Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How to Keep A Kid Happy

           I am very proud to present to you a guest post by Daniel, my 32 month old, today. A few weeks ago, I was reading this post from Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources while my boys were napping. Daniel woke up in the middle of me reading it so I started reading it out loud to him while he nursed so he wouldn't feel like I was ignoring him. Daniel picked up on the fact that the post was written from a toddler's point of view and he told me that he wanted to write a blog post of his own but didn't know about what. He also told me he wants L.R. Knost of Little Hearts/ Gentle Parenting Resources to read his post so I promised him I would send her a link to it. A few days later, he woke up extremely happy, which is rare. I told him I was so glad he was happy and asked him what I could do to help him stay happy. He decided that was what he wanted to write his post about and started making a list. Here is Daniel's post on how to keep kids happy (these are all his own words, including the title, but the about him section was written by me):

-No yelling. It makes me feel bad. Please talk to me nicely.

-No whacking. It hurts and makes me feel bad. Hands are not for hitting.

-No taking my stuff. That makes me angry and sad.

-No grabbing me. I don't like it and it makes me feel bad.

-Give me nummies. It makes me feel good. I love my nummies.

-Read me lots of books. I love to read all kinds of books.

-Eat with me. I don't like to eat by myself, I like it when you sit down to eat with me and when you feed me.

-Take me outside. I like going for walks and playing at the tennis court.

-Play with me.

-Listen to me.

-Hug me.

-Rub my head and back.

-Don't be on your phone. I don't like it when you are on your phone because I don't get your attention

- Give me your attention.

About the author:
Daniel is a super smart and silly two and a half year old who hates sleeping but loves to nurse, read, do school work and play. He enjoys spending time with his mama, daddy and bubby and getting tons of attention every day. He loves to co-sleep with his family and being worn in a wrap or carrier but is also pretty independent. He potty trained himself before age two, loves to read chapter books, help out in the kitchen (especially with baking) and loves to do things by himself.

Our Tandem Nursing Journey

         As most of you already know, I have two boys, Daniel, 32 months, and Joshua, 15 months and I am currently tandem nursing. If you have followed this blog for a while, you have probably read the many updates I wrote during my pregnancy with Joshua about how nursing was going for Daniel and I. If you haven't yet, you can read them herehere, and here. Nursing through pregnancy was one struggle after another for us. We struggled with low milk supply, weight gain issues for both of us, painful nipples, and nursing strikes but we kept pushing through and here we are today, still nursing at 32 months!

         I left off my story with Daniel at 16 months old, nursing every other day or so. Everything seemed to be going well at that point. Joshua was due in about a month and I was so sure we'd make it until the birth. Well, about a week or two before Joshua was born (at 40 weeks, 5 days), Daniel suddenly stopped nursing. I was really worried at that point but was struggling with non-stop contractions that weren't leading to real labor. I tried to offer and get Daniel to latch on but I honestly didn't put too much effort into it at that point. I had thought Daniel would nurse while I was in labor and I had read that, for some, that had helped speed labor along. Well, that wasn't the case. Joshua was born and Daniel still wasn't nursing. I had dreamed of that first tandem nursing session after the birth with the boys holding hands. That didn't happen either. Seeing Joshua nurse when he was born did not prompt Daniel to latch on himself. In fact, for the first day or two after the birth, he wanted nothing to do with the breast at all.

         I struggled so much emotionally after the birth. I couldn't lift Daniel who was used to me always holding him. Everyone who helped us after the birth or who came to visit entertained Daniel. I felt like he was spending way more time with everyone else than with me and like we were drifting apart. The fact that he was not nursing made it all worse. We no longer had that special bonding time we'd had since he was born. Many times, when Joshua would latch on, Daniel would try to push him out of the way (he even hit him a few times!), say "my nummy", and/or attempt to latch on but he was usually not successful. He would usually put his mouth up to my breast and then smile. Then he progressed to latching on for a second or two but then pulling off. I would ask someone to help him get into my lap when I was sitting down and he liked to hold my breast or lay his head on it for comfort. He still seemed so attached to it.

          I had to pump on one side for a couple of days due to damaged nipples from Joshua's bad latch. When Daniel saw me pumping, rather than get mad like he always used to, he became curious instead. He would watch the milk come out and say "milk!" He then would ask to drink my milk in a cup and he would drink it all up. After I stopped pumping and had no more pumped milk to offer him, he would continue to latch on for a second or two and would then get upset and say "milk" and gesture as if asking "where is the milk?". He also became very attached to his pacifier for comfort during this time. These early weeks were super hard emotionally for me. Not only was I getting used to having two babies, but I was struggling with the changes in my relationship with Daniel and all the struggles we were having with nursing. And that was all on top of the early nursing struggles I had with Joshua! I was feeling upset, defeated, guilty, angry, sad, all kinds of negative emotions! It was especially hard because no one understood how I felt. Even those who nursed or were supportive of nursing, and even tandem nursing, just assumed he was done with nursing and I should move on. No one but me seemed to notice that my child was still very much interested in nursing and that he was struggling with all the changes.

        The first two weeks after Joshua was born, my mother in law came down to help us. Daniel spent a ton of time with her, going for walks, reading, playing, etc. but she also encouraged him to nurse and snuggle with me and Joshua on the couch because she knew I really wanted him to nurse again. Once she left, we stayed at my parents' house for several weeks. There, Daniel spent a ton of time with my dad. He went places with him and my dad even put him to sleep many nights at first. Towards the end of our stay there though, I was better and was allowed to lift Daniel again. Daniel was spending more time with me and snuggling with me more. He would fall asleep snuggling with me some nights and my dad would sing him to sleep on others, but still no nursing. I offered the breast to him often and was even bitten a few times. He very much seemed to want to nurse but, for an unknown reason, he was really struggling with it. I wasn't sure if he forgot how to latch or if he thought that the nummies were only for his baby brother now, or if it was something else altogether. I never did find out.

         During the last week at my parents' house, by pure accident, Daniel was weaned from his pacifier. We were left alone in the house, with my parents' dog locked up (with a baby gate) on the side of the house where our room was. Their dog has been known to bite children so I would never let Daniel walk around her. His pacifier was forgotten in our room and I couldn't carry both kids to go get it so I just told him we had to wait until his daddy came home to get it for him. He then forgot about it for the rest of the day and fell asleep without it that night. We then decided to not offer it to him and try to distract him when he asked after that. It wasn't as hard as we thought it would be. There was only one night that I remember him having some trouble falling asleep. When we came home, he was fully weaned of it.

          Once we got home and were all alone, we did everything we could to encourage Daniel to latch on again. I kept the boys in just their diapers all day and I stayed with no shirt or bra on and we did lots of skin to skin. I took baths with Daniel when possible. I talked to him a lot about nursing and told him it was okay for him to nurse. I explained that I had enough milk for both him and his brother, I had two nummies for two babies, he was still my baby, and that him and his baby brother could share. I showed him pictures and videos of both toddlers nursing and babies and toddlers tandem nursing, which he seemed to enjoy as he always smiled when he saw them. I offered the breast often and then decided to back off for a while and se if that made a difference. We also rented the Babies documentary from Netflix and watched it a few times since it shows tandem nursing toddlers. I also did my fair share of crying and praying during those days and, still, nothing.

          Then, all of a sudden, one Tuesday at nap time, Daniel was fighting nap and became really upset. I was nursing Joshua to sleep and, out of nowhere, Daniel latched on to the other side for about two minutes and calmed down. then he unlatched, snuggled with me, and fell asleep. We were at home all alone so there was no one to take a picture of our first time tandem nursing but I will never forget it. I was so happy that Daniel finally latched on again. However, 4 days went by and he didn't latch on again. Then, on Saturday, we were on in the car on the way to get something to eat and he cried and said he was hungry. Instinctively, I asked if he wanted milk and he said yes. He latched on in the car for a whole 8 minutes! Now I was really happy. But again, days and days went by with no latching on. That Friday, June 15th, almost a whole week later, he latched on again, I believe it was at nap time. After that, there was no looking back. He woke up and kept latching on and nursing over and over again that day. He seemed so happy to be nursing again and I was ecstatic!After that day, Daniel started nursing like a newborn. He wanted to nurse every time Joshua did and even started nursing for comfort when he was hurt or upset. He often asked for "bofem (both of them) nummies" and would hold hands with his baby brother. I was in awe, it melted my heart every time!

Tandem nursing when Joshua was just a few months old
(Photo Courtesy of Mary Catherine Hamelin Birth and Family Arts)
         I am not going to say that tandem nursing has been easy for us though, we've had our share of struggles with that as well. Having two boys nursing 24/7 is HARD work!! For the most part, Daniel has slept through the night since around his first birthday, but there have been plenty of nights, and even weeks, when he has reverted to night nursing again. Joshua is usually latched on all night so those times are particularly difficult. The boys don't usually go down for a nap or to sleep at night without nursing. During the day, they both nurse like crazy, even now at 32 and 15 months. Any little upset or fall will also cause them to nurse for comfort. I hardly have time for myself and have found myself feeling touched out, exhausted, and overwhelmed plenty of times. The boys will also get jealous of each other at times. Daniel will ask for "only Daniel" and Joshua will sometimes push Daniel out of the way. Each time one of them nurses, the other will just have to nurse too. It can drive me a little insane at times.

         I feel like I have no time to do anything. Some days I feel like all I do is nurse! Really though, time seems to fly most days. Starting at around 6 am, I am what I like to call "rotisserie mama". I sleep between both boys and take turns rolling over to feed them until they wake up for the day. Once awake, they both need to nurse. then we brush teeth, I make breakfast, we eat, and I clean up a little. The time after that seems to fly by. I hardly have any time to put some laundry in, play/read/do schoolwork/ take a bath or shower all while nursing one boy or the other or both in between and, next thing I know, it's nap time! At nap time, I nurse both of them to sleep at the same time. Most days i don't get much of a break. Both boys are "velcro nappers" and stay latched on most of the time in their sleep. They will usually wake up when unlatched so I find myself stuck sitting in bed nursing one or the other or both for the duration of their nap time. on rare occasions, I am actually able to lay them both down and get out of bed to grab some food, read or write on my blog. After nap, they nurse some more and then it's lunch time. I have to make lunch and we have to eat. Then its' the same as after breakfast all over again, with a lot more nursing going on in between all of our activities. They tend to nurse a lot more around dinner time and can often drive me a little crazy around that time. Then it's bed time where I nurse both of them to sleep again and end up nursing Joshua all night until around 6 am, when it's time to start the whole routine over again.

         Going out is a whole other problem. It is super hard to get ready to go anywhere when they are both asking to nurse every 5 minutes. I am the one who gets both of them ready and packs everything we need and that's really hard if I am constantly interrupted to nurse. When we go out alone and I am driving, they will often cry and ask for nummies while I am driving, sometimes for the whole trip. When my husband is driving, they will ask to nurse all the time. Since I can't tandem nurse in the car for safety reasons (they must be in their car seats, obviously!), one of them will often be crying while I nurse the other and I have to switch between them frequently. Many times, I feel like not going out at all because it can get pretty bad in the car at times. When we are out at a store or other public place, they will often take turns being worn in a carrier on my front so that they can nurse, especially if it is close to nap time. On a few occasions, I've had to nurse Joshua to sleep, then wear him on my back as he sleeps and then wear Daniel on the front and nurse him to sleep. I don't know what I would do if I couldn't wear both of them because laying them down in the stroller wakes them up in a heartbeat, especially Joshua.

          Nursing in public took on a whole new meaning once I started tandem nursing. I was so worried I'd have to practically be topless to tandem nurse. I avoided it at first and it was pretty easy since we didn't go out much. When we started going out more, Daniel would often be distracted while out and not ask to nurse as much but, eventually, he started to ask to nurse all the time, no matter what. I then found that I could nurse Joshua in my lap in a cradle hold and Daniel standing up without showing much at all. Finding comfortable positions has been a challenge as well. Our most common position has been both boys in football hold, laying on pillows, which obviously doesn't work in public. When I am too tired to sit up, I can lay down with one boy on each side and nurse them both, but I wasn't able to do that when Joshua was smaller.  Now that they are older, I can sit both of them on my lap to nurse. This is less covered since my shirt goes up higher, but it is way more comfortable for all of us. For a while, i avoided doing this very much but now I have learned to just get over it and, I'm happy to say, my husband has too. I feel way more comfortable nursing my boys out in public now. It doesn't happen very often anyway, it's usually only when they are tired and we try to avoid going out at nap time as much as possible. Otherwise, they take turns so it's no big deal. We have posed for two different nursing exhibits (I will be posting about both projects, along with some of the exhibit pictures soon). The first time we did, I was worried about showing too much but, after posting my pics on Facebook, I gained renewed confidence for nursing in public and so has my husband who used to be uncomfortable with it.

Proudly tandem nursing at Busch gardens while waiting for the fire works show
          Despite all of our struggles, if I had to do it all over again, I would. My boys are so smart and confident and I know it has a lot to do with having their needs met promptly. They have become super picky and hardly eat solids on some days but I am so glad that my milk provides all the nutrition they don't get from food. Despite not eating so much solid food, they have both been gaining weight well. In fact, Joshua is over the 90th percentile for height, weight, and head circumference! I am so grateful that I have not had any issues with my supply at all and have been able to provide enough milk to nourish both of my boys. They are super healthy boys and I know that that is due, at least in part, to the immune benefits they are getting from my milk. Tandem nursing has also eased the transition for Daniel from being an only child to life with a baby brother. They do fight a lot but also have an amazing brotherly bond. They will still often hold hands or play with each other while nursing and, recently, Daniel has started saying he wants to "feel his bubby" while nursing. He likes to have Joshua nearby and rub his arms and hold his hand when he is nursing. Tandem nursing has also given me the chance to bond with both of my boys. It especially has let me regain my sense of bonding with Daniel.

          I will sometimes feel a sort of nursing aversion, a really uncomfortable feeling, when nursing both boys at the same time. I think that certain positions make it worse and it tends to happen when I am feeling touched out or overwhelmed. For the most part, though, I enjoy nursing both of my boys. I am also very proud of myself for not giving up, for working so hard through so many difficulties,  and for providing the best nourishment as well as comfort for both of my boys for so long. Daniel and I have reached our original goal of nursing for at least two years (he is over 2.5 now) and Joshua is well on his way there (he is 15 months and still going strong!). I still nurse on demand and plan to let my boys self wean when they are ready as research shows this is best, when possible. Support is a very important part of being successful at nursing so I have to thank my husband, Dan, for being so understanding and supportive of my decision to tandem nurse/ nurse both boys full term. I also have to thank my friend Reggie, who was very supportive throughout many of my struggles and was one of very few people who believed that Daniel would nurse again and understood what I was going through. As overwhelming as tandem nursing can be at times, I am pretty sure that I will be sad when the day comes that I am no longer nursing either one of them, although that day seems very far off right now with both of them nursing so much and being so attached to their nummies! I love my boys so much and, despite all of our difficulties and challenges, I wouldn't change our story. I wouldn't trade our nursing relationships for anything in the world!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Mommy, Joshua, and the Nummies: Much Easier the Second Time Around

          Besides some really annoying pinching and recently discovered teeth grazing, the only nursing "problem" Joshua has is that he can't seem to get enough of it! Seriously, Joshua absolutely LOVES nursing. But it wasn't always this easy or this good for us. I assumed that because I was practically a pro at nursing Daniel that nursing Joshua would be easy. I had the latch down and knew what to do about low milk supply after all! For the most part, nursing Joshua was a lot easier than nursing Daniel, but it wasn't exactly what I would call easy in the beginning.

          Shortly after he was born, my sweet little Joshua latched on like a pro and nursed for at least 45 minutes. He latched on another time after that before we went home early the next morning. Once home, he continued to nurse non stop. He was a pretty calm baby and was pretty content as long as he was nursing. He didn't cry for hours like his brother did. Aside from being sleep deprived and exhausted, everything was looking good. But 2 or 3 days after he was born, I started to have serious pain while nursing and developed a cracked nipple. Again!

          Joshua tucked his lower lip in while nursing, just like his brother, and he also tucked the top lip on one side at times. Since Daniel did the same thing, I already knew to look for it and correct it but, even then, the pain continued. I was so frustrated I cried. I was also having difficulties with Daniel nursing at the time and that, combined with the physical pain from Joshua's bad latch and my cracked nipple, was pretty difficult to bear. At one point, it got so bad that I messaged my friend Reggie, who is a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC), and told her that I was considering getting formula and my mother in law volunteered to go buy it because she was feeling so bad for me. Reggie suggested that, rather than use formula, I should pump instead of nursing Joshua and feed him my milk from a bottle. She assured me that she could help me get him to re-latch if he ended up preferring the bottles and my milk in a bottle would be better for him than formula anyway.

          I was afraid to pump at first because my nipples had gotten sore from pumping in the past, especially while pregnant. In the end, I ended up nursing Joshua only on the least painful side and pumping on the side that was cracked for about a day and a half. That first night, Reggie ended up coming over around 1:30 am to help me with Joshua's latch. She is awesome! I was so grateful that she was willing to leave her sleeping toddler at home with her husband and drive an hour to come help me at that time of the night! She pointed out that Joshua had a shallow latch and helped me work on correcting it. Some of the time, even when he seemed to be latched on right, it still hurt but it was now way better than before. She checked him for tongue tie but he didn't appear to have one so we assumed it was just because of the damage that had already been done to my nipple. She also pointed out that maybe he just had a small mouth and my nipples were too large and it would improve once he grew a bit more. This made sense since the same thing had happened with Daniel.

          When Reggie left that night, I felt much better and Joshua's latch had improved. However, I continued to have pain the next day, even when I felt that his latch was fine. I ut in a call to my other friend, Patty, who is also a CLC for a local Baby Cafe. She was able to do a home visit for me through her program. She also found Joshua's latch to be shallow at times. She showed me how to nurse him in a more laid back and comfortable position, with lots of pillows and advised that I wait until his mouth was wide open before I allowed him to latch on. I remembered being told the same thing with Daniel but I guess I was too stressed out at the time to remember it. She also discovered a pea sized lump that was probably a clogged duct but it resolved on its own in time. Once again, when Patty left, I was feeling much better. I think, more than anything, what really helped me was the reassurance I got from both her and Reggie that everything would get better and I was doing a good job.

          After that, things began to improve. Within a few days, my nipple was completely healed and Joshua's latch was perfect. I was finally pain free and able to enjoy nursing and bonding with my new baby boy. Joshua was, once again, content as can be as long as he was in my arms nursing. He rarely cried. I was also happy to have a few bags of frozen milk in my freezer in case of an emergency. Unlike when Daniel was born, thankfully, no emergencies arose and they still haven't. He refused bottles and pacifiers from day one so I am grateful that I never had to leave his side for long. To this day, I have never left Joshua in anyone's care for longer than 30 minutes and he's never drank my milk from anywhere other than my breast. By that time, I was a pro at nursing Daniel in public so that was never an issue with Joshua, except for when it came to tandem nursing but I think we've pretty much gotten over that by now. I am also very thankful to say that, this time around, I have not had any problems with my supply at all. I always had enough milk for Joshua since I had plenty of milk to nurse two growing boys!

          For Joshua, the majority of his nursing has also been share with his big brother and they have a beautiful bond. Joshua is very attached to me and the bond that we have formed through nursing is amazing. For Joshua, and Daniel too, nursing provides much more than just food. Joshua never took a pacifier and he has always been comforted at the breast when he is upset or hurt and he nurses to sleep every night with his brother. He obviously eats solids by now but can be pretty picky at times. I am so glad to have the reassurance that my milk will provide all the nutrition he may be lacking from food. He will be 15 months tomorrow and we are still going strong with no end in sight. Although Daniel night weaned himself around his first birthday, Joshua still continues to nurse all through the night which can be a bit tiresome at times, thank God for co-sleeping!

          Joshua can't decide if he wants nursing to be called mimis or nummies and will often just say mimi nummies, he just loves to nurse no matter what it's called.  He is a happy, healthy boy and is pretty big for his age. In fact, he is almost the same size as his brother! It has been tough at times, I often become tired or overwhelmed from nursing both boys, but I plan to let them both self wean when they are ready. I am super proud of myself for providing the best nutrition and comfort for my boys and I wouldn't trade our special, beautiful bond for anything in this world!