Some time around the beginning of my second trimester, once the disbelief about this second pregnancy had begun to settle, I came to the conclusion that it might be time to seriously reconsider the possibility night weaning my then 19 month old. I am open to and hopeful about tandem nursing, but the thought of tandem nursing at night? It made me want to weep big, hot tears.
You see, at 19 months, my kiddo had never slept through the night. He was still waking every two to four hours to nurse. There were times when this night-nursing frequency felt unbearable, but also times when it was decently manageable. We bedshare, and while I solidly credit this practice with strengthening our nursing relationship, I also quietly worried that our family bed set-up could be a giant stick in the spoke on our journey to ever sleeping through the night.
Sleep, oh, infinitely precious sleep! Like any new bleary-eyed parent, I’d done a fair share of reading about infant sleep, some of it instructive and insightful, and some of it…? Well, not so much. I remember one time taking a sleep book with me to a salon to read during some much-needed mama pampering , and it wasn’t until my stylist asked me, “Can you, um, relax your shoulders a bit?” that I realized how tensely I reacting to the dispiriting book I was reading. (Who does that? Reads about infant sleep while they’re supposed to be relaxing? A desperate and exhausted parent, that’s who.)
I don’t mean for this post to be about sleep, per se; you and I could probably sit down together over a pot of tea and talk all night about all of the sleep literature that’s out there and how it jives (or doesn’t) with our respective families’ needs. After reading the good stuff and the garbage, these three tenets undergirded my personal philosophy about sleep: 1)Nighttime parenting is just as important as daytime parenting; 2)We share sleep safely; and 3)Sleep is a developmental milestone like any other for my son, and he’ll get there at his own pace.
I’d tried to night wean my son in the past, and it was a pretty gnarly experience. I’d long held on to Dr. Jay Gordon’s approach for night weaning for bedsharing families, like a hopeful how-to manual for balancing what felt like, to me, the competing goals of sleep and gentle nighttime parenting. This approach relies heavily on the non-nursing partner’s involvement, and the non-nursing partner in this house is much slower to rouse than me. By the time he awoke to parent our son back to sleep, our son was wider awake and more difficult to soothe than he would have been had I just simply popped a boob in his eager mouth. After a few nights of these shenanigans, I figured it was easier on everyone if I just kept on keepin’ on with the boob-poppin’. The kiddo relaxed back into sleep faster, the husband hardly stirred and was better rested for his work day, and I was better able to relax next to a toddler who wasn’t steadily ramping up to a full awakening.
I had hope for the No-Cry Sleep Solution, but it, too, was a stunning exercise in defeat for us. The Pantley Pull Off (the gentle removal method) was simply too confusing for my son: Wait, I get the boob, but then you take it away? And then I get it again, and you take it away again? WAAAHHHH! And, similar to my experience with Dr. Gordon’s plan, I found that it was decidedly easier to just nurse him back down all the way. I came to slowly understand that it wasn’t that these approaches were unhelpful (I know peeps who’ve had good experiences), but rather it was that my son simply was not ready to be night weaned. I decided to table our night weaning efforts indefinitely.
Enter the unexpected, yet someday-hoped-for second pregnancy. Suddenly, sleep seemed like it would never recover from its endangered status anytime in the foreseeable future. More than six months after our last attempt at night weaning, I heaved a big, weary sigh and decided it was time to test the waters again. Thus commenced Operation No More Night Boob.
In the next week I’ll be sharing more detail about how we night weaned, but here’s a sneak preview: my approach wasn’t anything I’d read in book or on a website. My approach had everything to do with listening to my mothering gut and to my child. Stay tuned!
Rhianna composed the bulk of this post from her family bed in St. Louis, snuggled next to the cutest and snoring-est two dudes she knows. She is currently scratching her head over the best way to introduce a future night-nursing sibling to their shared sleep set-up.
We trudged down a long, rugged road to conceive our son, and while future children were always in our hearts and hopes, we had anticipated a similarly turbulent course to further expanding our fam. That disheartening path of our family-building past has undoubtedly shaped my parenting ethic and has emboldened my aspiration to be an attached, gentle mama. One specific element of my personal parenting ethic–breastfeeding–grew to become a profound and potent combination of attachment and empowerment. Becoming a mama was such a long-held dream, and breastfeeding had become so meaningful; I made these things–dwelling in my blissfully realized motherhood and nurturing my nursing relationship with my son–my priorities.
When discussions about adding to our brood would crop up between me and my husband, these conversations were always left open-ended. I wondered about child spacing. Worried that we’d get lost on that too-familiar, dark and long path again, I wondered if it’d be prudent to wean my son altogether in order to get a jump-start on trying for another baby. In the end, I found peace in focusing my energy and attention on the relationship with the child I was already so fortunate to have. (Zero judgement towards anyone who has decided differently. That is some seriously heart-wringing stuff, and I have the utmost respect for people who have to contend with making that decision.)
Life, as it tends to do so masterfully sometimes, demonstrated disregard for our difficult decision to table growing our family. My period returned on its own at 14 months postpartum, and after three postpartum cycles, I discovered I was pregnant. It was a surprise that spun my head and world around, one that filled me with a jaw-dropping, Niagra-sized waterfall of disbelief, awe and question.
I was saturated in competing emotions: joy and trepidation; peace and anxiety; gratitude and ambivalence. I suppose these confusing feelings are par for the course when life grants a hope you long ago released. As I now trek into the 17th week of this pregnancy, that deluge of conflicting emotions has evaporated, leaving only faint water marks in its wake–now nearly invisible reminders of how stunned we were by this deeply wanted, yet entirely unexpected bit of fruit in my ute.
In so many ways–from conception to morning sickness to support system–this pregnancy has been strikingly different from my last. Though I’ve experienced pregnancy and childbirth before, I feel like I’m learning entirely new lessons this time. It’s exciting. And humbling.
If you’ll join me, I hope to take you along for this journey. This pregnancy has already thrust us into big changes–my toddler is now fully night-weaned (I will share that story soon). I’m currently navigating the decision about where to birth this bundle of bebe, preparing emotionally and physically for a new bambino, and hoping to learn what attached, natural, gentle parenting looks like when you’ve got two to snuggle and wrangle. I hope that we can trade insights…
How about you? Did a struggle to conceive/sustain a pregnancy influence your parenting ethic? Have you ever debated altering your attachment tools in order to grow your family? Ever had your world rocked by a pregnancy–first, second or otherwise? How did you manage these experiences?
Rhianna blogs from her adopted hometown of St. Louis. She gives thanks to the Goddess of Elastic-banded Pants for her roundly unattractive, but so, so comfortable apparel. Now if only the Goddess of Morning Sickness would heed her pukey pleas…
Welcome to the August edition of Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Breastfeeding.
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by The Positive Parenting Connection and Authentic Parenting. As August is Breastfeeding awareness month, our participants are writing about this exact subject! Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my breasts lately.
Several weeks ago I began night-weaning my son, now 20 months old. We had a sputtering, exasperating start to our nursing relationship, and though those struggles felt world-rattling at the time, hindsight now grants me a pretty clear understanding that our struggles were standard issue struggles for the spankin’ new nursing dyad. With that first month of breastfeeding in our rear-view mirror, we kicked our nursing relationship into a smooth 5th gear, pedal to the metal, with the top down (literally). It’s been a pretty fantastic ride so far.
We’ve totally night-weaned at this point, and the transition unfurled much easier and gentler than I could have ever expected. It’s clear to me that we were both ready for this change in nursing routine. Still, night-weaning has got me feeling all kinds of introspective, sentimental, and grateful.
There is much I love about breastfeeding, and I’m certain my personal highlights are also probably standard issue for other mamas who’ve fallen in love with nursing their babes: those content and sated swallows of mama’s milk; those cheeks so warm and rosy from skin-to-skin snuggles; that one arm sleepily draped across the other breast, gently staking claim on his nosh; that sly upturn of the corner of his mouth when he grins as he nurses; that sweet, sugary scent of milky breath; that instant salve that calms and rights any hurt or overstimulation.
Breastfeeding has deepened my sense of connection with my son, but it has also deepened my connection with my own body. Breastfeeding has gifted me with a whole new respect for this body of mine. Like many women I know, I’ve had mixed feelings about my body over the course of my life. From appearance to functioning, we, as women, have been conditioned to question the adequacy of our bodies. If you’ve ever had a persistent medical issue, or struggled to conceive or sustain a pregnancy, or, hell, even flipped through an issue of Cosmopolitan, chances are that you, too, have battled a nagging distrust and dislike of your body.
As a teenager, I was self-conscious of my breasts. As an undergrad, I was so ambivalent about them that I seldom wore a bra. As a young woman, I came to see breasts as toxic and dispensable. My grandmother had just been diagnosed with breast cancer, and I had fundraised for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in her honor. As I walked a marathon’s length with a small group of friends that first day of the event, I was overwhelmed by all of the stories of sickness and death. I distinctly recall naively commenting to my friends that I was not attached to my own breasts in any way, and were I ever diagnosed with breast cancer I would experience zero hesitation or reluctance about undergoing a mastectomy. Boobs, I thought, were just boobs.
Except, you know, they’re not just boobs. They’re not toxic or dispensable. And, nearly ten years later, as a nursing mother, I now get just how profoundly meaningful they are.
I now understand what it feels like to love and respect my breasts, to feel my breasts swell with perfect sustenance, to experience the ability to nourish my son exclusively from them for the first almost seven months of his life, and to watch my son flourish from my milk over these last 20 months. It’s a strikingly empowering feeling.
Last weekend a friend and I went to a vaudeville/burlesque show, and I found myself surrounded by impressively strong ladies with gorgeous, perky, pastied breasts. I looked down at my own breasts–shadows of their former gorgeous, perky selves–and smiled broadly. Oh, they are indeed a droopier state of affairs, but, you know what? They are still mighty frickin’ spectacular.
Rhianna lives in St. Louis with her husband and toddler, both of whom heartily agree with her assessment of her boobs. Everyone’s getting more sleep in her house these days (finally), but she’d be a big ol’ liar if she told you she didn’t miss those quiet nighttime nursing seshes a little.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
- Parenting Myth Busted: They Never Stop Breastfeeding – Laura at Authentic Parenting shares how her 4 year old effectively weans herself.
- 7 Tips for Breastfeeding In Public Stress Free – From baby wearing to using a scarf, Ariadne of Positive Parenting Connection is sharing many helpful tips on how to breastfeed in public stress free.
- Breastfeeding has been Downhill – Jorje of Momma Jorje compares her nursing experiences and finds… it hasn’t gotten easier with time and experience.
- A Heartfelt Tip for the Nursing Mamas – Margaux from Young Nesters gives her biggest piece of advice for all present and future breastfeeding Mamas.
- Breastfeeding Carnival – Billy at My Pathway To Motherhood writes about the past, present and future of nursing her daughter.
- Amy W. at Me, Mothering and Making it All Work describes why she loves to advocate for and help nurture breastfeeding relationships.
- To My Nursling – Stone Age Parent dedicates a breastfeeding poem to her child.
- My 3 ½ Year Old Breastfeeds As Much As A Newborn – And That Is Fine By Me – Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama
- Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival of Breastfeeding: Our Sorta Sudden Gentle Weaning – Wolfmother Chronicles
- How to breastfeed while babywearing in a men tai – Lauren at Hobo Mama offers a video tutorial for easy, hands-free nursing on the go in a mei tai (Asian-style) baby carrier.
- My Boobs? Mighty Frickin’ Spectacular, Thank You Very Much. – Rhianna from The Other Baby Book shares a post crediting breastfeeding with nurturing a connection not only with her son, but also with her breasts and her body’s empowering ability to do its thing.
Moms, it’s time to take a stand. Whether you breastfeed or use formula, whether you make alternative choices or mainstream ones, whether you work or stay home, let’s support mothers who pump at work.
Yes, we’re making great headway. The recent legislation for nursing moms who work and need to pump is an important start. It sets the ground rules from which mothers and companies across the United States can find understanding and build support.
But when a manager feels he can stop a mom from pumping at work because he finds it “disgusting,” we see that there’s still a lot of work to be done. This is where we can all make a difference.
Be aware and listen. Do the pumping moms around you have the support they need at work? Or do they face barriers? How often do they encounter unusual and/or inconvienent circumstances? Women should not be so discouraged at work that they would rather stop breastfeeding than face unneccesary obstacles.
Share the facts. If you see someone facing obstacles, let them know about the U.S. Department of Labor’s requirements for pumping at work. Here are their general requirements:
Employers are required to provide“reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.” Employers are also required to provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.”
Know the details. As with any legislation, there are exceptions to the rule. In this case, employers with fewer than 50 employees are not subject to break time requirements if compliance with the provision would impose an undue hardship. Working moms in these situations should not, however, be immediately detracted from pumping. The legislation specifies:
Whether compliance would be an undue hardship is determined by looking at the difficulty or expense of compliance for a specific employer in comparison to the size, financial resources, nature, and structure of the employer’s business. All employees who work for the covered employer, regardless of work site, are counted when determining whether this exemption may apply.
These factors provide much more flexibility than many moms realize and, if they need more information, the Department of Labor encourages moms to visit their Wage and Hour Division’s website or call their toll-free information and helpline, available 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in your time zone, 1-866-4USWAGE (1-866-487-9243). They should also look into their state’s legislation, which may be even more beneficial.
Spread confidence. Not everyone is comfortable with discussing breastfeeding, especially in a work environment, but this should never prevent a mom who wants to pump at work from doing so. As each one of us pumps at work, we make it easier for the next mom to feel secure about what she’s doing. It becomes less of an alternative choice and more of a mainstream solution that’s far from “disgusting.”
Let’s look out for each other, ladies (and fellas! we need you too!). Let’s cheer when things are working well, acknowledge when things can be improved and take immediate action when they’re wrong. Mothers, and most importantly, our children, are worth every effort.
Working moms, does pumping at the office work for you? If so, what is your company doing right? If not, what can be improved?
Kristen is the proud mom of two, Will (5) and Joy ( 2). She feels lucky to work for a company that let her pump in peace and hopes that soon every breastfeeding mom who works away from home has the same opportunity.
Did you know The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year is now for sale? Are you interested in learning more about gentle, mom and baby-friendly practices that foster a joyful, connected relationship? Want to introduce a pregnant friend to natural parenting? Check out our website or head over to Amazon to grab your copy today!
It was looking a bit gloomy for the St. Louis gathering for The Big Latch On last Saturday morning. We woke up to thunder, lightning, and buckets of rain. Were it not for the recent unrelenting, blistering triple-digit heat wave, I would have been outright grumpy for the inclement weather. I had so been looking forward to this public celebration of breastfeeding! As I checked the Facebook feeds for both the La Leche League of Greater St. Louis and The Big Latch On-St. Louis, participants were slowly bowing out with regret. We happen to live just a handful of blocks from the park where the event was being held, so we were thankfully able to wait the weather out and still arrive for our NIP-fest on time.
The rain had relievedly slowed to a soft drizzle. While we waited for our 10:30am latch-on time, my toddler decided to capitalize on some serious puddle-splashing opportunities.
Like many of you, this wasn’t the first time, nor will it likely be the last time, I’ve nursed my spectacularly sodden child. Around 10:20am, I headed over to our designated latch-on rendezvous point in the park, soggy toddler in tow. We chatted with friends, waited for the clock to strike 10:30am, and then…
In spite of the damp and dreary weather, 25 St. Louis-area little ones came out to be counted amongst the 8,862 other nursing tykes across 23 countries in 626 different locations to honor of World Breastfeeding Week, to raise awareness of breastfeeding and promote its positive presence in public places, and to advocate for access to adequate breastfeeding support services. It was an impressive Big Latch On indeed, and it was not a bad way to pass a drizzly Saturday morning, y’all–muddy toddler and all.
Over the last week we’ve been working on night-weaning in our house (forthcoming post on that), and though it’s been going well, it has also churned up some serious sentiment for me. I can’t even begin to write about what breastfeeding means to me, about how it restored a sense of empowerment about my body; about how much I relish those upward gazes from my son; about how the weight of his body in my arms has changed so much from then to now; about how much I treasure the cheeky upturn of his mouth when he smiles as he nurses; about this new respect for and relationship with my breasts as a nursing adult woman.
Our breastfeeding relationship is far from over, but it is changing. From 10:30am-10:31am on Saturday morning, during our internationally shared moment of nursing, I meditated on my boundless gratitude for being a mother; for the ability to nourish my son both nutritionally and emotionally through the act of nursing; and for the women in my life who supported me and inspired me during our breastfeeding journey. We may not have broken the world record on Saturday, but my breastfeeding relationship with my son has far surpassed my every expectation in innumerable, heart-stoking ways.
Did you attend a Big Latch On gathering? How did it go? What are/were your breastfeeding goals? Did you break your own personal world record?
I am preparing to return to work tomorrow after 12 glorious weeks bunkered down with my family and sweet baby boy. My husband (my rock) and I have run down the check list and I have diligently been building a supply of frozen breast milk in my freezer so that he will receive only the best in my absence. Lucky for me I have a super supportive family and employer that allows me time to pump and feed my baby while at work. My husband brings him at lunchtime for a visit and snack (it is my favorite part of the day)! For the two days that I am at work I will continue to pump every 3-4 hours and know that my children are in good hands with their daddy.
Throughout my pregnancy and over the last twelve weeks, I have received a ridiculous amount of marketing from formula companies. Samples, coupons, emails with “suggestions” on how to get more sleep, wean so that I can return to work, and let my husband “share” the joys of feeding. When I receive these items in the mail, I always write return to sender, sometimes if I have had a good night of sleep I send a letter back first, asking to be removed from the list, and secondly scolding the manufacturers for sabotaging my breastfeeding experience with their propaganda. Just this week as we broach World Breastfeeding Week the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement urging Pediatricians to refrain from passing out samples of formula in their offices.
Everyone knows the innumerable benefits to breastfeeding. What fails to be conveyed is that giving formula comes with risks. Of course, every family has a right to choose how a baby is fed but the truth does not need censorship. In most of the world a choice between breast and bottle is a matter of life and death. The mothers who choose to breastfeed should not be inundated with materials, and samples that wreak havoc on their efforts. We know that mothers who receive samples of formula are more likely to give them. Formula companies are no longer just marketing their product to formula feeding mothers, they now frequently pass out “breastfeeding support bags,” in doctor offices and sadly at many hospitals.
In no way are these formula manufacturers supporting breastfeeding they are making women feel in adequate. The number one reason cited by breastfeeding mothers for weaning is lack of milk or perceived lack of milk. What I hope this post does is to tell all women that you absolutely have what it takes! Don’t let these companies play mind games with you, and remember this: Your body created and sustained life for 9 months and is able to sustain it for at least another 6 months purely with the milk your body makes. Thereafter breast milk continues to nourish and provide antibodies for your baby and protect you from a multitude of illness and cancers. Millions of women have sustained the life on many children with their milk alone. The fact is that lactation and breast milk are undervalued in our society there is no product out there that comes close to what breast milk is despite the claims. It is indeed a wonder food and drug that prevents and treats illness and is essentially free and never recalled. I urge you to fight back when you receive these products in the mail. Contact your local representatives, ask your pediatricians’ to follow the AAP’s policy and discontinue free samples at their office. These samples are not free and come at a high cost! How will you participate in World Breastfeeding Week check out http://www.biglatchon.org/ for events in your area.
Molly is a full-time mama to 3 and part-time nurse and lactation consultant. She has breast-fed in many places including under water-falls, tops of mountains, in the ocean and of course snuggled up in bed!