Summer is a doula, women's and families rights activist, ballet enthusiast, wife to a gamer and mother of four spectacularly wild children. She spends her days in (mostly) happy chaos and her nights fantasizing about organized houses while perusing her latest obsession, Pinterest.
Is your baby potty trained?
Sort of, but not really. I get this question a lot when someone new notices me “peeing” my baby, or when the subject of why he’s naked so much comes up (generally, the only time he’s clothed is if we’re out of the house, and even then they still sometimes come off!). I, personally, think of it more like mommy-trained than potty-trained, but that’s just me.
We practice EC (Elimination Communication), which is basically an understanding that babies are born knowing when they have to eliminate and that they give the parent (or other caregiver) cues to let them know when it’s “time”. Sounds weird and practically impossible, right? That’s what I thought too! I remember reading an article in Brain, Child magazine called “To Catch a Pee”, and thinking it was really gross that the author sometimes took her baby pee in a sink. Then I watched two of my friends utilize the practice. When I started using EC with my now 3 year-old, it all made sense. If you want to read more in-depth about the hows and whys, there are many great resources out there, such as the Diaper Free Baby community.
Big brother gets in on the pottying. M is 8 months old here.
When L and B were little, they spent a lot of time naked. This had more to do with my laziness than their body functions. I did notice, though, that they seemed acutely aware of when they were going. They had a tendency to wait until the diaper was off to go…I just assumed it was because they didn’t like wearing wet/soiled things or because it was fascinating to watch this stuff come out of them. They both “potty-trained” themselves around 2 -3. I kept a potty available for them, but didn’t work at making them go. Instead, I kept them naked or in just underwear, spent a lot of time outside during nice weather, and talked to them about what they were doing when they eliminated. (Lots of “Oh! You peed. Pee-pee!”)
Fast forward several years, and I watched my friends utilize EC with their little ones. I found it fascinating, but thought it was also time-consuming and a bit weird. While I got the concept, sort of, it seemed like a lot of work. Then, I got pregnant with C and read the book, “Diaper Free” by Ingrid Bauer. M and I decided we’d give it a try, just to see what happened. We thought of it more like an experiment. Surely it wasn’t that easy, right? Babies didn’t really respond to that!
One day, about six weeks or so after C was born, I decided I’d give it a go. I had been trying to pay attention to any signs that he needed to go and noticed that he made a little grunty sound right before he pooped. I hadn’t yet caught on to a pee “signal”. Since we used cloth diapers, I could quickly tell whether he’d peed or not just by touching the diaper. When I knew he was dry but hadn’t gone in a while, I held him over the sink and made a “sss” sound. He peed!! I got really excited and yelled at M to come see. That sounds really dumb, I know, but after talking with other parents who also EC, it seems pretty common for those first few “catches” to feel exciting. I think it’s just so surprising that it works, as well as a realization that our entire thought process about how/why/when babies eliminate is wrong.
Everyone has their own “style” when it comes to EC, some people use a sound like “sss” or “ZZZ”, others say “pee” and others may grunt or use another nonverbal cue. Personally, I like the “sss” sound and it’s worked well for us. The position I use for M is always the same, whether I’m holding him over a toilet, sink or the grass (see picture below). This seems to be a pretty standard position, making the elimination easy for the baby as well as avoiding getting the waste in a big area. Because the legs are lifted and the bottom is the lowest point, there is often nothing to actually wipe. I hold him like this until he’s done…for pee, he’ll usually have an involuntary shudder. For poop, he usually will stop and get antsy, so I stop and wipe, then try again and repeat until he’s truly done (generally about three times of repeating this).
For us, a relaxed approach to EC has worked best. We have diapers and we use them, especially when we’re not home. In my opinion, every time he uses the potty instead of going in his diaper, we’re accomplishing something. Some days, we do great and others we don’t. Yesterday, for example, he only used one diaper. Some days, he’ll go through several. I try to take him to the potty often when we’re out, but there are times I get busy and forget. I don’t beat myself up about these times…that’s just the way it is. I have to admit, though, that even after all this time, I get excited when we’ve had a good day with no accidents and no wet/dirty diapers. It means we’ve communicated successfully with each other!
The communication/connection aspect of EC is another part I’ve found fascinating. We all know our babies are capable of communicating with us from birth. Their cries have meaning and everyone is aware of that. What is easy to forget (or perhaps just overlook) in our busy lives, is all the nonverbal communication that goes on. This, for me, is one of the points driven home by practicing EC. There are times that I think, “M needs to pee!” and sure enough, he goes when I take him. It becomes second nature or instinct to recognize, without the external signal, that baby is ready to eliminate. It’s yet another way to communicate trust and love to our babies….yes, we know *you* know when you need to potty and we react accordingly. We are listening. I like this. Of course, I also forget or get too busy to listen and then have to scoop up a poop-covered baby. Ah, such is the life!
I don’t think I’ve given any great advice and maybe haven’t even explained what it is we do very well! Here are some basic tips that may help, but I think the main thing to keep in mind is that it’s a learning process ~ especially for us parents ~ and don’t be too hard on yourself or caught up in doing it “right” every time. We live in a fast-paced, non-baby-friendly society…which does not make practicing EC (or many facets of parenting, really) on a regular basis very easy.
1. Read the book and ask friends/acquaintances who’ve practiced EC. Ingrid’s book is thorough and a great jumping-off point. She explains the theory behind it, basic steps and also some stories from parents. It’s an easy, quick read. Asking parents you know is another great way to get some information. Many of us love to talk about it, because it’s fascinating and really does work!
2. Gather supplies. There aren’t really any supplies you *need* to have on-hand, but some things do make it easier. If you plan to start early on, invest in some pull on pants instead of one piece sleepers. The sleepers are harder to get babies in and out of, something that’s essential when you’re taking them potty as opposed to just changing them. Something to use as a potty is nice to have, for night-time, car rides, or any time you don’t want to have to run to the bathroom. Most stores now have plastic infant potties available, but a stainless steel bowl or whatever similar you have on hand will work just fine, too. We have two potties that rotate spots. I like keeping one in the living room to encourage M to use it on his own (with the unfortunate side effect that C thinks it’s fun to use also). The other one floats from the car (for visiting friends or when it’s not appropriate to just go on the ground) to the bedroom (for night-time, although I usually just get up and take him to the sink in the bathroom). That’s pretty much it.
3. Give it a try. If you haven’t yet caught on to baby’s “signal”, you can start out by guessing or you can let baby be naked for a while and then try. One of M’s signals that I caught on to early was squirming at the breast. If he obviously wanted to nurse but kept popping off or wouldn’t settle there, I would pee him and then he’d be fine. It was one of the first signals I recognized. Sometimes night-time is an easier place to start, as they aren’t doing anything else and it is glaringly obvious…they’re fast asleep and then start wiggling about, bunching up or just wake up altogether. Most likely, there’s a need to pee. It may take a few tries to actually “catch” a pee/poop, but eventually you will and then you’ll be hooked! Another option is to try to pee baby while he/she nurses. I did this with C in the beginning of our EC journey, while I was getting the hang of it. If baby is not yet holding up his own head, you may feel safer just pulling up his legs while he’s nursing or in that position, as opposed to the sitting style.
4. Be prepared to get peed on. A lot. Even parents who use more common methods still get peed on. It’s just a part of parenting. How much you get peed on will probably depend on how diligent you are with paying attention, especially in the early days. Other factors that can throw off the potty schedule are illness, teething, extra stimulus, new environments, etc. Again, because I am lazy, I probably get peed on more than most. I figure it’s just as easy to change my pants as it is to change a diaper, plus I’ve noticed that there’s an immediate reaction when no diaper is there to catch the waste. It’s almost like an, “Oops! Wrong place to pee!”
5. Consider using sign language with baby. I recommend this useful parenting tool whether you EC or not, but it seems (to me) to help amplify the ability to communicate with baby early on. C talked quite early, so he could tell us plainly when he needed to go or had just gone. M is not as verbal yet, he seems to prefer grunts and single syllables. Having the sign language has allowed him another form of telling us his needs. In this way, even later talkers can give you an external, visible signal that they need to eliminate. If nothing else, it certainly doesn’t hurt and takes no extra time to make the hand gesture while saying “pee-pee”. We use the ASL (American Sign Language) sign for “toilet” for both pees and poops, shown below.
My Smart Hands “Potty”
6. Know the drawbacks. There aren’t many drawbacks to EC, but there is a big one…you can’t go back. Once you see and know that your baby is capable of communicating her need to eliminate, has sphincter control from birth, etc., you can’t UNsee or UNknow it. You will always be aware of it. You may get busy and overlook a signal, need to put your child in a daycare where they think you are nuts for EC, or any other myriad of things, but you will always have that knowledge. You might then feel some guilt if you, for any of the reasons mentioned previously, need to stop EC’ing. There are times, like when I’m sick or just really, really tired, that I know M needs to potty and I don’t do it. I recognize that this is not fair to him while also acknowledging that I just won’t catch every time…and that is okay. Know that going into it and give yourself the grace when it does happen.
Should you find yourself with a particularly strong-willed child, also know that he may utilize his urine as a defiant tool. Both my close friend and I have been blessed with incredibly intense, strong-willed children who have intentionally peed in places or on things as an act of defiance. Yes, this may happen with any child, but it feels more defiant when they’ve been going potty for quite some time. I have seen my (then) 2 year-old look at me when I said “no” or otherwise rebuked a behavior/action, then pee while continuing to look at me like “What are you going to do about that, eh?” They have also used their pee as weapons when other children are bothering them or as threats (“If you don’t let me do xyz, I’m going to pee on this toy.”) If you overlook the gross factor, it’s actually quite ingenious and somewhat funny. In any case, be prepared for that possibility.
EC has been a wonderful addition to our parenting knowledge, and I’ve enjoyed having this connection to my two younger babies. It has completely eliminated any worries over “training”. It was more like an evolution of me enabling them to go in the “right” place until they were capable of doing that themselves (or rather, C, as M is still in the process of figuring this out). For those who are considering it, I hope this helps give you a better idea of where to start and what to expect. It’s quite possibly one of the easiest things we can do for our children. Good luck and happy pottying!
He did it! He slept in the living room, all by himself, all night long. I heard him rustle awake, go to the bathroom, then come climb into our bed and fall back asleep! Wow!
Even though we’ve come to the end of our immediate “no nursing” fix, I know there will be more days ahead of asking, distractions and probably even a few more fits (about nursing). It’s incredible how strong a habit this is for both of us. As an example, this morning he plopped up on my lap and requested to nurse. I was distracted by the computer and started to lift my shirt before realizing what I was doing. Oops! Thank goodness I quickly came to my senses, but the damage had been done. I gave him a glimmer of hope and he was not at all happy when I took it away. Poor little guy.
I think he may not feel well (again) today. He’s been sluggish and Daddy has an upset stomach…will we ever be well again?!! Unfortunately, this means putting off our video game excursion another day. Luckily, he’s been okay with that and hasn’t really asked much about it, but I feel bad that he’s done so well and still not gotten his reward!
I was thinking in the shower about what I’ve learned through this:
1. Not nursing is SO MUCH BETTER than nursing and hating it.
2. Even though he’s super independent and, in many ways, seems quite a bit older than his three years, my guy still needs his mama more than I realized.
3. We can make it through those rough spots using other “tools” in our “toolbox”.
4. I like my guy more when I’m not annoyed that he’s trying to grab my boobs all the time.
It’s funny how quickly the bad feelings melt away. It’s only been one week and I already am looking back on our nursing relationship with fondness (not enough to nurse him again, though!). I guess it’s sort of like having a baby…once the baby’s there, the pain and hard work of the last few hours seems to melt away in an instant. We gaze at these majestic little beings, seeing nothing but them, sometimes for weeks on end. I’m trying to remember that feeling when it gets hard…remember the adorable little baby with chubby cheeks and a mound of hair. Remember the way my heart swelled and tears sprang that first gaze. These are the memories that come to mind now when I hold him. We’re moving forward, our relationship constantly changing, but I can feel this endearing love and awe towards him again.
Our nursing relationship may have come to an end, but the next chapter in our story is just beginning….
Here is our recap: Day One, Day Two, Day Three, Day Four, Day Five, Day Six and the end.
e slept with Daddy all night long on the pull-out! M and I enjoyed the luxuriousness of just one adult and one baby…can you imagine all the room we had?! Anyway, C was stirring when we went out to the living room. He woke up happy! He seemed to think it was pretty cool that he slept with Daddy in the living room.
We didn’t go anywhere all day, so we had more than a few times of asking to nurse. Each time, though, he accepted something else. His chart is now FULL of stickers, all from today! He didn’t put any on there Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, but today he decided it was lacking and used up the rest of the Toy Story ones. He seems to have forgotten about his prize, which was okay because we need another day to get rid of all the sick germs before we head out.
In the evening, he threw his unwanted tangerine strings on the floor. I started to tell him to pick them up, but caught myself and asked him instead. He told me no. I explained that those needed to be in the trash and that he should pick them up, since he’s the one who threw them on the floor. He yelled “NO! I will NOT pick those up. You put them on the floor and you have to pick them up!” I asked him why he yelled at me and he told me that he was angry at me just like I was angry at him yesterday. Wow. I was a bit stunned by this. So, we talked about being angry, how I did get angry, why I got angry, why he was now angry and on and on. In the end, I told him that I would be happy to help him by picking up the strings, but that I wanted him to ask me nicely (which he did).
I guess I don’t have much else to report today, just a mellow stay-at-home day. He requested to sleep on the couch all by himself tonight, informing us that he’s a “big boy” and because of that he won’t get scared. I guess we’re going to try it, although for some reason the idea of him on the couch by himself seems scary to me. Or maybe it’s just one of those pangs that he’s growing up quickly, right before my eyes.
The story continues with the end.
This morning, he woke up and went out to the living room…all by himself! I followed him, of course, ready to head off any potential upsets before they happened. But, they didn’t!
He did wake in the night, however, and proceed to scream that he wanted mama (who was laying right beside him) for about thirty minutes. Incredible Hulk, oops, I mean my husband, went out into the living room before he became too angry. There’s just something about getting woken up in the middle that turns this loving father into a big, green meanie. Luckily, we’ve had enough of these nights to recognize it now and he just goes into the living room until C/he calms down. If you haven’t experienced these night wakings (I somehow managed to make it through two kids without having one!), they are AWFUL. Basically, he wakes up crying and/or screaming, and not only is there nothing anyone can do to make it better, but anything we try will most likely result in a longer, louder screaming session. His eyes are sometimes open, sometimes he can answer us back, but he doesn’t seem to really be there, in his body. He doesn’t seem afraid of anything either, just totally freaking out. In any case, it’s happened enough now that we know to try leaving him alone first. Sometimes this works and he falls back asleep. Sometimes, though, it doesn’t and we spend the next half hour to hour alternating between snapping at each other, trying to soothe him and wanting to scream/cry ourselves. It sucks. Last night was a doozy. He was so loud my ears were ringing. His baby brother will either be deaf by one year old or will sleep through hurricanes. Then, he asked me to calm him down. Like we did the day before. Could it be? Is he getting it? I don’t care, he’s asking and we’re going back to sleep!
I knew the morning was going to be rough, but it wasn’t. He asked to nurse once, with his hand up my shirt already, but quickly accepted my answer. He didn’t even want to put a sticker on the chart. I guess he’s tired of that already.
We had to go to the grocery store today and while he had been fine all morning, I was leery of getting him out again after yesterday’s awful fits. Today’s a new day, though, right? Right?!? So, off we went.
Our first stop went pretty well. He wants to walk now instead of ride in the cart and while that makes my shopping/parenting job infinitely more difficult (Have you ever tried to keep an eye on the toddler while carrying the 30lb. baby and trying to follow your shop list? It isn’t as easy as it sounds, trust me.), but I try to acquiesce in the smaller stores. I only needed a few things, so I let him walk and it went okay. He only ran ahead once or twice and we were done quickly. Next up, Aldi. No walking here! Even on a good day, the stacks of food are just not toddler-friendly. We made it in/out in record time (I actually stuck to my list), again without incident. Last on our trip was Wal-Mart. Does anyone else see where I made my fatal mistake???
I agreed to let him walk in Wal-Mart because we only needed three things. THREE! First, we headed to the bathroom. C loves the little seat in the big stall at the front. He’ll play with that the entire time I’m doing my business, instead of trying to lay on the floor and see into the next stall (which, for some reason, seems to bother people). After that, we started making our way to the food section. I guess I should interject that Wal-Mart makes me insane. The sheer amount of people, even on a slow day, boggles my mind. In addition to that, the lighting makes me eyes hurt and my brain fuzzy. Seriously. If you’ve ever run into me there and I looked like a zombie, just know that the second I stepped outside the store, I returned to my normal-frazzled state.
But I digress…
My three items turned into five, resulting in L carrying a few things while I balanced C, M and two bags of frozen chicken (eww!). When we got to the checkout, C informed us that he needed to pee. Great. Thank goodness for older children that help out, even though they shouldn’t have to (because they’re kids, too, you know) and don’t really want to. Here’s where the day started going to shit. As they head towards the bathroom, I feel my breath unclench slightly…a few seconds of peace….and then I look over to see C flailing around as L tries desperately to herd him towards to bathroom door. She’s obviously frustrated (can I blame her?) and I, being the fabulous mom I am, head right over to help, right? NOPE! I give her a look that says, “WTF?” She looks back at me, with daggers, and says she’s trying. The dude in front of me kind of chuckles at this interchange. I debate for a quick second whether I should head over there, but instead decide to hold my place (I’m *almost* there) and pretend as if I don’t know those crazy people. Don’t worry, if the shit had really hit the fan, I would have gone over there. She got him to the bathroom, though, and I didn’t hear either one of them screaming. When I finished paying, I went to check on them. No screams, that’s a good sign! I opened the door and ask if everything is okay. L answers with a resigned “no” and informs me that he’s upset because she flushed the toilet when he wanted to, and is on the floor. Now, if you ever read Rants From Mommyland (which you totally should be), you know that they can turn these situations into the spit-your-coffee-everywhere kind of funny. However, I found this more along the lines of pull-my-hair-out-then-go-on-a-permanent-vacation kind of not-even-close-to-funny. I ask him what’s wrong, I offer options, I go through the laundry list of everything I just happened to read about yesterday on this blog. Then, when I see that nothing is working and we are quickly losing it (all while on the floor of the public restroom), I think screw this and pick him up. Now, though, all bets are off and he begins throwing a fit in earnest. All of the sudden, I want to lay on the floor, writhing around, screaming “It’s not fair! I’m using the techniques! This shit is for the birds, screw gentle discipline and I give up”, but I don’t. I calmly carry my screaming, kicking child out the bathroom door and head to the exit with poor L following closely behind (now carrying all the groceries, her bag and my purse). He says (screams) that he wants to walk and so I set him down and say, “Great! Let’s walk”, to which he responds by throwing himself on the floor and screaming even louder. Up we go. By this point, I can feel the adrenaline and anger building. I am frustrated, but I also know that I still have to get him in the car to go home. Having been through this just yesterday, I start attempting to calm him down. I acknowledge that he’s upset, why he’s upset, how we have to go home now and we’re going to get in the car seat. No dice. We get to the car and I set him in, causing an uproar of tears and yelling. He says he wants to get in himself, so I say okay and set him down. More screaming. He wants to go back inside and flush the toilet. I explain that it’s now time to go. More screaming and flopping. Fuck. I pick him up and try to plop him in the car seat, as he is using all of his considerable strength to push back. The next fifteen minutes involved more screaming, crying (at one point, both of us had tears in our eyes), kicking and holding down. I explained what I was doing, why I was doing it and why it had to be done. It was taking every ounce of self-control to do this. While my exterior was somewhat calm, my mind was whirling. These are the types of situations where children get beaten, I think. This is how it begins and if he doesn’t stop screaming and kicking me, I am going to hit him! Why won’t he just get in the fucking seat?! I don’t care what the research says, screw his future self…his self-esteem, whatever, they can all suck it. I just want him to stop. I just want to buy some damn groceries without being screamed at, kicked at or anything else. Just walk beside me, hold my hand and do AS I SAY. One time!* Click. The last part of the car seat clicked into place. I told him I loved him, I was sorry he was upset and that we were going home now. Then, I shut the door.
He cried most of the way home. By the time we got home, though, you would never know what had happened earlier. He spent the rest of the day and evening playing pleasantly with his brother. He asked to nurse a few times, but happily accepted juice or water as a substitute. He and Daddy decided to sleep on the pull-out bed together, so hopefully that goes well. As far as nursing (or not, as the case may be), it was a super easy day. He’s been loving; a nice ending to a hard day. He’s also made some of his infamous “Colinisms”, which has been fun. I like ending the day on a happy note, remembering how much I love him and *almost* forgetting how frustrating dealing with him can sometimes be.
* My husbandread this portion and suggested I leave it out because it sounds so awful. I am choosing to leave it in because I think it’s a) an accurate description of what I was *thinking* in the heat of the moment and b) important to be honest that raising kids can be difficult. While I applaud those parents who have never felt pushed to the brink of sanity by their children, that is not/has not been my experience. Nothing, and I do mean NOTHING, pushes me faster than my children. Does this mean I don’t love them? No! It means I’m human, with human emotions and human shortcomings. Presenting myself as anything other than this does a disservice to other parents who have been there. Most of us accept that *adult* relationships are difficult, take lots of work, etc., etc. and yet, when we discuss parent-child relationships, it is unacceptable to think they, too, take the same work and present the same difficulties….which seems idiotic when we think that (presumably) both adults have logic, know right from wrong and so on, while children are still learning these things. For me, recognizing and acknowledging the more challenging parts of parenting is the key to being able to work through them. It is key to creating an authentic relationship not only with my children, but also the world around us.*
The story continues with Day Six and the end.
This morning did NOT go well. Maybe we did too much yesterday, maybe he doesn’t feel well (everyone in the house seems to have some kind of illness, ranging from a cold to weird intestinal stuff) or maybe he just wants some boob. Whatever the reason, he woke up with his usual refrain this morning and while he did go back to sleep once, the second time he was accepting no substitutes. The next half hour or so could only be described as “the day Mommy and Daddy went deaf”. I was finally able to talk him into having some toast to eat and then we were able to start our morning.
When I opened the door to see what the temperature was like, I was shocked to discover it was like a nice summer day! I decided a picnic at the park sounded like a great idea, but then trouble set in. This “trouble” really has nothing to do with nursing (or lack of), but I’d be remiss to leave it out of the description of our day. C has been…what’s the nice word….high spirited? lively? A few other words come to mind, but I want to keep this post as G-rated as possible. Basically, the kid has one volume ~ LOUD. Even when he’s asleep. If he talks in his sleep (which he sometimes does), it’s LOUD. If he wakes up wanting something, it’s LOUD. From morning until night, LOUD, LOUD, LOUD. Now, we *are* a loud family and I *am* a loud person. I admit this. However, dealing with a loud child all. day. long. gets, well, long. And tiring. Many days, I feel as though I’m walking on eggshells, trying to avoid a fit. When I somehow forget to read his mind, he screams. When he wants to do something himself, he screams. Those pears we bought yesterday and ate? He wants one and he WANTS IT NOW! Today was just one of those days where it seems like all I did was cajole, beg, plead, yell, restrain…you get the idea. If you’ve never tried to wrestle an angry three-year-old, throwing a giant fit because he wanted candy in the store, into the car seat, you are missing out! It’s an olympic workout and that doesn’t even take into consideration the adrenaline from embarrassment.
Now, Iknow that toddlers throw fits and that is just part of their learning. It’s my job to help him navigate these choppy waters and who gives a fig what other people passing by think, right? That’s easier said than done. Each yell and kick feels like a personal assault on my parenting and there are times it is all I can do not to just shake the living daylights out of him. Do I love him? Absolutely! Do I like him? Some days, not very much.
On a positive note, he did remember our calming down technique from yesterday and requested more than once today when he was upset. I cling to these tiny victories while the storm of his emotions flings us all over the place. Thank goodness for those moments.
So, as our day winds to a close, I see progress on many fronts: we’re communicating well with each other (mostly), he’s utilizing tools I’m offering, I’m regaining patience and remembering that he is only a toddler with very little experience yet on this earth. Hopefully, tomorrow goes better!
The story continues with Day Five, Day Six and the end.
I think it’s safe to say that 6:30 will be our new get-up time. In many ways, I am finding it much more pleasant than the lay-in-bed-nursing-back-to-sleep time that often led to a bit more sleep, but more than one also led to annoyance. This way, we just get up (M usually sleeps in a bit longer, especially if Daddy is home to snuggle with) and start our morning routine. It also gives us a chance to have some quality alone time. I didn’t realize how grumbly I had been in the mornings until I wasn’t. It is much easier to get up with one and get him settled (as well as start my coffee) before dealing with kidlet #2. Everyone is happier!
This morning, he rustled and got into our bed pretty quickly/quietly. He did ask for me to move M, but once I did that, he snuggled right in and went back to sleep. I don’t know what time it was, but I was thankful he chose to sleep instead of wake up. Some time later, as the sun was thinking about rising, he woke up in earnest. I felt his little hand creep around my side, searching for the boob. “I wannna nurse youuu.” I whispered that we weren’t nursing and he asked for cereal. I was nursing M, so I told him that as soon as he was done eating (I’ve been careful to use “eating” instead of “nursing” at volatile times) I would get up with him. Then, we both fell back asleep. A little while later, he rustled awake again and….did NOT ask to nurse! He asked for his cereal. I got up with him and we had a pleasant little chunk of time together before the rest of the house started waking up.
I’m finding it interesting that although one of my chief complaints going into this was being “touched out”, I find myself choosing to cuddle more than I did before. Could it be that stopping the nursing is the catalyst for restoring the physical balance in our relationship? I want to hold and snuggle him, when before it was all I could do not to shove him off me (which, ashamedly, I did a few times). I also have way more patience with him than I’ve had in the last several months.
Today was another long stretch of being away from home; we went to Springfield for Daddy’s birthday. I don’t think he asked at all while we were gone, and only asked twice once we were back. I thought he was going to get upset, but he just kind of whined a bit and then M jumped in with the sticker chart. The No More Nursing did come up while we were at Barnes and Noble, though. He saw a big Star Wars Lego set and asked for it. I told him that we weren’t getting it today and he said he wanted that instead of a video game. When I prodded a bit more, he reminded me that the video game was his prize for No More Nursing. Adorable! I even brought his dad over to get the explanation. I guess you had to be there, but I was beside myself with how big and proud he was of himself. I so wanted to buy him the set, but B & N prices are RIDICULOUS! His dad didget him evil Dr. Porkchop from Toy Story 3 while I was checking out the birth book selection, but he’s more of a pushover than I am.
He took a nap on the way home and, surprisingly, didn’t wake up asking to nurse. During his normal evening insanity, he also did not ask to nurse. Perhaps we really are making progress?!
The story continues with Day Four, Day Five, Day Six and the end.
This morning, C woke up super early…seriously, like, earlier than the crack of dawn…”I wannnanurse youuu”. Crap. I quietly and gently welcomed him into bed for snuggles and, trying to preserve the peace, told him it was still night-time. “I wannnanurse youuu.” Next, I tried reminding him that we were putting stickers on the chart instead of nursing. “No! I wannnanurse youuu!” And then came the crying, the yelling. I went through the litany of possible options, but none of them were what he wanted. Ugh. It was so early and my head was hurting so bad (I have a cold).
In the end, we got up (did I mention it was still dark outside?), got some cookie cereal ~ I’m replacing super nutritious breastmilk with the crappiest food ever ~ and all was right with the world. He asked a few times while I was sitting on the couch, actually writing yesterday’s post, for nurses, but accepted the stickers instead. He also climbed on to my lap and asked if he could sit with me. He has NEVER asked to just sit with me, so I take this as a sign of progress.
I’m also realizing that I really have been quite the lazy parent with him and that a big chunk of his asking to nurse may simply be because he needs mama’s attention. This is brutal to think about. When did I become such a lazy parent? I’ll save that for another post. Needless to say, this “operation” is opening my eyes to other things and I *am* paying attention.
We were gone a lot today as well, and I think that is really helping. When we’re on the go, he’s less likely to ask to nurse. By the end of the day, he’s only asked a few times and only had two small episodes of being upset when I said no. The rest of the time, he’s taking it like a champ! I did forget to mention that yesterday he got upset a couple of times as well and said things like, “Mommy! I’m not a big boy, I’m a little boy. So, I can nurse you!” It was so cute and so sad. When he wants to be, this little guy is quite the charmer.
Back to the task….the sticker chart is working well! I’m so pleased with that. He really enjoys picking out a sticker, sometimes taking ten minutes to pick out just the right one (while I remind myself, internally, that this is part of it) and its new home. He’s also gotten the hang of putting stickers on a certain day. When we first started, he wanted to put them all over the place and I suggested we keep them on the “right” day. Today, though, he rejected my “just put them anywhere” attitude and informed me that they needed to go on the right day. Sheesh!
All in all, it’s going well! Yay!
The story continues with Day Two, Day Three, Day Four, Day Five, Day Six and the end.
Today is the first day of our new “no nursing” regimen, which I explained here.
This morning, my silly husband and I woke up early thinking we could squeeze in some much-needed “adult” time. Ha! Our little exquisitely protect their stations in the family by waking up just at the point-of-entry. If this has ever happened to you, then you will understand why I knew my husband’s face was angry fire-red even though it was almost pitch black!
Anyway, C woke up around 5am with what always sounds like a drunken, whiny sailor: “I wannanurse youuuu”. Usually, I will nurse him until the count of twenty and then stop. Sometimes he cries and sometimes he doesn’t. This morning, I reminded him that we weren’t nursing anymore, but we could put stickers on the chart. He asked for his chocolate milk (the remnants of which I threw away the night before because he threw up everywhere after drinking it), and got upset when I tried to placate with other things. Eventually, miraculously, I was able to get him back to sleep for a bit.
Once we were up in earnest, it wasn’t so difficult to use logic with him as opposed to trying to placate. I reminded him of his chart and his prize, which he happily scribbled on twice.
We also spent a good chunk of the morning/early afternoon out of the house. You might call this cheating, but I call it “sanity saver”. We did purchase some stickers for the chart while out, one set of Spiderman and one set of Toy Story, although we may have to get more if he continues putting multiple ones on at a time. It seems to be working fairly well. When he comes up and says “I wanna nurse you”, I remind him that we’re not nursing any more, but that we can go put a sticker on the chart. Usually, he says okay and that’s that. I also offer sitting on my lap, holding, cuddling, snacks, water and so on.
I was gone all evening to meetings, so we didn’t have an issue there and we don’t usually nurse to sleep, so we navigated all that pretty well. He was still up having crazy time (no, seriously) when I went to bed with the baby, but at some point he crawled into bed with me and we snuggled for a few minutes before he fell asleep.
Day one down!
I have been debating about weaning my toddler for quite some time, probably about a year. I have resisted the urge, for a multitude of reasons:
- He has shown ZERO interest in letting go of being a nursling
- I am lazy, and giving up the easiest mothering tool ever is hard work
- I have not yet had to actively wean a child and therefore know very little about it
- The subject of tandem nursing caused a huge “scandal” in my circle of friends when my husband was first introduced to the idea and permanently affected not only friendships but my view of many things, including breastfeeding advocacy. It was a traumatic-to-me event during a very vulnerable time, which made me feel like I *musttandem nurse to “prove” something about my husband. Yes, this reason is completely unreasonable and stupid, but it’s one of my reasons, nonetheless. (I also didn’t realize that this was one of my reasons until I sat down to write them out!)
- Ask around about tandem nursing…from those who do it or intend to…and the common refrain (that I’ve heard/read) is: “It’s lovely!”, “I’m so glad we chose this, it’s so wonderful!”, “When my kids are nursing, rainbows form in the sky while unicorns dance!” Okay, so I made that last one up, but you get the idea, right? This has NOT been my experience, at all, and it is really hard to admit (both to myself and to others) that I just really don’t like nursing both of my kids.
- I’m sure there are more reasons I could come up with, but these are the first ones that came to mind. I’ve come to think that perhaps it may just be toddler nursing, as opposed to tandem nursing, that I dislike….but it really doesn’t matter, the point is: I’m done.
- In case you’re wondering, here are some of the reasons I don’t want to nurse two kids anymore:
- This feeling of not wanting to nurse the toddler anymore started in 2010, when I was pregnant and had a miscarriage. C nursed through the entire thing, almost obsessively. Maybe the milk tasted differently? While, logically, I knew that it was a good thing for him to nurse, that it was probably helping my uterus clamp down and avoid bleeding too much, it was emotionally upsetting. I kept thinking that if he would just stop, maybe the little baby-start wouldn’t leave my body and everything would be okay. (I even briefly convinced myself that maybe there were twins and one was still inside, growing away.) As much as it pains (and embarrasses) me to say, I was angry with C. I was angry that he needed me so ferociously at a time when I felt I had nothing to give. Duh! Of course he nursed a lot, it was basically the only form of mothering he was receiving while I was so upset (insert large amount of mommy guilt here).
- I often end the day feeling as though I’ve been assaulted. Seriously. This feeling, no matter how ridiculous, is not a healthy way to feel about my child. He has stuck his hands down my shirt, up my shirt, unbuttoned my bra, squeezed my boobs, hit me when I’ve said no…the list goes on. I DON’T like it. Not one bit. I have discussed, until I’m blue in the face, appropriate and inappropriate behavior for nursing. It hasn’t helped.
- When I was pregnant with M, we night-weaned. Even though it’s been almost two years since I’ve consistently nursed him at night, he still wakes up asking to nurse, sometimes more than once a night. I recognize that he may still wake up, but hopefully he’ll stop yelling loudly “I wanna nurse you!”
- I’m tired of being “touched out”. I was completely unprepared for just how much physical contact was going to be involved with nursing two kids. There is *alwayssomeone on me, someone touching me, someone nursing or wanting to be nursed. It is too much. I feel depleted and when they go to sleep, I want to lay in the bed (or on the couch) BY MYSELF with a five foot radius of nothing around me. This is great, except when you take into account that I have two other children who are patiently waiting for their turns to have me to themselves…and the husband. While none of them take as much nurturing as the two little ones, I feel like there’s just not enough of me to go around. I need some of that back.
- I want to have orgasms. LOTS of them. I want to enjoy sex with my husband and that involves my breasts. This may sound selfish, but trust me, I am a MUCH better mother when I’m fulfilled in this department. Unfortunately, that “touched out” feeling extends over into the bedroom and leaves me less-than-enthused about having even more touching. I have never had this issue before, and I can only conclude that the difference is the extra nursling-child.
So, there you have it, some of my reasons for continuing to nurse my toddler when I really wanted to stop and some of my reasons for choosing to stop now. Here is my plan, otherwise known as “Operation No More Nursing”:
I explained to C that he is getting older, bigger and that when we get bigger, we don’t nurse anymore. I pointed out that his older siblings didn’t nurse anymore and that Daddy didn’t nurse anymore. He nodded. I said that M still needed to nurse because he is a baby, that Mommy loves him very much and that we can snuggle, cuddle, etc. Then I told him that we were going to stop nursing and that we were going to make a chart, add stickers for each day we didn’t nurse and on Saturday (we’d start on Monday) he’d get a special “No More Nursing” prize. He liked that idea. Here’s a picture of the (very roughly drawn) chart I made for him:
Thrown-together chart. More space during the days might work better, as we're doing a sticker every time he asks to nurse.
We spent time discussing what kind of prize he would like, something that would be for him only and that was something only “big” boys could do (not little nurslings). He and his older brother often play the Lego video games together, but he has yet to have his own game, so he decided that’s what he would like. And so it began!
The story continues with Day One, Day Two, Day Three, Day Four, Day Five, Day Six and the end.
Every time I start writing this post, something comes up. Maybe I’m not meant to write about it, maybe I should just hold it in my heart. Or maybe it’s because there’s not much to tell, it happened so fast. Looking back it almost seemed like the blink of an eye….I got pregnant, got excited, and then bam…it was over. My story also feels very intertwined with my friend’s story, as so many feelings for and about her swirled around me the entire three weeks or so this took place.
I guess the starting point would be before I even found out I was pregnant. When my close friend’s baby died during her 14th week of pregnancy last November, our whole circle of friends was shaken to the core. This was the first time any of us had close ties with someone experiencing this kind of loss (my aunt had several miscarriages during my youth, but I really didn’t get “it” then), and we all grieved with her. I cried and cried for her/with her, her baby boy, her family. I cried until I could cry no more and then, I cried even more. I was surprised at the many facets of grief and how loss affects SO MANY parts of your life in ways you never expected.
Flash forward to March, when I found out I was pregnant. My very first thought was, “Oh no, what about M?”. There were a lot of other thoughts going on too, which I wrote about here, but I kept going back to feeling like I had taken away something from my friend. I kept thinking about how much she longed for a baby, how hard Noah’s death had been for her, and how awful it was that her baby died and Oops! I got pregnant. How unfair is that??!! It wasn’t supposed to be my turn yet, it was hers and it felt wrong that I should get to have a baby before her.
I told her as gently as I could, by just stating the facts and letting her process. She had a few days to think about it before we saw each other, and when we did we hugged and cried. I felt very relieved that she knew and we had talked. The guilt and sadness were still there, but not nearly as much as it had been.
A few days later, I was doing some yoga and all of a sudden I felt wet. Knowing how juicy I tend to be during pregnancy, I wasn’t immediately concerned. I went to the bathroom anyway, and to my horror it was blood. I yelled for Mike and started crying. It was over and I knew it. And again, my dominant thought was “Oh no, what about M?”. How could I not only take away her “turn” in pregnancy but now I was going to have a miscarriage too?! This was so wrong and unfair.
We called the midwife, who suggested an herbal tincture and lots of rest to see if we could stop it. I did as she suggested, even though I knew it was no good. I knew it. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t make a decision. I laid on the couch with my laptop, watching the world go on.
Physically, there wasn’t much. I was barely 9 weeks along. I felt cramping that seemed to have a somewhat regular pattern, and eventually a clottish looking form came out. It had a dark spot, but after close inspection and some research, I think what I saw was not what an 8 or 9 wk. baby-start should have looked like. The whole process, from start to finish, probably took only a few hours. Colin nursed incessantly the entire time, which I think was probably beneficial for me ~ physically, at least. It was a very strange time, I knew he was probably helping but I couldn’t stop thinking that if he would just STOP nursing maybe this baby could hang on in there.
I was surprise by how hollow I felt. I think that (and probably the initial realization that my pregnancy was over without a baby) was quite possibly the worst feeling. Empty where I shouldn’t have been.