Breastfeeding until age 3, 4, or 5: more common than you think?

When my daughter was born four and a half years ago, I had no plan for how long I would breastfeed her, I just knew that I would start off breastfeeding and then go with the flow. It so happens that in our case going with the flow meant that one month shy of her fourth birthday she was still nursing (albeit only once a day), and as I would soon discover, we weren’t the only ones on this path.

Photo courtesy Alexander Tundakov
Photo courtesy Alexander Tundakov

I wrote my thoughts about this shortly before her fourth birthday in a post titled On Nursing a Preschooler.

I didn’t set out to nurse a preschooler, but somehow along the way, my sweet little baby grew from an infant to a toddler and eventually blossomed into a preschooler in what now seems like the blink of an eye. I am confident this won’t go on forever and when I look back on this time when she’s 10 or 20 or 30, and I look at the young woman she’s become, I am hopeful that I will feel good about the choices I made and have no regrets.

When I wrote that post I was feeling rather isolated and wondered if there were others who’d chosen (either deliberately or unintentionally) to take the long-term (a preferred alternative term to “extended”) breastfeeding route. I soon got my answer. I received 62 comments on that post. Amazingly none of them were negative and several came from women saying that they too nursed an older child and many thanked me for talking about it openly.

Lisa from The Joy of Six said, “I’m so glad you posted this. I’ve nursed mine until they stopped which has been anywhere from 14 mo to 4. Thanks for letting all those ‘closet nursing’ mommies know they aren’t alone.”

Melissa at Through My Window said: “The whole time I was nursing both of my girls past the age of 4 I always wished that I could talk about it and that more moms were willing to admit that they were nursing for a long time too. My girls only nursed at nap-time and bedtime as they became older which meant only 1-2 times/day. Of course, they are weaned now, but I have no regrets and I would absolutely nurse future children as long.”

Liesl from Come, Mommy, who was tandem nursing both her 4 1/2 year old and baby at the time, said:

Got a 4.5 year-old-nursling over here! Sometimes it is a lot to nurse two, but on the other hand, it’s one of the few times Liam will settle down for a bit. Then after he nurses, he’ll sit around and chat, and that’s when I often find out the things on his mind. And I think it’s eased his transition to brotherhood as well. Nursing a 4 year old is a very different thing than nursing a baby, and it is most definitely not for everyone, but overall I’m glad I stayed with it.

Nina (no blog listed) said:

I think it is important for those who think breast feeding a preschooler is *bad* that in many, many parts of the world this is quite normal. Only with the invasion of TVs and computers (whereby the views of more advanced countries are shown) have many moms stopped breastfeeding after about 1 year, they seem to think that the entire world is like that.

My mother was a midwife before she married my father and she very, very strongly rec. breast feeding until the child was ready to wean on his/her own and this was back in the 50’s!

Heather at A Mama’s Blog shared with me a story from her former employer:

My old boss told me an interesting story a few years ago. He was in his 60’s at the time, and grew up in the country. He said when he went to school at lunch time the “little” boys about ages 6 and 7 would go home to nurse. There wasn’t a lot of food at that time, and the mothers also used it as a form of birth control.

I thought that was pretty interesting that just in the 1940s, nursing a 6 and 7 year old was perfectly acceptable. Too bad we have come so far in the other direction in the last 60 years.

I also took an informal poll (if you will) on Twitter to see if others are nursing or have nursed children ages 3 and up. I was rather surprised by the number of replies I received.

Tomorrow evening, Jan. 2, barring any late-breaking big news stories, ABC’s 20/20 is set to air an episode featuring segments on long-term (extended) breastfeeding, as well as home birth (both with and without midwives), serial surrogates (women that have numerous babies for other women), “fake babies” (life-like dolls), and orgasmic birth. I believe the title for the show is “Extreme Mothering.” You can see a preview of the breastfeeding segment, which included an interview with the mother of a 6-year-old boy who still nurses, as well as an interview with the boy, on ABC News.

Although I put together a decent little list of mothers and children who are long-term breast-feeders (and that’s without searching on the ‘net for other bloggers or celebrities – yes, there are some), there will, undoubtedly, still be those who think it is weird, gross, damaging, or just plain wrong. If you find yourself in that camp, you might want to consider the following.

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics says, “Pediatricians and parents should be aware that exclusive breastfeeding is sufficient to support optimal growth and development for approximately the first 6 months of life‡ and provides continuing protection against diarrhea and respiratory tract infection. Breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child.” AAP goes on to say, “There is no upper limit to the duration of breastfeeding and no evidence of psychologic or developmental harm from breastfeeding into the third year of life or longer.” (AAP 2005)
  • The World Health Organization recommends “infants should be exclusively breastfed(1) for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health(2). Thereafter, to meet their evolving nutritional requirements, infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods while breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond.
  • The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that breastfeeding continue throughout the first year of life and that “Breastfeeding beyond the first year offers considerable benefits to both mother and child, and should continue as long as mutually desired.” They also note that “If the child is younger than two years of age, the child is at increased risk of illness if weaned.” (AAFP 2001)
  • Former US Surgeon General Antonio Novello, MD has stated that it is a lucky baby who continues to nurse until age two.
  • When to Stop Breastfeeding Your Child: A Case for Extended Nursing includes the many benefits of extended nursing
  • Additionally, there are more position statements from various organizations linked up on KellyMom

But wait, there’s more. According to Summer Minor in her post Is 4 too old to be breastfed?,”Biologically, 4 years is still in the normal range for humans.”

The book Breastfeeding: Biocultural Perspectives contains a wonderful section called “A Time to Wean: The Hominid Blueprint for a Natural Age of Weaning in Modern Human Populations.” by Katherine A. Dettwyler, Ph.D. Dr. Dettwyler is an award winning anthropologist, professor, and breastfed her daughter until she was 4 years old. In the section Dettwyler compares various primates, including humans, to find what the biological norm would be for humans. She found that the natural age for modern humans based on our size, development, and life span is between 2.5 years and 7 years. A child still nursing at 4 years old is normal, natural, and OK.

If you find yourself long-term nursing your child, there’s a good chance that at some point you will run into criticism from others. La Leche League International has some good advice for handling criticism from family, friends or even complete strangers.

If you’re facing criticism, remember that they may simply be uninformed about the benefits of extended breastfeeding or perhaps they feel guilt about their own parenting choices. Consider responding to unwelcome comments by:

  • Ignoring: walking away or changing the subject.
  • Informing: sharing books, articles, or a medical professional’s thoughts on extended nursing.
  • Using Humor: making a joke about the situation or yourself, not the other person.
  • Acknowledging: recognizing the person’s viewpoint and asking further questions without agreeing or disagreeing
  • Empathizing: being empathetic to demonstrate that you understand the other person’s feeling and meaning (Vakiener 1999).

Dr. William Sears has some advice about handling the criticism as well. Here are some things he suggests you keep in mind:

  • Science is on your side.
  • World opinion is on your side.
  • It’s better for your health.
  • It’s better for your toddler’s behavior.
  • Blame it on your doctor.
  • Let your child silence the critics.

For more information about each of these suggestions, visit Ask Dr. Sears: Extended Breastfeeding — Handling the Criticism.

There’s additional information about Handling Criticism about Breastfeeding at KellyMom.

Speaking of KellyMom, which is a wonderful resource for all things breastfeeding, if you are the mother of a long-term nurser and are looking for support, check out their forums. There’s a forum for nursing children ages 3 and up. There are also forums for the toddler years – ages 12-24 months and ages 24-36 months.

While I decided to focus primarily on older children in this post, many women on Twitter chimed in that they are nursing their kids to age two as well, including: Reiza at Stepping Off the Spaceship, Summer at Wired for Noise, Mom Most Traveled, Annie at PhD in Parenting, Sherri at Recovering Sociopath, and Sara (who was breast-fed herself until age 4 1/2) at Custom-Made Milk, among others.

While I’m sure some of my relatives thought my daughter would nurse “forever,” I can assure you she did not. Her last nursing was on Oct. 3, 2008, at age 4 years, 3 months and 11 days. It was mostly child-led, although I did nudge her a bit at the end. I felt that she was ready, but needed a little extra push (and I knew I was ready). It was bittersweet, but I think it went quite smoothly. I hope to write about the experience one day soon before I forget it. It is yet to be seen what my son will decide to do. As for now, he’s still going strong nursing at 25 months.

It is my hope that as a result of segments like the one on 20/20 and the fact that more women are feeling comfortable speaking out about long-term nursing (as evidenced by all of the comments and Tweets I received), that others will not feel like they need to be “closet nursers” nor feel pressured by family, friends or society in general to wean before they feel it is right for them and their child. Let’s trust our judgment to do what’s right for our child and trust the judgment of other moms to do what’s right for their child too.

Cross-posted on BlogHer. I’d love it if you’d share your comments there too! :)

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Motrinmoms: Tying up the loose ends

Whether you thought the Motrin ad was off the mark or not, I think it’s safe to say that what happened on Twitter on Nov. 15 and 16 was unprecedented. A group of moms who were collectively offended by a condescending, patronizing and poorly thought out ad that made false statements about babywearing banded together in a very short amount of time resulting in Motrin pulling their ad and issuing an apology.

Contrary to what some may believe, it’s not just been the mommy bloggers who are writing about this (though many are). It’s numerous tech, marketing, advertising and social media bloggers too. Some of these posts include: Social Media Storm Spreads as Motrin Ad Angers Moms by BL Ochman, Motrin: A Case Study in Social Media Marketing by Toby Bloomberg, Moms Give Motrin a Headache by David Armano, The #motrinmoms Lesson by Susan Getgood Motrin learns: Hell hath no fury like baby-wearing moms by Media Caffeine, The Real Problem with the Motrin Ads by Peter Shankman, and How Twittering Critics Brought Down Motrin Mom Campaign by Advertising Age, just to name a few. I can’t tell you the number of times my blog has been linked to in the past 24 hours because I’ve lost count, but I can tell you my hits are through the roof.

I’ve seen a lot of reactions to this both here on my blog and elsewhere around the ‘net. Some people are calling for Motrin employees to be fired and I have to say I think that is a bit extreme. We’ve all been in jobs where we’ve made mistakes (um, especially in the job of being Mom) and, hopefully for our sake, we weren’t fired as a result. With the economy the way it is, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

Others are saying that the moms overreacted or that moms should be using their power for greater causes and that we wasted their time on this one. First of all I believe that we all have different causes that speak to us. If everyone supported the same thing, what a boring world this would be. Secondly, who’s to say what other causes we are active in supporting? Who’s to say we can only devote our energy to one cause at a time? I know many of the moms on Twitter are activists and involved in causes that speak to them, just as I am. Why should we have to justify why something speaks to us and why we feel motivated to act on it? If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.

I think the fact that moms were able to band together as quickly as they did demonstrates (once again) that women, and moms in particular, are a force to be reckoned with. And ya know what? We all have to start somewhere. Who’s to say that a mom who was a part of the Motrin thing won’t feel empowered to take on something bigger next time? My first foray into activism a few years ago involved emailing Target about a shirt that had a message I didn’t agree with. Target pulled the shirts from its racks. Similarly to what’s going on now, there were many nay-sayers, but I learned a few valuable lessons: that there is power in numbers and that it’s important to stand up for the things you believe in, no matter how small they may seem. I’ve gone on to become an activist for other things. Most recently, it was volunteering for the Obama campaign and making phone calls to voters in my battleground state of Colorado and I wasn’t the only mom involved. Does that count as a “greater cause?” Who knows what we’ll tackle next. ;)

Personally, I was pleased to see that Motrin issued an apology and pulled the ad. I don’t believe the ad ever should have been made public though. I hope that Motrin/Johnson & Johnson and other companies that want to market to moms have learned that being involved in social media is important, if not crucial, and perhaps they will run future ads by a group of moms from diverse backgrounds to give it a test run. I feel fairly confident that if they had shown the babywearing ad to a handful of moms (both babywearers and non-babywearers), there would have been some negative reactions and it would have caused them to rethink it.

ibw_xlarge.jpgMoving right along…

Did I mention that this is International Babywearing Week? Oh, Yes. It Is. (Not good timing for Motrin, eh?)

Babywearing International has issued a response to Motrin. Part of the response asked McNeil Consumer Healthcare to help right the wrongs.

Babywearing International, Inc., calls upon McNeil Consumer Healthcare to counter the effects of this offensive ad campaign in the following ways:

– Completely discontinue the campaign by not allowing any further publication of it in any media;

– Undertake an equally prominent campaign that portrays babywearing mothers as the savvy parents and consumers they actually are;

– Undertake an equally prominent campaign that explains the proven benefits of babywearing and directly counters the portrayal of babywearing as painful or as a practice that makes babywearing mothers cry;

– Undertake a campaign to educate healthcare providers as well as patients about the research-proven benefits of babywearing. In fact, babywearing makes mothers more confident and results in fewer tears for both mothers and children.

Recognizing that Motrin is a brand that has heretofore been mother-friendly as well as child-friendly, Babywearing International would consider assisting Motrin in partially repairing the recent damage to its image by having Motrin’s collaboration in our Medical Outreach Campaign, through which we provide research-based information to medical doctors, counselors, and parents concerning the health benefits of babywearing.

I’d love to see Motrin respond to Babywearing International and take them up on their offer for assistance.

Lastly, here are two good examples of what Motrin could have chosen to do with the ad, which would have saved them time, money and yes, many, many headaches.

And to think all of this began with one little tweet: “hey babywearers, have you seen Motrin’s new ad campaign bashing babywearing??!” Who could have predicted the outcome? Not me.
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My Related Posts:

* Motin’s new ad attacks babywearing, insults moms
* We’ve blogged and tweeted the Motrin ad. What can moms do next?
* Motrin’s response to the onslaught of complaints

Motrin’s email response to the onslaught of complaints over babywearing ad

I just received an email from Kathy Widmer, Vice President of Marketing for McNeil Consumer Healthcare, responding to the feedback I left on Motrin’s website last night. Here it is:

Dear Amy –

I am the Vice President of Marketing for McNeil Consumer Healthcare. I have responsibility for the Motrin Brand, and am responding to concerns about recent advertising on our website. I am, myself, a mom of 3 daughters.

We certainly did not mean to offend moms through our advertising. Instead, we had intended to demonstrate genuine sympathy and appreciation for all that parents do for their babies. We believe deeply that moms know best and we sincerely apologize for disappointing you. Please know that we take your feedback seriously and will take swift action with regard to this ad. We are in process of removing it from our website. It will take longer, unfortunately, for it to be removed from magazine print as it is currently on newstands and in distribution.

-Kathy

Kathy Widmer
VP of Marketing – Pain, Pediatrics, GI, Specialty
McNeil Consumer Healthcare
215-273-8192
kwidmer@mccus.jnj.com

What do you think about this response? I’d love to hear from you.

If you have no idea what this is about, please read my previous posts on the subject:
* Motin’s new ad attacks babywearing, insults moms
* We’ve blogged and tweeted the Motrin ad. What can moms do next?

Also, check out the New York Times article: Moms and Motrin

Update 11/17/08: As of just a bit ago, Motrin posted an apology (see below) on their web site, which is now back up after it was entirely taken down for the night.

“With regard to the recent Motrin advertisement, we have heard you.

On behalf of McNeil Consumer Healthcare and all of us who work on the Motrin Brand, please accept our sincere apology.

We have heard your complaints about the ad that was featured on our website. We are parents ourselves and take feedback from moms very seriously.

We are in the process of removing this ad from all media. It will, unfortunately, take a bit of time to remove it from our magazine advertising, as it is on newsstands and in distribution.

Thank you for your feedback. Its very important to us.”

Sincerely,
Kathy Widmer
Vice President of Marketing
McNeil Consumer Healthcare

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Motrin’s new ad attacks babywearing, insults moms

Have you seen the new online Motrin ad? You know, the one where they attack babywearing and insult moms in an effort to sell their drugs? Watch it here (at least until they take it down) or it’s also on YouTube.

Motrin, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?? Oh yeah, you weren’t.

Thanks to Barb for typing out the video verbatim:

In case they pull the ad from their front page by the time you’re reading this (I sure hope they trash the entire campaign, and fast), I’m quoting the little video on their website front page, which they call a “Mom-versation“. The phrases in bold are my emphasis, though they have even better emphasis in the graphics in their ad.

Wearing your baby seems to be in fashion.

I mean, in theory it’s a great idea.

There’s the front baby carrier, sling, schwing, wrap, pouch.

And who knows what else they’ve come up with. Wear your baby on your side, your front, go hands free.

Supposedly, it’s a real bonding experience.

They say that babies carried close to the bod tend to cry less than others.

But what about me? Do moms that wear their babies cry more than those who don’t?

I sure do!

These things put a ton of strain on your back, your neck, your shoulders. Did I mention your back?!

I mean, I’ll put up with the pain because it’s a good kind of pain; it’s for my kid.

Plus, it totally makes me look like an official mom.

And so if I look tired and crazy, people will understand why.

Here’s the response I just emailed them:

Motrin’s new ad campaign targeting babywearing is offensive, disrespectful and wrong on so many levels. If a mom is experiencing significant pain from wearing her baby, then she needs to adjust her carrier/sling or try another one. Babywearing has so many proven benefits to both mom and baby and women have been wearing babies since the beginning of time. Stop disrespecting us moms, Motrin. Unlike our babies, we weren’t born yesterday and we will take our $ elsewhere.

Me with Julian (2 wks old) in the MobyPersonally, I LOVED wearing my kids. My favorite carrier was the Ergo, though I also really liked the Moby Wrap. I loved having them close and safe, especially out in crowds and when I wanted to be able to get around easily without lugging a stroller. Oh yeah and there was the time I was able to nurse my son hands-free while he was in the Moby and we were out for a walk in the middle of winter without taking him out into the cold. That was pretty cool. :)

Does the Motrin ad bother you? Let Motrin know what you think. Contact Motrin and then feel free to boycott them (Johnson & Johnson owns both Motrin and Tylenol). I happen to go through a lot of Ibuprofen because I get migraines on a regular basis, but I use generic Ibuprofen and it works just fine and is cheaper too!

Edited to add:
If you weren’t on Twitter Saturday night, you missed the onslaught of comments about the Motrin ad, but Katja Presnal at Ladybug Landings summed it up nicely in the video she made including many of the Tweets in response to Motrin: Motrin Makes Moms Mad. There are even a few pics of me wearing Julian in there, and one of Ava wearing her baby doll. :) (Ava was soo happy to be included in the video. Thanks, Katja!)

Also, please check out my follow-up post: We’ve blogged and tweeted the Motrin ad. What can moms do next?
And lastly, Motrin responds and removes online ad: Motrin’s email response to the onslaught of complaints over the babywearing ad

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The value of family dinners and giving our children presence

What if there was one thing you could do to lessen the likelihood that your child would get involved with smoking, drinking or doing drugs; lessen his/her chance of developing obesity; and help him/her do better in school? What if that thing was as simple as having regular family dinners together?

Sept. 22 is Family DayMonday, Sept. 22, marks the 8th annual Family Day – A Day to Eat Dinner with Your Children – “a national movement to inform parents that the parental engagement fostered during frequent family dinners is an effective tool to help keep America’s kids substance free.”

From 2003 to 2008 research by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University has consistently found that “compared to children who have frequent family dinners (five or more per week), children who have infrequent family dinners (less than three per week) are two and a half times likelier to have used marijuana and tobacco and one and a half times likelier to have drunk alcohol.”

At Family Guide: Keeping Youth Mentally Healthy and Drug Free, they also believe in the importance of family mealtimes. Jeanie Lerche Davis of WebMD agrees that family dinners are important and lists 10 Benefits of Family Dinners, including “kids are less likely to become overweight or obese” and “school grades will be better,” as well as 10 Tips for Organizing Family Dinners.

Pretty impressive for just eating a meal together, right? I think most people would agree that it’s not simply the act of eating together, but of engaging in conversation – in talking to your children and listening to them talk to you – that really what makes the difference. Dinner just happens to be that one time of day that busy families might have an opportunity to sit down and spend a few minutes with each other.

Some of CASA’s secrets to having successful family dinners include:

  • start the pattern of eating dinner together while children are young
  • turn off the TV and avoid taking phone calls during dinner time
  • encourage kids to get involved in meal planning and preparation
  • discuss what happened during everyone’s day
  • keep it positive and make sure everyone gets a chance to speak.

Gina from A Wrestling Addicted Mommy’s Blog recalls that growing up, she and her family used to have dinner and talk about their day, but admits now with her own family, this is something they are lacking. She also points out a recent survey from Mom Central that said 98% of the mom’s polled think that children do benefit from eating meals at the table with the families, but only 61% of families actually do this every day.

The blogger at All Rileyed Up also recalls family dinners while she was growing up (complete with grace before meals, grace after meals, and on Sunday, the whole rosary) says, “Family dinners are much harder to pull off these days, now that I’m the one running the family, partly because Husband’s work schedule is erratic and partly because I am a lazy bum. … For a while, it wasn’t a big deal to me, but now that the kids are getting older, I feel a need to give them something to remember, a time the whole family can count on being together.”

I find it fairly easy to have dinner with my family every night, but that’s because a) (thankfully) my husband is able to get home from work at a decent hour and b) my children are still young and not involved in after-school programs, sports, nor do they have homework or jobs to go to. I imagine it will prove to get more and more challenging as my kids get older, but I think it is something worth striving for and we will do the best that we can.

Do you have regular family dinners with your child(ren)? If so, will you make an effort to continue that throughout the teenage years? If not, will you make it a priority on Sept. 22 and/or consider trying to do it more often?

October is AP MonthAlong the same lines and in keeping with the spirit of spending family time together, Attachment Parenting International has declared October Attachment Parenting Month, where the theme is “Giving Our Children Presence.” Partnering with Attachment Parenting International to celebrate and promote Attachment Parenting Month are AskDrSears.com, Mothering magazine, and Infant Massage USA.

Julie, an API leader who blogs at ChezArtz, explains that the theme “focuses on the benefits of spending quality time with our children, especially in the run up to the very consumer-oriented holiday season. Although all children love toys, it is our presence, not presents, that they truly crave.”

Scylla at Law and Motherhood notes some of the ways she tries to keep her family connected like not having a DVD player in her car and bringing her children into the kitchen to help with cooking, but also admits its not always easy to remain present in their lives. She asks her readers, “how you give your presence to your children, when you are too worn out to be present for anyone else?” After all, we as parents all find ourselves in those situations, sometimes on a regular basis.

API Speaks, the blog of Attachment Parenting International, will be holding a blog carnival focusing on “giving our children presence,” complete with giveaways, during the month of October.

While I know not everyone agrees with attachment parenting being the best fit for their family, I think we can all agree that giving our children our presence is an invaluable gift and something so important especially in today’s world. As October approaches, I will be considering how I might be more present in my children’s lives and I encourage you to do the same. It’s often the little things – taking a few minutes to read a book, build a blanket fort, go for a walk together, have dinner together while you talk and especially listen – that mean the world to a child.

You can learn more about AP Month, including events that will be taking place around the country, at Attachment Parenting Month.

What will you do to give your child(ren) your presence in October?

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Cross-posted on BlogHer

Stepping outside the box AKA Talking for a teddy bear

I apologize for the lack of substance on CDG this week. Between keeping a close eye on all of the developing stories in politics (more on my opinions another time), watching the Republican National Convention, being without the internets for a day, all of my crazy food preservation adventures (I’m still trying to write a how-to post about making/canning jam), updating the list of Ditch the Disposables challenge participants (woot!!), and Ava starting back to preschool, I just haven’t been able to get it together. However, finally here is some fresh content, cross-posted at the blog of Attachment Parenting International, API Speaks.

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During the past four years of my attachment parenting journey, I sometimes find myself in situations, especially with regard to discipline, that require me to step outside the box and out of my comfort zone.

A few months ago I was trying to get Ava, almost 4 years old at the time, to sleep. She had had a long day and was simply exhausted, so much so that every little thing was setting her off into a puddle of tears. I was getting frustrated because it seemed nothing I could do was right (in her eyes). Logically, I knew that she was acting this way because she was so tired and had passed the point of no return, but still I felt my frustration growing inside me.

She sat on the bed, slumped over crying and complaining about anything and everything imaginable and I wondered how could I get her to give in to her exhaustion and just lay down. I realized that reasoning with her wouldn’t work at this point. She was too far gone for that. I felt like yelling because my frustration was getting worse and worse – after all, I had things to do too and I didn’t want to spend all of my night trying to get her to sleep – but I knew that wasn’t going to help matters either.

Finally I decided what I really needed to do was take a deep breath, step outside of my comfort zone, grab a stuffed animal and start talking to her as the animal. Talking to Ava via a stuffed animal is a parenting “tool” my husband and I had used with success in the past, though not lately and, given the circumstances, I wasn’t sure how it would fly.

She has a bear named Roger who I always imagine talks with a Southern drawl and is good at cheering her up when she’s down, so Roger was the bear for the job. After a few seconds of talking as Roger, Ava stopped crying and began responding back to him, telling him what was going on with her. Although she couldn’t have done that for me, her mommy, she could do it for an impartial furry third party. ;)

Roger’s silly antics soon had Ava giggling and then he was able to talk her into laying down on her bed, relaxing and getting ready to sleep. As the bear said his good nights to Ava and me, Ava said her good nights in return and was soon calm enough to drift off to sleep.

As I left her room I couldn’t help but feel very proud of myself. I can’t claim to always respond well or the “right” way to every situation, but that night I put my pride and frustration aside and did what Ava needed to help her relax and get to sleep. Had I let my frustration overcome me there’s a good chance it would’ve taken me at least another 30-45 minutes and many more tears (probably on both of our parts) before she was asleep. But by tuning into her needs, letting go of all that I “needed” to get done, stepping outside of my comfort zone, and throwing in a little goofiness, I was able to get her to sleep calmly in much less time. And let’s face it, isn’t goofiness a prerequisite for becoming a parent? No? Well, it should be. The world just might be a happier place.