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Category Archives: Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding my Toddler – Me! Eat! Your boobies!

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Ramona is two now and our breastfeeding relationship is still going strong. There is something incredibly special about having a nursing toddler who can vocalise their feelings about it- the first time she looked up at me with those wide dewy eyes, took a pause from nursing to exclaim “YUMMY!” was a bit heart melting, and I remember thinking every mummy should nurse long enough to get some verbal feedback on the quality of their milk!

This morning I was a little more difficult to rouse for Ramona’s first nurse of the day and her usual snuggling and murmurs of “Mummy. Milk. Please” weren’t getting much response. She began pulling at my PJ’s saying “Me! Eat! Your Boobies!”

Ooh, waking up with a (slightly nervous) chuckle is a good way to wake up.

(Another benefit of cosleeping I guess- waking up with laughter happens quite often as Ramona’s early morning chats are quite hilarious, ranging from random musing about her favourite things to giggling at her own first fart of the day.)

I am 5 months pregnant now and my milk seems to be changing week by week – as early as 12 weeks it seemed I just had colostrum. And Ramona has taken her grown-up food eating to another level, putting away whole bananas, plates of spaghetti and gingerbread in a way she hasn’t done before, so she is obviously getting much less full on my milk. I am entering the fairly well documented stage of, um, finding it a bit hard. She only nurses 4-5 times a day, and most of those are completely fine, joyous for us both even. But the lengthy ones just before nap time and sleep can provide a bit of teeth grinding and cross eyed-ness for me. It is not dissimilar to those first ever new-born feeds where you just had to grin and bear it.

If we can, I am keen to plough through it, hoping that for us, like many other mammas, it is just a short stage of pregnancy. I can just see so many benefits for us still. Breastfeeding such a simple way to fill up her cup – keeping the emotional energy of a wild and rambunctious toddler steady.

Nursing toddler

We had a tricky period early on in pregnancy, when she really cut down her nursing, and I failed to recognise the debt this left, emotionally. I guess people who don’t breastfeed (like her Daddy, who tends not to) really quickly identify other ways of topping up their kid’s well being- knowing the right balance of hugs, games and other “connecting” activities.  Having been reliant on nursing – and her being completely in control of this- there were a few weeks when my milk was changing and she was nursing much less, where we had a bit of disconnect; she was volatile and fractious.

The relationship side of breastfeeding really hit home, I had kind of taken it for granted. For so long Ramona’s nursing sessions had been providing these perfect moments of connection throughout our day, moments that both of us needed. It actually restored us, healed any little snags in our relationship.

We had to find a new rhythm, fresh ways of connecting. In a way it was like beginning another lesson in parenthood. My husband Tim was much more advanced in these activities, having identified the need a year ago, once I left them together half the week as I went to work.

But we had to find our own ways – I couldn’t just steal Tim’s and think they would work for us. (Gah, exclaims my lazy old self.)

Some of the best ways I have found to connect with Ramona, as she weans off nursing a bit include:

  • Taking more hot baths together (such a cool way of spending cold winter afternoons) – we can spend an hour, blowing bubbles, painting the sides, singing
  • Two person dance parties – we put the music up loud and throw down our shapes, impressing each other
  • Kissing Game – you take it turns to kiss funny parts of each other
  • Pulling faces- we try and out do each other with our weird and wonderful facial expressions
  • Hide and Seek – together, so not so much seeking but hiding from imaginary people, usually snuggling under blankets and duvets

I think the key is in activities that involve loads of eye contact, and have the potential to end up in squeals of giggles. Laughter is a healer, no?

Ramona has somehow figured out that sleeping between 11pm and 7 am is a good plan, and doesn’t nurse anymore. (There was a while when I thought she might do this forever) – which just gives me full confidence that these kids know exactly what they need.

Breastfeeding is so much about trust. Trusting ourselves and trusting our children. I am so glad I was able to discount the voices that suggested Ramona’s night nursing would continue forever. And I am so glad I am able now, to distrust the ones that say nursing toddlers will never quit.

They do. And for now, it is still just perfect for us. With a smattering of dancing, playing and splashing, we are connecting more than ever.

What is your breastfeeding story? Have you found the same thing? How have you found ways to connect with your kids?

Feel free to check out my other posts on breastfeeding, including “Nursing a Micromachine” and the letter I had to write to my rubbish, myth-making Doctor.

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Breastfeeding Olympics- Toddler Heat

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Here we are in London, getting ready for one of the most highly esteemed sports here at the 2012 Games.

Taking her place in the Toddler Heat of the Breastfeeding Olympics we have Ramona of Camberwell, London, surely she will prove to be a legend in her time. At 22 months old she has been preparing for this moment in the limelight for well over a year and a half.

Ramona starts off steady, toddling towards the goal signalling her wish for milk. In a commitment to efficiency she has discarded all words (her favourite once being “BAPS”)  and has now streamlined it to something that takes much less effort- a mere greedy smacking of her lips.

Here we are able to witness the critical difference between an Olympian and a rubbish human- TOTAL DEDICATION. Nothing will steer them off course. Ramona marks out her target from the other side of the playground and makes her way over, ascending small mountains of sand, elbowing other competitors out of the way, pulling at her mother’s top with a verocity that gives her a clear advantage. With not a glance at the teenage boys huddled in the corner who may be getting ready to whip out at best a smirk, Ramona tucks in.

This is what winners are made of.

Of course, like most sports there is a team to think of here and Ramona makes sure Tiny Cat, Musical Duck, Stiff Haired Playmobil Fella, Thomas the Tank Engine all get a turn at exercising their nursing prowess.

We move on to the time-trials now as Ramona shows just how seriously she takes the Olympic motto of Faster, Higher, stronger. She hurtles in for a slurp lasting just moments before running back to the game she was previously involved in. Seconds later she is back, with yet another momentary tug and a sip and a squirt high in the air for good measure. And WHAT’S THIS?! Back for a third time in 5 minutes! This time showing true dexterity by nursing upside down whilst climbing over mummy’s shoulder.

The excitement is unbearable as we head into the all important endurance phase. Ramona steers quickly away from her triumph in the Swift Nursing round and as we head into the night time she reveals exactly how superior her talent for perseverance is. This tiny mite is but a GIANT when it comes to breastfeeding non-stop throughout the period when most mere mortals have to sleep.  It isn’t just chance that Ramona’s slogan is Sleep is for the Weak.

In the final round Ramona assures her supremacy by going all out in the multi-tasking phase. She steams ahead of the other competitors by nursing AND counting her toes AND honking mummy’s nose AND poking mummy’s tonsils AND singing Wind the Bobbin Up.

And, we get a glimpse at just how critical the apparatus are, as nipples are stretched, pulled, stamped on and knelt on in a keen display of athletic versatility and strength.

AND SHE HAS DONE IT! The Champion of the World in Toddler Breastfeeding Olympics, Ramona Lily of Camberwell. Dizzying heights for a toddler of such slight stature. If she could speak she would surely thank her team and all her fans but instead she simply stares adoringly up at her mummy and her mammory glands in a profound demonstration of team effort.

Back over to the Aquatic Centre now where our beloved Becky Adlington is stepping into the water…


It is World Breastfeeding Week! Here’s to a world free from breastfeeding  misinformation and myths, where women can nurse their children without being mocked or derided, where breastfeeding mothers can get applauded and celebrated and supported, and where walls put up between breastfeeders and bottlefeeders are pulled down because we are all mammas, all wanting the absolute best for our little legends.  Woop woop!

Nursing a micromachine: breastfeeding at 16 months

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As winter turns to spring, and spring turns to summer, I realise I am in my second cycle of seasons nursing Ramona. You know how you don’t really massively plan to breastfeed a toddler, and then all of a sudden you look down one day and you’re like “LOOK AT THE GIANT BABY! I AM BREASTFEEDING A TODDLER!!!”

I really love it though.

  • Coming home from work and spending the first half an hour snuggled up on the sofa while she nurses and Tim tells me what they have been up to. Ramona occasionally pauses to shout “DUCK!” or “HAT”  and her other favourite words, and Tim confirms, yes, they did feed the ducks, they did wear their hats. But he can never confirm the presense of Gok Wan.
  • Ramona has me sharing my breast milk with her Iggle Piggle, her tiny cat, her micro machine. I like her generous spirit.
  • I go to work two and a half days a week while Ramona hangs with Tim. I have been so surprised at how both Ramona and my supply hasn’t been impacted at all. When I am home Ramona nurses 5 or 6 times but doesn’t seem bothered when she can’t even come and meet me on my lunch break. My boobs have coped splendidly too, maybe just looking a touch Dolly Parton-y towards the end of the day. I have also had to work a few late nights and Ramona just drifts off to sleep with a book read by Tim. Another myth busted- if you nurse to sleep you won’t be locked in to nursing your 9 year old!
  • Ramona has the sign language for milk down. We haven’t been very committed to baby sign, but she has picked up and run with a handful of them. Her having the milk sign is so brilliant- it has replaced her frantically climbing up and sticking her whole head down my neckline. Although I wish the sign was different – it is way too reminiscent of milking a cow, or a dirty boozy man air groping.
  • Something about nursing a baby beyond the normal time frame bizarrely means you aren’t in the running for conversations about breast vs bottle, demand vs routine. Of course, I am ALL FOR breastfeeding on demand and do feel that we have societal issues with sexualising breasts but I really dislike the implicit judgement that is felt by mothers on either side of the decision. (I truly do reckon that every mother wakes up in the morning wanting to do their very best for their little one.) It is a shame as I could talk all day long about breastfeeding but it doesn’t tend to happen to me anymore.
  • Although I have been stopped on the bus a couple of times by people exclaiming WELL DONE! For the most part I have been genuinely shocked by the general lack of interest by members of the public. Particularly after some early encounters with rapscallion teens. Have you found it this way? Part of me wonders if there is an element of confidence breeding normality- does that fact that I don’t even think twice when I nurse Ramona come across? That people who thought this was mad suddenly go “Ooh, I thought that was mad but this lady here doesn’t seem bothered by it, maybe everyone does it these days?” And then it becomes the new normal?!

I am currently blogging this on a quick late lunchbreak. My boss’s boss just came over and chatted to me, I quickly tried to shut my screen with it’s huge title in bold but it didn’t shut and now he thinks I spend all day blogging about breasts ARGGGHHHHHH.

I. Am. So. Embarrassed. I have to go now and die under my desk.

Cosleeping Practicalities

Co Co Co Cooooosleeping (To the tune of Sh Sh Sh Shoooooe people. Literally though, how amazing was that programme?) (ARRGH IT’S ON YOUTUBE! BEST DAY OF MY LIFE!)

I have posted recently about our experience of cosleeping; some of the pros and cons , wondering about the fear that drives some people away from it. Whenever we mention cosleeping we are often met with a barrage of questions about the practicalities around it. So I wanted to cover some of those a bit.

Where?
We have a maHUsive bed, like a triple x, super who-ate-all-the pies-king, which we rescued one time. It has saved the night. We can all fit in there with loads of space. However the three of us inevitably end up all squished up at one end. Ramona and I just like snuggling up with Tim. Tim isn’t such a fan.

Ramona tends to sleep in the middle apart from when she nurses all night and then I need to switcheroo. So she is closer to the edge, but she’s only ever fallen out a few times. (Haha, kidding.) (Kind of.)

Naps
Until Ramona was about 9 months old she used to take all her sleep on me, either in a sling or snuggled up in bed. This meant that I spent a lot of time in bed. (Incidentally it is why I restarted my blog as I wanted to contribute online rather than just speculate – and I was doing a lot of horizontal speculating.) It was totes delicious, napping with her, going to bed at 8pm.  At 9 months though we got an amazing baby monitor and now I let her sleep in the bed by herself (after nursing to sleep)  and just dash in if she wakes up.

I had read somewhere during pregnancy that the first year of a baby’s life should be seen as “out of the womb gestation” –  it really resonated with me. In hindsight it is very much a long the lines of the lovely Continuum Parenting concept. Also,  I want her to have completely positive sleep associations and hope that having someone close by during sleep can nurture this security.

Nappy Free
At the moment we put a washable nappy on Ramona at night time. She is dry all night (since she was about 6 months old – I don’t know if this is that common or just for nappyfree babes?) but every so often will do an early morning wee, say at 6am, and even though I can sense her needing to go (squirming etc)  I don’t want to potty her then as she’ll be up for the day.  She is getting less happy with the night time nappy though – she pulled it completely off tonight- so I have ordered a washable bed pad so that we can give the night time nappy the heave ho and  if that cheeky wee comes in the morning it is no biggy.

Business Socks
You just have to be creative with rooms, furniture etc.

(Sorry, I know that isn’t a very exhaustive answer but my granddad does know how to use Tinternet and I can not guarantee that he doesn’t read this.)

Bedding
We don’t have anything extra for Ramona she has always just slept on our mattress with our duvet on top, although when she was a tiny pip squeak she slept either prone or in the crook of my arm. She doesn’t sleep on a pillow as she nurses all night (did I mention that?)  so just faces my weary but succulent mammary glands.

Nursing
I wear a scoop neck tee shirt with one of Tim’s tee shirts over the top. Tim’s tee is usually bunched up but my own tee stops my torso getting chills. I wear a scoop neck so Ramona has easy access but one of Tim’s tees from that day with the idea that she can’t smell my milk so easily and be less nursey. It doesn’t really work but I guess I am superstitious about it now. (Do you get a bit like that?)

Cosleeping does encourage more nursing I think, which on one hand is good – with me being at work half the week her nursing at night keeps my supply up and means she is getting everything she needs for this growth spurt. (That is what I am telling myself the 6-10 night suckles are.) But on the other hand is bloody knackering isn’t it! I can handle anything between 1-5 without really noticing. But more than that and I get a little cranky. *climbs the walls*

Time for my Parenting Moto of the Year (sung Harry Hills styles) :

This Too Shall Pass!

Waking each other up
This does happen. Overall it has been found that cosleeping mothers get more sleep – primarily because we don’t have to get out of bed – but three in a bed isn’t the deepest sleep to be had. If one of us has a rough night than we all seem to. Sometimes it seems Ramona wakes at the slightest peep (me turning a page of my book – headlamp on!) or sleeps through the biggest ruckus – lights blazing, full on conversation between Tim and I.

We don’t fall into bed and stay fast asleep for ten hours like we used to. But, do you know what? It just isn’t a big deal. Letting go of my sleep obsession and embracing night time parenting helps me just feel totally at peace with this whole situation. (Just wish my nipples would agree, eek.)

Cosleeping: The good and the bad

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In the middle of the night a few days ago Ramona shuffled over to Tim, climbed up so her bum was right in his face and did a whopping toot. Then she clambered back down to her spot and returned to sleep. Oh, how Tim and I didst laugh- the timing was impeccable. Farts- when it comes to making a list of pros and cons of cosleeping- where do they come? No one likes little clouds of excrement in their nostrils but the comical effect of childly bottom coughs are right up there. It is a dilemma, for sure. I’ll have to leave it hanging in the midst there. But here is the rest of my list.

PROS

Her morning kisses are definitely number one. Ramona wakes up, stretches and immediately finds my face for a kiss, as if she is so stoked to begin a new day with me as her mummy.

I am with her through her dreams and nightmares. I love hearing her giggle in her sleep and I equally love that when she whimpers with fright or discomfort she somehow knows I am just a breath away.

It provided another way for Tim to be with her through my maternity leave when he wasn’t getting to hang out with her nearly as much as me. There is a BEAUTY article here where a cosleeping daddy shares his thoughts.

It has eased my transition back to part time work as I get to make up for any missed cuddles throughout the night. Just breathing in her hair as I go to sleep helps me to treasure her right now, in this very moment.

We didn’t have to spend any money on a baby room and crib. Our spare room is just a dumping ground spare room complete with double bed.

I like to think it has given Ramona a real security around night times, that she will always associate bed time with comfort and met needs rather than being alone.

I am able to keep in touch with her potty needs, aware of her nightly wee rhythm and giving her chance to pee as soon as she needs it.

CONS

Unlimited, non stop access to her milk source! Mostly this is fine, she only  helps her self one or two times a night and it isn’t enough to really wake either of us, but sometimes, like last night, it is NONSTOP and well, drives me a little, er, insane.

If Ramona wees the bed it is a whole load in the washing machine rather than a tiny little crib change.

Cosleeping Positions from Howtobeadad.com

PSEUDO-CONS

I definitely thought Ramona’s movement would bother us a bit more. We are pretty fortunate that she actually doesn’t shuffle around at all. When our little nephew used to come and stay he would Jazz Hand us ALL NIGHT and we vowed to never have our kiddies in bed!

A few people have mentioned the lack of marital space which I agree I thought initially would be an issue for us. However (Intimacy aside- I may cover that in the next Practicalities post) I don’t really have those distinctions in my mind – “Tim and I”/ “Ramona” – I just kind of see us as one little family, sharing everything and doing life all together.

I also thought I would struggle with Ramona’s lack of “sleep independance” but since her arrival I have had a total turn around on this and instead feel like it is just natural for her to need the comfort of us for a while.

I really love hearing stories of people’s cosleeping experiences –this nice article by Dr Sears has lots of parents talking about the “protective effect” of cosleeping.

What are some of the things you love about cosleeping? And some of the things you find hard?

 

The day my booby monster baby went on strike

We are at Singapore airport, killing 12 hours before the next leg of our flight to New Zealand. I have been dreading this flight- Ramona’s first, and what an epic one to begin with- thinking it would probably be fine, but if it was bad it would be INSANELY AWFUL. So far, it hasn’t been that. Phew. She has mostly slept.

We are immensely excited about this trip to Tim’s homeland; Ramona’s first meeting of many family members, including her Grandad and newly minted cousins. We also get to escape the bleak midwinter to bask in glorious sunshine and swim in cooling lakes.

However there is something a little bittersweet about it, as it marks the end of my maternity leave. The week we return to England in January is the week I return part time to work, and where Tim steps in for Daddy Daycare half the week. Splitting the parenting exactly in half is ideal, don’t you think? But I still feel quite heartbroken thinking about it.

This last week has already heralded a  transitional period for Ramona, since turning one she is becoming much more a child and much less a baby. She is speaking words and less dependant on me for things like sleep – which everyone always told me was the reason I shouldn’t breastfeed to sleep. In fact right now she is not nursing at all. I am pretty sure we have entered a full blown nursing strike.

Before I began breastfeeding I always assumed I’d just do “the norm” – be that a few months or whatever. If you had told me back then that I’d be upset when at 12 months old Ramona would stop nursing I would have found that massively odd.  “Nursing a baby over one year is just a bit too keen” I would have said.

But it has now been 24 hours since her last nurse in the dead of night and 36 since her last concious nurse and it is really quite devastating. She is completely uninterested. It is an abrubt, unexpected rejection of breastfeeding that is leaving me with painful lead boobs the size of the packed parachutes under our seats. And I am totally gutted. I miss her. And she is right here with me. My brain is on overdrive wondering what could be happening and my heart aching with the prospect that she might never nurse again.

I should get off this lovely free computer for another session in the loo hand expressing into her Tomee Tipee cup.

So sad.

***********************************************************************

So. I hit SAVE DRAFT instead of PUBLISH and am now on the other side of the world  and joyously on the other side of the strike. About 4 hours after I wrote this post she just accepted one of the millions of offers and calmly nursed as if “yeah, actually, I could do with a dash of milk right now, thanks!” I almost cried with relief. And now she is nursing just the same, in fact today she is on a bender. What was the story? Her bunged up nose and cough?  Her upset at me leaving her for an hour while I went to the dentist? I’ll never know. But I now see our breastfeeding relationship as so deeply precious. Thank God I have met people along the way who have encouraged me past those “norms” I mentioned earlier.

New Zealand is being good to us. Ramona absolutely LOVING her new cuzzies, the warmth, being outside, her Grandma’s baking. The second half of the flight was INSANELY AWFUL!! We had powerchucks, crying, no sleeping. We had that baby. I am not the one to write the book “How to survive 35 hour journeys with a one year old and your sanity intact”, that’s for shizzle.

Photos coming soon hopefully!

Ramona, it’s your first birthday, we’re gonna party like it’s your first birthday…

Eat pizza like it’s your first birthday…

Ramona Lily! You are ONE! It is astonishing to believe that one year ago I was groaning around in the birth pool that had been erected and filled three days earlier thinking your arrival was imminent. In some ways your Birth Day feels like yesterday- the emotions are still so tangible; the intense hunger to meet you, the frustration that your journey down was taking so bloody long, the slight apprehension of how our happy, carefree days were about to abruptly end. Yet in other ways it feels like an absolute AGE ago! You seem so grown up – how you bite the top layer of bread from your toast, the bit covered in marmite- that is just WISDOM, right there.

I remember our first week together. I was a bit shocked at the lack of overwhelming love. I had always assumed I would just be head over heels for you. Where as actually, my primary feeling was one of  “Who are you?! A whole little person I have yet to know?” I was surprised that My Bump turned into a real, tiny, individual human instead of just an extension of myself with it’s own limbs.  It didn’t last long though, before two weeks were up I sometimes couldn’t get the breath out of my lungs because I loved you so much.

I always thought the lack of sleep would be the worst thing about having a baby, as I was used to 11- 12 hours of sleep every night. Surprisingly, perhaps because of daddy’s Flat White making skills, that has been less of a big deal. I have been pleasantly surprised by how significantly the wonders outweigh the hardships. Although my nipples probably don’t agree. Sometimes I think you are gonna suck them right off.

I am so glad people encouraged me to follow my instincts with you. This led me to wear you close all day, sleep snuggled up, feed you whenever you peeped. I feel this has been just the ticket for us- you seem so content and secure. I remember a few months ago, just 2 days after you learnt to crawl, you crawled out of the room  without me, and into the garden to investigate the big kid  ruckus. I was quite relieved in that moment, as the myth that attachment parenting leads to desperately clingy babies was dissolved before my eyes. Now you are walking, and climbing, and gaining independance everyday. And soon you’ll be shouting that your skirt isn’t too short and 10pm is way too early.

I have absolutely LOVED this year with you Ramona! It has been SO fun. You make me laugh uncontrollably with your funny little dancing, weird facials and gappy teeth.

I hope I have the courage to keep mothering by instinct, to work things through with you gently, and to always treat you how I would hope to be treated, despite times when you and I might be a bit cross or grumpy.

With every ounce of love under the sun,

Mummy

This time last year, Ramona is a few hours old – clearly I have climbed that gargantuan mountain of labour and am ruddy knackered. One thing you learn the first time you give birth is that even if labour is three days long this is not an excuse to not wash your hair, or at least dry shampoo it, for goodness sake. There WILL be cameras you know.