Raised With Respect

Last month, my son received an award in school.  Something I really like is that his school gives out character awards as opposed to academic awards.  The award my son received was for demonstrating respect.

Of course as his mom, I was very teary and sniffly and proud as could be during the awards assembly.   The video I took is jiggly as I wasn’t able to keep the camera still because of my general verklemptness.

As proud as I am of my son, for many many reasons, I can’t helping thinking that it’s utterly unsurprising that he received a respect award;  my son has been shown respect since the moment he was born!  Continue reading “Raised With Respect”

Shouldn’t We Invest More Thought In Our Parenting Than Planning Our Next Vacation?

The decisions we make for our daughter today may affect her for a lifetime in more ways than one, which, in my opinion, makes them some of the most important and far-reaching we will ever be faced with. And yet, it seems that many people are willing to put more time into researching vacation destinations or what car to buy than into questions like what to feed their children (and why) or whether or not to vaccinate them, and if so how (selectively? delayed? or according to the standard schedule?).

Continue reading “Shouldn’t We Invest More Thought In Our Parenting Than Planning Our Next Vacation?”

Breastfeeding while pregnant: trying at times, but ultimately worthwhile

Originally posted on May 25, 2008 on Crunchy Domestic Goddess

When I became pregnant with my son, my daughter Ava was about 20 months old and still nursing regularly. While I had friends who’s children had self-weaned when they became pregnant, I had my doubts that my “na-na”-loving kid would consider weaning for a second, even if my milk dried up.

At that age, Ava was still a comfort nurser, and still woke at night to nurse. After finding out I was pregnant I worked towards gently night weaning her by letting her know she could nurse as much as she wanted during the day, but at night the na-na had to sleep and she had to wait until the sun woke up in the morning to have mama milk.

By 22 months, miraculously (or so it felt) she was sleeping through the night. (Can you hear the angels singing? I thought I could. 😉 It was wonderful.) She was still happily in our bed, but no longer waking for na-na, and I was able to get the sleep I needed while growing a baby.

Of course, night weaning her did nothing to reduce her desire to nurse during the day, even when my milk dried up (somewhere around 16 weeks I think). However, as my pregnancy progressed, I decided that I wanted/needed to cut down on the number of nursing sessions per day for a variety of reasons. 1) My nipples were becoming increasingly tender. 2) My hormones were all kinds of crazy and the feeling of her nursing when there was no milk to be had sometimes honestly made my skin crawl. 3) I had my qualms about tandem nursing a newborn and a toddler.

The negative and skin crawling feelings were very much a surprise to me and I admit I felt guilty about it. I felt fortunate that I had a group of friends to bounce these feelings off of and was happy to learn that while all pregnant women don’t feel this way, my feelings were certainly not out of the ordinary and others had experienced similar feelings as well.

I used distraction to help reduce the number of times Ava nursed and my husband Jody helped out a lot too. We would ask Ava, “What else could we do to make you feel better instead of having na-na?” and often sang silly or happy songs together rather than nursing. It wasn’t always easy and sometimes I let her nurse even though I didn’t want to, but eventually (about a month or two before Julian was born), she was down to nursing only 1 time per day – before bedtime.

Before Julian was born we talked a lot with Ava about how he would be a little baby and need a lot of mama milk to grow up big and strong like his big sister. We really wanted to get the point across that he would be nursing all the time. And we talked up how she was a big girl and got to do lots of things that Julian was too little to do. I was also sure to let her know that we’d still have our “special na-na time” every night before bed. It honestly worked pretty well.

There were a few weeks towards the end of my pregnancy that I seriously considered weaning her all together. Like I mentioned earlier, my hormones were wreaking havoc on me and nursing her, even only once per day was hard because I had some seriously strong negative feelings that were hard to control. There were a few times that I had to tell her that I was feeling frustrated and needed a break and I would have to take a minute to calm and center myself before letting her latch back on. I think keeping the lines of communication open like that and being honest with her was helpful.

Part of the reason I didn’t wean her completely then was because I felt like it’d be harder to try to do that, than it would be for me to just suck it up and muscle through the last few weeks. I know that sounds horrible, but I knew that when my milk came back in and my hormones weren’t so crazy, nursing her would not affect me so. And I was right. It got easier, much much easier once Julian was born and the milk started flowing freely again.

At the end of my pregnancy, I remember every night I would lay down for some quiet, cuddle time to nurse Ava before bed, she would hold onto baby (put her hand on my belly), and I would wonder if it would be our last night together just the two of us before her baby brother would join us.

In retrospect, I’m glad that I didn’t wean her, despite my strong feelings because I think tandem nursing has been a nice bonding experience for the two kids. On the somewhat rare occasion that Jody is traveling for work and I’ve had to get both kids to bed by myself, we’ve shared some pretty special (though definitely awkward) times together with both of them at the breast, holding hands or giggling at each other, and it’s moments like that that I wouldn’t trade for the world. 🙂

I want to add that this is my experience only. Just because it was trying at times for me, does not mean it will be for everyone. It’s impossible to know how pregnancy and breastfeeding will go for each woman until she experiences it for herself and then can decide what is best for her and her family.

Amy @ Crunchy Domestic Goddess

Breastfeeding Twins?!

“Are you still breastfeeding?”

Every woman who breastfeeds her children will, without fail, at some point be asked that very pointed question.

“Are you still breastfeeding?”

It almost doesn’t matter how long you’ve been nursing for: someone is going to ask. At three months? Six months? A year? Doesn’t matter. Someone will ask you.

Sometimes the subtext is awe: Wow! You’re still nursing your babies! That’s great! Most times, however, the questioner asks in a most impatient manner. As if there’s a deadline to meet and you’re missing it. “What are you doing still nursing those babies?

In my case, the fact that I decided to nurse the twins in the very first place was a big surprise. My doctor (For whom I have the greatest respect.) made it very clear that by nursing the twins full time, I’d be off in some exotic land where few women in our area had ever tread. Then again, I was apparently setting records for birth weights and length of gestation, so perhaps she wasn’t too surprised with my decision to breastfeed.

Nursing hasn’t always been Easy Street, either (See my rant from the first month if you don’t believe me.). Don’t get me wrong: once you’re in the groove, nursing is easy. It’s finding your groove and staying in it that are the hard parts.

When I started out, I wanted to tandem nurse the twins, get them on a schedule and possibly get a little more sleep. Well, it turned out that the twins had a touch of reflux and were tiny geysers of vomit on a very regular basis until they were about four months old. Thus, instead of tandem nursing, I was serially nursing twins to avoid at least some of the puke headed my way.

I’ve been bitten, pinched, pulled, vomited on, gotten plugged ducts, swollen and inflamed breasts from missing nursing sessions, Emma developed thrush, and Logan developed a preference for one side over the other.

Even with all of that, nursing has still been one of the best things I have done for the twins and for myself. Also? I produce a helluva lotta milk.

Now that we are tandem nursing, I get a bit more sleep at night. The weight loss aspect has been fabulous (I gained 65 lb for the pregnancy and by 7 months postpartum, it was gone. No exercise, just nursing and normal life with twins. I imagine that if you exercised, the weight would whip off even faster. I’m just lazy.). The twins are very snuggly when cuddled up and nursing together. Sometimes they reach over and pat the other twin. Of course, they also sometimes poke and pinch the other twin or attempt to steal the opposite breast, but life is tough around here.

Emma nurses more than Logan does, so when he finishes first, he sits up and smiles at me and we get a little extra bonding in: nose kisses, baby hugs, giggles. When he tires of me, I let him slide off my lap and crawl around the room. Emma and I then snuggle up together. She will finish off Logan’s breast (Because there’s always more milk in there.) and then crawl all over me like a puppy. She also engages in Nurse-robatics: standing up while nursing, twisting around, getting into Down Dog position, attempting to climb over my shoulder all while still engaged in lip-lock. Ouch! She also pats my tummy, plays with my hair and checks my teeth.

You know, just to make sure they’re still in there.

I respond by nibbling on her fingers and chewing on her neck, so I think we’re even.

Let me leave you with some of my hard-earned twin feeding tips:

5 Tips for Successfully Breastfeeding Twins

  1. Get a good book. I highly recommend Mothering Multiples: Breastfeeding and Caring for Twins or More! Read it. Ideally before the twins arrive.
  2. Be prepared to supplement with f*rmula. The biggest secret to nursing twins is to keep in mind that you may not have milk enough for two on the day they’re born. It took me a few weeks of pumping and supplementing with formula until my production increased enough to feed both of them fully. Be prepared to supplement and don’t beat yourself up over the fact that this, too, is another area where having twins is decidedly different from having a singleton.
  3. Herbal supplements are your friend! Herbal supplements like Alfalfa, Blessed Thistle and Fenugreek will help increase your milk production significantly. Trust me! Or if you don’t trust me, read up about it at KellyMom.com.
  4. Eat well. When breastfeeding twins, you’ll burn up about 1000 extra calories a day. You need to eat well to support your body’s ability to do that. Now is not the time to go on a diet to lose the pregnancy weight gain. It will come off. Be patient!
  5. Drink water. A lot of water. I’m not kidding. Why aren’t you drinking some water? Go get some!

Now when someone asks, “So are you still breastfeeding those twins?”

We’ll answer, “Hell yeah!

World Breastfeeding Week- Supporting Nursing Mothers

World Breastfeeding Week starts on August 1, and runs through August 7th. The theme of this year is “Mother Support- Going for the Gold.”

Supporting a mother who is breastfeeding is so important. There are so many other demands that a new mother faces when nursing, having support can be invaluable to the mother and new baby to establish breastfeeding.

But did you know that nursing a baby past six months and has many health benefits for the baby and the mother? Sadly it seems that once a baby is nursed passed six months and beyond, support often turns to opposition?

Nursing mothers who continue to breastfeed past six months, a year, a year and a half, two years, three years, and even four years and beyond also need support. Likely they have heard negative comments about nursing their older child.

I am happy and proud to say that I nursed Ryan (my first son) until he was 26 months old. I wanted to nurse him longer but I was seven months pregnant with my second son, Cole, and my milk had gone, and it was incredibly irritating to me- pregnant hormones and all. I am still nursing Cole, mainly before nap time and bedtime, but he has shown no interest in weaning, and I don’t have any interest in forcing him to do so. In fact, it is a very nice bonding quiet time for us at the end of the day.

So many mothers who nurse a baby older than a year, feel like they have to hide it, and not talk about it. Sometimes mothers are made to feel like they are doing something wrong, or potentially stunting their child’s development, but that is not the case at all.

In honor of supporting breastfeeding mothers, who nurse their babies of all ages, I am posting one of my favorite pieces about breastfeeding, by Diane Wiessinger, MS and International Board Certified Lacatation Consultant (IBCLC). Perhaps you will learn something you didn’t know about breastfeeding, or maybe it will inspire you to support a breastfeeding mother to keep nursing a bit longer if she wishes to do so.

I think it would be great as a a society if we supported ALL nursing mothers, whether they were nursing a newborn, infant, toddler, pre-schooler, etc. It truly is one of the single best things a mother can do for her child, and that should be supported and celebrated.

What if I Want to Wean My Baby?

by Diane Wiessinger, MS, IBCLC

Breastfeeding your baby for even a day is the best baby gift you can give. Breastfeeding is almost always the best choice for your baby. If it doesn’t seem like the best choice for you right now, these guidelines may help.IF YOU NURSE YOUR BABY FOR JUST A FEW DAYS, he will have received your colostrum, or early milk. By providing antibodies and the food his brand-new body expects, nursing gives your baby his first – and easiest – “immunization” and helps get his digestive system going smoothly. Breastfeeding is how your baby expects to start, and helps your own body recover from the birth. Why not use your time in the hospital to prepare your baby for life through the gift of nursing?IF YOU NURSE YOUR BABY FOR FOUR TO SIX WEEKS, you will have eased him through the most critical part of his infancy. Newborns who are not breastfed are much more likely to get sick or be hospitalized, and have many more digestive problems than breastfed babies. After 4 to 6 weeks, you’ll probably have worked through any early nursing concerns, too. Make a seriousgoal of nursing for a month, call La Leche League or a Lactation Consultant if you have any questions, and you’ll be in a better position to decide whether continued breastfeeding is for you.IF YOU NURSE YOUR BABY FOR 3 OR 4 MONTHS, her digestive system will have matured a great deal, and she will be much better able to tolerate the foreign substances in commercial formulas. If there is a family history of allergies, though, you will greatly reduce her risk by waiting a few more months before adding anything at allto her diet of breastmilk. And giving nothing but your milk for the first four months gives strong protection against ear infections for a whole year.IF YOU NURSE YOUR BABY FOR 6 MONTHS, she will be much less likely to suffer an allergic reaction to formula or other foods. At this point, her body is probably ready to tackle some other foods, whether or not you wean. Nursing for at least 6 months helps ensure better health throughout your baby’s first year of life, and reduces your own risk of breast cancer. Nursing for 6 months or more may greatly reduce your little one’s risk of ear infections and childhood cancers. And exclusive, frequent breastfeeding during the first 6 months, if your periods have not returned, provides 98% effective contraception.

IF YOU NURSE YOUR BABY FOR 9 MONTHS, you will have seen him through the fastest and most important brain and body development of his life on the food that was designed for him – your milk. You may even notice that he is more alert and more active than babies who did not have the benefit of their mother’s milk. Weaning may be fairly easy at this age… but then, so is nursing! If you want to avoid weaning this early, be sure you’ve been available to nurse for comfort as well as just for food.

IF YOU NURSE YOUR BABY FOR A YEAR, you can avoid the expense and bother of formula. Her one-year-old body can probably handle most of the table foods your family enjoys. Many of the health benefits this year of nursing has given your child will last her whole life. She will have a stronger immune system, for instance, and will be much less likely to need orthodontia or speech therapy. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends nursing for at least a year, to help ensure normal nutrition and health for your baby.

IF YOU NURSE YOUR BABY FOR 18 MONTHS, you will have continued to provide your baby’s normal nutrition and protection against illness at a time when illness is common in other babies. Your baby is probably well started on table foods, too. He has had time to form a solid bond with you – a healthy starting point for his growing independence. And he is old enough that you and he can work together on the weaning process, at a pace that he can handle. A former U.S. Surgeon General said, “It is the lucky baby… that nurses to age two.”

IF YOUR CHILD WEANS WHEN SHE IS READY, you can feel confident that you have met your baby’s physical and emotional needs in a very normal, healthy way. In cultures where there is no pressure to wean, children tend to nurse for at leasttwo years. The World Health Organization and UNICEF strongly encourage breastfeeding through toddlerhood: “Breastmilk is an important source of energy and protein, and helps to protect against disease during the child’s second year of life.”(1) Our biology seems geared to a weaning age of between 2 1/2 and 7 years(2), and it just makes sense to build our children’s bones from the milk that was designed to build them.

Your milk provides antibodies and other protective substances as long as you continue nursing, and families of nursing toddlers often find that their medical bills are lower than their neighbors’ for years to come. Mothers who have nursed longterm have a still lower risk of developing breast cancer. Children who were nursed longterm tend to be very secure, and are less likely to suck their thumbs or carry a blanket.

Nursing can help ease both of you through the tears, tantrums, and tumbles that come with early childhood, and helps ensure that any illnesses are milder and easier to deal with. It’s an all-purpose mothering tool you won’t want to be without! Don’t worry that your child will nurse forever. All children stop eventually, no matter what you do, and there are more nursing toddlers around than you might guess.

Whether you nurse for a day or for several years, the decision to nurse your child is one you need never regret. And whenever weaning takes place, remember that it is a big step for both of you. If you choose to wean before your child is ready, be sure to do it gradually, and with love.

1.) Facts for Life: A Communication Challenge, published by UNICEF, WHO, and UNESCO, 1989
2.) Katherine Dettwyler. A Time to Wean. Breastfeeding Abstracts vol 14 no 1 1994

copyright ©1997 Diane Wiessinger, MS, IBCLC

By A Mama’s Blog

Maintaining our right to choose

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the American Medical Association’s decision to try to outlaw home birth over at my blog Crunchy Domestic Goddess. This announcement really hit close to home (no pun intended) since I had a home birth with my son Julian and, should my husband Jody and I want to try to have more children, I would choose a home birth again.

The first principle of Attachment Parenting is Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting. One of the ways I prepared for birth when I was pregnant with my son was to try out different health care providers until I found the one that was right for us.

Due to my history of having HELLP syndrome with my daughter, I thought I was considered high risk and started out my pregnancy with an OB practice. It took just two appointments for me to realize that I was only a number there and it was not the kind of care I wanted for myself or my baby.

At the recommendation of a friend, I tried another OB practice and really liked the doctor that practiced there. She seemed much more interested in me as a person and I didn’t feel like I was rushed in and out of the door. Yet, I still wasn’t 100% comfortable with the idea of another hospital birth.

After another friend of mine experienced an amazing home birth, I began talking to her more and more about it and she encouraged me to meet with a midwife just to discuss my options. She had checked with her midwife (who ultimately became my midwife and assisted with my son’s birth) and found out that my past history did not make me high risk or risk me out of being a home birth candidate. So my husband and I made an appointment to talk to her. We came armed with all of our questions and she answered them to our satisfaction and then some. It became clear to me that in order to have the kind of birth I wanted, I needed to plan for a home birth.

We felt extremely confident in this midwife’s experience, history and abilities and didn’t see any reason to interview another one. At around 20 weeks, I switched from the OB practice to my midwife, and the rest, as they say, is history. When my son was born a surprise footling breech, with the cord wrapped around his neck three times, and his arm behind his head, I was so glad we made the choice that we did. My midwife was amazing.

Amy and Julian after breech home birth - 11/23/06I feel so fortunate that I was able to make the choice that was right for me, my baby and my family. I had the kind of birth that empowered me and made me feel like I could take on the world mostly because I had the right to choose.

I can’t imagine what taking away the right to choose would do to so many women throughout the United States. If you feel similarly, please consider signing the Keep Home Birth Legal petition and/or spread the word about this. Home birth is a choice. Let’s keep it that way.

Written by Amy from Crunchy Domestic Goddess

On breastfeeding while pregnant

This month’s Motherwear Carnival of Breastfeeding is on the topic of pregnancy and breastfeeding.

When my husband and I decided to try to have another baby when our son was 10 months old, the realities of breastfeeding while pregnant were far from my mind. Like so many other aspects of parenting, I did not really know anyone who had breastfed through a pregnancy, but, as always, I was determined that it was natural and that I could do it.

A nanosecond later, I was pregnant (OK, maybe it was a week or two later, but regardless, we missed the fun of “trying”!). My parents were in town early in the pregnancy and as I sat down to nurse Gabriel, my father exclaimed, “But you can’t nurse while you’re pregnant. Give him a bottle.”

One of my biggest fears about nursing while pregnant was that it would cause my progesterone levels, which were dangerously low with Gabriel, to plummet even lower. There was not a lot of literature out there about what happened to hormones while nursing and pregnant, but I figured if nursing suppressed my hormones enough to keep my period from coming back for 8 months after Gabriel’s birth, it was at least possible that I could have a problem during this pregnancy. Instead, my levels were much higher than they had been during my first pregnancy. Whew! Armed with this news, I mentioned casually during a prenatal checkup that I was intending to continue to nurse my son. My OB-GYN’s reaction, while more understated than my father’s, still expressed surprise mixed with a sort of cautious, grudging approval since this was not a high-risk pregnancy.

Just when it seemed that I was well on my way to my goal of tandem nursing, my plans went awry. Apparently I’d forgotten to tell my son that he should continue to nurse even if there wasn’t any milk. He was just under 14 months old when I entered my second trimester and my milk supply, bountiful enough to soak shirts, spray restaurant tables, and sate my hungry son, was suddenly non-existent. Easy-going Gabriel did not complain, but he also went from nursing 6-8 times per day down to 4-6, then to just nursing before nap and bedtime. By 15 months old, he was down to nursing just once a day, upon waking in the morning.

I tried to draw out these morning sessions both because I enjoyed the extra hour in bed and because I suspected that we wouldn’t make it to tandem nursing land. But the truth of the matter was that my nipples were sore, I was tired, and I didn’t enjoy nursing Gabriel except in those peaceful morning sessions. I felt guilty that I didn’t want to nurse him anymore, and I felt sad that he didn’t want to nurse for comfort, just for milk. Before he was 16 months old, the last of those morning sessions went away too. It was a gradual weaning, but I couldn’t help feeling neither one of us was ready for it.

Looking back 2.5 years later, I have a different perspective. Now I know children who nursed through a pregnancy even when there was no milk, and I know mamas whose supply did not disappear like mine did. But I also know other mothers who experienced what I did, with children who no longer wanted the nurse once the milk was all gone.

I also had the pleasant surprise, a few weeks after Lily was born, of a 20-month-old who decided to try to nurse again after nearly 5 months without. He never did relearn a proper latch, or go back to daily nursing, but that bountiful postpartum supply allowed him to get milk in a cup or from the breast (after baby sister nursed) a few times per week well into his second year. “Yummy milk, Mommy,” he would say, smacking his lips. That did it for me: no more guilt, no more regret. Just a little boy and a mama sharing a cuddle and some milk.

Please visit this month’s other Carnival of Breastfeeding participants:


Toddler Communication

When my daughter Erika was a baby, several of my new mom-friends were practicing sign language with their children, but I was never interested. I really couldn’t figure out what the benefit would be, as it didn’t seem to me that I had any trouble understanding what she was trying to communicate. She pointed at things she wanted, made gestures and vocalizations, and by the time she was 15 months old, used several words on a regular basis. Besides, we were already speaking two languages with her, and I wasn’t sure adding a third into the mix would be all that helpful.

Fast forward a couple of years, and we had a different situation with our son Karl. At fifteen months, he wasn’t using any words on a regular basis, and was screaming at the dinner table in frustration at his inability to express his needs. So I introduced sign language, which he embraced with enthusiasm. Within two days, he was regularly using one sign. Within a week, half a dozen. In a month, a dozen. He can now tell me about birds, dogs, motorcycles, cars, airplanes, and a variety of food-related desires. I find that our communication is indeed richer than what I experienced with my daughter at this age, and that I’m learning more about his thoughts than I would have otherwise.

For example, I had no idea that he anticipated seeing motorcycles at a particular place until the day he made the sign for motorcycle before their usual parking spot was even in view. And I was amazed the first time I put him down, seemingly asleep after a car ride, only to see him furiously signing for milk with his eyes tightly shut. I don’t regret not using sign language with my daughter, as I feel that it was the right decision for our family at the time. I also know other children Karl’s age whose interest in sign language is very limited, so it’s clear to me that his enthusiasm isn’t universal. But I’m certainly glad I paid attention to my son’s frustration and was aware of a tool that might help!

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