Archive for the ‘breastfeeding’ Category

Today I read in the Globe and Mail a profile of the Itzbeen Baby Care Timer by Rebecca Eckler. I think she liked it, although it was a little hard to tell, perhaps because I was so horrified that I couldn’t believe she was suggesting it is a good idea.

Check this thing out – it is a monitor you carry around with you everywhere with you and input the last time your baby nursed (and what side), had a diaper change and how long ago she woke up.

When Maya was born, the nurses at the hospital made us write that stuff down. We had to record every diaper change and what was produced, as well as when she last ate, for how long and which boob. When we went home after two days, we continued that routine for about half a day. I abandoned it in the middle of the night when, moments after I finished nursing her, I had already forgotten which breast I had used last and I had no idea how long she had eaten, given the off-the-breast-on-the-breast fight it was with her at first.

Next feeding, I put her on the heaviest boob. And we realized pretty quickly that the easiest way to know whether she needed a diaper change was to check her diaper. Wet? Poopy? Change it. Dry? Leave it.

The marketing for this horrible device claims that it is a lifesaver for the sleep-deprived parents. No long do you have to remember these important details. The machine will do it for you. The machine will tell you when to nurse your baby and you will no longer have to rely on your puny little brain.

The machine is stupid. Toss it out and develop a little parental instinct, people.

It reminds me of a conversation we had with doctor at Maya’s first appointment. We asked her if we should get an old-fashioned thermometer, digital, or one of those fancy ear ones. “It doesn’t matter,” the doctor (and mom of 3) said. “The only thing the thermometer is good for is that while you look for it, it gives you a few minutes to decide what you are going to do about the kid’s illness. You’ll know whether she is sick or not.” And she was right. We do have a thermometer, but I have found there are times when one of my babies had a fairly high temp, but was bopping around quite happily and I wasn’t worried. A lower temp plus a fussy or lethargic baby had me much more concerned. Mother’s intuition turned out to work far better than the machine that went ping.

The fancy-ass baby monitors now available are also pissing me off. Scroll down and you’ll see that there’s one that promises to not only let you see and hear your baby as the kid is sleeping in her crib, but it’ll tell you the temperature of the room, play lullabies and even has a two-way radio so you can freak the kid out by talking to her over the monitor. If only it had little robot arms to spoon out cereal, you’d never have to be in the same room again!

At the bottom of this page is a ‘respiratory’ baby monitor. It is a pad you stick under the baby’s sheet that is supposed to monitor his breathing. Unless your child is at risk for SIDS, this is the ultimate in paranoia.

I admit that like many other parents, I was worried the baby would stop breathing every time I had an infant. The first evening Maya was home, I placed her soundly-sleeping tiny body in the hand-made cradle my father had lovingly built for his first grandchild and lay down on the bed to sleep. She was right at the end of the bed, which I realized very quickly was far, far too far away. I soon gave up and got her. I placed a receiving blanket between our pillows, put Maya on it, lay my hand on her side and, with my own personal ‘respiratory monitor’ – my hand – in place, fell asleep instantly.

I’m not saying every parent should sleep with their babies. I wasn’t always sleeping with mine, either. But when I wasn’t, I did was parents throughout history have done. I checked up now and then and told myself not to be insane the rest of the time.

Here’s a wee picture of the final stupid thing I am going to complain about tonight. I stumbled across this while in search of a link to the other stupid stuff.


The creators of this ‘baby no bumps’ actually expect you to put this silly-looking thing on your kid all day long – and funnier yet, they expect the kid to let it stay there – to avoid little precious getting a single boo boo.

The web page says it is created by a parent (grandparent, actually), but given how hard it was too keep any hat on my kids’ little heads, no matter how tightly I tied, I suspect a marketing scheme.

My kids have a scar or two I wish they didn’t – Boo in particular had not a single bruise-free moment for about 6 months after she began walking (although many of those were fat lips; perhaps they should add a face cage?). But at least she has friends, which is more than I expect the child in the picture can say.


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I realize I never followed up on my weaning post with my breastfeeding post. Given the response to my list of places I’ve nursed babies, and the weaning post, clearly I should have started blogging when I was still nursing a baby. Truth is, I nursed for so long, I can’t quite believe my breasts wouldn’t still work that way. I weaned Maya when I was 3 months pregnant with Asher, and Asher when I was 3 months pregnant with Boo. I was in a constant state of maternal functions controlling my body for a decade. It is still a bit hard to believe that is all over with. I feel like a breastfeeder, even though there is no one left to breastfeed.

Boo was also the easiest infant to teach to nurse. The midwife laid her on my belly and she literally crawled up my stomach and latched on, just like in a famous sociology video I’ve seen. And nursed for an hour. It was a good thing she was such an instant pro, because I developed a wicked uterine infection that spread to my blood and was hospitalized at 2 days after her birth for a week, and only released with a PICC line and serious antibiotics being delivered from a fanny pack I wore everywhere. She was the baby J held to my breast to nurse when I was semi-conscious. I can’t imagine breastfeeding surviving such an experience if I’d been a first-time mom, but we were both pros and, despite the deep, deep scepticism of the doctors and nurses, my extremely ill body kept producing the milk and Boo kept efficiently taking it.

Upon realizing how hideously ill I was (strep A and B, and then a suspected blood clot in my lungs), somebody decided that Boo wasn’t growing fast enough and that even though I thought my milk had come in, it hadn’t. They ordered the dreaded top-up – I could nurse, but every 3 hours, they wanted her to have a couple ounces from the bottle.

Of course, when they ordered that, they assumed the top up would come from formula, because I wasn’t producing enough milk. J, who trusted that I knew how much milk I had, pointed out that they hadn’t actually ordered formula, merely a bottle. He brought in my little electric breastpump from home. When Boo nursed, I put the pump on the other breast and expressed (plenty). He then poured it into a bottle and delivered the ordered top up. Trooper that she was, Boo drank that down too, then promptly spit it all up, every time. After a day of watching that, the nurses revoked the order.

The copious milk production with Boo also lead to my first and only visit to a lactation consultant (although, if I hadn’t been so stubborn and naive, I should have gone in the first painful weeks with Maya too). At a few months old, she kept pulling back and clicking her tongue, which hurt. Despite my own training (I’m a doula) and experience, I couldn’t figure it out and finally realized: this is what lactation consultants are for! One visit fixed us right up.

With Maya, I just kept determinedly hacking away at it and finally got it right. I never considered quiting and since the pain wasn’t completely unbearable, I figured the problem wasn’t bad enough to see someone. I was always in denial with Maya. I also refused to admit she had colic until she was older and past it.

I was convinced, during the colic phase, that there was something wrong with my milk – it must be something I was eating. I had myself down to only rice cakes at one point, such was my desperation to figure it out. I even went down to the basement to get that container of formula we had stashed away – just in case – but when I read the ingredients, I couldn’t do it. No matter what I was eating, my milk had to be better than that. I stopped all that nonsense when I stumbled across William Sears’ The Fussy Baby. It is unclear whether we would have survived her infancy without it.

Maya was also obsessed with nursing, but at least she responded to some sort of structure. I weaned her the earliest, at just past two,-years-old, because Asher was coming along and I’d had concerns about pre-term contractions with my first pregnancy. Breastfeeding (which can product contractions) while pregnant seemed a bad idea.

When Maya was just over a 18-months old, we went to a resort in the Dominican Republic for a little winter vacation. Before babies, J and I had been to Mexico and Jamaica, but we just showed up with backpacks and wandered around. The inclusive resort was our nod to responsible parenting, but was also so lame we never did something similar again – well, that and the fact that we could never again afford it.

While there, Maya came down with a hideous intestinal virus. She had a raging fever, was semi-comatose, had the runs and refused to eat or drink anything. She would only nurse. After a day of this (and one very traumatic night that I will never forget, because I was actually afraid the fever was so high it would cause permanent damage), we took her to the resort’s doctor. He gave her an antibiotic, starting her off with an injection – more trauma, since they wanted to take her away to give it and I refused to let her go because she was screaming. When we asked about dehydration, he indicated to her as she nursed and said, “Is she nursing frequently?” When we said yes, he said, “Then you don’t need to worry.”

When we returned home, we discovered that good friends who had a sons 3 months’ younger than Maya had also been struck with the evil virus. Because of a cleft palete, he was a formula baby, but he also refused to eat or drink and ended up hospitalized for dehydration, where he contracted RSV (a respiratory virus) and ended up using a puffer for years whenever he got a cold. That experience gave both of us a deep appreciation for the wonders of breastfeeding.

Asher was the dream nurser. He learned easily and wasn’t obsessive. He also weaned easily. I could never come up with some cute nickname for it, so I always just said to my babies, “Nurse? Do you want to nurse?” But it was nice when Asher’s bad pronunciation came up with a convenient code word which sounded like “Ursh.” (Maya spoke early and clearly, and I remember having her picture done at Sears when she was about 15 months old. She got tired of the process and starting saying, “Nurse, mama. Nurse.” I responded, “In a minute,” or “As soon as we are done here,” until finally the photographer said, “I swear she’s saying ‘nurse.’ Are you a nurse?” I explained and she actually turned bright red, poor young thing.)

As I think the list demonstrates, I was willing and able to nurse anywhere. Small breasts certainly helped with discretion. I wasn’t ashamed or embarrassed – after that many years of having your boobs yanked, poked, bitten, and adored by babies as the best food source ever, you tend to lose any feeling of privacy. Or most of it. I remember sitting with Boo when she was small, watching Asher at gymnastics, when another watching mom started nursing her toddler. She undid her buttons, freed her very large breast from her bra and then just hauled the entire thing out and sat, calm as anything, as the kid did the toddler nursing dance, which involves jumping around in mom’s lap while popping on and off the boob. She clearly was way more comfortable with public nursing than I’d ever been.

Boo asked (loudly, of course), “Why did that lady take her breast out?” I responded, “She’s nursing her baby.” “Yeah, but why did she have to take her whole big breast out? Doesn’t he just need to nurse from the little brown circle in the centre?” I just said, “I guess that’s the way she likes to nurse.” I was torn between being impressed at her refusal to be ashamed of her nursing breasts, and the concern that she was just giving those who thought extended nursing is gross more fodder for their beliefs.

Thanks to three young kids and a busy husband with wild work hours, I haven’t been able to practice as a doula the way I would like to (I’ve attended about 10 births, mostly of friends). But I’ve realized recently that perhaps an easier way to be involved would be as a lactation consultant. I have helped a number of women get their breastfeeding going properly and felt enormous satisfaction.

I may not be nursing any more babies myself, but I don’t think my relationship with breastfeeding is over yet.

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Today marks two years since I ended my reproductive career, weaning Boo. It was surprisingly abrupt. There was no one else coming along to encourage me to end it, so logically, she could have gone on the longest and had the most gradual weaning. But she was absolutely obsessed with the boob. If I sat down, no matter where or when, she wanted to nurse. At 2.5 years old, she probably nursed at least 10 times a day. It was a constant struggle. And, when she did nurse, she lazily allowed her teeth to rest on my nipple, refusing to be corrected.

Boo unknowingly marked the milestone by asking me the other day if she could nurse, inspired, no doubt, by the videos we have been watching of her babyhood. (Since I was always the one holding the camera, you can’t actually see a lot of nursing going on, but occasionally it was clear she was in my lap as I taped, and once or twice her wild-haired little face popped up and said, “Udder bweast (other breast),” then disappeared.) I was amazed she asked and said, “Nurse! But it was so long ago I’m sure you don’t remember how.” She said, “Yes I do. You just suck on the round brown things in the middle of your boobs.” So I had to break it to her that breasts only have milk when there is a baby regularly nursing. When I told her my milk has gone away, she cried.

It isn’t really a surprise. Boo was the roughest weaning. It was just a big, painful battle. Finally, I actually slapped a couple bandaids across my nipples and told her they were broken and she needed to wait until they healed. (This was, of course, after trying all the other more reasonable solutions, like distraction, time limits etc.) That was wrenching, having my two-year-old pleading, “But I’ll be gentle!” It broke my heart, but I knew she was lying and despite how sad it was to have such a stressful and unpleasant end to my nursing life, but I was more miserable nursing, so that was it.

(I don’t have any more nursing pictures on the computer to illustrate this post, so I’ll have to settle for this picture of Boo at about a year, making it clear that I was supposed to be holding her, not the camera, and the next step after I picked her up would have been the hand trying to yank up the shirt.)


I thought I had it rough with Maya, who was similarly obsessed, but she was also my first child and I could dedicate the time to fun and interesting distractions, and arguments, in a way I couldn’t with Boo. When she turned two and was down to nursing only at naptimes, I sagely cautioned J that we could’t keep encouraging both the weaning and the toilet training at the same rate, that all the baby books said not to push them on too many of the major life skills at one go. So, of course, one weekend Maya announced, “I’m a BIG girl now and I don’t need to nurse or use diapers.” And that was it for the both of them. (And the parenting books.)

Asher was the dream child, as far as breastfeeding went. He liked it as much as the next baby, happily using it for comfort and snacking, but it was also easy to say no. The truth was, the boy was easy to distract. As he rounded 2.5 years old, I started responding more often to his requests with, “Sure, but first do you want a cookie?” and that was it until it occurred to him again. We nursed on my terms until he turned three. When we finally quit, people would ask me if I’d weaned him and I said, “Yes, but he doesn’t realize it yet.” For about 3 weeks, I responded to his dwindling requests with distractions, always agreeing first, “Yes, but first …” and he never caught on. (As a side note, this is great for weaning, but not so helpful for things like, say, learning just about anything in school – the teacher wants me to do these math problems. Hey, what’s that outside? A flock of geese. Cool, that means it’ll be winter soon and then Hanukkah! Oh, I wonder what I’ll get for Hanukkah this year. I should tell dad I need new skates …)

Having written this weaning post in honour of this anniversary, it occurred to me that perhaps I shouldn’t post it, for fear of some mom-to-be stumbling on it and, visions of heartbroken babies and bandaids across her boobs, deciding maybe the bottle is the way to go after all. That would be bad. The fact that I kept it up for 7.5 years should make it obvious that it was all worth it. Beyond clearly not knowing how to wean, I kept it up for so long because breastfeeding was how I parented: baby tired? Nurse. Hungry? Nurse. Hurt herself? Nurse. Tantrum, forgot a sippy cup, bored, frustrated, annoying? Haul out the boob!

Oh great, now I just sound lazy. Well, I was. Breastfeeding is the easiest parenting tool out there, once you get the hang of it. I think I’ll write about that next. I’m feeling all nostalgic.

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I have carried a Palm Pilot for years. My latest one just died, causing me considerable stress when I discovered that they are passe and in order to get something similar, I’d have to either go very cheap and crappy, or get one with a phone, email and resulting expense. I’d love the email (I have a cell phone), but can’t afford that. Fortunately, J managed to find me an unused second-hand one. In setting it up and making sure all my information transfered, I came across this list, which I kept during my breastfeeding years (which numbered 7.5 in total).

Places I have nursed babies:
the rocking chair
during dinner, during breakfast, during lunch
making dinner, breakfast and lunch
in the bath
giving other children baths (including shampooing hair)
Parliament Hill on Canada Day
countless restaurants
public bathroom (once)
parked car
grocery store, while shopping
In the delivery room an hour after my niece was born (I doulaed), using 7-week-old Asher as a model to teach my SIL how to nurse
book store
McDonalds and countless food courts
bottom of a ski hill
Rideau Canal during Winterlude
standing on the road talking to neighbours
while holding someone else’s baby
playing board games
tour boat
in line at Costco (the guy behind me in line actually rubbed tiny Asher’s cheek while he was nursing, having no idea that he wasn’t just smushed up against my shirt)
Capilano suspension bridge in Vancouver
Vancouver aquarium
in synagogue
in bed
at dinner parties
weddings and bar mitzvahs
Brises and baby namings
at a shiva
in the emergency room while hooked up to IVs and semi-conscious (J held the baby up to the boob)
In Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, PEI and British Columbia
In Costa Rica, Washington D.C. and Ithaca N.Y.
middle of the frozen lake at the cottage in winter
at the playground
in a hammock
watching TV
on a train
On a tractor at a petting zoo
while apple-picking
while writing email
in the school yard, waiting for older kids to get out of school
While building a marble run
On a TV show while being interviewed (on extended breastfeeding, where I said “I don’t think I am practicing extended breastfeeding. I just think most people in the Western world quit early.”)

Nursing while building a marble run, 4 years ago:


Me and baby Boo, snursing* on the beach, 3.5 years ago:

*what J and I called that combination of snoze and nursing babies do, where they only stay asleep while on the boob.

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