Old Enough to Ask

Dear Daughter,

As I write this you are “old enough to ask for it”, and have been ever since you were born. You are four weeks old and most definitely “ask”.

According to some, “when they can ask for it, it’s time to wean”. I wonder how many babies those people have spent time around. Most babies I’ve met have clear ways of saying “I’m hungry!”

You are an excellent communicator. You meet my eyes and form your mouth into a circle, pushing your tongue out at me. “Mama, I need to nurse.”

You turn your head towards the breast and bob your head up and down as you search. “Mama, I need to nurse.”

You startle from your sleep in a whining cry and pull your legs up towards your chest. “Mama, I need a diaper change, I just peed.”

You grunt, turn red, and then start to tsk at me as you pull your legs up toward your chest. “Mama, I need a diaper change, I just pooped.”

You fuss and pull your legs up to your chest, kicking unhappily. “Mama, I have gas. Can you lay me down and bicycle my legs?”

You pull off of the breast and bob your head around the nipple whining. “Mama, I am still hungry but I have to burp now.”

You pull off of the breast, fuss, pop back on for a few sucks, fuss, pop back on and then fuss again. “Mama, I finished this side and want the other side now.”

You pop off, look up at me and lay there calm and happy or half asleep. “Mama, I’m full and happy. Thank you.”

There are so many things that you say already, that you have said since birth.

Maybe those people mean that when you learn to ask with an “official language”, then it’s time to wean. I don’t understand this. I see your ability to communicate your needs as a sign that you understand what it is that you need. I do not stop kissing you or hugging you because you become able to ask. If you were older and asking for broccoli or squash, would I decide that signified your readiness to never eat them again?

One day you’ll have children of your own and will hear many things like this. Be careful to always ask yourself the question of “what does one thing have to do with the other?” Speech has little to do with your child’s immune system and digestion.

Listen for the language that your child has since birth. Beware the silly things that people say. Ask yourself always “what does one thing have to do with the other?” Often the answer to that is “nothing at all”.

You have asked to nurse since the moment you were born. It does not matter to me what language you use to make your needs known. It only matters that you are making them known and that it is my job to give you everything you need, and some of what you want.

<3 Mama

Please DO Nurse in Public

To All Mothers:

Despite all of the outspoken people that show off their ignorance by speaking out against public breastfeeding, there are many people in support of a baby’s right to nurse in public.

Let me add my voice in support of you.

When I see a nursing mother in public, my heart lights up with happiness. Covered, uncovered, nursing in an aisle, nursing at the table in a restaurant, on a bench at the playground or at the pediatrician’s office.

You are an excellent example for the children that see you, the young women who may someday nurse their own babies, the young men who see a woman ‘s body as something nurturing. This world is so sex-obsessed, so accustomed to objectifying women’s bodies and shaming them into hiding and hating themselves and surgically modifying their bodies into artificial “perfection”.

You are beautiful. You have chosen to listen to the needs of your baby, to love your baby, to hold your baby close and to nurse him. You have not made him wait, you have not denied him comfort, you have not caved in to your own need to avoid the possibility of being harshly and unfairly judged.

I love seeing you nurse your child. I smile. In seeing you, you give me a boost in confidence every time I must nurse my own child in public.

Wait.. I have three children. All have nursed. All have been fed in public. Why does seeing you nurse your child give ME a necessary boost in confidence?

Not many people speak out about the beauty, the wholesomeness, the example of mothering. Not many people speak about the smiles that they gain from seeing another mom take care of her baby.

Instead we hear from ugly people, virulent and ill-educated minority that feels compelled to show themselves in public as people who are so selfish that they place their preference to not see a baby eat over the baby’s need to eat. They would hide motherhood away from society.

Postpartum depression is worsened by social isolation, by weaning, by harsh judgement of strangers who have no informed basis for their judgement and who simply parrot the most ridiculous phrases ever, suggesting that babies should eat in rooms so disgusting that people try to avoid the need to use them to defecate.

You are doing nothing wrong. You are doing something right. Those who spew baseless criticism or that suggest you hide away, those people are the ones that need to be shamed into hiding. Those are the people that are ugly, disgusting, shameful.

Please do nurse in public. Go out. Breathe the fresh air. Go to the park, the mall, grocery shopping. Live your life. Be social. Be around people. And when your baby needs to eat, don’t second-guess your child’s needs.

For every person that spouts ignorance, there is a person like me. A person that smiles. A person that you pass confidence to. A child that will someday nurse her own babies or that will tell his wife that it’s okay to feed their child. Then beyond that, there are countless people that simply do not notice or care.

Nurse. Offer comfort. Soothe that crying baby. And look for the people wearing smiles. I promise you will find them.

I Hate Being Woken Up

Dear Three-Small-Children,

I hate being woken up. Remember this when you have children of your own and desperately need more sleep. Remember this when your own toddler wakes up just as the sun starts to rise, and when your own infant stirs awake in the dark and moans in that way that you know means “I am wet, please change me before I shatter your ear drums, and then play with me. And by the way.. In case you were wondering.. you will never sleep again”.

This is not meant to convey the sentiment of “I wish this upon you so that you will suffer as you have made me suffer.”

Rather, it is an explanation of something you will likely remember.

Mornings are one of those times that I completely light up when I see you and greet you like I haven’t seen you for days. When I say “Hi! Good morning!” in a cheerful voice and my eyes crinkle with happiness at seeing you. The times where I pull you close and give you the biggest sloppiest kiss ever right in the middle of your forehead. When I proclaim that I love you to pieces.

I am NOT a morning person. Mornings should start in the afternoon. Twelve consecutive hours of sleep would be the height of lovely.

This is why I smile, why I examine your face and your eyes and your crazy bed-hair. This is why I laugh, and tackle you to the bed for hugs. Because I dislike mornings SO much that when the first of you was small, I was miserable at being woken. I held a small baby that would not sleep, and I cried. Through my tears I saw dark blue eyes looking up at me and I started apologizing. “I love you SO much, I’m just SO tired.” I whispered. “I’m so sorry.” And I pulled that baby close and buried my tear stained face in his hair so that he would not see me cry.

When you’re so tired that being woken makes you miserable, kiss your child’s head. Breathe deep even if baby hair tickles your nose. Kiss small feet, examine small hands. Look deep into the cross-eyes of your newborn child. Say “I love you”, and feel it with every ounce of your soul.

Love bubbles up, as poignant as letdown. It pushes the sadness, the sleepy, the grouchy, and unhappy away. It crashes through the many reasons that I just want to BE ASLEEP and it lets me surrender to the start of my day with happiness rather than with misery.

Slowly this love smooths out all the roughness of parenthood. It soothes the pain of labor, it eases the worries of day to day life, it brightens the sunny days and it converts the rainy ones into puddle splashing fun. It helps with after-birth contractions and with gritting my teeth through early-baby chompy latching-on. It gives me the grace to handle tantrums with patience. And it reminds me that when you are upset, you are upset not “difficult”.

So when you wake up way too early one day because a small child of your own desperately needs your attention, and you think back to these days and wonder why you didn’t inherit the trait of loving mornings..

Remember. I didn’t love mornings. I loved you.

Make the choice joy.

<3 Mama

Time Magazine and “Extreme Parenting”

I’ve been sent the Time Magazine cover quite a few times already.

Each time I sigh.

Yes. It is inflammatory. For many reasons.

First. Many people in this country have not seen full term breastfeeding, or if they have seen full term breastfeeding it is because they have done it themselves. But have never seen another mother do it. Full term breastfeeding tends to happen behind closed doors. Not because it is shameful or worthy of hiding but because it tends to become a part of a bedtime or wakeup routine rather than something that happens across the day. When a magazine has a picture of a small bald infant nursing, everyone gets up in arms about that. To suddenly be exposed to a photograph of a three year old child nursing is going to put people on edge. This does not mean that breastfeeding an older child is wrong. It simply means that we don’t see it. Think back to the segregated South and imagine a magazine cover showing an interracial couple. Think back to the 1800’s and imagine a photograph of a woman in a modest (by today’s standards) bikini. Oh the heads that would explode.  Then to top it off, the child’s size is being emphasized. He’s standing on a chair. He’s nursing standing up. Look at how close he is to mom’s height. He will OBVIOUSLY still be nursing once he’s off to college. Honestly, I’m surprised that her breast is still there. I know that I wouldn’t have trusted my three year old nursling to nurse that way with the distraction and allure of shiny cameras all around while a distractable child stood perched precariously on a chair. (I actually love the picture. But that’s beside the point. The headline and sub-header destroy it for me.)

So you have a picture that will put people on edge.

Second. The headline. “Are You Mom Enough?” This title appears to be the words spoken from that weird woman on the cover that is doing this unspeakable thing. Apparently if you don’t nurse your child until the child is PRACTICALLY READY TO GO TO COLLEGE (look at how huge he is) this blonde skinny woman who has her boob whipped out.. Will actually have the nerve to JUDGE YOU for not being mom enough. (!!!)  How dare she? *sigh* Attachment parenting is not about being “mom enough” or “not mom enough”. Just like non-attachment parenting isn’t about abandoning your child on a riverbank in a basket with a hatchet and some matches and seeing if they’re independent enough to survive in the wild. It’s not a competition, folks. It’s a parenting style.

So. You have a headline that makes people feel judged by this very very strange woman that is doing strange things that we quite simply do not see and have not seen. To top it off, it’s coming out right around mother’s day. Let’s question everyone’s motherhood near mother’s day! Awesome idea!

Third. The description of nursing a three year old. “Extreme” parenting. Now. I could see this being extreme if mom was bungee jumping with her child, or… Oh.. Buying breast implant gift certificates for her seven year old daughter. (Which apparently is odd enough to raise an eyebrow at, but I haven’t really seen anyone define it as “extreme parenting”.) Or those parents that like to allow their young female children to dress in “nude” clothing, pretend to be naked and dance seductive dance routines. Yeah, that’s just weird. Possibly objectionable. But it takes an attachment parent to earn that coveted title of “extreme”. We should totally have a television show where you can watch us.. Nurse our children. And OMG the baby wearing. Tucking little tiny babies into pieces of fabric and.. NOT LETTING THEM CRY. The insanity of it all. How can a baby be a baby unless it screams for a few hours while mom teaches it to be independent? We are obviously extreme extreme EXTREME parents. In fact, Time Magazine did us an injustice using only one “extreme” on the cover. It should have been several extremes. In 3D. With 3D glasses for emphasis.

I was briefly tempted to purchase a subscription for a week’s pass so that I could read the actual article. Then I decided that the cover annoyed me enough that I really didn’t want to.

Time Magazine knows exactly what they’re doing. They’re pissing people off. To make money. And I do not appreciate that my parenting style is being thrown under the bus to make them money.

The truth is that Attachment Parenting is really rather dull and is completely and totally misunderstood. It’s not a set of instructions that you Must Follow Or You Are a Very Bad Parent. It’s a set of guidelines that quite honestly frees me up to do exactly what my instincts tell me to do. NOT IGNORE MY CHILD.

So rather than describe the boringness that is my parenting style (like the cute little baby that is asleep in a wrap on my chest in her cloth diaper), I will suggest that you go forth and find one of those books about truly extreme parenting that advocates beating your child with implements of varying thicknesses appropriate to different age groups (starting in infancy so that they learn not to fight back). Or one of the books about letting your baby scream until they puke and then putting a towel over it because obviously being so upset that you vomit is an attempt at manipulation and letting your child fall asleep on clean sheets would be letting that mean manipulative baby human get away with something so very terrible.

Because truly. What is more extreme? A happy sleeping content little baby, or a screaming baby laying in a puddle of puke?

And what does it say about this society (and Time Magazine) that a happy well cared for baby is considered “extreme”?

So. Yeah. I sigh.

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Dear Daughter,

Each generation of women alive today has a story to tell about breastfeeding and the backwards way in which things were done when their children were born. My grandmother’s generation tells of injections covertly given to women to dry up their milk, of long strips of torn fabric to bind their breasts, or of doctors swishing a woman’s milk around and declaring it too thin or too thick.

Your own great grandmother was told that her milk was “too rich” for her daughter, and so she switched to feeding her sweetened condensed milk. Her breastfeeding relationship was sabotaged outright. My mother was sickly as a child as a result, and now suffers from a severe dairy allergy. Your grandmother tried to breastfeed her first child, your Aunt, and failed three months in because the culture of breastfeeding had been lost to her when her mother had been sabotaged.

My mother gave me the gift of understanding that failure comes from a lack of information. She gave me the understanding that breastfeeding was the default, the natural way to feed a baby. I grew up surrounded by mammals nursing their young. Gerbils, rabbits, cows, goats, cats, mice, and the opossums that took up residence under the stairs of my parents house.

At the hospital after your oldest brother was born, I encountered the “backwards way” of my own generation as I held your brother for the first time and looked first at him and then at my breast. A nurse who had never breastfed saw my confusion at what the next step was, and tried to help me to get him latched on. “You two are a good team.” she said as I tried again and again to get him to latch. I racked my memory trying to remember how I had seen other women breastfeed and was struck by the sudden and bizarre realization that I had never seen a woman breastfeed in real life. I was trying to imitate what I had seen in videos where seasoned breastfeeding pros latched their babies on easily and with grace.

I couldn’t figure out how to “bring the baby to the breast” and instead I tried hunching over and jamming my nipple into his mouth before he clamped down. As you can imagine, he fussed and pulled away. I struggled through the first few hours and became distressed by my failure and that night I picked up my baby and wandered down to the nursing station to ask to see the lactation consultant that I had heard about so many times during the hospital tour.

First I was chastised for carrying my own child, and I was told that if I held him I needed to be sitting down or laying down. Otherwise he needed to be in the bassinet.

Then I was told that if I was worried I could just give him formula. They had it in the nursery.

I wandered back to my room with my newborn son, no new information, no new hope.  I tried to latch your brother on, and watched what he did. I let him suck on my pinky finger. I squeezed colostrum out onto my finger and put it in his mouth. He ate. Slowly. In a moment of random desperation I managed to get my own nipple into my mouth. I sucked the nipple hard and managed to get him to latch on for fifteen minutes. This gave me hope.

We worked and worked at it, and he eventually learned to nurse without needing formula.

The problem that my generation has is this: Monkey see, monkey do. Monkey no see? Monkey struggle and often monkey fail.

Literally monkey-see monkey-do. Primates kept in zoos without exposure to other nursing mothers.. Cannot figure out how to nurse their infants. These monkeys are social animals that learn how to breastfeed from watching and from seeing. A study in 2009 by Anthony Volk states that primates generally require learning to be able to successfully nurse their offspring.

Because of our socially backwards rules about breastfeeding in public and our society’s self defeating insistence that women breastfeeding in public “cover up” and “be discreet” or “nurse in the bathroom”, monkey doesn’t see, monkey doesn’t do, monkey fails. Because of our society’s insistence on prioritizing the sexualization of the breast, we essentially have the breastfeeding skills of monkeys raised in captivity.

I was the first breastfeeding woman that I had ever seen. This is more common than it is for a first-time mother to have seen many others breastfeed before.

If women breastfed openly and were not discouraged from talking about it, all young girls would grow up seeing the different positions that nursing can be done in, the different ways to get a baby to latch when the baby is distracted. They’d see a proper latch. They would see mothers struggling though the early days and receiving help from other mothers. They would see mothers latch their babies on without flinching in pain. They would see how to nurse a baby while walking, while eating, while cleaning, while playing with older children, while living. They would see mothers latch babies on without needing their nipples to be rock hard, mothers latching babies on during growth spurts, side-switching, the witching hour. They would see mothers with small breasts and large breasts doing all of the things that are necessary to breastfeed without failure.

Instead, women are encouraged to hide away behind closed doors and nurse in a select handful of carefully chosen positions with bizzare names. Positions that often cause problems if mom has overactive letdown or large breasts or a baby who has reflux. Positions that mom needs pillows in order to support. We’re encouraged to pump and bottle feed in public to protect the public eye from the unsightly event of breastfeeding. Ironically that same public is so immune to seeing sexualized breasts that we barely even notice the billboards emblazoned with Victoria’s Secret ads that show far more breast than you would ever see from a breastfeeding mother.

The other letters I have written to you have been about the sweetness and slow pace of breastfeeding. This one is angsty and frustrated. I apologize. It is my hope that you can read this letter to you one day, while nursing your own child, and look back on this as one of the backwards ways in which people used to do things. It is my hope that you can read this story with the same sense of relief that I feel when I heard the stories of my own mother and grandmother. And that you can look at the backwards ways of your own generation, identify them, and act to end them so that your own daughters or daughters in law can be even closer to being able to just nurse their babies the way nature designed us to do.

It is my hope that we continue to move forwards toward this goal rather than falling further behind.

This hope is why I started helping other women as I was helped in those early days. This hope is why I write these letters. And this hope is why I share them now with other mothers rather than just saving them away for you to read someday in the future.  They will be saved, they will be shared with you, but they will also be shared with the generation that precedes you in the hopes that you (and any others that I have helped between your brother’s birth and now) will not have to re-invent breastfeeding on your own the way so many women have had to do.

Monkey see, monkey do.

<3 Mama

 

New Server

Hi!

Nurshable.com is now on a new server. Hopefully the traffic won’t crash this one too. :) I’ll be playing around with wordpress caching plugins and other fun geeky things. :)

Thanks for visiting! If anyone wants to consider supporting Nurshable by purchasing ad space over there —–> it would be appreciated, as apparently the new server costs a small fortune that my approximately 80-cents-per-month google adwords revenue can’t quite offset. :p

-Sarah

 

I Will Not Nurse You Forever

Dear Daughter,

You are only three weeks old and so no one really asks yet about your weaning time.  Those questions will come later, along with the many and varied opinions about when you should be weaned. Having been through this twice before with your older brothers, I already know the answer to this.

Let me share a secret with you. Weaning is misunderstood. It views nursing as an act with a beginning and an end where the end is chosen and a hard drawn line in the sand. It’s not like that.

Nursing is a part of motherhood, of parenthood. It blends in with all of the other things and it fades in from the obligations of pregnancy and then fades out into the series of obligations of a parent to their growing child.

There was no hard drawn line for the start. Even before your birth you drew from my body. You grew within my womb. You were nourished from my placenta. I was your life support system and home while you prepared to be born. It was when you were ready to be born that you signaled to my body that it was time, and it was then that labor began.

Moments after you were born. You squinched your little eyes at me and bobbed your head around and fussed because you understood that there was something to be done, but not what to do.  Instead of sucking, you chomped down. Then you pulled your head back and mewled. We worked together and gradually you learned what to do. And a few days later you stopped biting and set into an easy pattern of nursing that allowed my cracked nipples to heal and my milk to flow.

I do not know the moment that you were conceived. I do not know the moment that your cord stopped pulsing. I do not know the moment that you stopped chomping down and began to nurse.

Some day you will no longer need the sustenance from my body, your suckling reflex will fade away, and instead of turning eagerly toward my breast you will do as your older brother does now as I am writing this. You’ll turn your back to me and curl into my arms in a different way, and you will comfort yourself to sleep with my proximity rather than my breast. And then on another day further into the future you will be even more independent still and instead of curling into my arm you will use my belly as a pillow while you talk to me about Kindergarten friends, as your oldest brother does. And then you will walk back to your own room and your own bed, and you will fall asleep on your own.

I do not know the moment that you will stop nursing. I do not know the moment that you will stop comforting yourself to sleep with the closeness of me. I do not know the moment that you will move off and be fully independent with a life of your own creation. I know that you will do each of these things when it is time for you to do them. And I know that I will smile with pride at your independence even if I want to hold on a little longer.

The commitment that I’ve made to you is life-long. There is no hard start, no hard ending, no fading away of obligation. There is no “weaning” that I plan on doing. There is you. There is your quest for independence. There are the needs that drive your little body and that will fade and change with time. And there is me. My job is simply to be here and meet your needs as you have them. I need neither to push you away nor hold onto you, as you will peel off or cling close according to your needs.

You already have that drive for independence and will take it eagerly at your own pace. Weaning is not something that I need to do. It is something that you will do as an inevitable part of growing up and of life.

I will not hold you back, and I will not push you away. I will not nurse you forever, but I will always be there for you and I will always love you.

<3 Mama

Is Breastmilk Deficient in Vitamin D?

Breastmilk does have vitamin D. Low amounts of it that do not meet the RDA. Some call it “deficient”. This is misleading.

Vitamin D is actually a prohormone, not a vitamin. Our skin synthesizes it when it is exposed to sunlight. It was never intended to be absorbed through diet, therefore it is not passed through breastmilk in any substantial quantity. Or any milk, for that matter. Breastmilk is not “deficient” in vitamin D because it is not SUPPOSED to contain large amounts of D.

Our lifestyle is deficient in sunlight, and therefore our bodies are deficient in D. Because we avoid sunlight, live sedentary lives indoors and slather on sunscreen when we go outside, many people are D deficient. This can cause rickets which are weakened bones (vitamin D is needed by the body for the body to use calcium properly) as well as other health issues.

The body stores vitamin D , and when mom is pregnant she passes the vitamin D stores on to baby, so babies are born with enough D to last through the winter without much sunlight. If mom’s D deficient, baby will be born D deficient or with lower stores of D and will need vitamin D drops. (NOT multivitamin drops)

Whether you supplement with D depends on this:

1- Do you live in a climate that gets enough sunlight?

2- Do you regularly expose your baby to sunlight without a hat or sunscreen? Is it safe to do so? (in Florida, for example, it may be too easy for baby to get a sunburn. Or in very northern climates it may be too cold to expose baby to enough sunlight with enough skin being bare. (Sunlight through windows doesn’t work.)

3- Were you regularly exposed to sunlight throughout your pregnancy?

4- People with darker skin have a harder time with vitamin D synthesis than people with lighter skin, so this needs to be taken into account as well.

There are a variety of “Just D” drops for breastfeeding babies that do not have the additional vitamins commonly found in the often-prescribed multi-vitamins.  Read the ingredients, as some of these still have unnecessary ingredients that your baby may be sensitive to.

I Am Not a Human Pacifier

Dear Daughter,

You are three weeks old. You nursed pretty much straight through the night last night, as I sort of drifted in and out of being fully awake.

You’re going through a growth spurt.

When you switch sides I feel the sting of letdown. Sometimes you nurse eagerly and gulp down the milk. Sometimes you become upset because you don’t want milk. Or you don’t want the fast flow of my over-active letdown. Sometimes you just want to lay in the semi-dark and nurse peacefully while your little dark blue eyes stare at my face and your little feet kick the still-soft skin of my belly which was your former home. Sometimes you want to comfort nurse. When this happens I kiss your forehead and switch you back to the “empty” side and let you lay close. You are a wise little creature that understands what it is that you need.

I am not a human pacifier.

Usually when a mom says that, it’s an expression of frustration that their infant insists on suckling for comfort. This is not what I mean when I say this.

I am not a warm human substitute for a cold silicone and plastic doohickey.

Your father may sometimes be a human pacifier. You suckle on his pinky finger during diaper changes or when I desperately need to wash my milk-stained body in the shower and remember for a few moments that I have two arms with two hands and that the dimensions of my body do not include an oddly independent nine pound female child that is frequently suspended from my body in a wrap of lightweight gauze.  Your grandfather may be a human pacifier, as he holds you lovingly while I get your big brothers ready for bed or eat a hot meal without waiting for it to cool first- a luxury of not being afraid of hot bits of soup falling on you while I eat. Your  brothers may briefly be human pacifiers when they offer up their pinky fingers for you to suck on, always imitating their daddy.Your grandma may be a human pacifier when she offers you her pinky finger to suck on and sings you Russian songs from her childhood.

But my breasts are not pacifiers. Comfort sucking is not time wasted. It’s part of the job that my body and you have. It is how we evolved. We are the product of a long process of evolution that causes you to seek out my arms and my breasts, to suckle for comfort, to communicate with my immune system, to stay close and warm and protected, to stimulate the supply of your food, your antibodies, the components of breastmilk that scientists can see but cannot identify the function of.

Maybe you want the comfort of non-nutritive suckling because there is something that has you stressed out. Maybe you want a slow flow of high fat hindmilk that comes from comfort nursing. Maybe your body has some bacteria in it and you need the closeness so that your immune system can communicate with my immune system and it all can be taken care of without either of us ever knowing and without you ever becoming sick from the foreign invaders that your body cannot cope with but that my adult immune system attacks with the ferocity of a mama bear defending her cub.

Independence will come at your pace. “I DO IT MYSELF!” will become the phrase of the moment soon enough. The need to peel off and be independent is as natural a need as the need to breathe, to sleep and to eat. It comes from within the child when the child has the ability. It has come from within your brothers as they get older. It will come from within you as well. I can see it already as you bob your head against my chest in the wrap and peek over the side eager to strengthen your muscles and look at the world.

I choose to neither hold you past when you wish to be held, nor deny you comfort while it is something that you seek. I push you gently to be independent, recognizing that your world naturally expands within your comfort zone without me needing to push you past it into tears.

I am not a “human pacifier”. I am what you have a biological and evolutionary need for. I will not devalue your needs by implying that you lack the wisdom and understanding of what those needs are. I will not devalue your needs by becoming frustrated by your refusal to accept something that does not meet those needs. I want you to listen to your body from the beginning, to understand the difference between a healthy need of yours and a pacifying object. To have an understanding that dates back to the beginnings of your time on this planet.. That comfort comes from having your needs met, not from distracting yourself with something pink, pretty and plastic.

No manufacturer makes what you need for happiness, little one. I want you to understand this from the beginning of your life. Happiness comes from love, from closeness, and from deep inside of you. Seek this happiness, and never be distracted by things that simply pacify you rather than satisfying your needs.

 

<3 Mama.

Painful Toddler Nursing

Disclaimer: Many people do not experience a “bad” phase of nursing. So don’t expect that nursing a toddler will be painful for you.. But if you DO experience it, take heart. Others have, too. And there are solutions.

Painful toddler nursing seems to be a hot topic recently. I’ve seen four or five threads on this in the breastfeeding forums that I frequent, and I’ve had several friends mention it as either an annoying phase that they’re hoping will pass, or as the reason that they weaned or are planning on weaning.

If you are experiencing painful toddler nursing and WANT to wean, I don’t blame you. There were a few times when, after nursing for a couple of minutes, I wanted to hand my toddler to my husband and go away for three days until he forgot that breasts existed. It wasn’t just painful the way nursing a newborn was. It felt ABUSIVE. I knew that my son didn’t mean anything by it, but it was painful and it was rough. It hurt, and it felt violating.

It’s very hard to find good advice and support on breastfeeding a newborn, because many women have their attempts sabotaged by medical professionals. As our child gets older, it becomes even more difficult to get any advice other than “Maybe it’s time to quit”. Very few women make it to the one year mark, and most of those never make it to see two years. This means that there’s a tremendous lack of women that can answer questions, offer solutions and support and tell you that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

I’m still nursing my 27 month old. He has a full mouth of teeth, and we got past the nipple twisting, the “I want to nurse but I want to watch this tennis game on TV while nursing”, the “I want to nurse but I want you to sit on THAT side of the couch and I want to sit on the OTHER side of the couch, and I expect your nipple to accommodate this request by becoming magically rubber-like. If it does not work this way, I will subject it to medieval torture techniques” thing. Oh and the “My child seems to be related to some family of creature that has razor-sharp teeth, and I’m afraid that I’m going to lose my nipple” thing. And the biting thing.. And.. Oh. I still have my nipples. In fact, my son nurses more comfortably for me now than he did for the first year of his life.

So what do you do?

A lot of the time it boils down to nursing manners. As with anything in your life, you need to set clear boundaries with your toddler. Hitting is not acceptable, biting while nursing is not allowed.. But also less aggressive behaviors such as nipple twiddling, pulling away while nursing, etc.

Some of these behaviors can be hard to break a child of, as the child learns that twiddling mom’s nipple is comforting and it brings her milk down quickly. Or the child might want to pull away from the nipple to see more of the world around him. Or some of the problems can even be purely physical. A tooth might feel like a razor-sharp protrusion that hurts even when your child is latched on perfectly.

If your child is biting: If your child is biting you can try several different things. I’m starting with the one that worked for me: Simply keep your pinky finger near your child’s mouth. When your child starts to bite down, jam your finger into the corner of his mouth between his back gums and break the bite and the latch. If your child bites three times, announce that nursing is “done for now” and “No biting mama, that hurts.” Try to stay as calm as possible. With my son anything that scared him would make him bite down harder. Anything that didn’t scare him would amuse him and he’d… you guessed it, bite down harder. Other techniques involve:

– Yelping loudly in pain. Be careful doing this if you have a sensitive child or one that is amused easily. A sensitive child might refuse to nurse again out of fear. A child that is amused by your yelp might bite you again to see the funny reaction.

– Pressing the baby’s face into your breast so that his nose is covered and air flow is temporarily cut off. Baby doesn’t like the sensation and generally stops biting and doesn’t do it again. Just don’t do it for too long because obviously you don’t want to smother your baby. With my son, doing this frightened him and he nearly took my nipple off, but other parents have had success with this method- my mom used it on me and I only ever bit her twice in the four and a half years of nursing.

– Flicking your baby’s nose hard enough to startle but not hard enough to hurt. My son was amused by this when I did it lightly, and scared by it when I did it more strongly. MAJOR fail. Lots of biting. I had to pry him off and he left toothmarks in my breast. But this method worked on my brother.

– Terminating the nursing session as soon as the baby bites down. Say “NO BITING MAMA! We will nurse when you’re ready to not bite.” Some versions of this involve putting the baby down, sort of like a mini time-out. This just resulted in my son wanting to nurse for comfort and blubbering into my breast, but it has worked for many and seems to be one of the more commonly recommended ways for dealing with the problem of biting.

If your child has a sharp tooth: If your child has a sharp tooth, it can cause a lot of pain. Sometimes you can have deja vu with flashbacks to the early days of nursing. Little teeth can come out with bumpy jagged edges that HURT! Treat it like the newborh phase. Focus on latch, vary positions and try to find one that hurts less, or at least vary positions so that the tooth doesn’t rub on the same spot all the time. Coat your nipple and areola with some lansinoh or another nursing cream. A tooth typically only causes pain for about 1-3 weeks and then once the tooth has fully emerged the razor-surface has worn down a bit and become more dull, and your child has adjusted his latch so that it doesn’t rub quite as much. I found that with my son the first tooth on the top was the worst.  The bottom teeth didn’t hurt as much because my son’s tongue cushioned them. (Although he did have a short period of bad latch becuase his teeth irritated his tongue!), once he had two teeth on the top and two on the bottom, the rest of the teeth barely hurt at all. I was expecting the canines to hurt like crazy! Not even a little bit. :)

– If your child is pulling back from the breast and stretching the breast painfully: Give them no where to pull to! Nurse them dangle-style so that your body is too close for them to push away. Nurse them up against the side of the couch so that they’re pushed into a corner and would have to push your entire body away in order to get the breast away. Nurse them football-hold with pillows supporting their back and head so that they can’t pull. Side-lay nurse and put pillows behind them so that they have no place to roll to. Lay on your back and have them nurse while sitting up, it makes it so that if they pull away too strongly it breaks the latch and they get frustrated. If they dig their little hands into your breast and lock their arms and push (Yeah, my son did that.) push their hands away, and tell them “No” the same as you would biting. It’s nursing manners. Three strikes, and we’ll nurse later.  Explain “That hurts mommy”. If they’re nursing that way because they’re trying to see something, try to sit at an angle so that they can see whatever it is while they’re nursing. Otherwise reinforce what they CAN do with their hands while nursing. I encouraged my son to play gently with my hair, my earings, stroke my chin/face, point at my facial features so I could tell him the name of what it was, and stroke my collar bone area. He could also hold a truck and drive it across my collarbone area, or hold a blanket if he wanted. But he could NOT push away from me. That hurts mommy!

If your child is sucking so hard that it really feels like he’s sucking the marrow from your bones..  First check to make sure that he hasn’t over-latched. Make sure that his lips stay within your areola. If your toddler is taking in TOO MUCH breast tissue it can hurt even worse than if your toddler is taking in too little breast tissue or “nipple nursing”. I had to teach my son to latch shallowly on my left side because his mouth outgrew my areola in certain positions. This can result in the feeling that your breast tissue is being torn, and it actually can result in tears and bleeding! Ouch!

If it’s just a hard strong suck, this is somewhat normal. Toddlers become very efficient little suckers and sometimes it can be painful when they’re very hungry. Once your child is over a year old you can offer some solids before nursing. This usually slows the sucking down. If it doesn’t, demonstrate “gentle” and “hard” sucks on your child’s thumb. Say “GENTLE” and “OUCH!” and say “If you hurt mommy we can’t nurse now. Can you nurse gently?” Again, three strikes and the toddler is out and they can nurse again later.

If your child is nipple-twiddling the solution is much the same as the “pushing away”. Try to make it so that it CAN’T happen by keeping that side of your bra latched and pushing away any little hands that try to get under it. Hold your child’s hands, or even “swaddle to nurse”. Play hand-games, encourage your child to do the things that DO NOT hurt mommy. Buy a nursing necklace, let him play with a doll or a truck or a stuffed animal or blanket. Patiently insist that the child not twiddle, and practice three strikes.

Got a problem not covered here? We’d love to hear about your solution, or even just hear what the problem is. We might have experienced it, solved it, and forgotten about it. Or we might know someone who can get the answer for you. :)

(Original article on my former blog- CustomMadeMilk: http://custommademilk.wordpress.com/2009/02/23/painful-toddler-nursing/ )