Thursday, March 24, 2011

Reflecting on Layla's first year

Layla Grace starts daycare next Friday....Seriously, where has the time gone. With Noah the year was SO long; yet Layla's first year has been so fast, I could have blinked and missed it! Part of that is probably because I returned to work when she was 8.5 months old and part of it is likely because having two kids makes you so busy that your head spins.

Yesterday I was watching Layla: she was holding onto the couch, tormenting her brother, when she just let go....she just tried to see if she could stand on her own without the support. She realized she couldn't quite make it yet and so she did a controlled landing to bring her back to her comfort zone. This is Layla in a nutshell: willing to dive headfirst into a new challenge, not caring about the danger aspect, but pulling back when it takes her a bit too far out of her comfort zone. I sincerely hope this is how Layla lives her life forever. Granted, the "diving headfirst into danger" aspect seems frightening - but what I truly hope for her is that she is not afraid to try new things and fail, but still be willing to pick herself up and try again another time.

Layla arrived into this world mad as hell, kicking, screaming and crying. When I tried to shush her to hear what the nurses and doctors were saying, she got mad and cried louder. This is a personality trait I can relate to, as Layla is my exact double in so many ways. She hates to be ignored, she wants to be the only one heard (or, at the very least, the loudest) and she hates when she doesn't get what she wants the moment she wants it. Luckily, I am able to see the silver lining in this personality trait too: as her bullheaded tenacity may get her far in life if she chooses to use it to her advantage. Who doesn't need to be stubborn and fierce at times in their career? Or when standing up for what they truly believe is right?

At first I described Layla as a fussy baby, but looking back I realize that an incorrect assessment. She isn't, nor ever has she ever been, miserable or cranky (illness and teething episodes aside). She merely wanted things done a certain way. Layla really found her groove right before I went back to work: sleeping better, eating better, playing better. It coincided with her increased mobility - which gave her the independence she craved.

Independent: It is the most perfect word to describe her. She isn't a cuddler, she hates to depend on me for food, she hates that she isn't mobile enough to take down her brother to get to his dump truck and she doesn't want our help getting her to sleep. She protests loudly at being strapped into a carseat or being forced into a snowsuit, as if to protest the act of doing something against her will. Similarly, diaper changes are a true test of patience, as you hold her ankles to lift up her bum and she spins around to escape. I always imagine that what she hates the most is being told to do something on our timeline, under our demands to best suit our needs. Luckily, I know that most toddlers hate this as well, so I know she will require a lot of independence as she gets older.

Looking back to this past year I have mixed emotions. On the one hand, I am so very sad that it has gone so fast because she is my baby and I really do feel like it went by in a blink. However, it means we are onto fun stages - I feel kids just get more fun as they age - and having watched Noah grow, I know that we are in for some fun times. I also know that daycare is going to age her and make her grow at warp speed so I expect my baby to be a baby no more in a few short months of daycare.

Yet, despite my sadness, I am so blessed and happy to have my little monster in my life. I call her all sorts of various nicknames: monster, tazmanian devil, trouble #1, etc., but I truly couldn't be more proud of the little girl. She came into our lives as a bit of a surprise but she is such an amazing baby girl. Sometimes, her "spirit" can tire you out and make you frustrated; but overall I really do appreciate that our baby has that personality. She is fun, carefree and yes, a little dangerous. She is going to be a nightmare of a teenager to raise, but I look forward to watching her try new things and one day learn to let go and stand on her own two feet...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Breastfeeding is like....

Having breastfed two children, I am acutely aware how different children can be. My two children are like night and day in almost every respect. Breastfeeding certainly has been no different in this respect.

Noah loved to nurse - he would spend all day at the breast as a baby. As he got older and went to school at a year of age, he still enjoyed nursing. We naturally cut out the day sessions, as he was at daycare - but he kept the morning, night and middle of the night feeds. In fact, until he was 14 months, he was up every two hours to nurse. Did he need to nurse every 2 hours at 14 months and 30 pounds? No way - but we did it because it was our cuddle time.

When Noah fed, he took his time - he enjoyed the cuddles and there were so many nights where he would nurse and sleep for three hours, while I sat in the lazyboy...not realizing how much time had passed because I was asleep too! We used to co-nap as well, and I would go down for quite a few hours just because he loved to nurse and sleep at the same time. If I wanted him to nap well, I had to go down for a nap too.

He naturally weaned himself when I was a few months pregnant with Layla - the taste must have changed because it was an abrupt end at 16 months. I was not ready for it to be over and mourned the end of that period of our lives. Especially since he was not an overly cuddly child, so I lost the only time he would let me hold him.

Layla....oh my beautiful Layla...breastfeeding her is like trying to hog-tie a rabid tazmanian devil and force feed it. She treats breastfeeding like it is the only way to get her nutrients and that is it. She has no desire to cuddle or spend hours at the breast. Since the day she was born, you couldn't force her onto the breast if she was upset or needed to nap. If she was not hungry at that moment, she would have none of it. Once she got teeth, she got even more brutal by ending sessions with a hard bite! She squirms, twists and pulls off. She slaps me in the face, fish-hooks me in the mouth, claws at my eyes and uses her nails on my flesh. She does not wake at night for mommy cuddles - she is another one who isn't terribly cuddly. In fact, if you happen to catch her at a tender moment and she agrees to hug you - once she realizes what is happening, she puts her hand on your face and shoves you away.

However, due to my obsession with breastfeeding, I have kept it up with Layla. I even pump at work daily so she can get a little breastmilk during the day while I am at work. She nurses only once a day now - at bedtime. I actually am shocked she still nurses. I am certain the end is going to come sooner than it did for Noah.

I remember reading a lot about breastfeeding a toddler, when Noah got over a year of age. I couldn't figure out why anyone would need to adjust how they fed their toddler just because they were older. Noah never moved when he fed! Sure, he got distracted, but I was able to work through it.

Now that I have Layla approaching the year mark, I can fully appreciate the complexities to nursing a toddler. Over the last few weeks Layla has developed a very strange nursing habit, that makes breastfeeding nearly impossible. She doesn't want to be held in the typical cradle hold (how dare I treat her like a baby?!?!). She now nurses by laying on my stomach, facing me - but she pushes down until she is dangling between my legs (I think she is trying to stand between my legs while she nurses). It is so strange to feed her like this - I almost have to put my legs straight out and let her lay on them - but she wants to dangle. So I nurse her by holding onto her under her arms and letting her hang.

Yet, despite the difficulties, I can't bring myself to be the one to end the relationship. I won't. Similar to Noah, I will let her dictate when she is done, no matter how old she is. So now I have to revisit those chapters and websites I read about nursing a toddler and work through this - which is really just another hurdle in the world of breastfeeding. It is never smooth sailing and problem free - but it is always a great time to cuddle...even if they fight it, they all eventually settle down once the milk starts flowing!

I am certainly learning a lot about how unique each child is when they breastfeed. It is giving me a greater appreciation of the complexities with breastfeeding - something I hope will come in handy as I embark on my lactation education.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Chivalry is dead

On my way to the subway today, I got shoved past and pushed (not so uncommon in this city) but I still bristle when it happens. Worse yet, I was waiting for the subway doors to open and beside me were a mother and her young son. I stepped aside to let them on and a 20-something male jumped ahead of her, as did about 4 other people. It wasn't until I stepped ahead of them all and offered her to enter the subway, that they were able to safely get on without the aforementioned shoving.

What is wrong with people?!?! How are these people raised? Is it so hard to be courteous, polite and chivalrous? I suspect that while many people allegedly teach their children to be polite and courteous, these behaviours are not being demonstrated by the people in their lives and thus, they don't feel the need to follow through with this behaviour.

I was raised to be polite and courteous, as most people are. I was also taught to respect those who respect you. Now, this is a source of disagreement for a lot of people who believe that you should respect your elders. However, my mother taught me that just because someone is older doesn't mean they automatically deserve your respect - especially if they do not respect you. Respect must be earned and as such, if someone is willing to treat me with respect then I shall treat them the same way.

I want to raise my son with a bit of chivalry: to hold open doors for people or to give a pregnant woman a seat on the subway. I want him to treat women (and men) with respect so that he will in turn be treated with respect. I live my life by being polite and courteous, as does Keith - so I can only hope that he will see that we "practice what we preach". Yet, if he goes out in the world and sees that no one else is bothering with these life lessons - will he just give up on them? How do you ensure this doesn't happen?

I want to raise my daughter to be equally polite and courteous - but to also learn to stand her ground if she does not feel she is being treated fairly or respectfully. Yet again, I worry that my lessons and modelled behaviour can only take her so far.

So I want to ask everyone: please teach your children these lessons, but also model them yourselves - because this is where I think we fail as a society. We are in such a rush to get to work, to get home...thinking our lives are more important than those around them, that we are only too willing to shove a pregnant woman out of the way or steal a chair from a young toddler riding the subway.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Breastfeeding and sleep - is it possible?

I was at a La Leche League meeting this week and one of the mom's brought a question forth to the group: as a result of her son's sleeping habits, she now co-slept and breastfed at night freely. The trouble was, when she tried to remove her breast from his mouth once he was asleep, he would wake up and instantly start hunting for the breast and wake up.

Around the room, many moms offered their advice, "Have you tried....", "What I used to do...", on and on around the room.

It got me thinking - if all the moms in the room had experienced this "problem" at some point in their breastfeeding relationship, why are we so quick to deem it a "problem" that needs to be fixed?

When I go online to different mommy chat groups you hear the same questions asked over and over through the years: "I can't get my newborn baby to sleep anywhere but on my chest", "my baby is biting me instead of nursing", "my baby seems too distracted to breastfeed" - nothing is unique, many babies experience the same situations.

I have always had a big issue with sleep training. Yes, I have heard that a rested mom is a happy mom and that makes for a happy family...thing is, I'm not buying it because, when I look at these situations and see so many children experiencing them over and over, it makes me think that perhaps there is a reason.

Children are born with the innate ability to do what they have to do to feel comforted and fed. They can't change their own diapers, but every single baby in the world will cry if they are left in a soiled diaper too long, or if they can't find the breast (or bottle) for milk. So if every baby in the world goes through similar stages, why are we so quick to jump in and fix it? Why must babies sleep through the night? Is that natural when breastmilk only lasts in their system 2 hours, formula only 4?When toddlers hit the 'terrible 2's' society is quick to brush off misbehaviour as a consequence of age, so why can't the same be said for newborn babies? Is it so hard to believe that it is (dare I say) normal for a mom and baby to co-sleep and nurse all night long because the baby and mom both seem better rested in this arrangement (why do you think the mom and baby co-slept in the first place?) Not only is easier for them, but it is more comforting - and that is all baby wants!

Breastfed babies are, however, capable of sleeping through the night. I suspect this has more to do with other factors: their personalities or even their birth order.

Lets look at an example: Noah was up every 2 hours until I returned to work and was physicially incapable of waking every other hour to breastfeed him at 14 months of age (at which point we were able to wean his night feeds because I couldn't function and he was a 30lb toddler). He used to nap with my breast in his mouth for hours and hours. He slept in my arms and nursed as soon as he woke at night. Conversely Layla, being the second born, had to learn to put herself to sleep at times out of necessity. With a 2 year old on the main level of the house, it was hard to lay with her for hours and nurse her constantly. It was hard to have that time so she is actually a fantastic sleeper now. Similarily, she doesn't wake up at night, despite being a breastfed baby. I think it is just her personality....

So to all new moms: do what works. There is usally an innate reason why baby sleeps better on (or with) you, why she nurses constantly, and why she wakes every two hours. yes, it is exhausting (but that is why motherhood is so hard) - take heart, it won't last forever. I don't know of any teenagers who still need to nurse to sleep on their mothers chest. They grow so fast, and soon you will long for those quiet moments of cuddles together.

These are horrible photos of me, but I wanted to share anyway!

Co-sleeping with Noah