When Lipstick Is My Lifeline: Coping With Mental Illness

by Kileah McIlvain

I stood in front of the newest display of NYX Suede lipsticks at the local beauty store, hands trembling from the newest round of psych meds I’d started that week as I picked out the last shade of Stone Fox…my newest most-coveted lip color. I carefully placed it in my shopping bag, already running through eyeshadow shades I’d be wearing to match it. My husband was in the car with 4 cranky and probably hungry kids. But this 5 minutes? It was mine. Even if it was 5 minutes over some damn grey lipstick. It was mine. My shaky hands browsed the sample aisle before I meandered my way back to the front counter to complete my purchase and walked back into the screaming hurricane that was my minivan. I sighed. I could finish this day. I could maybe do it. For 5 minutes, I didn’t contemplate death, or removal of myself, or running away, or that I was having to wean because some medication was supposed to make me not crazy, or the crazy burning pain over every inch of my skin that wouldn’t go away, or overwhelming floods of anxiety. Five Minutes. It. Was. MINE. 

___________________

You do what you can. You say the words. You make the motions.

You feel like like a broken shell. Fragile. Incomplete. Lost.

IMG_1534

This is what I feel like. A lot.

You feel like a muddy flood. Nothing is clear. Everything is swirling.

Being co-responsible for bringing 5 precious lives into the world, 4 of which are living, in the midst of figuring out how to wade through the deep waters of mental illess and a yet-to-be-diagnosed myalgia condition means I don’t have a lot of control. Things come out, feelings wash over every inch of me and it feels ugly. It’s there. It isn’t pretty. It’s part of my journey. It’s my story.


I can’t control the pain. I can’t control the way the new medication I’m trying out makes me feel like shit. Or how many times I have to say no, or flake out because I know that if I expend one more bit of energy…I’ll be paying for it for the next week. My body, my time, my soul, is a precious commodity around here. To myself, my partner, and my kids.

IMG_0695

My first blueberry bush.

So? You can’t control the ocean. Sometimes you can’t even find the damn shovel to dig yourself out of the pit you find yourself in. But? I CAN hold a small container of lipstick. Grasp the small tube and spread it around on my lips and try my best to make an even line with shaky medicated fingers. Because it’s a small thing. But it’s something that I can have a say in. I can tell it where it goes. I can make it as dark or bright or outlandish or as grey as I want to. I can use this lipstick as a badge on my face that declares “I AM STILL HERE. I AM ME. AND THIS ILLNESS INSIDE OF ME WILL NOT CONSUME ME. NOT TODAY.”

It may be something else entirely different for you. Sinking your fingers into the earth and growing seeds. Knitting and stroking and spinning beautiful things from frail fibers woven and twisted together. It may be speaking healing words into a fragile heart, or stretching warm silent arms around the shuddering shoulders of a grieving friend. It may be watching your baby’s breathing as she sleeps…blissfully unaware of the harshness and darkness that life can bring.

IMG_5004

My littlest hobbit. Napping.

Whatever that thing is. Small or great. Cling to it. Whether it’s a tube of lipstick, or a piece of yarn, or a sweaty curl on your newborn’s head, or a plate of food handed to someone who’s belly is empty. Cling to it.

Because really? It isn’t so much about the thing you cling to.

It’s that you are clinging.

So cling, dear heart. And when your hands and arms and soul are tired, we will cling together. 

Because? You are always, and always will be, enough

IMG_4781

Stone Fox lips. Mine.

 

Share

Cuddle = Nurse; A #MyStoryMatters Leaky Share

by Andrea Jacko, a leaky

When I was pregnant with my first child I knew that I wanted to breastfeed. My mom nursed my siblings and I until we were one and I wanted to do the same. Looking back I didn’t think we would be going as long as we are with no end in sight. Maggie, my very energetic, free spirited 21 month old is so amazing. I treasure our nursing sessions because it gives us a few minutes throughout the day to just sit and cuddle. Cuddle is the word she uses when she wants to nurse – how can anyone say no to that?! 

guest post, breastfeeding

I’m an RN in a very busy critical care unit, working 3-12 hour shifts a week. I went back to work when she was 10 weeks old and I was determined to continue breastfeeding. Maggie reversed cycled something crazy and only ate 4 ounces on days I would work. That meant she was up all night long making up for the fact that she didn’t eat all day. Thank goodness for cosleeping or I would be miserable! Because she reversed cycled, I built up quite the freezer stash and I have donated over 1000 ounces to other moms for their precious babies.

When Maggie was 14 months old we found out we were pregnant! My biggest fear was my milk drying up and Maggie being forced to wean and her not being able to decide when to stop. My milk did dry up around 13 weeks and that’s when I stopped pumping at work. Thankfully, Maggie never stopped nursing. My colostrum came in around 25 weeks and Maggie was so excited! Nursing a toddler has it’s challenges and being pregnant I’ve had some nursing aversions but again, I want Maggie to decide when she’s ready to be done, not me. We have set limits with her and I night-weaned her at 19 months. Now we snuggle at night instead and she is perfectly happy with that.

Her vocabulary is expanding every day and I love the things she says when the time comes to nurse. Yesterday I was getting dressed and I didn’t have a shirt on – she looks up at me and goes “boobies, yumm!” And then proceeded to smile and sign to nurse. How can you say no to that? She frequently will kiss my breast and say thank you after a nursing session. Absolutely melts my heart. Hopefully she is okay sharing because it looks like I will be tandem nursing her and her brother when he’s born in 6 weeks.

_________________

Can you relate to this Leaky’s story? Comment telling us how and if you would like to share your story, please do so by emailing content @ theleakyboob.com (no spaces) with the subject line #MyStoryMatters submission. Join us in sharing #MyStoryMatters and normalizing breastfeeding with the wide variety of infant feeding stories we all have.

_________________

Share

SAFE SLEEP: What it IS. What it ISN’T.

7835ed18-441f-426f-a72d-4a9a067aefd4

Bonus giveaway code for the Baby Guy Box hidden in this week’s email, don’t miss out! 
Sleep. It’s on the brain. What is enough? How do we get more of it? Can you actually MAKE little people sleep? (HA! Trick question.) What is safe? What works for me? We’re talking about Safe Sleep for all ages this week with our TLB family. Want to get more advice on parenting or connecting with your family? Jump down to Our Stable Table and Beyond Moi or get connected on our NEW Facebook Group for more tips on #TLBsafeKids

                This Newsletter and #TLBsafeKids brought to you by the generous support of                     
                               
Hey Leakies,How ya sleepin’? One of the most common questions new parents get is if their baby is a “good” sleeper or if they’re sleeping through the night “yet” (asked as soon as day 2). As if sleep is some determiner of quality parenting, these questions are poised with utmost concern, as if the number of hours an infant sleeping being the ultimate in parenting success.But nobody is asking if our babies are sleeping safely.

Well, we are. This month we’re focusing on safety with #TLBsafeKids with our sponsors with clek car seatsCalifornia Baby skin careNewton crib mattressesCatBirth Baby CarriersCrane USA humidifiers, and Rhoost and we’re talking about it all, including safe sleep. It is a controversial topic, not everyone agrees on what constitutes safe sleep arrangements for infants. Not even public health officials. Campaigns focused on completely different ends of the spectrum abound. We’re not here to tell you one right way, we’re here to engage in a conversation and share information together. We respect you to make the best, informed decision that is right for your family according to the resources, circumstances, and information that are a part of your reality.

So, is your baby sleeping safely?

Safe sleep can look several different ways. Here are some of my favorite resources for safe sleep information. Pick what works for you.

  • Co-sleeping: room-sharing. Setting up the space to work for your family is key. If the baby’s sleep space is attached to the parental bed or not depends on your needs. Room sharing could be a bassinet by your bed, a co-sleeper (such as Arm’s Reach) attached to your bed to facilitate breastfeeding, a converted crib set up to side-car with the parental bed, a free-standing crib (safe crib set-up here), or a safe mattress on the floor. There are options and it is likely you’ll need to adapt as your child grows. There’s a good amount of evidence that room-sharing can be a great thing!
  • Co-sleeping: bed sharing. Anthropologist and leading infant sleep expert, Dr. James McKenna from the University of Notre Dame has many resources for co-sleeping families here. Detailed safe co-sleeping arrangements describedhere. This WikiHow has a thorough step-by-step guide for setting up your bed sharing space safely and Rebecca Michi shares how to safely figure out what works for your family with bed-sharing here.  Why the normal infant wants to be at your chest– one of my favorite articles on normal, healthy, term infants sleep and feeding behavior.
  • Separated sleep: own room. Be it in a crib or a Montessori bed (what’s that and why?), setting your baby up in their own room also requires intentional safe set-up. I love this in-depth check-list for safe crib set-up. And here are some tips for when it is time to transition your child from a crib to a bed.
  • Separated sleep: shared room with other child. As a mom of 6, whenever our babies have transitioned out of our room, they’ve pretty much transitioned into sharing a room with a big sister. There are some special considerations to make when setting up space for siblings sharing a room together at a young age. You’ll need to check for additional safety concerns for room sharing with siblings such as checking that choking hazards haven’t been introduced to your younger child’s bed (*cough* Legos *cough*) or that the sleep space has otherwise been compromised. The same safe sleep standards for cribs apply if you’re using one and it isn’t recommended for infants to co-sleep alone with siblings. Here’s what a Montessori bed set up for twins looks like and the mom shares what she has learned along the way.

As a family we have also made some other arrangements for our sleep space safety. For our basement bedrooms, we use air purifiers (we’re in an old musty house) and during the winter when we’re running the heat, we have humidifiers running in all of our sleep spaces. Babies in particular benefit from having a humidifier running when they are sleeping (tiny nasal passages mean tiny pathways for their air!) see here for info and ideas, (but make sure you’re avoiding potential problems by caring for your humidifier correctly!) so we make sure to have a humidifier set up where our babies are sleeping.

However you and your littles ones are sleeping at night may it be safe and eventually, enough.

To read more in our newsletter and find the bonus code for The Baby Guys Box inside, VISIT HERE 

Peace,

Jessica Martin-Weber
Founder, TheLeakyBoob.com

Share

“Weaning and Beyond!” The Leaky Times Newsletter, Vol. 3

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

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

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

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

 

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required



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

Hi, Leakies! This week we’re focusing on Weaning and Beyond!  We have some articles we hope are helpful, exclusive content, giveaway links, a nursing and maternity wear shopping discount code, and some exciting new features in this latest edition that we hope will inspire you, make you laugh, and support you as your journey in breastfeeding transitions!

*Tip: Most of the images in our newsletter are interactive links! Try them!

Peace and Milk,

TLB Team

 

Dear Leakies,

Weaning.

For some the word strikes a tender cord of sadness, an ending of a precious time. For other it is a bittersweet word that represents freedom and reclaiming their bodies. For many it’s a conflicting combination of feelings. Weaning, no matter why, when, or even how it happens is a significant milestone.

For many of us, we spend a lot of time getting ready to have our babies, learning about pregnancy and getting updates delivered to our inboxes on the size and development of our growing babies and preparing for birth. After baby, some mothers find themselves feeling isolated and alone with feeding a consuming responsibility. It can come as a shock.

I promise though, they do eventually wean. These are my girls and all but one of them are no longer breastfeeding. Even the teens.  😉

View More: http://yourstreetphotography.pass.us/martinwebberfamily2

 

But for all that we put into figuring out that whole feeding thing, often there is very little going into feeding transitions, particularly for weaning from the breast. It can almost seem taboo to talk about weaning, as if supporting breastfeeding requires breastfeeding forever. And so once again some mothers find themselves feeling isolated and alone, overwhelmed during a time of conflicting emotion. The topic is expansive, we couldn’t begin to cover all the aspects of weaning in one newsletter so this time we’ll just give a bit of an overview.

My personal weaning stories vary, as you might expect with 6 children. Not a single one of them is identical to the other. My children are all different people with different personalities and our breastfeeding journeys reflect that reality. Letting us have our own relationship, free to be who we are and appreciate our unique dynamic together has given us the space to relax into what makes up our unique dynamic and releases me from making comparisons.

__________________

To read the rest of the newsletter, click here

Share

Touching After Weaning

by Cindy MacDougall
Cindy and Eddie

The author and her son.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 _________________________

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

Dear Kathleen- Too much and not enough, weaning and supply during monthly cycle

We receive hundreds of emails and messages daily from Leakies looking for help and information in their breastfeeding journey.  As so many seek support from us, we are so honored to have the support of Kathleen Huggins, IBCLC and author of The Nursing Mothers’ Companion.  Kathleen is jumping on board with The Leaky Boob to have a regular article answering Leaky questions every month.  The questions will be selected from the huge pool we get in every day to try and help cover the wide range of topics about which Leakies are asking.  These questions are from real moms and represent hundreds of requests for more information in the past few weeks.  Please understand that this is simply the professional opinion of one International Board Certified Lactation Consultant in an informal setting and is not intended to replace the care of a health care provider.  Kathleen is offering support and information, not diagnosing or prescribing treatment.  For your health and safety, please seek the care of a qualified physician and/or IBCLC.  Kathleen does have limited availability for phone or online consultations, see her website  for more information.
Dear Kathleen,
 
I have weaned my nursling, it has been 7 days since his last feed and lefty still isn’t getting with the program!  I have a lumpy, very sore, left breast and am unsure what to do.  Is this normal?  What can I do to relieve the pain and discomfort?
 
Thank you!
 
Lumpy Lefty

 

Hi there Lumpy,

Yes, it can take while for both breasts to involute after weaning, even if weaning was gradual.  Your left breast will soften soon, but in the meantime you can try the following suggestions.  You will want to try and avoid any breast stimulation to either breast.  This means taking backward showers or tub baths, avoiding heat to the breast and any stimulation during lovemaking.  You can use Tylenol or ibuprofen to ease any discomfort. Some mothers use cool packs on the breasts for 10-15 minutes a few times a day and some even place chilled cabbage in their bras to help with the swelling and discomfort.  While some mothers chose to express milk from the breasts, this may provide temporary relief, but that will most likely lengthen the total time it takes to dry up completely.

To speed the softening, you can drink sage or peppermint tea.  Earth Mama Angel Baby sells their “Organic No More Tea” which contains these herbs or you can buy dried sage leaves in most health food grocery stores.  Steep a couple of teaspoons of sage in boiled water storing it in your refrigerator.  Drink 2 to 3 cups a day for up to three days.  None of these herbs should not be used if you may be pregnant.  Most mothers do nothing other than wearing a supportive bra and giving it a bit more time.  Please know that it is quite normal for mothers to be able to express drops of milk for many months after weaning.

Feel better soon!
Kathleen
Dear Kathleen,I’m on the verge of tears, disappointed in myself.  My little guy is 4 months old and I returned to work last month, we are exclusively breastfeeding and I pump when I’m at work.  This month my monthly cycle returned and I’m experiencing a drop in my milk supply with it.  Is this normal?  Why is this happening?  I feel so bad, I can’t pump nearly as much as I could before and sometimes he seems very frustrated at the breast.  Will my supply come back up when my period ends?  Is there anything I can do?  I’m having to use the milk I have stored and I’m afraid that if my supply doesn’t come back up I won’t be able to keep up with my son’s needs. Even if it does come back up after my period, if it’s going to be like this every month I’m really concerned that I won’t have enough of my milk when I’m at work and that he’s going to wean early if he’s frustrated even at the breast.  Please help!Sincerely,

Could Cry

Hello Could Cry,

I am so sorry that you are worried and upset!  Let’s see what we can do.  I am hoping that you are getting in at least 7 nursing and pumping each 24 hours and that you are using the best pump possible.  If you are not using a Hygeia or another pump with strong suction such as a rental pump, I would suggest that you try and get one.  I know that many insurance carriers that are providing pumps to nursing mothers, but many are offering mothers poor quality pumps.  For an example, the Ameda pump has very low suction unless you are using it as a single pump.Try to nurse right before leaving for work every day and be sure that you care giver doesn’t feed the baby for two hours before your expected return.  In that way you can nurse just as soon as you get home.  Some mothers find that their babies are simply being overfed while they are apart. Your baby only needs about 1 1/2 ounces per hour for a good feeding at this age.  That means that if it has been 2 hours since the last feed, he will only need 3 ounces by bottle.  If your care provider is overfeeding the baby, let her know that the doctor has recommended that amount.  Using a slower flow nipple can also help slow the feeding and leave your baby a bit more satisfied.When you are home with the baby, try to nurse more often.  Keep in mind that babies at this age do not give early hunger cues.  If your baby uses a pacifier, put it away and offer the breast when you see finger sucking and it has been 2 hours or more since the last feeding. Welcome night time feeds, as nursing in the night increases your milk making hormones the most. When at home you can also pump right after any of your morning nursings and use that milk to feed the freezer.

Milk Supply Drop with OvulationYes, when a mother begins ovulating, it is common for milk production to decline somewhat until the next period starts up again.  With that being said, you can try taking 1000 mgms of calcium and 500 mgms of magnesium every day once you have ovulated and until your period returns.  You can also use herbs to stimulate your production, so long as your breasts are being drained 7 times a day.  Fenugreek can be found in any health food store and the lactation dose is 3 capsules three times a day, not what is written on the bottle.  For a stronger herbal remedy, I recommend More Milk Plus from Mother Love Herbals.  You can visit their website and find a local distributor.  More Milk Plus contains fenugreek and three other milk stimulating herbs.I do hope this has been helpful to you and that you find ways to continue nursing for as long as you and the baby like.

Best wishes,

Kathleen

Kathleen-HigginsKathleen Huggins RN IBCLC, has a Master’s Degree in Perinatal Nursing from U.C. San  Francisco, founded the Breastfeeding Warmline, opened one of the first breastfeeding clinics in  the United States, and has been helping breastfeeding mothers professionally for 33 years.  Kathleen  authored The Nursing Mother’s Companion in 1986 followed by The Nursing Mother’s Guide to Weaning.  Kathleen has also co-authored Nursing Mother, Working Mother with Gale Pryor, Twenty Five Things Every Breastfeeding Mother Should Know and The Nursing Mothers’ Breastfeeding Diary with best-friend, Jan Ellen Brown.  The Nursing Mothers’ Companion has also been translated into Spanish.  Mother of two now grown children, Kathleen retired from hospital work in 2004 and after beating breast cancer opened and currently runs Simply MaMa, her own maternity and breastfeeding boutique.  She continues to support breastfeeding mothers through her store’s “breastaurant,” online at The Leaky Boob, and in private consultations.  
Share

Breastfeeding beyond Infancy in Developed Countries

By Star Rodriguez for The Leaky [email protected]@b
This post made possible in part by the generous support of Motherlove Herbal Company.
Breastfeeding beyond 12 months

Imagine a mom breastfeeding a baby.  Now imagine her breastfeeding a toddler.  Now a preschooler.  Do you feel uncomfortable with any of those images?  When do you start to feel a little weird?

In developed countries where breastfeeding duration is low and where nursing in public isn’t seen as often, it’s pretty normal to have a point where you begin to feel a little uncomfortable with thinking about breastfeeding a child.  After all, there are a multitude of foods and drink available readily and safely in developed countries, so why on Earth would someone need or want to nurse, say, a three or four year old child?

First, it’s helpful to understand what our natural weaning age probably is.  Katherine Dettwyler, Phd, professor of anthropology looked at natural weaning ages of animals and came up with five possible ranges.  First, she looked at when permanent molars come in, a normal weaning time for primates.  That puts the range at five to six years old for human kids.  Animals also often wean babies based on when they reach about a third of their adult body weight.  This puts human kiddos at four to seven years old.  With some primates, though, adult body size and not weight is the true test; our children would wean naturally, then, somewhere between the end of the second year and the end of the third year.  Some mammals nurse until their babies have tripled or quadrupled birth weight; this would mean human babies would naturally wean somewhere between two to three years old.  Finally, many mammals wean after the baby has been alive for about six times the length of gestation.  Therefore, human babies would breastfeed around four to five years.

Clearly, most of us are not breastfeeding our children until they are six or seven years old in developed countries where they have a plethora of other foods and many social activities.  However, there are a lot of women who quietly report to me that they nursed to two or three years, although they don’t tell their friends or extended families, because “they’d think I was crazy!”  More often than that, I get moms calling me, asking me how long babies should nurse, and what the benefits are to nursing beyond a year.

Sadly, there aren’t a lot of studies on breastfeeding beyond infancy in the developed world.  I’ve been told that this is because there aren’t a lot of women who continue beyond that, and, statistically, that is very true.  I see Leakies every day discussing breastfeeding beyond a year, and there are articles and websites that mention it regularly.  So I think there are more moms out there doing it than we often admit, but it might be difficult to gather them up in one place for a study.

That all said, we can surmise a few things from studies in less developed areas and what we already know about breastfeeding and breastmilk.

First, breastfeeding can foster independence.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Children are learning to be independent, especially through toddlerhood.  I am aware of this every day as my three year old rushes to tell me, “I do it!” and gets incredibly mad if I try to help her, or if she needs help.  Children still are dependent on their primary caregivers, though.  Nursing meets a lot of their dependent, nurturing needs and can help them to feel as though they are able to express their independence while knowing that they are able to be comforted and close to their mothers when they need to be.

Breastfeeding also provides antibodies.  How many toddlers and preschoolers stick everything in their mouths, as often as they can?  How many have no concept of personal hygiene, picking their noses, eating food off the floor, sneezing in the faces of others, and so on?  By continuing to breastfeed, you are continuing to provide them with immune protection tailored to the environment that they are in.  It won’t stop them from ever getting sick, but it can be helpful to some viruses.

Breastmilk remains tailored to the child and is often something that children can take in even when they are ill and not holding much else down.  The calories and fat in breastmilk are not empty calories like many other easily held down liquids (like lemon lime sodas, ginger ales, etc.)

Breastfeeding has analgesic properties to it.  Think about how often young children get bumps, bruises, and owies.  Carrying around something that can help them to feel better about those is a wonderful thing.

As far as moms are concerned, many of the wonderful things that breastfeeding does for mothers are dose related.  For instance, the longer women breastfeed over their lifetime, the more their breast cancer risk is reduced, and that’s certainly not the only health benefit that is tied to duration.  Further, mothers who continue breastfeeding continue to produce milk and subsequently burn a few extra calories, too.  Who couldn’t use, say, an extra cookie a day?

At the end of the day, the length of time that a mother/baby dyad decides to continue breastfeeding is a very personal thing.  Despite the fact that we live in a developed society where extended breastfeeding may not be necessary for survival, it can be a meaningful and beneficial thing to moms and babies.

________________________________

How do you feel about breastfeeding beyond the first year?  

How do you personally determine the duration of breastfeeding with your own children?

How much has cultural expectations impacted how long you were/are willing to breastfeed?

_______________________________

breastfeedingStar Rodriguez is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, student, and mother of two in Minnesota.  She has done private practice work, worked with WIC, and now works in a hospital setting.  She is available for online consulting and in-person consults in the Brainerd Lakes area.  She can be reached through the Facebook page of Lactastic Services or you can find more information at www.lactastic.com.
Share

Weaning the Breastfed Baby

by Star Rodriguez, IBCLC for The Leaky Boob
this post made possible by the generous support of Fairhaven Health.

breastfeeding latch

In my practice, I do prenatal consults.  During these, almost 100% of the time, people ask me, “So, how long am I supposed to do this, anyway?”  I typically tell pregnant moms and their families that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you exclusively nurse for 6 months, continuing until at least a year once complimentary foods are introduced.  The World Health Organization recommends nursing until two years of age.  However, I always caution my families that breastfeeding is a very personal thing between a mother and baby dyad and that people typically have an idea of when they are done nursing.  This may vary from what you thought it would be while pregnant, or what it was during other breastfeeding relationships.

There are two different types of weaning.  Baby initiated weaning and mother initiated weaning.  Baby initiated weaning is probably the easiest way to do it.  The baby generally gradually starts nursing less and less until baby just eventually stops.  It’s easy for baby and easy for mom.  Well, mostly.  With either baby initiated weaning or mother initiated, there can be some sad feelings when the breastfeeding relationship ends.  Check out the post on weaning ceremonies to find ways to celebrate the nursing relationship.

A word of caution: some babies exhibit behaviors that we call nursing strikes.  Nursing strikes are not cues to wean.  They are when a baby who is normally fine with breastfeeding, or happy at the breast, will suddenly refuse it and become fussy, often in the first year.  This is typically not a baby signaling intent to wean.  It is usually linked to something like illness, teething, an increase in social behavior, or something like that.  True baby initiated weaning is not usually accompanied by an unhappy baby.

With mother initiated weaning the mother decides, for some reason, to cease breastfeeding.  This is a little harder on most babies, because typical breastfed babies like to nurse.  It is not, however, as hard as some people make it out to be.  I have had patients tell me that they cannot possibly nurse their babies because it will be a very difficult endeavor to wean them.  Trust that if you decide you are done breastfeeding, at any age you can stop, and you will probably not have to spend millions in therapy because of it.

I rarely recommend weaning cold turkey (where you just stop weaning, with no gradual step down.)    There are a few reasons why this is a bad plan in most circumstances.  First, babies don’t often take well to this.  If you suddenly stop breastfeeding and give babies just bottles, most of them will be a little confused and a lot upset.  Secondly, it’s not great for Mom, either.  Moms that wean suddenly often experience engorgement (again!) and can experience plugged ducts and infections.  It’s just not a lot of fun.

There are, however, some medical reasons that you may need to wean cold turkey.  First, make sure that this isn’t something that will only interrupt breastfeeding short term.  If it is, you may be able to pump and dump during that time and resume nursing after if you would like.  If it is a long term thing, though, try not to feel guilty or upset.  Many of these reasons for needing to wean are serious emergencies to one’s mental or physical health, and in those circumstances, do not worry about the short term effects to your baby.  No, it is not ideal.  But your baby will not benefit as much from gradual diminishment of breastfeeding as they will from a healthy parent.  If you are in pain from sudden weaning, you can express a little milk when you are uncomfortable until your milk begins to dry up.  You may be able to use other things to help your milk dry up faster, but if you have weaned for a medical reason, you should always check with your medical provider first.

In lieu of needing to wean immediately, most in the breastfeeding community favor the gradual approach.  In this, you replace one feeding, beginning with the least favorite, with something else.  For a baby that is nursing as a form of primary nourishment, such as those that are under a year, you will have to replace that feeding with an equal source of nourishment.  For most babies, this will be formula or expressed breastmilk.  Hopefully, your baby will accept another method of feeding already, but, if not, be sure to keep an open mind.  You may offer the new type of feeding; someone else may offer it; and you can think of various different ways to give your baby nourishment (bottle, cup, sippy cup, syringe, etc., depending on age.)  If you have an older child who is receiving her primary nourishment from other foods, like most nursing toddlers, you can offer things like water (or another liquid) from a cup, a snack, or some kind of redirection.  You can also explain to your child – “We aren’t going to nurse right now, so we’re going to do (whatever) instead.”  Older children may not ask for it, and, if that happens, it is probably better to just not say anything at all.

After you have taken out that first, least important feeding, wait a few days or weeks (base this on the comfort of you and your baby – if your breasts are feeling overfull, or your child is not handling the transition well, you should wait a little longer until you adjust) and remove the next feeding.  That should be the new least important one.  (When I discuss the least important feedings, I mean the one the baby is the least attached to.  For example, often, the most important feeding is right before bedtime, and the least is during the day at some point.  Your mileage may vary, though.)  Again, wait until your breasts and baby have adjusted, and then repeat as needed.  You may find that partial weaning, where you remove some feedings while still allowing others, may be an option, too, if you are weaning for non-medical reasons.

During the time that you are weaning your baby, remember to be gentle on them – and you!  As I stated before, weaning can be an emotional experience for everyone, and the emotions may vary, a lot.  Some people feel happy and disappointed all at once.  Whatever you feel is ok.  Give your child lots of cuddles and kisses during this time.  You will both benefit from this and it will ease the transition.  When it is time to wean, whenever that is for you and your child, many moms discover that the relationship they have with their child changes some and while it is normal to miss what you had, new ways of bonding and sharing time together will emerge for you both to enjoy.

 _________________________

How old was your baby when you weaned?  How did you feel?

_________________________

 

 

 

 

 

Share

12 Weaning Ceremonies


Breastfeeding can be such a sacred time in our lives. While we cherish the breastfeeding journey, it is rare in our culture to commemorate the end of breastfeeding with little more than a note in the baby book. If breastfeeding was important to you, consider celebrating your experiences and remembering this special transition with a weaning ceremony.

Your weaning ceremony can serve multiple purposes. If you choose to involve your child, it can be an event to mark the end of nursing – something that mother and child gently discuss and plan in anticipation of weaning. For mothers and their partners, a weaning ceremony is a way to honor the transition from breastfeeding to nursing beyond the breast, and all of the emotions that accompany that change.

Some children may not benefit from a definite, marked end to the nursing relationship. If a slow, natural end to breastfeeding is more comfortable for your child, you can still hold a quiet ceremony by yourself, with your spouse, or with other mothers who can understand and support you through this transition. Don’t be afraid to mourn the end of breastfeeding – it is a normal and healthy response to this change. But after you’ve given yourself time to mourn, consciously meditate on the joys of mothering a child who has weaned. A weaning ceremony can help you mindfully navigate this change.

Below are 12 weaning ceremony ideas that you can adapt to meet your own needs and those of your nursling. If you have other ceremony ideas, please share them in the comments so I can add them to the list.

    1. Write your nursling a letter. Include anything you’d like to share about your nursing relationship, what this change means to you, your hopes and dreams for them, etc. I found two examples of weaning letters: one at Mothering.com, the other from a Jewish mother at ritualwell.
    2. Anoint yourself with herbs for weaning. Herbs can help with physical discomfort and emotional healing. Kellymom lists several herbs to help decrease milk supply, including sage and peppermint. Earth Mama Angel Baby makes a No More Milk tea that includes some of these herbs. And because you will experience a drop in prolactin levels during weaning, it may also help to prepare yourself with herbal remedies for depression.(1) Herbs to help alleviate depression that are safe to use while breastfeeding include St. Johnís wort, Evening primrose oil, Motherwort, and Blessed thistle.(2)
    3. Write your breastfeeding story. Start with those milky newborn memories – the pursed lips nursing even after they’ve unlatched, sleepy rooting at all hours of the day and night, the newness of life and the awe of continuing to grow your baby with your own body. Continue on through infancy – those milky smiles, dive bombing for your breast, the day your little one first starts babbling or signing in a recognizable way for milk. Write about the joys of breastfeeding past infancy – nursing gymnastics, manners, nursing away every hurt, the special words and phrases you and your nursling share.(3) Share the highs and lows of your nursing experience and the emotions you’ve gone through along the way. Here are two stories to get you started: one at Kellymom, another at La Leche League International.
    4. Throw a weaning party. For little ones who need a celebration to mark the occasion of weaning, consider having an intimate party – just you and your nursling and partner. Make special foods, bake a cake, whatever makes it special for your family. Here is an example of a weaning party.
    5. Write a book. Create a personal book for your child about their breastfeeding journey, their babyhood, and their transition into a “big kid.”
    6. Hold a special ceremony for your nursling.Sometimes breastfeeding pairs need to wean when neither mama nor child is ready. In these situations, a special ceremony may help mark the day of weaning, helping the child clearly see the end of nursing while beginning the grieving process for both in a bittersweet way.Jessica of The Leaky [email protected]@b was pregnant, gaining very little weight, and felt pressured by her care providers to wean. To help give closure to her 21 month old nursling, Jessica, her husband, and the big sisters all wrote a special note for the nursling. After eating a special meal together, the family gathered around a candle. Jessica invited her nursling to climb into her lap for one last nursing session. As her nursling snuggled in, the family read their letters to the child. They also gave her several sweet gifts. When she was finished nursing, she blew out the candle.

      While your weaning ceremony will be memorable and sweet, be prepared for nurslings to continue to ask to nurse. They simply do not understand what it means to wean forever, and you will very likely have to soothe many tears in the weeks to come (as Jessica did).

    7. Give yourself (and/or your child) a gift. Find something special that represents this transition. I highly recommend Hollyday Designs breastmilk jewelry – it is beautiful.
    8. Create a breastfeeding scrapbook. Gather pictures and/or video of you and your little one snuggling and nursing and compile them into a keepsake scrapbook (a virtual one or one that you can hold).
    9. Go on a date. Take your nursling somewhere special. Make it an event that represents how “grown up” they are.
    10. Tell your child their nursing story. Regardless of whether you write it down, tell your little one about your nursing journey as you’ve lived it. Telling them this story over the years will help normalize breastfeeding for them, and it will help you both retain sweet memories from their nursing years.
    11. Choose a special time to be together. If you or your little one are missing a regular nursing time, find something special you can do together every day at that time instead. Think about snuggling, reading, yoga, meditation, art, or some other activity you will both enjoy. For as long as you need to throughout and after the weaning process, take a few moments at the beginning of your special time to check in with yourself and truly be present with your child.
    12. Design your own ritual.Several cultures and religions have weaning ceremonies. Research them and design a ceremony that will be meaningful to your family. Here are a few resources to get you started:

Did you do something to mark the end of your breastfeeding relationship? Please share in the comments.

Footnotes:
(1) From Kellymom: “Prolactin, the hormone that stimulates milk production, also brings with it a feeling of well-being, calmness and relaxation. The faster the weaning process the more abrupt the shift in hormone levels, and the more likely that you will experience adverse effects.”
(2) Safe herb list found here. It also says that St. Johnís wort should not be taken in conjunction with any other depression medication.
(3) And if you’d like to share your nursing past infancy story, consider submitting it to my series. See my Contributor Guidelines page for more details.

___________________

Dionna is a lawyer turned work at home mama of two amazing kids, Kieran and Ailia. You can normally find Dionna over at Code Name: Mama where she shares information, resources, and her thoughts on natural parenting and life with little ones. Dionna is also cofounder of Natural Parents Network and NursingFreedom.org, and author of For My Children: A Mother’s Journal of Memories, Wishes, and Wisdom.
Connect with Dionna on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

Share

Pregnancy, breastfeeding, my toddler, and me

My pregnancies suck.  I’m often asked why I keep having children when pregnancy is so difficult for me physically with hyperemesis gravidarum (HG).  Usually my response is something like “because I’m crazy,” or “denial is a powerful thing,” or “I had to believe that next time would be different” and I attempt to laugh it off as just another piece of my crazy.  And maybe that’s exactly what it is.  The truth is, I don’t have a good answer that will help it all make sense, even to myself.  The best and most honest answer is simply that we didn’t feel done and I just couldn’t let HG win.

It gets even more confusing when I go through a difficult pregnancy and continue to breastfeed my current nursling.

At just over 26 months I’m pretty sure Smunchie and I are weaning.  It’s not what I wanted, or at least not what I planned.  I might have wanted it.  When I discovered I was pregnant with Sugarbaby I swore I would not intentionally wean during this pregnancy like I did last time.  No, we were going to stick it out no matter what.  Even if I hated it.

I did.  Hate it, that is.  It wasn’t the fact that my pregnancies are complicated, that I struggle to keep food and liquid in at all, that I end up with IVs and then a PICC line, or even that I feel like I have the most unrelenting case of food poisoning ever.  No, those things actually made me grateful Smunchie was still breastfeeding as it gave me a way to stay connected to her when I couldn’t get off the couch.  At first I was so grateful for breastfeeding and I cherished our cuddling “bobbies” time, because it anchored me a bit, it was only slightly uncomfortable, and I could tell she found it comforting in the midst of all the change we were experiencing with the effects of the pregnancy on our family.  But then it started to get more uncomfortable.  Then it started to hurt.  Then it started to require breathing exercises worthy of labor. Then every time she would latch I would mentally cry “please wean, please wean, please wean…”  I didn’t want to be a martyr, that doesn’t do either of us any good, but I didn’t want to end something that was so important to her plus I had this goal of not leading weaning and letting her self-wean.  And I’m a goal oriented person, I really like meeting my goals.  My experience weaning during my last pregnancy was unpleasant anyway and I deeply regretted it for even selfish reasons.  Mastitis and my HG getting worse made me greatly debate if the point of weaning, which was because I was still 26lbs below my prepregnant weight at the start of the 3rd trimester, would have been better served if we had continued breastfeeding instead.  Squiggle Bug was broken hearted and when she began rejecting me for all forms of comfort once we weaned, I was broken hearted too.  I wasn’t about to let any of that happen this time, no, I would fight for our breastfeeding relationship through this pregnancy.  It was important to me to continue, for both of us.

Pain, discomfort, and being downright miserable are hard to push through though.  To preserve my sanity there were times when I’d limit her feeding sessions, telling her we’d be “all done bobbies” after singing a song or counting to 10.  I’d try not to clench my teeth while she nursed.  Or stick my tongue out at her.  Or make scrunched up torture faces.  Or cry.  It didn’t help that I could tell my supply was dropping quickly.  In previous pregnancies I had been on Reglan to aid in digestion but this time we decided to see if I could go without as the side effect of depression had been difficult on my family.  Without the Reglan providing a boost to my supply, I experienced my milk drying up and the only response I had to galactalogues was to vomit.  I knew that to best prevent drying up I needed to let her nurse more but between her frustration that the milk sometimes just wasn’t there and me being ready to climb the wall every time she latched, I had to have limits on how long she could be at the breast or risk damaging our overall relationship if my frustration really came through.

The handwriting was on the wall.  I resisted but I welcomed it too.  It was confusing to be so conflicted.  The Piano Man didn’t say anything but I could tell he wanted us to wean, wanted the stress and emotional roller coaster about breastfeeding to just end.  Finally, about a month ago, he told me he thought it would be ok if we were done because, well, look at her.  She’s happy, confident, healthy, and almost never asks for it.  He was right, about all of those things.  If I didn’t offer, she didn’t ask, often for days at a time.  She did happily come for cuddles and kisses all the time.  She was still very attached.  Just, without the breast.  I offered right then and she did come over, climb on my lap and latch for a moment.  A brief moment, for just about the time she probably got some let down, then she let go, sat up, patted my breast, and said “tan tou!  All done.”  I think that was for my benefit.

She has breastfed a handful of times since then, most were her request.  I continued to offer but she began to decline more frequently.  She had things to do, games to play, places to explore, “bobbies” just weren’t what they once were.  Two weeks ago she asked to nurse early in the morning in bed.  Excited and kind of squirmy, she latched.  I started my concentrated breathing when suddenly she let go, made a face, and said “blech.  Yucky.  All done.”  I tried to get her to latch again, encouraging her to try but she only pulled my shirt down and repeated “all done.”  Since then she has tried only 2 other times, all brief, and all ending with some kind of disappointment on her part.  Like she remembers what it once was but recognizes that it’s just not that any longer.  I’ve stopped offering, mainly because she was starting to seem upset when I did and usually refused me with a sad “no.”

Once SugarBaby is here I will let Smunchie have the breast if she is interested.  I’m not going to insist or force anything and if she’s moved on then so will I.  Letting go hasn’t been easy but I know that together we’ll share with our newest nursling the joy that is “bobbies.”  My friend Diana Cassar-Uhl, IBCLC, encouraged me that we would find new ways to connect if our breastfeeding journey came to an end now.  She was right and they are equally precious moments.

Not everyone has a difficult time breastfeeding in pregnancy, please don’t think that just because that was my experience it has to be yours.  Every journey with every child is unique, honoring the journey means you take it as it comes.  I’m so grateful Smunchie and I have had what we have had.  I’m grateful for what is to come as well.  Breastfeeding through pregnancy isn’t easy for me but then, pregnancy isn’t easy for me.  This part of our journey was still beautiful and precious though, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

My big girls helped me with a little video looking over the recent months of breastfeeding during this pregnancy.  Gathered around the piano for this simple recording I looked over these 5 girls that have each had their turn to be my nursling.  Seeing them, today ages 26 months – 13 years, I couldn’t ask for more, my ordinary miracles.  (Don’t worry, I didn’t include any footage of me vomiting while breastfeeding or Smunchie waiting for me to finish puking so she could latch back on to the breast, just the breastfeeding shots.)

Share