Nursing Strike

2.21.2015

Monday at 4 pm Little Bear decided that he didn't want to breastfeed anymore. That was 5 days ago. Every time I lay him down to eat he rolls over, arches his back, and refuses to latch.

He's in a full-blown nursing strike.

For those of you who don't know a nursing strike is anytime a baby who was previously breastfeeding successfully suddenly decides not to nurse. This is different from self-weaning. A baby who is outgrowing breastfeeding will gradually wean himself off the breast by just eating less and less or eating less and less often. However, a baby who just suddenly stops eating usually means something is wrong.

The tricky thing is trying to figure out what exactly.

Ear infections, teething, disruption in schedules, stress, sickness, hormonal changes in the mom, or just plain stubbornness can lead a baby to give up nursing for a time. Nursing strikes can last 2-5 days on average, but I've been reading stories of babies who refused to nursing for anywhere from 10-30 days!

Ane while you as the mom can try to diagnose and treat the underlying problem, you can pump and give him milk through other means (bottles aren't preferable in this case), in the end your only real recourse is patience. You just have to wait.

It truly is a heartbreaking kind of patience. I see the frustration in his eyes when he looks at me. He cries and runs after me, just like he always has, but now when I sit down and snuggle him close he pushes me away and cries. When I pump milk he jumps with giddy excitement, and eagerly drinks down every last ounce I give him, but it's over too quickly. I just can't pump enough to satisfy him. I need him to nurse.

But he won't, and I can't make him.

I've prayed for days that God would make him nurse, to heal his pain, calm his fear, give me wisdom. I've also given thanks over and over again for the last 11 months of breastfeeding. It has truly been a gift.

Breastfeeding advocates will sometimes have you believe that breastfeeding is something moms should take pride in. We should feel good about ourselves because we are doing the best thing for our babies. It's an empowering message, but it doesn't always make sense.

I can't will myself to produce milk. I can't make my baby latch. I can't force breastfeeding.

I can choose to give of myself, give my body for the sake of my children, but in the end, it's only by the grace of God that I have anything to give.

These past 5 days have humbled me as I am once again reminded that even in this very personal decision, any glory I have truly belongs to God.

It's also softened my hearts to moms who have struggled. I can imagine the pain of holding a 2 week old baby who needs to nurse, but can't latch. I can imagine the fear that grips a mothers heart when all her dreams of "doing the best" just seem to be causing so much pain, when her little one eats and eat and eats and is never satisfied.

I know the pain of feeling like a failure and of being rejected, the fear of wondering if her child really is going to be okay.

It may seem dramatic to some, but for many moms those late night struggles with breastfeeding bring out emotions and fears that seem so big and overwhelming. You feel so helpless and desperate to do the right thing, if you can ever figure out what that is!

This past week has challenged me to stop taking the breastfeeding for granted. Those moments I have with my children, the bond we share is a precious gift, and it's only by the grace of God I've enjoyed it for so long.

It's also reminded me that my identity as a mom isn't wrapped up in how I feed my children. I know it  seems obvious, but sometimes when we face these kinds of emotional challenges it's easy to forget. In many ways breastfeeding defines the way I care for my babies. It's my go to method for feeding, comforting, and bonding with Little Bear.

However, with that being temporarily taken away, I've had to stop and remember that there is more to our relationship. He still needs me and nothing can ever change the fact that I'm him mom. I know him best and love him the most. He still cries for me and finds comfort giggling in my arms. He still wants to be with me every minute he's awake, and when he gets stuck under a chair while chasing a roll of toilet paper, I'm the one who comes to get him out. 

He's still my baby and he still needs me. He'll always need me, whether he keeps breastfeeding or not. 



How We Do Family Devotions {2 & 3-Year Old Style}

2.15.2015


For the past few months we've been doing "Bible Time" at our house before bed. We've always known we wanted to do family devotions, and we've struggled in the past, trying to get the toddlers to sit still and listen and knowing that it was really beyond them.

But sometime after the first of the year it clicked, and now they love it!

In fact, Sunday night we were getting home late from church and it was well past bedtime, but wouldn't you know my kids were NOT going to go to sleep until we'd had Bible Time.

I know a lot of parent's struggle with doing daily devotions with their kids, but I think sometimes we make it out to be a lot harder than it has to be, especially with little ones.  (I don't actually know anything about older kids so feel free to leave me a comment and tell me how it is!) 

I'm going to break down the how and whys of what we do (and why I think my kids like it so much!), and then I'd love to hear your suggestions for things we could incorporate in the future!



Reading the Bible (2-3 mins)

We start with reading our Bibles. In the beginning my husband and I just had our Bible out and would read a chapter out loud while the toddlers sat on their beds looking at picture books. They LOVED this method, but we really wanted them to be more a part of the Bible reading time so we got them each their own Bible.


As a matter of principle, we've decided not to call Bible storybooks "Bibles". They of course have a place in any child's library, but we really wanted our kids to understand that the Bible is completely unique and different from any storybook. It's the Word of God.

Their Bibles look just like ours. No picture or games or anything fancy. Of course, they were also cheap which makes them perfect for little hands to hold and turn pages without any fear of ripping pages.

My 2-year-old girl loves her Bible, and is perfectly content to sit and turn pages while we read. My 3-year-old boy isn't as thrilled. I've recently shown him how each page has big chapter numbers on it and he will quietly count the numbers on each page or identify the letters in each of the books titles. 



We read about 12 verses each night out loud, about half a chapter. Because my husband and I like to memorize scripture, we sometimes use this time to review chapters we already know and we "read" them from memory while the kids sit in our laps with their Bibles. 

Our goal during this time is NOT to make sure my kids comprehend everything what we are reading. That will come as our kids get older, but for now we are content that they simply learn the importance of Bible reading. We want to model a love of God's Word. We want them to understand that this is a different kind of book, and associate the Bible with good things (affection from mom and dad, security and calm before bed, laughter and smiles while we sing) and learn how to respect the reading of God's Word by sitting quietly and treating our Bibles gently. 



Singing and Dancing (5 mins or more)

The second half of Bible Time involves lots of singing and usually dancing. Okay, there sometimes more dancing than singing! We usually let each of the kids pick a couple songs each, and they almost always include Deep and Wide and The Hokey Pokey (What? Didn't you know the hokey pokey was a praise song?!?!)

Then my husband and I suggest songs we'd like the kids to learn. We pick a new hymn or praise chorus each week and teach them the words. The first few days they just mumble along with us, but by the end of the week they are singing most of the words! So far they know Go, Tell it on the Mountain, Soon and Very Soon, Oh, How I Love Jesus, and a few others. 

I've been really surprised at how quickly they pick up new songs and how they have become some of their favorites. The kids don't seem to know the difference between kid songs and "church songs". They just like to sing! 

We usually try to pick hymn we are going to sing the following Sunday in church (it's easy for us since my husband is our song director!), but any song will do. My husband and I are both musically inclined, so we don't use any music for this time. However, if this is a struggle for you there are tons of great kids worship cds you can choose from! We love the music put out by Seeds Family Worship. The tunes are catchy and the lyrics are straight from the Word of God. 

Scripture Memory (1-2 mins)

This is the area where we are still trying to improve. We have several options for memory work and we yet to determine which option will work best for us. Right now we are simply practicing our weekly memory verses for the Awana program at our church.

Of course, at the young ages of two and three, I know the real goal right now is to learn the habit of memorizing. They may not remember the verses several weeks from now, but that's okay! As they grow older, we will build on that foundation and reap the fruit of those precious word sown in love. 


Prayer (and Saying Goodnight)

After we read our Bibles, sing, and say our memory verse, we tuck the toddlers into bed and turn out the light. It may seem like a lot since I've written a rather long blog post, but in reality it's usually only about 10 minutes or less. We read a little, sing a little, and giggle while we say our verse, then it's lights out. 

We discovered that by turning the lights out our toddlers are more likely to be still and focus while we pray. My three-year-old will word his own very sweet and simple prayer. 

Dear Jesus.
Thank you for this day. Thank you for mommy and daddy. Thank you for prayers. Thank you for songs. Thank you for my possum.  Thank you for new toys. Help me to sleep. In Jesus Name, Amen.

My two-year-old does best to repeat the words that I say, keeping it very simple and relevant to her. We have a similar format we use every night, but we do change the words up here and there. 

We often pray together as a family at meal times and during those times we do our best to model "real" prayer. My husband or I pray out loud while everyone else listens or prays quietly. At bedtime though our goal is that we teach them to pray for themselves. It's often comical and will go on for quite some time but it truly is precious. 

I cherish those few short minutes we have together in the evenings. I love the laughter and fun we have together! 

If I had to pick one thing we've learned when it comes to having a family devotional time with toddlers, it's this: keep it fun! 

Finding that balance between sitting quietly (for a short time!) and then getting to sing and move and play together makes all the difference in the world. Focus on your long term goals, and don't stress about getting it ALL right, right now. If you start when they are young you have plenty of time to learn and grow together. 

So tell me! What do you do for family devotional time?

Breastfeeding Little Bear

2.08.2015

My sweet Little Bear turns 11 months old this week, and so I thought it was time to do a quick breastfeeding update. I've written in the past about my experience breastfeeding Rooster and breastfeeding Cupcake, but as every baby is different, I thought I'd share my experiences with breastfeeding this time around. 


For the most part, nursing Little Bear has been easy and even fun. I enjoy nursing...when things are going well anyway. Of course, there are always rough patches with nursing. 

In fact, I equate breastfeeding to exercise. It's really tough in the beginning, but once you get used to it you really start to enjoy the process. You will definitely encounter setbacks along with way though, like growth spurts and teething and middle of the night feedings that just won't end. However, you push through, keeping your focus on what motivates you most.


And just like exercise, there are days I really don't like breastfeeding. I really wish my body was just my own, and that my Little Bear wasn't so attached to me. There have been times when I was just counting down the weeks until I can officially BE DONE!

However, the benefits of breastfeeding are worth those daily battles. It's worth getting up at 3 am and never being away for more than a few hours at a time. This little boy will only be a baby for a few months more, and if I quit I can't get this time back. These are precious days, and I'm going to do my best to enjoy them.

Rough Patches

One of the unique things about breastfeeding Little Bear has been my struggle with plugged milk ducts. For about two months I had one plugged duct after another. They started out rather mild, but toward the end they were coming with milk blisters and severe pain. Each one would make nursing uncomfortable and of course, Little Bear would get frustrated because the milk wasn't coming fast enough.


I got pretty good at treating them myself, and it wasn't uncommon to find me standing over the kitchen counter with my boob in a coffee mug full of warm salt water (I can't believe I just said that on the internet...), but when that I didn't work I finally caved and called a lactation consultant.

I'm not sure why it took me so long, except that every time I would get to the end of my rope the clot would dissolve and things would go back to normal for a few days. The lactation consultant recommended I up my water intake and start talking a supplement called Lechitin. I haven't had a plugged duct since, and I've told everyone I know about my miracle cure. Don't suffer. Get help!

Nursing in Public

Over the past three years of breastfeeding, I've definitely gotten more comfortable nursing in public. This time around I completely gave up wearing a nursing cover at all. It's more comfortable and more practical to just feed the baby, anytime, anywhere, without all the added fuss of a cover. 

I've nursed in church several times, out to eat, in other people's living rooms, really anywhere. In the past I was the kind of person who felt the need to leave the room and find somewhere private, but I honestly got tired of missing out on life. I'll still leave the room or go someone quiet if it's best for the baby, but I no longer feel uncomfortable if I choose to stay with everyone else. 

I have not given up on modesty however. I use the "two-shirt method" of nursing, meaning I wear a nursing tank top with a built-in bra all the time. Literally, all the time. In fact, I'm not even sure I still own a real bra. I just wear tank tops. I can pull whatever shirt I am wearing up and unclip my tank top for easy access. Very little skin is showing and as long as baby is latched on you can't see a thing.  Of course, you can't always trust babies to stay latched on, so I keep my hand under my shirt so I can pull the edge down if I need to. This system works really well for us, and most of the time I doubt the casual observer would notice I was nursing at all. 


The Big Kids

One of the biggest changes to breastfeeding this time around is how aware of breastfeeding my older kids are. Rooster (3 years-old) understands breastfeeding to mean, "Mom is feeding little brother. Quick run the other way and get into trouble!"  Cupcake (2 years-old) understands breastfeeding to mean, "Mom is feeding little brother. Quick let's go help her and fight for her attention!"


She will sit right next to the baby and distract him, climb in my lap while my hands are full, insist on giving all of us one kiss after another, and asking repeatedly if I'll get up and get her a glass of milk!

I got the greatest laugh when she came up to me a few weeks ago and said, "Mom, you buckle?"

Confused, I said, "What, sweet girl? What do you want?"

She proceeds to climb in my lap, and tries to lift up my shirt while saying, "Buckles! You buckles."

I couldn't stop laughing. I'm not quite sure why she thinks they are called buckles, but the name seems to have stuck, at least a little while.

Her interest in nursing is bittersweet for me. I love that she is learning about motherhood from an early age, and my prayer is that as she grows breastfeeding will continue to feel comfortable and normal for her. I want her to have confidence if she ever gets the opportunity to nurse her own children.

However, I also realize that at just barely two-years-old, she could still be nursing herself. I weaned her at 13 months and more than once I've wished I could have that time back. It's a lesson I'll remember for Little Bear. As tiresome as breastfeeding can be, I don't think I'll be so quick to let it go. I really want to "let him be little" as long as I can.


Weaning

This brings me to weaning and solid foods. I've done different things with each baby, but over the years I've come to prefer a baby-led weaning approach to solid foods.  In fact Little Bear didn't have solid foods at all until he was 9 months old, and even then it was very little and mostly to keep him occupied in his high chair during meal times. 

As he learned the skill of self-feeding though, we started branching out into new foods and regular meal times become a part of his daily routine. Now at 11 months old he gets finger foods at each meal, and mostly eats whatever we do.

Our go-to foods for snack time are pureed pumpkin, pureed prunes, pretzels, apples, bananas, blueberries, ground meat, scrambled eggs, sweet potatoes, pickles, crackers, and applesauce.  And most recently I discovered he's a big fan of spaghetti squash!

I do very little baby food, and hardly ever pack food with us when we go places. I can almost always find something he can eat, even if it's just a crust of bread to chew on!

This laid back approach works really for us because it requires very little planning, something my tired mommy-brain appreciate. It is however messy. Sometimes very messy. But hey, my toddlers are quite messy too, so cleaning up one more kid after meal time is really no big deal! 

Beyond One Year

With Little Bear's first birthday looming on the horizon I know that our nursing relationship will change. He gets more proficient at self-feeding everyday He's always on the go, and sometimes getting him to stop and nurse is a lot of work. He just wants to play!


However, as of right now I don't intend to offer him milk in a sippy cup anytime soon. I'd love for us to nurse until at least 18 months or so, but time will tell if we meet that goal. I've read tons of research on the benefit of extended nursing, and would love to give it a try, but I realize that it might just not be the right fit for us and for our family. We'll take it one month at a time and just enjoy the process. 


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