Self help is like doing a flip in the pool. Why wouldn't you want to flip in the pool every time? It's sooo cool and fun sounding! But every time I flip in the pool, I'm left with the worst nausea. Just awful. When I approach a new self help method, it looks so promising and fun and easy. Only follow these few steps and enlightenment, joy, eternal bliss will follow or your money back guaranteed.
Having said that, doing thework has been a positive change. Unlike the other self help methods I've tried, this one has given me some good results. But don't be fooled. It's not for the faint of heart or for anyone looking for quick, easy fixes. It is not a weight loss pill. Much like the name implies, it takes work and a willingness to dig deep into the shadowy ugly parts of ourselves.
Chase flat out refused to go with Daddy, Desmond, and Grandma to the beach. But he didn't want them to go either. We all tried to convince him to go and in the end Chase was left screaming for grandma on the porch as the others left. There was nothing else we could do. Chase wasn't getting what he wanted and decided to scream and cry outside the door.
What is it about me that enables our breastfeeding experience to continue so easily? I can tell you right off, its not that I love breastfeeding. It's not that simple. And to be perfectly honest, I haven't been fond of it much lately. But my desire to breastfeed and my feelings around the action of breastfeeding are different. Whether I happen to like it or not, I still do it. Why is that?
Breast Milk is a need
There are lots of needs we must attend to that we may not want to do. Chores come to mind. How many times have you thought "Oh, I can't WAIT to wash that pile of laundry. It's gonna be so awesome!" We don't love doing laundry. Perhaps some do. But those of us that don't, still do laundry. We recognize the need for clean clothes and find a way to get it done.
Breast milk is a need. No matter what age or development stage they are in, it is a need. During the course of a child's development, breast milk changes from nurturing their bodies to nurturing their soul. Well, it is more accurate to say that breast milk always nurtures their bodies but as kids grow they get nutrition from other sources. Breast milk becomes more about comfort, security, love, attention, reassurance, and less about satisfying hunger. My kids' need of breast milk constantly changes; sometimes they need more and sometimes less. But in the moment when they ask, they need it. Just like they need to drink water, eat food, be clean, play, etc. I can't deny them this need any more than I can deny them food or water.
Nursing on demand, for as long as each nursling wants, is not an easy road to travel. And when things get hard, sometimes we focus too much on what goes wrong; times when we were a little too rough, or touched out, or too tired to respond as quickly as we'd like. To stay on the road, its important to let all that stuff go and remember the sweet moments.
Focusing on the positive is something our nurslings do naturally. It's the reason why they are able to love us so unconditionally. Our nurslings come back to us time after time to nurse even though there may have been a time or two that ended in tears and frustration. All our nurslings know, is that nursing is the warmest, most loving place to be. It is a place of security. A place of peace.
So the next time you feel overwhelmed or frustrated, take a moment to remember the sweet moments. Picture that perfect milky smile gazing up at you. Remember the warmth you feel when your nursling snuggles in your lap. And feel the love fill your heart. Feel the gratitude for their unwavering love for you. Feel the gratitude for your nursling. You would not be who you are without them in your life. And you, are amazing.
There are times when I just don't want to nurse Chase. Nursing is hard work. It takes a lot of time; and space. He doesn't just fit in my lap in a chair anymore. We have to get up and move to the bed where its most comfortable for us. Chase is the kind of nursling that can get into moods where he regresses to the infant days. Before any action, must have milk. After any action, must have milk. It's tiring. And taxing on my body. Keeping up my water intake takes time and lots of mental checking of my physical state. Cotton mouth? Better drink some water. Stabbing pain in my head when nursing, better drink more water NOW. Add to this another toddler that wants milk every time his big brother has milk and you get a whole lot of uncoordinated flailing little hands, accompanied with ear splitting screams.
Why do it if it's such a hassle?
Because my kids need it. Simple as that. Would I give anything in the world to have Daddy nurse them for a while? ABSOLUTELY. But that's not the way nature intended. So I buck up and do the thing that only I can do. Sure, I can wean them both. They are beyond the minimum breast feeding ages that the various health organizations recommend. Contrary to what we all want to believe, weaning won't absolve me of any responsibility. It will only take away a very valuable tool for soothing just about any situation. They will still scream and resist diaper changes, cry when they get hurt, cry when they fight, have emotional break downs because the internet isn't working and we can't watch Umizoomi videos. And hugs don't work nearly as well as a good nursing session.
Do you enjoy torturing yourself?
Lots of families happen upon unschooling at, or around compulsory school age. Some families start to unschool after their children have attended traditional schools. But what happens when the kiddo is much younger? How do you unschool a kid that is far from compulsory school age? Turns out, it's not much different than what you may already be doing.
First, take a minute to relax. Notice how much your little one has learned already. In these three years, he has learned to walk, run, talk, express complex emotions, climb, roll, jump up and down, count, converse, and a whole bunch of other things. That's fantastic! I'll bet that you didn't do anything super special for this learning to happen. It just did.
New unschoolers, especially those with young kiddos, will read about all the awesome cool things other unschoolers are doing. And they will panic because they may or may not be "doing enough." There is lots of pressure to expose your kiddos to new things. To figure out what their passions are and to explore them. But what if your three year old is hooked to youtube or video games or both? What if he doesn't ever want to leave the house (like my kiddo)? Don't panic. Video games and youtube videos are excellent sources of information. Young kids will be exposed to letters, numbers, words, language.. Not just english but any languages they may stumble upon. Chase loves to watch French Umizoomi episodes and signing time!
Young kiddos probably won't enjoy museums or going to the library or much of the whole wide world right now. They are still very young, and their world is a bit small and mostly revolves around you. As they grow, so will their world and comfort level. Don't focus on all the things you aren't doing with your kiddo (finger painting, swim lessons, toddler story time at the library) and focus on the things you are doing with them. Focus on the things they love doing. Then do more of it, and watch the learning happen at a rate that will blow your mind.
Desmond loves to sleep and nurse. During naps he will sleep latched on, but he also loves to snooze in the stroller while daddy takes him on a long walk. At night though, it's the boob or bust. (No pun intended!)
When I say sleep and nurse, I really mean it. Many nights I've tried to sneak away, only to return because Desmond was up crying for me ten minutes later. The night is supposed to be adult time right? Time for grown up fun things. Time for relaxing. Time for conversation with daddy. Time for sex! Let me tell you something. You can do all those fun things AND meet your sleep nursling's needs at the same time. You just have to do it a little differently.
Here are a few things I like to do during my night nursing marathons.
On Facebook, a good friend of mine posted a scientific article in support of nighttime breastfeeding. Amoung her comments on the article she mentioned that maybe her husband will stop wanting to wean so soon. His response was:
I understand where he is coming from. It is an innocent question. He meant no harm by it. Unfortunately, most partners don't understand that asking about weaning is comparable to supporting weaning. Imagine your partner is running a marathon. When she runs by, do you ask her "Hey, when are you going to be done with this race?" Of course not! You jump up and down and make as much noise as you can. You scream her name and number. You shout that you love her. You enthusiastically tell all the strangers around you that was your wife and she's amazing. You make sure she knows that you are cheering for her; that you want her to finish. Our partners should support our breastfeeding journey in much the same way.
In response to his comment I wrote:
I've registered as a breast milk donor with the MothersMilk cooperative. Next step is to get some blood work done. In the mean time I'll be pumping every day. To minimize shipping costs, donations must be at least 150oz. Sounds like a lot, but I've already got roughly 15 oz in 3 pumping sessions. Not too shabby. I estimate it will take me about a month of daily pumping to store enough for my first donation.
Since I bought a good pump, I've never had to worry about my pumping output. With my first, I bought a pump from Target thinking all pumps were created equal. Not so! Even if you plan to use a pump once a month (as I do for the occasional time away from the little one), I highly recommend getting a pump from the recommended list here. They range in price but a decent pump can run about $150. Which is about the average price of pumps you will find on store shelves. These recommended pumps are well worth the investment as it will lessen the likelihood of injury and will get you much more breast milk bang for your buck. I bought the Ameda Purely Yours, and absolutely love it.
If you have to work and pump, I highly recommend browsing www.workandpump.com. There is a wealth of information for working moms or any mom that wants to pump. Even if you pump occasionally, it helps to learn how to get the most out of your pumping sessions. Above all remember, pumping output is NEVER an indication of breast milk supply.
We know there are tons of benefits of tandem nursing. If you do a quick search you'll get article after article listing the health benefits of long term nursing. But the most important one, the one they all fail to mention, is the sweetness of that moment when your nurslings bond.
It cannot be summed up in words. The feeling I get when I see Chase and Desmond have a moment is so rich and powerful. Thinking about it now it makes me cry. They are both nursing and its like "Oh, that's why I do this!" At that moment in their lives, nursing was the way to bond and share something amazing. I'm so grateful I was able to witness it.
What is breastfeeding?
It looks so calm, content, and satisfying doesn't it? To celebrate World Breastfeeding Week, here is an intimate view. We can talk about how to latch a baby on, or how to get them to stop poking you in the eye or sticking their little fingers up your nose, but how many of us have seen it? Have, really seen it? Not partially covered, or obscured from a position designed for modesty, but out in the open National Geographic style.
This is what breastfeeding is. Not so much about feeding, mostly about comfort and connecting. When Desmond is tired, he checks in with some nursing. When he encounters a difficult situation or doesn't get his way, he runs to my chair, huge crocodile tears and all, for a comfort nurse.
How did I get here?