Adventures in Tandem Nursing: Frustration Builds

For the most part, I’ve tried to keep a positive attitude about tandem nursing, because I do think it’s a nice and important thing that I’m doing for my boys. But sometimes, I just need to vent about how very hard it is!

Since I was pregnant, I’ve started feeling bothered by nursing my toddler. The whole thing is often overwhelming to me, from his verbally pleading for milk to the way he wants to rub my face while he nurses. I know I should be thankful he’s not trying to rub my other breast while he nurses, but there is just something about the way he has been stroking my face with his dirty hand that freaks me out.

He doesn’t just want to nurse a little bit, as my oldest son did as a nursing toddler. He wants to sit and nurse for a half hour. I actually don’t know how long he’d nurse because I always cut him off at 20 minutes. I just can’t bear it more than that. I keep thinking, “Why does he need to do this for SO LONG?

Rationally, I understand that his world has been turned upside-down by getting a baby brother and he wants to know he can always come to me for comfort and all of those things. But realistically, my very-verbal 2.5 year old is spending hours each day pleading to nurse and, since I allow him one nursing session per day, he frantically gulps as much as he can when it’s his turn with Mama.

I’ve always told myself I’ll take this process one day at a time, and some days I just don’t let him nurse. If my newborn is going through a growth spurt or has been cluster feeding, I feel totally touched out and just don’t let my toddler nurse at all.

Sometimes, I try offering other things as a distraction. My husband asked my toddler if he’d prefer a milkshake or perhaps some chocolate milk, but he loudly declared that “milkies” taste better than any of those other treats.

I hear tell that kids undergo a shift as they hit their half-birthday. We are just a few weeks away from my son being 2.5, so today, I’m hoping for a shift. Maybe he’ll feel too independent to want to nurse beyond that, but at the very least I’m hoping the experience feels less…intense. Today I’ve said no to each request. Tomorrow I might feel better about it.

Have you tandem nursed your children? Leave us a comment to share how you handled frustration!

Book Review: Parenting in the Present Moment

I knew I wanted to review Parenting in the Present Moment: How to Stay Focused on What Really Mattersby Carla Naumburg, PhD, when I saw the Orange Rhino had endorsed it! (I’ve been reading a lot of Orange Rhino in an attempt to yell less…at my kids and just generally.) Parenting-In-Present-Moment-Cover-Small

This is a well-timed book for me, as I wade my way through parenting three children. In a sea of dishes and laundry and nursing sessions, it’s usually hard for me to be in the moment. I find I can’t focus on being with my kids because I’m distracted by thoughts of “what do I need to do for dinner?” or “how am I going to logistically go to the store for just eggs and deal with 3 carseats 2 times?”

The first two paragraphs of the introduction spoke to me immediately, referencing whining in the house, using our words, and remembering to take deep breaths! Like the author, I know that cracking jokes and having a positive attitude make life better, but I’m often too frazzled to do anything but yell at my kids to stop yelling.

I also find it difficult to take advice about meditation unless that advice-giver also has young kids–this author, a clinical social worker with two young kids, knows my struggles and so her writing speaks to me where I am. This book contains ideas and advice that seem approachable and possible!

Naumburg writes, “Mindful parenting is about remembering that in any moment we have a choice about how we engage with, and respond to, the details of our lives. And it all starts with a willingness to notice.” Notice–just show up, she tells us, because our children don’t want us to be perfect, they just want us to be there with them.

I love how each chapter and concept is paired with examples from her own parenting experiences (there is mention of refusal to put on shoes) and visually broken up into chunks. Sections like “slow down” and “self-care” are short and manageable to read in the small bursts of time I get to digest a book. It seems each time I pick it up and scan to find my place, a new piece of advice speaks to what’s going on with me at that time.

My favorite section so far is “Singletask.” I realized the other day that I am never, not for an instant, doing just one thing–because even when I’m sitting still, I’m also lactating for 2 kids. So knowing this, why am I also trying to unload the dishwasher while microwaving my kids’ hot dogs and packing lunches while eating breakfast? Why?

Within this section, Naumburg brings up the love-hate relationship she and I have with our smart phones. I’m so guilty of sneaking peeks at various apps while my kids perform medical examinations on me, checking facebook while I’m doing other chores. She has approachable and sensible ideas about this and all types of multi-tasking.

Parenting in the Present Moment has a heavy emphasis on how a meditation practice can change and improve all of our lives. Like many parents, the idea of finding even five minutes to sit privately and meditate seems daunting. I like this book because of the gentle reminders to take things one step at a time, and repeated ideas for ways to make a meditative practice work even amidst the lives of parents home with young kids. She is filled with great ideas, like taking a few mindful breaths before entering our kids’ rooms to wake them for school.

I look forward to finishing the book and putting some of her ideas into practice, starting most particularly with Three Mindful Breaths. It will be a much better experience removing socks from the toilet after I’ve taken three deep, healing breaths, right?

Have you practiced mindfulness in your parenting or found space for a meditation practice? Leave us a comment to share your experiences!

Donating Breastmilk: Tips for Stay-home Moms

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I’ve signed up to be a milk donor with the Columbus milk bank. I’ve got 50 ounces of breastmilk on ice so far–25% of my 200-ounce minimum donation!canisters of frozen milk

Because I stay home with my younger two kids, I’ve been finding it challenging to find time to pump spare milk for my own freezer stash, let alone spare milk for the milk bank. I’m not separated from my baby, so I don’t have a regular pumping schedule like I might if I worked outside the home. I wanted to share some tips that have worked well for me.

Enlist a friend. I have 3 sons, and they are spirited guys who just don’t like it when I sit down, let alone sit for about 20 minutes hooked up to a breast pump. I have a wonderful friend who comes over to visit in the afternoon sometimes, and she occupies my older boys while I pump.

Enlist the older kids. My boys, rowdy as they might be, love to help. So I invent ways for them to help me set up the pump. Sometimes they are actually helpful–they can each slip the tubing on to the pump motor and the oldest kiddo can plug the pump into the outlet. I try to get them to sing along to the pump motor or otherwise engage them in the process so they don’t run off and start hitting each other. We even look at the bottles together and make bets about which breast will express the most milk.

Take advantage of naps. This might seem obvious to some moms, but this is my first baby who actually sleeps. Neither of the older boys would be put down for an hour at a time, let alone sit happily in their bouncy chair while I pumped milk. My youngest baby does nap, and so when he’s been asleep for about an hour, I take advantage of this time and pump.

Keep supplies in the pump bag, ready to go. As soon as I wash the flanges and valves, I assemble them with the tubing and keep it all hooked up and ready to go. I even screw the bottles on to the flanges. This way, when I do find I have a few spare minutes to pump, everything is all ready to go and it takes less time.

Know your body. Most moms have the most milk in the mornings, but mornings are crazy hectic at my house and I’m just not going to be able to sit and pump milk when I’m packing lunches. The best time for me to pump is while my middle son is taking his afternoon nap. The baby is usually awake during this time, but he’s pretty content to hang out next to me while I pump.

Note that I could never have done such a thing with my older children–their temperaments just wouldn’t stand for it. So now that I have an actual chill baby, I understand exactly why I found pumping to be so frustrating with my other kids! Sometimes it would take me a week of daily pump attempts to get enough for one bottle for date night. With my older kids, when I was pumping I had the best luck right after my husband came home. That way he could hold and soothe the baby if he got fussy and I could pump without worrying that my baby was frantic.

Lots of stay-home moms pump the opposite breast while baby is nursing, but the logistics of that boggle my mind. I think I would need a third arm! Part of the problem for this method, for me, is that I have a very large bust and so I use both arms to hold baby and breast.

Have any of you managed to pump while staying home with your nurslings? Leave us a comment to share your best tips.

A (Pretty Good) Day in the Life with 3 Wee Ones

4am The baby wakes up to nurse and poop, but then we both fall back asleep.

6:30am The big boys have “slept in” but are now up and want to watch Curious George. We think this is a great idea, because it buys the rest of us 22 more minutes of sleep. We hear our eldest slide open the freezer to dig out waffles, which the kids eat still frozen while watching “Monkey George.”

6:52am the episode is over, so the older kids start to cry about something. My husband goes downstairs to make them more food while I take a shower. Without an audience! The baby continues sleeping.mother with 3 kids and a beer

7:15am I sit down to a plate of scrambled eggs I did not have to cook myself. The older kids are only moderately insane, have only splashed a little ketchup on the table, and agree to let me wolf down my food while sitting. The food is hot! While I’m eating it!

7:30am The baby has woken up and I’m nursing on the couch while trying to tell the older two boys to stop hitting each other and brush their teeth. I’m trying so hard not to yell or get impatient. Eventually, the oldest one goes upstairs to get dressed and brush teeth. His younger brother copies him.

8:00am All my sons are dressed, fed, and the ones with teeth have had them brushed. I tell my oldest he can play with the iPad before the school bus, but he gets distracted and both my big boys are playing Lego. I hurriedly load the dishwasher and toss laundry in the dryer before the baby stops being interested in staring at the wall from his swing.

8:32am We are jogging down the street, hoping the bus is running late today. The toddler is not happy to be buckled in to the umbrella stroller, the baby is zonked in the wrap carrier, and my kindergartener has anxiety he will miss his bus. But not enough anxiety to walk faster. We cross the street and trot down the hill, and the bus is running late, so the big boys walk in a circle around the stop sign pole until they feel dizzy and fall down.

9:30am I got the toddler and the baby loaded up in the minivan with snacks and spare diapers (but no wipes) and we’ve gone to the toy library to play for the morning. I find another mom willing to run across the street to get coffee for all the moms, but the espresso machine is broken at the coffee shop. I power through my disappointment by changing two dirty diapers using paper towels and tap water.

11:45am En route home from the toy library, I have been gifted a double car nap by the universe. I’m able to transfer the toddler to his bed, still asleep. I haul in the baby in his bucket car seat and park him by the couch, still asleep. I decide to eat lunch with two hands, make a phone call, and read one page of an article about maps in Smithsonian magazine.

12:03pm The baby is up and nursing, but I’m able to feed him quickly and he’s content while I fold laundry. So much laundry.

2:00pm For once, I don’t have to wake the toddler in order to pick up the kindergartener! He wakes on his own, in a good mood, and agrees to eat some food. Only two bites, but he’s eating! We color with markers and talk about elephants until it’s time to get big brother. I’m able to color AND nurse the baby, which I didn’t know before this day.

4:00pm All my sons are home and crying, because it’s 4pm and everyone cries at 4pm. I use television to get them to stop crying and I realize I have, for once, remembered to turn ON the crock pot filled with our supper! After serving the supper to the starving children, I’m informed that this food is disgusting. They run away to play something in the back yard. I take the baby with me to the basement, where I put him in another baby swing and I manage to use the rowing machine for ten minutes before my absence is discovered.

 5:03pm My husband comes home from work and convinces the big boys to sit and pick at their dinner. I sit on the couch with a beer my friend has brought over for me! I’m quickly discovered and my children join me on the couch. All of them. Life seems pretty good. 

How to Nurse (or Pump) at a Formal Function

I’ve been nursing for 5 years straight now, and have been to a few formal affairs in that time period. It always seems much easier in theory than in practice to nurse a baby (or pump milk for the baby) while surrounded by black ties and sparkly gowns. Pumping is way more of a . . . → Read More: How to Nurse (or Pump) at a Formal Function

Self Care for Mothers

I’m not the best at self care. I’m not alone in this–many, many sources discuss self care and how mothers aren’t taking the time to practice it. We’re so busy caring for everyone else in our families! But it’s so vital that we care for ourselves, fill our own tanks so we have enough . . . → Read More: Self Care for Mothers

Introducing Oren

I shared earlier that I was attempting a vaginal birth after 2 cesareans. I gathered up a super-supportive birth team who all knew what I wanted, that I had educated myself and weighed my options carefully and felt natural birth was the best choice for my baby and my body.

Prenatally, I exercised when . . . → Read More: Introducing Oren