Friday, March 16, 2012

My approach to saying "no"

Audrey is sweet, loving, cuddly and adorable...but she is also curious, mischievous, independent and fearless! Most of our days are filled with climbing, running, jumping and/or leaping of some sort. I think I'll be completely gray before she turns two, but I try so hard not to just say "no" to her. If I did, it would probably be the only word I said all day long! I want her to explore, learn, make mistakes and be active. I don't want her to be taught that she has to do everything the way I do it. I want her to learn to be herself and to love herself. However, I don't want her to get seriously hurt, and I don't want her to think it's okay to do things that are dangerous to herself or to others either.

So, I try not to say "no." Instead, if she's doing something that could be dangerous, we say "ta-ta." We then follow that by explaining why we don't want to do whatever it was that we just "ta-ta"ed. For example: She loves to try to climb on the stone fireplace. When she does this, we say, "Ta-ta, Audrey. We don't climb on the fireplace, do we? Fire is hot and we could get burned, and we could fall and get hurt on the stones. Mommy doesn't want you to get hurt. It would make her very sad. We can sit back here and look at the fireplace though. And if the fire isn't on, you can touch the stones, but we don't climb on them."

My hope is that instead of just hearing "no" every time she tries to do something she shouldn't (which is often), she starts to understand some of the explanations we give her, and learns to explore in safer ways. Do I really think she understands everything I'm saying right now? No, of course not! But she is very smart and I do think she has a basic understanding.

With time and repetition, I hope that this approach encourages her to explore her world in a safe way, instead of discouraging her and making her think she can't do anything. I feel like kids that are just told "no" all the time, grow up to be adults that are either afraid to take (safe) risks, or dangerously rebellious, neither of which I want for her.

So far, it is working well for us! She will approach something we have "ta-ta"ed before, stand there a moment, look at us, and then say, "aaaaaa-ta!" It is ridiculously cute, but also makes me feel like I'm doing something right.

I'm curious though, how do you approach situations like this? Some parenting experts seem to encourage saying "no" in a firm voice. Do you say "no" to your kids or do you have your own approach?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Our breastfeeding journey

The topic of breastfeeding can be a tricky one to write about. Audrey finished nursing almost four weeks ago, and it has taken me that long to write a post that I think is honest, but still sensitive to the varying experiences out there. I am really proud of our breastfeeding journey and want to document it, but please remember that this is our journey and our experience. I am not judging anyone else for their journey, simply sharing ours.

Before Audrey was even born, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. I think we can all agree that breast milk is the most beneficial to a baby, if it is an option. It is specifically designed for that purpose. While I'm sure there are great formulas out there, breast milk is ideal. So I did my research. I read about breastfeeding, diet, complications and I read many other mothers' experiences. I was prepared! I could do this easily! Or so I thought...

For me, the best advice I read was to get that baby skin-to-skin as quickly as possible after birth and for as long as possible. Obviously, this is not always an option. If mom or baby are in distress, immediate attention needs to be paid to their health. But for us, it was possible, and she was put on my stomach the moment she was born. She stayed there for the first 20 minutes of her life, leaving then only to be cleaned up and weighed, but then returning and immediately trying to breastfeed. I strongly believe that this skin-to-skin time made a huge difference.

Audrey did not latch on that first time, but after a quick snuggle with her Daddy, she was making sucking faces and latched right on with our second attempt. Luckily, we have never had a latch problem. I have many friends who have struggled with latch issues, but Audrey took to it right away and we never looked back.

One of the most unhelpful things I found in my research was that if breastfeeding was painful, something was always wrong. In the beginning, this is untrue and Moms need to know this! Can pain be a sign of an incorrect latch or some other problem? Yes, absolutely! And I will get to this, because I experienced it. But one of my nurses, who also happened to be a lactation consultant, pointed out something very important. The nipple is a sensitive body part. Your baby is feeding on those sensitive body parts for at least 30 minutes every 2-3 hours at first. That is a lot of stimulation on an area that is so sensitive and does not usually get that amount of stimulation. So at first, some pain when the baby initially latches on is normal. Let me say that again: Some pain is normal! For me, Audrey was almost 3 months old before that pain completely went away.

On the other hand, some pain is definitely a sign that something is wrong. When Audrey was only about a month old, I had a clogged duct, followed by mastitis and we both had thrush. At this point, I realized why so many women give up. This is hard work. It is emotionally and physically exhausting. Add this amount of pain, that you have to continue to nurse through, and weeks of medications to the mix, and it is enough to make anyone throw in the towel.

If this happened to you and you quit, I don't blame you. But I decided to stick it out. I had met my first goal of breastfeeding for a month and was determined to meet my next goal of 3 months. When Audrey was 2 months old, I had to go back to work, and this meant that I had to pump while I was there. I hated pumping. It was difficult to find the time to pump twice while I was at work, and it was even more difficult for me to relax enough to pump as much as she was drinking while I was away from her. We barely made it to my 3 month goal. I was pumping extra at night while she was sleeping and on the weekends to store in the freezer. To be completely honest, if I hadn't had the opportunity to become a stay-at-home mom at that point, I don't think that we would have made it as long as we did.

But I did have the opportunity to become a stay-at-home mom, and I never so much as looked at that pump again. We easily made it to my 6 month goal and I set my next goal at 1 year. But when Audrey was around 10 months old, I had another clogged duct that developed into mastitis. I was even sicker this time than I was the first time, and again came close to giving up. In the end, I continued because I couldn't get her to take formula, and it seemed silly to struggle with it when she could have cow's milk in 2 more months.

So we made it to 12 months! And I was so proud! But I was also ready to be done nursing. She was eating solids very well, starting to drink cow's milk, and seemed to only be nursing for comfort or out of habit. Nursing was also starting to really drain me physically. People don't realize how much of a strain producing breast milk is on your body. I am currently a good 5-7 pounds under the lowest weight I have ever been because it takes so many calories and sucks all the nutrients from you. Audrey was showing signs of being ready to wean too, so we gave it a shot.

We didn't quit cold turkey though. There was no way I was risking mastitis again! So I started by cutting out middle of the night feedings (leaving only a morning, naptime and evening feeding) and we did that for a couple weeks. Next, I cut out the evening feeding, followed by the naptime feeding, and then the morning feeding, leaving a few weeks in between. At the end, I nursed her once in the morning every other day for a couple days. I really think this method worked perfectly. By the time we stopped completely, Audrey was drinking cow's milk twice a day and didn't really seem to notice that we stopped. I didn't have any engorgement at all and avoided clogged ducts and mastitis.

Nursing was our special time together. I fell in love with my daughter and bonding with her during this special time. So when I think about being finished, it makes me a little sad. She's growing up and isn't my baby anymore. But we nursed for 13 1/2 months! What an accomplishment that is! I feel blessed to have been able to do this for my daughter and have this special time with her.

There are many issues out there for the nursing mom to face: milk supply and production, proper latch, time, clogged ducts, mastitis and thrush, just to name a few! Some women end up needing medications for themselves that force them to stop nursing. Others simply struggle to produce enough milk to satisfy their growing child. Breastfeeding is natural and wonderful, but it's far from easy! From reading others' experiences, I know our journey was fairly easy, and I'm grateful for that! If we have another child, I will definitely try to breastfeed again, but I am under no delusion that it will go as smoothly as it did with Audrey. Just like every pregnancy is different, so is every baby and every attempt at breastfeeding. But I know the benefits and the challenges that stand in our way and I'm willing to give it my best shot, because in the end, it is so worth it!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

I Heart Faces - Beautiful B&W

It has been a while since I participated in an I Heart Faces photo challenge, but with the AWESOME prizes they're offering and the B&W theme, I couldn't resist!

I took this photo of my very best friend just minutes before her wedding! She got married at the public library which was so incredibly cool and made for some interesting photo opportunities! The light was just streaming in the windows at this point and she was radiating joy and excitement! Photos with such beautiful natural light and raw emotion just beg to be B&W in my opinion!

Photo Challenge Submission

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Audrey - 14 months


I'm 2 days late writing your letter this month, but I guess that's better than last month! At some point this last month, you turned into a little girl instead of my baby. Mommy moved all the pictures of you on her phone, from an hour after you were born up until now, to her computer. I sat there crying because I can't believe how much you've grown and how quickly the time seems to have gone! But no matter how big you get, you'll always be my baby girl!

You finished nursing this month and have been completely weaned for over 2 weeks! We weaned very slowly over the last few months and you did so well. You love your whole milk and don't even seem to notice that we've stopped most days. Sometimes, if Momma is wearing a lower cut shirt, you'll come over and pull on my shirt. But for the most part, you are as happy as a clam and too busy to notice!

All four of your first molars decided to come in at once this month! They have all finally broken through the gums, and though they still seem to bother you, you are doing much better.

You came down with your first cold this month and are just starting to feel better today. We did a whole lot of cuddling for almost 2 weeks, but that's okay. Mommy hates to see you so miserable and loves to cuddle you. Unfortunately, you shared your cold with Mommy and Daddy, and we're only about halfway through it, so hopefully we're all healthy and feeling better soon!

Your Uncle Ryan got orders for his second deployment right before Christmas, so your Auntie and cousin Blake moved back to Massachusetts this month. They'll be here for the 7 months that Uncle Ryan is gone, and even though we're sad for the reason they're here, you are already having so much fun with your Auntie and cousin. Just before they got here, Mommy worked with you to try and get you to say "Auntie." You ended up saying "Ti Ti" and it just stuck! She is now your "Ti Ti."

You are babbling more and more too. You are constantly trying to repeat things we say to you. Usually, you just come out with the sound of the first letter, but Mommy is still impressed. I don't really know how you compare to other kids your age, but I think you are so smart! And you continue to love your books which makes Mommy so happy!

You are great at pointing things out if we ask you where something is, whether it is a toy, book, person or body part. But if you don't know where something or someone is, you turn your palms up in the air and shrug. It's SO incredibly cute! You also try to hold your phone with your ear and your shoulder and it cracks Momma up every time!

You love to play with other kids, and you do surprisingly well for an only child. You are a little rough with your baby cousin, Blake, but in a month or two he'll be able to hold his own and I think he'll put you in your place!

You're starting to test your boundaries with us, and it takes everything Mommy has to try not to laugh at you. When you're doing something you're not supposed to, we tell you "ta ta." Well, now when you are going to do something you know you shouldn't, you get a big grin, wag your finger and say "aaaaaa ta!" You even do it when Mommy or Daddy are doing something you don't want us to. We try so hard not to smile, but you are just the cutest thing even when you're being naughty!

Speaking of testing your boundaries, you love to climb! You can climb up on the couch and chair all by yourself. You climb up on the first stair of the stairs and hang on the gate. You climb all over Mommy. You try to climb into the tubby. You'll climb just about anywhere if we're not looking!

Your smile lights up a room and your giggle fills the house with such joy! You are lovable, sweet, stubborn, and more and more independent every day. I love you to the moon and back sweet girl!

Love Always,