Tag Archives: toddler breastfeeding

Black Breastfeeding Week & Mocha Manual

Until Next Year…

(Image from https://www.facebook.com/MochaManual)

August has been Breastfeeding Awareness Month in the United States for several years now.  It kicks off with World Breastfeeding Awareness Month on August 1-7th.  This year, a group of concerned lactivists proposed a Black Breastfeeding Week to close out the month.  It has been met with unexpected and vehement opposition.

I would expect anyone who reads about pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding to understand why this is necessary.  Our black citizens have more incidence of lower birth weight and prematurity than other ethnic groups.  The black community has higher prenatal and maternal mortality rates than any other segment of the population.  And, they have lower rates of breastfeeding than any other ethnic groups.  This is not race mongering.  These are cold, hard and pathetic statistics in a day and age when we are supposedly “enlightened”.

We can all agree that breastfeeding offers the best start in life.  Our human milk is made just for our human babies, and it evolves to meet their needs as they grow into toddlerhood.  If there is a group that needs to hear this message loud and clear, then absolutely, dedicate a week out of the month to raise awareness.  End of story.  Start of advocacy.

Instead of arguing whether or not this is necessary, jump in and ask, how can we help?  I don’t care what race, color, creed or orientation, if you say your group needs help with increasing the number of Motherbabys choosing to breastfeed, and then going on to have successful breastfeeding relationships, then help is what they should get.  End of story.  Start of advocacy.

Breastfeeding is not an exclusive club.  The whole point of Breastfeeding Awareness Month is to educate people *everywhere* about the benefits, the struggles, the need for support, and the myriad of options (besides formula) that are available to families who want to feed their babies human milk.  When a group acknowledges that their is a disparity in breastfeeding rates and wants to do something about it, then by all means, give them the time and attention they are asking for.  Breastmilk is free, local and sustainable…what do we lose by ensuring that all mamas have equal access to correct, accurate and inspiring information and support?

We have enjoyed sharing our breastfeeding anecdotes, reflections on our journey as breastfeeding mamas, and pictures of breastfeeding and the lifestyle choices that support breastfeeding with you this month.  Did you see any black MotherBabys?  Me neither.

You can count on this: next year, we will be helping our sisters who want to see all the benefits of breastfeeding to improve outcomes and quality of life for the MotherBabys in the black community.

Now that I am ready to jump off my soapbox, please share with us.  Did you learn anything new this month?  Were you inspired by a mama in your community?  Please let us know – we love reading about your breastfeeding milestones.

Beautiful Breastfeeding

Thoughtful Thursday: On Weaning

What are we going to talk about today?  Weaning!

But it’s Breastfeeding Awareness Month – how does weaning fit?

A couple of ways…BAW is wrapping up, so it’s time to “wean” ourselves off of this topic.  (I couldn’t resist…sorry!!)  Secondly, it fits into Breastfeeding Awareness Month because weaning is part of the breastfeeding journey.  Have you thought about what you are going to give your baby after (s)he is no longer nursing?

Weaning is thought of as the “end” of the breastfeeding relationship.  As stated on the Baby-Led Weaning website, the reality is that the moment we introduce solids, we have started weaning.

How many other mammals continue to drink milk after they are weaned?  Think about that.  We are the only creatures that have figured out how to express milk from a maternal or non-maternal source to continue milk-feeding.  I believe we are the only ones to have found a way for milk to be consumed from something other than directly from a nipple attached to milk ducts.

While this helps make the case for extended breastfeeding (if you want to give them milk, it may as well be your own), it really is something to think about when you consider the age your child stops breastfeeding.  Think about this: milk from other animals is not made to help our human children develop – it’s made to be specific for their species.  Have you ever considered that this may be the reason so many of us are considered “lactose intolerant”?

If weaning happens when your child is under a year of age, you may very well want to supplement with formula.  We do know that scientists are doing the best they can to mimic human milk with that product.  If you are weaning a toddler, you may want to consider just going straight to water and skip alternative milk altogether.

Does your child need to drink milk after they wean?  We are conditioned to believe in the nutritional benefits of milk – how else will they get calcium?!?  I will admit, it’s hard to overcome our indoctrination.  Here is a list of Top 10 Highest-Calcium food sources.  Milk is third on the list.

http://www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/foods-high-in-calcium.php

Do you have time to read one more?  HERE is an article that talks about the benefits of probiotics.  While our family does not buy cow’s milk anymore, we are big consumers of yogurt products.  I read this article and it gave me peace of mind that we are making the right choice in that aspect:

“Babies whose mothers take probiotics while pregnant and those who are given the so-called “good bacteria” supplements early in life may be at lower risk for allergies but not asthma than other kids.”

This is the choice that worked for our family:  We drink water…a lot of it.  We drink it straight, we flavor the water with fruit and herbs overnight, or sometimes we make fruit-based teas.  If we drink juice, it’s homemade.  I juice fruit for the kiddos before I juice for myself in the morning.  I simply cannot justify store-bought juice anymore.  We will only buy Honest-Tea juice for a party – special occasions merit a little fun and which kid doesn’t like a “juice box”?

So anyway, I will close with this thought: Cassandra and I have really enjoyed sharing Breastfeeding Awareness Month with you.  We wish you all continued peace and joy as you and your nursling continue to do the breastfeeding dance.  Lead, follow, and when it’s time to exit the floor, may you do so with wonderful memories and the knowledge that whether it was for three minutes, three days, three months, or three years, you did something amazing.

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Extended Breastfeeding

Your baby is already past their first birthday…and the questions from “well-meaning” family and friends have started…

I needed this reminder today…Otter is almost 23 months old…and still nursing, and still very much wanting to nurse as needed…which means out of the home. I am guessing that I am going to grow again. I took heart from THIS article by Dr. Sears and I hope you will, too.

Quick quote from today’s link:
“Science is on your side. I have read many medical journals with articles proving the long-term health benefits of breastfeeding. The incidence of many illnesses, both childhood and adult, are lowered by breastfeeding  — diabetes, heart disease, and central nervous system degenerative disorders (such as multiple sclerosis) to name a few. The most fascinating studies show that the longer and more frequently a mom nurses her baby, the smarter her child is likely to become. The brain grows more during the first two years of life than any other time, nearly tripling in size from birth to two years of age. It’s clearly a crucial time for brain development, and the intellectual advantage breastfed babies enjoy is attributed to the “smart fats” unique to mom’s breast milk (namely, omega-3 fatty acid, also known as DHA). From head to toe, babies who breastfeed for extended periods of time are healthier overall. They tend to have leaner bodies with less risk of obesity. They also have improved vision, since the eye is similar to the brain in regards to nervous tissue. They have better hearing due to a lower incidence of ear infections. Their dental health is generally good, since the natural sucking action of the breastfed infant helps incoming teeth align properly. Intestinal health is also much better than those of non-breastfed babies, as breast milk is easier to digest, reducing spit-up, reflux, and constipation. A toddler’s immune system functions much better since breastmilk contains an immunoglobulin (IGA) which coats the lining of the intestines, which helps prevent germs from penetrating through. Even the skin of these babies is smoother and more supple.”

Need more reasons to stand firm in your decision to continue breastfeeding past your child’s first birthday?  Read the whole article from Dr. Sears HERE

Breastfeeding Here, There, and Everywhere: Toddler Edition

Today’s Wordless Wednesday is prompted by the theme for the final day of Nursing Freedom and San Diego Breastfeeding Coalition‘s Blog Carnival.  Enjoy these images of breastfeeding mamas around the West Coast, and be sure to check out breastfeeding babies over on our Sweet Pea Births blog.

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Pacific Grove, CA – Washington Park

BLOG WBW13 WW 0807 disney

Anaheim, CA – Disneyland

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Payson, AZ – Big Latch On 2013

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Payson, AZ – Big Latch On 2013

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Payson, AZ – Big Latch On

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Payson, AZ – Big Latch On 2013

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Camp Verde, AZ – Montezuma’s Castle National Monument

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Chandler, AZ – the rare tandem nursing photo snapped by Puma while most of us were sleeping!

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Chandler, AZ

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Anaheim, CA – Disneyland

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Phoenix, AZ – The Farm at South Mountain

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Roseville, CA – Doctor’s Office!

Nursing our sweet child

Tandem Nursing…Extended

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 breastfeeding multiple children. Please read the other blogs in today’s carnival listed below and check back for more posts July 22nd through August 4th!


I got pregnant with our third child much sooner than we expected, and because I was having contractions every time we breastfed, my doctor recommended that I stop breastfeeding.  She told me that my body was responding appropriately to the oxytocin that is produced every time I nursed, and that my body could spontaneously abort the pregnancy if I didn’t stop.

I was heartbroken because of all our children, our second child really needed the benefits of extended breastfeeding.  He has had food allergies since birth, and on top of that, he had an episode of RSV as an infant that left him with symptoms of asthma.  He definitely could have used the extra immunity and nutrition of toddler feeding.  However, since we had already had one miscarriage, I knew I would regret another one.   We weaned within a week of deciding to preserve the pregnancy.

After our third child was born, I began the process to become a childbirth educator.  As part of my training, I had to attend two La Leche League meetings.  At one of the meetings, I met a mom who was in her third trimester and still nursing her toddler.  After the initial shock and heartbreak, I pulled myself together and started asking her questions.  Did she have contractions when she nursed?  Was it uncomfortable?  What had her doctor said?  I learned that nursing through the pregnancy had been possible for her, so that was one sliver of hope that maybe I wouldn’t have to do an emergency weaning if I got pregnant again.

As a childbirth educator, I also got more involved with our local birth community.  Thanks to the different events around birth and breastfeeding, I kept running into a mama who nursed through her pregnancies and was nursing a toddler as well as her infant!  Not just one nursling, but two at a time!!  Wow!  This really opened my eyes to the possibility of nursing past the second birthday.  Here was living proof that tandem nursing was not just for twins.  Tandem nursing could also apply to siblings of different ages.

Empowered by these examples, I was determined to at least try to nurse through a pregnancy.  I was hoping I would get to be a tandem-nursing mama, however a safe pregnancy was first and foremost in my mind.  My original goal was to allow our child and I to determine the end of our breastfeeding relationship together. From the anecdotal stories I had heard about pregnancy and breastfeeding, I figured one of two things would happen.  Either our third child would stop nursing if and when the milk changed flavor after the pregnancy was established, or that he would lose interest once the milk dried up or changed to colostrum.

We got pregnant again when our third was 18 months old.  Just as before, I would start feeling contractions when he nursed.  Instead of worrying this time, I reminded myself that I knew two women who had nursed through pregnancies.  I held onto the idea that if they could do it, so could I.  When I felt contractions as I nursed, I started doing self-talk with my body and our baby.  I would repeat this mantra:  “Everything is okay.  Baby, you are safe.  These contractions are making milk.  Stay safe inside. I love you.” It know it might sound a little crazy, and am in no way suggesting that this will work for everyone.   However, it did work for me. I was grateful the relaxation and the calm frame of mind let me accomplish our goal.

Well, much to my surprise, I neared the end of my pregnancy and I still had a nursling.  Now he was two years old.  I could see that I had colostrum – and I could smell that it was salty.  I asked our child, “Are you sure you still want to nurse,” to which he emphatically shook his head, “yes,” and continued on.

Besides the mama examples, I credit my success in tandem nursing to the support from my local La Leche League chapter.  One of the leaders had nursed an infant and a toddler and she told me what to expect.  She also told me how to handle inquiries about the amount of nutrients for each child.  Here is what I learned:

  1. Once my milk came in, it was going to be like sweet cream for my toddler and to expect a new surge of interest.
  2. Set firm expectations with our toddler – when we would be breastfeeding, and how was that time going to work: feed the children together, feed them independently, would there be specific places that would be our nursing locations?  Once I set those parameters, try to stick to them since consistency works well with toddlers.
  3. Feed the baby first – she suggested making that a non-negotiable.  She also suggested to get my partner’s buy-in on that.  With both of us reminding our toddler that the baby nursed first, and my partner helping him wait patiently, we could be sure that the baby was going to get the nourishment she needed and that her needs were met before we traded the kiddos.
  4. I read and sent these two resources to a family member, who was very concerned about tandem nursing and the baby getting enough of the milk that she needed.  It came up in almost every conversation as the due date approached.  HERE is an article from the La Leche League website (they have since added THIS collection of links to their site), and HERE is another great link list from the trusted KellyMom page.

By educating myself on the possibility of nursing through a pregnancy, and preparing myself for tandem breastfeeding, I was able to accomplish my goal…I was allowing our child to determine his weaning schedule.  I was honoring his need to breastfeed, and I was not feeling any remorse about the choices I made.  We welcomed a healthy daughter in October of 2011, and I have been breastfeeding both children since then.

Yes, both.  As it turns out, I did more than accomplish my goal of simply nursing through a pregnancy.  I did get to be a tandem-nursing mama, and for a lot longer than I expected.  He is going to turn four tomorrow.  I can now say I am an extended breastfeeding mama.

I stopped nursing in public with our toddler as my pregnancy progressed.  I found it very hard to get comfortable as my belly grew, besides the fact I had two other children to keep track of.  Other than making the decision to nurse at home, I didn’t think anything of nursing a two-year old.

Then his third birthday came and went.  He was only nursing in the morning or at night, sometimes for a nap.  I started to wonder what house guests would think, and at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter.  The relationship has still been beneficial to both of us.

He is one of our healthiest children – any cold he does get passes quickly and without incidence.  Last winter, his younger sister went on a nursing strike.  With his help, I was able to keep my supply up between his nursing and some hand expression.  He got a nasty stomach bug this spring – while it lasted 24-48 hours in the rest of us, he and his little sister only had it for a few hours.  Recently, he caught a cough that was going around.  As an experiment, I increased his breastfeeding – it seemed to help!

It has been a quandary.  While it has been great to increase the amount he nurses under beneficial circumstances, in the back of my mind I worry about sending him the wrong message.  While I treasure being a source of nourishment and antibodies, I feel like it is important for him to start finding other coping mechanisms as he turns four.  While I can never replace the health benefits of nursing, I have to trust that he has a well-developed immune system that can cope well enough without breastmilk.

In the last two weeks, I have definitely started to see a decrease in his interest to nurse.  Part of it has been the message my husband and I have been relaying to him.  We remind him he is going to be four, and we wanted him to start finding other ways to self-soothe when he was tired or upset.  We agreed that it was important to expand his repertoire of coping techniques.  I also think part of it is the natural weaning – although he still asks, he nurses for literally 60 seconds, and then he is off and running in a different direction.

I am finally going public with our extended breastfeeding story because it may help another mama look at her choices with more confidence, or maybe even consider extended nursing as a possibility.  I want other mamas to know they are not alone if they want to breastfeed through a pregnancy.  I want to lend courage to another mama who may feel pressure to wean a toddler although she and her nursling might not be ready.  My favorite idea that has guided me through this extended breastfeeding relationship is from our La Leche League group: Breastfeeding is a dance.  Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow.

My extension to that thought:  You continue the dance as long as it is mutually beneficial.  When one of you is ready to stop dancing, you honor each other with a mutually peaceful and loving transition.

Wishing you breastfeeding mamas a beautiful dance with your nurslings!  Enjoy the dance in the moment.  When the music ends and it’s time to clear the floor, I hope you leave the floor with happy memories.  Go forward with the knowledge that you and your child will continue to be a great team as you move onto the next chapter of your relationship.

 


 


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

Child Spacing: Pregnancy #2 & Beyond

 

Before my son, T, was born I wanted four or five children. I loved pregnancy and couldn’t wait to experience it again and again. Giving birth was a little bit harder; post partum recovery was a doozy and taking care of a newborn, oh. my. goodness. I swore off having any more babies’ f o r e v e r.

About a year later, amidst tons of dirty diapers, still waking at all hours of the night, and breastfeeding on demand, I began to see sets of siblings running around.  Lo and behold, my empty uterus began to ache. I figured I was elbows deep in the full-time, always-on mom mode and I might as well have two babies! The first year is the hardest, it really does go by quick, having them close in age will be difficult but rewarding and let’s just doooo iiiitttt! :) After stopping to think about it more though there really is a lot of additional things to consider. I figured I would share the different factors we looked at and what we found.

Fertility: During months 3, 4, and 5 post partum it seemed my cycle was trying to return, it never quite made it though and since then there have been no indications at all that my body is ovulating, I am now 16 months post partum, 26 months since my last menses! For some women fertility during breastfeeding is not an issue, but for many it is. I also don’t know how comfortable I am getting pregnant on the very first or even second or third cycles post baby – in my mind my body is still getting used to and figuring out my new hormone levels and for me personally I think I would like a few “trial” runs before the real deal, to me it seems that this would lead to more optimal conditions and a greater chance of a successful, healthy pregnancy. In order to “try” for another child I would have to take measures of increasing my fertility, either with herbs, acupuncture, yoga, meditation, etc. to guide my body to do something it isn’t entirely ready to do on it’s own. Often times the body needs help in certain areas of functionality and I am definitely ok with that, but not sure it is the right time to enlist this help just yet. Another way to help increase fertility would be to cut back on nursing, which leads right in to my next topic of consideration…

Breastfeeding/Weaning: Most of what I have read says fertility increases in women enough to stimulate ovulation when babies/children are no longer nursing at night and if not then, more than likely when nursing is down to 2-4 times a day or there is a four hour period between nursing sessions. My son nurses constantly, we night weaned for a bit but now are back to night nursing and mostly nursing on demand during the day as well. He uses nursing as a huge comfort tool and often just “checks in” with me for a few quick sucks and then is back doing whatever he was concentrating on previously. We had a brief encounter at 14 months with sudden weaning when I wished to stop nursing altogether, but now at 16 months I am hoping for child led or natural weaning. Which, let’s be real, probably won’t be until at least two and I would be willing to bet actually much longer. After talking with my husband, paying attention to T’s desires, habits, and needs, and self-reflecting we, personally, are not comfortable weaning our first baby in order to conceive a second baby.

With that being said though, I am really not keen on nursing through pregnancy or tandem nursing. Pregnancy took a lot from me, pregnancy #2 will be even more physically demanding due to caring for and chasing after a toddler. I know myself and do not want to start resenting my nursing toddler while I am tired, hormonal, and not in my usual state of mind. I also know that those first weeks and months of caring for a newborn are extremely hard for me physically and emotionally and I believe we will all have the best shot at surviving as harmoniously as possible if only the new baby is nursing. So do we allow T to entirely self wean and then start ‘trying’ for a sibling? They could be 4, 5, 6 years apart on that path. At this point I feel like I am definitely over thinking things, so what do the facts say? What actually happens in the most natural of settings? For this I look to research of primal/rural cultures…

Natural Child Spacing & Rural Populations: Most rural populations practice ecological breastfeeding, very similar to what my son & I do. This practice is said to delay the return of menses until 14.6 months on average, with most women conceiving again between 18 & 30 months post partum.When studying rural women in Rwanda who do not use contraception it was found that 75% of mothers conceived between 24 & 29 months post partum. Studies conducted among Kung¡ women show they naturally conceive again around 35 months post partum. There is also evidence that waiting to conceive until at least 18 to 23 months from your last pregnancy produces better outcomes for baby. There are also various studies that show that as the time between pregnancies goes down, the risk for Autism in subsequent babies goes up.

The Powers of Nature: After reviewing the facts and pondering the many unanswered questions I still had regarding what we should actually do, it was my husband that brought me back down to earth, as he so often does in these types of situations. He explained that we try our hardest to align our lives with how humans once lived. We try to connect with our inner “natural” needs, desires, and treat our bodies as close as we can to the ways in which they thrived for tens of thousands of years prior to more ‘civilized’ conditions. If we trust in our bodies abilities to heal, grow, change, and adapt on it’s own we can trust that they will create children as close or as far apart as is best for all of us. If T is still nursing enough that my body is unable to conceive than neither T nor myself are ready for another baby. When he is nursing an amount small enough for fertility to return than his need is decreasing and he is closer to weaning and closer to being ready for a sibling. Although there can still be many outstanding questions (some I have thrown out above) we believe in the power of nature to guide us through life, birth, death, and conception, family planning, child spacing is no different.

I know that, “letting whatever happens happen” is not a profound conclusion or advice, but I think if there is anything that becoming a parent has taught me it is that there is a large element of control that you have no choice but to give up. For us, it makes sense that this also applies to baby #2. I know not everyone is in the same situation or even has the same factors as us to consider but as of now we are just happy to enjoy our son and meet his needs as best as we can. As day-to-day life changes, we will reflect and readjust accordingly.

What about you, are you thinking about baby number 2 or 3 or more? Did you plan or influence your child spacing? How? I would love to hear your stories and/or input!