Saturday, January 30, 2010

What it's Really Like to Breastfeed a Toddler

Yup, I admit it.  My baby boy is 15 months old.  Closer to a little boy than a baby, really.

And he's still breastfeeding.  Several times a day, in fact.  And several times a night, too.  (Yawn)

I nursed my daughter until she was 30 months old.  Yup.  2 1/2.  She was almost fully potty-trained by the time she was weaned. 

I didn't start out to be a long-term breastfeeder.  I knew with my first daughter that I wanted to breastfeed.  We got off to really rocky start, and we didn't find a good rhythm until she was well past six months old.  By the time she was a year old, I was pregnant again, and we continued nursing until I had very little milk left and she became disinterested.

When I had my second daughter, breastfeeding was so much easier.  When she hit a year, I didn't think anything of it.  She still seemed like such a baby to me- I couldn't imagine depriving her of something she obviously loved and still needed.  So we kept nursing.  She turned two, and we still liked it.  It was easy, it was a way to connect.  She peacefully weaned around the ripe old age of 2 1/2. 

There's a lot of good reasons to continue breastfeeding past the "normal" 4 months, 6 months, a year that are more typical in our society.  For example, did you know that in the second year (12-23 months), 448 mL of breastmilk provides:

29% of energy requirements
43% of protein requirements
36% of calcium requirements
75% of vitamin A requirements
76% of folate requirements
94% of vitamin B12 requirements
60% of vitamin C requirements.
(Source: Extended Breastfeeding Fact Sheet.)
There have been studies done that suggest the longer a mom breastfeeds, the more she reduces risk of getting cancers herself.  And of course, we're all familiar with the stats that say breastfed babies get sick less often (someone forgot to give that memo to Max...) have less allergies, etc. 
That's all fine and good.  But all the boring statistics don't give the real picture.  So, in an effort to normalize toddler nursing, (hey, a girl can dream, can't she?) here's a look at what it's really like to breastfeed a toddler. 
Nursing a toddler means learning about all kinds of different nursing positions.  Toddlers are resistant to the nice neat cradle hold of their infancy and are instead more determined to see if they can, in fact, nurse upside down.  (Just for the record, my daughter could.)  Other favorites include nursing while standing up, sitting up so they can watch tv and nurse at the same time, and laying flat while trying to s-t-r-e-t-c-h the nipple as far as it will possibly go.
Nursing a toddler means laughs.  Laughs as they learn to blow raspberries while nursing and spray milk everywhere.  Laughs as you tickle them while nursing and they try desperately to laugh and stay latched at the same time.  Laughs as they finish nursing, pop off, announce "all done!" to anyone within hearing distance and then say "bye," pat your breast, and wave to you as they toddle off to their next adventure.  Laughs as they pop off just as your milk lets down, and they feel the milk spraying all over them.  And lots and lots of laughs when he presses on your breast to make the milk spray again and again.
Nursing a toddler means that you can fix almost anything.  Tantrums, overtiredness, overstimulation, bonks on the head can all be healed miraculously with a little bit of cuddle up with mommy time.  I've even been know to cure a case of pink-eye or two with breastmilk.  Don't tell my daughters, they would think it was really gross.  But hey- it's cheaper and better for them than a round of anti-biotics!
Nursing a toddler means that there are some busy days where your toddler won't nurse at all because there's too much going on, and you go to bed wondering if he's started to wean himself.
And Nursing a toddler means that the next day, you'll probably nurse 57 times, and wonder if he'll ever wean. 
Nursing a toddler means nursing in some pretty crazy places.  When my daughter was two, she was going through some pretty crazy separation anxiety and refused to go to nursery.  Well, I was playing the piano in primary, and her dad was working on Sundays, so she used to come sit on my lap while I was playing the piano.  Of course, sitting on my lap wasn't anywhere near good enough, so I was forced to quickly become an expert at nursing and playing the piano at the same time.  The best part?  No one ever knew that's what we were doing.  We've nursed on airplanes, in sacrament meeting, at the Conference Center, in the grocery store, etc.  If we've been there, chances are, we've nursed there.
Nursing a toddler means that you may never get the shower to yourself again.  I had a little visitor pull back my shower curtain yesterday morning.  His face lit up and he immediately started signing "milk" over and over again. 
Nursing a toddler often means (at least in my life) nursing frequently at night too.  I think it's just as important that these busy little people get their needs met at night just as they do during the day.  Sure, I miss out on some sleep, but I do get the pleasure of seeing him stir and sign "milk" in his sleep as he's rolling over.   It's so stinkin' cute!
Nursing a toddler means built-in breaks in my day. Max always wants to needs to demands to nurse around 9:30am, just as we get home from taking the girlies to school.  It's such a nice way to sit or lay down, relax, and spend some quality time with the baby.  It also works well when there are yucky chores to be done: "Honey, you're going to have to do the dishes, the baby needs to nurse." 
Breastfeeding a toddler means very little worry about dehydration and less worry about adequate nutrition.  When Max had a stomach bug a few weeks ago, I was terrified of dehydration, until I read that breastmilk starts to be absorbed in the intestines in as little as five minutes, which means even if he did keep throwing up, at least he was getting something good.  Plus, I know that even if his diet in a day consists solely of club crackers and mac&cheese that the milk I'm giving him will make up the difference. 
And breastfeeding my toddler means having a way to comfort and nourish him after another lengthy and painful surgery, and that knowledge and ability is worth any amount of lost sleep.
What are your thoughts and experiences with toddlers and breastfeeding? 

Thursday, January 28, 2010

So Very Tired

I have nothing profound to say today.  I have quite a few things rattling around in my head, and I'm sure they would make it here in post form if I wasn't so. darn. tired.

The baby is getting a nasty cold again.  He might have made it a whole four or five days without a snotty nose this time around, but we're all paying for it now. His breathing is rattling, he's as cranky as all get out, and he's sneezing championship-length snot streamers on a regular basis.  (I refuse to apologize for the grossness of the previous visual. Welcome to my life.)  So he hasn't been sleeping, and neither have I.  Although, fortunately for him, he's the baby and he gets to nap wherever he wants.

Plus, I'm just being a mom.  You know, the whole cook-the-meals, do-the-shopping, referee-the-fights, sign-the-permission-slips, negotiate-the-practicing, orchestrate-the-bedtime, pick-the-living-room-up-fifty-times-in-one-day, watch-out-or-that-mountain-of-laundry-might-topple-over-and-kill-you thing.  And I'm tired.  Not just the no sleep kind of tired, but the worn from the inside out kind of tired. 

This morning began just as last night ended: in tears.  Tears from feeling overworked, overwhelmed, and definitely overtired and overextended.  Tears from not knowing if I really had it in me to do it for one more day.

The thing is, I wouldn't change much about my life if I had the chance.  Sure, given the opportunity, I'd put in for a giant raise, a house with more than two bedrooms and less than three floors, and legs that would actually fit into a pair of skinny jeans, but I wouldn't change the path I've chosen.  I love being a mom.  I love staying home with them.   But I don't think I'm alone when I say that it's so crazy hard sometimes.

I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that it's the end of January, and I haven't seen grass since November, and probably won't until sometime March-ish.  I always get a major case of the blahs around this time of year, and there's nothing to do but slug my way through it.  I'm sure some vitamin D supplements wouldn't hurt.  Neither would some chocolate. 

I am grateful today though, that I'm a blogger.  Because posts like this and this and especially this (which once again left me in tears- what is it about today?) remind me that I'm not the only one that feels like this.

Yesterday, after expressing my frustrations to my husband, and complaining to him that I felt like I'd worked all day and gotten nothing accomplished, he looked at me and said "You know, your problem is that you're too focused on tasks instead of relationships.  You spent all day mothering out children, and that's the most important thing you could be doing with your time."

I'm going to try and hang onto that thought as I teach a few violin lessons, drive down the mountain tonight for a Suzuki Violin concert, and stay up all night with my adorable snotty baby. 

I'm still hoping for that nap though...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Little Things

A few days ago, I was working in the kitchen when I realized that I hadn't heard from the baby in a few minutes.  Normally, this is cause for great concern, as usually when he's quiet it means that he's somewhere shredding toilet paper and/or throwing things down the stairs.  I went to check on him, bracing myself for disaster, and found him sitting on the couch, playing quite happily with one of his shoes.  He was utterly fascinated with the velcro, and continued to play with the strap and giggle to himself for another fifteen minutes.

I found myself feeling slightly envious.  I thought how lucky he was to be so utterly fascinated and entranced by something so simple.  As I've thought about this more, I've realized that I have a choice.  There are a lot of little things that make me happy, I just have to choose to focus on those things and be joyful, rather than shifting my focus to all the little annoyances that come from parenting three small, energetic children.

Here are some of the little things that make me happy- remembering that by "small and simple things are great things brought to pass, and small means in many instances doth confound the wise." 

- Kisses from the baby, especially first thing in the morning when he's all soft, cuddly and sleepy.
- Watching the girls twirl in circles as if they have no cares in the world.
-A pot of pink tulips in the middle of January, especially when I haven't seen grass in months. (And likely won't until sometime in May!)
- Chocolate.  Anything chocolate.  It doesn't even have to be particularly good chocolate.  (I'm wondering now if I have any chocolate in the house...)
-A purring cat sitting on my lap.
-Getting mail that isn't bills, ads or junk.
-Comments on my blog.
-Phone calls with friends, especially when you end up giggling like a couple of thirteen year olds. 
-The grin on a student's face when they finally connect with a concept.
-My six year old curling up on my lap, taking my hand, and putting it on her back, making a not-so-subtle request for me to scratch her back.
-Experimenting with a new recipe and having it be a smashing success.
-The sigh of quiet and satisfaction when all three kiddos are peacefully sleeping.
-Curling up on the couch with a blanket, a space heater, and my laptop. 
-Connections, real connections with people around me.   Sometimes it happens in person, on the phone, by email, text message or just by chance, but those moments of true connection nourish my soul.
-A good novel - one that's worth staying up until two am to finish.
-All three students canceling in one day, leaving me an entire day free.
- Sunday afternoon naps.

What are the little things that make you happy?

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Funny Things They Say

Important Editor's Note: This post, originally scheduled for Thursday, was unavoidably delayed by a certain fourteen month old baby, who shall remain nameless.  Said toddler is determined that he can no longer sleep unless he is draped all over his mother and nursing at 45 minute intervals all. night. long.  This has, understandably, put a crimp in the writer's blogging, which inevitably happens at 11:30 at night.  We appreciate your understanding, and we now return you to yesterday's regularly scheduled blog post. 

Heard today from my adorable heathens children:

Ashlynn (age 6) upon coming home from school:  "Mom!  It stinks so bad outside!  It's like someone farted all over the entire world!"

Yes, she is my child.  Because after all, at our house, farts are nothing if not both hysterically funny and incredibly stinky.

Abby (age 8) in the middle of an argument while practicing the violin: "MOM!  (stomp foot.) I know you're right! (Huff, puff, roll eyes.)  I just,  (weeping and wailing,) don't want, (gnashing of teeth)  to admit it!"

Well,  at least she's learning the important lessons early in life.

Max (age 14 months): "Ball!  Ball!  BallballballballballballballballballballballBALL!"  (Hey cut him some slack, he's only fourteen months, and only has about 6 words.  But it was pretty funny watching him throw the ball around the kitchen then run and pick it up, only to throw it again.)

I love my crazies.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Note to Self

Dear Self-

Next time, when you check the weather forecast, and the National Weather Service warns you that not only is there a major snowstorm coming, but heaviest snow is going to be from approximately 6-7am and center right on the highway you drive on at 7am on your way to violin lessons, do youself a favor:


Stay home, tucked safely in your bed, away from all things violin, music, and anything with the words "Parley's Canyon" and snow in them.  You will save yourself a five hour round trip with cranky kids, sore hands from squeezing the steering wheel to within an inch of its life, and several years' worth of twitching from PTSD any time the weather forecast has snow in it. 

(Is it spring yet?)


Monday, January 18, 2010

Wonders Never Cease

Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, I present to you my first ever pie made with homemade pie crust.  That's right.  I made a blueberry pie, including a crust from scratch.

I must be channeling my mom or something, because not only did I make a pie that would have made Betty Crocker weep because it was so good, but I also taught four violin lessons, practiced with my own daughter, (who is sounding pretty darn amazing on the Vivaldi concerto she's working on), did two loads of laundry, cleaned out my refrigerator, made a complete nutritionally balanced dinner, and prepped and taught Family Home Evening. 

Yes, it's a good thing I had that Diet Coke, or I'd be translated right about now.

And I fully expect to wear my pajamas, eat leftover pie for breakfast and not do a single productive thing for the entire rest of the week. 

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Writer's Block

You know how some people have songs that get stuck in their head and no matter what they do they can't get rid of them?  I have things that I need to write that are not leaving me alone. 

I hesitate to even talk about it, because it's so cliched.  You know, the stay at home mom who turns into a casual blogger, who then decides she's a brilliant writer and wants to write the GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL and land a huge book contract.  I don't think that I'm a brilliant writer, although I have fun blogging.  I don't intend to write a novel, at least at this point.  But I do have ideas and part of articles that are bouncing around my brain, tormenting me.

So I think the only thing to do is sit down and write them.  I have at least three articles I need to write, all very differnt, all three are outlined and taking shape.  I know exactly where I'm going to submit them, and had a very emotional, spiritual experience that told me I need to write one of them as soon as possible.

But I have a million excuses.

I have no time.  (Of course I have time.  I have time to sit and waste on Facebook...)

I have a baby who doesn't let me use the computer without screaming.  (OK, this part is true.  But he takes a long nap in the afternoons and sleeps at night.  Once again, this speaks to my lack of time management skills!)

I have nothing unique to say. (Maybe, maybe not.  Except if that were the truth, I don't think that I would be feeling so strongly about it.)

I think what it comes down to is that I'm a little nervous.

All right fine.  I'm scared stiff.

Scared to put myself out there.  Scared to be rejected.  Scared of the sheer amount of work it will take with little to no reward. 

But maybe if I start getting all of this out on paper it will stop tormenting me and let me sleep at night.  

So here's to writing.  And a brand new kind of adventure. 

Oh, and a minor update.  (Because I know you were all sitting around holding your breath wanting to know the health status of my family.) Everyone is well. The viscious stomach flu made it's rounds through our house, sparing no one.  We each took our turns laying around the house moaning for 24 hours or so, then we were done.  And there's a strange kind of relief in knowing that all five of us were sick, and now there's nothing else that nasty flu bug can do to us!  And as a bonus, there were no trips to the Dr, urgent care or ER. Hah!  (And if I'm back in 6-8 hours to amend that, you have my permission to mercilessly rub it in my face.)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Spoke Too Soon...

Yeah.  Remember a few hours ago when I said this: "My girls seem to never get sick."  Well, you should never, ever, ever say stuff like that out loud.  Or type in it your blog.  Because I'm convinced the Gods of Irony (you know, they're the ones that make up the word "poopie" for word verification when you're commenting on someone's post about potty training) are sitting around just waiting for someone to make a rash statement like that so they can proceed to work their evil magic and then sit around and have a hearty laugh at your expense. 

I bet the conversation went something like this:

Irony God #1: "Hey guys, did you see what Stacy just wrote on her blog?"
Irony God #2: "Heh, heh.  She said her girls never get sick."
Irony God #3: "Well, you know what would be really funny?  If both her girls got sick at the same time."
Irony God #4 "Oh! Oh!  And they should get sick after they both go to a party full of first and second graders and eat roughly their body weight in Oreos and popcorn."

So we're now the proud (?) parents of two more barfers.  Although to look on the bright side, we've only had to strip one bed so far.  At least my girls are old enough to understand "If you're gonna do it, do it in the bucket." 

And Tom and I are wondering how long it will be before we're the barfers.

What, me worry?

Warning: this blog entry contains graphic descriptions of motherhood that may or may not result in a desire to cover your eyes, lose your lunch, or swear off having children forever.  Read at your own risk.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

Before Max was born, I had very little experience with sick kids.  My girls seem to never get sick.  (Quick!  Where is some wood when I need it to knock on?)  Sure, we had our share of sniffles and even an ear infection or two, but if they get sick, it seems to always be minor and over within a day or two. 

Then there's Max, who possesses a great gift for the dramatic.  He's never met a cold, sniffles, ear infection or flu that he didn't like and didn't have to have.  And because it's Max, and because he has a history of having his head cut open,  spending weeks in the PICU, and every medical test known to man, I tend to overreact when he gets sick.

So yesterday, I notice that after a brief two or three respite without snot pouring continously out of his nose, that he is, once again, snotting like a fountain.  I immediately imagined the ear infection that was sure to follow, which would lead to the bad reaction to antibiotics,  resulting to the rushing to the ER in the middle of the night, etc. etc.  (What was that I said about a gift for the dramatic?)  After a few deep breathing excercises, I calmed myself down by thinking that maybe this time, a snotty nose would just be a snotty nose. 

Except this is Max.  And me.  So it's never really that simple.  It all started about 11 am.  Fountains of vomit.  All over me, all over him, all over the carpet.  I changed him, I changed me, I tried not to lose it myself.  Then as I was trying to save the carpet, he filled his diaper.  So I changed him again.  As soon as I got him dressed, his timer went off.  (Because of course, he couldn't possibly time it so that I didn't have to change everything again!) More vomit.  More clothes changes.  More carpet scrubbing.  You would think at this point I would be smart and put him either in the bath or on the hardwood floor.   Unfortunately, it takes a little while (and apparently three rounds of puking, clothes changing and carpet scrubbing) before I get the picture.

He proceeded to throw up three more times while in the bath.  At this point, my panic button was fully pressed.  It didn't help when I called the pediatrician and her advice was to rush him right in.  I was imagining the possibility of dehydration from all the vomiting, the possibility that he once again swallowed something that was poisoning him, or worst of all, the possibility that his intercranial pressure had spiked and we were going to have to be rushed into surgery.  (I'm telling you, this boy has completely messed with my head and my confidence in dealing with simple illnesses!)  I was about to cancel my whole life and rush to the Doctor's office when he started spitting bathwater at me and giggling.  I figured if he was still laughing, he wasn't too terribly sick.

I proceeded to grow at least 15 new gray hairs when, after I got him out of the bathtub and dressed in his 4th change of clothes of the day, he proceeded to curl up on the floor and fall fast asleep.  Anyone who knows me and knows my kids know that normally it takes nursing, rocking, singing, bribing, fake sleeping, standing on my head and an engraved invitation from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir before my babies decide to go to sleep.  So the fact that he just decided to fall asleep like, say, a normal baby had me all manner of concerned.  Then he proceeded to sleep for four hours.  It was all I could do not to wake him up every 20 minutes to check his vitals.  Every crazy possibility there was cycled through my head, and I was convinced we were going to be spending the night in the hospital.

Except then he woke up at 5:00, begged for his sippy cup, nursed like a fiend, ate a huge amount of pasta for dinner, and has been fine (and destroying the house) ever since.  As long as you don't count the ever-present fountain-o-snot.   Stinker.

So today, I resolve to stay in my pajamas as long as possible, take a morning nap, not clean up any vomit, and not envision hospital stays for snotty noses.  Might be a resolution I can keep.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Very Important Questions

We interrupt this regularly scheduled "New Year's Resolution" or "Year in Review" or "My favorite posts of 2009" post to bring you these very important questions. 

First: Why is it that, despite a wide range of beautiful, age appropriate, developmentally stimulating toys that we have all over the house to entertain the baby boy, he only wants to play with the things that aren't toys?   Maybe I need a good cardboard box to distract him from the iphone, the Blackberry, the laptop and the remote control!

Second, and most important: Why do my Rice Krispie treats always turn out hard and stale instead of soft and gooey?  I follow the recipe exactly, and as soon as they cool, they taste like cardboard.  I can make gourmet 4-course meals out of virtually nothing for my family, but I can't make soft Rice Krispie treats.  (And I really, really wanted some...)

Okay, I know there's some seriously smart people out there.  Someone needs to save me from a lifetime of stale rice krispie treats and hiding the remote control from the baby. Who's day is it to know everything?
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