Sweet Sleep: Nighttime & Naptime Strategies for the Breastfeeding Family

Every now and then I read a parenting book that makes me think: “I must give someone a copy.” La Leche League International’s Sweet Sleep: Nighttime & Naptime Strategies for the Breastfeeding Family had me at the introduction. I mentally listed every mother I knew who consciously seeks to parent gently, rooting her decisions in instinct and evidence.

Written by International Board Certified Lactation Consultants and La Leche League Leaders Diane Wiessinger, Diana West, Linda J. Smith and Teresa Pitman, this book is likely to stand out from any other baby sleep book you’ve come across. The authors easily offer research in one hand and common sense in the other. Full references are available throughout and studies evaluated. But it is not at all an academic text book. Sweet Sleep somehow manages to be thorough without being heavy.

In true LLL style, mothers’ stories feature throughout. The aim is never to preach or prescribe any one way of doing things. Information and experiences are simply shared and I believe that this book will greatly encourage and help many families adjusting to life with a breastfed baby.

Although the book offers various sleep solutions, it is unashamedly pro-bedsharing. It starts off with “emergency bedsharing” tips for parents desperate for sleep. It details how to make your bed safe for your baby and what criteria needs to be met to minimise risks. These are summarised as “The Safe Sleep Seven”:

“If you are:

1. A non-smoker
2. Sober and unimpaired
3. A breastfeeding mother

and your baby is:
4. Healthy and full-term
5. On his back
6. Lightly dressed

and you both are:
7. On a safe surface

Then your baby in bed with you is at no greater risk for SIDS than if he’s nearby in a cot.”

Sweet Sleep goes on to discuss what’s normal for baby sleep, how babies are wired and how we are wired as mothers. It also gives ideas for the role partners or nighttime helpers can play. The “Alternate Routes” chapter is particularly interesting, looking at how supplementing at night (with breastmilk or formula, bottles or at-breast supplementer) works, nighttime options for premature babies, multiples, babies with special needs and adopted babies.

“It’s your right and privilege to hold your baby as much as you want, and it only does good things for you. Spoiling? Can’t happen at this age, neurologically, biologically, or emotionally. So go ahead and enjoy your baby.”

When my copy of Sweet Sleep arrived in the post, I skipped straight to the chapter on naps. Sleep at night is pretty simple for us. She sleeps in our bed and even though she usually wakes up at least a couple of times a night now, it’s usually a simple affair of flopping out a breast and drifting back to sleep.

Naps, on the other hand… We never really decided what we were going to do about them. We just knew that we spent way too much time stressing over them with Talitha and were unwilling to do that again with Ophelia. Many months in, I stopped fretting and stayed with Talitha for naps. So this time we skipped the fretting and Ophelia just ended up in a sling or in arms.

Not only does Sweet Sleep present babywearing as an option for naps but it explains its benefits, why we naturally fell into this pattern and why it feels so good.

There will come a day when I don’t want to do this for every nap or won’t find it practical. I know that. I do get touched out. I have another child. The book offers ideas, too, for being “separate but not solitary” which I’ll probably give a go in time, including a few that worked with my older daughter.

“Nights can be hard for new parents. But it makes much more sense for us to adapt a short span of our own lives to responding to our babies’ needs than to force our babies to adapt to our needs during such a vitally important and once-in-a-liftetime part of their development.”

Naturally, the book discusses concerns about sleep training with honesty and compassion. It gets into what’s involved and its potential effects on infant development, family relationships and breastfeeding outcomes.

That’s not to say that this a book without a range of solutions. Things do change as babies get older and Sweet Sleep discusses night weaning among other nighttime parenting ideas. There are also some very sensible sections on looking after yourself and maximising your own sleep.

I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of what’s going on in this book because there is a wealth of information for a multitude of situations, whether you’re out working or at home with your baby. It was necessary for such a book to be written. We’re fortunate that it’s been published now.

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Pinter & Martin Publishers sent me a copy of Sweet Sleep: Nighttime & Naptime Strategies for the Breastfeeding Family for the purposes. I honestly love it, cover to cover.


Breastfeeding – both mysterious and normal

Breastfeeding is kind of mysterious. I find myself thinking this every time I look at the folds of my five-month-old baby’s Buddha body. Where is all this fat coming from? How on earth is she growing so long? How do these calories, these nutrients magic their way from my body to hers?

Most of the time I don’t even notice I’m breastfeeding her, partly because my three-year-old is a hilariously energetic “look at me” distraction and partly because breastfeeding is working as it should this time, so it’s kind of just normal. Just as I couldn’t tell you how many times I picked Ophelia up yesterday, I’m none the wiser about the number of feeds that happen day to day.

Even with my first baby, though breastfeeding was a source of grief and fear and hope in the early months, putting her to the breast felt the thing to do, whatever the fuss, however recently her last feed was, whatever time of day or night it was, however surely it seemed that my breasts were failing their primary purpose.

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“Breastfeeding on demand” was only something I thought about because others commented on what they saw me doing. I never really made a conscious decision to do it.

And I’m glad I never gave it much consideration either way, because if I’d kept a breastfeeding schedule, if I’d tried to pick apart this biological mystery with a clock and pen, there’s no way I would have breastfed my way through low milk supply. My tongue tied baby and I would have missed out on something I wanted so badly to give us, even though I couldn’t have explained to you at the time what that “something” was.

Now that I’m breastfeeding a second child, I see even more clearly what that gift is. The mystery isn’t just in the food my body is giving hers. So much more of me pours into her than just milk.

Actually, scratch that. I’m not going to call breastfeeding a gift as if it’s a nice extra only some mother-baby pairs should have. This is our joint right. That’s why it hurt my heart like hell when it was going wrong last time. That’s why I don’t even think about it this time, while it’s going well, while it’s normal, while we have what’s ours.

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Happy World Breastfeeding Week!


Let’s share some positive public breastfeeding stories

In the first few months of Talitha’s life, I was pretty nervous about breastfeeding in public. I’d even go as far as to say that I felt a bit panicked about it in the very beginning. I know I’m not alone in that.

Chats I’ve had with first-time pregnant mums have usually revolved around this worry of “too much” being seen and becoming a target for some form of harassment.

Every time I read about a woman being asked to move or leave because she is breastfeeding or being told something equally discriminatory, I feel weirded out and alarmed that this is still happening.

In this day and age when we should know better, people are still treating mothers and their children as second class citizens.

However, these stories also make me worry about women who already feel uncertain about breastfeeding in public. It paints the world in an unnecessarily hostile light.

I’m not saying that there aren’t ignorant people who will make breastfeeding mothers uncomfortable. I’m saying that they aren’t the only people that exist.

I also think you’ll probably be happier breastfeeding when you’re out and about if you don’t believe that every eye is disapprovingly on you.

So, I thought, why don’t we share some positive stories about breastfeeding in public? I’ll tell you mine and then you tell me yours? Maybe they’ve happened to you, someone you know or someone you’ve seen. I’ll start.

Positive stories about breastfeeding in public (2 of 2)

For one thing, I’ve never had anyone say anything disapproving to me in public about breastfeeding. Not one single time. Not even when I was pregnant and breastfeeding a toddler (though we didn’t often do that outside the house, admittedly).

I kept rehearsing my rights in the early days so I would be ready if someone ever told me to go use a toilet but it never happened. Actually, once someone did suggest a toilet but that was because I was panicking about finding a private place.

I’ve also had many women of my grandmothers’ generation take the time to approach me and compliment me on breastfeeding. The first time was when I was breastfeeding Talitha at a few days old in The Mall at Cribbs Causeway.

I’d somehow ended up on my own with her and found the nearest bench to breastfeed her (there’s a parents’ room but I didn’t know that then). Two elderly women came up to me to see Talitha. They both gushed, one of them saying: “It is so good to see you breastfeeding your baby.”

When Ophelia was two months old, I fed her in a ring sling on a bus. When she’d finished, I adjusted her back upright and got ready for our stop. Another older woman seated across from us exclaimed: “It is wonderful to see a woman breastfeeding!” These are just two instances but there have been many.

Positive feedback has also included getting a thumbs up from a woman pushing a pushchair past us, many, many warm smiles from strangers and lots of women of my mother’s generation telling me their own breastfeeding stories.

I’m sure there have been other occasions I’ll probably remember after publishing this post but I’ve shown you mine so…you show me yours. I’m hoping others will have good experiences to share.


Snoob – review and giveaway

Snoob calls itself “the stylish breastfeeding scarf”. It’s basically scarf meets nursing cover. When Snoob got in touch, asking me to review one and give one away, my first thought was honestly, “Omg, people are going to think I’m telling women they need to cover up.” Which, if you’ve been here before, you know I’m not.

In the past I’ve felt pretty gung ho about free range boobs. I still think it’s sad that we live in a hypersexualised culture where people are so weird about breasts and public breastfeeding. The only way for that to change is for more women to just nurse their babies whenever, wherever, however.

That said, three things have happened in the last few years to open my mind about products like this. One, I’ve kept meeting pregnant women who are considering breastfeeding but so worried about their breasts being seen in public. And I kind of think, hey, if being discreet makes them comfortable breastfeeding then who actually cares? Two, I’ve had another baby and been reminded of how awkward it can be to latch a newborn, especially if you’re somewhere where you feel exposed. Three, I’ve been to loads of weddings where I’ve ended up wearing my one and only nursing dress because it’s awkward getting my GG’s out the top in plain view.

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I feel like the Snoob is a good option for any of those scenarios. It’s compact and pretty enough that you loop in over a couple of times and it’s just a nice, lightweight scarf but voluminous enough to cover as much of your baby as you want when you unloop it. That’s pretty useful if you have a distractible baby and because it’s already around your neck, you don’t worry about flaying hands pulling it down.

I like that it’s not a big apron thing that draws the attention it’s trying to deflect and that it’s something you can wear after your breastfeeding days are done. I do think they could do with some bolder colours (the colour featured here is orchid). The make-do part of me says, “Oh, but you could just sew one” but the realistic part of me knows that with all the stuff that goes on around having a baby, I probably wouldn’t. So I reckon it’s got gift potential.

The Snoob retails at £25. Enter the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win one and comment to tell me which colour you like best in the Snoob store.

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Tandem breastfeeding – the early months

I transferred to hospital a few hours after Ophelia’s home birth because the midwives were unsure about the severity of my tear.

So, Talitha, who’d been at her grandparents’ house during the labour and birth, first met her new baby sister at the “hopsital” as she calls it.

She’s still a little confused about that. Sometimes she’ll say that Ophelia came out of my tummy at the “hopsital” and other times she’ll say that it was in the paddling pool in our livingroom (it was a real birth pool, by the way).

Anyway, she was so excited to see Ophelia, who was snuggled up in the stretchy wrap. She exclaimed, first thing: “Mummy, your baby is not in your tummy anymore! Your baby is in your sling!”

After the excitement of checking out the new baby settled down, barely, she wondered if she could have “milky”. I think I must have been feeding Ophelia at the time because I somehow ended up with one at each breast.

Laurence wondered if I’d want a photo of this first tandem feed but I asked him not to. It felt awkward and strange. I endured it for a while but then nursed them separately which felt much better.

Over the next few weeks, I kept trying to feed them together in hope that we’d all three get a nap, to include Talitha when she seemed to feel a bit left out or because I’d started nursing Talitha and suddenly Ophelia needed me.

It was frustrating for all of us. Ophelia needed a lot of support and kept slipping off. Talitha couldn’t get into a good position. I felt touched out and stressed in a way I’d only experienced while breastfeeding in the first trimester.

I felt angry at Talitha for being so demanding. I found her crying annoying. Ophelia’s cries drew all my compassion. Breastfeeding Ophelia was so lovely, so natural, all I wanted to do. Breastfeeding Talitha was a chore.

The nursing aversion was powerful. I wanted to throw her off me. To walk away from her. I felt guilty for feeling this way but, looking back on it, I was incredibly hormonal and still trying to find some balance.

Everything rushing through my body was telling me to prioritise the newborn who was utterly dependent, needing everything from me. My mind knew that my older child, only two-and-a-half still needed me too, especially now that her world was changing.

Friends who were breastfeeding supporters offered wisdom and empathy. Laurence was very supportive too. He took Ophelia at bedtime so I could spend that special time of day with Talitha and give her a bedtime feed.

I decided to limit her time at the breast for both our sakes. First it was three times a day, then two, morning and bedtime. Then I started counting to ten when it got uncomfortable. At first she would cry every time I asked her to unlatch.

I felt awful about it so would let her go on some more but then she kept pushing for more and I kept feeling like it was all too much. So I began to stick with ten for consistency.

It felt like an endless cycle and I dreaded feeding her, knowing it would only end in tears as she would go on and on, breastfeeding for far longer than her newborn sister would if I’d let her, which I just couldn’t bear to do.

Many times, I wanted to wean her on the spot. I talked to a few women who’d breastfed beyond infancy or tandem breastfed to get some ideas and encouragement. They reminded me that it was still really early days and that things would change and settle. I knew they were right but it didn’t feel that way at the time.

And I’m not sure when it did but it has settled. Breastfeeding Ophelia is still a dream. Breastfeeding Talitha twice a day is mostly manageable but sometimes quite lovely too.

It’s mostly just for a few moments, actually. She usually decides she’s had enough before I have. She’s also started asking for other forms of comforting if she’s sad, hurt or unwell in the day (times when I would nurse her if she asked) though she will still have the odd feed in those instances.

She is three now and I veer between thinking she’s weaning and that she has time yet to go. I know that I am encouraging weaning by placing restrictions but that feels right for us.

It also feels right to continue to allow this to be a gradual thing. She said something yesterday which convinced me again that it is so. I told her that it is alright for her to start doing more things for herself, without my help.

She replied: “I am big but I am still little.”

Yes, yes you are, my little big one.

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This post had a giveaway attached, hence some comments are a little random.


Breastfeeding and Birth books for children – review and giveaway

It always surprises me how interested children are in reading about the everyday. As in, I think we’ve probably read a book about going to the library – at the library. Books can powerfully demystify potentially scary or confusing experiences like going to the dentist or feed their natural curiosity about things like plane journeys.

That’s why I love these two books published by Pinter & Martin: Monica Calaf and Mikel Fuentes’ You, Me and the Breast, and How You Were Born. We’ve had You, Me and the Breast for quite some time and will be donating the copy Pinter & Martin sent us to our local La Leche League group.

It’s one of Talitha’s favourite books. She will request it over and over, given the chance – usually wanting Daddy to read it. So it’s given me the giggles hearing Laurence read: “When you came out of my tummy…”

To be honest, I didn’t really “get” it for a while. It just seemed weirdly over-factual for a children’s book, if that makes any sense. But now that she’s at the age where she’s asking questions about everything and we talk about things that she did when she was a baby (mainly because she has a baby sister), I can see the appeal. The Picasso-style drawings seem more adult than kiddy, really, but she likes them.

How you were born

I like that the baby grows into a child who is clearly a child but still breastfeeding. She can identify with that and, even if she couldn’t, because it shows how normal breastfeeding past infancy is. It’s also great that it ends with the boy not needing to breastfeed to sleep anymore. It’s a hint that he’s on the path to weaning but that it’s not a sudden thing. For us, that’s been a part of our conversation around weaning and that it will some day happen.

As for How You Were Born, I think we love it equally. There is so much to talk about in the images and it gave us lots to chat about regarding Talitha’s birth as well as Ophelia’s. The birth described is natural, straightforward and at home.

It may not be exactly the way it happened with both of them but it’s a lovely image of birth that I’d like her to have. I love that contractions are described as waves. All in all, birth is not at all painted as something to be feared but a beautiful, peaceful and powerful experience. I love that this is her introduction to the process.

Talitha reading

We’ve already read it many times and this quote gets me each time:

“They say that the two most important days
in your life are the day you are born
and the day you find out why.
We will always be with you on this journey.”

Pinter and Martin is giving away a copy of each of these books on this here blog as part of the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt. Comment and tell me what you want your children to know about breastfeeding or birth and enter the Rafflecopter widget below.

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Giveaway ends midnight Tuesday 8th July 2014. Winners will be contacted shortly afterwards. UK entrants only.

The books retail at £6.99 each but with code “HYWBBLOG200” you can get £2 off per book plus free postage when you buy directly from Pinter and Martin.

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Breastfeeding the second time ’round? Support still needed.

A few friends were surprised that I was worried about breastfeeding the second time around. Sure, they knew I’d had lots of difficulty getting breastfeeding off the ground with Talitha (tongue-tie, domperidone, pumping, SNS, supplementing with expressed milk and some formula – it was harder than giving her birth, in a way). I think the fact that we’d got there in the end and were still breastfeeding at heading towards three made people think I was a bit old hat at this nursing thing.

I, on the other hand, couldn’t wrap my head around what I’d do if the same problems arose a second time. I also wondered whether there was more than tongue-tie to our story since it had taken such effort to get my milk supply up and since Talitha has always had issues with her latch, and still does. I prepared myself for the worst, telling myself that at least this time I’d spot a tongue-tie sooner, this time I knew how to get the most out of pumping, this time I’d bypass bottles for an at-breast supplementer right away.

But, more important than any of that? This time I had support around me. I volunteer as a breastfeeding peer supporter. It’s meant that this time I’ve had a lot more knowledge than I started out with last time. I also have friends who are breastfeeding peer supporters, breastfeeding counsellors and lactation consultants. I knew that it would help to have other eyes on our situation. More than that, I knew I’d need sisterly and motherly help when I was feeling vulnerable or frustrated in this new breastfeeding journey.

Ophelia was born four months ago. It shouldn’t have surprised me, but she is such a different baby. She hasn’t had the breastfeeding problems her sister did. In fact, she’s piled on the pounds. I have no idea what she weighs as she’s not been weighed for two months, but she’s a proper Buddha baby. It’s incredible to me that she’s managed to grow so much just on my milk, invisible and unmeasured, straight from the breast. From the start, there’s been no question that she’s getting lots of milk. Her poo changed from meconium to bright yellow on Day one.

Yet I still worried. I dug out my copy of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding again because I needed its reassurance. I worried when my supply settled down and my breasts no longer felt full, even thought I knew that they were doing what they should. I worried at each growth spurt when she would feed on and off for hours on end, even though I knew how normal this was. I worried about colic, about cluster feeding. I was paranoid about each weigh-in and what they would find, even though she was filling out before my eyes. And I am so grateful for friends who listened to me and reminded me that this was normal. I’ve been reminded of what power there is in knowledge and love.

I did initially have difficulty getting Ophelia to latch. It really threw me as I tried everything I’d learned about to try to get her to gape and take enough of the breast into her mouth but she just didn’t seem to know what to do. She was also pretty sleepy. A lactation consultant friend who had helped with Talitha, popped by to see what was going on, listen to me and suggest some a position I hadn’t tried. She also reassured me, which was probably the thing I needed most.

This experience has made me think that maybe we need to be really mindful that mothers who aren’t first-timers still need a lot of care. Even if things have gone well before, every baby is different and a new breastfeeding journey might throw up new challenges. Even if everything gets off on the right foot, looking after a newborn is still terribly hard work and we can still feel vulnerable. We can still need to be reminded of things. We can still need to be heard.

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This post has been written for the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt 2014. Enter the Rafflecopter widget below to win great breastfeeding-related prizes from sponsors like:

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