Category Archives: toddler nursing

Nursing In The Dark

My son will be three in September. Nursing has been changing lately. Most of it is done at naptime and bedtime/wake-up. I realized today that I can’t remember the last time he nursed during the day. A couple of times I have asked him if he wanted to, when he was really upset and I sensed that nursing could help him relax. He declined. I know the way weaning usually works: there is a lot of back and forth. Nursing sessions aren’t just dropped overnight. So I’m not ready to say that he is never going to nurse while we’re snuggled up on the couch again. But I have no way of knowing for sure. Maybe he’s just done with it.

I feel proud of him for not needing that afternoon or mid-morning nurse with the urgency he did before. And I feel a sense of wonderment about it because my older son wasn’t at this point when he was this age. I feel a bit of sorrow too, of course—that bittersweet feeling you get as your child reaches a milestone.

So lately we have just been nursing in the dark. Sometimes it’s light enough for me to watch him nurse—other times not so much. In just a few months he might be done napping, and that session will slide away. Today I realized all this with a rush of feeling, and so I decided to take pictures of our naptime nurse, in the half-dark.

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Oh my child, growing, changing, loving, breaking my heart, putting it back together again.

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It Goes So Fast…I’m Holding On

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My two-year-old requires that I spend about half his nap lying with him/nursing him. Well, not requires it, but that’s how it’s always been. And if I don’t come to him, he will take a shorter nap and probably be cranky. So when he stirs, I come. I check Facebook, maybe try to write something (thank god for the “Notes” app on my phone), close my eyes for a bit.

At this point in my life as a parent (8.5 years!), I don’t really think about my  “parenting” choices, at least not in the way I used to when my first child was a baby. I obviously err on the side of crunchy/attachment parenting. But I don’t really think about it. What I do or don’t do is just…whatever. Just part of life. Nothing to be pored over or analyzed. It basically works, and if it doesn’t, I’m too tired to question it.

But it occurred to me this afternoon that there are a ton of parents out there who don’t or wouldn’t or simply can’t spend half of naptime lying there with their children. Some are working mothers, some have other kids to be with during naptime. Some have kids who have teddy bears, pacifiers, or blankets to cuddle with. Some just don’t have kids who need as much sleep assistance as my kid does. I totally get that. Every mom and kid does what works for them.

It was recently “Pajama Day” at my older son’s school. He was supposed to come dressed in PJ’s, with a favorite stuffed animal. Like his brother, he never had a teddy bear or another security object.

My son said, laughing, “I guess I’d have to bring you to school that day, Mom.”

He doesn’t sleep in our bed anymore (yes, they do eventually stop) but we lie together each night before he falls asleep and his dad or I (usually me) stay with him until he’s out.

My 2-year-old requires much more of me still. Naps, all night his body next to mine. I realize this level of need, sleep interruption, and closeness is not for everyone. I forget how strange it is to some people only because I have been parenting this way for so long and it feels like second nature to me.

Can I tell you why I do it? Yes, it started partly because I’m lazy, and going to my babies anytime they cried was easier than figuring out a different way to soothe them. Yes, I believe in breast as soother as well as nutrition source. Yes, it was just my instinct to do it.

But I also do it because I’m holding on. I’m holding on to their childhoods by holding onto them. My eight-year-old barely even wants to cuddle before bed anymore. I’m lucky if I get a second of it. Before I know it, he won’t even want me to lie near him. He’ll just go into his room, shut the door, and collapse into bed.

My two-year-old, though. He lets me hold him. He wants that. He’s small enough to still curl into me. His damp head in the May night still smells a little like a baby. OK, a lot. And I just don’t want to rush it. I can’t. It hurts my heart to think it will end. I know it will. I’m certain of it.

So, even though I sometimes get frustrated when my “off” time is interrupted; even though I sometimes feel touched out; even though I sometimes wish I could sleep alone, I go to him anyway. I lie there in the dark, mostly just waiting, sometimes just resting, often zoning out on my phone.

I’m taking him in. I’m stopping time for a second. I’m holding on.

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Spring Flowers & Sleepless Nights

This week was tired. This week was first spring flowers. This week was sleepless. This week was happily digging in the dirt. This week was new beginnings and tired ruts.

This week blessed me, and tested me. This week is over, and for that I am grateful.

My two-year-old did this weird thing where he alternated nights either sleeping like a log, or waking up like a newborn.

Half of the days this week I looked like this. Tired, haggard, beat.

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The other days we woke up and played happily in beautiful, bright spring.

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I have had this thought all week: parenthood is messy. It’s unpredictable. And all I can do is get better at accepting that.

I know my two-year-old is inching toward more of those good sleep nights. I know nightwaking in toddlers is normal (breastfed or not). I know I could try this or that technique to accelerate the process. I know it might work. I know it might fail.

Having gone through all these stages with my older son gives me a helpful perspective: no matter what you do or don’t do, all the stuff you are hoping will get easier (sleep, potty training, weaning, tantrums, etc.) has a way of working itself out in the end.

I still don’t know a lot about being a mom. I have only been at it for 8 years. But I know that some days I’ll be exhausted to the bone, and other days I’ll be running through fields of wildflowers with my kids (wouldn’t that be nice?).

So here’s to diving into the chaos. Letting go. Knowing that we know nothing. Accepting what is.

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Speaking of those hard days of motherhood, check out this piece I wrote for Scary Mommy. It’s all raw emotion, and I’m proud to have it featured on the site: On the Dark Days of Motherhood.

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When You’re a Touched Out Mama

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As soon as I got out of bed, my older son started playfully pummeling me, socking me right in the ribs. And just when I sat down to drink my tea, the two-year-old decided to marathon-nurse for 30 minutes. My tea got cold.

Then, as I was putting away the lunch dishes, my husband tried to pat my ass. I swatted him away like a fly. No!

Now my two-year-old won’t nap unless he’s sleeping directly next to me.

I love these people, and I love to be loved, but sometimes I am just TOUCHED OUT.

Case in point: this morning a miracle occurred. I slept in bed ALONE for two whole hours. The baby woke up early, my husband had no work, and bless his heart, he let me sleep.

I realized, it wasn’t just the lack of children (or husbands) touching me for those hours, or the very big need for sleep I have after weeks of broken sleep. Being tired and touched out is a real thing unto itself. But what I loved most about that (untouched) sleep was that it helped me remember who I am. I dreamt the dreams I wanted to dream (literally). I curled my body in my own position. I drank in the quiet, the autonomy.

When I am feeling touched out, it usually means I am stressed out, and that the role of wife-and-mother is suffocating me. It means I need some time to reconnect with myself—even if it means turning on the TV for the kids at a non-TV time so I can get on the yoga mat; even if it means shuffling out the door for a walk when my husband gets home and I should be feeding everybody dinner. Whatever it takes—just a few minutes of alone time works wonders. I start to remember who I am, and then I can give again to those I love. It’s worth the effort, the sacrifice—for them, and for me.

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I will also say this for you nursing mommies: the “touched-out while nursing” thing is REAL. It often gets worse as your nursling gets older. I have learned this from personal experience and from helping moms deal with this issue. It’s often exacerbated when your hormones levels are a bit out of control—like during ovulation, PMS, and pregnancy. Just knowing that this is part of the reason helps, I think. If it’s just a menstrual cycle thing, it will pass. Here is an article I wrote about dealing with those feelings while pregnant. Either way, breathing through it, acknowledging your feelings, and taking a bit of time to yourself can work wonders.

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30 Reasons My Toddler Wakes Me Up in the Middle of the Night

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You could say I’m a lazy parent when it comes to nighttime. I’d rather have my kids in my bed than have to get out of bed and tend to them. Probably at this point, my toddler would sleep better if he didn’t have me near him to bump into, and to remind him of his boob addiction. But, alas, every attempt at nightweaning that I have tried (OK, I don’t try very hard) just makes the two of us more exhausted, and when I’m exhausted, I just give up.

Then, there are a few precious weeks of decent sleep, and I think, “This isn’t so bad. He’s practically sleeping through!”

But then the crazy begins again. And I’m so tired I pour orange juice in my older son’s cereal (he used wake up as much as his brother, and now sleeps like a log, so there is hope). And I write a post chronicling all the many reasons I have been woken up in the middle of the night by my toddler in the past week.

Here it goes…

1. It’s too hot.

2. It’s too cold.

3. He wants to show his grandma the part in the book where the crane lifts the ice cream truck up into the air.

4. Boob.

5. Seltzer (is mine the only toddler who drinks seltzer?).

6. The seltzer I gave him an hour ago lost its fizz.

7. Water.

8. The water’s not cold enough.

9. Boob.

10. “I just need you, mommy” (stop melting my heart when I want die I’m so tired).

11. He wants to go back to the wedding we went to three weeks ago.

12. “Where’s Daddy?”

13. We need new batteries for his toy drill (thanks for the reminder, buddy).

14. Boob.

15. Other side.

16. “There’s no milk left, Mommy!”

17. “Where are you, Mommy?” (as I mentioned, I sleep right beside him).

18. “Don’t take me to the place where there are snakes” (this was many months ago, and he showed no fear at the time).

19. “I want a lollipop!” (half-awake, half-dreaming).

20. Kicking me in the head.

21. Kicking my husband in the head.

22. Kicking his brother in the head.

23. Can’t find his socks (he never wears socks to bed).

24. “I just need your milk, Mommy!” (I have been playing dead for the past few minutes).

26. “Can I please have your milk, Mommy?” (heart melts again—and where did this kid learn manners?).

27. “I want to watch TV” (NO!).

28. “No, Mommy, it really is morning.” (Have you ever tried arguing with a  two-year-old?)

29. “I want a granooool-ya bar.”

30. At 7am, when it really is time to get up, and I’m attempting to untangle myself from his arms: “I just want to sleep, Mommy.”

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I Nurse Him Because

I have heard it all about long-term breastfeeding.

“Stop nursing when he’s old enough to ask for it.”

“After a certain age, it’s for the mom’s benefit, not the child’s.”

“He’s never going to be independent.”

“As soon as he has teeth, you need to stop.”

“Inappropriate.”

“He’s just too BIG.  Only babies breastfeed.”

“It’s just gross.”

Etc.  It can get MUCH nastier than that too.

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This post isn’t an argument against any of that.  I don’t have the inclination or the energy to argue.

This is just me and my son, right now, 2 1/4 years in, what nursing means to us.

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The other day he hadn’t nursed quite as much as he usually does and when he finally started nursing, my other breast leaked right through my shirt. That hadn’t happened in many months, and it reminded me just how much nursing changes as you continue.

I’m not the leaky, milky mess I was when he was a newborn.   My breasts are soft, flaccid.  I can sleep on my belly now.  I don’t wear a nursing bra anymore.  My body is becoming more and more my own.

Sometimes he just wants to cuddle when he wakes up in the middle of the night. Sometimes he wants a snack in the afternoon, instead of our usual nursing session in the armchair.

It will be years before he fully weans, but in these subtle ways, it is happening.

I am grateful for these moments we have together, nursing. And sad (a little heartbroken) to see them go.

So here’s my list, off the top of my head, of why I nurse my toddler, right here, right now.

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I nurse him because his big hazel eyes lock mine for 10 minutes on a dark December afternoon

I nurse him because he is two years old and curls his soft, buttery body into my lap, kicks his legs up to my face

I nurse him because I nursed his brother and every day his brother needs me less and less (and some days more and more) and I miss his small body curled into mine

I nurse him because I used to watch my mother nurse my sister and she’d stroke my mother’s neck and play with her necklace and life was slow and quiet then

I nurse him because it reminds me take a break and sit for a while

I nurse him because he says, “Milkies, please,” and I like that he calls it that–his politeness is adorable

I nurse him because oxytocin-joy spreads through my body as he nurses

I nurse him because it allows us to linger in bed on weekend mornings and after his naps

I nurse him because it’s the easy way: easy to get him to sleep, to get him back to sleep, easy to stop a tantrum before it happens

I nurse him because I want to and he wants to

I nurse him because I know our time like this is short, his need for nursing temporary and outgrown in its own time

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I don’t enjoy every second of nursing him.

It would be strange if I did.

In the middle of the night when he pulls on my lips and eyelids and keeps me wide awake when everyone else is sleeping, I want him off me NOW.

But then he falls asleep and sighs and I smell his head that smells exactly like him and it’s just the two of us breathing together in the midnight winter night.

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I don’t think everyone needs to nurse their toddler, their preschooler, their child.

But I do know it is normal to do so, that suckling is a biological need that began with nursing, and nursing is the most natural way to fulfill it.

I know that nursing past a certain age doesn’t fit with everyone’s image of mothering.

That’s OK.

But this is what feels right to us, and many more mothers and children than you might expect.

And so, we nurse.

Like this.

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And like this.

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This is our normal, our reasons.

Our love.

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Would you like to share your reasons, the ones unique to only you and your child, wherever you are in your breastfeeding journey?  Comment below 🙂

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