The Bliss {and Blisters} of Nursing a Toddler

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My son and I are breaking up.

Our breastfeeding relationship of 21 months is coming to an end.  This is something that seems to have happened gradually and then all of a sudden. Which means I feel both relieved and devastated at the same time.

We’ve been winding down for a couple of months now. I decided when he was about 18 months that we’d move into the “don’t offer/don’t refuse” phase of nursing. We naturally transitioned into an easy rhythm of nursing at bedtime and in the mornings, and occasionally during the day.

We fell into this easy rhythm, and it worked for a while.

And then he stopped asking as much. Or when he did ask to nurse, it would often be fitful and distracted.

Things are getting more and more physically uncomfortable when nursing my toddler. From finding a way to fit his long, energetic body onto my lap and into my arms, to his distracted nursing style.

As difficult as nursing a toddler can sometimes be, there are moments of pure bliss.

At bedtime, I ask him if he wants “num nums”, and a quick smile breaks across his round face. “Num num nums!” he agrees, ambling over to where I sit in the glider rocker. He quickly scrambles up onto my lap along with his soft red and blue blanket and a lovey so putrid and fragrant it has secretly earned the name Stinky Tofu.  He has a specific place for each of these things in our nursing setup: Blankie goes between his knees and up onto his stomach. Stinky Tofu gets draped over his shoulder and is purposefully clutched in one hand. His right arm shoots out between us, searching for the space between the side of my body and the chair. He likes to tuck it there, and it feels like he’s giving me a sweet little side hug.

Finally, we are ready to nurse.

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In the early days, breastfeeding was difficult for us. It had been long enough since my daughter nursed that I felt uncertain about how to hold his not-so-little head and how to help him latch on. His bottom lip seemed to be permanently sucked in under his upper jaw, making a wide open latch near impossible.

We spent what felt like hours working through the learning process together. My shoulders and wrists ached from holding him close for hours on ends. My skin was hot and tight under the pressure of all the new milk. And my poor nipples felt like they were permanently chapped.

But one day, it all clicked. His squirmy little newborn body found its place in my arms, the place where everything just worked. We fit together in only the way we could, filling in each other’s gaps and squishing together in an intimate embrace. His little noises, snuffly breathing and eager, regular swallows and sighs, became the soundtrack to my evenings and nights. It became a time I longed for, even when I was staggeringly tired or hotly frustrated or completely touched out. That moment we found our two selves melding into one and sighing into a familiar rhythm.

We fit together in only the way we could, filling in each other’s gaps and squishing together in an intimate embrace.

Now, as I feel the days of our breastfeeding winding down, and the frequency of those peaceful moments is less frequent, I cherish them all the more. Daily it seems I feel the hot sting of tears coming to my eyes when I watch him nurse. If I close my eyes and let my mind go quiet, it’s almost as if he’s a tiny newborn again.

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Two is still so little – hell, he’s not even really two yet, but I’m rounding up, trying to brace myself for the emotional blow when he does turn two.  He’s still so little in this big world, and yet he’s changing so very quickly.

At 21 months he is an incredibly active, sparkly-eyed little guy. He walks, jumps, runs, and climbs on everything. He is talking up a storm, and seems to be adding new words every single day. He likes to zoom toy trucks, buses, and tractors on any stationary surface. And the boy can eat.

On Halloween he went trick or treating for the first time. He walked up to the doors behind his big sister and confidently thrust his little fist into bowl after bowl of candy, choosing his favorite thing. Even though he didn’t really know what candy is, he quickly got into the routine of walking from house to house, anticipating the swift opening of a new door and the promise of a colorful treat.

In those moments I can see both the little boy he is becoming, and the baby he once was. That night he went to sleep without nursing, the stain of chocolate around his little lips.

I know that he’s doing everything he should be doing at this age, and more! And yet.The end of our nursing relationship signifies the ending of his babyhood. The thought of him not being this small forever makes my heart ache. I know how quickly these moments will pass, and I want to hold on so tightly.

We waiting so long and went through so much to have our kids. At this point we know there will not be any more babies. This is one of the reasons I want to hold on to these last nursing moments as long as possible.

Like so many moments in motherhood, this one is filled with complex and contradictory emotions.

At the end of a busy day, the nursing ritual is a touchstone for us. It’s a moment that all is still and quiet in the world, and we connect in such an intimate way. As this part of our journey winds down, I find myself knowing that we’ll find new touchstones and moments to connect. And I’m not going to lie: I am more than a little excited to have my boobs back.  Yet the idea of being finished breastfeeding is also a difficult one to wrap my head around.

How did your breastfeeding journey wrap up?  Any suggestions for new evening routines?


 

Growing

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The garden is growing.

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Sweet bunting in The Fibre Co. Acadia

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Lobelia in Anzula Cloud

And so is my knititng.

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But most of all, this summer my little girl is growing.  She’s made that indescribable crossing from toddler to small child, and there’s every indication she’ll just keep going from here.  She’s a joker, an artist, a storyteller, and a joyful liver of life.

The way she is lives so fully in the present is truly teaching me what it means to live in the moment.  I am reminded to give her my best as often as I can.  The rest of it: the laundry, the crumbs on the counter, even the running of my business, can just wait a minute.  Because who would want to miss that look?  Not me.

This Moment

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inspired by Soule Mama:

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

 

Yarn Along :: Phoebe Mouse

 

 

Inspired by Ginny: ~ Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs. I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading?

I have a modest collection on knitting books for children, and keep them on a special shelf near my yarn.  Every special once in a while, PB asks if we can “read a knitting book,” and we choose one to read together.  Recently she requested we read Phoebe’s Sweater, a beautifully illustrated book by Joanna and Eric Johnson.

After the story, there are some beautiful knitting patterns for a girls sweater and a large stuffed mouse doll with a matching sweater and dress.  I’ve always wanted to make PB the sweater, but on this day it was the darling mouse that caught her eye.

Mama, will you knit me this mouse please?

Sure, sweetie.  What color should it be?

Let’s look in your yarn cabinet, mama. 

Be still my heart!  We proceeded to look through the stash and discuss color options, and she ended up insisting upon a relatively new-to-me skein of Madelinetosh Vintage in Moccasin.  I tried to convince her of other options, but she would not be swayed.  And she’s right; this chocolate-brown yarn was the best choice for a little mouse, perfectly matching the weight and yardage requirements.

Phoebe Mouse is a quick, seamless (except for the ears) toy, something I haven’t made before.  I’ve finished the body since taking this picture on Monday, and am on to the extremities.  The best part is, every couple of days she asks me to sit down and work on her Phoebe Mouse.  Gladly my dear, gladly.

What’s on your nightstand and in your project basket this week?

ps. The Johnson’s have since published two more, equally charming children’s books: Freddie’s Blanket and Phoebe’s Birthday. View them here.

Fairy Party Favors

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PB’s birthday falls just a few days into the new year, an inevitably busy, post-holiday blitzed out time of year.  And each year, I’ve felt like a celebration was an afterthought, something thrown together at the last-minute, just as the Christmas tree was starting to get crispy.  Oh yes, it’s birthday time.

This has resulted in over-inviting, over indulging, and generally overdoing it.  I would usually feel like the point of the day was being overlooked in a rush to make things just-so, and the day would end with any number of babies or adults in tears.  This year we chose to keep it small and simple (thank you, Trader Joe’s), and it was a relaxing day.  With the exception of the party favors…

I had so much fun going over the top with these!

We had a very loosely themed Fairy Party where guests were encouraged to dress up. Then at the end of the party, each kiddo got to choose a wand and a vial of glittery pixie dust. Not to worry: I glued the lids on!

I spent a lot more time on these than I thought I would, but once you start it’s hard to stop. And I have to admit: it was fun to get so immersed in a creative project that wasn’t knitting. It’s good to mix things up once in a while.

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Flower Fairy Wand Materials:

  • 1/4 inch wooden dowel, cut to 18 inches long
  • green glitter paint
  • styrofoam ball
  • bouquets of silk flowers, leaves, butterflies
  • ribbons
  • hot glue
  1. Paint the dowels with green glitter paint and let dry.
  2. Separate flower heads and leaves from bouquets.  I had a pile of larger flowers, one of smaller flowers, and a pile of leaves and add ons like butterflies and more elongated pieces.
  3. Put a dab of hot glue on each flower before pressing it into the styrofoam ball until it is covered (there was some styrofoam showing if you looked closely).
  4. When the dowels are dry, put a dab of glue on one end and attach a 6-10 inch length of ribbon.  I put 3 ribbons of varying lengths on each wand.
  5. Press the dowel about halfway into the ball, remove it, and fill the hole with hot glue. Then put the dowel back in and press firmly until glue sets.
  6. Put in a pretty jar or vase to let dry and display!

We also had a craft area for the little ones to decorate cardboard crowns.  I put out some glitter glue, foam stickers, markers and crayons and they were entertained for quite some time.  It’s pretty exciting to be out of the imminent choking-hazard age and into the age of semi-independent crafting!

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PB loved it, and charged herself with decorating all of the extra crowns, and now we’re all royalty.

All in all it was a very fun little celebration. I’m thankful I was able to make time to create something interactive that I knew PB would enjoy.  In a busy season, and a busy life, taking time to create with PB is one of the things that truly helps fill my bliss-cup.

My only problem now: what to do with all those naked bouquets of flowers.

In the Garden

I’ve been a major gardening slacker this season.  I would love to have a lush garden bursting with tasty possibilities, but I just haven’t been able to get myself to the place of follow through.  Part of the reason is that we have been house hunting!  And while I tour homes and look at back yards, I couldn’t really invest in planting a bunch of goodies only to have to leave them behind in a move. That said, we do have some flower pots and hanging planters that could come with us.

PB and I did scatter some seeds a few weeks back Jackson Polluck style, which has led to some interesting sprout patterns.  Like one pea plant amidst a sea of red leaf lettuce…

But the artichokes I planted last summer are going gangbusters, and I have already harvested 4 thorny morsels.  Our strawberries are also doing very well, though it’s a trick beating the slugs to the ripe berries.

How does your garden grow?