Monday, October 26, 2009

Nursing Wisdom

Welcome to the October Carnival of Breastfeeding! This month's theme is "What I Wish I Had Known..." and links to all the other posts in the carnival will appear below during the day. Enjoy reading them all.

There are two pieces of advice that would have totally changed the uncertain scary, sleep deprived early days with my daughter. They are simple tips yet I never read them in a book until I was given a copy of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, eight months into my mothering adventures. So many mums I have talked to have agreed how useful these pieces of wisdom have been to them - in fact I have often wondered why they are not more widely advised. So, without further ado, here they are.

First: the best way to get your baby to nap and to get some sleep yourself is to lie down beside it, nurse it to sleep and allow yourself to rest with it until it wakes. This is so obvious, yet most of us believe we "should" put the baby down in a basket or crib and sleep on our own somewhere else. Every book advises new mothers to sleep when their babies sleep, but if you are breastfeeding in a chair and your baby nods off in your lap, what are you supposed to do? So, to any new mothers out there who are reading this: feel no guilt about cuddling up in bed with your little one for a gorgeous nap. Treasure every moment you get to spend in such a lovely yummy way. And get someone else to do the housework. (Even daytime naps like this count as co-sleeping, and as such, should be done safely. Though, it must be said, it is safer to intentionally co-sleep with your little one in a bed than to drop off on a sofa with the baby on your knee).

Secondly: get a sling that you can breastfeed in. Seriously, this changed my life. A sling is such a warm, cosy place for a baby to be, and when you add the comfort of suckling it becomes almost impossible for a baby not to settle down and sleep. What is so great about nursing a baby to sleep in a sling is that it untethers you from the sofa: whether the baby is awake, asleep or in the process of dropping off, you can wander about the house, go outside, use a computer or do whatever else that appeals. The sling also provides a familiar environment for the baby wherever you happen to be, so it will fall asleep more easily in strange surroundings. What is perhaps most useful for parents of spirited, high needs babies is the fact that it is easier to put a baby down without waking it when it is in a sling than when it is just being carried. And if you do manage to put your sleeping baby down, you can enjoy some precious moments of me-time because you should be able to slide your body out from within the sling without disturbing the baby. I found my ring sling incredibly useful for this and I still use it nowadays to hip-carry my 13 month old daughter. I am sure a stretchy wrap would be equally as good.

The fact that these simple tips, that can make such a difference, are omitted from standard childcare manuals amazes me. I think it owes a lot to our society's irrational fear of letting our babies control us that we are afraid to do such natural things as napping with our babies or carrying them around. So, without wishing to become some kind of annoying advice-giving know-it-all, I spread the word whenever I can (and almost always find someone who completely agrees with me, and, like me, can't understand why we all had to learn these things the hard way). May you, dear reader, have many happy and restful days with your baby.

Fancy Pancakes: Wish I'd Heard More Good Things
The Milk Mama: When breastfeeding begins badly, and what I should have done about it
Hobo Mama: What I wish I'd known when I started breastfeeding
My World Edenwild: What I Wish I'd Known Then: A Poem
Happy Bambino: I wish I had known then…that it wasn’t up to me alone
Three Girl Pile-Up: 4 things I wish I’d known about breastfeeding
Birth Activist: What I Wish I Would Have Known About Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding Moms Unite!: You Don't Have to Grin and Bear It
Momma's Angel: What I Wish I’d Known Then – My List For Next Time
The Starr Family Blogg: I Wish I Would Have Known
Whozat: If I'd Known Then
Massachusetts Friends of Midwives: What I wish I’d known back then about breastfeeding
Fighting Frumpy: When Breastfeeding Feels Wrong
Breastfeeding Mums: 15 Breastfeeding Facts I Wish I'd Known as a First Time Breastfeeding Mum
Mum Unplugged: What I Wish I'd Known Then
Blacktating: Breastfeeding is life changing
Breastfeeding 1-2-3: Trust Yourself and Your Body


TopHat said...

Very good tips! I usually hung out on the Internet when my daughter fell asleep instead of napping. Should have napped!

Melodie said...

Slings and co-sleeping - I heartily agree. I wish I had worn my babies a little longer than I did...but I also wish they hadn't grown quite so fast and had been so heavy!

Rebekah said...

With my first I had a very uncomfortable sling, though it still worked for feeding. Then I had a Baby Bjorn which I don't think is good for breastfeeding. When my daughter was a year old, I got an Ergo baby carrier for Christmas. I'm wondering if that will do ok for a nursing infant or if I should get an even simpler cozier sling.

Lisa C said...

Because of our breastfeeding issues the lying down nursing thing wasn't even a choice in the beginning, but finally one day I was so exhausted (and he was getting better at latching on) that I figured if I lay down and nurse him I could get at least ten minutes of rest...and he fell asleep! And so did I! It was WONDERFUL. After that I tried it every chance I got. lol.

I did manage to nurse him a couple times in a wrap, and did my grocery shopping in the meantime, but again we had so many issues this was difficult for us (though it works great for many others). Nursing in a mei tai (when they are big enough for one) is pretty easy, although a bit awkward (unless you have stretchy boobs, you have to lower the mei tai), and very discreet.

Rita Templeton said...

I have co-slept with all three of my kids. It just feels right to have my babies with me - after carrying them inside my body for nine months, it seems only natural to cuddle them while we sleep!

Amanda said...

My husband's favorite picture is of me, hair wild, eyes shut and mouth gaping (I know there's drool in there somewhere!) in our big armchair with my little man just days old tucked between me and our Boppy, attached to the breast. I always found it too difficult to stay awake long enough to move when breastfeeding my little one down for a nap!

Cave Mother said...

Lisa - Ring slings and pouches are best for nursing (in my humble opinion) because you can just sit down with the baby lying on your knee but in the sling, and feed them just like normal. Then instead of just sitting there with the baby sleeping on you, you can get up with them still in the sling. It really works well and is still how I nurse Cave Baby down for most of her naps.

Cave Mother said...

Rebekah - your Ergo will be good for carrying your baby around but if you are having another little one, a stretchy wrap, a ring sling or a pouch would be a real bonus because they are so much easier to feed in. You can actually have your baby lying across your tummy, feeding in the usual position, while you get on with other things. They are great.

Anonymous said...

I have a high-needs baby as well and I so relate to wishing I'd known all of this at first! Thank you for sharing. :)

Lisa C said...

I love ring slings, but I cannot wear one for too long because of scoliosis in my back. But I have nursed a couple times in one and it is easy (at least with an older baby--I didn't get to try when he was newborn). The mom's in our babywearing group seem to think the mei tai is easiest for nursing, but I guess it all depends on your and your baby's personal preferences. Though I will say that if you need to pull up your shirt, a wrap or mei tai would be way trickier than a sling or pouch.

global mamas said...

Beautiful blog! I still nurse my bub to sleep in the ergo at least once a day and she is now 14 months old! Now she actually brings me the carrier, puts on her hat and points to the door every she feeds she makes this beautiful mmmmm sound and she simply oozes all sorts of BLISSFULL feelings.
Sometimes in the afternoon if she needs another nap, she will do the same thing or I will suggest a walk and she runs for the ergo...soooo cute!
Yes, feeding in a carrier is a great TIP for the new breast feeding mum :)

Jessica said...

I'm sending this to my pregnant sister now :) Thanks for this!