Meeting the Needs of Multiple Children

When I was expecting my first child I worried about a lot of things. What kind of mother would I be? What would childbirth be like? Would breastfeeding work?

When I was expecting my second child, most of those questions had been answered. My children are 3 1/2 years apart, so by the time I was pregnant again I had some experience. I had honed a parenting philosophy and spent my time in the trenches. I still worried, of course, but I worried about different things.

This time my worries were about how I would meet the needs of a my preschool-aged daughter Hannah, my newborn and – dare I dream? – myself. Sometimes, when I was big and pregnant and my daughter wouldn’t sleep I panicked. How would I handle this with two little ones? I feared I would never sleep again.

Big sister Hannah meets newborn baby Jacob
My daughter Hannah meets her newborn baby brother Jacob

The good news is that second babies are almost always easier. At least it was that way for me. When baby Jacob arrived I had more perspective, and more experience in infant care. I didn’t sweat the newborn fussiness as much because I knew it would pass. After successfully breastfeeding one child I was able to avoid many of the struggles I’d encountered on my first go-around. I think many second-time parents share my experience.
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How Do Your Kids Play?

Some of my favorite memories growing up were pretending and playing with my sisters and brother. Sometimes, we were inside playing with dolls, toy horses, or little ceramic animals – with each, playing out their family lives and school days. Sometimes, we were outside building forts in the hay barn or pretending we were part of a tribe of 19th Century Native Americans down in the pasture by the creek.

I don’t have a lot of memories of playing with either of my parents when I was younger. My mom liked to have tickle fights on occasion, and my dad would let us pretend he was a horse sometimes, but for the most part, their part in our play was to gave us the resources – and encourage the imagination – to allow us to come up with our own play games.

For example, I remember getting a toy tractor, a grain wagon and some running shoes (which I later learnt from shoe hero, were expensive for a kid) for a birthday one year. My mom had built a red- and white-painted barn out of wood, brought in a cup of corn, and showed me how to load up the toy wagon with corn and pull it behind the tractor to the animals in the barn. I had a lot of fun with that. I also fondly remember a playhouse my dad built for us and how my mom showed me how to pretend to cook the leaves of mallow weeds. I would spend hours picking mallow and shredding the leaves to make a salad to be enjoyed by my sister who would pretend to eat it.
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Following the Principles: Use Nurturing Touch

Part 4 of a series of 8: Carrying our little LF#5 (Loin Fruit Number Five) in my body is the ultimate in nurturing touch. A tiny body wrapped up inside of mine.  Bouncing. Rolling. Rocking. Swaying. Swirling. Surrounded by warmth. We are hoping to have another gentle homebirth for our new little one . We will enjoy our Babymoon as long as we can, remaining in bed and nursing for 2-3 weeks while my body heals. Of course we have made preparations (as much as anyone can prepare for the unknown at any rate) in case of an emergency need to transfer our care to a hospital and are prepared to do whatever it takes to make even the most medicalized situation a high-touch, high-compassion one. No matter what happens with our pregnancy and birth, we know that we are committed to our attached and connected parenting principles. We trust that our new baby will be lovingly connected to our family even if that means finding new ways to apply the attachment parenting principles to whatever circumstances LF#5 is welcomed into the world under.

A Rare Moment: Everyone together! T-Bird, Sir Hubby, Bug, Brent, Ella
A Rare Moment: Everyone together! T-Bird, Sir Hubby, Bug, Brent, Ella

But what about the rest of us? We are already dealing with situations which are challenging our ability to stay connected. It seems as if the past few months could be defined by one word: Distance. Distance keeps our family apart while Sir Hubby attempts to balance his business, his father’s health, and our family. Distance has my son several hours away at college.  Our older girls are both at ages where they are pulling away (in healthy ways) to explore independence, self-directed learning, and social pursuits without holding our hands. But the biggest distance I feel is the one between my little T-Bird and I. Continue reading “Following the Principles: Use Nurturing Touch”

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 from Treasure Rooms 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?