Tag Archives: toddlers

Nursing to Sleep is Not a Bad Habit (or What Do YOUR Instincts Say?)

Hey Y’all!

Today’s post is written by one of my favorite writers, the woman who taught me to write– my middle sister, Beky. Beky is my senior by 4 years, but became a mother 4 years after my first child was born. My two sisters are my dearest and closest friends, each of us parents a little differently, but I respect each of them immensely. Yesterday my sister Beky was sharing how glad she was that she relished the long periods of holding her first for naps as she nursed, and said she wished she could reassure other first time mothers that it’s okay to hold and nurse their babies for sleep. I told her I had the perfect place for her to share that reassurance, right here on She Rocks the Cradle! So without further ado, here is a guest post from my big sis, Beky.

–Rachel

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As I nursed and rocked my little one (we’ll call him Small Fry) down for his morning nap, watching carefully for that magical moment when I was sure he was OUT, so that I could successfully transfer him to his crib, so that I could get back to momming my 3-year-old (we’ll call him Nugget), it hit me. This is why I did it.

This is why I held Nugget for almost every nap when he was a baby. This is why I allowed him to nurse sometimes for entire naps. This is why I stayed firmly planted on my rocking chair, hardly daring to move a muscle for fear of waking him. This is why I never bothered to “train” him to nap in his crib, independently of me. This is why, in my first-time-mom uncertainty, I posted on a local mom group on Facebook to ask if it was ok to nurse my baby to sleep, to let him nurse in his sleep, to hold him in my arms until he was ready to wake up.

Among the many responses, one stood out. “What do YOUR instincts say?”

I responded, “My instincts tell me that this is a unique experience, having only one baby right now, and I should relish the freedom to be as responsive to him as I can right now because I know it will be harder when the next one comes.”

“There’s your answer!” came the sweet and reassuring reply.

Nearly three years later, that post came to my mind as I gently laid Small Fry in his crib this morning. I took a few seconds to gaze at his pursed, pink lips, his curled up fingers, and the rise and fall of his chest. “Mamaaaa!” came blaring from the living room as Nugget pulled me back to the reality that my days of long, sleepy cuddles on the rocker are no more. Those days of an hour or more of side-lying-nursing in bed while lazily scrolling Facebook, watching a show on Netflix with my headphones on, or just simply closing my eyes and embracing the forced rest. Nope, those days are gone. Naps are business with Small Fry. Get him to sleep as quickly as possible, keeping an attentive ear pealed for Nugget in the other room, transfer him to the crib, and pray for a decent nap so I can catch up on laundry, dishes, and maybe a few moments of quality, one-on-one time with Nugget before Small Fry awakes.

I knew back then that I was right to embrace the once-in-a-lifetime flexibility that came with being a stay at home mom to my first baby. So I followed my gut without apology. But the epiphany I experienced this morning gave me such a surge of confidence in my choices as a new mama, that I wanted to shout it from the rooftops to all new mamas out there: “YES! It’s ok! It’s ok to rock and shush and nurse and hold your sweet baby until they drift off to sleep! It’s ok to continue that *while* they sleep if that’s what keeps them asleep! Don’t feel guilty for breathing in the fragrance of your precious baby’s fuzzy head, for staring at them the whole time they sleep (while you ‘should’ be sleeping according to many) because you still just can’t believe they’re yours, so perfectly and beautifully yours. It’s ok, mama. It’s ok.”

What practice or habit are you second-guessing yourself on today? What piece of advice have you received recently that has you wondering if you’re doing it all wrong? The answer is the question: What do YOUR instincts say?

[Fun fact: That response “What do YOUR instincts say?” came from none other than our favorite mom-blogger, SheRocksTheCradle. Thanks, SRTC!]

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4 Years 

Four years ago, within an hour of giving birth, I latched a tiny baby boy onto my breast and he began to nurse. At that moment I had planned on nursing 6 months, if I could make it that long. 

And he nursed. And then the next day he did. And the day after. And at 2.5 months we had a nursing strike that lasted 17 days, but we made it through. And some times we nursed every 30 minutes all day. And some times we nursed 20 times a night. We nursed at parks and in church. 

And then when he was 8 months old, I got a positive pregnancy test, and I wondered if we would be able to nurse through the pregnancy. And I had aversions and I didn’t want to nurse my little boy. But he needed me. So we nursed. And we nursed through toe curling, awful feelings of being touched out. We nursed through my milk drying up completely. We nursed as my colostrum came in.

And then his baby sister was born. And within an hour of giving birth to her I latched her tiny angry mouth onto my breast, and she calmed down and opened her big eyes and nursed. And it was hard. We nursed through a lip tie, and we nursed with mastitis. We nursed through ductal thrush that lasted months. We nursed through a bleb that became a rock, and after I removed it with a sterile needle and it bled, we nursed. I nursed them two at a time. I nursed them one after the other. I nursed at Disneyland and at the grocery store and in the ergo. Some days I felt like there was always someone latched. So hungry. So thirsty. So drained of everything. But we nursed.
And then when my baby girl was 10 months old I got another positive pregnancy test. And I was pregnant and I nursed two children. And I nursed through morning sickness, and extreme fatigue. I nursed as my milk dried up and my body was working hard to grow a baby. 

And then I lost that baby. And I delivered his sleeping body and I put one drop of breastmilk in his tiny little 17 week old mouth.
When I came home from the hospital I nursed my big girl and held her and breathed in her sweet sweaty head, wet with my tears as I mourned her baby brother’s death. She eagerly nursed as my milk came in, a couple days later, a gift from my still baby. 

And then it was time to wean my oldest. And we weaned slowly and it took a long time. We weaned gently and through many tears every time his little sister got to latch and he didn’t. We weaned with rocking in our rocking chair and singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” together. We weaned by kissing booboos instead of nursing through them. We weaned while I nursed his little sister and we counted and learned our ABCs.
And then I got another positive pregnancy test. And I nursed my second born. I nursed her on days when I hadn’t eaten, and on days where I was throwing up constantly. I nursed her in between appointments with specialists and physical therapists. I nursed her as my milk dried up and my belly grew. I nursed her through prenatal appointments and in the backyard.

And then her baby sister was born. My third living child. And within an hour of her birth she latched on to my breast and looked at me with one eye, like Popeye. Her tired sleepy face suckling to comfort as she adjusted to her new surroundings. And when we got home from the hospital I nursed her and her big sister on the rocking chair. And they nursed through engorgement and cracks. I nursed my screaming new baby seconds after her tongue tie was released by the ENT. And we nursed in hotels and on the couch while we read books to big siblings. We nursed in the shower and on our big family bed. We nursed through 23 clogged ducts in 4 months. And still we nurse. And right now I’m nursing. Always nursing.

It’s been 4 years straight of nursing. My longest break from nursing was 48 hours. I have tandem nursed for 18 months. I have loved it. I have hated it. It has been exciting. It has been mundane.

But most of all– it’s been wonderful. Here’s to many more years of cuddling, nurturing, being close… And nursing.
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This post is dedicated to all 4 of my babies, and also to their papa. Without whom I would never have had the support it takes to nurse. 
I also want to thank the women who have inspired me to nurse to full term, tandem, and through tough times. Ashley who answered my late night nursing questions with Captain when he was a newborn. My mother in law Christina, who always has a glass of water waiting for me when I nurse around her and introduced me to the concept of nursing past infancy. My own mother, who wanted to nurse longer than she did, so she encouraged me to continue. Serena Tremblay, whose story kept me nursing through hospitalization, and inspires me still today. And to the many women in nursing support groups online, but especially to those in VCNM who introduced me to the concept of tandem nursing. 
   
    
    
   

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