Long term nursing. Extended breastfeeding. Full term breastfeeding.
These are all terms I've heard for what my nurslings and I practice. For us, its the natural way of things. None of these phrases feel quite right as they all indicate that nursing past a certain point is much different than nursing a newborn. And it is. But its also not different at all.
When my nurslings were born, along with them was born, in me, a need to nurture them. That need doesn't go away when the nursling turns 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, even 3 years. When my nurslings express a desire to nurse, my need to nurture comes forth. When Chase was 6 months I couldn't dream of nursing a 2 year old. Now that he's almost 4, I couldn't imagine NOT nursing him. At the same time I can't fathom nursing a 5 year old ;)
Wherever you are in your breastfeeding journey, know that it will feel right at every moment. Yes, toddlers are big. Nursing little babies is tricky. All kids grow teeth. It's ok. You will adapt and continue to nurture your nurslings because that's the way you've always done it.
My quest to become a breast milk donor has stalled. I am not able to find anyone that is willing to help me get my blood drawn. I'm sitting here writing and feeling the defeat, and the tears threatening. I can't remember the last time I cried, or felt this helpless and depressed. Here I am, doing a phenomenal thing. Donating my breast milk to babies that need it. Preemies in the NICU. Babies of Mommas that can't provide their own breast milk. I thought the phrase "I'm registering to become a breast milk donor" would win over hearts and get me the help I need to continue. Not so. I've been met with silence and "what are you doing? Oh."
So far, I've called five different establishments. That is including the CVS minute clinic (they don't do blood work) and the "Family Practice" that turned out to be an optician. Why would an optician name their practice "Mr. Whoever Family Practice"? Sounds like a doctor's office right? Incidentally, she gave the only warm response I received. I heard in her voice that she thought I was doing a great thing. If testing my eyes was a prerequisite for breast milk donation, she would have helped me no problem. On calls, my opening explanation goes something like this:
I'm sure I wasn't that clear. Each time I pick up the phone I'm very nervous as what I'm asking for is way out of the ordinary. The more I get rejected, the more nervous I become. And with that comes stuttering and a loss of words. I thought the hard part was going to be pumping the milk. Boy, was I wrong. Here's a rough transcript of the conversations I've had. I'm still surprised with the responses.
One of the top three questions I get when talking to people about unschooling is "How will he learn math?" I love this question. Being a number enthusiast myself, I get excited whenever I have an opportunity to point out how math is all around us. That's the pseudo answer. Math is all around us. But learning is a process. Realizing that our surroundings provide excellent opportunities to learn math is just the first step. Here's my three step learning process:
That's it! Once you get through with step 3, it could lead you to further research. A trip to the library or a google search for more examples and information could be the next steps. Or not. Maybe the 3 steps was enough to satisfy the math curiosity for this moment. Regardless, some learning happens.
But where is the math?
Chase loves to count things. He made me realize we could talk about numbers anywhere. The only thing holding back the math is our imagination. We count nuts and bolts, birds, parallel lines, marks on walls, shoes, vertical blinds, beans, people, cars, busses, you get the idea :) What fascinated me is how the simple concept of counting has lead to other math concepts. We now count sides on objects. That thing has 4 sides, its a square. Or a rectangle. This thing has 8 sides and he looks to me like, what is that?!? Octagon, I say. We went from basic counting to geometry. But it doesn't stop there.
We all see what we believe in the world. All of us have made up our minds about time spent playing video games. Some of us see it as a waste of time. Others see it spread violence and hate. Negative feelings towards gaming have been especially hard for me to accept because of my profession. I am a game developer. I love my work and I love my kids. How can anyone believe my creations can harm children? I see video games bring fun and joy. I also see gaming as a fantastic way to learn.
Chase plays Mario on the Wii every day. He and I just unlocked World 6 this morning. We stumbled across a secret end for one of the levels and opened up the cannon that shot us to World 8! Ha! But there's so much more going on than just having fun. Let me break it down. In the game, there are star tokens hidden in each level. Here is some of the learning and practice that is going on when we come across a star token.
And my favorite..
Skin to skin contact is something we hear a lot about with very little babies. It's a big topic in the hospital room, minutes after your baby has been born. Maybe your midwife or OBGYN mentioned it to you in those first moments. Maybe you read about it well before your baby was born. What amazes me is how important it is even after the first months, and even the first year!
Desmond has been fully weaned for two or three months now. At first it was hard, but slowly we moved from nursing to touching. He still asks for milk, but it means something different. When he asks for milk, he wants to curl up with me and be close. When we have "milk" we will lay down together and he will rub my growing belly, or rub my arms and my chest. His favorite places for his little hand is either on my bellybutton or on my boob.
This contact is incredibly calming for him. It's the same calming quiet moment that nursing was. Except, there is no nursing. He lays and feels my skin, closes his eyes, and enjoys the warmth and closeness. And this too is only something I can provide. Desmond hasn't tried to curl up with Daddy and rub his chest. Too hairy maybe ;) He still wants to feel comforted by momma.
Skin to skin contact is important (and effective!) as long as your little one is still needing that nursing type of comfort, closeness, and connection. Never underestimate a warm bath together or some naked time with your toddler. It certainly has made this non-nursing time easier for all us.
Going through my current stock of breastfeeding pictures I found this video. This was two days after Desmond was born and probably one of the first times I nursed them both together.
I remember it took some squirming and help from Daddy to get Desmond perched on top of me and still latched on. But really, all I had to do was make sure my nipple was close to Desmond's face and he did the rest. Babies have such an amazing ability to nurse from the get go. For all my reading about how baby and I had to learn, I think it was me that was doing all the learning.
Imagine you're running a marathon. It's mile marker 20 and your muscles are screaming at you. Sweat is pouring out of every molecule. You're tired. But you still lift your feet again and again taking comfort with every heavy footfall that you are that much closer to the finish line.
Looking for a nudge of encouragement you look up at the crowd. No one is cheering. They're standing motionless and concerned. Some reach out to you and say "You can always wean."
That's how I feel when I research any breastfeeding topic. Marathons are sweaty and long, don't forget you can just quit any time. Any time really. Just do one mile and you can be proud that you ran that one mile! Yes... but the goal was to run the whole 26.2 miles wasn't it? So make a hard rule to not wean. Simple. Just don't do it. Choose to breastfeed instead.
Case (and I'm paraphrasing a bit)
Clue #1 She believed her nursing wasn't enough because baby cried a great deal. While a baby's cries can signal a nursing problem, taken by itself there's no context. Crying means we have to investigate further.
Clue #2 He peed an incredible amount. Sounds like his urine output was pretty amazing which tells me his breastfeeding is going pretty darn good.
Desmond wanted to nurse for hours. I wanted to be able to move around somewhat. This is what I came up with :)
Literally. I've seen live breastfeeding maybe 2 or 3 times in my life. And each time its been in passing. Like, oh hey she's breastfeeding! And then the moment is over and I'm off to do what I was doing. And out of those 3 times, 2 of them were all wrapped up with covers so I really couldn't SEE anything.
Well, hubby took this video the other day. From this perspective it doesn't scream "tandem breastfeeding woman!" I just see heads and a tangle of babies. Fascinating. Anyhow, for those of you that were wondering what nursing a 3 1/2 year old and a 1 year old looked like, here it is: