WBW 2016: 5 tips for a strong nursing relationship while working away from home

wbw2016-logo-textEditor’s note: Among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals central to World Breastfeeding Week this year is a call for better workplace support of breastfeeding women. Certainly employers have a large part to play in meeting this goal, but women also need step up to advocate for themselves, their babies, and their right to express breastmilk while at work:

It’s that day…the dreaded day that no new mother wants to face — the last day of maternity leave.

For a mother able to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave afforded by the Family & Medical Leave Act, the last 3 months in baby bliss may instead feel like 3 short weeks, but regardless of the maternity leave length, the end of that special period arouses many emotions, especially for a nursing mother.

Naturally, a nursing mother’s mind becomes occupied with fears and questions:

  • How will I be able to provide enough milk while I am away?
  • What if my baby refuses a bottle?
  • Where will I find enough time to pump while I’m trying to work?
  • How will my boss and coworkers feel when I need time to pump?
  • What will happen to our nursing relationship?

This uncertainty creates even more stress and anxiety for the breastfeeding and working-away-from-home mother for she knows the important role breastfeeding plays in a secure attachment in addition to the numerous health benefits.

Mommy Kissing Baby LContinued nursing after the maternity leave period helps maintain a strong attachment between mother and baby. In his book, The Attachment Parenting Book, Dr. William Sears includes a chapter entitled “Working and Staying Attached,” in which he points out that giving your baby your milk is a very important way of staying attached to your baby after returning to work. Expressing milk for baby to drink during the day allows mother to, in a sense, be with baby while she is away at work. When mother and baby are reunited, their attachment through breastfeeding can resume as if she never left.

Nursing beyond maternity leave not only helps strengthen attachment but also provides numerous health benefits for the nursing mother and her nursling.  In 2012, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published their policy statement, “Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk,” in Pediatrics. In this document, the AAP notes the numerous benefits of nursing, including those of nursing beyond 3-4 months. Some of these benefits for baby include a lower risk for developing serious colds, asthma, and other allergies; Sudden Infant Death Syndrome; and childhood and adult obesity. For the nursing mother, benefits include a lower risk of diabetes for mothers not diagnosed with gestational diabetes, a lower chance of arthritis, and breast and ovarian cancers. Essentially, the longer a mother can provide her baby with mother’s milk, the more health benefits received by both mother and baby.

In order to continue a secure attachment and experience the health benefits of breastfeeding, nursing mothers can maintain a strong nursing relationship while working away from home by following a few simple tips:

  1. Know your breastfeeding rights — Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, many U.S. employers must provide a nursing mother with break time and a place to pump for up to 1 year after the birth of her baby. It is to be noted that companies with less than 50 employees are exempt from this law and instead offer pumping breaks at the discretion of the employer. Information, along with instructions for filing a complaint, can be found through the United States Department of Labor. Many other countries have generous allowances for nursing mothers at work, so be sure to check with your nation’s laws.
  2. Plan a pumping schedule — This schedule will differ from mother to mother. Planning to nurse right before being separated from baby and as soon as mother and baby are reunited can help reduce the amount of pumping sessions needed at work. While at work, a mother should try to pump about every 3-4 hours. For a mom working an 8-hour shift, she might pump once in the morning, once during her lunch, and once in the afternoon. The idea is that for each time baby receives expressed milk from his or her care provider, mother is pumping. In doing this, mother should be able to pump the amount of milk that baby will consume the following day. Talk with a local breastfeeding specialist for a pumping schedule tailored to your work environment and other needs.
  3. Discuss needed accommodations with employer — When a mother meets with her employer, she should be prepared by knowing her legal rights. A working-away-from- home mother should inform her employer of the needed accommodations before returning to work. The employer may need some time to make changes in order to accommodate the nursing mother. When the mother meets with her employer, she should provide her employer with a copy of her nursing schedule. This may also include pumping space accommodations. For example, the room where milk will be expressed needs to have an easy-to-access electrical outlet and should be heated and cooled.
  4. Nurse on demand — Although a working mother must have a pumping schedule while at work, at home, she can nurse her baby on demand. Nursing on demand means that a nursing mother nurses when cued by the baby. This might be every 30 minutes or every 2 hours. Since how much milk produced is based on demand, a nursling can help increase a mother’s supply by nursing frequently. Nursing on demand also allows baby to re-establish the nursing bond that was missed during the day. Nursing on demand can continue during the night. Frequent night nursing may lead to reverse cycling, meaning the baby will nurse more frequently during the night than he or she does during the day. Some mothers who encourage reverse-cycling find that they don’t need to pump as much while at work during the day. For example, a baby may only drink 4-5 ounces of milk while his or her mother is at work, but the remaining amount of milk needed will be attained during the evening and all through the night. Essentially, in 24 hours, the baby will have consumed his or her total amount of milk needed.
  5. Get support — Most nursing mothers need support throughout the breastfeeding journey, and nursing mothers that work away from home are no exception. La Leche League International and other nonprofit organizations provide local and online opportunities for mothers to connect and support each other.

While the end of maternity leave marks a transitional period for mother and baby, a strong nursing relationship can be maintained by carefully preparing for this changed and remaining dedicated to the desire to nourish baby with mother’s milk.

Thank you, La Leche League

wbw2016-logo-textMary White, Edwina Hearn Froehlich, Mary Anne Cahill, Betty Wagner Spandikow, Viola Brennan Lennon, Mary Ann Kerwin, Marian Leonard Tompson — while these 7 names may not ring a bell, what they did has influenced so many lives all around the world. These 7 ladies founded La Leche League International (LLLI).

It’s because of LLLI that we celebrate World Breastfeeding Week each year!

La Leche League International is an organization that promotes breastfeeding. Its mission is to help mothers worldwide to breastfeed through mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information, and education, and to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of the baby and mother.

Elaborating on their mission, LLLI’s philosophy is comprised of 10 statements:

  1. Mother Baby Embrace ClayMothering through breastfeeding is the most natural and effective way of understanding and satisfying the needs of the baby.
  2. Mother and baby need to be together early and often to establish a satisfying relationship and an adequate milk supply.
  3. In the early years, the baby has an intense need to be with his mother, which is as basic as his need for food.
  4. Human milk is the natural food for babies, uniquely meeting their changing needs.
  5. For the healthy, full-term baby, breast milk is the only food necessary until the baby shows signs of needing solids — about the middle of the first year after birth.
  6. Ideally the breastfeeding relationship will continue until the baby outgrows the need.
  7. Alert and active participation by the mother in childbirth is a help in getting breastfeeding off to a good start.
  8. Breastfeeding is enhanced and the nursing couple sustained by the loving support, help, and companionship of the baby’s father. A father’s unique relationship with his baby is an important element in the child’s development from early infancy.
  9. Good nutrition means eating a well-balanced and varied diet of foods in as close to their natural state as possible.
  10. From infancy on, children need loving guidance which reflects acceptance of their capabilities and sensitivity to their feelings.

With a vision of what breastfeeding could and should be, a mission was created, principles stated, and an organization that would change the world of breastfeeding became: La Leche League.

With a decline in breastfeeding rates, the first La Leche League meeting took place in Franklin Park, Illinois, USA, at the home of cofounder Mary White in October 1956. As the organization began to grow, the founders set a clear purpose, and the first edition of book, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding was published.

In 1960, the first Canadian Le Leche League was established. Two years later, “chapters” were created with 5 groups in each. By 1963, the second edition of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding made an appearance. By 1964, the group changed its name to Le Leche League International as the organization has spread to Canada, Mexico, and New Zealand. This year also marked the first LLLI conference. From 1972-1979, more Le Leche League organizations were established throughout Europe, and breastfeeding rates were improving. In 1981, the 25th Anniversary LLLI Conference was held with a record number of attendees, and the third edition — revised and expanded — of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding was published. Throughout the 1980s, LLLI published various books. Then, in 1985, the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners — created through help from LLLI — began its certification program, and the first IBCLC exam took place.

Although breastfeeding rates had increased to 61.9% in the early ’80s, by 1990, the rate had dropped to 50%, and in 1991, LLLI and other organizations and individuals came together to create the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action. The first World Breastfeeding Week took place in 1992. In 1994, LLLI moved its central office to Schaumburg, Illinois, USA, and the following year, the LLLI website was created. Breastfeeding rates increased to nearly 60%.

During the first decade of the 21st century, LLLI continued to grow, accrediting new leaders in various countries including Bulgaria and Ukraine. In 2006, the 50th Anniversary of LLLI was celebrated, and in 2009, LLLI created a Facebook page. In 2010, the 8th edition of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding was released not only in English but other languages. Since then, LLLI has continued to accredit leaders in countries, helping the organization grow and spread its important mission.

As we celebrate World Breastfeeding Week, we acknowledge LLLI’s notable contribution to breastfeeding and also recognize the extraordinary women, the founders of LLLI, for their initiative and hard work making LLLI what it is today.

Fighting the Battle Against Oversupply

And just because someone has the opposite problem, doesn’t mean that oversupply isn’t a problem in its own right.

This was originally posted on the blog of Pittsburgh area doula and childbirth educator Vanessa T. 

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/54490598@N07/

Fighting the Battle Against Oversupply

With less than half of women breastfeeding at the six month mark we have to assume that many women believe they don’t make enough breast milk. But what about the others? The ones at the other end of the spectrum, making enough to feed a small village of babies? As one of these women, I can say that we are often told to be grateful for it because women who don’t make enough would be happy to have our problem. Well… I’m here to say that oversupply ain’t all it is cracked up to be. And just because someone has the opposite problem, doesn’t mean that oversupply isn’t a problem in its own right.

Oversupply isn’t just about having too much milk. If that was all there was to the problem, it probably wouldn’t be a problem. Oversupply is usually accompanied by a letdown that causes mom to spray milk at a high rate, which causes the baby to choke and swallow air. What eventually happens is that the baby fills up on the milk, which contains very little fat and air and this leads to gas and stomach pains. This causes the baby to appear colicky and have explosive gas and bowel movements. And also want to nurse constantly, perpetuating the cycle of oversupply and colic.

My oldest daughter had colic. It lasted way beyond the typical three months. In fact most of her first year is a blur due to her constant crying and nursing. My middle daughter didn’t have it, mostly because I was still nursing her older sister as a toddler and she helped mitigate any extra milk. When my milk came in, three days after the birth of my youngest, I recognized the signs of strong letdown immediately.

We tried block feeding (nursing on only one side per session) for several weeks. This along with positioning the baby above my breast really didn’t seem to help at all. I resorted to pulling her off when my milk let down and spraying into a cloth then relatching her. But women have multiple letdowns during each nursing session, so this was extremely inconvenient when not at home. I was desperate for answers… so I turned to Dr. Google and came across a very interesting study in the International Breastfeeding Journal.

The Protocol
You can read the study for free here. But basically the protocol consists of pumping your breasts dry. I used a hospital grade pump from A Mother’s Boutique, but I’m sure you could use a regular double electric pump. Followed by a nursing session where the baby nurses freely from each side. This lasted several hours! And was followed by a very deep, comfortable sleep by my baby. When she woke up, I began nursing from one side and stayed on that side for 3-4 hours. Then I switched for the next block and continued on for the next week.

Day One
The day after doing this our baby was noticeably less fussy. She also had a really nice poop that she did on her own without much fuss. She was less gassy and easier to nurse. I did experience a bit of engorgement about 30 hours after the initial pumping session. This led to a crazy letdown. But I did not repeat the pump out and just allowed the milk to spray into a towel and then relatched.

Day Two
I was noticeably less engorged, but still full. Again, I had to take her off for the first couple of letdowns during the first nursing session of each block. But other than that, I did notice that my breasts were softer at the end of the block and I was certain she was getting more fat. She was still much less gassy and fussy.

Days Three and Four
I almost never have to take her off for any letdowns. I am leaking way less during feedings and even though I have spontaneous letdowns in between nursing sessions, I don’t leak at all during them. Her gas is back to a normal amount for a baby. She is still not really pooping regularly, but I no longer feel worried that it is due to an imbalance of too much fore milk.

Day Five (today)
No engorgement and my breasts always feel soft. I never have to take her off for letdown and my leaking is almost nonexistent. She was a little more fussy and gassy last night and today, but I suspect the six week growth spurt is the culprit. We are planning to return the pump tomorrow or Thursday because I am sure I won’t need to repeat the draining.

I am so happy that I discovered this study. It does not seem to be well known because the Breastfeeding Center of Pittsburgh consultant that I spoke to had never heard of it. I hope that writing about it on my blog will help others find it.

Nothing on API’s website should be construed as medical or legal advice. API articles are provided for information purposes only. Consult your healthcare provider for your individual health and medical needs and attorney for legal advice.

TIME Magazine Shows Attachment Parenting is Going Mainstream, Not Extreme

When we, Attachment Parenting International, learned that TIME Magazine decided to take on attachment parenting in its May 21, 2012 issue, we had to ask, “TIME, are you news magazine enough?”

Beyond the incendiary attempt to pit mothers against each other asking, “Are you mom enough?,” and a strategic cover contrived to sell copies, what did TIME actually say about attachment parenting?

In case you don’t get very far past the cover, here is what TIME happened to acknowledge to the world about attachment parenting:

Dr. William Sears, with Martha Sears, deserve recognition for changing the course of parenting and giving parents The Baby Book 20 years ago. Dr. Sears is noted by TIME as “The Man Who Remade Motherhood” and author of many parenting books, including The Baby Book: “First published in 1992, The Baby Bookis now in print in 18 languages, with more than 1.5 million copies sold.”

Attachment parenting is changing how we parent: “Chances are also good that, consciously or not, you’ve practiced some derivative of attachment parenting or been influenced by its message that mothers and babies evolved to be close to each other.”

“Fans and critics of attachment parenting can agree on two things: there has been a sea change in American childrearing over the past 20 years, and no one has been a more enthusiastic cheerleader for it than Sears.”

“So many of the ideas of attachment parenting are in the culture even if you don’t believe in Dr. Sears per se,” says Pamela Druckerman , author of Bringing Up Bébé.

“[Attachment parenting] is a new common sense.”
(TIME, The Man Who Remade Motherhood, Kate Pickert)

Nurturing touch fosters security: “…it’s hard to argue with his overall message that babies who are cuddled feel secure.”

Breastfeeding promotes bonding: “He surely deserves credit for promoting breastfeeding and the idea that the bond between mother and baby is critical.”

Consistent and loving care is key: “The difference between children without consistent relationships with parents (or parental figures of any kind) and well-parented children who are fed formula (instead of breastmilk) and put in bouncy seats (instead of slings) is huge. The former, science says, are headed for developmental and emotional problems.”

Fathers are not incidental to attachment parenting:
“Much of Sears’ instruction for fathers revolves around the supportive role they can play for their wives.” “Sears also encourages “attachment fathering,” pointing out that dads can wear their babies just as well as mothers.”

Many AP moms work outside the home: “[Sears] says about 60% of mothers with children in his pediatric practice work outside their homes, and indeed, some career mothers are drawn to an attachment parenting model that helps them get close to their babies when they finally come home from work.”
(TIME, The Man Who Remade Motherhood, Kate Pickert)

Breastfeeding beyond infancy is … natural: “In 2008, the American Academy of Family Physicians did its part to try to destigmatize nursing toddlers and older children, applauding the WHO guidelines even as it acknowledged that extended breastfeeding “is not the cultural norm in the United States and requires ongoing support and encouragement.” The group added: It has been estimated that a natural weaning age for humans is between two and seven years. Family physicians should be knowledgeable regarding the ongoing benefits to the child of extended breastfeeding, including continued immune protection, better social adjustment and having a sustainable food source in times of emergency. The longer women breastfeed, the greater the decrease in their risk of breast cancer. There is no evidence that extended breastfeeding is harmful to mother or child.”
(TIME, Extended Breast-Feeding: Is It More Common than We Think?, Bonnie Rochman)

Weaning happens naturally: “So I rarely had to contend with strangers’ stares because the older my kids got, the less they nursed. That’s the normal progression of things – it’s how weaning is ideally supposed to work.”
(TIME, Extended Breast-Feeding: Is It More Common than We Think?, Bonnie Rochman)

Attachment parenting advocates societal change to accommodate family wellbeing: “More power to all of us. Let’s not blame our breasts for the other societal issues – like unequal pay, lack of daycare and having to protect our babies from toxins – that are holding us back.”
(TIME, Why Breast-Feeding Isn’t the Bugaboo, Dominique Browning)

Greater acceptance of nursing, including in public, helps families meet their babies’ needs: The world wonders what the discussion is: “But much of the world doesn’t share America’s uneasiness. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breast-feeding up to a child’s second birthday ‘or beyond.’ Most U.S. mothers don’t even meet the recommendation made by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Surgeon General that they skip infant formula and breast-feed exclusively for a mere six months.”
(TIME, Extended Breast-Feeding: Is It More Common than We Think?, Bonnie Rochman)

Parenting with intention may be healing and address unresolved needs: “Our parenting preferences matter deeply to us – they boost our self-esteem, or perhaps soothe and heal us from having been parented in a way that didn’t meet our needs.”
(TIME, “Parents Do What’s Right for Them,” Judith Warner)

There is value in being responsive to infant cries. We know responding will not spoil an infant. So if the research on “cry it out” is not conclusive, no need to support ignoring cries and the parent urge to respond, in lieu of building trust and a stronger relationship, and relying on support if needed. After finding in his research the science behind Dr. Sears’ work lacking, Jeffrey Kluger does acknowledge: “None of this means that Sears’ larger philosophy of attachment parenting is fatally flawed – as his millions of believers and their happy, well-adjusted babies would surely attest.”
(TIME, The Science Behind Dr. Sears: Does it Stand Up?, Jeffrey Kluger)

Attachment Parenting holds up to scrutiny: “[Mothers] research; they seek out best practices; they join a group, form a committee and agitate for their version of feeding/disciplining/sleeping. If you don’t believe me, just visit a breast-feeding support group with former litigators, marketing executives and investment bankers.”
(TIME, How Feminism Begat Intensive Mothering, Belinda Luscombe)

Parents are actively advancing the field of parenting; the sciences of development and attachment are affirming their parenting instincts: “We’ve educated women to forge a new path. Why did we think they’d treat raising children any differently?”
(TIME, How Feminism Begat Intensive Mothering, Belinda Luscombe)

Balance and support are essential to parenting: “Sears tells mothers, “Do the best you can with the resources you have”; he tells husbands to book massages for their wives and shoo them out of the house so they can get a break from parenting.”
(TIME, The Man Who Remade Motherhood, Kate Pickert)

This TIME magazine issue does have parents reading between the lines, pleased to discover the attachment parenting name to what they’ve been practicing.

We certainly don’t expect Attachment Parenting International promotional material from TIME magazine, so the work remains to shift culture to responsive and compassionate parenting, and to make clarifications as needed:

Attachment parenting is motivated by a desire to raise well adjusted, strong, independent children, as parents meet the trust and other emotional needs of the child from the very start and it’s not the case that: “…it’s more about parental devotion and sacrifice than about raising self-sufficient kids.”
(TIME, The Man Who Remade Motherhood, Kate Pickert)

The essence of attachment parenting is loving care that features a reciprocal, relational approach that goes deeper than this simple formula: “The three basic tenets are breast-feeding (sometimes into toddlerhood), co-sleeping (inviting babies into the parental bed or pulling a bassinet alongside it) and “baby wearing,” in which infants are literally attached to their mothers via slings.”
(TIME, The Man Who Remade Motherhood, Kate Pickert)

“Attachment parenting is in many ways the practical application of my father’s theory,” writes Sir Richard Bowlby Bt., who “lectures to promote a much broader understanding of his father’s work [Dr. John Bowlby] on attachment theory,” in his endorsement of API co-founders’, Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker, book Attached at the Heart: Eight Proven Parenting Principles for Raising Connected and Compassionate Children, just to begin addressing the criticism that “The science on attachment is also easily misunderstood and misused. The father of attachment theory is John Bowlby, a British psychoanalyst who in the mid – 20th century studied orphans and children abandoned by their mothers.”
(TIME, The Man Who Remade Motherhood, Kate Pickert)

There is nothing that prohibits a parent who works from incorporating the heart of relationship with attachment parenting. Perhaps they may elect to breastfeed or bottlenurse; babywear; or cosleep safely (not necessarily in the adult bed) to get more sleep; and at least nurture their child without spanking or shaming; and respond with sensitivity most of the time. Many find attachment parenting makes parenting and working more compatible, not “impossibly demanding” as Judith Warner perceives: “That’s why William Sears, for all his insistence on flexibility and admonitions to ‘do the best you can with the resources you have,’ strikes so many of us as impossibly demanding for any woman who wants or simply needs to keep out-of-home work a viable part of her life.”
(TIME, “Parents Do What’s Right for Them,” Judith Warner)

Yes, the AP crowd is on average pretty well educated, but it isn’t affluence that determines their choices — many continue to make financial sacrifices based on what science (and their own hearts) say is best for their children.“The affluent, slightly older and well educated moms who are most likely perusing parenting books like those written by William Sears have already tasted financial independence, self-sufficiency and freedom of movement.”
(TIME, “Parents Do What’s Right for Them,” Judith Warner)

We welcome TIME Magazine giving attachment parenting a public platform for discussion. For many years we have been witnessing a silent transition of the mainstream culture to attachment parenting–not extremism, as parents experience the benefits of parenting compassionately and become more confident in trusting their instincts.

TIME, the blame for mother guilt does not lie with attachment parenting or with any other type of parenting philosophy or culture — the complexity and balancing act of motherhood, encompassing mommy guilt or even typical healthy doubt as we navigate our way, existed before attachment parenting resurfaced. In fact, while TIME perpetuates the idea of an epidemic of immobilizing mommy guilt, moms of every stripe are in no uncertain terms countering, “Yes, we are mom enough.” AP brings balance and self-acceptance to mothers, embracing our imperfections and even recognizing how the repairs we make with our children strengthen and grow the attachment relationship. Now, we must move past the misconceptions and myths some of the conversation is dominated by and collectively think of the future we are raising.

Attachment parenting has a pedigree that goes to the beginning of history, rooted in a theory that has 60 years of formal research behind it, and 20 years of reclaiming our parenting instincts from disproven constructs of baby training and ignoring infant cries. If examined without bias and preconceptions, TIME may well one day report on attachment parenting as a “new” scientific discovery. The front cover and title would hail attachment parenting as the next life-changing advancement in society that benefits children, mothers, fathers, families, and society; but it’s enough for now.

Attachment Parenting International

Can You Please Retrieve My Bagel From Under the Bed?

rita and kids

I don’t normally eat anything found under my bed. The vacuum cleaner can only reach so far. I also have two house cats, and that’s where they go to get a little R-and-R from my three kids. Plus I do have a kitchen stocked full with food found in usual places like the fridge or pantry. But since going gluten-free this winter for medical reasons, it’s not often I get a chance to eat a beautifully soft bagel mounded with cream cheese spread. And I really wanted that bagel.

Losing the bagel – sunny side down, mind you – to the depths reminded me of a great disappointment a few months earlier. I had just left the doors of Burger King with my three children, a baby in a car seat and two girls, ages four and five, and in the crux of my arm balanced a refill of Dr. Pepper that I was really looking forward to drinking. It was a little breezy, and the older children were tired, and the parking lot seemed to be especially busy. When I got to the car, I put the drink cup on the hood and began the process of getting the car seat into its base and the older children into their booster seats. Triumphant with how smoothly things seemed to be going, I reached for the drink cup – when suddenly, a gust of wind shot it off the car and my longed-after Dr. Pepper dumped all over the ground. I was so disheartened that I didn’t even think of going through the drive-thru to get another one.

So, yes, I wanted that bagel. I didn’t want a repeat Dr. Pepper episode.

How did that bagel get under the bed, cream cheese side down, stuck in the dust bunnies and cat hair? Well, I was doing one of my infamous multitasking attempts. I was breastfeeding my baby while sitting on my bed, using the breast pump on the other breast (due to chronic yeast), talking on the phone with a client, sketching out an idea for a project with a pen and notepad, and eating this bagel – at the same time. The baby is at that age where anything within reach is in danger and he batted at the bagel. It dropped to the floor and rolled under the bed. I couldn’t express my dismay more than grimacing a little, because I was still on the phone. And I couldn’t attempt to get the bagel before the 30-second rule, because I was still tethered to the breast pump.

My husband didn’t even blink when I asked him to please retrieve my bagel from under the bed, like I do this kind of stuff all the time…

This post is part of the “Delicate Balance” series, which chronicles the juggling act of work-at-home attachment parent Rita Brhel.

Baby Led Sleep

I have two children right now. The Bean is almost three years and the Chickpea is almost eight months. Last night, and the night before that, and the night before that, I parented my three year old to sleep until he was soundly, deeply, out. On those same nights I nursed my eight month old in the rocker in her room, rocked her with her pacifier, and put her in her crib sleepy but awake. Then I left her alone and walked out. Within a few minutes, a few quiet minutes with a little tossing and maybe a sigh she was asleep. Continue reading Baby Led Sleep

Getting Dad into the Game

I often hear new moms tell me they are pumping so that dad can give the new baby a bottle. Over and over I hear that they want dad to feel involved and feeding an infant a bottle is just the way to do it.

As the mother of four, this seems redundant to me. My motto is always to prioritize and simplify. If you are nursing your baby, feeding the baby is not a task that needs doing by someone else. You pretty much have that one covered… and you can accomplish it while ostensibly sitting down and thumbing through a magazine or checking your e-mail. In my world, that means nursing is a baby duty I am happy to do! To let someone else feed the baby actually means more work for me, not less, as I have to figure out a time to pump when the two-year old does not tug at the machinery and what the heck do you do with a crabby newborn while you use both hands to juggle the pump anyways? Such a production!

So then, where does that leave dad? And older siblings? And grandparents? And everyone else who wants a piece of that delicious baby-care pie? Fear not, new babies are nothing if not, how can I put this graciously, full ’o needs. Even when mama is taking care of 100% of the feeding needs, baby still needs changing, bathing, dressing and holding. There are still plenty of baby-care duties that can be delegated and provide those special moments for bonding… tasks that actually need doing.

Send dad off on a walk with a well-fed, drowsy baby in a soft baby carrier and put your feet up and enjoy 20 minutes to yourself. Dad gets to bond with the new baby, dad feels competent because babies are generally content nestled in a soft carrier. Win- win! Let older siblings be in charge of choosing the outfit for the day, or singing to the baby during diaper changes. Grandparents can bathe and cuddle the new baby. There is never a shortage of baby care duties. And, hey, if someone really, really still wants to feed the baby, no worries, in 6 to 8 months, baby will happily accept cheerios, banana and avocado from just about anyone.

Breastfeeding can be intense the first few months. The nursing relationship between mama and nursling can seem exclusive. How have you included other members of your family in baby bonding time outside of the nursing relationship?

Nurse until you cry.

I thought I would share some important information I discovered about nursing. Finding it changed my life.

The other day I popped over to Pumproom Confessions and saw a button on the sidebar that said “Breastfeeding shouldn’t be a downer.” As I am ever interested in the world of nursing, and an advocate for breastfeeding, I clicked on it. It led me to a website for Dysphroic Milk Ejection Reflex. Suddenly I was reading account after account from women who experienced the same thing I do when nursing.

I love to nurse, the closeness is amazing, the health benefits for myself and my baby are incredible, and I believe it is the best thing for myself and my baby. I breastfed my daughter successfully and without any difficulty until she was 18 months old. Therefore, I found it a bit dismaying that each time I sat down to nurse my son I would suddenly be overcome with a deep wave of despair. It would punch me right in the stomach and sit there for a minute to two, then it would go away. I told myself it was mild post partum depression. I told myself it was a reaction to finally sitting down and not distracting myself from my grief over a departed friend. I didn’t connect it with my milk letting down. I didn’t connect it with nursing at all, even though it happened every time I sat down to do it. I just figured it was something else. I never knew it was a documented condition that afflicted other moms as well.

I can’t begin to tell you how much it means to me that I am a) not alone, b) not insane c) not imagining it. I feel so much better simply knowing that there is a physical reason for those moments of despair, and that there are people researching it to see if there is something that can be done. Clearly some wire in my brain is crossed. Evolutionarily it makes sense to have pleasurable emotions released when your milk lets down, not despairing ones.

If you are a nursing mother, and you feel inexplicably sad, anxious, angry, or depressed for short intense periods while nursing, check out the website on D-MER. Breastfeeding is challenging enough without having to battle intense and nebulous emotional demons along with it. I feel so much better simply knowing more about the problem, and I would bet you will too.

If anyone reading this feels this way and wants to talk about their experience, email me at lawandmotherhood@gmail.com. There is no reason to keep silent about it anymore.