He did it! He slept in the living room, all by himself, all night long. I heard him rustle awake, go to the bathroom, then come climb into our bed and fall back asleep! Wow!
Even though we’ve come to the end of our immediate “no nursing” fix, I know there will be more days ahead of asking, distractions and probably even a few more fits (about nursing). It’s incredible how strong a habit this is for both of us. As an example, this morning he plopped up on my lap and requested to nurse. I was distracted by the computer and started to lift my shirt before realizing what I was doing. Oops! Thank goodness I quickly came to my senses, but the damage had been done. I gave him a glimmer of hope and he was not at all happy when I took it away. Poor little guy.
I think he may not feel well (again) today. He’s been sluggish and Daddy has an upset stomach…will we ever be well again?!! Unfortunately, this means putting off our video game excursion another day. Luckily, he’s been okay with that and hasn’t really asked much about it, but I feel bad that he’s done so well and still not gotten his reward!
I was thinking in the shower about what I’ve learned through this:
1. Not nursing is SO MUCH BETTER than nursing and hating it.
2. Even though he’s super independent and, in many ways, seems quite a bit older than his three years, my guy still needs his mama more than I realized.
3. We can make it through those rough spots using other “tools” in our “toolbox”.
4. I like my guy more when I’m not annoyed that he’s trying to grab my boobs all the time.
It’s funny how quickly the bad feelings melt away. It’s only been one week and I already am looking back on our nursing relationship with fondness (not enough to nurse him again, though!). I guess it’s sort of like having a baby…once the baby’s there, the pain and hard work of the last few hours seems to melt away in an instant. We gaze at these majestic little beings, seeing nothing but them, sometimes for weeks on end. I’m trying to remember that feeling when it gets hard…remember the adorable little baby with chubby cheeks and a mound of hair. Remember the way my heart swelled and tears sprang that first gaze. These are the memories that come to mind now when I hold him. We’re moving forward, our relationship constantly changing, but I can feel this endearing love and awe towards him again.
Our nursing relationship may have come to an end, but the next chapter in our story is just beginning….
Here is our recap: Day One, Day Two, Day Three, Day Four, Day Five, Day Six and the end.
e slept with Daddy all night long on the pull-out! M and I enjoyed the luxuriousness of just one adult and one baby…can you imagine all the room we had?! Anyway, C was stirring when we went out to the living room. He woke up happy! He seemed to think it was pretty cool that he slept with Daddy in the living room.
We didn’t go anywhere all day, so we had more than a few times of asking to nurse. Each time, though, he accepted something else. His chart is now FULL of stickers, all from today! He didn’t put any on there Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, but today he decided it was lacking and used up the rest of the Toy Story ones. He seems to have forgotten about his prize, which was okay because we need another day to get rid of all the sick germs before we head out.
In the evening, he threw his unwanted tangerine strings on the floor. I started to tell him to pick them up, but caught myself and asked him instead. He told me no. I explained that those needed to be in the trash and that he should pick them up, since he’s the one who threw them on the floor. He yelled “NO! I will NOT pick those up. You put them on the floor and you have to pick them up!” I asked him why he yelled at me and he told me that he was angry at me just like I was angry at him yesterday. Wow. I was a bit stunned by this. So, we talked about being angry, how I did get angry, why I got angry, why he was now angry and on and on. In the end, I told him that I would be happy to help him by picking up the strings, but that I wanted him to ask me nicely (which he did).
I guess I don’t have much else to report today, just a mellow stay-at-home day. He requested to sleep on the couch all by himself tonight, informing us that he’s a “big boy” and because of that he won’t get scared. I guess we’re going to try it, although for some reason the idea of him on the couch by himself seems scary to me. Or maybe it’s just one of those pangs that he’s growing up quickly, right before my eyes.
The story continues with the end.
This morning, he woke up and went out to the living room…all by himself! I followed him, of course, ready to head off any potential upsets before they happened. But, they didn’t!
He did wake in the night, however, and proceed to scream that he wanted mama (who was laying right beside him) for about thirty minutes. Incredible Hulk, oops, I mean my husband, went out into the living room before he became too angry. There’s just something about getting woken up in the middle that turns this loving father into a big, green meanie. Luckily, we’ve had enough of these nights to recognize it now and he just goes into the living room until C/he calms down. If you haven’t experienced these night wakings (I somehow managed to make it through two kids without having one!), they are AWFUL. Basically, he wakes up crying and/or screaming, and not only is there nothing anyone can do to make it better, but anything we try will most likely result in a longer, louder screaming session. His eyes are sometimes open, sometimes he can answer us back, but he doesn’t seem to really be there, in his body. He doesn’t seem afraid of anything either, just totally freaking out. In any case, it’s happened enough now that we know to try leaving him alone first. Sometimes this works and he falls back asleep. Sometimes, though, it doesn’t and we spend the next half hour to hour alternating between snapping at each other, trying to soothe him and wanting to scream/cry ourselves. It sucks. Last night was a doozy. He was so loud my ears were ringing. His baby brother will either be deaf by one year old or will sleep through hurricanes. Then, he asked me to calm him down. Like we did the day before. Could it be? Is he getting it? I don’t care, he’s asking and we’re going back to sleep!
I knew the morning was going to be rough, but it wasn’t. He asked to nurse once, with his hand up my shirt already, but quickly accepted my answer. He didn’t even want to put a sticker on the chart. I guess he’s tired of that already.
We had to go to the grocery store today and while he had been fine all morning, I was leery of getting him out again after yesterday’s awful fits. Today’s a new day, though, right? Right?!? So, off we went.
Our first stop went pretty well. He wants to walk now instead of ride in the cart and while that makes my shopping/parenting job infinitely more difficult (Have you ever tried to keep an eye on the toddler while carrying the 30lb. baby and trying to follow your shop list? It isn’t as easy as it sounds, trust me.), but I try to acquiesce in the smaller stores. I only needed a few things, so I let him walk and it went okay. He only ran ahead once or twice and we were done quickly. Next up, Aldi. No walking here! Even on a good day, the stacks of food are just not toddler-friendly. We made it in/out in record time (I actually stuck to my list), again without incident. Last on our trip was Wal-Mart. Does anyone else see where I made my fatal mistake???
I agreed to let him walk in Wal-Mart because we only needed three things. THREE! First, we headed to the bathroom. C loves the little seat in the big stall at the front. He’ll play with that the entire time I’m doing my business, instead of trying to lay on the floor and see into the next stall (which, for some reason, seems to bother people). After that, we started making our way to the food section. I guess I should interject that Wal-Mart makes me insane. The sheer amount of people, even on a slow day, boggles my mind. In addition to that, the lighting makes me eyes hurt and my brain fuzzy. Seriously. If you’ve ever run into me there and I looked like a zombie, just know that the second I stepped outside the store, I returned to my normal-frazzled state.
But I digress…
My three items turned into five, resulting in L carrying a few things while I balanced C, M and two bags of frozen chicken (eww!). When we got to the checkout, C informed us that he needed to pee. Great. Thank goodness for older children that help out, even though they shouldn’t have to (because they’re kids, too, you know) and don’t really want to. Here’s where the day started going to shit. As they head towards the bathroom, I feel my breath unclench slightly…a few seconds of peace….and then I look over to see C flailing around as L tries desperately to herd him towards to bathroom door. She’s obviously frustrated (can I blame her?) and I, being the fabulous mom I am, head right over to help, right? NOPE! I give her a look that says, “WTF?” She looks back at me, with daggers, and says she’s trying. The dude in front of me kind of chuckles at this interchange. I debate for a quick second whether I should head over there, but instead decide to hold my place (I’m *almost* there) and pretend as if I don’t know those crazy people. Don’t worry, if the shit had really hit the fan, I would have gone over there. She got him to the bathroom, though, and I didn’t hear either one of them screaming. When I finished paying, I went to check on them. No screams, that’s a good sign! I opened the door and ask if everything is okay. L answers with a resigned “no” and informs me that he’s upset because she flushed the toilet when he wanted to, and is on the floor. Now, if you ever read Rants From Mommyland (which you totally should be), you know that they can turn these situations into the spit-your-coffee-everywhere kind of funny. However, I found this more along the lines of pull-my-hair-out-then-go-on-a-permanent-vacation kind of not-even-close-to-funny. I ask him what’s wrong, I offer options, I go through the laundry list of everything I just happened to read about yesterday on this blog. Then, when I see that nothing is working and we are quickly losing it (all while on the floor of the public restroom), I think screw this and pick him up. Now, though, all bets are off and he begins throwing a fit in earnest. All of the sudden, I want to lay on the floor, writhing around, screaming “It’s not fair! I’m using the techniques! This shit is for the birds, screw gentle discipline and I give up”, but I don’t. I calmly carry my screaming, kicking child out the bathroom door and head to the exit with poor L following closely behind (now carrying all the groceries, her bag and my purse). He says (screams) that he wants to walk and so I set him down and say, “Great! Let’s walk”, to which he responds by throwing himself on the floor and screaming even louder. Up we go. By this point, I can feel the adrenaline and anger building. I am frustrated, but I also know that I still have to get him in the car to go home. Having been through this just yesterday, I start attempting to calm him down. I acknowledge that he’s upset, why he’s upset, how we have to go home now and we’re going to get in the car seat. No dice. We get to the car and I set him in, causing an uproar of tears and yelling. He says he wants to get in himself, so I say okay and set him down. More screaming. He wants to go back inside and flush the toilet. I explain that it’s now time to go. More screaming and flopping. Fuck. I pick him up and try to plop him in the car seat, as he is using all of his considerable strength to push back. The next fifteen minutes involved more screaming, crying (at one point, both of us had tears in our eyes), kicking and holding down. I explained what I was doing, why I was doing it and why it had to be done. It was taking every ounce of self-control to do this. While my exterior was somewhat calm, my mind was whirling. These are the types of situations where children get beaten, I think. This is how it begins and if he doesn’t stop screaming and kicking me, I am going to hit him! Why won’t he just get in the fucking seat?! I don’t care what the research says, screw his future self…his self-esteem, whatever, they can all suck it. I just want him to stop. I just want to buy some damn groceries without being screamed at, kicked at or anything else. Just walk beside me, hold my hand and do AS I SAY. One time!* Click. The last part of the car seat clicked into place. I told him I loved him, I was sorry he was upset and that we were going home now. Then, I shut the door.
He cried most of the way home. By the time we got home, though, you would never know what had happened earlier. He spent the rest of the day and evening playing pleasantly with his brother. He asked to nurse a few times, but happily accepted juice or water as a substitute. He and Daddy decided to sleep on the pull-out bed together, so hopefully that goes well. As far as nursing (or not, as the case may be), it was a super easy day. He’s been loving; a nice ending to a hard day. He’s also made some of his infamous “Colinisms”, which has been fun. I like ending the day on a happy note, remembering how much I love him and *almost* forgetting how frustrating dealing with him can sometimes be.
* My husbandread this portion and suggested I leave it out because it sounds so awful. I am choosing to leave it in because I think it’s a) an accurate description of what I was *thinking* in the heat of the moment and b) important to be honest that raising kids can be difficult. While I applaud those parents who have never felt pushed to the brink of sanity by their children, that is not/has not been my experience. Nothing, and I do mean NOTHING, pushes me faster than my children. Does this mean I don’t love them? No! It means I’m human, with human emotions and human shortcomings. Presenting myself as anything other than this does a disservice to other parents who have been there. Most of us accept that *adult* relationships are difficult, take lots of work, etc., etc. and yet, when we discuss parent-child relationships, it is unacceptable to think they, too, take the same work and present the same difficulties….which seems idiotic when we think that (presumably) both adults have logic, know right from wrong and so on, while children are still learning these things. For me, recognizing and acknowledging the more challenging parts of parenting is the key to being able to work through them. It is key to creating an authentic relationship not only with my children, but also the world around us.*
The story continues with Day Six and the end.
This morning did NOT go well. Maybe we did too much yesterday, maybe he doesn’t feel well (everyone in the house seems to have some kind of illness, ranging from a cold to weird intestinal stuff) or maybe he just wants some boob. Whatever the reason, he woke up with his usual refrain this morning and while he did go back to sleep once, the second time he was accepting no substitutes. The next half hour or so could only be described as “the day Mommy and Daddy went deaf”. I was finally able to talk him into having some toast to eat and then we were able to start our morning.
When I opened the door to see what the temperature was like, I was shocked to discover it was like a nice summer day! I decided a picnic at the park sounded like a great idea, but then trouble set in. This “trouble” really has nothing to do with nursing (or lack of), but I’d be remiss to leave it out of the description of our day. C has been…what’s the nice word….high spirited? lively? A few other words come to mind, but I want to keep this post as G-rated as possible. Basically, the kid has one volume ~ LOUD. Even when he’s asleep. If he talks in his sleep (which he sometimes does), it’s LOUD. If he wakes up wanting something, it’s LOUD. From morning until night, LOUD, LOUD, LOUD. Now, we *are* a loud family and I *am* a loud person. I admit this. However, dealing with a loud child all. day. long. gets, well, long. And tiring. Many days, I feel as though I’m walking on eggshells, trying to avoid a fit. When I somehow forget to read his mind, he screams. When he wants to do something himself, he screams. Those pears we bought yesterday and ate? He wants one and he WANTS IT NOW! Today was just one of those days where it seems like all I did was cajole, beg, plead, yell, restrain…you get the idea. If you’ve never tried to wrestle an angry three-year-old, throwing a giant fit because he wanted candy in the store, into the car seat, you are missing out! It’s an olympic workout and that doesn’t even take into consideration the adrenaline from embarrassment.
Now, Iknow that toddlers throw fits and that is just part of their learning. It’s my job to help him navigate these choppy waters and who gives a fig what other people passing by think, right? That’s easier said than done. Each yell and kick feels like a personal assault on my parenting and there are times it is all I can do not to just shake the living daylights out of him. Do I love him? Absolutely! Do I like him? Some days, not very much.
On a positive note, he did remember our calming down technique from yesterday and requested more than once today when he was upset. I cling to these tiny victories while the storm of his emotions flings us all over the place. Thank goodness for those moments.
So, as our day winds to a close, I see progress on many fronts: we’re communicating well with each other (mostly), he’s utilizing tools I’m offering, I’m regaining patience and remembering that he is only a toddler with very little experience yet on this earth. Hopefully, tomorrow goes better!
The story continues with Day Five, Day Six and the end.
I think it’s safe to say that 6:30 will be our new get-up time. In many ways, I am finding it much more pleasant than the lay-in-bed-nursing-back-to-sleep time that often led to a bit more sleep, but more than one also led to annoyance. This way, we just get up (M usually sleeps in a bit longer, especially if Daddy is home to snuggle with) and start our morning routine. It also gives us a chance to have some quality alone time. I didn’t realize how grumbly I had been in the mornings until I wasn’t. It is much easier to get up with one and get him settled (as well as start my coffee) before dealing with kidlet #2. Everyone is happier!
This morning, he rustled and got into our bed pretty quickly/quietly. He did ask for me to move M, but once I did that, he snuggled right in and went back to sleep. I don’t know what time it was, but I was thankful he chose to sleep instead of wake up. Some time later, as the sun was thinking about rising, he woke up in earnest. I felt his little hand creep around my side, searching for the boob. “I wannna nurse youuu.” I whispered that we weren’t nursing and he asked for cereal. I was nursing M, so I told him that as soon as he was done eating (I’ve been careful to use “eating” instead of “nursing” at volatile times) I would get up with him. Then, we both fell back asleep. A little while later, he rustled awake again and….did NOT ask to nurse! He asked for his cereal. I got up with him and we had a pleasant little chunk of time together before the rest of the house started waking up.
I’m finding it interesting that although one of my chief complaints going into this was being “touched out”, I find myself choosing to cuddle more than I did before. Could it be that stopping the nursing is the catalyst for restoring the physical balance in our relationship? I want to hold and snuggle him, when before it was all I could do not to shove him off me (which, ashamedly, I did a few times). I also have way more patience with him than I’ve had in the last several months.
Today was another long stretch of being away from home; we went to Springfield for Daddy’s birthday. I don’t think he asked at all while we were gone, and only asked twice once we were back. I thought he was going to get upset, but he just kind of whined a bit and then M jumped in with the sticker chart. The No More Nursing did come up while we were at Barnes and Noble, though. He saw a big Star Wars Lego set and asked for it. I told him that we weren’t getting it today and he said he wanted that instead of a video game. When I prodded a bit more, he reminded me that the video game was his prize for No More Nursing. Adorable! I even brought his dad over to get the explanation. I guess you had to be there, but I was beside myself with how big and proud he was of himself. I so wanted to buy him the set, but B & N prices are RIDICULOUS! His dad didget him evil Dr. Porkchop from Toy Story 3 while I was checking out the birth book selection, but he’s more of a pushover than I am.
He took a nap on the way home and, surprisingly, didn’t wake up asking to nurse. During his normal evening insanity, he also did not ask to nurse. Perhaps we really are making progress?!
The story continues with Day Four, Day Five, Day Six and the end.
This morning, C woke up super early…seriously, like, earlier than the crack of dawn…”I wannnanurse youuu”. Crap. I quietly and gently welcomed him into bed for snuggles and, trying to preserve the peace, told him it was still night-time. “I wannnanurse youuu.” Next, I tried reminding him that we were putting stickers on the chart instead of nursing. “No! I wannnanurse youuu!” And then came the crying, the yelling. I went through the litany of possible options, but none of them were what he wanted. Ugh. It was so early and my head was hurting so bad (I have a cold).
In the end, we got up (did I mention it was still dark outside?), got some cookie cereal ~ I’m replacing super nutritious breastmilk with the crappiest food ever ~ and all was right with the world. He asked a few times while I was sitting on the couch, actually writing yesterday’s post, for nurses, but accepted the stickers instead. He also climbed on to my lap and asked if he could sit with me. He has NEVER asked to just sit with me, so I take this as a sign of progress.
I’m also realizing that I really have been quite the lazy parent with him and that a big chunk of his asking to nurse may simply be because he needs mama’s attention. This is brutal to think about. When did I become such a lazy parent? I’ll save that for another post. Needless to say, this “operation” is opening my eyes to other things and I *am* paying attention.
We were gone a lot today as well, and I think that is really helping. When we’re on the go, he’s less likely to ask to nurse. By the end of the day, he’s only asked a few times and only had two small episodes of being upset when I said no. The rest of the time, he’s taking it like a champ! I did forget to mention that yesterday he got upset a couple of times as well and said things like, “Mommy! I’m not a big boy, I’m a little boy. So, I can nurse you!” It was so cute and so sad. When he wants to be, this little guy is quite the charmer.
Back to the task….the sticker chart is working well! I’m so pleased with that. He really enjoys picking out a sticker, sometimes taking ten minutes to pick out just the right one (while I remind myself, internally, that this is part of it) and its new home. He’s also gotten the hang of putting stickers on a certain day. When we first started, he wanted to put them all over the place and I suggested we keep them on the “right” day. Today, though, he rejected my “just put them anywhere” attitude and informed me that they needed to go on the right day. Sheesh!
All in all, it’s going well! Yay!
The story continues with Day Two, Day Three, Day Four, Day Five, Day Six and the end.
Today is the first day of our new “no nursing” regimen, which I explained here.
This morning, my silly husband and I woke up early thinking we could squeeze in some much-needed “adult” time. Ha! Our little exquisitely protect their stations in the family by waking up just at the point-of-entry. If this has ever happened to you, then you will understand why I knew my husband’s face was angry fire-red even though it was almost pitch black!
Anyway, C woke up around 5am with what always sounds like a drunken, whiny sailor: “I wannanurse youuuu”. Usually, I will nurse him until the count of twenty and then stop. Sometimes he cries and sometimes he doesn’t. This morning, I reminded him that we weren’t nursing anymore, but we could put stickers on the chart. He asked for his chocolate milk (the remnants of which I threw away the night before because he threw up everywhere after drinking it), and got upset when I tried to placate with other things. Eventually, miraculously, I was able to get him back to sleep for a bit.
Once we were up in earnest, it wasn’t so difficult to use logic with him as opposed to trying to placate. I reminded him of his chart and his prize, which he happily scribbled on twice.
We also spent a good chunk of the morning/early afternoon out of the house. You might call this cheating, but I call it “sanity saver”. We did purchase some stickers for the chart while out, one set of Spiderman and one set of Toy Story, although we may have to get more if he continues putting multiple ones on at a time. It seems to be working fairly well. When he comes up and says “I wanna nurse you”, I remind him that we’re not nursing any more, but that we can go put a sticker on the chart. Usually, he says okay and that’s that. I also offer sitting on my lap, holding, cuddling, snacks, water and so on.
I was gone all evening to meetings, so we didn’t have an issue there and we don’t usually nurse to sleep, so we navigated all that pretty well. He was still up having crazy time (no, seriously) when I went to bed with the baby, but at some point he crawled into bed with me and we snuggled for a few minutes before he fell asleep.
Day one down!
I have been debating about weaning my toddler for quite some time, probably about a year. I have resisted the urge, for a multitude of reasons:
- He has shown ZERO interest in letting go of being a nursling
- I am lazy, and giving up the easiest mothering tool ever is hard work
- I have not yet had to actively wean a child and therefore know very little about it
- The subject of tandem nursing caused a huge “scandal” in my circle of friends when my husband was first introduced to the idea and permanently affected not only friendships but my view of many things, including breastfeeding advocacy. It was a traumatic-to-me event during a very vulnerable time, which made me feel like I *musttandem nurse to “prove” something about my husband. Yes, this reason is completely unreasonable and stupid, but it’s one of my reasons, nonetheless. (I also didn’t realize that this was one of my reasons until I sat down to write them out!)
- Ask around about tandem nursing…from those who do it or intend to…and the common refrain (that I’ve heard/read) is: “It’s lovely!”, “I’m so glad we chose this, it’s so wonderful!”, “When my kids are nursing, rainbows form in the sky while unicorns dance!” Okay, so I made that last one up, but you get the idea, right? This has NOT been my experience, at all, and it is really hard to admit (both to myself and to others) that I just really don’t like nursing both of my kids.
- I’m sure there are more reasons I could come up with, but these are the first ones that came to mind. I’ve come to think that perhaps it may just be toddler nursing, as opposed to tandem nursing, that I dislike….but it really doesn’t matter, the point is: I’m done.
- In case you’re wondering, here are some of the reasons I don’t want to nurse two kids anymore:
- This feeling of not wanting to nurse the toddler anymore started in 2010, when I was pregnant and had a miscarriage. C nursed through the entire thing, almost obsessively. Maybe the milk tasted differently? While, logically, I knew that it was a good thing for him to nurse, that it was probably helping my uterus clamp down and avoid bleeding too much, it was emotionally upsetting. I kept thinking that if he would just stop, maybe the little baby-start wouldn’t leave my body and everything would be okay. (I even briefly convinced myself that maybe there were twins and one was still inside, growing away.) As much as it pains (and embarrasses) me to say, I was angry with C. I was angry that he needed me so ferociously at a time when I felt I had nothing to give. Duh! Of course he nursed a lot, it was basically the only form of mothering he was receiving while I was so upset (insert large amount of mommy guilt here).
- I often end the day feeling as though I’ve been assaulted. Seriously. This feeling, no matter how ridiculous, is not a healthy way to feel about my child. He has stuck his hands down my shirt, up my shirt, unbuttoned my bra, squeezed my boobs, hit me when I’ve said no…the list goes on. I DON’T like it. Not one bit. I have discussed, until I’m blue in the face, appropriate and inappropriate behavior for nursing. It hasn’t helped.
- When I was pregnant with M, we night-weaned. Even though it’s been almost two years since I’ve consistently nursed him at night, he still wakes up asking to nurse, sometimes more than once a night. I recognize that he may still wake up, but hopefully he’ll stop yelling loudly “I wanna nurse you!”
- I’m tired of being “touched out”. I was completely unprepared for just how much physical contact was going to be involved with nursing two kids. There is *alwayssomeone on me, someone touching me, someone nursing or wanting to be nursed. It is too much. I feel depleted and when they go to sleep, I want to lay in the bed (or on the couch) BY MYSELF with a five foot radius of nothing around me. This is great, except when you take into account that I have two other children who are patiently waiting for their turns to have me to themselves…and the husband. While none of them take as much nurturing as the two little ones, I feel like there’s just not enough of me to go around. I need some of that back.
- I want to have orgasms. LOTS of them. I want to enjoy sex with my husband and that involves my breasts. This may sound selfish, but trust me, I am a MUCH better mother when I’m fulfilled in this department. Unfortunately, that “touched out” feeling extends over into the bedroom and leaves me less-than-enthused about having even more touching. I have never had this issue before, and I can only conclude that the difference is the extra nursling-child.
So, there you have it, some of my reasons for continuing to nurse my toddler when I really wanted to stop and some of my reasons for choosing to stop now. Here is my plan, otherwise known as “Operation No More Nursing”:
I explained to C that he is getting older, bigger and that when we get bigger, we don’t nurse anymore. I pointed out that his older siblings didn’t nurse anymore and that Daddy didn’t nurse anymore. He nodded. I said that M still needed to nurse because he is a baby, that Mommy loves him very much and that we can snuggle, cuddle, etc. Then I told him that we were going to stop nursing and that we were going to make a chart, add stickers for each day we didn’t nurse and on Saturday (we’d start on Monday) he’d get a special “No More Nursing” prize. He liked that idea. Here’s a picture of the (very roughly drawn) chart I made for him:
Thrown-together chart. More space during the days might work better, as we're doing a sticker every time he asks to nurse.
We spent time discussing what kind of prize he would like, something that would be for him only and that was something only “big” boys could do (not little nurslings). He and his older brother often play the Lego video games together, but he has yet to have his own game, so he decided that’s what he would like. And so it began!
The story continues with Day One, Day Two, Day Three, Day Four, Day Five, Day Six and the end.
Many of us are aware of the many benefits that breastfeeding offers, both to our nurslings and ourselves. We know that breast milk is a complete food for our babies which sets the stage for lifelong health. We also know that breastfeeding helps our bodies fight off PPD (Postpartum Depression), reduces our risk of developing feminine cancers, and forms a bond with our children that will last a lifetime.
The WHO (World Health Organization) advises breastfeeding to continue at least until the 2nd year and many studies show that breast milk continues to provide immune support, vitamins, and enzymes to the developing child. Breastfed children are also sick less often and have higher I.Q.’s than their formula-fed peers.
With all this evidence, breastfeeding sounds like something we would want to continue as long as possible to ensure the health of our children, right? After all, we wouldn’t deliberately subject them to disease, junk food, and death metal. Would it not seem natural that breastfeeding would be the obvious choice? Yet the debate rages on.
Breast milk doesn’t suddenly expire when your child turns one, and your child doesn’t automatically give up the only thing he’s ever known by his first birthday.
We may struggle with the preconceived notions regarding breastfeeding beyond the first year and may feel a huge social pressure to wean after our child’s first birthday (or even before). We may even feel ashamed when our child asks to nurse in a social situation because we feel the need to defend our actions.
In the La Leche League International book, “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding”, There is some advice for such occasions:
“If you even suspect you might end up nursing into the toddler years, start using a word for breasts or breastfeeding early on that you’ll feel comfortable hearing your two-year-old yell across the room at a family reunion or grocery store.”
Some suggestions include: “milkies,” “nummies,” and “nursies.”
Many women may be entirely comfortable nursing in public. Babies have the right to eat, like anyone else! Others, may feel the need to cover up or feed their baby in private. It completely depends on each woman’s preference and comfort level, although no one should ever feel ashamed to feed their baby.
Tips for extended breastfeeding success:
Sleeping with your baby.
Co-sleeping is a great way to keep your milk flowing and reconnect at the end of the day, especially if you are a working mom. It can also guard against painful plugged ducts which can occur after an absence from your child.
If your toddler is eating regular meals and snacks throughout the day, you may want to limit breastfeeding to times of comfort, such as nap or bedtime. Limits may be essential, especially in the case of tandem-nursing.
Go out and have some fun!
The beauty of extended breastfeeding is flexibility! Your tot is eating at regular intervals, and that gives you the time to go out and pursue your own interests.
Buy a good pump.
Women who are facing a return to work, may feel a huge pressure to wean completely and unnecessarily. Pumping at work may seem less than desirable, but if you make the commitment to keep breastfeeding, you can find a schedule that suits you best. Perhaps you could have your child’s daytime caregiver visit you on lunch hour with your baby so you can nurse while you eat. Talk to your boss and work out a spot where you can nurse or pump quietly without interruption. Your workplace may be more accommodating than you think.
Ignore the nay-sayers.
They may be family, friends, neighbours or that little old lady in the grocery store, but they are not YOU. They have no right to make a judgement call on your own personal decisions. You can either choose to ignore them, or think of something witty to say back.
Some great books on the subject include:
Adventures in Tandem Nursing: Breastfeeding During Pregnancy and Beyond, by Hilary Flower
And, Mothering Your Nursing Toddler, by Norma Jane Bumgarner
Enjoy it! It won’t last.
Nursing doesn’t go on forever, but your fierce love and enduring bond will stand the test of time. You’ll never regret the time you spent with your child in those quiet moments when you were all they could see, and you were the source of their comfort.
During my personal nursing journey with my 6 children, each experience was different and each shaped my perception a little more. It wasn’t until I had my last 3 children that tandem nursing occurred to me. My 3 year old daughter and I just ended our nursing relationship, but she still asks to sniff my breasts to fall asleep. My one year old son is still nursing full time.
I had many a sleepless night (still do) and more frustrating moments than I can count, but I would not trade those sweet moments of my son and daughter gazing at each other and laughing while at my breasts.
Any women who have tandem-fed their babies can relate, and I salute you! In those moments, I would sometimes step back and think of all the women who had done this before me, or who were doing the same thing in that moment. It’s all about perspective.
Growing up I never really thought about feeding babies. Honestly I didn’t think much about babies at all. I remember seeing formula mixes & bottles, but I don’t remember seeing a baby nurse. I was breastfed for 6 months & my younger sister was nursed for 3 months. I must have seen my mother put my sister to her breast, I was 6 years old and I remember changing a diaper & watching my mother mix formula.
My first memory of seeing a woman breastfeed is sadly much more recent. 3 years ago my sister-in-law had her first baby. We went to visit her & her new little boy about a week after his birth. She was nursing him on the couch in their living room, but wearing a cover. In her own home she felt she needed to cover herself up for visiting family. I wish I had known better at the time & encouraged her to only worry about her own comfort level. I wish she hadn’t worn a cover so I could learn. She had to change a diaper & encouraged us to follow her into the nursery to continue our conversation. She laughed about the mess her son was making & joked about how seeing a new baby like this was the perfect birth control. We had planned to wait to tell people, but that’s when my fiancé just blurted out “too late”. We had found out the month before that we were expecting our first. She promptly congratulated us & grabbed two books from her room. A baby name book & a what to expect book.
Pregnancy comes with plenty of unsolicited advice from well-meaning friends, family & strangers. Everything that is related to being pregnant, giving birth, having a baby, & feeding the baby is the main topic of every conversation with anyone (& it gets worse the bigger the belly). I read the what to expect book, I read pamphlets from the office where we confirmed our pregnancy, I read printouts from the CNMs office, I read tons online, I talked to every woman I knew who had procreated & asked some of the nosiest questions. And yet this is only a fraction of the information that was available to me. When I asked my CNM or the nurses they spoke up for breastfeeding, I would call it encouraging, but they didn’t give me any of the grit or reality of it. They just said it’s good for the baby & you should try it. No suggestions on where to find help should I need it. Just do it, or don’t. When I asked family I got nearly the same information. It’s good for the baby, you should try to & then how long they nursed or why they were unable to. No further on why they couldn’t, which I understand could be a touchy subject for them but it would also be helpful for me to know. What if they had an issue that I later experienced? I could come to them for help, I could connect with someone. I never got the “important” advice; people only shared the basic & scary.
At the birth of our first child we had our doula help us get her latched right away, then she left. Our little girl latched great, ate well. No one at the birthing center said anything more about it. I never got a photo of her first latch, I never realized I would want one, but now I’ve learned how beautiful & important a moment that was and regret not having it. A few weeks after birth my mother-in-law came to visit & we all went out to the mall. I packed a bottle of expressed milk that was specifically for public use. How pointless that hassle was. After being at the mall for a while my daughter stared to root. We found a bench by the children’s play area & I offered her the bottle. I fought with her to take that bottle; it ended with a crying baby & a mama near tears. Yet still the baby would not eat from the artificial nipple being caressed to her cheek dribbling liquid gold. I pulled my tee up & my breast out, my daughter latched instantly & greedily chowed down, eyes drifting closed as she enjoyed her meal. My fiancé paced in front of us back & forth, standing to block us slightly. My MIL took off to a store, & returned with a baby towel to cover us. I tried, but it was difficult to get it to stay in the first place, & impossible with a baby kicking at it. In the end I didn’t care, my baby ate & was now full & happy snuggled in the sling sleeping. I never used the rest of that pumped bottle, I didn’t pump for public ever again, I nursed in public whenever my babies got hungry & without covering. I do believe this one pumping/not feeding on demand screwed up my supply enough that my period returned early, something I was disappointed with.
When I first decided I would nurse our daughter my goal was 6 months. I was breastfed for 6 months & I’m pretty awesome, plus that is the stage where you can start introducing things other than liquid. How fun! 6 months came, we fiddled with rice cereal & Gerber jars. She didn’t eat much of them, they smelled funny, they made a mess, and she still nursed often. We ditched that method & started offering her baby-safe solids. That’s when her food fun began, she loved exploring new foods & I loved not having to sit & spoon feed her. Dump a few things on her tray & she’d taste test & nibble, then come to me for sustenance when she was done (remember food before 1 is just for fun). We had a very good nursing relationship, although she did get a bit grabby. I picked out my wedding dress, & made sure to get a dress & bra I could nurse from.
6 months had come & gone. I heard from people to wean her when she asks for it…isn’t the hungry cry asking for it? So as soon as I learned my babies cue to eat I’m supposed to wean her? That didn’t sound right at all. Wean her when she gets teeth they say. Her first tooth erupted around 7 months old. That didn’t seem right either. I followed my mama instincts & said 1 year. She’ll be a walking, talking toddler, she’ll be ready to wean.
We hit the 1 year marker. I was pressured by family to wean my big baby girl, my husband also thought she was getting too big & old. I had learned by now the benefits to breastfeeding are many. My daughter continues to benefit from my milk, no matter her age. I benefit because nursing her reduces my risks of certain cancers. I benefit because she was helping me lose weight. We benefit because we have an excuse to cuddle each other (not like an excuse is ever needed).
A few months before my daughter’s second birthday we found out we were expecting another baby. I knew I’d be determined to breastfeed our new child as well. I’d be better prepared, I’d be experienced, I’d know things. My 2 year old was still nursing. We had no reason to stop, she enjoyed it & I knew it was good for us, but now I was pregnant. I suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum again this pregnancy. There were very few days I wasn’t throwing up all day, & on those days I was still plagued by nausea. It was a challenge to stay hydrated for the 3 of us. I struggled daily on simple things. The beginning of the second trimester I had a slight drop in supply & I discovered a lump in the underneath of my right breast. I scheduled an appointment with a family doctor who is associated with our birthing center. He examined it & diagnosed it as fibrocystic breast disease (symptoms/tissue/lumps…there are several names floating around for it). Not worrisome, just can make it more difficult to diagnose dangerous lumps because you have pre-existing “normal” lumps. Although my lump wasn’t painful (most are) he recommended weaning my toddler so I wouldn’t hurt my current pregnancy. “It won’t make her a bank robber or anything” were his exact words. I had liked him until that point. I half laughed & shrugged him off. At my next midwife appointment I brought up my new concerns. She assured me my baby was fine, and that many women (including one of her assistants) can successfully nurse through a pregnancy, it was not going to “hurt” my baby. As a few more weeks passed my lumps flared up, they became huge & painful. Hugging or picking up my daughter would almost bring me to tears on a bad day. I avoided the “triggers” of caffeine, chocolate, & underwire bras. The lumps had ideas of their own. I still nursed my daughter even though it had become so painful for me, she wasn’t ready to wean & I wasn’t willing to force her. While nursing her I would focus on all the great things about what I was doing, talk myself through the pain.
My second daughter was born at 37 weeks 4 days gestation at home, weighing 8 pounds. I’m pretty sure nursing through pregnancy did NOT hurt that baby. She was a great size & a very healthy gal. She latched & ate shortly after birth, with her cord still attached. I got our first latch photos. The next day she nursed side by side with her older sister, while her sister stroked her arm & hair. That was one of the sweetest moments I’ve ever witnessed.
We have learned how to nurse in the wrap, making our nursing in public much easier & more mobile. We are still struggling with fibrocystic lumps & the pain they bring, most days are fine & I resort back to my breastfeeding affirmations when I have a particularly rough time. My SIL has also had her second child, a month before mine, & we nursed our new babes side by side in my home, without our covers & joking about leaking through our washcloths that were sopping up boob juice from the unused side. My family has stopped asking about weaning my older daughter, & nearing 3 years she doesn’t seem interested in stopping. She still nurses for bed or naps, when she gets hurt, when she wants to snuggle, & sometimes just because. My husband still feels a little awkward about nursing in public, & nursing an older child but only because he knows the stigma associated with both. If it weren’t for public projections about it he’d have no qualms. He does realize that the popular opinion is misguided, & knows that we are doing best by our children. We have all learned so much from my breastfeeding experience, & we continue to grow & learn.
I hope that by nursing in public, at family gatherings, in front of my own children that more & more people will learn how beautiful a relationship it can be, how beneficial breastfeeding is, & that it’s not something that needs to be hidden or whispered about. It’s a natural (but not always easy) lovely journey between you & your child.