Category Archives: Breastfeeding

Weaning Frances

After nearly three years—1,074 days, to be exact—my middle gal is no longer nursing. I wasn’t sure it was going to happen. There were times I wondered if she’d be going into kindergarten in two years still nursing and wearing diapers. At least now I only have to concern myself with potty training—a feat I’m not looking forward to on account of the fact that girlfriend in TERRIFIED of sitting on the toilet. Always has been.

Anyway, two weeks ago I had to drive back to Pennsylvania for my sister’s last-minute wedding. Since we had just been back for Easter weekend, I didn’t really want to make a second quick trip with ALL of the kids in tow. I thought I’d just take Rowan with me and have Liam stay behind with the girls. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to wean.

Up until that point, Frances had only been nursing one time before bed each evening. It was something she VERY much looked forward to. Often, she tried to tell me she was ready for bed at 7:30, even though she’d napped and likely wouldn’t be ready to fall asleep before 9. Most times I indulged her, because the look about her was pure joy—bright smile, wide eyes, excited limbs.

We’d go upstairs to nurse in bed, she’d do her thing, and then she’d proclaim in the most awake voice, “I’m not ready for bed, mama. I wanna go back downstairs.”  Uh-huh. Just as I suspected. A fake-out just to get her nursing on.

When I contemplated weaning, I wavered back and forth about whether or not it was time. She’s only doing it once a day. That’s not so bad. I mean, I could keep going. She loves it so much. And it’s still such an important connecting time for us given she’s such an attached and emotionally needy child, not to mention the continued health benefits.

But then, there’d be an evening when she wouldn’t fall asleep nursing. And I’d have to unlatch and disconnect her because I was done nursing. Then she would whine and yell and have her little tantrum, and I’d be all: OK. We need to be done. Like, yesterday.

The decision was made. I needed to be resolute. I talked to Frances the entire week before I left for PA. I explained what was going to happen when I went away and then after. She definitely understood. Some days she seemed to share in my excitement about her becoming a ‘big girl’; other days she went into Cranky Franky mode and exclaimed she was still a baby, and was NOT going to give up nursing, ever again.

I was a little emotional the night before my trip—the last night Frances nursed. She and I had been connected in this relationship for so long. However, any sadness I felt was NOTHING compared to the grief I felt when I nursed Nora for the last time at 20 months of age—a sure sign I wasn’t truly ready. However, I’d been four-and-a-half months pregnant with Frances and nursing was painful. I also hadn’t had the benefit of watching a fellow mama nurse throughout her pregnancy and then tandem breastfeed both her infant and toddler like I did when I was expecting Frances and had Candace (our old babysitter) in our lives. Had I an opportunity to do it all over again, I would have suffered through the pain to get to the other side.

Frances did great the weekend I was away. She didn’t ask to nurse once. (I’m assuming it’s because she knew there was no supply available from her father, despite the fact that he’s jokingly offered to nurse her many times in my place over the years. She never once took him up on his offer. Wise girl, that Frances). Liam did mention, however, that she was very clingy and wanted to be held the whole weekend. Likewise, I did fine in Pennsylvania. I had no residual sadness. Only fond memories. And relief, I might add, to just be nursing one child instead of two.

Since I’ve been back—almost two weeks now—Frances still has not asked to nurse or mentioned one time anything about our past experiences breastfeeding. She is very clingy and whiny though. More so than usual. And a little extra cranky, especially around bedtime. Now that we don’t have that special nighttime routine, she has small fits with me when I’m the one to put her to bed. She insists on lying on top of me in order to fall asleep. When Liam does bedtime, things go better for him. I imagine it will take some time for Frances to settle emotionally, even though she’s not vocalizing what she’s working through. I’m trying to be patient and extra sensitive—giving lots of hugs and cuddle time. I know this is what she needs, and not a neck-wringing like I’d sometimes like to do when the whining and tantrumming push me to a breaking point.

Our middle gal will be three in eight days. The last birthday of our birthday season. She may not be ready for little girl undies any time soon, but she reached her weaning milestone no problem. Go, you big brave girl, go!




Reading baby’s cues. Or, not.

A couple of months ago, I went to a La Leche League meeting because I needed to talk with other moms about some breastfeeding concerns I was having at the time. Namely, tips for how to maintain my sanity amidst nursing my two littlests. I needed a support network. Badly.

However, while we were there, talk turned to interpreting our babies’ cries. One mother explained, “Well, you know how there’s the ‘I need a diaper change’ cry, and the ‘I’m hungry’ cry, and the ‘I’m tired’ cry?”

I looked around the room at the other mothers nodding in agreement, and I thought to myself: there must be something wrong with me, because I can’t read my babies like that. I only know the ‘I’m a little fussy/cranky’ cry, the ‘I’m really crying now’ cry, and finally, the ‘I’m losing my shit because I am so freaking pissed right now’ cry.

And mostly, I answer all of these cries the same waybreastfeeding. Not with naps, or diaper changes. Just here, take this boob. And be quiet, please. You’re hurting my ears.

Manual breast pump, where have you been all my life?!

Liam and I just celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. Actually, it kind of snuck up on us. On the big day, I was at my nephew’s baseball game. I happened to glance down at my iPhone calendar and notice the date. Then, I promptly sent my working husband the following text message:

Happy anniversary! It’s been a busy, but GREAT five years. Looking forward to all of the anniversaries to come when we might actually get to celebrate together, just the two of us.

Ha! Anyway, my totally awesome parents offered to babysit the three kids so we could go out to dinner. We enjoyed a great meal, but I got antsy as time went on. I knew the baby would need to eat, and I had not left any milk or bottle behind because I hadn’t yet pumped since being in the hospital, the second night after Rowan was born.

Liam suggested I start making a freezer stash of milk so he and I could enjoy being out together for stretches like that dinner date, and so he could offer for me to get away once in awhile too. I agreed this was probably a good idea.

Now, I’ve been breastfeeding for almost four out of the five years Liam and I have been married. I’ve also been working for those years, two of which were spent as a pumping mom, when Nora and Frances needed to take bottles. So, I’d say I’m pretty adept at making and expressing milk. The only problem is, using the electric pump is a real drag. Don’t get me wrong, I love being able to use it to feed and nourish my kids. I’m grateful, really (What do they call this kind of thing? A first world parenting problem?).

However, as I’ll likely be hugely dependent on the electric pump once I go back to work in August, I’d like to enjoy this time going au natural as much as possible. Maybe you can understand why the thought of having to: 1) find and sterilize all the pump parts, 2) hook up the tubing, 3) don the hands-free bra, 4) set up the pump cones inside the bra, 5) get everything going for ten minutes or longer, and 6) disassemble everything afterwards, all while during my relaxing (ha!) maternity leave—where I get to enjoy actually nursing my baby—might be a bit overwhelming. And like I said, a real drag.

So, I decided instead to try out a manual pump, something that’s touted as just as effective at removing milk, only minus all of the high maintenance. Why have I not considered this sooner? I just don’t know. 

Anyway, I ordered one on Amazon, and, like magic, it showed up on the porch two days later. I’ve only pumped two bottles’ worth of milk so far, but it’s been amazing. Uh-mazing! I can operate it one-handed while I nurse the baby. It pumps super fast—much faster than my electric, and it’s not all noisy and clunky and…well, clunky. I just can’t believe it’s come to me so late in my breastfeeding journey.

I also can’t believe I once took a day trip to Philly with Liam and used the battery option on the electric model to pump both behind a bush in the park at Rittenhouse Square, as well as in a stall in the ladies’ room at the Mütter Museum—the latter place during which a woman in the stall next to me asked aloud what was going on in there. There being my noisy stall. Apparently, she thoought I was busy filming other restroom occupants, and had no qualms expressing this awkwardly through the wall.

When I explained—again, awkwardly through the wall—that I was simply pumping milk for my child, and not being a Peeping Tom, she congratulated me and told me to keep up the good work. 

Come to think of it, I also had to lug that clunky pump on a 4th grade field trip to both the Baltimore Aquarium and its visitor’s Center, not to mention the number of times I’ve used it in the car, maybe even while driving, though the user’s manual clearly states that is a hazard and not to be done. Ever.

Well, never again! Thanks to my handy-dandy new manual pump, I will now be expressing milk in public spaces and in the comfort of my own home, much more quietly and discreetly, and with fewer attachments and hassle than ever before! I may even try pumping while walking to get the mail at the end of the driveway, or while grocery shopping, if I think I can get away with it. 

Then, I can save the clunkster for back-to-work in August when I get to look forward to the scary possibility of being walked in on and interrupted mid-pumping session by both my principal and building janitor—yes, this has happened (three times!) despite my classroom door being locked, much to everyone’s mortification.

Oh, the joys of pumping. There are really so many. Not.

To TV or not to TV. That is the question.

I keep seeing commentary about the last couple of episodes of Grey’s Anatomy on social media. Most of it negative. Apparently, fans didn’t like the ending. I used to be a fan. Grey’s was the ‘one show’ I used to watch. Most of my time as a parent I seem to have only ever had time enough for one show in my life. 

However, midway through this past fall, I stopped watching. A friend and colleague had gotten me hooked instead on How to Get Away With Murder. So that became my one show. I watched the first half of the season, and never finished the second half. Life got busy.

So that’s two shows now I’ve invested in, without knowing the outcome. No spoilers, please.

In addition to these two shows, I’ve been known to watch an occasional episode of New Girl, Modern Family, NCIS, Million Dollar Listing, or House Hunters. All very educational and enriching, I know. Just the way I like my TV.

Pre-latest-baby I’ll say I watched an average of an hour of TV a week. Now, the only TV I’m watching is that which the kids watch, and there’s a LOT of that going on these days. Daniel Tiger, Super Why and Cat in the Hat just aren’t doing it for me, though. 

What I’m wondering is: How do people have so much time to watch TV series? I keep hearing about all these must see shows, that, truth be told, I’d love to be able to watch. Or binge-watch. Binge-watching Lost years ago, before I had kids, was one of the greatest TV adventures of my life. So addictive. 

I know of parents of two or more kids, just like us, that seem to have time to watch lots of TV, so I can’t use family as an excuse. So what, then, is wrong with me?

And then I realized. Two words: breastfeeding and co-sleeping. The two things responsible for strangling the would-be-free-time from my life. (Incidentally, I also like to blame my lack of exercise on these two activities as well).

As I was falling asleep last night, I calculated, roughly, that I have been breastfeeding for three years and eight months out of the past four years. That’s about 1,340 days out of the past 1,460. And, I’ve had one or more children in bed with me as many nights or more.

What does this mean? I have consistently nursed my children to sleep, and many times, fallen asleep with them, unable to wake at a later time and make it to the couch to watch TV. I guess not having eight hours of uninterrupted sleep for a thousand days or more is enough to make anyone go to bed early, if not cuckoo.

A couple of weeks ago, I agreed to watch my friend’s toddler for the day since his normal babysitter was unable to do so. Crazy, I know, given I’m barely able to care for just my three. Before I agreed to do it, I checked with Liam to make sure I wasn’t a nut job to offer. He thought the lot of us would be OK for the day. 

I also checked in with my friend to see about the little guy’s routine. Specifically, I was concerned about what naptime would look like with me trying to get three or more children to sleep at roughly the same time.

“So what’s his nap schedule like?” I asked my friend. 

“He takes two naps. A morning one around 9:30 and then in the afternoon at 1:30.” she said.

“And what’s his nap routine?” I said.

“What do you mean?” she said.

“Well, do you rock him, or walk around with him until he falls asleep? Sing to him?” I said.

She paused for a bit before she answered, as if silently acknowledging my lunacy. “Um, no. We give him his blanket and tell him it’s time to go to bed. And then he just goes to bed.”

What?! “Oh,” I said, chuckling. We’ve never had one of those before.” Amazing!

“Really?” I asked, after a pause, incredulous. “You just tell him it’s time for bed, put him down, and he goes to sleep?”

“Yep,” she said.

And sure enough, he did just as she said he would, bless his little heart. It certainly made my afternoon easier, as I struggled with my two youngest in the other room, arranging both of my boobs and the kids every which way until they both were latched on and at peace. Gracious! I’m going to have chronic arthritis and a hunchback before all of this is through. But anyway, I digress.

When I told Liam about all the little guy’s sleep routine, he also was in disbelief. 

“Really?” he said.

“Uh-huh.” I said.

We both took a moment to sigh, wondering about greener grass on the other side.

“Must be nice,” Liam added. “They must have a lot of extra free time in the evenings.”

“Uh-huh,” I agreed.

So, basically, what I’m hearing is, if I want to be able to watch more TV and actually hang out with my husband, I need to wean my kids and sleep-train them immediately.

Seems like that might take more work than I’m willing to put in at this time, so we’re likely to be status quo over here for awhile. Probably another thousand days or so.

Guess TV can wait for now.

How long would our cloth diaper supply last if my husband followed through on his plan to trash, and not launder, every poopy diaper the middle child makes from this point forward? And other hypothetical questions, like, will she ever eat another vegetable again that isn’t some form of a potato?

Up until our son was born, our middle gal was a strong, healthy, and active eater. She would often eat multiple breakfasts, including most of mine and my husband’s. While our oldest girl is oftentimes skeptical of veggies, the middle one (formerly) wouldn’t think twice about gobbling up some of my eggs mixed with mushrooms, onions, greens, and asparagus. 

Although never a big fan of fruit, even as a baby—which I think is totally bizarre, by the way—she could eat her share and more of many a vegetable. She was especially fond of roasted cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.

I’m using the past tense because after our son was born, my breastmilk arrived. And with it, came the abandonment of vegetables for the middle child—as well as most other foods that aren’t toast, crackers, pretzels, Cheerios, or potatoesand the arrival of the worst poopy diapers ever known to this house. And perhaps, ever known to mankind.

We’ve been cloth diapering for four years now. When we were expecting with our oldest, a friend referred me to this site, where we learned all we could about using cloth. We eventually decided to give it a go. It’s worked out pretty well for us so far.

It has definitely saved us big money. I’ve read that parents can expect to pay around $2,000 for disposable diapers per child. We’ve made less than a $1,000 investment in cloth diaper supplies that will see us through three kids, though we still buy and use disposables when we travel, and to have on hand here at the house for when the laundry just doesn’t quite get done in time.

And there’s the environmental factor, which is nice too. We don’t make as much trash as we would using disposables, although one could argue we waste a lot of water keeping up with the washing of these things.

So, what are the downsides to using cloth? I used to think it was just the high maintenance of keeping up with the three-cycle (cold wash/hot wash/cold rinse), every-other-day washings. And there can be a slight yuck factor, though you get used to it after awhile. Think ammonia smells and dumping and rinsing the occasional dirty diaper.

However, I nowwe now—realize all else has paled in comparison to the recent poopy diapers that have come forth from our breastmilk drinking, white-food only eating toddler. THEY. ARE. THE. WORST. 

We are talking huge portions of soft, mushy, and smelly shite. Huge! The kind of shite that you can’t simply plop off into the toilet and easily flush away, like her diapers of yesteryear. The kind of shite that brings on insta-diaper-rash it’s so nasty.

These new diapers need to be scraped by toilet-papered hand, multiple times to have any chance of being able to be used again, and to avoid ruining our washing machine on account of being totally loaded.

Which is why my husband said recently that he plans on just throwing away the diapers from here on out. Not even bothering to try and clean them. I guess he’d rather buy disposables during this phase or just replace the cloth with new cloth. 

I suppose, now that I really consider it, those choices are far superior to the scraping and dumping and holding-my-breath-so-I-don’t-throw-up option with the giganta-turds we are now seeing at least once, if not several times a day.

If only she were into potty training, this nightmare could all just go away. At least I don’t really have to worry about her nutritional intake as I’m eating well enough for both of us. She’s bound to get lots of goodness from my milk. 

I just hope we can all survive this chapter of the parenting book.

Tandem nursing: A great success! Although I may never get off the couch or leave the house again.

Following Rowan’s birth, I was separated—with the exception of a few small visits, during which she did not really ask to nurse—from my middle child for four days and three nights. She had previously weaned from breastfeeding at night, but was still actively nursing two-to-three times a day. It was the longest we’d been apart up to that point.

On our last day at the hospital, as Liam and I considered heading home with Rowan, and having my parents hang onto the girls an extra day more than we had planned—due to our becoming ill with a stomach bug—I suddenly burst into tears. 

When Liam asked me what was wrong, I replied, “What if Frances doesn’t want to nurse anymore?”

I’m sure it was due to hormones, utter exhaustion, and just the overwhelming emotion of the previous two days’ events, but it felt as though I were grieving for something I hadn’t even yet known I’d for sure lost. I was consumed with the thought that I had nursed my youngest daughter for the last time, yet wasn’t prepared for the relationship to end.

And then, there was some kind of an emergency on the hospital floor—a Code K? Evidently a baby had gone missing. Several nurses and aids came into our room checking about and looking into the bathroom rather urgently and somewhat discreetly. 

Gratefully, the baby had just been misplaced, not stolen. She was returned to her frantic parents. The commotion, though, had the much needed effect of snapping me out of my little pity party and moving me toward packing up our things, lest our baby be the next to go missing.

In the end, I needn’t have worried about Frances. When she was returned to us, she lovingly and eagerly accepted my offering to nurse. In fact, she would gladly do so as often as her brother, I think. Thankfully, she is somewhat distracted at meal times and when her dad and big sister are around. It’s the times, like this morning, with Liam back to work and Nora at school, that I fear we will just be our own little three-person LaLeche League circle, nursing for hours on end, with no relief in sight.

It has taken some getting used to balancing time spent breadtfeeding the baby and also responding to Frances’s needs. I’ve managed to get them both attached at the same time a handful of times, but I prefer them to nurse separately, given the seeming gigantic size of my nearly two-year-old when compared to my eight-day-old and the logistics involved in positioning everyone just right. Liam snapped a ridiculous picture of us all the other night and was just dying to share it with someone outside our family. I urged him to be wise and NOT share it. I haven’t checked Instagram lately. Let’s hope, for his sake, it’s not hanging out there.

Our nighttime looks a bit interesting now too. Initially we tried Liam sleeping with both girls in one bed, while I slept with the baby in the other room. Our thinking was that since Frances had night-weaned, and just spent three nights sleeping with my parents, this transition would be OK for her.

However, she woke up the first two nights, multiple times, distressed and screaming, wanting to be with me. Liam couldn’t console her. So now, even though I read about co-sleeping and nursing “rotisserie style,” (turning back and forth as needed in between toddler and newborn), and decided it was NOT for me, that is where we are. It’s necessary to be flexible, right?

So far, it’s all been OK. I feel like I’m still able to get sleep. And honestly, nursing this time around is off to the best start ever. I recommend every new mom have a nursing toddler to help alleviate engorgement and the pain of having an overabundant milk supply. I have had very few problems and discomfort, unlike when both girls were born.

We continue to take things day-by-day here, but are happy to report that our two little—well, one little, one giant—nurslings are thriving!

Tandem Nursing: Amazing or Craziness?

Warning: This post contains words like breast, breastfeeding, boob, nipple, and nursing. If this terminology makes you uncomfortable, you probably want to stop reading now. Come back and visit again another day, when the subject matter is more to your liking. If you’re not disturbed by this topic, then by all means, read on!

The choice to breastfeed was an easy one for me. My mom breastfed all four of her children—at least for several months up to almost a year—supplementing with formula when her body and work schedule made it so she could go no more. In addition, her oldest sister, my godmother, was something like the High Chieftanness of the local La Leche League chapter in her town. She passed her wisdom onto my mom, and my mom, in turn, passed it on to me.

I nursed my firstborn until she was twenty months old and I was four-and-a-half-months pregnant with my second child. I considered trying to extend the time, but I just couldn’t imagine nursing both a toddler and an infant. This seemed overwhelming and stressful, and I wanted no part of it. More importantly, at this point in my pregnancy, the hormones associated with preparing for the new baby created heightened nipple sensitivity levels the likes of which I’d never known before. Nursing had become an extremely painful event—an extreme sport, if you will, to be avoided at all costs. There may have even been some tears involved.

So, with much sadness, I decided to stop. It was gradual, of course, cutting out a session here and there until the end. I very much remember that night, the last time, with vivid fondness and heartache. That experience in and of itself could be the topic for another post.

Nora was also sad about it all at the time. She was frustrated and disappointed too. Gratefully, this only lasted a few days for her. After that time, with a lot of support, intervention, and distraction from Liam, she seemed to forget breastfeeding was something we both once so enjoyed.

I did not get over things as quickly or as easily as she did. I remember about a week or so after I completely stopped breastfeeding, I gently squeezed my boob in the shower, curious to see if anything would happen. When a couple droplets of milk escaped, I erupted into tears. Dripping wet, in just a towel, and choking back sobs, I tried to explain to Liam how my body was still making milk for our baby, and who was I to tell it to stop?

Liam offered comfort and helped to reassure me that I had made the right choice for me, for Nora, and the new baby. And, when I thought back on how the pain had made me enjoy the act less and less with every passing day, I was able to move on, comfortable, yet still sad, with the decision I’d made.

So here I am now, breastfeeding my second child, and slightly more than seven months into pregnancy #3. (I should mention that this time around I’ve been heavily influenced and motivated by a neighborhood friend, who also happens to be our beloved babysitter—a woman who chose to continue nursing her older child through her entire second pregnancy and beyond the birth of her baby—this is known as tandem nursing).

I encountered the same pain and discomfort during the same part of this pregnancy as I did before—the third and fourth months were the absolute worst. This time, though, with a renewed, hopeful spirit, I decided to stick it out. The pain subsided beginning in month five, and since then we’ve suffered painful setbacks only every time new tooth has erupted (which unfortunately, has been fairly often). Each time I tell myself the discomfort  and pain will only last a few days and that it will all be worth it to push through. Oh, and another strategy I employ is to cut back on the number and length of nursing sessions, much to the dissatisfaction of my littlest.

Franny and I are indeed going through a rough patch now. She has a fang trying to bust through her top gum and so she considers my nipples a chew toy meant to massage her sore mouth and relieve her of her pain. What about my pain? I ask! She doesn’t get it. When she’s not gumming the hell out of my nipple, she’s going into super-suck-overdrive. Why is this? I can’t say for sure. I’ve had a much diminished milk supply since month five of this pregnancy. Is she overly thirsty? Hungry? Does that fang require something extra to make it descend? These questions I can’t answer. I just know that after a few minutes of this nonsense, I have to disengage and break the suction—switch sides. Distract. Anything to end the madness. This often results in copious amounts of crying, begging, and whining. Noyse, peez! Moy? Peez, mama! (Nurse, please! More? Please, mama!). It’s heartbreaking, really. But I must deny my child for fear that she will ruin my breasts for posterity, more than they’ve already been damaged by years of overuse and mistreatment from little nurslings (yes, this is the correct La Leche terminology for the little breast-suckers).

So, with all of the horror I’ve described, why do I persist? I love breastfeeding. For me, the joy of the experience far outweighs all of the negatives. I love that my children love and have loved it too. I see it as mutually beneficial for so many reasons. And, right now, I appreciate it so much, because it is sometimes the only thing that will stop me in my tracks, take me away from all the hustle and bustle—everything I feel like I must be doing, or else—and force me to sit on the couch, or lie down in bed, and just breathe. I can snuggle and nuzzle close to my baby, knowing I’m providing her nourishment and comfort. How can I say no to the giddiness she shows every time she or I suggest nursing and she knows she’s just moments away from one of her all-time favorite activites? I can’t. At least, not yet.

And so, I’m remaining open to tandem nursing. I’m still nine weeks away from having to make a decision, and I’d like to do some more reading about it. I recently asked a former colleague to return a breastfeeding book I loaned her last year when she had her baby. I told her I was considering nursing Frances alongside the new baby. She responded that she thought I was amazing. I countered with: amazing, or crazy? The answer to this I don’t yet know. I’ll try to keep you updated as the results come in.