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Extreme Reality- Breastfeeding Reality TV?

I’m not a fan of “reality” TV, well, most reality TV.  I do like So You Think You Can Dance but that’s a competition (of sorts), not really reality TV, right?  Anyway, most so-called reality TV seems anything but real.  The few times I’ve wasted took the time to watch some it seemed to be nothing more than a hyperbolic visual of humanity and I had to ask where did they find these people?

The truth is it’s possible that with some clever editing even my boring life may possibly appear to be entertaining drama.  Some very, very clever editing.  I mean, I work, do laundry (sometimes, there could be drama over the laundry thing actually), play with my kids, feed my children…

Oh my gosh, there it is!  The entertainment opportunity of reality TV ripe and just waiting to be picked RIGHT THERE!  I feed my children.  *gasp*

Apparently, some think that is quality reality TV just waiting to happen.  You can read about it here.  Not just any feeding, true.  Breastfeeding.  Breastfeeding over a year.  Cause that is so extreme.

 

*blink*

 

We’re reaching here, right?

There are moments when I think I must be really dense because I just don’t get it.  Like now.  If this is extreme to the point that an entire reality TV series to be called “Extreme Parenting” is based on it then why does my life seem so… not extreme?  I’ve breastfed 3 of my 6 children past the 1 year mark (past the 2 year mark…).  That should make me off the charts extreme, right?

Even with the most clever editing possible this sounds like the most boring reality TV show ever.  Because this just doesn’t seem extreme.  It’s really rather normal.  Average.  Regular.

We are a family of 8, 6 are girls under the age of 14, living in a 1400 square foot house with one bathroom.  ONE BATHROOM FOR 8 PEOPLE!  Talk about real entertainment.

Picture this: mom pushing past the 13 year old in the narrow hallway, guiding a wide-eyed 2 year old clutching between her legs, eyes wide as she desperately declares “I peepee!”  Frantically, mom knocks on the door of the bathroom, telling the 9 year old to take her book and get off the toilet now, it’s an emergency.  The 9 year old calls out that she just sat down.  The 11 year old squeezes past the mom and 2 year old in the hallway, telling the camera “ugh, my dad took forever in the bathroom after his shower, I almost peed my pants this morning.”  The 2 year old is heard saying “uh-oh” as the mom just about kicks down the door…

If any aspect of my life is extreme it’s this and maybe the laundry.  But breastfeeding past 12 months old?  Not so much.  Plus, the bathroom thing is lame.

Breastfeeding being depicted in mainstream media?  Even if it’s depicted as “extreme” and pitched as being weird and kind of crazy, is that all bad?  Eh, maybe not.  Who knows, someone may see some heavily edited episode and think “wow, I want to be just like those people!”  Because that’s totally what everyone watching reality TV thinks.  After all, Extreme Parenting is the brainchild of the same team that brought us Dance Moms and Bridezillas.  Just look at how those shows have elevated the obsessed pushy mother of a child dancer and obsessed pushy bride-to-be. These women are endeared to society the world over and every mother can’t wait to sign up her child for dance for their chance as a dance mom and all brides to be dream of their bridezilla moments with anticipation.

 

Oh wait…

 

There is a potential hidden nugget of positive in this exploitive form of entertainment that seems to enjoy depicting women as vapid, out-of-control selfish individuals with boundary issues: it will get people talking.  And when someone tells me about the crazy lady on that Extreme Parenting show and how she was actually breastfeeding her 3 year old I’ll say “puhshaw, that’s nothing. You want to talk extremes?  We have 8 people and 1 bathroom.  EIGHT PEOPLE AND 1 BATHROOM!”

Even this is less extreme than the activity surrounding our bathroom most mornings.

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 What do you think of this show?  Would you be on it?

The Leakies are talking about it over on The Leaky B@@b Facebook page, discussing the show, what other activities may be seen in a family that breastfeeds past 12 months, and activities we would consider more “extreme” than breastfeeding past 1 year.  Come join in the conversation.

Up close and personal: Leakies Q & A on Sugarbaby, pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding

Shortly after I announced this pregnancy I offered to answer questions of Leakies of what they’d like to know about me.  I thought I’d get maybe 10 questions.  More than 100 came in and I got completely overwhelmed.  It’s taken me a while but here, finally, are some of my answers to some of your questions.  I couldn’t answer them all but here’s a sampling related to pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding.  You can find more related to family, children, and work; and TLB, personal, and other.

Photoagraphy by Kelli Elizabeth Photography in Houston, TX

New baby, pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding

Q: Do you plan on tandem nursing Smunchie and new baby?

 If she’s still breastfeeding at that point, yes.  We’re taking it one day at a time.  Smunchie asks to nurse once in a while but she has essentially weaned and hasn’t actually latched in about a month now.  If she’s still interested when Sugarbaby arrives I will let her try.  We’re taking a wait and see approach.

Q: Can you share your experiences with nursing while pregnant and the early stages if tandem nursing?  How are you breastfeeding while being so sick?

I’ve never been able to tandem as I’ve always had health care providers that insist I wean due to the severity of my Hyperemesis Gravidarum.  This time I refused to wean as I believe the hormones from breastfeeding help a bit with the nausea and vomiting.  It’s not easy for me to breastfeed while pregnant though.  Between the exhaustion, constant burn out feeling, and nipple sensitivity I find breastfeeding to be a challenge.  However, I got so much worse with my HG when I weaned Squiggle Bug during my 7th month with Smunchie.  My midwife insisted I wean because I was still 24 pounds under my prepregnant weight and hadn’t gained more than 2 pounds back in the month before.  Weaning was physically hard on me and emotionally hard on both of us.  This time I’ve decided it’s not worth it and that I wouldn’t be leading Smunchie to wean.  She pretty much did anyway.  It’s different for every woman and for every pregnancy and breastfeeding relationship, this is just where we are this time. 

You can see a video of me breastfeeding Smunchie during this pregnancy in this post where I go a little more in-depth about breastfeeding in pregnancy for me personally.

Q: Would like to hear about tandem nursing and nursing through pregnancy. I am 16 weeks and nursing my 10 month old. We are doing great, but I have never heard anybody say their milk hasn’t dried up at some point.

My milk didn’t dry up during Smunchie’s pregnancy even after Squiggle Bug weaned (around 7 months) but it helped that I was on Reglan to help with the HG.  To be honest, I can’t stand breastfeeding while pregnant.  Between being sick and then the nipple sensitivity I struggle with anxiety while breastfeeding.  It’s hard and I don’t enjoy it.  However, that’s not the case for many women I interact with on a regular basis.  Some women have no problem continuing through pregnancy either emotionally or physically and have plenty of milk.  I can’t speak to tandem nursing personally as I’ve never successfully done so.

Q: Do you get cravings? If so, what?

Not often.  It’s more like I get ideas for food that sound less repulsive than other options.  I try to eat those foods if possible because it’s less likely I’ll throw them up though that happens anyway.  If I’m lucky I’ll stumble upon a “safe food” that I can eat for a few days that I manage to keep down.  But actual cravings?  Not so much.  Unfortunately a lot of what I do eat is not the healthiest options, I try but my midwives, doctors, nurse, husband and I all agree that some food, even junk food, is better than nothing.  This pregnancy I have found the Yummy Earth Organic Lollipops in strawberry to be something that helps and I seem to have a thing for frozen yogurt (even though I threw it up in the mall parking lot today).

Q: Will you find out the sex or wait?

We have found out the sex and I made a video to announce it but lost the entire thing in a massive computer fail.  I haven’t been able to finish redoing it so may just announce at the birth.

Q: Also how do you prep your young children for the coming baby?

At first we focus on getting through the pregnancy, particularly the worst of it (usually to about 7-8 months) but as the pregnancy progresses we talk more and more about the coming baby.  We watch birth videos together (all of my children, including Smunchie, have seen videos of babies being born) and work on setting things up for the new family member together.  My older girls start getting excited about making things for the baby and they’ve all voiced some ideas on names (Squiggle Bug wants Angelina no matter if Sugarbaby is a boy or a girl).  When movement can be felt on the outside I invite them to cuddle with me with their hands on the belly to feel the baby move and they are enjoying this very much this time around.  They hear the heart beat, I show them how to palpate my abdomen to feel the height of the funds and eventually the position of the baby, and they read stories to my belly.  With younger ones we do a lot of doll play with them, change diapers, feed our babies together, and encourage them to babywear their own babies.  We also involve them in the fun parts of getting ready for a baby: announcing the pregnancy, celebrating the coming baby, etc.

Q: Did you notice a temperament change in Smunchie as soon as you got pregnant? I am 16 weeks and I swear my 12 month old knew I was pregnant and started becoming clingy.

Not really but we did with Squiggle Bug.  Squiggle Bug started talking about a new baby when I just suspected I was pregnant but hadn’t confirmed it.  Smunchie seems oblivious.

Q: How do you manage keeping up with the kids all day when you’re extremely ill?  How do you keep doing it, mentally, especially with them so close together, knowing how violently ill you’ll get? Is there a point in your pregnancies where you no longer are ill?

We enlist the help of friends.  Though we haven’t always done this, in fact, in the past I’ve withdrawn from relationships while I’m pregnant because I’ve feared being a burdened and not being believed.  However, this time The Piano Man and I decided that our family deserved better than that.  So I humbled myself and asked for help.  We are incredibly blessed to have a number of people that love spending time with our children and would take turns coming over to help get dinner together, children in bed, pick-up/drop-off girls to dance class, etc.  In the past we coped by filling a cooler with snacks, having a pile of books, a stack of DVDs, a basket of toys, and a box of craft supplies parked by the couch or bed where I would stay.  The house would be trashed but everyone would be safe and entertained.  With homeschooling my big girls would bring their work to me and I’d help them from that spot as well.  It wasn’t ideal but it worked well enough.  As to how I keep doing it, one day at a time.  Sometimes one hour at a time.

There is not a point where I’m no longer ill, but there comes a point when I’m less sick and able to function better.  It’s kind of relative.  After being really bad, it’s not hard to manage being kind of bad.

I also fine a lot of support and information at helpher.org.

Q: How do you prepare your children for your pregnancy symptoms and make sure their needs (emotional as well) are met while dealing with HG? (I’ve had it with both pregnancies and my daughter was a MESS during my pregnancy with my son because I was literally in bed, in the bathroom, or in the hospital for 30 weeks. It’s the biggest reason we won’t have another:( )

When I only had small ones there wasn’t much we could do.  We watched too much TV, they cuddled with me in bed and we read together, friends would help tons, and… we prayed.  The short term affects were nothing compared to the long term payoffs of having siblings.  

With older ones in the picture now it’s a bit different.  We talk about it, we strategize together, we make plans, and we enlist help.  We strive to hold on to as much normalcy as possible but we acknowledge that there will be challenges to that.  We’ve also been demanding about getting adequate care and that has made the biggest difference.

Q: When did your HG kick in during this pregnancy. How does your HG with this pregnancy compare to your previous pregnancies? Did you do anything differently that has made it easier, or are their any circumstances that are making it harder? Have you done anything now or in the past to space your children, or do you just rely on natural child spacing and faith? Do you think the length of time between giving birth has an effect on your HG? Do you think age has an effect on HG? Do you vomit in front of your kids and if so how do you think it affects them? (not trying to be rude, just something I definitely thought about when vomiting in front of my toddler. Do you or have you ever had hyper-salivation with a pregnancy? I didn’t know about this one until this pregnancy, but it definitely upped the disgusting level of HG for us.

I’ve had pitalism in 2 of my pregnancies and it is ridiculously disgusting.  Yes, I’ve thrown up in front of my kids though I hate to and try not to as much as possible.  At first they seem to notice and then it’s like it’s no big deal.  Which is awkward and breaks my heart when they tell others “my mom throws up all the time but it’s ok, I’m used to it.”  Does it affect them?  Probably though when we’ve talked about it they just say that they get scared and want to help but that it’s worth it to get a new baby.  They have expressed concern that they will experience HG and honestly, I’m concerned about that as well.  If they do I will be their biggest advocate.  I felt “off” before I got a positive test, had my first IV at 5 weeks.  This has been my best pregnancy but I don’t know how much of that is because it was easier or because we followed an aggressive protocol that made it so different.  I only lost 16 pounds this time compared to the 26 pounds I lost in my next best pregnancy.

Q:  Birth plans? Births of the other kids, what were they like?

Earth Baby (13) was born in a hospital with The Piano Man as my support person.  In spite of some serious complications (high blood pressure, hemorrhage, and a few other issues) we were able to have a successful vaginal birth without pain medications (I was on bp meds and fluids for dehydration) at 41 weeks and 4 days.

The Storyteller (11) was born at home with a midwife at 37 weeks, an unusually fast labor for a baby sunny side up.  Born in our bed with The Piano Man as my support person.  We had a doula that I ended up asking to leave as she distracted me, a midwife, and a midwife assistant.  It was a very hard but beautiful labor and birth.

Lolie (9) was also born at home at 36 weeks exactly, a new midwife and new city.  She was born after a 36 hour labor into her daddy’s hands, our 3rd baby at on 03.03.03 at 3am.  It was mostly pain-free for me except when I started fighting my body and when the anterior cervical lip that had persisted for 10 hours had to be moved manually.  Ouch.  We had an amazing doula that primarily supported The Piano Man supporting me.

Squiggle Bug (4) was with another midwife at home, 41 weeks and 4 days.  I caught her myself when The Piano Man was supporting me and I had put my hands down instinctively and he couldn’t get out from behind me to help catch and instead just wrapped his arms around me and said “you’ve got this.”  It was a beautiful labor, peaceful.

Smunchie (2) gave me some trouble with positioning at 38 weeks.  Poor thing was asenclitic with a partial facial presentation.  She came out so banged up.  I planned to catch myself this time, I loved the experience with Squiggle Bug and that’s exactly what we did.  I was more experienced and knowledgable with birth having been trained as a midwife myself at this point so I did my own cervical checks (pointless but I had to know) and had incredible support to just do things how I wanted.  That’s exactly what I did.  Born into my hands after a challenging labor due to positioning, it was an exhilarating birth.

Sugarbaby, if all goes well, will be born at home as well.

Q: I have a question that I absolutely don’t want you to take the wrong way. How did you make the decision to keep having children despite having HG? I only had horrible regular morning sickness (had to be controlled by medication, but it was controlled) as well as a set of twins my second time and gestational diabetes. That was enough excitement and we called it quits at the three, lol. I’m not judging your decision at all. Just curious as to how you made it. You’re so much braver than I!

Not braver.  More crazy, possibly.  Every one of us has a different path in life, the choices may appear the same but the reality is with our various circumstances and priorities we can’t imagine making the choices someone else does and we have to just figure out what works for us in our situation.

Sometimes I think that if it weren’t for HG I may not have had 5 kids, largely because I was always hoping “maybe this time it will be different.”  Being a bit of a rebel I got angry at HG and declared I wouldn’t let it determine my family planning.  I just didn’t want it to have that kind of say in our lives.

Most importantly I did a lot of research and found care providers that would be aggressive in early treatment. With a full protocol in place HG tends to be more manageable. Before trying to conceive some women have experienced improvements with cleanses, particularly liver cleanses. Being prepared can help tremendously.

It is hard to parent the child you have while growing a new one with HG. Very hard. Getting a support team around you can make a huge difference in that as well. While it is hard I can tell you with some confidence that when you get through it toddler will forget those rough HG days and enjoy having a younger sibling. In the moment it’s incredibly difficult and I’ve had to deal with a lot of grief about not being the kind of mom I want to be to my children when I’m pregnant but my children having each other has made it so worth it.

Q: Did you and your hubby “Try” for a boy this time? Did you try to time your cycles to get a boy or did you just let nature take it’s course? Thanks! TLB is Awesome – it has helped me in my most crucial hour of need. Mom’s have got to stick together and help each other out and TLB does that wonderfully:) ♥ Thank you!

So glad you’ve found support through TLB!

No, we’ve never tried for a boy.  You can read more about that here.

Q: What is the best thing about all girls? The worst? How will your family handle whatever gender Sugarbaby is? Will having a boy be welcome or turn things upside down?

I’m not sure.  Having 5 girls I’m not entirely sure that I buy into there being major differences between boys and girls, at least not before puberty.  My girls are each so incredibly different from each other.  We are very intentional to not bring cultural expectations into our parenting regarding gender.  As such, if Sugarbaby is a boy we’ll welcome him just as we have our other children and he will be brought up as his sisters have been as our parenting style and choices aren’t based on the sex of our children.

Q: Curious if the new baby played a part in the nightweaning journey?

No but the nighweaning journey likely played a part in the new baby!


Re-Play Giveaway

We all want the best for our kids, but buying green products can be expensive. As a mom of five (soon to be six!) I really have to pick and choose my battles, and be very thrifty. Our best strategy is simply to buy less and make the things we do buy really count. We’re also known to stalk the thrift stores for coveted items. And, I’m completely over trying to have a Martha Stewart looking house. That’s why I’m so excited to see the Re-Play products. Made from recycled milk jugs, they are good for the earth as part of our reduce, reuse, recycle values, and the price is amazing – right in line with regular old plastic. They are also dishwasher friendly and made to take a beating. They are a sister brand to Dandelion, a company I love (I’ve decided Sugarbaby needs the entire line of owl stuff they have, SO cute!).  For their launch, Re-Play is giving away 50 utensil sets (spoon and fork) so the Leakies can try them. Head over to their blog and tell them what you think to be entered in the giveaway (also, find them on FB here). They are also doing a giveaway almost every day for the rest of the month, so check back often and get in on your chance to add safe, green options to your household without blowing the budget.

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.

Unsupportive Support- Cultural breastfeeding ignorance: toddlers and introducing solids

breastfeeding beyond a year

I bet at least half of those reading this are uncomfortable with that picture.

I get that society isn’t comfortable with breastfeeding in many ways, despite all the lip service given to “breast is best.”  So it’s not a big surprise that socially speaking most people don’t even have a basic idea of what’s normal or healthy with breastfeeding.  With this in mind much of what is unsupportive support comes from this place of ignorance and lack of exposure to normal, healthy breastfeeding.  It is my hope that time will change this problem because we have allowed our emphasis on the sexual nature of breasts to replace a general understanding of normal human biology.  However, waiting won’t change the unsupportive support spreading as a result of this collective ignorance of society so those unintentional acts must be addressed.  Continuing the series on unsupportive support, let’s take a look at a few of these common issues stemming from society’s lack of understanding of normal and healthy breastfeeding.

Does this one weird you out too?

 

How not to support and how to avoid being unintentionally unsupportive- part 6.

Unsupportive support is…

Ever asking “Isn’t he too old for that?” or “If they can ask for it they’re too old, it’s just gross.”

First thought that goes through my mind when I hear this: “Aren’t you too old to be so rude?”  Manners, people, try them.  This is not your child, this is not your choice.  Plus, the answer is no, the child isn’t too old.  Wherever you draw the imaginary cut off line for breastfeeding, it’s just that, imaginary.  What is it you’re really afraid of anyway?  That it somehow becomes sexual?  Remember, that fear is founded in an adult perception of breasts, not a child’s.  Are you concerned that the child will grow overly dependent on breastfeeding and need to breastfeed when they are in college?  Please, in cultures where it is common for children to wean on their own timeline, this is unheard of.  And even if it were to happen, wouldn’t that make it their problem, not yours?  Still, I’m not going to give this concern any more energy, I’ve never once met someone that had a college-age child breastfeeding.  You may be out of touch with what normal duration breastfeeding looks like, sometimes called “extended breastfeeding” but I have to ask, extended beyond what?  The minimum recommendations?  Extended beyond society’s distorted perception of normal breastfeeding?  Extended beyond your personal comfort level?  Extended beyond the imaginary cut off line for breastfeeding  The major health organizations in the world encourage mothers to breastfeed for at least 2 years and they recommend women continue as long as it is mutually agreeable.  Mutually.  Between the breastfeeding mother and the breastfeeding child.  Not you.  It’s up to them so butt out.  Babies start using the only communicating tools they know to start asking for it as soon as they are born, you can read here about normal newborn behavior.  A mother responding to her child’s signs of hunger = good parenting, not a bad habit.  It’s important that you recognize and get comfortable now with this thought: “My opinions aren’t always right for everyone and sometimes I should just keep them to myself.”

Sneaking food to a small child without asking their parents permission or arguing with them about their choice to wait to introduce foods.

It boggles my mind how often I read “I can’t trust my mother-in-law/uncle/brother/grandpa/etc. with my 3 month old, they insist on giving him tastes of food, even stuff like ice cream or dangerous choking hazards!”  People, it’s not your kid, not your turn to make these kind of decisions.  Grandparents, aunts, uncles, shoot, friends get to spoil a kid, it’s true.  When my kids are older I don’t care if my parents take them out for ice cream for breakfast when they get to have them on their own.  It’s their grandparent prerogative and I support it on occasion.  But that has to be something discussed and approved (even with disapproval) and the limits recognized and respected.  Giving a baby foods that their parents, you know, the people that are responsible for them, take them to the doctor, are reading the most up to date information on what babies need, and are up at night with them, haven’t approved is not only disrespectful but it’s dangerous.  Between ruining a virgin gut (google it), risking allergen exposure, and introducing textures they may not be physically developed enough to handle and thus pose a potential choking risk, there is absolutely no good reason EVER to sneak food to another parent’s child.  And arguing with them about their decision for the health and safety of their child, even if you think they are wrong or extreme, is not helping either the parent or the child.  If you’re truly concerned do your research before bringing it up.  In order to offer support that’s actually helpful, you need to be familiar with current information and research as well as possible controversy.  In the end you have to respect their decision or you will remain that person they can’t trust.  And yes, they can’t trust you which means they will never be comfortable leaving their child in your hands.  Coming to terms with “I am not the person(s) ultimately responsible for this child, I do not have the authority or position to make this decision and must respect the people that do.”  By the way, this goes for formula fed babies too.  Allergies, food sensitivities, immature digestive tracts, and choking hazards are real concerns for them as well.  This is their long term health you’re messing around with and you don’t have that right or responsibility.

 

Breastfeeding is the biologically normal way to feed a small infant and child.  Just because we’re not used to it as a society does not mean that there is something wrong with it.  Before critiquing the mother willing to go against societal norms to do what she truly believes is best for her child, please educate yourself as to why she would do that in the first place.  Or at least express your thoughts and concerns by asking respectfully why she has chosen a certain path over another.  When it comes to decisions regarding that child’s health step carefully.  There is controversy surrounding just about every health decision parents are faced with today, cut them some slack and just respect that they are thinking people that may be ok with discussing their decision but deserve to be respected in them even if you disagree.  Please don’t let cultural ignorance determine how you feel about something or how you respond to something.  Challenge yourself, is the problem really what that mother is doing or is the problem that as a society we just can’t imagine anything other than what we’ve grown accustomed to.  Push yourself outside of your comfort zone and offer real support, not ignorant social judgments.

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Have you received comments about your child being “too old” to breastfeed?  How did you respond?

Are there people around you that you can’t trust because they don’t respect your parenting choices?

Have you ever had someone feed or almost feed your child something you felt was dangerous?

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7 Toddler Skills I Could Live Without (or at least wait for later)

When we first have our babies each new developmental milestone and stage is exciting.  We look forward anxiously to signs that our little one is ok, normal, maybe even advanced.  Parents brag about how early their drooling bundle started holding their head up, smiled, rolled over and crawled.  Strangers ask “has she started walking yet?” upon encountering a mother or father with a baby anywhere over the age of 9 months in a stroller or carrier.

Then they actually start walking.  After the initial excitement wears off parents are hit with the reality that their once adorable slow mover is now an adorable potential disaster on two legs.  One that, before you know it, can outrun mom and dad and suddenly develops a stealth mode.

Walking isn’t where the patience testing, keep-you-on-your-toes talents for our little ones start and stop though.  No, within days most toddlers begin developing an entire arsenal of skills that they physically can accomplish but lack the developmental capabilities to use reason in applying and enjoy just for the fun of it.  Meaning: watch out.

Seven skills I wish my toddler couldn’t master before being able to explain why she needs to do it.

Climbing.
It’s great on a playground but toddlers figure out climbing by practicing on anything they can find handy: bookshelves, chairs, tabletops, counters, back of the couch… just about anything that is less than safe.  Any furniture that can should be bolted to a wall to prevent tipping and possible injury.  I’m glad my kids love climbing, I understand that it’s important for development even but the whole pushing chairs over to the counter to climb up and then into the cabinets to reach some snack instead of asking me for it does not help my blood pressure.  And I’ve had kids that climbed before they walked, getting their “I-can-freak-mommy-out” on even earlier.

Flushing the toilet.
She doesn’t even use it but she’s figured out that the sound it makes is cool plus she can say and wave “bye-bye.”  We try to keep the door closed but it’s forgotten from time to time and with 4 big sisters this isn’t surprising.  My favorite is when she accompanies me to the toilet and insists on flushing while I’m still sitting there.  Hello!

Turning on the facet.
The step stool in the bathroom seemed like a good idea for getting your child to brush their teeth but then they figure out how to turn the water on in the sink.  I get it, it’s way too much fun that every time you turn the handle water come out.  A trickle or a gush it’s like a mini-water park to a toddler.  Add in cups, spoons, and other water receptacles and it’s a complete adventure of splash time goodness.  As an added bonus it means the bathroom will get mopped.  Again.

Opening doors.
The best doors for a toddler to open are those that led to the rooms of big sisters.  Where big sisters have treasures and art supplies stashed or even better… candy.  I know there are door knob covers to keep curious hands from going into forbidden entryways but since my older kids also struggle with being able to open doors with safety knobs I can’t spend all day opening doors for everyone.  Instead we are all just trying to get smarter about our hiding places.

Opening marker lids.
Even more than glitter, markers are my least favorite craft supply.  The siren of all potential mess-makers, my toddlers simply can’t resist the call of colored ink with a felt tip.  Get the lid off and watch out walls, carpet, tables, clothing, faces, books… you name it.  I’ve banished markers from our house multiple times but somehow they always sneak back in to lure my toddlers into some sort of damage.  With bigger kids around now too there seems to be a particular affinity for the permanent kind.  Those lids should be child-proof.

Taking the diaper off.
No matter what kind of diaper my toddlers always eventually master taking it off.  Disposable, applix cloth, snaps, prefold and snappi, even diaper pins, my toddlers are diaper Houdinis.  Dirty or clean, if given the chance they will get it off and are guaranteed to run from me once the situation is discovered, more often than I care to admit running right through some #2 and leaving their mark everywhere.

Getting undressed.
For a while as long as there is clothing covering their diaper my toddlers forget about their magic trick of escaping the poop trap.  Then comes the fateful day when they realize they can take their clothes off BY THEMSELVES!  With my first born I clapped and cheered for this new milestone thinking of her blooming independence but those days are long gone now.  I just had no idea.  In a flash the child that I had ready to walk out the door is naked, clothes scattered, and shoes hidden all in the time it took me to grab my purse and keys.  Running around as though they’ve been craving fresh air on their private parts for decades, they squeal with delight while I sigh in exasperation.  It’s not like they go naked almost all day every day inside as it is.  I’ve given up on keeping clothes on them if we’re staying in, there’s no point, they’re just going to take it off anyway.

Getting ME undressed.
Because I’m *cough* “still” *cough* breastfeeding my children when they are toddlers they enjoy learning how to get to my breasts, on their own if need be.  It always puzzles me, have I not been responding to their requests to breastfeed easily and readily for the past many months?  Why suddenly do they need to alert me to their desire to breastfeed by taking it upon themselves to physically undress me?  Dear sweet child of mine, I am perfectly capable and willing to get my breast out for you to feed but we’re going to have some boundaries here and work on developing some breastfeeding manners, ok?  Trying to pull my shirt over my head as the first sign that you want to nurse is a bit rude.  Funny, yes.  The first time.  Maybe even the second.  But by the 115th time I’m not amused.  So here’s the deal, sign milk or ask for “bobbies” and it’s all yours but getting the boob out is left to me, mmmkay?

 

Thankfully we usually survive the toddler stage just fine with only a few less hairs on my head and my blood pressure only slightly more elevated than normal.  Reminding myself that it’s normal and actually a positive for them to explore and make messes helps me keep it all in focus.  Sometimes.  Besides, before I know it we’re into the stage where they can forcefully articulate why they want to do something and quite succinctly: “Because I want to!”

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What are some of your favorite toddler skills?

How have your toddlers kept you on your toes and how have you survived the challenge?

 

this moment- Smunchie, a Beco and her baby

{this moment} – A Friday ritual from Soule Mama, one of my favorite bloggers.  A single photo (or two) – no words – capturing a moment from the week.  A simple, special, extraordinary moment.  A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.  If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your “moment” in the comments for all to find and see.

I’m Not Going To Try To Convince You To Breastfeed Your Toddler

Three weeks ago she took her first independent steps.  Tentative and kind of shuffley, she did about 3 before dropping on all fours and crawling.  And that was it.  She wasn’t interested in more.  Between plenty of arms to carry her where she needed to go and lightning fast maneuvers on her hands and knees, she just wasn’t in a hurry to move her 19 pound, 30.5 inch frame around by walking.  Just the occasional effort of 2 or 3 steps, smiling at her audience as she performed her newest trick, Smunchie toyed with the idea of walking just to get a reaction from her family and it totally worked.  I was more than fine with this, it made her seem like my little baby a little longer and after my first 2 girls I learned that late walking was actually a gift and saved me a few months of running.

Then this past Saturday it happened.  I could see the shift.  It wasn’t a game any more, it was a goal.  She didn’t look to see who was watching and smile as she moved a couple of inches.  No, she decided it was time, looked at where she wanted to go and walked.  Within 24 hours crawling was only when she needed to go faster than she could manage walking and within 48 she was walking simply for the fun of it.

With that I’m officially breastfeeding a toddler, a 15 month old toddler.

It’s been a slow transition.  I don’t consider 12 months to be the magic turning point from baby to toddler but rather when a flexible idea of milestones and behaviors emerge.  She’s really a toddler now, gets her feelings hurt, picks her nose, shrieks “baba” when she sees another baby, is figuring out how to annoy her sister for fun and now walks.  Also?  She breastfeeds like a toddler.  Today she shoved a board book down the top of my shirt, grinned and signed milk.  Apparently I breastfeed a toddler AAAAAND board books.

I’m not going to try to convince anyone with this post that they should breastfeed their toddler, not this post, not this day.  Maybe some other time.  To be honest I’m not sure what there is to try to convince anyone about, to me I’m just feeding my baby still.  Sure, she’s changed and she’s bigger but she’s still my baby and I’m still her boobies, er, mommy.  But I will say that I have a love-hate relationship with breastfeeding toddlers.  Smunchie isn’t my first toddler to nurse, 2 of her big sisters did as well.  (The other 2 didn’t because I never planned to go past a year and, silly as it sounds, didn’t even know you could nurse a toddler.  Please, do not ask me what I was thinking, I have no idea.) Breastfeeding a toddler is an adventure but one that I’ve always eased into because our babies don’t just change suddenly.  Growing up doesn’t happen up over night, it’s a progression.  Good thing too because giving birth to a toddler sounds like the worst thing ever.  So while Smunchie did seem to just decide to walk one day everything leading up to this point was gradual, preparing both of us for this next stage.  We’ve already made it past so much that this doesn’t seem weird in the slightest.  Ok, maybe in the slightest because I can’t believe she’s this big already and could swear she was just born a month ago. So weird in that sense.  Like buying size 5 shoes.  Certainly not any more weird that cleaning snot off my boob and I’ve been doing that since her first cold at 3 months.

Some of my love/hate relationship of breastfeeding a toddler:

Love: Easing the transition of my baby growing up.

Hate: Lazy toddler latch.

Love: How comfortable and experienced we both are with breastfeeding by now.

Hate: How demanding or specific she can be about HOW she breastfeeds concerning position and me multitasking.

Love: The laughter and giggles we share when she’s at the breast like we’re telling each other secret jokes.

Hate: Fair weathered nursing- some times other things are way more interesting.

Love: The toddling steps up to me with a huge smile and signing milk.

Hate: That sometimes she’ll do that 4 times in an hour just because she can and it’s a new game.

Love: How she will gently touch my face and gaze up at me with the most wonderful and indescribable look in her eyes.

Hate: How sometimes she smacks me and giggles or tries to snatch my glasses.

Love: How if I’m already holding her and she wants to breastfeed she’ll sign “please” on my chest instead of hers.  I melt.

Hate: How she can climb up and start trying to get the breast on her own if I’m sitting down and the melodrama that ensues if she doesn’t get it right away.

Love: Knowing that the milk that grew her to this point can still keep her growing and strong.

Thinking of Smunchie’s new status as a toddler I asked the Leakies on our Facebook page for some of their observations on breastfeeding toddlers including the fun and not-so-fun.  Here are some of my favorites:

Aimee:  Constant motion and constant distraction.  As in, the baby is in constant motion and constantly distracted. 😉

Melissa:  Fun – able to sooth owies and tantrums; not so fun – drive by nursing sessions.

Carla:  The incessant ‘twiddling’ on the spare boob! Drove me to distraction!

Christi:  The unintentional boob flashes.

Rianne:  Being able to really tell you that they want to nurse. the way they really examine the breast before they nurse.  also not worrying when LO is sick, and not really eating. As long as she nurses, I don’t have to worry at all.

Laura:  I really liked how he knew what he wanted, and would stop everything at the end of his busy day to snuggle down and nurse. I hated how he would cry for “boobie” whenever he was told No or given a time out for something.

Jessica:  I loved that I could fix any owie or any tantrum with a boob.

Kiel:  This morning my 16 month old decided that it would be most comfortable to nurse while laying upside down…belly on my face. Then she proceeded to kick me in the head for a few minutes. That is about as bad as it gets….not so fun, but funny and totally worth it! She looked like she was trying to somersault at one point 🙂

Jennifer:  The 30 second sessions all day because he can’t concentrate on any one thing longer than that! Lol favorite thing, when he looks at me and smiles while he’s nursing.

Claire:  My son used to climb onto the lap and then want to feed standing with his bum stuck up in the air!

Jessica:  My 21-month daughter can do a 360 without unlatching.

Rachel:  Fun: nursing can fix any problem. Not-so-fun: toddler wants to nurse to fix every problem. 🙂
Fun: feeling close to my busy, active toddler. Not-so-fun: feeling overwhelmed by my demanding, needy toddler.
Fun: surprising myself by still breastfeeding at almost 22 months. Not-so-fun: the feeling in my gut when I think about her weaning.
I never planned to nurse this long, but I wouldn’t change it for the world now!

Christy:  DS (17m) often brings toys with him to nurse. It’s fun for me to see what he thinks is that important that he needs it to nurse.

Kim:  Fun: Instant cure-all. Not so fun: Toddler nursing acrobatics. Toes don’t belong in my eye!

Kimberly:  The only cuddle time my on the go kid would give me.

Shalan:  Fun: How he shows that he wants his milk (waves arms and also does a variation of the sign for milk). Not so fun: The acrobatics!!!

Monica:  I wish my son (19 mos.) was one that only had 3-4 times per day that he nurses. Instead, he seems to be pulling at me ALL DAY, sometimes while screaming “Nuss! Nuss!” as he lifts my shirt wherever we are. But I do love how he will be earnestly nursing and pull off to say one or two words, only to go right back to nursing with a crooked smile. It is like he just has to tell me what he is thinking before he forgets!

Alexis: I love that he can respond when I ask “Do you want milk?” (he isn’t able to sign/ask for it yet), and I actually really find the 30 second sessions sweet, I love that he can latch himself on without my help these days, but the accidental boob flashes are maddening.

Lauren:  It’s really great to be able to have breastmilk in her when she goes through any fussy eating stage. I always know no matter how much or how little she is eating that her diet is well-balanced.

Anneke:  plenty boobnastics in here lol!

Amy:  Not so fun…the unsolicited comments from EVERYBODY about whole milk and “are you STILL nursing!?! Yeah…what does it LOOK like I’m doing!?

Carrie:  The best- it knocks her right out at the end of a long, napless day. It gets her back to sleep with little effort from me when she wakes through the night. It resets those toddler tantrums like nothing else will. It calms us both. 27 months.

Jade:  Baby pilates!

Amy:  Breastfeeding gymnastics is not cute, and that’s coming from a gymnastics coach!

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What about you?  What do you love/hate about breastfeeding a toddler?