“Mommy, where’s daddy?”
“Where’s Daddy’s car?”
“At work with Daddy”
Smiling: “I don’t know. Where is mommy?”
“At work? NOOOO! Mommy doesn’t work!”
Ahem. I was asked two other questions today that were much better for mommy morale.
“I read your blog about your food and that you were still nursing while pregnant. I have 2 questions for you if you don’t mind.
1. how did you get pregnant while you were nursing?
2. How does your body make enough for the 3 of you? I thought once you were pregnant you had to stop nursing to keep the nutrients you needed for the baby and yourself.”
When Katie was an infant, I remember cuddling her in my arms and thinking “I could be happy with just one child if I needed to.” Back then I had concerns about overpopulation and the planet, so I was trying to do what I thought was best for my child along with all the other children in the world. I have since grown skeptical regarding the motives of the organizations that promote that view. Anyway, thinking that I could be happy with just one lasted about five minutes. Adoption is a wonderful way to grow one’s family and I am personally very open to it, but I felt the need to have at least one more biological child. My experience with Katie has been so transformative I wanted to do it all again.
FIRST DISCLAIMER: A lot of people perceive mothers that nurse toddlers to be self-righteous women that think they are better mothers than everyone else. I can’t speak for them, but for me, becoming a mother has been a very humbling experience. I am routinely ashamed by my lack of patience with Katie and my inattention to her requests. Sometimes I feel like the cloth I was cut from isn’t very well-suited for mothering. I love Katie with all my heart and I worry about how my inadequacies will affect her. For me, extended breastfeeding is something I can do to meet Katie’s emotional needs while I learn to be a more patient, loving and mature person.
Because I breastfed Katie without using bottles or pacifiers, it took a LONG time for my period to return. Nineteen months in fact. Although I was already looking forward to getting pregnant and wondering when that would happen, the delay was okay with me because I knew that my body was not up to the task of meeting Katie’s needs alongside a pregnancy. When it was, it let me know ; – ) The official term for the style of breastfeeding I do is Ecological Breastfeeding. I don’t like this phrase particularly, but the “Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding” are as follows:
- Do exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months. This means that your baby does not take any other liquids or solids. The only nourishment your baby receives is your milk from your breasts.
- Pacify your baby at your breasts. This means that you pacify your baby at the breast for comfort or to meet his other emotional needs. This comfort nursing usually involves nursing the baby to sleep.
- Don’t use bottles and pacifiers. These items take the place of what should be occurring at the breast during the first six months of life. It is possible to take care of a baby without a pacifier. I did it for four babies. I am not opposed to that rare situation where the pacifier calms a baby after all options have been tried. But it can soon become a habit.
- Sleep with your baby for night feedings. This means the family bed. You learn to sleep while you nurse your baby during the night. It has been demonstrated through research that a baby who stays at his mother’s side during the night nurses three times more nightly than the baby who sleeps nearby or away from his mother during the night.
- Sleep with your baby for a daily nap-feeding. This means you go to sleep for a short time and you nurse your baby during your nap. It does not mean that you lay there waiting for the baby to fall asleep so you can get up and get things done. That is not a nap. Rest is essential when nursing and can be very important in maintaining infertility for the nursing mother. The nap was a priority for me when I was a young mother and had several small children and a nursing baby. I would ask my preschoolers to lay quietly with me for 30 minutes and then they could get up. Usually they fell asleep as I did. Most schools for preschool and kindergarten children have a rest period. We should be able to do this also in our homes.
- Nurse frequently day and night and avoid schedules. This means the absence of any schedule, even the two-hour schedule. I recently counseled a mother who used a two-hour schedule and still had to use a bottle for two feedings because she did not have an ample milk supply with this schedule. To have an ample milk supply, all you have to do is nurse frequently as baby desires and nurse during the night and those daily naps.
- Avoid any practice that restricts nursing or separates you from your baby. This means that you do not leave your baby; you learn to take your baby with you. In addition, you avoid using certain equipment excessively which may become a substitute for your parenting. The occasional and brief use of certain baby equipment is okay. But again parents may rely more and more on these gadgets so they do not have to spend time parenting their babies or small children. Babies have the right to be cared for by their parents, especially their mothers. By being physically close to the mother, the baby is stimulated to nurse more often.
Just to clarify, I rarely did #5 and Katie DID HAVE A REGULAR SCHEDULE when it came to naptimes and other events. But until she was a certain age, I nursed her when she expressed the desire. #7 was really hard for me during the first year, but it got easier as Katie was able to go longer periods between feedings and Daniel and I could go out on mini-dates.
Question #2 is how I get enough nutrients for the three of us. First, let me say that I eat A LOT. I don’t consider this a sacrifice at all ; – ) Seriously, pass the steak and buttery mashed potatoes!!! Second, Katie eats three meals a day plus snacks. She relies on me for very little nutrition. The benefits of nursing a toddler are more emotional than physical. There are some physical elements, like that I am still able to pass on immunities as we encounter seasonal crud. When one or both of us do happen to get sick I am REALLY glad she still nurses. In the few days she’s been sick in her life she REFUSES everything but my milk. I am pretty sure we would have ended up in the ER on at least two occasions with a severely dehydrated child if I hadn’t been nursing.
SECOND DISCLAIMER: The choice to breastfeed while pregnant and hopefully to tandem nurse has NOT been easy for me. I cannot stress that enough. Honestly, it can be very demanding and frustrating. It was especially difficult during the first part of this trimester, when every nursing session caused my hormones to go ballistic. My decision to continue has less to do with what I want and more to do with what I believe is best for Katie. The more she is able to articulate her thoughts and feelings, the more I have understood just how much breastfeeding means to her. It has shaped her in a way that I find beautiful and endearing. The other day a little girl was crying because she missed her mommy. Several children were standing around watching her, totally immersed in what was going on. Katie walked up to her, took her hand and kissed it. IMO, one of the reasons she is such a nurturing and compassionate child (reality check: she DOES throw tantrums) is that she has received a lot of nurture (I’ve thrown a few tantrums, too. Guess I passed on more traits than I meant to. Oops!)
I hope this was worth reading. I would really love to hear from some moms that choose not to breastfeed their toddlers about what comforting activities their children enjoy. Katie is nursing less and less often and someday I am going to needs some new tricks in my bag ; – )