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.