Saving sanity- Transitioning from breastfeeding naps to quiet time

by Jessica Martin-Weber

needing a break bad mom

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Normalizing breastfeeding flying the friendly skies- Delta says yes

 

20140307-071439.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delta Breastfeeding policy on website copy

Which meant I was totally comfortable doing this:

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

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

E and C together outside

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Sibling love, Beco Sibling love #becosiblinglove

    The Storyteller and Lollie

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

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

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

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

    #becosiblinglove, sisters

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

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

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

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

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

    #becosiblinglove

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#becosiblinglove

#becosiblinglove
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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.

____________________

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

____________________

 

The Breastfeeding Toddler Explains

 The transition from infant to toddler is usually a very gradual process, at times completely imperceptible.  But it is very real and there are some very special aspects of breastfeeding a toddler that are unique.  One shares with us.

 Breastfeeding toddler in black and white

 

Dear grown-ups,

My vocabulary is still quite limited but that doesn’t mean my brain isn’t going all the time and there are a few things you need to know.  Particularly about breastfeeding toddlers.  Because some grown-ups seem to get confused, I will take a moment to explain very simply so even an adult can understand.  As a breastfed toddler, what I like to just call “human being”, I don’t understand why anyone would think I shouldn’t be breastfed.  The milk is yummy, I like to be close to mommy, it’s fun, and I was just a baby still yesterday and I’m not grown up over night, you know.  Also, I don’t care how many months I am, I know I like to breastfeed and I still need it, so please don’t make it sound gross or bad.  That just seems mean.  Don’t be a meanie.  Some toddlers may be ready to move on, that’s fine and I’m not judging them but don’t judge me just because I’m not ready yet and need to breastfeed to get through my day.  I don’t judge you for what you drink to get through your day, ok?  Acting like there’s something gross and wrong about something I’ve been doing my whole life is confusing, just let me do my thing.  I can’t imagine ever stopping breastfeeding but most of the people I see don’t breastfeed any more so I figure it’s inevitable I’ll stop at some point.  Just not today.

Also, before someone tells me there’s no nutritional value to breastfeeding past the first year (it feels nutritional to me, more than most chicken nuggets) check out how breastmilk continues to change to meet my very special toddler requirements here and a mommy’s point of view on how special breastfeeding is here.

 Toddler bfing judging image

Toddler’s guide to breastfeeding (so simple, even a grown-up can understand):

 

  • Hungry?  Breastfeed.
  • Sad?  Breastfeed- rub mommy’s arm.
  • Happy?  Breastfeed- giggle lots and dribble milk.
  • Bored?  Breastfeed and sing with your mouth full of milk, won’t be bored any more!
  • Feeling silly?  Breastfeed and growl while sticking finger up mommy’s nose, she’ll growl too!
  • Tired?  Breastfeed.
  • Tired but don’t want to sleep?  Breastfeed- keep switching sides.
  • Tired but don’t want to sleep and want to try to keep playing?  Breastfeed- break out dance moves.
  • Want to go to sleep?  Breastfeed.
  • Just wake up?  Breastfeed and consider falling back asleep.
  • Fall asleep on the breast and mommy tries to sneak away?  MUST BREASTFEED.
  • See mommy is busy and want her attention?  NEED to breastfeed NOW.  Sign milk constantly at the breast.
  • See mommy is not busy?  Breastfeed.
  • See mommy is bored and needs something to do other than laundry?  Breastfeed.
  • Mommy trying to work?  Breastfeed.
  • Afraid mommy is going to go down the toilet?  Keep mommy safe, saver her by holding on to the boobies by breastfeeding!
  • See mommy sat down?  GET THE BOOBIES!  Even if you just breastfed, breastfeed now, she wants you too, why else would she sit down?
  • See the ta-tas out when mom is changing?  BREASTFEED NOW!  DO NOT LET THEM GET AWAY!
  • Fall down?  Breastfeed, pop off and wail occasionally to remind everyone what happened.
  • Get hurt?  Breastfeed.
  • Got hurt yesterday but just remember?  Breastfeed and whine at the same time.
  • Broken toy?  Breastfeed, pull mom’s hair so she knows how upset you are.
  • Can’t climb that stupid gate thing?  Breastfeed and point at it.
  • Break mommy or daddy’s toy?  Breastfeed and make sure she keeps looking you in the eye until the oxytocin kicks in and you help her forget about the toy.
  • See mommy and daddy kiss?  Breastfeed and slap daddy away.
  • See mommy and daddy hug?  Breastfeed and give daddy the evil eye.
  • See friend breastfeeding?  Breastfeed more than them.
  • Mommy sleepy?  Time for gymnurstics.
  • Mommy tries to exercise?  Breastfeed- insist on side lying.
  • Mommy eating?  Breastfeed- time for gynurstics or stick fingers in her mouth.
  • Mommy getting ready for date with daddy?  Breastfeed- insist on hand on other one too, give daddy stink-eye.
  • Mommy talking on the phone?  Breastfeed while standing on her lap, pop off occasionally to yell in her face to help her talk.
  • Mommy making food for other people?  Remind her how easy it is to breastfeed.  If she doesn’t do it right away, cling to leg, refuse the carrier, and jam your hands down her shirt as soon as possible.
  • Need to pee?  Breastfeed then freak.
  • Just changed diaper and need to poop?  Breastfeed.
  • Wearing clothes?  Breastfeed.
  • Naked?  Breastfeed?
  • Love dinosaurs, baby dolls, trains, elephants, anything else?  Breastfeed to celebrate and tell mommy all about it.
  • Get a new toy?  Breastfeed and insist mommy breastfeed the toy too.
  • Toys get hungry?  Have mommy breastfeed toy, get angry that mommy is sharing with toy, throw tow, breastfeed and give toy stink-eye.
  • On a plane?  Breastfeed- swallow loudly to clear ears and make everyone happy you’re not screaming.
  • Headed to the car?  Quick, arch back, twist, anything, BREASTFEED.
  • Mommy holding you while meeting new people?  Breastfeed or at least let them know the boobies are yours by shoving hands in mommy’s shirt.
  • Daddy and mommy snuggling in bed?  Need that boob!  No, that one!  No, the other one!  Must breastfeed on both right now!
  • Mommy in shower?  Let her know you need to breastfeed and are worried the shower will wash your milk away.  Screaming may be necessary.
  • Walking?  Breastfeed every couple of steps.
  • Climbing?  Breastfeed when they move you off things.  Every time.
  • Have sickies?  Breastfeed lots and lots and lots.
  • Cutting molars?  Smash all the things!  And breastfeed.
  • See picture of breastfeeding?  Breastfeeding for all!
  • Hear music?  Do the breastfeeding dance.
  • Knock over block tower?  Breastfeed- hold block and hit mommy with it.
  • Grandma coming over?  Breastfeed and tell her how excited you are about it at the same time.
  • Having a first experience?  Breastfeed.
  • Think mommy is going to leave without you?  Desperately need to breastfeed to avoid starvation.
  • Mommy returns home after being out?  Five minutes or 5 hours, you must breastfeed while berating her for leaving even if you didn’t actually notice she was gone.

Isn’t breastfeeding wonderful?

You know what else is wonderful?  The roll of toilet paper.  You can use the whole thing to fill the potty, it’s so fun!  And then mommy has to clean up a giant mess and it’s time to breastfeed again.  Everyone has fun!

Love,

Your friendly local breastfeeding toddler.

___________________________

What would you or your toddler add to this list of toddler breastfeeding?  Have you changed your views of breastfeeding beyond a year?

___________________________

 

 

 

 

 

Breastfeeding beyond Infancy in Developed Countries

By Star Rodriguez for The Leaky B@@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.

Parenting and Flexibility and Boundaries- more than surviving

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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.

 _____________________________________

 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?

 

 

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 B@@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!

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.)

Embracing “Beyond”

Those readers active on TLB Facebook page know that {Laura} is one of our admins there offering balanced support, information, and a reasonable but caring voice to our community.  I’m so grateful for all our admins and thrilled to bring you a guest post from Laura, sharing where she is in her breastfeeding journey.  Though we are separated by an ocean, I can related to Laura and feel as though she is indeed one of my breastfeeding sisters.  I hope you enjoy this post and please, take the time to leave a comment sharing your thoughts and where you are on your journey.

The World Health Organization recommends that “infants start breastfeeding within one hour of life, are exclusively breastfed for six months, with timely introduction of adequate, safe and properly fed complementary foods while continuing breastfeeding for up to two years of age or beyond”.

When we started out, and for the first few weeks of M’s life, our goal was always “tomorrow”. We overcame initial difficulties (which I won’t go into here), tomorrows became todays became yesterdays,  and soon our goal was 6 months. In the blink of an eye 6 months came and went and we revised our goal to 1 year. This in turn passed, as did 18 months, and now we find ourselves a short few weeks from 2 years!

So, what next? Well, that would be “beyond”. Beyond is defined as “at or to the further side of”. Beyond can be something that women aspire to, and would love to reach. Beyond can be something that elicits negative reactions. Here in Ireland, beyond is RARE.

About 47% of infants here are breastfed on discharge from maternity care, and this already low figure drops to 22% at 3 months and less than 10% at 6 months.  I cannot even find statistics after 6 months!

A recent interview with a breastfeeding mother on national TV highlighted the often skewed public perception of “extended” breastfeeding.  This included the interviewer reading out the wrong HSE (Health Service) guidelines on breastfeeding! Friends of Breastfeeding (an Irish charity who can be found on Facebook) have details of this incident, and are also lodging an official complaint. When mainstream national media spread blatant misinformation, and barely stop short of ridicule, it’s no wonder that “beyond” is beyond comprehension for many.

So, we know that (here at least) “beyond” is rare, and not without controversy. Outside of the 2010 and 2011 breastfeeding challenges, I’ve only ever seen 2 other women NIP, and both of the children were infants. “Beyond” started off for me as an ideal and something we would most likely never attain. If pushed, I still could not answer why I thought that way, but I did.

However, there’s something about 2 years of tomorrows filled with closeness, love and nourishment that can change a girls mind. Not to mention the copious health and emotional benefits for both Mammy (n ; an Irish Mom,  pl mammies)  and baby that are *obviously* too numerous, complex and amazing to mention here!

At this stage, beyond does not feel like the big, gaping chasm it had seemed to be in those first few “tomorrow” weeks. It doesn’t seem much different to the transition from Tuesday to Wednesday. Each day my little lady is but one day older than the day before, and each day that she continues to find nourishment and comfort at my breast is a gift to us both. I feel so grateful to have made it to 2 years of breastfeeding my little girl. Here’s to beyond!

 

Laura Griffin lives in Limerick, Ireland with her partner of 10 years Keith and MooMoo (23 mos). She is a nurse and a student midwife who hopes to be an IBCLC one day.  She is a passionate advocate for breastfeeding and support for families, currently volunteering as a TLB admin on the Facebook page.  She dabbles in crochet while listening to Dream Theater in her limited spare time.