A Different Kind of Baby-Led Weaning

When people talk about baby-led weaning, they are usually referring to the method of introducing solid food that involves introducing finger foods and allowing the baby to decide what and how much to eat, rather than the parents spoon feeding baby food. Over time, feedings at the breast are gradually replaced with self-feeding of the same types of solid foods eaten by the rest of the family.

But breastfeeding is about more than just food. So in families that have chosen child-led weaning, meaning that the child (not the mother) decides when to stop nursing, the gradual process of weaning involves not only introducing other forms of food, but also other forms of comfort.

In our family, our babies were always nursed to sleep. That meant that I, as the nursing mom, lay down with them at bedtime and nursed them until the gulps turned to flutters and they drifted off to sleep. I could then sneak out and go about the rest of my evening. If I wasn’t there, Daddy would do, but their preference was always to nurse to sleep. We never pushed or forced independent sleep, knowing that like eating, walking, talking, reading and so many other things, they would one day be able to do it on their own. It might require some guidance and some reassurance, but certainly not force.

As it happens, both of our children were ready to give up nursing to sleep before they were ready to give up having a parent present at bedtime. Nursing is a powerful sleep tool and our kids needed something to replace it. Something that would help them go off smiling and secure into the Land of Nod. They didn’t stop nursing at bedtime all at once. It happened gradually. With both of them, they went from nursing to sleep to nursing at bedtime but not falling asleep while nursing.

So then what do you do with a still awake child that has finished nursing?

In our case, in child-led fashion, each of our kids decided for themselves what comfort they needed that would help them doze off. With Julian, it was an involved process. He wanted his back rubbed while being sang to. The Thomas the Tank Engine theme song, the Elmo Song, the Wheels on the Bus, over and over and over again. He wasn’t always quick to fall asleep and I would find myself drifting away mid-song as I tried to get him to sleep. With Emma, who is now just shy of three years old and only nurses at bedtime about every third night or so, the request is clear and simple: “Mommy, cuddle my bum.”

So I cuddle. Because she wants me to, because it comforts her, and because one day she won’t want me to anymore.

Photo credit: ibu menyusui on flickr

Annie blogs about the art and science of parenting at the PhD in Parenting blog. She wrote this post after cuddling her little girl to sleep.

Child’s Hierarchy of Needs

Parents often find it overwhelming trying to meet their children’s needs. With limited time, limited resources, and limited patience meeting all of their needs can seem like an impossible task. If we can’t do it all, where should we begin? Where should we focus? What is most important?

Last year, Meagan Francis from The Happiest Mom developed a Mother’s Hierarchy of Needs based on the work of Abraham Maslow who developed Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. In simple terms (from businessballs.com, emphasis mine):

Each of us is motivated by needs. Our most basic needs are inborn, having evolved over tens of thousands of years. Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs helps to explain how these needs motivate us all. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs states that we must satisfy each need in turn, starting with the first, which deals with the most obvious needs for survival itself. Only when the lower order needs of physical and emotional well-being are satisfied are we concerned with the higher order needs of influence and personal development.

Continue reading “Child’s Hierarchy of Needs”

Letter to the editor in response to: “Co-sleeping fears prevented call for parents to abandon defective cribs”

This post is an open letter to the editor of the Ottawa Citizen in response to an article that appeared in a series of newspapers and websites owned by the Canwest News Service, including canada.com.

Dear Editor,

I was dismayed but unfortunately not shocked by Sarah Schmidt’s article Co-sleeping fears prevented call for parents to abandon defective cribs. Governments across North America, including the federal and some provincial governments in Canada,  have been waging an ongoing war against co-sleeping. Unfortunately, this is not based on sound science.

It is important to note that both bed sharing and cribs have safety risks. Both co-sleeping and cribs can be made very safe if certain safety precautions are taken (but neither one is completely safe all of the time – there is no such thing as a 100% safe sleep environment). However, when a baby dies in a crib, the Ontario coroner will determine whether it was an unsafe sleep environment (e.g. full of stuffed animals and blankets) or if it was SIDS (meaning they don’t know why the baby died). When a baby dies in bed with its parents, the Ontario coroner simply calls it an unsafe sleep environment. This is unfair to parents who do make the effort to create a safe sleep environment and also unfair to parents who are scared out of co-sleeping by the dire warnings of the government.

Even if co-sleeping were more dangerous than sleeping in a crib (which I do not accept), parents are going to co-sleep with their babies. Some do it for cultural reasons. Some do it because of the benefits of co-sleeping, such as ease of breastfeeding and promoting bonding. Some do it to because their baby simply will not sleep in a crib. By telling parents that co-sleeping is dangerous, rather than providing them with guidelines on how to make shared sleep as safe as possible, the government is playing a role in the deaths of co-sleeping babies. Tell parents not to drink or smoke and co-sleep. Tell parents to do something to prevent falls, to avoid crevices where the baby could get stuck, to avoid thick bedding that can cause suffocation, to not co-sleep on a couch, and so on. Some governments, like Quebec and Nova Scotia, do provide such guidelines for co-sleeping parents. Ontario should do the same. Most co-sleeping deaths (like most crib sleeping deaths) are preventable.
Continue reading “Letter to the editor in response to: “Co-sleeping fears prevented call for parents to abandon defective cribs””

It Takes a Village to Raise a Child

A lot of parents that practice attachment parenting or natural parenting point to the fact that this is the way children are often raised in traditional societies. This is true, to a great extent, but there is one big exception. In our society we seem to feel that practicing attachment parenting means that the parents alone are raising the child or sometimes even one parent alone (usually the mother) while the other one works long hours, goes off to war, or just runs away.

We parent alone. We raise our children alone. That is exhausting.

In traditional societies, it is true that people co-sleep, breastfeed much longer, and wear their babies all the time. But the village raises the child. There are grandparents, aunts, neighbours, and older children to share the parenting. In our society, if the mother cannot do it all, all of the time, we look down on her. Or, alternately, if she isn’t willing to just leave her baby with some stranger in order to get a break, we look down on her.
Continue reading “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child”

Soon they are best friends (Part 4 in a series on having baby #2)

This is the fourth and last post in a series on preparing for a second baby. If you haven’t read them already, check out the first part What on Earth Were We Thinking? and the second part To tandem or not to tandem, and third part Move over: making room for one more in the bed.

July 021

It wasn’t long until my anxiety about bringing a second child into our home gave way to the reality and excitement of introducing our little girl to the family. Our son was generally excited about having her around, but like any child he had his moments…moments where, for example, he said “Baby sister go back in mommy’s tummy now.” But those moments were few and far between and what I remember more than anything else was my son being a devoted big brother, one that was loving and helpful with his little sister. I remember him wanting to hold her and glowing when he did. I remember him getting her to giggle and laugh.

I think part of the reason things turned out so well is our capacity as humans to love. Our capacity as parents to expand our hearts and find so much more love. My son’s capacity to open his heart to this new little intruder in his life. But the other reason things turned out so well was that we prepared and we adapted.

So what can you do to prepare your older child? How can you make things easier for the big brother or sister?

Move over: making room for 1 more in the bed (Part 3 of a series on preparing for baby #2)

This is the third post in a series on preparing for a second baby. If you haven’t read it already, check out the first part What on Earth Were We Thinking? and the second part To tandem or not to tandem.

…there were four in a bed and the little one said

“roll over, roll over”

so they all rolled over and one fell out

There were three in a bed and the little one said…

Sprawling limbs. Acrobatic nursing. Coughs. Teeth grinding. Wiggling. Wet diapers. Teething. All things that can make sleeping with multiple children challenging. But the cuddles, ah….the cuddles. They make it all worthwhile. And having your kids feel secure at night is a wonderful feeling. Continue reading “Move over: making room for 1 more in the bed (Part 3 of a series on preparing for baby #2)”

To tandem or not to tandem (Part 2 of series on preparing for baby #2)

This is the second post in a series on preparing for a second baby. If you haven’t read it already, check out the first part What on Earth Were We Thinking?

In [my] attachment parenting circles nursing into toddlerhood is common. A lot of parents strive for child-led weaning or at the very least gradual and gentle weaning. What that means is that a lot of moms are still nursing their first child when they get pregnant with the second (especially if they believed the myth that you can’t get pregnant while nursing, which is only true under certain circumstances for a limited time period). Continue reading “To tandem or not to tandem (Part 2 of series on preparing for baby #2)”

What on earth were we thinking? (Part 1 of series on preparing for baby #2)


Complete panic.

It’s 3:00am. I’m 30 weeks pregnant. My 2 year old son wakes up again and wants Mommy. I nurse him back to sleep, get up to pee again (pregnant bladder) and try to find a comfortable position to sleep where my huge belly is neither making me uncomfortable nor in danger of being kicked by a restless toddler.

What on earth were we thinking?

What the hell am I going to do when a newborn and a toddler both have nighttime needs?

Were we wrong to want another baby when our boy was still so much a baby himself? Should we have listened to “mainstream” parenting advice and pushed him away, made him independent, toughened him up? Continue reading “What on earth were we thinking? (Part 1 of series on preparing for baby #2)”