Tag Archives: Breastfeeding

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Monday Musings: On extended breastfeeding

Recently I was asked, “What would you have said if someone had told you  that you would be nursing well beyond the first birthday when you had started your breastfeeding journey?”

My answer:
I would have told them they were on the crazy train…that I was never going to nurse beyond the first birthday. My plan was to meet the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation of exclusively breastfeeding for six months, and then breastfeed our child until their first birthday.  It was going to be one and done in all senses of the phrase: one child for one year, and then I was going to be going back into my career and dancing.

God had other plans for me…he must have laughed as he was growing me.

As it turns out, as Puma was approaching her first birthday, I told Daddy Bruss that I didn’t think we were close to being done with breastfeeding.  She still felt so small, and nursing a soon-to-be toddler wasn’t weird, as I had imagined it might be.

She went on to nurse for 22 months all together. There was a time when I got pregnant  when she was 18 months old.  At that point she started to decline breastfeeding. When I miscarried, she was back to the breast as she had been before the pregnancy.

She weaned herself at 22 months…about two weeks after she weaned, she asked to nurse again.  We tried, but it seemed the milk was all gone.

We went on get pregnant again (how could I say no to my amazing husband who has provided me my dream life?!!), and we welcomed Night Owl to the family.  He got to nurse for about 18 months.  When I got pregnant with Charger sooner than we had planned on being pregnant again, I started having contractions when I was nursing. Out of fear of miscarrying again, we made the choice to do an “emergency wean” and over the course of a week that breastfeeding journey came to an end.

Charger had different plans when I got pregnant with Otter, as we expected, around the time he was 18 months old.  I tried to wean him, because I was having contractions again every time I nursed.  He flat out refused.  I sought help from our IBCLC, Debbie Gillespie, and my La Leche leaders…they had lots of suggestions, none of which worked for us.  I decided to go with prayer and lots of self-talk.  For whatever reason, he was not ready to stop breastfeeding, I knew of other moms who had breastfed through pregnancy so I knew it was possible. I told my body every time I nursed that the oxytocin that was being created was just for milk and not for labor.

Eventually the contractions subsided.  I watched Charger’s bowel movements turn back to baby poops as my colostrum came in the last month of Otter’s pregnancy. He even told me the milk tasted saltier than usual. But he was not ready to stop nursing.  By the end of the pregnancy I could only nurse him for a few minutes at a time, once in the morning, once in the evening, and it always had to be in side-lying position.

We welcomed Otter to the family when Charger was two years and two months old.  He was thrilled to have creamy milk again – he LOVED it. It totally helped to have a nursling with a good appetite and more stomach capacity to ease engorgement. We set some guidelines down – Otter first, him second. We started offering other alternatives to comforting instead of going back to nursing now that he was enjoying milk again.

His third birthday came and went…still nursing.  When Otter went on an 11-day nursing strike around her first birthday (he was 3.5 then), I was so grateful to have a nursling to keep my body informed that I still needed milk.  As the two nurslings got older, they had fun with nursing.  Every once in a while they would nurse together.  They definitely had ideas about which “side” was theirs and got upset if the other would start nursing on their side first. Mostly, they enjoyed the camaraderie of having something in common, and would call out to each other when it was the other’s turn with mommy.

Charger went on to nurse through his fifth birthday.  Around that time, we did wean him. I really felt that at five years old, he could give it up.

To this day, he still tells me at least three times a week that he wishes he was still nursing.  When I ask him why, he says because the milk was warm.

Otter is turning five years old in October. I don’t know what we are going to do when we hit her fifth birthday. Since weaning Charger, I have learned that mammals nurse their young until they lose their milk teeth.  In the case of humans, that is the loss of what we call “baby teeth”.  Which does mean that all our children weaned too soon – and that we do as a country. None of our children had lost a tooth before they weaned. I really don’t know of anyone except our first Bradley Method teacher who was nursing a seven-year-old when we met her.

For anyone who is reading about extended breastfeeding for the first time, let me assure you that it is not the same as nursing a newborn, or even a toddler.  She only nurses in the morning or in the evening.  Sometimes once a day, sometimes twice a day, sometimes not at all.  Nursing is still her safe place, our place of connection.  Every once in a while, when she is inconsolably upset, she will ask to nurse and we will connect during the course of the day.  I can’t express milk anymore, but I see it and hear it as she nurses.

I can only go back to what I know. Breastfeeding is a dance between the mother and the nursling.  The lead and the follow changes, and as long as both partners are willing, the dance can continue.  Charger definitely has memory about breastfeeding, so I know Otter will, too.  I want those memories to be peaceful for her, not ones of regret. So we will continue, dancing as long as it works for both of us.  I try to treasure each nursing session, never knowing which is going to be our last.

That day is coming, and my season as a breastfeeding mother will come to an end.  I hold on to the promise that a new season awaits, one in which my accumulated knowledge will still be able to serve and encourage other breastfeeding families although I am not an active participant any more.

 

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fear of missing out.

I am so pleased to welcome back Cassandra as a guest blogger today. I so treasure her introspection into her own motherhood journey. Her thoughtful approach and consideration continues to inspire me in my own motherhood. Thank you so much for contributing today, C.O. <3, K.B.

I have major FOMO (fear of missing out) within my current role as stay at home parent and full time care taker of my young children.

I will preface this post with the fact that everyone’s family dynamics are very different and my situation is fairly intense right now. My 15 month old daugher was exclusively breastfeeding until very recently when she began eating solids. She currently can only eat a handful of foods and I can only leave her for ~1.5 hours (possibly 2) at a time, and really only with my husband/her dad at this point.  She only sleeps 45 minute stretches at night (but has had a couple 2 hour stretches recently though so… hope!) and it is pretty much all me, all of the time. We do not live near family or close friends and my 4 year old son does not attend any kind of school, he is also solely cared for by me during my husband’s fairly long working hours and then by both of us when my husband is home.

This FOMO could be attributed to starting my motherhood journey young, I was 22 when I became pregnant with my son, but there was a lot packed into those years prior to that. I got married, graduated college, got a job, bought a house, traveled to Europe 3 times, yet my heart is constantly aching for all of the things I feel like I am missing out on. While I am in bed nursing, on the couch nursing, walking around my neighborhood for the 3rd time that day, cleaning up the same mess every night, washing the exact same loads of laundry over and over and catching glimpses of myself in the mirror (after I have cleaned and groomed and fashionably dressed my children) only to be caught off guard that I may in fact seriously start being mistaken as a homeless person – I think about all of the fun “out there” that is being had and start getting seriously worried about parts of myself that may never actually exist again.

 

Yes the internet is a glossy place where everything looks better than it really is and yes I am immensely grateful for every single second I have with the healthy, tiny humans that have literally come into existence & remained alive from the cells and blood within my body but LOOK AT ALL THE FUN THINGS ALL OF THESE OTHER PEOPLE ARE DOING.

Maybe I should go back to work so I don’t feel like I am missing out on a career?

Maybe I should move closer to family so I don’t feel like I am missing out on helping hands?

Maybe I should never talk to any adults that do not have children so I don’t feel like I am missing out on what it would be like to not have the incredible weight of responsibility that is a helpless human’s life?

But really I don’t want to do any of those things. And I know children grow and they won’t be entirely helpless forever. These are some of the hardest years and everything is always changing. My daughter won’t be nursing on demand forever (although it very well could be a really, really long time). I know my husband and I will spend time together, alone, again at some point, but there are still some things that are just not going to happen, for me, for us. They just aren’t.

After years of this burden I have been carrying around of all. the. things. I can’t do right now and might not get to do and want to be doing coupled with the, at times, overwhelming fear of never being an autonomous being again, I recently had a very inspiring moment of clarity.

It is all a season. 

My season to accomplish outside of the home, to travel, to spend more time on self care than will ever be necessary, to reconnect with my passions, will come. But it is not about waiting, no not at all. It is about experiencing the current season for all it has to offer.

Recently on Bunmi Laditan’s Facebook page  (who will never fail to make you actually LOL & possibly wake the children) she mentioned in a post something along the lines of a friend with one very easy going child who thinks he understands how to influence’s children’s behavior positvely and offers advice ya da ya da and how it doesn’t bother her and she doesn’t say anything  because “life will be his teacher.”

This could not be more true of my experience the last five years since becoming pregnant. I now do not believe that I know much of anything, I am not in control and I actually am simply here to learn and grow as much as I can. My children are here to teach me. This season is here to teach me, to stretch me, lengthen me, make me uncomfortable and make me better.

So instead of living in fear of all of the things I may not ever get to do I am adjusting my focus to LEARN ALL THE THINGS. But seriously, to focus on growing myself – can I have more patience today than I had yesterday? Can I take a couple of moments on this walk to completely clear my mind? Can I enjoy myself right now even though I feel uncomfortable with the state of my kitchen or I don’t actually like this game my son wants to play? This is what my season has to offer and I want to get as much out of it as I can!

 

I should also probably delete Instagram, Facebook, Bloglovin’ & the like off of my phone and block all of my childless friends from texting me too 😉 What season of life are you in? What does it have to offer??

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All My Reasons

I wrote about how extended breastfeeding looks in our family last week (HERE).  As I wrote today’s post for SPB, it occured to me that I have so many reasons why this choice has worked for us that I have never written down.  I will share five that I can think of right now.

Why do I breastfeed children long after they can ask for milk??

P.S. that is a common reason why people say they are disgusted by extended breastfeeding, “Once they can ask for it, it’s over.”  FACT CHECK: Did you stop giving your child other liquids or solids once they started speaking??? A: NO! Nobody in their right mind leaves a small child alone in the kitchen to fend for themselves simply because they can make requests. Just because your child can ask for milk does not singly disqualify them from being breastfed ever again.

It keeps us connected.
Toddlers are a force of nature to be reckoned with.  Constantly moving, constantly building new skills, and testing the limits of what they can do (or break!).  These little balls of energy can be a challenge to keep up with as they learn about the world around them and their place in it.  Breastfeeding has provided the opportunity to look them in the eye and share a moment of stillness in an otherwise crazy day.

It provides more good stuff as they age.
The older the child, the more antibodies and DHA are found in the milk.  So, as your child grows in exploration, the mother’s body naturally increases protection against all the things the child is touching and putting in their mouth.  In addition, the DHA brain-building component increases as your child’s age increases.  It continues to increase throughout the breastfeeding relationship to keep up with brain growth, which has a one-year growth spurt.  If biological breastfeeding is followed through until a child loses their milk teeth (aka baby teeth), they will receive the benefits of DHA through all the years of brain growth, which plateau between 5-7 years of age.  (True statements!! I will add some references to this section tonight when I don’t have our homeschool day looming ahead of us!)

It protects me.
The longer a woman breastfeeds, the less likely she is to develop breast cancer.  This one is huge for me since two of my aunts are breast cancer survivors.

Find the study HERE

About the study from an American Cancer Society article examining the claim that breastfeeding lowers cancer risk.  Overall, the article says that more research is needed, but I liked their concise summary of the study.:
“For every 12 months of breastfeeding (either with only 1 child, or as the total period of time for several children), the risk of breast cancer decreased by 4.3%, compared to women who did not breastfeed. Risk decreased by 3.4% for each child breastfed, compared to women who did not breastfeed.  This lower risk did not differ by women’s age, race, numbers of births, age at birth of first child, family history, or country of residence.”

Even though the American Cancer Society says that more study is needed, the fact that several studies have shown some decrease in risk is enough for me to err on the side of caution and keep breastfeeding as long as the Sweet Peas are willing to keep on nursing.

It makes me sit still.
Between homeschooling, projects, and a list to work through every day, I am my own tornado moving through the house.  Breastfeeding makes me sit down, breathe, and take a deep breath.  It forces me to respond to my Sweet Pea instead of doing “one more thing”.  Once the days of babywearing are over*, sit-breaks to breastfeed provide think-time in an otherwise busy day.  I usually practice a little meditation to settle down and be present with my Sweet Pea.

It helps me forgive them.
The constant testing, NO responses, testing.  It can be so frustrating when all you want to do is get from Point A to Point B in a straight line, and they insist on taking every detour and side-trip along the way.  The biological hormone loop that happens with breastfeeding not only makes more milk, it makes us fall in love with them a little bit more every time we put them to the breast.

There are days when this response has been the only thing to keep me sane.  I am eternally grateful that we have had this biological mechanism in play during Otter’s Reign of Toddler.  No matter how crazy the day has been, they end with me cradling her in my arms as she nurses to sleep and turns back into a sleeping angel on earth.  And me squeezing her a little tighter, and maybe shedding a tear or two as I thank God that we have survived another day.

It brings them back from the brink.
Speaking of testing boundaries and going over the edge, having the option to offer nursing when all else has failed to solve a problem has been a great boon.  Crying? Tantrums? Disappointment? Frustration?  Mommy can fix that with one cradle into the breast and a little warm milk can solve a myriad of toddler acting-out scenarios.  Is it forever? Absolutely not…yet while it works, it feels like a miracle.  LIttle by little, they start to say, “No!” and honoring that helps us to help them learn more coping mechanisms when they are ready to learn them.

So there are five of my “whys” – hopefully this will help you with words to say to the people in your life who are questioning your choice to breastfeed beyond six months or the first birthday.  Breastfeed on your terms – you will not regret doing what your instincts are telling you are best for you and baby.

*Going back to work with Puma made me an expert in breastfeeding in a carrier.  Hence, hands-free breastfeeding *and* getting things done.  I usually wind down daily use of carriers or slings on a regular basis after the second birthday simply because our children get too heavy to wear all the time.  I know plenty of families that babywear well beyond this age; just like breastfeeding, it’s a personal choice dependent on what works for the family.

 

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Breastfeeding a Toddler

I posted a little bit about our choice to let our children self-wean over on our SPB blog since it’s Breastfeeding Awareness Month in the USA.  Based on one of the comments that post received on FB, I am going to write more about the “hows” of breastfeeding an older child here today.

As of today, Otter is about two months shy of her fourth birthday, and continues to show interest in nursing.  I plan to continue until she self-weans.

1.) How it works for us.
I am not breastfeeding a toddler or a preschooler as often as I did a newborn.  I want you to know that the analogy of “a dance between two people” is applicable.  Unlike ballroom dancing, in our relationship there is no set leader or follower.  Sometimes I set the boundaries, sometimes my Sweet Pea says no or demands, “now!”…all are acceptable in our breastfeeding relationship.  I encourage you to find what works for you.

It became clear to me that Otter was using breastfeeding as a way to control access to Mommy.  If she didn’t want anyone else to have my attention, then she would demand to breastfeed and would make it impossible to do anything else.  That is when we started to set some boundaries and expectations, and pretty much stick to them.

The boundaries in our relationship: I told her she was always welcome to nurse first thing in the morning, or before bedtime at night.  If she wanted to nurse during the day, she would have to wait until I could lay down with her in bed, or until we could sit in our nursing chair.  If her teeth get involved, it’s an immediate cessation of that nursing session (this does not happen more than once or twice a year).  I also told her that nursing is primarily done at home.  When we are out in public, I ask her to wait.  Occasionally, there are exception: the times that I know she is super-tired or overstimulated and nursing really *is the answer*, we will nurse.

2.) Why my husband supports it, even with a male child.
My husband became an advocate of breastfeeding as we took our first Bradley class in 2004.  I will let him share why he has, and continues to support extended breastfeeding.

Extended Brestfeeding: A father’s viewpoint. By Bruss Bowman

Krystyna and I are parents to 4 wonderful, healthy and happy children.  We committed to together to have the best, healthy pregnancies and labors for all our children.  We took Bradley method birth classes for our first two children and then became certified to teach Bradley and have helped well over a hundred couples on their own personal birth/parenting journeys.  That philosophy of healthy pregnancy/labor/parenting extends into breast feeding of our children, the health benefits of which are well documented and I support whole-heartedly for all our children and extending to those families that we have helped through Bradley as well.
I was posed the question of father’s support for extended breast feeding, that is (in my opinion) a breast feeding relationship that extends beyond 2-3 years.  It is an interesting question for me, given my support for the healthy, natural path of pregnancy, labor and breast feeding; yet a big part of me is unquestionably old school…I wasn’t dragged kicking and screaming to my first Bradley class, I went with a desire to support Krystyna to best of my ability whatever that path might be, but I certainly had a level of skepticism.  Yet my skepticism has fallen away through the years as I have learned and experienced, first hand and through our students, the undeniable benefits of the things we teach and live everyday.
So back to extended breast feeding, this was yet another challenge to my old school dogmatic thinking and I was not 100% comfortable with our family doing this.  But like so many things that came before,  through some introspection and prayer I did become comfortable with this extension, not so much of breast feeding itself but of Krystyna and my commitment to healthy, happy children and being the best parents we can be.
I will tell you that the single thing that made the difference in my decision to support extended breast feeding was the trust that I have in Krystyna as a great Mom who *always* does what she believes in her heart to be the very best things for our children.  Given that trust, her strong desire to extend her breast feeding relationship with our last two children is reason enough for me to support her parenting choices as I have done since we walked through the door of our first Bradley class.
Everyone’s parenting journey is unique to them, so ultimately you must do what is right for you as partners and parents.  Dads, if you are faced with similar circumstances, it is important to communicate and to remember the big picture of health and happiness for you and family.

 

3.) Extended breastfeeding in our family.
All of our children have been breastfed past their first birthday.  They nursed 22 months, 18 months, five years, and 3 years&counting, respectively.  The more I learned, the more committed I was to continuing the breastfeeding relationship until the child self-weaned.

Puma self-weaned, Night Owl was an emergency wean since I was pregnant with Charger and I was having a lot of contractions when I nursed.  I learned more for the next pregnancy, so I was able to nurse Charger through Otter’s pregnancy – and wow, was he excited when the rich, creamy, newborn milk came in!  You can read about that experience over at the Nursing Nurture webpage, where I shared about our breastfeeding journey. (Part 1: Breastfeeding Through Pregnancy, Part 2: Tandem Nursing)

I weaned Charger a little after his fifth birthday.  If I had heard Dr. Nils Bergman speak about the evolutionary biology of breastfeeding sooner, I would have let him nurse until he started losing his milk teeth, aka baby teeth.  Having learned that all other mammals nurse until the milk teeth fall out, I will be letting Otter nurse until she starts losing her baby teeth, or until she decides that she is finished nursing, whichever comes first.

4.) Tandem Nursing
With the help of my IBCLC and my La Leche League group leaders, I felt ready to tandem nurse.  I set the expectations of what was going to happen well before Otter was born, and I kept reassuring our then toddler that I was still going to be his mommy, and he was going to be able to get milk when we felt he needed it.

Expectations:
The baby was the baby, and she was going to nurse first when she was hungry and he wanted to nurse at the same time.  Since he was a big boy, I encouraged him that he could eat lots of neat things with his teeth; not the baby, she’s too little.  No fun for her. I also had a stack of books next to the bed that we could read together while he waited patiently.

As soon as the baby was finished nursing, he would be invited to nurse.  Or if the baby was napping, of course I would be available to him.  Little by little, that time turned into snuggle time.  By the time he was three, he was only nursing in the morning, for naps, and at bedtime.

Every once in a while, I would nurse them together. I didn’t really care for it at the time, so I didn’t do it very often.  Later as I realized our time as a tandem was ending, I regretted it.  There are so many lovely stories about children’s bonds who are nursed at the breast together.

The two of them did enjoy taking turns.  Sometimes they got possessive about which “side” was theirs, however, most of the time, it was a comedy.  One would finish and call out to the other, “Hey – it’s your turn!!” And a conversation would ensue between them about turns, sides, and which breast had more milk that day.

5.) Other places I have written about extended breastfeeding if you are interested:

Our Journey Into Tandem Nursing May 2012 intro about our chosen path

Still Tandem Nursing August 2012 update

Tandem Nursing – Extended  July 2013 update

My Take on Toddler Nursing – Today August 2013 photojournal of “gymnurstics”…thank goodness that was only a phase!

Nursing By Example: The power of peer-to-peer support

Nursing a Toddler: Benefits, and why it’s good to follow your instincts and your children’s cues

Extended Breastfeeding: the science behind why it’s beneficial

Breastfeeding & Tandem Nursing: Encouraging parents to follow the right path for their family

Now that I know people are looking for more info, I will be adding more links to the breastfeeding resource page about tandem nursing, how to deal with biting and nursing strikes, and other topics related to nursing older children.

In the meantime, I hope this gives you a clearer picture about what breastfeeding older children looks like.  It isn’t common, however, it would be nice if it was normal.

 

 

Sibling Preparation: During Pregnancy

Krystyna has wrote various pieces on preparing siblings for the arrival of a newborn brother or sister and even specifically preparing them for a home birth of that sibling over on Sweet Pea Births blog, but today I am going to share what exactly we did with our 2.5 year old son during pregnancy and birth in anticipation of his sister’s arrival.

We talked about the pregnancy, baby, breastfeeding, what he could expect, etc. every day in all different contexts and situations, it was a regular topic of conversation and everything was always positive. In addition to that ongoing dialouge the following was all extremely helpful in easing the transition.

1.  Big Brother Books.

We picked up all sorts of different books: I’m Going to be a Big Brother , Daniel Tiger’s The Baby is Here and Big Brother, Babies Can’t Eat Kimchee and were gifted Berenstains Bears’ New Baby and The New Baby. We read them throughout the pregnancy and he still likes reading them today (3 months post birth).

2. Watching Birth Videos.

We were planning a home birth so towards the end of the pregnancy we watched home birth videos online quite often. I searched for ones with siblings present and we talked about how this is what it would be like when baby sister arrived. We talked specifically about what labor was like and how she would come out and join us.

3. Breastfeeding: Remind, Remind & Remind Again.

We were in the process of weaning when I found out I was pregnant. My son was completely weaned very early in the pregnancy but still was interested in and asked about “milk” ALOT. I knew that breastfeeding might be a point of frustration / anger / sadness for him when the baby arrived so we talked about it early and often. We talked about how babies have mama’s milk when they arrive (and watched newborns nurse in the above mentioned birth videos), we watched animals nursing online, we talked about how little babies need mamas milk but he is big and has things like yogurt and ice cream that babies can’t have. I asked him over and over again what the baby was going to do when she got here so he could respond with “mama milk!” and over and over and over just kept the conversation going and always kept it very upbeat.

4. Big Brother, Little Sister Gift.

We talked a lot about how when little sister got here she would bring a gift for him (my parents and grandparents so generously purchased him an iPad mini! We wanted it to be something notable) and we took him around my due date to a local children’s store and let him pick out a gift for her. He picked out a little plush giraffe and a couple hours after the birth he started asking about his gift and was extremely excited to give baby her gift too! This really worked like a charm for us and definitely promoted his interest in her when she arrived I believe.

5. Recognizing & Pointing out Siblings.

As soon as we started talking about a baby joining our family we started emphasizing siblings wherever we went. We talked ALOT about his friends that had babies and what it was like for them and how exciting it was that *he* was going to get a baby too, just like them. When we would see babies at the park I would always point them out and say “a baby like your baby sister that is coming”, etc.

These are all extremely simple and were not hard to implement but for our family they really did make an impact. Our son knew exactly what to expect during and after the birth and I could not have been more pleased with the immediate transition. I feel like a large portion of the work actually came *after* she was born in order to preemptively mitigate tension and maintain peace within our day to day though. Stay tuned for those in part two, Sibling Preparation: Post Birth, coming on Thursday!

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What else did you do to prepare your older children during pregnancy? We would love to hear in the comments, cheers to siblings without rivalry!

Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival: helping others reach their breastfeeding goals

breastfeedingcafecarnivalWelcome to The Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival!

This post was written as part of the Breastfeeding Cafe’s Carnival. For more info on the Breastfeeding Cafe, go to www.breastfeedingcafe.wordpress.com. For more info on the Carnival or if you want to participate, contact Claire at clindstrom2 {at} gmail {dot} com. Today’s post is about how you have helped another mom reach her breastfeeding goals. Please read the other blogs in today’s carnival listed below and check back for more posts July 18th-31st!

When you are submersed in the natural birth and natural/gentle parenting community it seems like breastfeeding is everywhere. Pictures, stories, advice and an abundant amount of information surrounding the benefits, etc. etc. etc. But outside of this small (or even large) part of your life there are still all of the other parts, your family, your high school friends and their families, your employees/employers/coworkers to which more times than not formula is the norm. Once you emerge from your baby moon and are back to more of your “normal” activities you may suddenly find yourself feeling super awkward when you have to feed the baby despite your rockstar breastfeeding-in-public confidence you gained in your other circle of natural mama friends during pregnancy and immediately post baby.

I was definitely surprised at how weird some people in my life acted about me nursing, how some  would go on and on about how weird or gross or whatever it was and how it would make others just clam up and not want to talk/look/or hang out with me and baby. I told myself that I would just act completely normal always, no matter what. I wouldn’t get weird, I wouldn’t change my behavior, I would go with what I was comfortable with and I would engage in all conversation positively, truthfully and most of all, sincerely.

I think this is one of the biggest keys in helping other moms. I would always bring my baby when meeting with my friends, mamas and non mamas alike and he would always need to nurse at some point. I would never comment on their choices to formula feed or ever bring up why I chose to breastfeed unless someone asked. If someone asked me about how everything was going with the babe obviously breastfeeding would come up and I would be honest about our struggles, successes and what parenting is like when you are the sole food source. I really feel that because of this laid back attitude and honesty I connected with other moms that were interested in breastfeeding but it had not worked for them for whatever reason or moms that maybe weren’t ever interested but now had a different take on it. I was always very open about what breastfeeding was like for us, how we did no solids until six months, that we were still nursing at one year, 18 months and 2 years and everything in between.

During this time I became the go-to breastfeeding person for two of my old work friends, one a first time mama and one who gave up very early with her first baby and was now nursing her second baby. Another pregnant friend who hadn’t considered nursing at all before but was interested and after baby latching in the hospital went with it and another high school acquaintance who was going to breastfeed but had never known anyone to nurse past one year. Once they all had decided (on their own) they *wanted* to breastfeed giving them advice and information was super fun and extremely helpful! From supplements to pumping advice to ditching the feeding schedules, I had a great time sharing my experience and research. Breastfeeding comes with a HUGE amount of uncertainty, something you can’t really understand ahead of time so I think sometimes it is nice just to know you are not alone in your thoughts or worries and to know there are always an abundance of options.

I am a huge proponent and supporter of breastfeeding and although not a hugely outspoken advocate unless approached or engaged (and there are obviously many varying positions on the matter). I really feel that because of the stigma of breastfeeding in our culture and the attitude so many people (and women!) have towards it, that a natural, sincere approach is best. By being open and honest and not having an opinion on whether or not people in my life supported, cared about, or wanted to breastfeed their own children I was able to help a few mamas and babies I may not have been able to otherwise!

How do you feel about advocacy? Are there any friends, family members, etc. that you have helped during their breastfeeding journey?

Here are more posts by the Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival participants! Check back because more will be added throughout the day.

Tuesday Tips: A Weaning Story // 26 months

Mine & T’s breastfeeding journey has been very rocky from the start with low lows, some highs, a lot of tears but a ton of joy and gratefulness too. I have wrote about breastfeeding before here and here and over the past 14 months (since my son’s first birthday) my thoughts about nursing, nursing at night, and weaning have been all over the map.

he has been nursing to sleep and cuddling his boobs for literally years now!

he has been nursing to sleep and cuddling his boobs for literally years now!

My son turned two in March, as of January he was nursing all day AND all night, today as I write this (May 15th) he is nursing at nap time only, once to fall asleep and sometimes once more if he wakes prematurely. These past couple months have been *nothing* like I could have ever imagined so I thought I would share our weaning story, for anyone who feels like their toddler will never “self wean”, anyone frustrated with the amount and/or duration of their toddler nursing, anyone who feels like the end will never come, or even those just curious as to what could lie ahead!

In January we tackled night weaning.
We were following T’s cues, many times when he would wake I would go in and cuddle him and he would fall back asleep. I knew he was capable and it would yield much better sleep for both of us. It was rough though. He would usually settle for cuddles until about 1-3AM and then he was INSISTENT on getting milk. I explained over and over not until the sun, but days and weeks, a month passed and he was still asking. We would get out of bed, get water, get snacks, there were some veerrryyyyy long nights in there but we stuck to it, we had taken this step because we were all ready and we were not going back. He still sleeps in our bed, so we were always there with him, cuddling, singing, patting his back, he would often ask me to bounce him on the ball but I wanted to help him sleep on his own, not substitute nursing for bouncing. Often in order to calm down a walk around the house was necessary and then we would climb back in bed for cuddling and maybe a song.

In April T contracted a mild case of Hand, Foot, Mouth Syndrome. He had a fever one afternoon and through the night so he was nursing TONS. We watched movies, slept, and nursed.

the 2,739th viewing of Frozen (;

the 2,739th viewing of Frozen (;

I made an exception and nursed him through the night during his fever and the next night to help him sleep as he was obviously very uncomfortable. I knew it would be hard going back, T is a very all or nothing kind of guy, and although the next couple of nights were difficult, the nights after that were much improved!

Our last nursing session for the night was usually lying down next to each other where T would drift off to sleep while still on the breast, but a few nights in a row he started growing restless, popping on and off, and eventually I would just say no more milk and he would roll over, cuddle into me and fall asleep. I took this as a sign that he was ready to give up nursing to sleep. Not only could he fall asleep without it, but it seemed the limit would actually really help him. From there we started doing bath time, diaper, pajamas, nurse in bed sitting up with the lights on, then read lots of books, have some water and/or snack and then turn white noise on and lights off to cuddle and go to sleep. T picks up on routines a lot more now and his memory never ceases to amaze me. Because we were doing something new I knew it was important to really start being more “routine” and sticking to the same thing night after night in the same order. We have always been kind of all over the place during the evening but it was a very natural shift for all of us to be more disciplined as it seemed beneficial for T and helpful for all of us to avoid melt downs, super extended bed times, frustrations, etc. We are by no means strict or anything, just follow the same flow each night around the same time. This was surprisingly easy, as I said, he was definitely ready. There was hardly any protest and he would normally make it until around 5AM until asking for milk, which is when we would nurse for the first time that new day.

On May 1st T had his 5AM nursing and was incredibly restless afterwards, nursing was not putting him back to sleep and was up, out of bed and ready for the day before 6AM. This was very UN-typical for him as he would usually like to lay around in bed nursing and sleeping on and off until 8:30, sometimes even 9AM! I took it as a great opportunity, I had been wanting to cut down nursing to 5AM, nap time, and before bed for awhile but he was just nursing SO often during the day it seemed like an impossible feat. Something clicked that morning and I just knew I had to try. I wish I had more to add, but really, it just came out of no where that today, was the day.

We don’t do the “big boy” thing in our house and it’s not something I will continue with but for this instance I talked up “big boy milk” in the morning and told him that we were going to go to the coffee shop where he could get some in a cup that was just for big kids. I knew we had to get out of the house, and fast, before he got bored or wanted my attention and asked and then had a tantrum to nurse. This day and the next day were not easy. He would still ask for milk at home (we had stopped nursing in public a long time ago) but I stuck to the 5AM, nap time and bed time only. I would offer almond milk, cow’s milk, to make chocolate/strawberry/banana milk in the blender or make a smoothie. There were tantrums and meltdowns but I tried to stay as busy as possible and keep us out of the house from the morning until nap time and then leave the house after nap for an activity before coming home for dinner. My husband came home at 4PM the first day and took T (as he usually does on Tuesdays & Thursdays) for an activity outside of the house just them two. This was extremely helpful! The next evening we headed out of the house and then played outside for a long while. I had to give T all of my attention, if I became the least bit distracted (by my phone or a conversation) or was trying to do something that didn’t involve him (makeup, laundry, etc) he would ask for milk and it would be a lot harder on both of us.

After two days he was totally fine! He would still ask for milk but I would just say “you have your water over here”, or “want some almond milk?” or just laugh and say “noooo noo milk!” and he would just smile and run off. I honestly was surprised at how easy it was. We have tried to decrease frequency and duration in the past and it was always met with unparalleled perseverance, uncontrollable crying/tantrums and a huge disconnect between us. This time he was obviously ready and it showed, it seemed he just needed the nudge. He would fall or get hurt and cry in my arms and I would offer him water in his straw cup and he would accept, a few days in he had a fall, came to me in tears for a big hug then got down and went and got his water cup himself! Tears gone and he was ready to play more! This was extreme initiation to me, he was so old and independent and practicing amazing self regulation right before my eyes!

The Night Time Nursing

After a few days his night time nursing session was literally 30 seconds long on each side, and seemed like the perfect feeding to cut out next. I tried saying no milk one night and he was pretty upset so I was happy to continue. Two nights later though he wasn’t even asking and late into the routine he asked once and I just said “you already had your milk!” and he didn’t even protest and just like that the nighttime feeding was gone.

The Early Morning Nursing

He seemed to be waking earlier and earlier in the AM wanting milk, 5AM, then 4:45AM, then 4:40AM so although I knew it was going to be rough on us I decided to nix this one ASAP. We went to bed each night armed with almond milk + a little maple syrup in a straw cup, water, a banana and a cheese stick next to the bed. Whenever he would wake, middle of the night, early morning, I would first rub his back and cuddle, if that didn’t console him then I would offer water or almond milk then offer snacks.

The mornings are still rough and he is upset because he doesn’t actually want to be awake that early but can’t put himself back to sleep, but he doesn’t insist on milk and totally “gets” that it is not an option and the choices that he does have. We have naturally transitioned into continuing to lay in bed that early but reading his favorite stories. After a couple of weeks he has even fallen back asleep after the dreaded 5:30/6AM waking until 7AM a few times!

Nap time Nursing 

So that just leaves us with the last nursing time of the day, nap time. I am not ready to give up his naps. Although he *could* go a day without napping, he can’t go several days in a row without a nap considering his early rising times now. He also has never fallen asleep in bed for nap without nursing. I use naps to work, nap myself, or just take some time in the middle of the day to recharge, as I often feel like I am running on crazy. Some friends that have weaned rely on a car ride around 1 or 2PM to put their little one to sleep but since we car share with my husband this isn’t an option for us. He has fallen asleep in the stroller before but usually not until 3PM when he is just wiped out, which is really late for a nap and doesn’t really help me if I am out and about pushing the stroller. I am not really sure what we are going to do about this last feeding…. I am not in a complete hurry to end it but also don’t want us to get to a point where he is absolutely unable to nap without nursing and naps go out the window entirely when nursing does. I feel like we may have a small window of time where it could still be possible?

I know this has been all over the place but I just wanted to get our entire story and process out in one place! This transition really has been everything I could have hoped for, easy, pleasant, and seriously feels liberating for everyone! T has such an easier time sleeping now, if he falls asleep in the car he can be transferred to bed (that has never! happened without nursing before), he has a more reasonable bed time and naturally evolved schedule that works well for us and he doesn’t have the super cranky episodes for times in which I am unable to provide nursing. We read more books and cuddle more and I don’t feel a bit of sadness or regret or any negative emotions at all for that matter, only positive! I am so very grateful and thankful to have nursed him this long, through fevers and diarrhea, through bumps and bruises and countless bedtimes and nap times and uncomfortable situations and so glad that our weaning has been so smooth. It hasn’t been without effort, all of the above was definitely a lot of work. Early wakings, more attention required then just laying down with a boob out, gentle reminders, boundaries, more time out of the house, but it has yielded nothing but great results for both of us. I think when it works, it works, it really is akin to the stars aligning.

what may have been one of the last chest naps! These were always preceded by nursing to sleep!

what may have been one of the last chest naps! These were always preceded by nursing to sleep!

What is your experience with weaning/wanting to wean/child led weaning? Does anyone have a similar situation to the nap time nursing? I would love to hear anything and everything!

 

 

 

Baby Turns One: You Are Now Breastfeeding a Toddler

IMG_5949 By Cassandra Okamoto, Blog Contributor

It does not feel like I have a toddler. While my son is not actually toddling around quite yet, his first birthday has come & gone and left us staring the unchartered waters of toddlerhood in the face. We both don’t quite know what to expect.

We did pass that first birthday mark without a consideration of weaning from the breast though, which I almost always forget is “unconventional”. Like I said, he still very much seems like a baby in many senses and babies want mama’s milk, same as toddlers do to it seems :)

Our choice to continue nursing past the one-year mark involves many factors, below are three of the bigger ones:

1) We have not received any vaccines *yet* and I am most comfortable with this path as long as we are still nursing and do so until at least 2 years of age. This is also the recommendation from Dr. Sears if you are choosing not to vaccinate. Source: The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child, By Dr. Sears

2) Nutritionally there is still a requirement for “milk” until age 2. The majority of children start receiving cow’s milk at one year, the AAP recommends 16 oz of whole milk until the age of 2. Source Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5 (Copyright © 2009 American Academy of Pediatrics) Logically, if my child still requires milk why would I take him off of my milk and switch him to milk from a cow?

And…

3) It isn’t time. Motherhood has taught me WAY too many things to be honest, but the biggest ones are to trust myself, and go with the flow (no pun intended!). I will know when it is time for both of us. It might not happen at the same time, maybe it will, but right now neither of us are there. We both are in fact ready to night wean though, more on this in a little bit.

So we have decided to continue on in our breastfeeding journey, but feeding a little baby at the breast is NOT the same as feeding a toddler at the breast. Personally, it has been a very hard transition for me. Breastfeeding actually did NOT come easy to us after birth, once my son was finally feeding at the breast we dealt with horrific reactions to proteins from many different foods in my milk and crazy elimination diets for me that lasted until he was 4 ½ months old.

Then it was the snacking. My son has always been a “snacker” at the breast and I was filled with constant worry and anxiety that he was not getting enough because he never fed longer than a couple of minutes, if that. Then it was distracted nursing, then it was only nursing at night, then it was the other nipple twiddling that would NOT STOP, and then we went through this period where he would lay calmly and take his time and nursing was oh my gosh BLISSFUL!

It was what everyone had been talking about this whole time and I felt relaxed and full of love, and then, it ended. And we entered into toddler breastfeeding, which although may not be the hardest of them all is definitely very difficult, especially when it seems more of a longer-term reality as opposed to “just a phase” like the other frustrations I mentioned. After a little bit of research, some trial and error, talking with other mamas, and attending a La Leche League meeting I put together some things that I think will make breastfeeding a toddler a little easier.

Boundaries: Discipline has such a negative connotation, especially when gentle parenting is involved. But I have learned that productive, respectful boundaries and discipline are really going to be essential for us. My doula says that “nursing a tiny baby on demand is entirely different than nursing a demanding toddler” and it is something I find myself repeating daily!

My son pulls down my shirt whenever/wherever, throws himself backwards or kicks when he wants milk NOW, will point and cry whenever I am changing clothes, throws huge fits because he wants to go back and forth nursing off of each breast (I still don’t know why this is?) and all of these things have put a huge strain on our nursing relationship. It makes me resentful, frustrated, consider weaning completely, and overall just feel very out of control. After I recognized it was time for us to set boundaries I turned again to Dr. Sears and ordered The Discipline Book: How to Have a Better-Behaved Child From Birth to Age Ten. I have not started reading it yet and am not sure exactly how I am going to go about setting boundaries as it relates to nursing but I know for us there will be no more “self serving”, or hitting and kicking mama for milk, nursing during meal times while simultaneously wanting to eat solid food, and no more pacifying at the breast throughout the entire night. I mentioned it earlier, and it is my next main point…

Night Weaning: I am not suggesting that as soon as your baby turns one he/she needs to be night weaned, not at all. Here are some other reasons why a mom might wean: mom is pregnant, Mom wants to increase fertility & become pregnant, Mom goes back to work outside the home and needs more sleep, etc.

In addition to the strains on our nursing relationship I mentioned above, my son wakes every 45 to 60 minutes throughout the entire night to nurse. He spends a lot of his time “sleeping” while still sucking at the breast and no matter how deep of a sleep I think he may be in, protests whenever I try to unlatch him. Teething has made this even worse and because he is half (or more) asleep while using his breast pacifier his latch becomes shallow and he bites with his top teeth so the nipple won’t sneak out, I am often half sleeping too and it will often go on for hours. This has caused a huge injury to my left nipple that is taking weeks to heal and is making all feedings very painful! Recently I have gone through long periods where I “hate” nursing and when I stop to really think about it and consider what not nursing my son at all anymore looks like I realize it isn’t nursing that I dislike, it is nursing all throughout the night.

I have considered night weaning in the past because of just plain sleep deprivation but it never felt right, after a year I had a complete shift in my heart. I just felt it was time. My son needs his own space, he has made that very clear to me and he also needs more sleep. Nursing throughout the night is just as distracting to him as it is comforting.  More and more, he is waking up cranky in the mornings. It took me awhile to come to peace with this transition, but a nursing relationship is just that – a relationship involving two parties, both of which need to be happy in order for the relationship to continue harmoniously. Not only will night weaning hopefully afford me more sleep and subsequently more energy and patience but it will bring more peace into our nursing relationship that will allow it to continue much longer.

Nursing Space: Having a single dedicated place to nurse is not that practical with an active toddler that is probably breastfeeding at home, in the car, in public, in bed, etc. but I have found for us that going into a more quiet, dimly lit room with less distractions does help. I plan on creating a little “nursing corner” in my son’s room, where we sit down, get comfortable, relax and always nurse in while at home.  When we are out and about if it is possible I will go into another less crowded or empty room, if that isn’t an option I like snuggling into the back seat of the car before we arrive or before we leave. My hope is that having to stop whatever activity my son is currently engaged with and leave it behind to go nurse will possibly change to having more nursing “sessions” than drive-by-just-a-couple-sips between ball throwing and block building.

 Babywear: My Ergobaby has been my single most used piece of “baby” equipment and I still use it at least once every day. I can unbuckle the back, loosen one shoulder strap and nurse my son comfortably, discreetly, hands free and ultra conveniently.  He nurses his longest stretches while being worn, and being outside and often walking allows for enough simulation that he relaxes in his pack and takes his time feeding. I see our baby wearing/breastfeeding time continuing well into the second year.

I will continue to share about our breastfeeding journey through year two as I put more of these into practice in our daily lives and look forward to hearing about how your breastfeeding relationships change and evolve over time too.

What all have you experienced with an older nursling? Do you have any other tips to continue the breastfeeding relationship successfully into the second year and beyond?

 

Wordless Wednesday: Earth Baby

In honor of Earth Day, here are some fun images from our students and our family images from last summer…cloth diapers, hiking, extended breastfeeding past the first birthday…see how we interpret the phrase “Earth Baby”

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MM toddler nursing

Milestone Monday! I survived NIP…

…with a toddler!  As you can see from the picture…this kiddo is active, and clearly not a “baby”.  I think for the most part as a general public we are more comfortable with babies being nursed in public…toddlers…not so much.

Otter is pushing me much farther out of my comfort zone.  The oldest nursling I had breastfed in public was Charger…and I stopped nursing him in public right around his second birthday as my pregnancy with Otter was progressing.

She is now 29 months old, and this “baby” of ours will not take no for an answer.  She wants her “leche” and she wants it now!  So, I nursed her in front of a whole bunch of folks and horses at the gymkhana we went to yesterday afternoon…and it was no big deal!

Now, while I am working on setting boundaries and we are negotiating this NIP thing, it was a relief to be able to feed her and do so without any comments of negativity from bystanders.

What’s your share for Milestone Monday?