Category Archives: baby two

Why you should talk to your baby before changing their life

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My youngest child turned 18 months-old last week. She’s officially a toddler, talking and running and climbing stairs, and although I’m getting better at not treating her like a tiny infant, sometimes I forget how much she understands and thinks for herself. Here is a cautionary tale about why you should talk to your kids, even when they’re tiny, especially if you’re changing the routine on them. It helps, you guys, it really helps.

My daughter has been sleeping in my room since she was a baby, first in a co-sleeper and then in a crib. She still sometimes wakes up for an early morning feeding, but she’s more than ready to night-wean and my partner and I want our room back! So we decided that we’d move her in with her brother and carve back some space for just us.

We talked about timing and made careful plans, and then for various reasons, those plans didn’t work out and we ended up moving her crib into the new room more-or-less on a whim over last weekend. We talked with my 3 year-old about how Sister was going to sleep in his room now and made sure he felt okay about it. I assumed that our daughter would be fine, because it’s a familiar room and we were keeping her in the same crib, and she routinely sleeps in pack ‘n plays in strange rooms when we go to visit friends in the evening. But still, I completely and totally failed to, you know, actually explain to her what was going on. Because she’s a baby, right, and why would she care? I know better than that, but it was a day full of distractions and a last-minute decision, and it just didn’t cross my mind to explain it to her.

Anyway, we put her down in the new room at bedtime, and she was smiles and smiles until I closed the door. Then, utter panic and screaming! My partner and I were unprepared. We’d expected to maybe have some upset from my son, but neither of us thought the baby would have any trouble at all. We gave her a few minutes and then my partner went up to try to calm her down, but she was so upset that he eventually gave up and set up a pack ‘n play in our room where her crib used to be. It still took her forever to fall asleep, and she woke a few times overnight extra upset, which made us feel terrible, and also exhausted in the morning.

We decided to just try again the next time it seemed convenient, but I had no intention of trying again the next day when the first night was sooooo terrible. But then we got home from our errands later than I expected, and by the time we had finished lunch, we were late for my daughter’s naptime and it was already time for my son’s nap, and I had an inkling that maybe she would be calmer if her brother was in the room with her when she laid down. So, I asked them both together where they would like to have their naps. My son said “Sister sleep with me!” (isn’t he a cutie?) I told the baby, “Baby, you can have naptime in your crib in Brother’s room, or in the pack ‘n play in our room. Where would you like to sleep?” She ran into her brother’s room and stood waiting by the crib, where she then slept for 2.5 hours with no fuss at all (even though Brother didn’t fall asleep for the entire naptime, and spent the whole afternoon singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and making raspberries with his mouth!) That night at bedtime, she fell right asleep, and though we’re having some frustration from her when she wakes up an wants to nurse at 5:30AM, I’m much more confident that we’re all in for a good night.

Two morals to this story:
1) Talk to your babies, even when they’re tiny. It helps them know what to expect and it helps get you in the habit of explaining what’s going on to them, which is better for everyone once they get older and understand what you’re saying.

2) Realize that your babies get smarter, and that you need to respond to their growing intelligences by helping them make decisions and control their own lives, as appropriate. I know that sounds obvious, but I think a lot of us pay attention to “milestones”, like walking or saying the first word, and then it’s easy to forget that babies get smarter in ways they can’t show you, too. Two months ago, my daughter would not have been capable of making a decision about where she had her nap, but now she is. Giving her the chance to make the decision on her own would have saved us all a lot of grief if we’d done it in the first place.

On nursing an older child

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I am lucky to live in a place where many families choose to breastfeed for an extended period of time. It is very common to see moms nursing their toddlers and preschoolers in public, and so I can feel comfortable nursing my babies in public too. My oldest son is going to be 3 in April, and he still nurses three times a day when he’s home with me. He always nurses in the morning at wake up, at night before bedtime, and he also nurses after nap times if he’s home (but obviously not if he’s at school). Nursing my toddler has been occasionally frustrating, but I also think it’s gotten us through a lot of the tougher periods of his development.

Because my son and I have been sitting down together for at least 20 minutes, at least three times a day over the past 3 years, we have a close relationship, and we read each other very well. Even on days when he’s tantruming every 5 minutes, and I feel like I’m going to lose it, that time to deliberately reconnect is what makes it possible for me to keep going. And, I do actually think we have seen fewer tantrums overall because my son and I have that time of connection.

Of course families who are not nursing can still have deep relationships with their babies, but I think it can be hard to make myself deliberately find the energy to cuddle when my baby is yelling at me all the time. At least for me, it’s hard to bridge that gap when I’m feeling angry and worn down after the eighth tantrum of the morning. But, nursing happens in our family whether I am particularly feeling it or not, which means my son knows that it’s a part of his routine that will always happen, and that his mom will always be there for him, even on a rough day. My son and I have very different personalities, so it’s helpful for both of us to have the encouragement that comes with a built-in nursing routine.

I should also mention that I do think that breastfeeding my son when my daughter was little minimized the separation anxiety he felt from having a new baby in the house. He adjusted to his little sister’s homecoming very well, much better than I anticipated, but that kind of situation can be a struggle for any child. There are new routines, new noises, and obviously all the family’s attention goes to the new baby. I disappeared for a few minutes four times a day when I had to get her down for naps. I couldn’t get up from the couch for my son when I was nursing the baby. Sometimes my son wanted to nurse, but the baby needed to nurse first, because I only have so much milk.

But, my son could still look forward to those specific times of reconnecting with me, and he knew he’d get that specialized attention from me even if I couldn’t give it to him all the time any more. And now, when he sees me nursing his sister, he’ll often come up to the couch and say, “Nursing sister!” and smile at us, which is super cute.

(On a practical note, nursing a toddler when you have a second baby is the best way to prevent clogged ducts and mastitis that I’ve ever found. I had huge oversupply with both of my babies, which sounds great, but was really frustrating and caused a lot of problems for me. Luckily, my son could be counted on to take extra milk when it caused me discomfort, and he was also instrumental in clearing some plugged ducts when neither his sister nor my pump were strong enough to clear them on their own.)

Even though nursing my almost 3 year-old hasn’t been a joy 100% of the time, it’s been great for our family overall, and I think it’s benefited my son’s emotional health a great deal. I’m really glad I’ve been able to offer this for him for so long, and I hope his sister has the opportunity to nurse for just as long, if she wants to.

And then two months went by…

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Well, when I said that I was going to go on hiatus, I never meant for it to stretch for two entire months! People told me that two and a half was a difficult age, with a lot of disequilibrium, but it’s hard to comprehend that kind of warning until you’re in the midst of experiencing it yourself. I feel like I’ve just been through months of extremely challenging behavior from my son, on top of a lot of work-related scheduling issues and illness in the family, but I think we are finally starting to see the other side. Regardless, this blog is important to me and lots of fun to do, so I’m going to try to get it up and running nice and regular again.

First, how about a family update? My daughter, our baby, is just 9 months old. I don’t know how she got that big so fast! She’s not properly crawling yet, but can scoot herself around with alarming speed, and is getting into everything these days. Her two bottom teeth are just coming in, and she is a big eater. Right now, she especially loves sweet potatoes and scrambled eggs. Sleep has been hit-and-miss lately with her crawling, and the various colds our whole household has gotten, but she is getting better. She is a happy, adorable, chatty baby, and generally a pleasure to be around.

My son, our toddler, is now 31 months-old, and as I mentioned, is just coming out of the 2 1/2 year-old “terror” phase, which I would not wish upon anyone. It was months and months of constant tantrums, shorter nighttime sleep, disrupted naps, and him needing constant attention from us. It’s all normal for this age group, but that doesn’t make it easier. Right around when daylight savings happened, I noticed that his nighttime sleep went from averaging about 9.5 hours back to almost 11 hours, so bedtime has gotten earlier and he’s sleeping later in the morning, too. This is helping his moods quite a bit.

He’s also finally broken through some of the barriers he’s had with speech, so although he’s nowhere near the average for his age yet, he is trying more words every day and using signs much more specifically and clearly. Recent signs include “help,” “more,” (which he had stopped using for a few months), and he’s begun pointing again. His repeated spoken words are also much more clear, and he says “night-night” at bedtime and “bye-bye” when someone leaves. This is fantastic progress and really helpful to me, especially as I’ve been so run down with his sister’s lack of sleep and our many colds lately. My son still needs a lot of attention, but he’s playing independently more readily than he has for months, so sometimes I can sit down by myself for a minute.

So with a little luck, we’ll be back to our regular posting schedule starting now! Thanks for hanging in there with me – I missed you!

Some days are rough.

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I have been working myself pretty hard the past few weeks, and this week, it finally caught up with me. I am tired, sore, low-energy, constantly on the verge of grumpy. My 7 month-old sleeps well for her age, but the night feedings are starting to wear on me, and her naps have been a challenge this week. And I hurt my back from constantly picking up my anxiety-riddled toddler to soothe his fits. And I forgot, once again, how terrible periods can be, since I haven’t had one in a while. Sometimes they are pretty terrible.

I have been trying to compensate for my lack of energy. We have been eating leftovers for days. I’ve been spending every second I can snatch napping on the couch. I tried to take a bath yesterday to relax and help my back, but my daughter decided that her traditional hours-long afternoon nap should instead be only twenty minutes, so that bath was aborted. I have since decided that having to get out in the middle of a relaxing bath makes me feel approximately five times worse than not having a bath at all, which is good information to have for the future, I guess.

I hesitated to write this post, but I feel like one of my goals with this blog is to point out all the places that motherhood/parenthood/family life is not like in the magazines, and this is one of them. Sometimes you are tired and grumpy and in pain, and you could really use a sick day, but the baby does not care. The baby cannot care, because the baby needs to eat and be clean and sleep, just like you, and she can’t do any of those things on her own. It can be tough. I am lucky to have a good support network, but I’ve also worked really hard to create a support network, because I know that I’m prone to depression and anxiety, and having babies is hard. I cannot be a good parent in a vacuum. I need help.

Today I am proud of myself for getting my toddler to his daycare on time, for loading the dishwasher even though I really didn’t want to, and for smiling at my daughter even though she does not want to sleep. Those are good things to be proud of, I think.

On birthdays, on Wednesdays

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As I kid, birthdays were just for me. It was the day when everybody was nice to me, noticed me, made the dinner I liked, sang to me before cake. It was my day – just mine.

As a mom, birthdays are just for me, too.

My son turns 29 months next week. For a long time after he was born, I marked not every month, but every week of his life. He was born on a Wednesday afternoon, and every Wednesday I would think, “He’s this many weeks today!” Every single week, I thought about how many Wednesdays I had lived without him before he was born, and how much his birth had changed my life.

My daughter turned 6 months-old just last week. She decided to be born on a Wednesday too, and since she came just 20 minutes after midnight after a very short labor, I rather believe it was intentional on her part. I can’t say I’ve had the mental space to dedicate quite as much time to deep thought every week now that I have two babies, but I still notice Wednesdays. They are the days that my life changes.

My children are still very little. Their birthdays are just like every other day to them, though they may notice more friends and relatives gathered around, more colorful balloons, more cake than a normal day. As they grow, their birthdays will become more important to them, a day they look forward to every year, a day to celebrate who they are as individuals. Their birthdays will be just for them.

But their birthdays will always be just for me, too. They will always be the occasion for me to celebrate the day I became a mother, a parent, a person who grew another person in my body, brought them out into this world, and guided them through their life with care and attention. Their birthdays will always be my birthdays, too.

Milestone Madness

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It has been a huge week over here in the Mothering for Me household! Both of my babies are doing amazing things, and this momma is proud!

My youngest, almost 6 months, has been working so hard on rolling from her back to her front, and by Jove, she’s finally got it! I have spent the week waking up all night to her screaming, when she rolls to her belly and gets stuck there. Yesterday she spent an entire two hours rolling to her belly instead of napping. I went up there no less than 8 times to return her to her back before I finally gave up, and no sleep was had at all, which made for an interesting rest of the afternoon.

Last night was a difficult one again, but when I woke up this morning, I found her asleep (!) on her belly! She’d rolled over at night, decided it was suddenly not the worst thing in the world, and just went back to sleep on her own like she used to do. I’m hoping that means we are in for some better sleep in the coming nights. It’s hard to become used to sleeping for a few weeks, only to have it pulled out from under you once again.

I am so proud of my little girl, though! My baby can roll! It’s the little things.

And it’s the big things, too! My son, being much older, hit an even bigger milestone this week! We’ve been working with a speech therapist since late May, after a series of ear infections caused him a major speech regression. He’s been trying more words every week, with more or less success, but most of them you hear once and then never again. This week is particularly exciting though, because this is the first week in his life where I really feel like we are understanding each other most of the time. There are still moments where I have no idea what he wants, but over the past few weeks, he’s learned to point, make more eye contact, and he’s just started to say “Ya!” and “All done!”, which are hugely helpful words to have. He’s 28 months, and we’ve still got a ways to go, but I am more and more confident that the day of mutual understanding is a’coming.

Milestones mean less sleep all around, but it’s always temporary. In fact, baby girl put herself to sleep for the nap she refused yesterday after needing help just once! This week, the sleep deprivation feels worth it.

Breastfeeding was hard because I’d been doing it wrong.

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I’ve had two babies, and I’ve had trouble breastfeeding with both of them. Before my son was born, I read all these books, and my partner and I took a breastfeeding class – I was deeply committed to making it work. I knew that some women had trouble breastfeeding, but I thought I’d prepared and had support (and I had been leaking colostrum for months, ew), and maybe the first time would be hard and then I’d just get it.

Anyway, my son was born, and I did alright nursing in the hospital, but then we came home and I couldn’t get him latched without a lot of pain. I was a hormonal, useless mess. My doula had to talk me off a cliff, and my mother-in-law ran out in the middle of the night to get formula. I was able to see a lactation consultant and rent a breast pump the next day. Eventually, we did get it  (my postpartum doula helped a lot!), and now my son is almost 28 months-old and still nursing a few times a day, with no plans to quit as far as I can figure! But it was definitely a bumpy start.

When I got pregnant again, I didn’t even consider that nursing a newborn would be difficult. I nursed my son through the pregnancy, and I was looking forward to nursing a new little baby who theoretically wouldn’t be trying to do cartwheels while latched, like toddlers do. But I was wrong. Again.

My daughter is a bigger baby than my son was, and her head and neck were so strong when she was born that, whenever we nursed, she would latch and then arch, yanking the nipple along with her. It hurt, and it caused bruising, clogged ducts and serious discomfort for me until she was old enough to control her head a little better. I tried all the recommended nursing positions, visited a lactation consultant several times, and the only way I could find to nurse her without her hurting me at least some of the time was on my side. Since you can’t just lay down in the middle of the grocery store aisle when your baby gets hungry, this limited my ability to get out of the house for a few months after she was born.

I will be honest – I hated nursing her for many weeks. I felt like a failure for considering pumping and bottle feeding, or even just formula for her when I was still nursing her brother, but every plugged duct took an entire day of constant, painful pumping and nursing to clear, and although none of them turned into mastitis (a breast infection), every single one felt like an emergency. I wasn’t sleeping and was still healing from the birth. I didn’t have the energy for an emergency.

But, with some luck and a lot of support, I persevered, and as my daughter started to get better at nursing in other positions, I started to realized that if I could nurse upright if I leaned back and put her belly-to-belly on top of me. It wasn’t perfect, but it meant I could nurse her in the car, or on a park bench while my son played. None of the lactation consultants had recommended this position to me, and I wondered if maybe there was some risk associated with it, or some reason I didn’t see other mothers using it.

And of course, as soon as our nursing problems were mostly figured out, this article turned up on my feed: Many Moms May Have Been Taught to Breastfeed Incorrectly: Surprising New Research by Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA.

Take a minute and open that in a new tab and look at the photos! (If you’re at work, be aware that it’s women breastfeeding, not that anyone should shame you for that.) Look at them! They’re in a reclined position, belly-to-belly with baby, with one arm supporting baby’s head. That is exactly what I had been doing successfully with my daughter, the baby who had such trouble in traditional breastfeeding positions, and here were a bunch of other moms doing the same thing! I was floored, and wished I’d seen this article when I had my son two years ago.

The article explores the idea that the ways that women are taught to breastfeed now are just not working for the vast majority of us. Mohrbacher says that 92% of women report trouble breastfeeding in the first week of their baby’s life, and that the most common reasons women give up on breastfeeding are trouble latching, nipple pain, and worries about producing enough milk. These are exactly the issues that come up when I talk about breastfeeding with other parents, especially with moms who chose to give up breastfeeding because it was just too painful and frustrating. Throughout the article, Mohrbacher argues that most of these problems are exacerbated, if not outright caused, by our poor breastfeeding postures, and that teaching new parents this alternative posture (which she calls “natural breastfeeding”) would alleviate many of these issues.

The article is a fantastic read, and I strongly recommend it, especially to expecting parents who are planning to breastfeed. Please share it around! There is nothing wrong with formula, and it’s true that sometimes breastfeeding doesn’t work, but I know far too many mothers who had their hearts set on breastfeeding and weren’t able to for exactly the reasons mentioned – pain, latching trouble, or concern with milk supply. Knowing about this nursing position could save a lot of breastfeeding relationships, and I personally think they’re worth saving.