Q&A: The All Night Nurser

Q: Lily  just turned 8 months, and is still up several times during the night to comfort nurse (I think).  I am not great at letting her cry, so I just end up letting her use me as a pacifier, so I don’t really get much sleep.  I am used to it, but I am sure I would be better off with some extended sleep one of these days! Do you have any advice about how I can help her sleep on her own — I have been trying to up her solids during the day, but she is more interested in nursing still.
A, Mom of 2 boys, 1 girl
A:  Hi A!  I am so psyched that yours is my first question!
Firstly, hooray for breastfeeding for 8 months and wanting to continue.  Lily is a lucky gal.  And sorry to hear that your sleep is suffering.  I hope some of the following thoughts will help.
Your question says “comfort nursing” but she could very well be hungry, so let’s tackle that first. I bet she is increasingly interested in and distracted by her brothers and not concentrating on daytime feedings, right? Offering high-calorie, nutritious table foods is wonderful, but it is totally age appropriate that she continues to prefer breastmilk and she may until 12 months or later.  Sooooo, keep presenting solids while you nurse on demand.  Not at the same time, ha, you know what I mean. And if you can at all manage it see if you can arrange some nursing sessions with no competing stimuli.
I’d start offering a top-off when YOU go to bed, even if its 10 or 11pm and she’s been down for hours.  This can buy you 6 hours on a good night!
If you don’t already, I’d encourage you to cosleep and get good at feeding in the side lying position.  Wear a loose nightgown or t-shirt.  I hear all the time that once a child can help himself, Mom can nearly sleep through it.  And because sometimes it just helps to know you’re not alone, most cosleeping babies do wake at least once a night until 12 months or later.
Keep yourself healthy so that interrupted sleep doesn’t completely wreck your days-  sunshine, good whole foods, probiotics, vitamins, water.  Don’t over commit or pack your calendar. Cut stress from your life whenever you can.  Accept family help with big kids or hire a cheap teenaged mother’s helper so you can occasionally nap with baby. Lastly and most important, hold on to your sense of humor and realize how quickly she will grow up.  Personally I think I’m going to like these bumpy nights more than I’ll like being awake and waiting for a 17 year old’s car in the driveway.
Will you let me know how it goes? And please, if Lily and her tired parents are looking for gentle night weaning thoughts down the road, email again!

Motherhood does not end

I was heartsick to see another senseless mass shooting when I awoke today. By the end of the weekend, whether we want to or not, we’ll know everything there is to know about the movie theatre shooter. We’ll know if he was on drugs, if he was abused or bullied, recently fired from a job or dumped by a lover.  We already know that he was carrying at least 3 weapons and that he booby-trapped his apartment before the spree.  We know that he was pursuing a PhD in Neuroscience.

Right there I know 10x more about him than about any of the victims.  I hate that fact, but it happens after every tragedy, doesn’t it?

We need to know why.  We need something to blame, besides the 3 guns and an obviously disturbed brain.  And digesting information about him is something we can DO because we can’t undo the tragedy.

As parents we know we can’t prepare for every eventuality or prevent every bad thing from befalling our children, as much as we wish we could.  The parents who lost their children last night could not have done anything differently.  A cinema is not normally a dangerous place.

But what do you think about HIS parents?  Do you think they could have done something differently?  Loved him more or better?  Saved him earlier and in turn saved the lives of so many? Don’t we want to know as much about the murderer as possible in the hope that somebody sees the same red flags and stops the next murderer in time?

Someone claiming to be the shooter’s mother called in to a news program saying “you have the right person.”  You’d better believe that this woman is about to be all over your TV and papers. Imagine making that call, Mamas? Imagine making that call and saying those words and now spending the rest of your life thinking of all the chances you missed to prevent this? Please don’t misunderstand me.  A 24-year-old is his own man, and no one planned the attack and pulled the trigger but he.  But tragically, her words say loud and clear that this horrendous crime was no surprise.

It’s near impossible in the throes of these high-needs years  to think that there will be a day when I am not intimately involved in every move my sons make.  But it will come.

Motherhood does not end.  On most days, I like to imagine myself encouraging my post-college children to spread their wings, be independent, have adventures, for God’s sake don’t text me all the time.  But today I think of the woman making that phone call.  I am more committed than ever to fostering a healthy strong emotional connection with my children.  Sons, I promise that I can handle all of you.  I am not afraid of big emotions.  You don’t have to hide the worst parts of yourself from me.  I will be strong for you when you feel weak and while I am living I will always help you.

Rebecca is a wife and mother and community builder.  She sends her sincere sympathy and prayers to Aurora,CO.


Join me, Mama!

I love naps! Who doesn’t, right? That’s a cheap applause line if I’ve ever written one.  It’s practically “It’s great to be here in Toledo, the best city in the world.”

But I do love ‘em. I used to doze in the passenger seat on the long drive from NY to Boston; doze on planes, doze on a lounge chair at the pool, doze at my desk.  Just kidding about that last one, former bosses.  Oh that reminds me – yesterday I was watching my 3 year old jump off the side of the pool about 40 times in a row and over his shoulder I could see this middle aged dude just snoozing the afternoon away, mouth agape. I was so jealous that I wished a wasp would fly into his mouth.  Somebody’s tired, eh?

Anywho, where was I going with this? Oh yeah, so I happen to be extremely committed to awesome, consistent, gentle nighttime parenting.  My motto has always been “be the same parent 24 hours/day”.  And that, my friends, is a tall, tall order.  I’ve failed, but I keep trying because I think it’s a worthy goal and I like a good challenge.

For the first 2 years of motherhood a key component to being awesome was napping with my son.  Luckily my guy excelled at naps.  I was often the envy of playgroup with tales of his 3 hour zonk-out sessions which gave me ample opportunity to refill my tank with some shut eye by baby’s side if only for 30 minutes. Sometimes I’d be the best wife in the world and and get some household chores done to boot.
When I got pregnant with my 2nd son I was in denial that those days were over.  I fantasized about all three of us napping simultaneously.  Psych!

I’d also forgotten about the topsy-turvy day-is-night-is-day schedule of the first 60 days or so.  With #1 I remember complaining to a childless friend “I’m stuck nursing all day.”  Man, I didn’t know how great I had it “stuck” in a comfy club chair, living on Baby Time, snoozing when he did.  Just one tiny being relying on me.

My point is this and sorry for burying the lede here: Nap with your child if you are EVER offered the chance.  Just do it, okay?  Don’t think about the reasons not to, because when it comes down to it, you probably have the time or energy to cross, like, one lame thing off the To-Dos if you don’t nap.  And if you’re honest with yourself, when you don’t nap you’ll check Facebook and Perez Hilton and eat a sleeve of Thin Mints because you’re starving from breastfeeding.  So push out of your mind the dirty dishes and the last time you shaved your legs and climb in the nest. Of all the parenting choices you have in a day, that’s one decision you won’t regret.

Rebecca is Mom to one napper and one non-napper.  To quote Bill Cosby, she enjoys sleep like a good steak and is starting to “get” her grandparents 2 twin beds which she used to find hilarious.  

Summer Sucks

Do you know what I used to do all summer?  Sit on my butt. Well technically I was paid to make sure swimmers didn’t drown. But there were many many hours when I did little else but swim laps, nap, read People or musty paperbacks, re-apply tanning lotion and eat cold delicious cantaloupe out of my little cooler.  And that was just the days! Every night I would hang with my friends laughing, sipping beer, flirting with boys, listening to live music.
Years later my husband and I would start the weekend by sleeping in, then we’d get iced coffees and sit by the pool passing sections of the paper back and forth.  When we were bored we’d take dunks.  At dusk we’d have people over, grill steaks, sit on the patio and stare at the fire.
Oh man I loved summer.

Things I used to worry about in the summer
1.  ummm
2.  or… eh… my towel didn’t dry completely from the day before?

Things I worry about in the summer now that I have kids
1.  Sunscreen
2.  Whether my kids’ sunscreen is made out of poison
3.  Insect Repellent
4.  That every walk or hike = Lyme disease if I’m not diligent about #3
5. Bald baby not wearing a hat
6.  UV blocking scuba suits- you know what I mean- those horrible long sleeve things for albinos
7. Sand in kids’ eyes, hair, private areas, new car
8. Sweaty baby wanting to cuddle or be worn
9. Horrible non absorbent and crazy expensive swim diapers
10.  Poop in swim diaper
11. Evil Ice Cream Truck
12.  Snack Bars and the begging related to snack bars
13. Burning Hot Metal Playground Slides
14.  Bees, Wasps
15.  Gross, freaky street fairs with carnies from central casting and rides that last 90 seconds and cost more than a gallon of milk
16.  Stupid long days where it is broad daylight at bedtime and blackout shades are not cutting it
17.  Sauna cars and toasty carseats with melted buckles
18.  Meat locker AC too cold for baby
19. Concrete around pools- why has someone not invented rubber pool decks?
20.  Drowning, Drowning, Drowning

My teacher friends will cry when I write this, but how long ‘til September?

Rebecca and her family, including sons ages 3 and 1, live in New Jersey.  Someday when she is very brave she will join her fellow residents and summer “down the shore”.  But for now the local pool and tennis club is about all the fun she can manage.