Two things I think you should know about

I have a couple of important things to quickly mention today.

It was just a couple of weeks ago that I wrote about the global food crisis where the poorest of the poor are being hit the hardest and people in Haiti are resorting to eating dirt “cookies” made from shortening, salt and dirt. I also interviewed my friend who is in the process of adopting two young children from Foyer de Sion Orphanage in Haiti.

Another friend of ours is trying to raise awareness about the food situation and do something to help out the children in the orphanage by holding a contest. It doesn’t take much to make a difference. A mere $7 donation would feed 63 children at the orphanage for two days; $100 would buy nearly 200 pounds of staple foods like rice, sugar, flour, and powdered milk. Head on over to her blog, read how you can help and also get your name entered into a drawing with a chance to win a $25 Target gift card. It’s a win-win. Hope Gives Life – Help for Haitian Children in Need

Have you ever slept next to your child? Do you currently co-sleep or bedshare with your child(ren)? Please take this short survey and help the Fennells (a family who has been involved in promoting safe co-sleeping for many years) meet their goal of getting 50,000 co-sleeping families to complete the survey before the end of the year. The Great Co-Sleeping Survey

On Nursing a Preschooler

When I wrote this post for the Attachment Parenting blog – API Speaks, I was unsure if I wanted to cross-post it on my own blog as well. I think most of my readers know I’m still nursing my almost 4-year-old daughter, and while I’m OK with the fact that I am, it’s not something I try to draw attention to either. I mean, it’s not the most socially acceptable thing to do here in the USA. Anyway, I decided to post it after all. Maybe it will keep another mom nursing a preschooler from feeling like she’s the only one in the world doing it. There have to be others out there, right? It’s just something so few people talk about. But here goes, I am talking about it…

When I was preparing for my daughter Ava’s birth, there were a lot of uncertainties about what motherhood would have in store for me, but there was one thing I knew for certain – I would breastfeed. I didn’t have a time limit set on how long I would breastfeed, I just knew I would do it, as my mom had done with me and my siblings.

My daughter Ava is now just three weeks away from her fourth birthday and she is still nursing. I am sometimes conflicted about how I feel about it. After all, it’s not like I began my nursing journey saying, “I want to nurse my child until she’s at least four. I did, however, believe I wanted my child to wean when she was ready, but I didn’t anticipate how I might feel or what I might do if her idea/time frame of weaning readiness differed from my idea of when I thought she should be ready.

Ava nursed pretty much on demand, or, a phrase I rather prefer, on cue until she was around 2 years old. It was then that I was pregnant with her brother Julian and decided I need to cut back her nursing frequency a bit for my own peace of mind. A few months before Julian’s birth, she was down to nursing once per day (before bed) and that’s pretty much what she’s been doing ever since (for the last year and a half).

A few months ago, I toyed with the idea of weaning her by her fourth birthday, so I threw the suggestion out there to her. At first she seemed amenable to the idea, but has since changed her tune, citing, “But I love mama milk,” which made me smile. And then she also added, “I’m going to nurse until I’m 8!” which made me shift a little uncomfortably in my seat.

I feel like overall (with the exception of a few difficult months during my pregnancy) we’ve had a great nursing relationship and she’s received so many wonderful benefits – great health, emotional security, bonding with her brother at the breast, etc. – over the past four years. I know it would be bittersweet if she weaned now, but I would feel very good about what I’ve been able to give her, as well as what she’s been able to give me. However, I don’t think she’s ready yet and, as much as I’d like to just be nursing one child again, I don’t think I am going to insist that she wean. I may still make suggestions and talk up the very rare occasions that she goes to sleep without having “na-na” by telling her how proud I am and what a big girl she is, but, for now, I think that’s as far as I’m going to take it. When all is said and done, I really do want her to be able to decide when she is done.

Ava, almost 4 yrs oldI 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.

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Breastfeeding while pregnant: trying at times, but ultimately worthwhile

Welcome to the May Carnival of Breastfeeding, hosted by Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog. This month’s topic is pregnancy and breastfeeding.

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

Photo courtesy seanmcgrath
Photo courtesy seanmcgrath

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To read more about others’ experiences and thoughts on pregnancy and breastfeeding, please visit the other carnival participants listed below:

Best Shot Monday – 5/19/08

I’ve been slacking in the photography department and am going to use today’s post as an attempt to play catch up. My “best shot” will be at the end.

Between my birthday, Mother’s Day, Ava’s preschool May Pole Celebration, and every day life, there have been a lot of photo ops lately. Here are just a few (from the point & shoot and SLR). Oh, and I should mention I didn’t take the ones that I’m in. (Mouse over for captions.)

Julian LOVES his fruit. (Shirt from Polly Tod):
Julian eats a pear while wearing his “I love fruit” shirt - 5/4/08

My 33rd birthday (with a delicious carrot cake made by yours truly):
Happy birthday to me - 5/7/08Me and the kiddos - 5/7/08Julian is very eager to get his hands on the cake - 5/7/08

Mother’s Day:
a Mother’s Day walk with Julian and Ava - 5/11/08

The kids playing in the yard:
Julian in his new hat - 5/12/08Ava on the “new” playset - 5/12/08

I couldn’t pass up this photo op when I woke up before everyone else Saturday morning. Julian and daddy co-sleeping. :
Julian cosleeping with Daddy - 5/17/08

Ava’s Waldorf preschool May pole festivities:
Ava waiting patiently for her “crown” at the Maypole Celebration - 5/17/08Miss G putting on Ava’s Maypole crown - 5/17/08Watching her friend get her crown - 5/17/08Maypole dancing and singing - 5/17/08

More Maypole dancing - 5/17/08

– And my BSM –
You give a boy ONE piece of chocolate, step away for two minutes, and this is what happens…

Chocolate-faced Jules - 5/9/08
(Shirt from Trendy Tadpole)

Head on over to Mother May I to see what everyone else has in store for their Best Shot Monday posts.

red BSM button

There’s a new blog in town

Hey mamas! There’s a new blog in town and I think you should check it out. API SpeaksThe voice for gentle parents everywhere launched last week with it’s inaugural post and has been turning out excellent content ever since.

API Speaks is written by a group of very talented people who all have one thing in common – they practice Attachment Parenting and will be discussing their personal experiences and journeys in AP on the blog. You might notice some familiar bloggers’ faces/names there and discover some new ones as well. More names will be added to the contributor list in the weeks ahead.

My first post (an oldie, but a goodie) about why we choose to have a home birth was posted there yesterday. Some other recent posts include It Takes a Village by Half Pint Pixie and Spare the crib, spoil thyself by Law and Motherhood.

Julie Artz and I, the contributing editors there, are quite proud of the blog and, in addition to great content by our wonderful contributors, have some exciting things planned for it including giveaways of AP-related merchandise, so we hope you still stop in often. :)

Hope to see you there! :) And if you haven’t yet visited API’s newly redesigned web site or checked out their new online support forums, I encourage you to stop by those as well.

Spreading her wings and leaving the nest*

My daughter Ava has slept in the same bedroom as me every night for the last nearly four years now. As a newborn she started out in an Arm’s Reach Cosleeper next to Jody’s and my bed, then transitioned into our bed around four months old. When she was two years old, we bought her her own bed, which we put next to our’s to expand our family bed in preparation for the birth of Julian and adding another person to our cosleeping arrangement.

For the most part, cosleeping (or sharing sleep) has been a great experience for our family. I’ve always loved the secure feeling of knowing my children are close by and safe. If they ever cry out or are sick in the middle of the night, I’ve been right there to comfort them. Mornings full of kisses and snuggles and goofing around in the bed are times I cherish.

For the past few weeks, Ava has been saying she’d like to move into her own bedroom. I admit I was rather surprised to hear it coming from her. We’ve talked before about her getting her own room once we move into a larger house (someday), but never pushed the issue in this house. I figure if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

After she mentioned it a few times, weeks apart, I thought we should take this request seriously and respect it. So last Friday we moved her mattress (not her whole bed) from our “family bedroom” to the “kids’ room,” which has always just been a room to store things – dresser of their clothes, a glider, diapering paraphernalia and some toys.

Ava is very excited about her first night in her own room - 4/4/08Ava was very excited to be moving into her own room. She declared that she was going to go to sleep all by herself and “no mama milk tonight!,” something she’s said more than once lately, but has yet to follow through on. ;) (I’m gently encouraging her to wean by her fourth birthday in June.) I thought that was a little much to try to tackle all in one night, but since it was at her urging I figured we’d give it a try and see how it went. She soon acquiesced and asked for mama milk and for me to lay with her while she fell asleep (which is our usual bedtime ritual). Before she went to sleep, Jody and I reassured her that we were there if she needed us in the night, and Jody put down a sleeping bag on the floor next to her mattress just in case. We slept with both bedroom doors open so if she woke up, she could easily wander into our room.

After she had some mama milk, we talked for a bit and she fell asleep. I took my time getting up that night. It was a little hard for me to think that my baby girl was growing up and taking the first of many steps towards independence. I laid in bed with her and whispered that I loved her. I gave her three extra kisses before I got up and left her sleeping contentedly in her very own room. It was bittersweet. I snuck back in there a little while later to snap a picture (had to) and cover her back up.

Soundly sleeping in her own room - 4/4/08Around 2 a.m. we awoke to Ava yelling “Mommy” and she came running down the hall towards our room. Jody met her in the hallway and carried her into our room, where she said, “I don’t want to move back in here.” So Jody took her back to her room and slept next to her on the floor.

We made a big deal about her first night in her own room the next day and told her how proud we were of her.

That night, not wanting her to feel like she had to stay in her own room if she didn’t want to, I told her we could move her mattress back into our room if she wanted, but she was adamant that she wanted to sleep in her own room again.

She’s been sleeping in her own room now for the past week. She tends to wake up and call out for one of us around 3 or 4 a.m. most nights at which point Jody goes in and sleeps next to her on a second twin mattress that we got off Freecycle this week. Other than that, the transition has gone really well. She is happy to be sleeping by herself and has no plans to move back in with us. Gulp.

I am very proud of my little girl. While this transition was a little harder on me than I think it was on her, I know that we’re doing the right thing. I feel lucky that we had such a great co-sleeping relationship for the first 3 3/4 years of her life and that she was able to move on to her own room when she was ready.

It’s hard to watch your children decide they no longer need you with this or that, but at the same time it’s also rewarding. We give them wings so they can fly.

Just don’t fly too far yet, honey, k? :)

*Alternate title: “Proof that AP kids really will sleep in their own beds someday” ;)

Cosleeping Resources
Kellymom: The Family Bed
Attachment Parenting International: Engage in Nighttime Parenting
The Natural Child Project: Cosleeping
Berkeley Parents Network: Co-sleeping: The Family Bed
Mothering: Sleep articles
The Natural Child Project: Articles on Sleeping