Amy Beth

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Extended Breastfeeding and Weaning – Pt. 1

In the beginning…

Like many expectant mothers, I learned all about the benefits of breastfeeding early in my first pregnancy and quickly decided that’s what I wanted to do. I read the books and the blog posts about what a proper latch looks like. I knew all about how a mother’s body is miraculously equipped to change and adjust to nourish her baby at each age and stage. I learned how it has many emotional and health benefits for the mother as well as the baby. It was the obvious choice for me.

I also learned a lot about what a challenge it can be. How despite being the natural way to do things it does not always come naturally. How a poor latch can make it agonizing and ineffective and it can sometimes only be fixed with the help of a lactation consultant. How some mothers, no matter how dedicated they are, may not be able to produce enough milk to breastfeed exclusively. While I felt committed to the idea of breastfeeding, I knew that I should be prepared to face some challenges.

And face some challenges we did. It took what felt like forever for my milk to come in (all while the doctors were telling me that’s what my baby needed to be cleared of his jaundice). We had some struggles with latch at the beginning. I experienced both thrush and mastitis, neither of which make breastfeed particularly pleasant. And then there was just the fatigue of being constantly on call to feed a baby. During growth spurts it felt like that was all I did all day long, and I don’t care what the experts say about how breastfeeding should be painless when you’re doing it right; when you’re doing it almost constantly, it can hurt.

But my struggles were fairly minor in the grand scheme of things and we eventually figured it out. Nursing breaks became a (mostly) restful time for me to bond with my baby and overall we had a very positive breastfeeding experience. I reached a point where breastfeeding felt easy and natural.

My goal when I started out was to try to make it to a year. Other than my own mother, I didn’t know anyone personally who had made it much past that point, so I figured that would be the best that I could do. And the statistics backed that up. While about 80% of mother’s are breastfeeding when they leave the hospital, only 49% are still breastfeeding at 6 months, and only 26% make it all the way to a year. Among my friends, even those that were able to keep going past the first few months and establish a good breastfeeding routine would often comment that their babies weaned themselves by at least a year old when they started eating solids in earnest. I fully expected to experience something similar.

A year later…

So once Charlie reached his first birthday I quietly celebrated the fact that we had kept up breastfeeding for the first year. In fact, we were still going strong. Charlie still nursed several times a day, and though he was eating solid foods, we practiced baby led weaning and were very relaxed about how much he ate each day. I didn’t stress out about the solids he was eating because he was still nursing so well and I knew he was still getting plenty of nourishment from breastmilk. I knew that his solid food intake would continue to increase and become more varied, and his nursing needs would diminish. At this point it was pretty clear that we would continue nursing well past the one-year mark, but I still expected it to drop pretty drastically over the next year and figured he would be completely weaned well by the time he was two. By this time nursing felt so easy and natural to me that I didn’t feel any need to rush the weaning process or put it on a timeline. We were both happy with how things were going so I just let it be.

And a year after that…

Once we hit Charlie’s second birthday I found myself firmly in the camp of those that practiced “extended breastfeeding.” Charlie was still a big fan of mama’s milk and still asked to nurse about three times a day. For the most part I didn’t mind, but I was definitely in unknown territory. I didn’t know anyone personally who had gone for that long and I started to feel a bit self-conscious mentioning it to others. Would people think I was weird? Had I become one of “those” mothers? And even more pressing, would he ever actually wean himself? I realized I had spent so long expecting Charlie to just become disinterested eventually that I knew nothing about how to successfully encourage a child to wean. And honestly, at this point I was a little reluctant to try. Not because I wanted him to be attached to me forever, but because I had found breastfeeding to make so many things easier. It remained my one sure-fire method to get him to relax and get sleepy before bedtime. I knew that if he was hurt or sick that it would comfort him. And it was one of the only times in a day when he would actually be still and let me hold him for a while. I wasn’t sure that I was ready to give that up.

But once we became pregnant with baby number two I started to feel a bit more urgency to move the process along. First of all, although I knew tandem nursing was possible, it wasn’t really something I was interested in doing. But perhaps more persuasive was the fact that pregnancy had made breastfeeding pretty painful again. It was no longer a relaxing bonding time, but rather chore I had to brace myself for each time. I was also pretty sure that by this point I wasn’t producing much milk, either because Charlie didn’t need much anymore or because of the pregnancy, so I figured my body would be able to handle a transition to weaning pretty easily. But the question remained…how to do it?


Talk about a cliff hanger, huh? I found I had way too much to say on this subject so I’ll continue with some strategies that helped me next week. UPDATE: Here’s part two!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

These Days // 2

These days image

These days I am:

enjoying: a kid free weekend. My parents took Charlie to spend some time at their house, so Chris and I have had the whole weekend to ourselves. We went on one weekend trip without Charlie last year, but this is the first time we’ve spent time in our own home without him since he was born. It think it’s been a good time for everyone.

accomplishing: lots of little house projects that I never find the time to do with a toddler underfoot.

feeling: tired. It’s been a productive day!

anticipating: the arrival of our baby girl at the end of the year! We found out a few weeks ago that our life of cars and trains is going to be shaken up a bit by dolls and tea parties. We’re excited for the new adventure heading our way!


And here are some snapshots from recent days…

Itsagirl

We brought home some girly cupcakes to share the news with Charlie. While I couldn’t tell if he was excited about having a baby sister or not, he was definitely excited about having some cupcakes.

Moth

I found a pretty moth on my way home from work one day.

Selfies

Selfies with my boy

 

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Things that Keep Me Up at Night

The other day Charlie woke up at 5:30 in the morning. This isn’t all that unusual, and honestly, it’s not that much of a bother. I can usually go in, pat his back, give him a drink of water, and count on him to fall back asleep for at least another couple of hours (and I can get a bit more precious sleep myself). No problem.

But on this particular day I couldn’t go back to sleep. I was thinking about pictures. And journals. And memory keeping. And my complete and utter lack of any physical documentation of Charlie’s first years of life. I started to panic. I couldn’t remember Charlie’s first word. (It was “car”, my husband reminded me later. Of course it was.) I wasn’t entirely sure when he started crawling, or walking, or when he got his first teeth. I was starting to picture a future when my children wanted to know interesting details about their early life and they would be dismayed to find that their mother had NO IDEA. I might have been going a little crazy. I’ll blame it on the hormones.

So at 6:00 that morning I decided I needed to get on this. I had read about Project Life from a few different bloggers I follow, so I decided that seemed like the most realistic way to go about catching up on the past two years of missing documentation. Project Life is a system that is meant to be a simpler version of scrapbooking. You get photos printed out and slip them in pocket sleeves like a traditional photo album, but you mix in pretty journaling cards to tell the story behind the pictures. Official Project Life products have pocket sleeve pages in a variety of layouts so you can mix things up and keep it interesting. They also make several kits of cute coordinating cards and journaling prompts. The bloggers I follow get really creative with their layouts and some even design their own cards, so it’s a system that can be as simple or elaborate as you choose to make it.


Eliseblaha projectlife

This layout by Elise Joy makes good use of journal cards and shows a creative way to crop images to make use of different layouts.

Abeautifulmess projectlife

This is a layout featured on A Beautiful Mess. I love how the images follow the same color scheme.


Rather than the typical 12×12 inch album, I went with a smaller 6×8 inch size. I figured 12×12 would get too overwhelming – not something I need right now. I also like the fact that the albums are really just binders, so I can fill it with as much as I can get done, but if I don’t get all the way through two years I’ll at least have something and it won’t look sadly incomplete. I can also work out of order and rearrange pages as needed, so I can make a page for things I want to document now, while still catching up on the past.

I’m still waiting on my supplies and photo prints to come in so I can get started on my album, but I’m excited to get going. After I get a few spreads done and have a better idea of how realistic this plan is, I’ll share an update.

 

Here are a few other photo/life documentation ideas:

Artifact Uprising has really nice looking softcover books specifically designed for instagram photos. I think this could be really nice to make someday, it just doesn’t have the journalling aspect that I wanted for this project.

My friend Tina made a simple and cute pregnancy journal that she shared on her blog. I like that it was small enough to easily update on a regular basis. I could see this kind of photo journal working for a lot of special events in life.

 

 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Doll Hair

In order to help prepare Charlie for the impending arrival of baby #2, I decided he needed a baby doll. Being a boy, he doesn’t really have a lot of those, and therefore has no chance to practice being quiet, gentle and nurturing to his toys. A plethora of cars, trucks, and trains don’t exactly encourage that kind of play. 

So in my search for the perfect baby doll to be Charlie’s very own, I came upon Waldorf dolls. This is a particular style of doll that is used in Waldorf early childhood education. They are stuffed dolls, making them more cuddly than the average plastic-limbed doll. They typically have simple neutral expressions on their faces, meant to suit a variety of imaginary play situations. Waldorf dolls are usually handmade from high quality (and often organic) materials. All of these things are good. But the thing I love most about these dolls is the HAIR. 

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The doll makers I’ve looked at get incredibly creative with the hair on these dolls. It makes me want to get dreads and dye my hair in a multitude of colors. Could I pull that off?

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All the dolls I’m sharing in this post come from a doll shop called Bambolleta Dolls. They release a limited number of new dolls each week and they seem to sell out quickly. I didn’t end up getting Charlie’s doll from here because they are pretty pricey and don’t make many boy dolls, but I LOVE to look at them.

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I was so inspired by the hair that I wanted to try to make my own head of doll hair. So one evening I sewed together a quick sock doll and followed this tutorial on making a doll wig. I used a variety of yarn that I just had around the house and was able to complete the head of hair in just a couple evenings. 

Doll hair

Dollhair2

I know. Seeing my little attempt at a doll next to the professional ones is almost cringe-worthy. But it was fun to try a new craft. And you’ve got to start somewhere, right?