  Yes, the night weaning has helped with the extended night waking/play time thing too.

 

Not sure if you could answer this one, but I was wondering what age would a baby/toddler wean himself the night nursing, if the parents are not actively trying to encourage him/her to stop nursing in the night.  I have a 11 months old that wakes up 6-7 times a night, to nurse, If i do not nurse her she is crying in a very panicky/distress way.  We co-sleep and we do get our rest for the time being, but would be nice to have a bit of a perspective.

Usually between 2-4 years old if it’s on their own.

 

I’m curious how you arrange the sleeping surfaces in your bedroom?

I don’t have any pictures of my bedroom or I’d show you.  It’s a tiny room with not a lot of room once the bed is in there.  Our queen-sized bed is against one wall with Smunchie’s pack-n-play directly across from it against the opposite wall about 2 feet from the end of our bed.  That’s usually where she starts out and stays until her morning waking any more but when she was waking she’d end up in bed with me.  Often, even still, The Piano Man ends up in Squiggle Bug’s room sleeping with her as she still wakes during the night.

 

What foods do you offer that you think help with more sleep/less waking?  Sometimes I wonder if dinner wasn’t substantial enough when my 11 mo old wakes in the middle of the night.  Why almond milk? i’m feeling the pressure to start cow’s milk but I, myself, don’t drink cow’s milk so I’m hesitant to offer it.

We go for high calorie, high fat and high protein foods in the evening. Rice and beans are a favorite with some avocado, Greek yogurt, meat (providing Smunchie will eat it, often she won’t), nut butters, cheese, quinoa (she LOVES this), eggs, veggies in a “cream” sauce (we use Greek yogurt for that usually), hummus (I make several varieties including traditional, black bean, white kidney bean, etc.) avocado with anything, and almond milk. As to why almond milk, we’re an omnivore family but Smunchie doesn’t like cow or any other mammal milk but mine but she loves almond milk. I like that it is a good source of protein and is yummy. Since we have no nut allergies in my family I don’t have to worry about giving my kids nuts after 12 months.

We offer a cup of water usually with her meals and she drinks almond milk because she doesn’t like any other milk. Smunchie still nurses often, several times a day. She’ll continue for a long time still, a couple of times a day I’ll offer her a cup of water and in the evening she gets a cup of almond milk as we read stories. But it doesn’t replace me, not by a long shot, she wants to nurse often!

 

What’s your bed time routine for Smunchie?  How do you get her to go down without breastfeeding her to sleep?

Because I have older kids or used to be on-call to attend births I always felt like I had to be sure my babies could go down without the breast.  Here’s what works for us.   Around 7.15-7.30 or even 7.15-8.30 (flexibility is crucial in our family, the reality of having older children with activities) we start getting ready.  A story or two (usually French selections daddy reads) with Smunchie and Squiggle Bug on the couch while Squiggle Bug drinks a cup of milk and Smunchie a cup of almond milk.  Then brushing teeth and getting into pajamas.  After giving good night kisses to the entire family we split up, The Piano Man taking Squiggle Bug and Smunchie is with me.  On night’s that he’s working I work it out on my own.  I nurse Smunchie for a bit while reading to her but I haven’t let her fall asleep consistently on the breast for a long time now so when she’s done she sits up and we read a few more books.  Then I say a little prayer with her, we snuggle, I start singing something and stand up, she hands me everything she wants in bed with her (usually a couple cooks, her lovey and her doll and sometimes random things like shoes), I lay those down and then she reaches for me.  We stand just outside her bed hugging while I continue to sing and then I lay her down.  I stay in the room singing for a bit until I can hear her settling and then I tell her good night and slip out.

 

I can’t stress enough that being flexible and figuring out what works for your family, not following a set schedule of what someone has predetermined your child should be doing at what age is crucial for the night weaning experience to be free from trauma.  Please don’t take what I’ve shared as what has to work for everyone.  Thank you for letting me share our journey with you.

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Our night weaning journey, more questions answered

This post is made possible by the generous support of Arms Reach Concepts makers of ARC cosleepers.

After Dreaming about sleep for years, The Piano Man and I decided to try Dr. Gordon’s method for sleep changes and the family bed and blog about it.  You can read about night 1 night 2 night 3 night 4 night 5, night 6night 7 and the one month update.  I also answered one round of questions about our experience here.

Ah… she sleeps.
Between the Facebook page, comments on the night weaning journey blog posts and emails I received quite a few questions about our night weaning experience.  I need to make it clear, I am not an expert, not a doctor, and have no background that qualifies me as an authority on the subject.  All I have is my experience as a mom and what I’ve learned along the way.  I’m happy to share my opinion with you but please keep in mind it is just that, my opinion and based on my own personal experience.  There were several questions so I’ve broken them up into two parts (you can find the second part here) in addition to the first round of questions I answered a month ago.  I hope you find these helpful.

 

When is a good time to start thinking about night weaning and moving baby into their own sleep space? How do you go about it? How do you know if they’re ready?

I really think the answer to this is very unique to each family and each baby.  If by own sleep space you mean their own room I’m really not sure.  We’ve done it different every time but what I have noticed is that when the child is ready they will a) do it on their own and b) it won’t be a struggle.  We’ve had difficult transitions and easy transitions.  Now though it’s kind of easy, nobody in our family is in their own room, everybody shares.  When the transition happens they get to be with a big sister, which they usually think is pretty cool.  At 3 years old Squiggle Bug still comes and finds us though, she’s in our bed more than Smunchie is actually.  She just has a higher need to be close to someone at night.  Sometimes she seeks out a sister but usually she prefers her daddy.  We’ve felt that they are ready when they are sleeping well, enjoy the bedtime routine, like the idea of their own space, and seem to be exerting their independence a little more.

 

How do you night wean when your baby doesn’t take a bottle at all! Only uses norma cups or a straw!

Smunchie doesn’t use a bottle and she doesn’t really care for sippy cups either.  She does, however, love regular cups.  What I do is let her take a drink from the glass of water I have by my bed every night if she seems thirsty when she wakes.  We just sit on the bed together and I help her hold the cup steady while she guides it to her mouth to drink.  It works great for us.  If thirst is what woke her up she will settle quickly after that.

 

What are some cues that your baby maybe ready for night time weaning (currently 9 mos and night nursing 3-4 times)?

Studies have shown that babies under 12 months still need to wake often to eat both for nutrition and for safety in their sleep cycle.  So I don’t look for any signs of readiness before 12 months.  After the one year mark though any combination of these may be signs of readiness to night wean:

  • Seems tired and grumpy during the day.
  • Eats well (solids and breast milk) during the day.
  • Has moved through some of the major milestones such as walking.
  • Does NOT have intense separation anxiety.
  • Is not actively teething or sick.
  • Seems frustrated and restless at night at the breast
  • Wakes to nurse but falls quickly back to sleep without really eating.
  • Shows basic understanding to phrases like “all done.”
  • Shows interest and awareness in bed time routines and day time vs. night time.
  • May play putting toys to bed.
  • Responds to soothing other than breastfeeding (i.e. rocking, singing, back rubs, etc.)

I think night weaning is most successful if the child is truly ready for it, please don’t expect that just because your child is over a year they will be ready to night wean.  If it is a giant struggle or at any time the parents feel this is all wrong and not what they want to be doing then they should stop.  It is possible that a child won’t be ready one month but will be the next.  Remaining flexible is perhaps the most important key to night weaning.  Maybe all of parenting actually.

 

Help! I’m tandem feeding and can’t cope ending 2 children at night. My 21/2 year old is up for 1-4 hours 4 out of 5 nights! How do I night wean her gently?

I recommend Dr. Jay Gordon’s technique or The No Cry Sleep Solution.  I’ve used both and found them to both be helpful.  To help prepare for the transition, work on establishing a home rhythm or routine, particularly for going to bed.  It doesn’t have to be a strict schedule, just a regular pattern to your days.  I also highly recommend reading the book Nursie’s When The Sun Shines to read with her.  For gentle night weaning keep it mind that what makes it gentle is you continuing to be available, just not offering the breast.

 

How have you and The Piano Man adjusted to the night weaning? Was it harder or easier (emotionally speaking) than you thought? Would you use that method again?

The first few nights she slept completely through the night I would wake often, like my body was just programmed to wake up several times.  I adjusted pretty quickly though and one reason I think we were ready was that I didn’t get engorged through the process, was able to pump but not overflowing.  The Piano Man did fine though he’s still getting up at least once a night with Squiggle Bug (he’s her night time parent of choice, I suspect because I was often nursing Smunchie when she’d need someone) so we’d still like to get that worked out for his sake.  Emotionally I was very ready though so it wasn’t very hard at all.  I thought it would be and there was a twinge of sadness that this phase is over which makes her seem so much bigger to me now.  But that twinge is nothing compared to the frustration I felt at being so tired that I wasn’t the kind of mother I wanted to be during the day to all of my children.

Yes, I would use this method again.  Simple and easy to follow while still maintaining that night time parenting availability we are committed to.

 

I need to night wean my 18 month old! He is only nursing at night and it’s just to fall back asleep. Less than 5 minutes but can be up to 4x a night! I am due in Nov with #2 and don’t want to nurse the two together. Is that bad…?

Nope, it’s not bad.  If you are comfortable with it, if it’s working for you and your family then no need to change.  There is no rule that says you have to night wean or ruin your child.  If it’s not working for you then work to change it.  Maybe try night weaning sooner rather than later though, just so your son doesn’t blame the baby for the change.  Be prepared too, there could be a regression in other areas after his sibling arrives.  That’s not a bad thing, just part of processing the added element in his environment.  Another idea would be to wait until you’ve actually tried it with both, you may not mind it as much as you think.  It’s important to remember that you won’t be pregnant any more so the frustration and feelings you may be experiencing now could change.  Whatever you decide to do though try to remain flexible and enjoy the journey.  Do what is right for your family.

 

How did you transition Smunchie from your bed to her own? Did you feel like you were missing something? Or was it more of a relief that you got your bed back and sleep? I’m a SAHM with only one 16 month old. I’ve tried putting DD in her own bed which is right next to mine but I find I actually sleep less.

Five for five now, I sleep better when they aren’t in bed with me.  Every body is different and some love sleeping with their babies, others don’t mind and some of us can’t stand it.  I’m the last sort.  I do it because I believe it’s what she needs and there are moments when I love it.  They’re brief moments.  But that’s ok, I don’t mind.  There are plenty of other parenting responsibilities I don’t like either but I’m going to keep doing them for the safety and well being of my child.  I started the transition when she was still an infant by laying her down during naps.  It was no problem to just extend that to night sleeping as well.

 

My DD is 10 weeks old and has slept through the night since 1-2 weeks old. No matter what I did to wake her up at night to eat she would cry and “yell” at me and go right back to sleep refused to nurse for more than a min or two. She still sleeps through the night for a good solid 6 hrs but she sleeps in a cradle next to my bed. What is the best way to transition her to her crib?

Personally, I’d keep her in your room.  In your room in her crib or cradle doesn’t matter.  There are some major changes coming up that will completely change how she sleeps at night and not only will it be easier to meet her needs during those times if she’s still in her room, you’ll be able to do so sooner which will go a long way in helping her feel safe and secure.  Plus, hopefully actually get more sleep.  As to how, we always tried transitioning at nap time first.  Lay her down in her crib after following all the same routine you already do getting ready for naps.  Stay close by so you can comfort her easily if need be.  She may not even notice.

 

Have you noticed an increase in day nursing? We’re 3 weeks into night weaning and it seems like DD can’t get enough during the day.

Yep.  Specially in the morning.  Smunchie now wakes up around 7.30am (except for the last week, she’s started favoring the 6am hour) and cuddles in bed to nurse.  It’s usually a long session.  Then we get up, do our morning thing and within 20 minutes she wants me to sit and nurse her again.  Another long one.  Then breakfast with the family and almost without fail another boob session following the family meal.  After that she doesn’t nurse again for a while, usually around nap time.

 

I can’t stress enough that being flexible and figuring out what works for your family, not following a set schedule of what someone has predetermined your child should be doing at what age is crucial for the night weaning experience to be free from trauma.  Please don’t take what I’ve shared as what has to work for everyone.

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