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Between a crib and a hard place

I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a while—life has been a little crazier than usual. We’re in the middle of some financial difficulties. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that things have changed for us in major ways. It’s not just simple stuff—like having to limit my random expenditures or to make my own coffee instead of stopping at Starbucks (I do that anyway!). I have to cross things…lots of things…off our grocery list (meat, organic anything, everything unnecessary). I layer and wash the same few outfits over and over instead of buying new clothes for our growing boys. In general, I just don’t spend money unless absolutely essential.

My husband is working pretty much all hours (evenings and weekends) when I’m not at work, and I’m working multiple jobs outside of my main one. Anytime I’m not working at the office or to the beat of an aerobics CD, I’m with the kids. This translates into little time for me and even less time for blogging…especially because the housework just keeps falling further and further behind.

Don’t worry. We’re okay…just a little busier than normal.

So, in the name of saving time, which is the theme of my life right now, I thought I’d share a short update…

Co-sleeping update

My toddler son would rather fall asleep soaked in both his own and my or my husband’s sweat than to fall asleep alone. He has to have some physical connection (a leg, arm, etc.) to one of my or my husband’s body parts in order to fall or stay asleep. (See photo.) And, he still can’t sleep without a pacifier (which we do not even allow as an option in the daytime!) After nearly 17 whole months (since his birth) of trying variations of bassinets…and cribs…and crib mattresses on the floor without the crib, my son still has yet to sleep a single night by himself, without the presence of me or my husband. Really.

And, yes, we have tried…and tried…and tried. There have been tears and screams, hours of them some nights, sometimes coming from both toddler and parents…well, mama at least.

One day, we just stopped fighting it. We both figure that when he’s old enough to understand that it’s way uncool to sleep with us, he’ll eventually sleep in his own bed. Fingers crossed. (Can you please cross yours too? I could use some extra help in this area.)

Until I find another free moment, take care!

A (longish) note about co-sleeping

The act of putting my 13-month-old son to bed ranks on two of my personal top-five lists. Sometimes I would say it’s right up there with chocolate chip cookie dough hot fudge sundaes and post-workout highs among the things that give me utter pleasure. Other times it ranks somewhere among Spam sandwiches and scrubbing out toilets on my things-I-try-my-best-to-avoid-at-all-costs list. Fortunately for both me and my son, we have more ice cream/endorphin-ranking kind of nights. And, I have to say it’s nice to be presented more often with a sundae when you’re fearing a meat (?) product with a gelatin glaze. (To my dismay, I ate Spam quite a bit when I was a kid, and I still have nightmares about that mysterious gel).

What going to bed looks like for us

On a good night, Jacob eats a solid meal, lets me clean his teeth and gums, doesn’t put up a fight when I’m changing his diaper or his clothes, and smiles when I lay him down and put the pacifier in his mouth. (Yes, he still uses a binky to sleep—I was a little opposed to it at first, but it settles him better than anything). Then, I lie down with him; he snuggles close, wraps his tiny little arm around my neck, and drifts off to sleep within five or so minutes. After I’ve gotten a good dose of cuddling, I slip out of the room for a couple of hours to revisit my task list until it’s time for me to hit the sack myself.

Other nights are far more painful. Some of the challenges are him refusing to eat beforehand (and then being famished and restless as my husband or I struggle to put him to sleep, only for him to wake shortly after and want to eat), doing everything in his power to keep us from cleaning his teeth and/or changing his diaper and clothes, or playing, exploring the bedroom, or just crying inconsolably instead of going to sleep. (Just in case you missed it, let me re-share a link to a new book I find hysterical that reminds me of how I sometimes feel at such times: http://www.amazon.com/Go-F-Sleep-Adam-Mansbach/dp/1617750255#_. Make sure to preview a page from the book—you won’t quite get the essence of it until you see a few lines of the masterpiece. Oh, and a word of caution: if you are anti-curse words, then don’t bother clicking on the link…wouldn’t want to offend anyone.)

Why isn’t our son sleeping in a crib?

It’s funny because my husband and I never even considered pulling my stepson, Jackson, into bed with us. Ever really. When Joe (husband) and I got together, Jackson was just a bit older than Jacob. But, he was a totally different type of toddler. Among the many differences, Jackson always slept very well in his crib. We could put him in there when he was awake, and he would drift off to sleep on his own for three-hour naps or twelve-hour nights. The idea of having him sleep in our bed never came up.

In fact, when I was pregnant with Jacob or even for the first few months after his birth, if someone had asked me if I would consider having Jacob sleep in the same bed with us, I probably would have said, “why would I do that?” That all changed when I went back to work.

Jacob had been a good sleeper for the first few months of his life. He was easy—I put him down in his bassinet around 7 or 8PM, pulled him out when he woke to nurse around 2 or 3AM, and then put him back in again until he awoke around 6 or 7AM. That worked for my entire maternity leave….but, then I went back to work full time.

Suddenly, we were separated from each other for 9, 10, sometimes even 12 hours at a time on the days I taught aerobics right after my day job. All at once, Jacob had no interest in going to sleep or staying asleep during the nighttime. He wanted to nurse all night long. He would do anything he could to be close to me…probably because he never saw me during the day. It was amazing how much he would fight sleep when I put him in his bassinet. Then, he would wake soon after and cry until I nursed him. And, the cycle would repeat again, and again, and again until I was hardly sleeping at all. The night I threw in the towel and pulled him into bed with me was the first night we both slept a solid 6 hours. And, after he woke to nurse and I turned on my side so he could get his early morning meal, we slept for another 4. Since that night, we’ve never gone back to sleeping apart. Jacob now sleeps 11 to 12 solid hours each night in our bed (without nursing.)

Cost and benefits

One annoying thing about co-sleeping (one of the terms used to mean “babies or kids sleeping in their parents’ beds”) is that mommy or daddy has to sort of be on call all the time. When the kid is safe within a crib, you can worry a little less. For instance, I’m typing now to the white noise of the video monitor next to me. I glance over every few minutes to make sure Jacob’s still on his side or tummy and not on all fours crawling toward the edge of the bed (well, what’s left of my bed at least, now that the frame is removed. It’s really just our mattress with rails we added so he doesn’t roll off. Unfortunately, Jacob can pull up on the rails and flip over them–not safe at all.) We also have a gate at our door so he can’t get out of the room.

Also, as I mentioned earlier, we have to be there when he falls asleep. This means my whole night gets pushed back sometimes (more than if I were putting him in his crib at a certain time and expecting him to fall asleep on his own). And, yes, once we’re all in bed, having a child between mommy and daddy pretty much squelches any potential for intimacy in the bed (although my husband and I have devised our own plans for saving our sex life, which I’ll spare you).

The upsides are: like I said, I work five days a week and go to the gym (my stress prevention and relief) a lot in the evenings until close to Jacob’s bedtime. Through the week, I hardly feel like I see him. So, I really cherish time to be close with him at night. Plus, most nights everything works out well. Once he’s asleep at 7PM or so, we don’t have to worry about him, except to keep the monitor on high volume, so we know if he were to wake. Finally, we all get a great night’s sleep (in spite of the occasional kick in the stomach or bonk on the head.)

Co-sleeping, bed-sharing, sleep-sharing, whatever you want to call it, it’s what we do. And, some people think it’s weird or that we’re spoiling our little one because of it. Maybe. I think it’s more simple than that: it’s just making everyone happy and finding a way we all can get a good night’s sleep. And, apparently, in most cultures around the world, babies sleep with mommies. Regardless, it’s what works for us. For now at least. Just thought I’d share.

The Little Things

The post below is part of the Carnival of Breastfeeding. At the end of the post are links to the other participants and their posts on extended breastfeeding. Please visit their blogs after you finish reading mine!

One of my favorite times of the day is the middle of the night. Like clockwork, around 3:30 every morning, I wake to tiny hands on my waist and the sweet voice of my 11-month-old son singing “mamamama.” From my side, I turn toward him slowly in my bed without knocking him down—these days I wake to him standing, facing me, using my shoulder or my hip as a ballet bar for quick and tiny pliés. As I pick him up, lay him next to me on his back, and whisper in his ear his favorite line that he’s heard thousands of times, “are you a hungry baby?,” he kicks his legs excitedly and squeals. I lift my pajama shirt, he pops on for his early breakfast, and I doze off to the rhythm of his sucks and swallows with his warm little body close against mine.

I didn’t know I would nurse this long. Although I had planned to heed the American Academy of Pedicatrics (AAP) recommendation to nurse “for the first year and beyond,” I honestly wasn’t sure I’d make it. Though I had excellent breastfeeding support in the hospital after my c-section (not an elective procedure—I had to endure 40 hours of labor before surrendering to it—another story for another day), I had millions of questions when I got home. While pregnant, I read several books on nursing, which certainly helped. Still, there was so much I didn’t understand. I remember asking myself hundreds of times: “how can a natural process come with so many questions?!” For me, the main challenges were too much milk (I was engorged a lot at first and my milk would choke my precious newborn because it came out so fast!). Some other challenges were a breast infection (mastitis) I got sometime around my son’s three-month mark, the biting that began (and thankfully ended shortly after) the appearance of his first teeth, and then the heat I took in general from my family, co-workers, and friends—especially those from past generations—for “inconveniencing” myself with nursing when “formula is just as good.”

The kicker for me was when I went back to work full time after my four-month maternity leave (a godsend). This was the most challenging period of my breastfeeding days thus far. Bringing my pump and all its tiny parts to work, and then finding time to assemble it, use it, and wash it several times a day between meetings and deadlines was tough at first. On top of that, the first week I was back to work, after months of sleeping in his bassinet seven to eight hours a night without waking, my once good sleeper began waking every hour or two of the night and refusing to go back to sleep until I nursed him.

Fortunately, it all got easier. If you are a mom in some challenging phase of breastfeeding, I tell you that with confidence—it gets so much easier! I still pump twice a day at work, which I admit I don’t love. That’s one part of the breastfeeding process that I doubt sincerely I will miss. However, my frustration with the process has dwindled. Now that my son eats solid foods and has spread out his nursing sessions, I only need to pump twice a day. Moreover, my (male) boss is used to my office door being shut a couple times a day and to me having to step out of meetings to take care of “mommy duties”. As for the nighttime feedings, after several nights of getting little or no sleep after pulling baby out of his bassinet and into a rocking chair to nurse him every few hours, I decided it was time for him to sleep in our bed. That way, he could nurse when he wanted, and neither of us had to get up. Months later, that’s still how we do it.

“Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you will look back and realize they were the big things.”—Unknown

This has been one of my favorite quotes for years. I’ve reflected on this quote many times since my son’s birth: when he was a teeny tiny newborn that would cuddle up in my arms for hours at a time, when he first began smiling and then laughing, babbling, crawling, standing, and pointing. There are so many precious little things that I’ve made sure to treasure, knowing that although they are all short-lived, these are the things that I will look back on as meaning the most.

The choice to nurse is no little thing. Ask any mom who wakes several times a night to hungry cries or who pumps three times a day, five days a week. But, nursing is something that brings so many little moments to be cherished. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the excitement in my son’s face when he knows I’m about to feed him, his loving gaze into my eyes while he’s nursing, or all those times we have snuggled close to each other, skin to skin, and my milk was his lifeline. I imagine, years from now, when I wake to the digital 3:30 on my alarm clock and my son is asleep in his room, I’ll think of what it was like when he was nestled against me as a baby and drinking from my body. And it will be a big thing.

The post above is part of the Carnival of Breastfeeding. Please use the links below to hear from other participants in the Carnival on extended breastfeeding.

Elita @ Blacktating: The Last Time That Never Was

Diana Cassar-Uhl, IBCLC: Old enough to ask for it

Karianna @ Caffeinated Catholic Mama: A Song for Mama’s Milk

Judy @ Mommy News Blog: My Favorite Moments

Tamara Reese @ Kveller: Extended Breastfeeding

Jenny @ Chronicles of a Nursing Mom: The Highs and Lows of Nursing a Toddler

Christina @ MFOM: Natural-Term Breastfeeding

Rebekah @ Momma’s Angel: My Sleep Breakthrough

Suzi @ Attachedattheboob: Why I love nursing a toddler

Claire @ The Adventures of Lactating Girl: My Hopes for Tandem Nursing

Elisa @ blissfulE: counter cultural: extended breastfeeding

Momma Jorje: Extended Breastfeeding, So Far!

Stephanie Precourt from Adventures in Babywearing: “Continued Breastfeeding”: straight from the mouths of babes

The Accidental Natural Mama: Nurse on, Mama

Sarah @ Reproductive Rites: Gratitude for extended breastfeeding

Nikki @ On Becoming Mommy: The Little Things

Dr. Sarah @ Good Enough Mum: Breastfeeding for longer than a year: myths, facts and what the research really shows

Amy @ WIC City: (Extended) Breastfeeding as Mothering

The Artsy Mama: Why Nurse a Toddler?

Christina @ The Milk Mama: The best thing about breastfeeding

TopHot @ the bee in your bonnet: From the Mouths of Babes

Beth @ Bethstedman.com: Extended Breastfeeding: To Wean Or Not To Wean

Callista @ Callista’s Ramblings:  Pressure To Stop Breastfeeding

Amanda @ Postilius: Nursing My Toddler Keeps My Baby Close

Sheryl @ Little Snowflakes: Tandem Nursing- The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Zoie @ Touchstone Z: Breastfeeding Flavors

Lauren @ Hobo Mama: Same old, same old: Extended breastfeeding

Tanya @ Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog: Six misconceptions about extended breastfeeding

Jona (Breastfeedingtwins.org): Breastfeeding older twins

Motherlove Herbal Company: Five reasons to love nursing a toddler

Mama Alvina of Ahava & Amara Life Foundation: Breastfeeding Journey Continues

Mamapoeki from Authentic Parenting: Extended Breastfeeding?

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