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Posts Tagged ‘Breastfeeding’

I may have said this before, but I really never planned to breastfeed for this long. Really.

Even after reading really crunchy, natural parenting magazines. Even after going to LLL meetings. Even after meeting a couple of moms who were still nursing their 3 year olds.

I didn’t have any issue with anyone else doing it, especially after reading more on the subject & considering that “milk teeth” would generally fall out about the average world-wide weaning age of 7. I didn’t (and still don’t) think I’d be nursing a 7 year old. But I didn’t really give it too much thought when my babies were born.

I wanted to breastfeed. Everything I read said it was important. It was difficult in the beginning and I’m so glad I had the support from my doula to get things off to a good start. (We didn’t have any family nearby & didn’t have friends with kids when dd #1 was born.)

When many people think of nursing a toddler, they think of the frequent feedings of a newborn going on for multiple years. My little one generally nurses 2 times a day- first thing in the morning and right before bed. And as long as the morning comes after 5:45 am, I generally don’t mind that she’s still interested.

I choose not to nurse in public anymore, mostly. There are exceptions- if she’s hurt, at LLL meetings (she always wants to nurse when she sees so many others nursing!) Because we nurse at home, it doesn’t come up in conversation much. I don’t feel the need to defend my choice.

I go out running on Saturday mornings and leave the house before anyone is up. When I get home, a happy toddler runs to greet me at the door shouting, “Mommy, will you nurse me now?” It’s times like these that I know I’m making the right choice for us. She isn’t ready to give it up. And I don’t have to force it.

Do I want to quit sometimes? Absolutely, yes. I keep my sanity with boundaries. If I really don’t want to nurse at certain times, I tell her so gently, and we talk about when might be a better time. Sometimes I’ll count to 20 for each side and then we’re done nursing and will cuddle. But cuddling doesn’t last very long in the busy life of a two year old.

The bottom line: She’s not going to continue breastfeeding forever. I’m just choosing a more gradual weaning process and trying to allow it to unfold in its own time.

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I never thought I would breastfeed past a year.

I had made a personal commitment to breastfeed for the first year during my pregnancy, and knew whatever I had to do I would find the support I needed to follow through. Perseverance was my key word.

It didn’t come as easily as I thought it would. It honestly took about 3 to 4 weeks before I figured out what I was doing and began to feel successful. And nothing about the initial experience made me consider why one year seemed like the “right” cut off age.

I dawns on me now that one year is the cut-off for formula- when families can “safely” switch from formula to cow milk, being assured that the bulk of a toddler’s nutrition is now available via solid foods.

So as I became a breastfeeding mom and considered some of these ideas, it seemed less natural to simply stop breastfeeding at a relatively random age based on an idea that really didn’t fit my situation. I figured that there was not going to be a magic age, where breastfeeding isn’t necessary. Because I know understood breastfeeding was more than simply nutrition.

She expected (because I taught her) that nurture would come through breastfeeding; closeness, cuddles, reassurance, stability- all this demonstrated in our home through the act of breastfeeding.

So since J wanted to keep nursing, we kept nursing.

When I got pregnant, my nipples became very sore. It got to a point where I was so uncomfortable, I wanted to do anything but breastfeed. With some help and guidance from LLL Leaders, we started stop timed nursing, followed by cuddles. I explained that it hurt. I asked J if she would be willing to stop until the baby was born and my milk came back. (By this time it had begun to change to colostrum preparing for the baby.) J said yes, she’d wait. She told me it didn’t really taste right anyway.

Even with communication and understanding, I felt guilty for stopping. I had shifted from the invisible cut-off of one year, to the intention of allowing J to self-wean and choose her own terms, and now I had changed again. I felt very sad at the change and missed nursing her.She was 2 years, 4 months old when we stopped.

Her sister was born 2 months later. And when J asked to nurse, we’d tandem. But she didn’t really remember how to latch. So she’d try and then stop. I could see that she missed it too. After a time, she stopped asking.

Once in a while, she’ll mention it. Yesterday she asked to nurse. (She’ll be 5 in November) And although I want to support her, I wasn’t able to say yes. Because I’m ready to stop nursing.

K and I are winding down our breastfeeding relationship. (Ironically she is 2 years, 4 mos now.)

I wanted to be the mom who allowed her children the benefits of full-term breastfeeding and the opportunity to self-wean. And today, K and I have reduced to nursing 1-2 times per day. It’s a gradual process. I don’t intend to pick a date and go cold-turkey. But I can see the direction we’re headed and I’m glad to be moving that way.

I know I will miss this chapter. It is an amazing part of my experience of mothering. And do I feel guilty? No, but maybe a bit of regret that my girls won’t be little forever; insecure that mothering will manifest in new ways with which I’m not familiar; and there’s a part of me that will always cherish holding my little ones (even with long toddler legs) and giving them a part of me that was nourishment, nurture, and connection all in one.

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So I’ve been thinking about the big to-do on Twitter about breastfeeding in public. If you don’t tweet, you may or may not have heard about tweeted comments made by a radio host out of LA. He was at a baseball game, saw a woman breastfeed her baby and commented about it using twitter.

Basically, he said she was rude and shameless for doing it out in the open where everyone could see and she should cover up or go somewhere else. (I’m not going to name him, because I don’t want to introduce more traffic to his website because of his comments.)

There were blogs & tweets galore. Many comments were directed to people who said they were pro-breastfeeding, but think women should be modest when doing it in public, or shouldn’t feed in public at all. Then the debate became a discussion about modesty and who gets to decide what can be considered modesty vs. exhibitionism. And at that point, many people lost interest or gave up after being appalled and insulted by the comparison of feeding a baby and exhibitionism. I’m not sure anyone felt good in the end. Feelings were hurt, tempers flared, letters sent, and in the end, the overall discussion, in topic and in tone, didn’t necessarily promote understanding and acceptance of feeding a baby based on the way the mother decides is best, and being free to comfortably feed whenever and wherever the baby is hungry from bottle or breast.

My take: I don’t think Mr. Radio Guy has the right to have an opinion.

Of course, many people believe anyone present to witness breastfeeding should get to have an opinion about it. Many people also believe witnessing bottle-feeding permits them to have an opinion about that. And people may also have opinions about the opinions. People become expert at opinion-wielding.

I think we live in a culture that allows us to express ourselves about subjects which are none of our business. And that gives many the feeling that their thoughts should be shared simply because they have permission to express them. That isn’t the case.

Using these 3 questions: Is it True? Is it Kind? Is it Necessary? it is possible to filter what might not be helpful to the discussion, no matter which side of the equation/debate your thoughts may hold.

It’s not just about what you think. It’s about the impact of your comment. Does it help? Does it bring comfort and support? Does it bring peace? Does it promote love? Are you bringing forward a part of you- authentically sharing with another with no expectation, just to be helpful?

Or are you being critical? Skeptical? Are you expecting others to conform to your standards? Is the comment divisive? Does it purposely breed controversy? Is it ignorant or hurtful?

It matters.

On consideration of the events as I witnessed them, between blogs, blog comments, tweets, etc., I made a comparison.

Perhaps having an opinion about a woman’s choice to breastfeed in public (and sharing it publicly) could be compared to having an opinion about what someone has in their cart at the grocery store.

They are shopping in public. Their food is in plain sight. They’re not attempting to hide the food in the cart with a cover. Perhaps their physical appearance can be noticed despite their clothes, because they are not trying to hide it- or not doing a very god job of being discreet. Maybe they are feeding children with those food choices. Come on, if everyone can see their figure and the items in their cart, and with children present!, and see how scandalous their choices are… Shouldn’t we comment? Or tweet about it?

I do have an opinion on how I choose to feed my children. And I want the freedom to make that choice myself, and be free to exercise that choice wherever I am. I want other women to be free to make their own choices and be supported in those choices, to be really free to do what fits each woman as an individual. Because I really don’t know why women make the choices they do, and I haven’t walked a mile in her shoes.

There is no right way to breastfeed- or more correctly there is NO WRONG way. Covered, uncovered, naked in the woods. Each woman gets to choose what fits her best. And if a woman is not breastfeeding and you support breastfeeding, please remember 1.) it might be breastmilk in that bottle, 2.) she gets to choose her own way to feed her kids, and 3.) her choice may have had nothing to do with what she really wanted to do– there are many barriers to breastfeeding success that individual women should not be persecuted for.

And while individuals may have the right to publicly share their opinion about everything they see, it isn’t usually necessary or kind. Nor is it supportive of others’ right to choose what fits their life.

So if you want the freedom to make your own choices, in your grocery cart and the rest of your life, consider being quiet for a moment (or longer) and reflect on your motive for sharing your opinion. If you insist on making a comment for whatever reason, consider how best to comment so that you might be helpful and heard so you might have a positive impact.

I choose to feed my children (and grocery shop) in peace. If I can be helpful, I act. And I continue to make the choices that fit me and my family. And I’m not silent about them. So if someone asks me about the items in my cart or about breastfeeding, I’m ready to be truthful and kind. And hopefully that will have the impact I desire.

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Today’s show on Expectations Radio was all about the booby traps- the barriers to breastfeeding that many women face, and what we can do individually and together to make a difference.

Please share your experience with the “booby traps” and anything you can offer to help other women faced with similar obstacles. You have a unique perspective based on your experience- and a big way to encourage and support other moms is to tell the truth and share what might have helped if you only knew then what you know now.

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It seems so obvious now. Why didn’t I trust myself? What was I thinking?

I beat myself up a little bit more over this because she is not my first baby, she’s the second. Shouldn’t I know what I’m doing by now? (These are not especially supportive thoughts I’m having…)

Night-time parenting is not my strong suit. I’m a bit stingy when it comes to losing sleep. I really enjoy resting, feel better physically & I parent better with enough sleep. So the first year of a new baby’s life, I drink a LOT of coffee.

My husband and I chose to share sleep with our kids. We had a co-sleeper (side car) for a while and then shared our king-size bed and used a safety rail. This meant I didn’t have to get out of bed, walk down a long hallway to the other side of the house and sit in a chair half the night to feed my baby. And that helped a lot when it came to sleeping. It also gave great cuddle time and closeness that I enjoyed.

Sometime after her first birthday, I got tired of the constant night feedings and we reduced, reduced, and finally night-weaned. It was difficult having her in the bed, wanting to nurse, when I wanted to sleep. We talked it over, borrowed a crib and moved her to her own room. This made for much better sleep for me generally, but not so much for dh. Now that I wasn’t offering the goods, she just got mad when she saw me at night. Basically, it worked out that I did nighttime parenting the first year and then it was his turn.

Side-note: I try very hard (with limited success) to NOT tell him how to do things. He should have the opportunity to figure out what works for him and go with what feels right. I don’t want less for myself, so I worked within this guideline, unless/until crying drove me crazy. I can’t stand to listen to my kids cry. I just think I should always be able to help.

And THAT is what makes this whole mess such an insane experiment.

At about 18 months, night-waking became more frequent (or just more noticeable because we were now walking down the hallway each time) and we had tried so many things that weren’t working. Somewhere I confessed how badly things were going to friends and was offered ideas and advice that I really needed at the time. I wanted external validation, assurance, comfort, relief. I wanted my baby to feel better, to be better, to sleep better. I wanted me to sleep better too.

I borrowed a book, followed the technique, even though it felt horrible at the time. I was assured by the book and the friends who had tried it that it was temporary and everything would work great, if I did my part.

I forgot to listen to my heart. I forgot that each baby is a person, unique and different from any other. I forgot to allow for her food sensitivities, only superficially considering their place in sleep problems. Simply put, I made a mistake.

The nights of crying stopped for a while, only to return with a vengeance. Now she didn’t trust me to comfort her and would cry and scream in my arms, on the floor, in her bed. She wanted comfort, but didn’t trust me to give it. And she was right. I had left her to cry. And even when I was there using the other technique, I didn’t provide what she asked for. I forgot that babies need their mama’s and that there’s no special age at which that isn’t true.

So dh and I have made a decision to actively remedy our mistake. We’re taking turns spending each night at bedtime with her, staying until she is asleep. Holding her through the crying and telling her it’s ok to cry, we’ll be there, that I’ll hold her until she’s ready to lay down, that I’m not leaving her for anything. I will show her I am trustworthy. Last night she slept in our bed most of the night. And you know what? It was really wonderful having her cuddled close.

The changes we are making are already showing results with her behavior during the day, and more cuddle time too. I’m feeling more connected and enjoying both girls more. It’s a difficult bedtime, and takes about an hour each night. But my relationship with my daughter is worth an extra hour.

I don’t know when I forgot that it’s ok for babies to need their parents-even at night. But I’m glad I remembered. I’m glad that I trust myself enough to make choices that are a good fit for us.

ALL parents deserve to embrace their confidence in making choices that work for their family, whether the ideas come from a book or not.

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I’ve been wanting to start a blog for a while. The idea of allowing my thoughts to come out, not necessarily in proper order or even complete is a bit appealing although I’m usually quite the perfectionist. So I’ve decided to begin, even if it’s not ready; even though my website isn’t yet updated; even though I “should” be working on last minute details for the tele-series which begins Wednesday (Birthing Ourselves); even though I’m not sure how I’ll be approaching this as time goes by.

My hope is that the ezine will be the chosen media for weekly organized articles and tips, and this blog will be for coherent, but not necessarily complete, ideas relating to pregnancy, birth, and parenting. I would also enjoy the opportunity to get more real-time feedback from moms and moms-to-be. I love feedback and knowing that the ideas that sometimes ramble through my head make sense (or don’t) to other women. I also want to share what is going on in my house, as I attempt to practice what I teach.

Right now, I’m in the process of facilitating a gentle ending. My youngest daughter is still nursing and although I didn’t have plans to stop at any specific age, I’m frustrated by the demands of it. I’ve created boundaries that make it easier for me (when we wake in the morning, nap time, after bath/before bedtime.) And although the transition to this routine was progressive and natural, my resistance to additional nursing is frustrating to my daughter.

When she asks and I say no, K can get super-mad. Lately, she’s beginning to pinch me to show how upset she is. You can imagine this does not make me more likely to say yes. Instead, we’re both upset. Remembering that she’s just a baby- in her mind there’s no magic age at which nursing is less needed & this has been her comfort for 2 years now, usually helps me keep my head together somewhat.To top it off now J (4 1/2) has been asking to nurse too. This has happened a handful of times since K was born, and I always said yes. Now she’s asking 3 times a week and I’m saying no to her too.

Here is where my unconscious past meets my attempt at Conscious Parenting:

Part of my history, especially with men, was based on messages that my body was not really my own. My actions were often based on the idea that I was obligated to say yes & meet the physical needs of another because they “wanted me to.”

Part of teaching my girls to honor their body, is living as an example of that. It’s a real balancing act right now. I don’t say yes to nursing, when I mean no. I believe kids (babies too) know the underlying truth within a mother’s body. The message I want to share with my girls is that my obligation to honor my inner truth is just as important as my obligation to meet their needs. Since my kids are old enough to eat food for most of their nutrition, nursing is more about close, quiet time. And I’m 100% willing to look for ways to meet their needs in ways that also sustain me, and allow me to give without reservation or restriction. I want my Yes to be 100% Yes, especially where my body is concerned.

The other part of my balancing act & it’s strange to admit- I’m resistant to letting go of nursing even though I’d like to stop. My body has been pregnant and/or nursing for over 5 1/2 years. I’d like to relax without nursing. I want cuddles without nursing. I always thought I’d be so sad to see the end of nursing, but in this moment, I’m kind of looking forward to it. And yet, there’s a part of me that knows I will miss it when it’s over. The same part that knows my kids are growing up so fast I can barely keep track.

But that just makes it more important to me to watch my actions more closely and be sure I’m an example of what I’m trying to teach them.

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