Will Your Kids Remember Being Breastfed?

When I see sensationalist breastfeeding articles about children being breastfed past infancy, occasionally (just for entertainment) I will read the comments.  Quite often there is a concern about the child’s welfare, with worry expressed that the child will actually remember being breastfed.  There’s an implication that a child would be mortified to recall suckling their mother’s breast, or perhaps that this is an incestuous act, and that the child will probably grow up to become some sort of sex pest with mummy issues.

As an adult who was breastfed past infancy, through toddlerhood and into preschool age, I am here to tell you these assumptions are not remotely close to my own experience.

I consider myself to be reasonably intelligent and fairly well-adjusted with healthy and normal relationships and attitudes towards sex.  I don’t have inappropriate feelings about my mum (unless you count the infrequent bouts of extreme irritation that I get, but I’m sure this isn’t limited to those who are breastfed to term).  If you asked the people who know me, they might describe me as a little bit of a weirdo, but I don’t think that has anything to do with mum’s boobs – I’m just a unique individual.

I remember being breastfed.  I don’t actually remember having my mum’s boobs in my mouth, but I remember the very best kind of cuddle in the whole world.  I remember hoping my mum would hold me that way whenever I was upset or afraid.  But most of all, I remember feeling like I was the only person that mattered in my mother’s eyes, like mum and I were the only two people to have ever walked this earth.  There is true beauty in breastfeeding an older child.

The specific memories of being breastfeed are soft and dull, as they have faded over time.  I can’t remember the days, the times or the circumstances but I can remember the feelings that I felt.  I can compare the overwhelming feelings of love to those that I felt when my new babies were first handed to me, and the day my husband looked into my eyes as we stood at the altar and said “I do”.  Except weddings and births are milestone events, and you may only be lucky enough to experience those a handful of times in your life.  Children can be breastfed over and over again.

People will often fear what they don’t know, don’t understand or haven’t experienced and that is OK.  But please keep your fears in check.  It’s confronting because it’s not normal for you.  Please don’t project your feelings onto other families and individuals simply because their “normal” is different to yours.

I don’t remember the taste of milk, feeling hungry for it or craving it.  But I do remember the love, comfort and security of those nursing sessions.  Regardless of your stance on breastfeeding an older child, I think we can all agree that these are feelings we want our children to have, and to remember from their childhood.

Pregnant and Breastfeeding

My husband and I always planned to have our kids close together.  Unfortunately my menstrual cycle didn’t return until my son was 18 months old.  My son was still breastfed on demand (frequently) day and night.  Some mums night wean or fully wean, or even take strange herbs and powders to bring their period back.  I was grateful that my period came back, a little later than I hoped, but all on it’s own.

My cycle was unpredictable – anywhere from 21 to 45 days long, and anything and everything in between.  It was really hard to plot my fertility when my body was running it’s own race.  After 8 months, I saw my GP and had a range of blood tests.  My thyroid medication needed adjusting, but otherwise I was fine.  At this point I decided to stop trying to chart my cycle and ironically, the next month I was pregnant. Although my medication change would have helped, I also believe relaxing made a difference too.

After the elation of my positive pregnancy test, I was hit by a brick wall of fatigue.  My son had turned 2 a few months earlier, and was still breastfeeding with a lot of enthusiasm (actually I think most 2 year olds do everything with a lot of enthusiasm).  As the fatigue began to clear, pain set in.  Hormones find extreme ways to test your commitment to breastfeeding during pregnancy.  The nipple pain I felt during the first trimester was excruciating.  I remember repeatedly pulling my breast out of my son’s mouth to look for cracks or teeth indentations, but there was nothing.  The only way I found relief was to breastfeed lying down in bed, keeping my son very still.

As my pregnancy progressed, the nipple pain became slightly less intense, but aversions started to hit me instead.  I began to feel major and unwarranted irritation whenever my son wanted to breastfeed, and had to find tactics to keep myself calm.  Playing with my iphone was a good distraction, as was focussing on deep breathing.

The idea of child-led weaning went out of the window, and I began putting some gentle boundaries in place.  As my milk supply changed, my sons breastfeeds increased, and I found it necessary to night wean him too.  I wasn’t pumping, so didn’t know exactly what happened to my supply, but around 22 weeks, my son’s stools became very loose and foul smelling.  I understand that this meant it was likely that my milk had reverted to colostrum.

Throughout the difficulties, I was happy to be breastfeeding.  My son was very attached to me, and could be quite anxious at times.  He was and still is a child who needs a lot of love and affection to keep his cup filled.  Continuing to breastfeed him was my way of keeping something in our relationship consistent, because I knew that a new baby would drastically change things for us.

I would encourage any mama considering breastfeeding through pregnancy to keep an open mind.  Although it worked out for me, not everyone’s journey is as straightforward.  I didn’t suffer extreme nausea, food aversions, vomiting or major fatigue, which could have affected our journey.  Sometimes the child will decide to wean too. My son never even looked like weaning.  My best friend’s daughter weaned immediately upon conception, which was a big shock and huge adjustment for a hormonal mama.

Some mamas may have concerns about the safety of breastfeeding through pregnancy.  You should discuss your circumstances with a trusted medical professional who has specific training in breastfeeding.  There is a theoretical risk that breastfeeding during pregnancy may cause premature labour.  Breastfeeding causes the body to release oxytocin, which is the same hormone that stimulates the uterus and causes contractions during labour, however in my situation, breastfeeding didn’t cause me any obvious contractions.

My beautiful baby girl came into the world after a spontaneous labour at 41 weeks.  I went on to tandem feed both my son and daughter and it’s been a wonderful experience, but that’s a story for another day.

Shame – The Importance of Being Articulate

I like to be articulate.  Sometimes I will read a post I’ve written and agonise over whether I’ve used the right word.  “I said I was disappointed, but is disgusted a more appropriate word?  Or disenfranchised, maybe?  Displeased, disturbed, disempowered?”.  It’s really pleasing when I find precisely the right word to use in a situation.

One word that’s used a lot in the mummy world is Shame.  When I see people talk about shame, especially as a verb, I wonder if they have considered the literal meaning of it, and whether that’s the best word to use in their situation.

Shame is a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused with the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour.  To shame someone is to willfully take steps that lead to someone feeling ashamed of themselves.  I don’t believe you can actually make someone feel shame, because the feeling relates to something they have already done.  I can’t see how anyone who wilfully tries to remind you of shameful feelings could have good intentions.  But for the most part, shaming is being called out against virtual strangers online, who would have no idea about your past.

When you’re upset and fumbling for words, I get why “shame” is an easy grab.  I know I find it in the front of my mind a lot, because it’s used so frequently around me.  But try digging deeper and see if there are other words that might fit your feelings more accurately.  Some suggestions I can think of besides shame are embarrassment, sadness, regret and inferiority.  You’ll note that none of these suggestions are normally used as verbs.  You see, I suspect the popularity of the word “shame” is because we can claim it was inflicted upon us.  If I accuse you of shaming me, I’m passing the burden of responsibility for my feelings onto you.

Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotion is a great tool to help you name your feelings
Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotion is a great tool to help you name your feelings

If we are going to enter into discussions of emotive issues over the internet, we need to own our feelings and take responsibility for them.  Recently I commented that breastfeeding without fuss sets a positive example to those around us, and was accused of shaming parents who choose to bottle feed.  I am guessing that comment may have come from someone who was very hurt about a breastfeeding journey that didn’t go as planned, but come on.  My opinion did not create that hurt, it was already there.  I couldn’t reasonably have predicted that anyone would draw that conclusion from my words.

I am not trying to nitpick, but it’s important.  If we don’t use the right words to describe the way we feel, it’s damn near impossible for the other person to understand what we mean.  And that’s the whole foundation of communication, right? A message is conveyed, and the message is received.  If as much as 93% of face to face communication relies on non-verbal cues, imagine how much the impact of a not-completely-correct word is compounded when you’re in a discussion on Facebook!

If we are to have open and frank discussions about sensitive issues, we can’t shut it down every time someone feels confronted.  And if we simply cry out that we’ve been shamed, we can’t expect people to understand why we are upset.  When we converse frankly and from the heart, the lines of communication open and we can move beyond our initial pain and closer towards our goal of mutual understanding.

Do you love Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotion?

 

When Breastfeeding Is A Pain In The Neck

Over the last few weeks I’ve had some pain building up in my neck.  It starts off with some stiffness when I’m tired or have just gotten out of bed.  I get tension headaches from it.  As I continue ignoring it, pain builds up in my neck and radiates out to my shoulders.  My body gave me all of the warning signs – I should have done something about it as soon as I noticed the stiffness and headaches.  Instead I waited for the grand finale – my neck exploded with full blown muscle spasms preventing me from moving at all without extreme pain.  My muscles were stretched too tight and overworked, and when they go into full spasmodic mode, all I can do is try to be as still as I can for a few days until I recover.

I often blame breastfeeding (and to a lesser degree, bedsharing) for my pain, but that’s not entirely correct.  In a society hell-bent on pinning as much blame on breastfeeding as it can, I acknowledge I need to stop indulging in this untruth, especially if I am to find a way to manage my problem.

The biggest problem for me is a sedentary lifestyle.  I have one kid who keeps me up too late and another who wakes me up too early.  It’s been too easy to stay in bed a little longer, too easy to have a quiet day at home, too easy to kick back on the lounge after dinner instead of playing with the kids.  I’m choosing “sedentary” over “lazy”, because it’s fair, even necessary, to recognise when you are tired and need a break.  But I need to find balance because my overcompensation for my fatigue is unhealthy and wrecking havoc on my body.

One positive change I can make is to start yoga.  I can’t commit to local lessons because of my family situation, however Bettina Rae runs an online yoga studio, which allows you to work out at home.  Bettina’s classes are tailored towards mums. She has several resources available that help you get your kids involved too.  If you aren’t sure if online yoga is going to work for you, you can look at her Yoga for Breastfeeding video for free on youtube

At my last appointment, I asked my chiropractor whether, in his opinion, yoga would be good for me.  He said he felt it would be extremely beneficial.  Some neck and back pains are contributed to by poor core strength.  In my case my strength is quite good (thank you babywearing!) but my flexibility is poor.  I believe this is from sitting in fixed positions for extended periods (breastfeeding and bedsharing, but also too much screentime.  Even before I had kids, my desk job actually saw me dealing with similar problems).

The yoga stretches are an ideal way to gradually improve my flexibility.  My chiropractor even suggested that I did not need to wait until I was feeling 100% before starting – he encouraged me to continue with the yoga while my neck is recovering, but to simply listen to my body and back off if I feel like something is too much.

I always try to be an advocate for breastfeeding, and was surprised when I realised I had been unfairly blaming it for my neck pain.  Moving the focus from breastfeeding and onto my overall lifestyle means I have to hold myself accountable if I am to see any changes.  Thankfully doing some yoga on my lounge room floor with my kids is achievable, even for a “sedentary” mama like myself.

I am not a medical professional and am not qualified to give medical advice.  I would encourage you to speak to your own trusted medical professional if you need help managing neck pain.  This post contains affiliate links.

My son Billy and our friend Ziva getting involved in some stretching
My son Billy and our friend Ziva getting involved in some stretching
I have never heard of a "yoga strap" before, but hubby's old footy socks substituted nicely
I have never heard of a “yoga strap” before, but hubby’s old footy socks substituted nicely

 

Miss 19mo taking the opportunity to climb on for a ride... we're working on her level of involvement
Miss 19mo taking the opportunity to climb on for a ride… we’re working on her level of involvement

 

My Baby Has Colic… I think…

My son was diagnosed with colic as a newborn, and it was no easy ride.  I swear it felt like he did nothing but cry for the first three months of his life.  It was hard being told that my baby had colic, and feeling like there was nothing I could do to ease his distress, except to wait for him to grow out of it.

Throughout my time in the Breastfeeders in Australia Facebook support group, I have noticed many parents believe their child has colic.  Sometimes after three or four months, they find that the colic symptoms are not easing the way they expected, and they begin to look for other answers.

Some of the answers that those parents come across are listed below, with links to further information:

  • Is your baby having difficulty adjusting to life outside of the womb? Look into the Fourth Trimester theory
  • If your baby is suffering from excessive vomiting and pain, he may have reflux. Here is some good information on managing reflux for breastfed babies.  An IBCLC can assist you further.  Many families also claim to see a significant reduction in symptoms after seeing a pediatric chiropractor or osteopath
  • If your baby suffering from excessive wind, vomiting, abdominal pain, watery or bloody stools, skin irritation or hives, look into food sensitivities, intolerances or allergies to foods in your diet that may be affecting your baby through your breastmilk.  Keeping a food diary can help you identify problems.  An IBCLC (especially one specialising in dietetics) can help further, as can this really great support group for breastfeeding mums of babies suffering these kinds of issues
  • If your baby is suffering with wind and vomiting, combined with bright green (grass-coloured), explosive and frothy stools, as well as very high weight gains, you may have a lactose overload issue. An IBCLC can help you identify the cause of this issue, and help you manage it
  • If your baby is suffering from a combination of all of the issues above, there may be a physical oral issue that is affecting the way he suckles, swallows and breathes. These types of problems can often go hand in hand with breastfeeding issues and pain for mum.  This Facebook support group can help you find a provider in your area who specialises in these types of issues

There would certainly be more issues than what is included on this list.  It’s a good idea to seek professional support so you can get medical advice that takes your individual circumstances into account.

You may find yourself wondering if these problems would disappear if you stopped breastfeeding completely.  It’s very important to weigh up this decision thoroughly, balancing any perceived benefits with any risks that may be introduced with an alternative.  Personally I found the Alpha Parent’s Timeline of a Breastfed Baby a great motivator to help me get through the rough patches.

It can be physically and mentally exhausting to care for a baby who is difficult to please.  If you feel like you really need a break, talk about it with friends, family and other people who can support you.  Put your hand up and ask for some help.  You don’t need to stop breastfeeding or to get your baby to take a bottle in order to have a rest – there are other options.

Some babies pass this phase of their lives and the crying and unsettledness disappears without intervention too, which is exactly what a parent expects with colic.  But if you feel like there’s something more going on with your baby, it’s well worth exploring other possibilities.  You may not feel confident enough to completely trust your gut instincts, but there is little to lose from seeking help from someone trained and experienced in giving breastfeeding support.  You can’t put a value on peace of mind – it’s priceless.

This information is general, and does not replace the advice of a medical professional.  If you have concerns about the health of your breastfed child I would encourage you to seek the support of an IBCLC.  You can also call the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 1800 MUM 2 MUM

 

Pumping It Forward Project – Share The Love

The Pumping It Forward Project buys brand new breast pumps and donates them to professionals or organisations who are instrumental in their support of breastfeeding women and their children.

When I created Breastfeeders in Australia after my first son in 2012, all I hoped for was a space where breastfeeders could talk about their struggles without being encouraged to stop, and to celebrate their triumphs without having to worry about upsetting those around them who didn’t or couldn’t breastfeed.

Fast forward four years and the group is bursting at the seams (18,014 members as I type this post) and growing all the time. Our support group sees not only mums supporting each other, but professionals helping our mums too.  We are so much bigger than I ever expected we could have been, and as our group has continued to grow, different opportunities have presented themselves to us.

The group has a number of affiliate relationships in place.  The administrators do not seek to profit from the group, so the Pumping It Forward Project was created.  Funds raised through affiliate programs are used to buy breast pumps, which are then donated to professionals and organisations who work to support women breastfeeding.  It’s a privilege to be in a position where we can give back to those who work tirelessly in a professional capacity to help us get as much breastmilk to babies as we can!

To support our project, all you need to do is shop with a company that we have a relationship with.  The beauty of this arrangement is that we have hand-selected companies who our members are already shopping with.  The admin team will never try to “sell” you a product based on our programs, we just make our members aware of the Project.

We have relationships in place with Spectra (hospital grade double breast pumps) and Pumpables (breast pump parts and accessories).  If you shop through our links, we will receive a commission on your sale, to spend on pumps to donate.  We have more relationships in negotiation.

PUMPS DONATED TO DATE

September 2016
Amanda (IBCLC, Midwife) & Jon Pauley (GP), Belmore Road Family Practice

October 2016
Ellen McNally, Illawarra Breastfeeding
Barbara Glare (IBCLC, Life Member ABA – 20 yrs ABA Breastfeeding Counsellor) Warrnambool Breastfeeding Centre
Maureen Minchin (BA Hons MA), Author

November 2016

Rebecca Kubenk (IBCLC, ABA Breastfeeding Counsellor, Doula)

Del Smith (IBCLC, ABA Breastfeeding Counsellor)

Rodney Whyte (Therapeutic Medicines Specialist in Pregnancy and Lactation)

December 2016

Bridget Ingle (IBCLC, Midwife, General and Pediatric Nurse)

Louise David (IBCLC, Independent Midwife)

Northern Breastfeeding Services (The Northern Hospital, Epping, VIC)

January 2017

Rachel Ralph, LaTrobe Regional Hospital

February 2017

Meg Nagle AKA Milk Meg (IBCLC, Blogger, Author, Speaker, Attachment Parent Specialist)

Katy Young (IBCLC, Midwife)

Rebecca Kubenk with her new S2
Rebecca Kubenk with her new S2
Del Smith with her S2
Del Smith with her new S2
Barbara with the S2 donated to the Warrnambool Breastfeeding Centre
Barbara with the S2 donated to the Warrnambool Breastfeeding Centre


Ellen testing out Breastfeeding Illawarra's new S2 on her husband Gavin
Ellen testing out Breastfeeding Illawarra’s new S2 on her husband Gavin

 

Jon saw me quickly between back to back appointments to receive the S2 we donated to his clinic
Jon saw me quickly between back to back appointments to receive the S2 we donated to his clinic
Amanda and Jon have personally helped our family, so it was very exciting to donate a pump to them.
Amanda and Jon have personally helped our family, so it was very exciting to donate a pump to them.

Dear Tie Mamas

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I’ve seen you a lot lately. I see you wherever breastfeeding women talk about their struggles.  You’re easy to spot when you say:

  • That looks like a tie
  • It sounds like there might be a tie
  • I know someone told you that there’s no tie, but I’m pretty sure there is a tie
  • All of those problems relate to ties

I admire your passion.  Being a mum who’s breastfeeding journey was affected by ties in both of my kids, I know you spread information about ties because you want to save another mama from experiencing the struggles that you have.  Your experience is valuable and your message is important.

I see why you are frustrated.  People think you’re crazy because you’re always talking about ties.  Sometimes people don’t want to hear it.  They may have previously been told that ties are a fad.  I see this hurts you greatly, because you have experienced ties first hand, and have experienced huge benefits from having ties corrected.  It must be really upsetting to have someone dismiss your experience as invalid or simply a fad.

It takes a special mama to do what you do – to try and help other others find a smooth journey while you are healing from your own trauma.  Perhaps it’s your recovery process that causes you to feel both energised and triggered when you see another mama who may benefit from learning about ties.

If you find some are not very receptive to your advice, perhaps you need to reconsider your approach.

Instead of “It’s obviously ties”, try “It sounds like there may be a physical oral issue that’s preventing your baby from breastfeeding effectively, which is creating other issues.  Can I refer you to a list of professionals who have a track record of diagnosing/correcting these types of issues?”

“Ties” get thrown around so frequently they become easy to disregard.  Using an alternative phrase can get people paying attention, because it’s feels like a new solution instead of something they’ve already explored.

Instead of “Your doctor/nurse/paed/whoever doesn’t know jack shit about ties”, try “As you are still having some problems, would you be interested in getting a second opinion?  Can I refer you to a list of professionals who have a track record of diagnosing/correcting these types of issues?”

Remember it hurts to have your experience dismissed.  Acknowledge her experience and help her move forward.

Instead of “None of these problems will stop until you get the ties addressed”, try “Your experience sounds really similar to mine.  We found a professional who helped us eliminate/reduce these issues and our journey has been much easier ever since.  Can I refer you to a list of professionals who have a track record of diagnosing/correcting these types of issues?

While you may believe this statement to be true and valid, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be helpful for the mama trying to work out what her options are.

Instead of “If you don’t get those ties sorted out, your child will suffer for the rest of their life”, try “It sounds like you’re having a hard time deciding what to do.  Can I give you some links to information that I have found really useful?”

This mama and her child are suffering.  The blame for breastfeeding struggles doesn’t lie with the mama – she’s a victim of misinformation.

Instead of “I’ve told you over and over again that it’s ties, if you don’t want to listen then that’s your problem” then you need to let it go and move on to someone who wants your help.

When we are feeling vulnerable and sensitive, it can be hard to take a message the way it was intended.  This includes giving information about ties and giving feedback about the information received.  It also includes this post.  I write this with love, but accept that it may be hard to read for some.  As lactivists, we need to remember that our goal is to support each other to find successful breastfeeding relationships.  With a gentle approach, hopefully you will find more mamas to be receptive of your message.

Have you had tie issues during your breastfeeding journey?

The Perfect Excuse to Enjoy Exercise

Today my muscles are sore. My arms, shoulders, thighs, bum and belly all have that slow burning pain that you get after a good workout. I love that feeling!

I didn’t get this pain from conventional exercise though. Like most mums I know, I have a million excuses about why I can’t exercise – my husband works long hours, I have my kids with me 24/7, it’s too hot/cold/windy etc.

Another, perhaps more legitimate, excuse is that I can’t find an appropriate bra. My breasts are currently a 12/14F. Wire-free sports bras are rare enough, let alone in bigger sizes. And previously, any bra I found that was supposedly the right size without wires was too poorly made to actually contain my breasts well enough for anything more strenuous than a leisurely stroll.

Fortunately my friend Sam owns The Ayla Collection, a shop that specialises in items for breastfeeding women. After hearing some excellent reviews, I decided to buy a Cadenshae Ultimate breastfeeding sports bra.

At Sam’s advice, I bought a size 12 instead of a 14. Once I tried it on, I had an “uh-oh” moment, believing it was too small. But it’s marketed as a “high impact” bra, so I reasoned it should fit quite snugly. Truthfully, I’m not that comfortable in my skin, since it’s a little loose and not very streamlined anymore. Feeling something tightly fitted against my body is not a sensation I’m used to these days. I really loved the navy blue colour with the purple trim and I felt very sporty when I wore it.  After some consideration, I felt happy with the purchase.  But simply  owning a fabulous sports bra didn’t turn me into an athlete. Sam couldn’t sell me motivation or commitment, so the excuses kept coming.

Fast forward a few weeks and we received a party invitation at the local Inflatable World – a play centre of jumping castles and other giant inflatable structures.  This was the perfect opportunity to get moving!

Miss 18mo is quite capable but at a big play centre during school holidays, she needed some close supervision.  Cue mama following her around bouncy surfaces, up and down ladders, on my hands and knees through tunnels, occasionally lifting her from a crouched position up over slippery humps and running laps around the gladiator arena with her in my arms (the sensation of centrifugal force from the running in circles across a bouncy surface was quite exhilarating for both Miss 18mo and I).

As I put her down, Mr 4yo and some friends arrived to challenge me to a battle.  This required climbing onto some small, unstable surfaces with a big, padded pole to try to knock each other over.  I came out champion, but balancing with a weight in my arms on an inflatable dome was a full body workout.  My antics attracted a small crowd of amused on-lookers and delighted children, and the obvious disdain from the two teenage employees, hanging around to watch for unsafe activity.  I guess there’s no section in the employee handbook on how to deal with 31 year old women who are drunk on their own endorphins.

Winning at life, taking over the gladiator arena
Winning at life, taking over the gladiator arena

 

Testing out the big slide
Testing out the big slide

The party wound up seeing me hot, sweaty and a little achey in all the right spots – the bra worked perfectly.

Making the most of my breastfeeding sports bra
Making the most of my breastfeeding sports bra

It’s not always feasible to wait for your kid’s friend to have a birthday party at an inflatable play centre before you decide to get your body moving.  However the fun we had reminded me of why it’s vital to run around and be silly a little more often – my kids and I will treasure these memories forever.  I love to feel like I’m a fun mum.  Jumping on a trampoline, climbing trees at the park and giving “horsey rides” around the house make my whole family happier than any elusive intense, solo workout ever could.  And happiness is really the ultimate goal – exercise is a lucky bonus.

Disclaimer – This is not a sponsored post, there are no affiliate links in this post and I was not paid to review my Cadenshae bra.

Do you have a good breastfeeding sports bra?

When Internet Friends Become Real Friends

When I fell pregnant with my son, I downloaded a pregnancy and birth app called BabyBump. Tegan was in the process of having her first child like me. Bree was parenting her two children and soon announced a third (in addition to her two step kids).  Tegan and I connected because we had a lot in common – we  shared a lot of opinions and ideals. I looked up to Bree so much. Her experience as a mum and willingness to share saw her give me a lot of comfort and reassurance as I came to grips with motherhood.

Our friendships graduated from BabyBump, moved to Facebook, and continued over the years. Coincidentally, both have stayed with my family and I over the last fortnight. Tegan and her family drove here and stayed with my family on their way to and from a holiday, and Bree flew here alone to spend a day and night with my family and I.

My husband isn’t into social media, and finds it bizarre that I would keep such friendships, let alone invite these friends to stay with us. But these ladies aren’t just “internet friends”. Having them actually come and stay in my home reaffirmed to me that these ladies are most definitely the real deal.

What gave it away?

You would clean your house before an internet friend came to stay. I didn’t clean for my real friends, nor did I apologise for any mess. I’ve previously sent photos of my “floordrobe” to Tegan when she was miserable about seventy loads of unfolded laundry taking over her loungeroom. They already knew I’m not much of a housewife, and they didn’t care.

You would continue cleaning when internet friends are over, in an attempt to convince them you are a decent person who goes to bed at night with no dirty dishes in the sink. I did nearly no chores when my real friends were here, because I wanted to spend as much time as possible enjoying their company.

You try hard to connect with your internet friend’s kids. Connecting with my real friend’s kids was effortless. I already felt like I knew them because I’ve read about their strengths and struggles. I figured Lexie would like our variety of blocks because I’ve heard about her accidentally destroying cities built by her older siblings. I knew Piper isn’t into hugs or affection. I didn’t need to figure out what makes these kids tick, and it made it so much easier for me to enjoy their company.

You might secretly think your internet friend’s husband is a bit of a douchebag, because she always vents to you about their arguments. You know your real friend’s husband is a good guy, because she tells you about all the great things about him, and not just the not-so-great things.

I might feel compelled to apologise to an internet friend because my husband seems a little stand-offish. My real friends probably expected that because I’ve mentioned in the past that he’s quiet. And they didn’t mind that he wasn’t very talkative because they were too busy talking to me!

Real friends rummage through your cupboards to find drinking glasses and they find power points for their phone chargers on their own. They use your wifi. They know you expect them to make themselves comfortable.

You don’t chatter to fill in the silence with a real friend. You bask in a moment’s peace together.

You might breathe a secret sigh of relief when your internet friend goes home, but you are genuinely sad when your real friends have to leave – you wish they could stay longer!

Some people have internet friendships because it’s easy to hide behind a Facebook profile. You can paint your life however you like, whether you seek approval for your perfect family, or sympathy because your life is a mess. Your real friends don’t just take your words at face value – they have an insight into your personality and situation. If I wasn’t being truthful with Tegan or Bree and told them I was fine with something when I wasn’t, I believe they would call me out on it.

Honesty is an important factor in any friendship, but especially online because it’s so easy to hide the truth (especially when if it’s ugly) from people who can’t physically see you. You can’t rely on non-verbal cues (which are said to make up as much as 93% of what we convey in conversation).

If you can find people you genuinely appreciate and enjoy, it’s worthwhile to make the effort to keep in touch, whether it’s through online or physical experiences. It might not be the conventional way to have a friendship, but doesn’t make them any less significant.

May you all find friendships as valuable as mine, online or offline.

A blurry shot of Bree, Tegan and Ophelia (another mum friend who quickly became a real friend as she is local to me),
A blurry shot of Bree, Tegan and Ophelia (another mum friend who quickly became a real friend as she is local to me),

How do you tell the difference between internet friends, and true friends that you met online?

Gentle Weaning Tips for Toddlers

We often see people asking for how to gently wean their toddler for whatever reason, but we find that rarely anyone has much insight in how to begin, usually because most people who are active in support groups are trying to continue breastfeeding. So below is a very basic way to go about weaning a toddler.
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Talk to your toddler and explain in simple terms what is happening.
Toddlers understand and comprehend more than we think they do, so the first step is talking about what is happening and why.
When we were day weaning my toddler during my pregnancy we talked about how now he was bigger he didn’t need milk during the day, and he always could have a drink of water if he was thirsty, or cuddles if he needed them. We always pointed out that now he was a ‘big boy’ there were lots of exciting foods he could eat, and even some that he was able to access himself at anytime at home.
Choose which feeds will take the most energy to drop. For many toddlers that would be bedtime and nap time feeds. You might like to make these the last feeds to drop, as they will likely be the feeds that your toddler takes the most comfort in.
During the day keep busy. Go visiting friends, go to a park to play, even go shopping; just anything to get out of the house and keep toddlers mind occupied.
We have water that toddler can access throughout our house on his own, and also drinks in the fridge in non spill sippy cups he can get aswell. We also have food that he knows he is allowed to eat at anytime. This helped us with not only him only having his liquids from breastmilk, but with his self perception of being a ‘big boy’.
We (hubby and I) also made certain to give extra cuddles, kisses and snuggles, and also to pay more attention to him, to hopefully counteract some of the lost comfort he had with breastfeeding.
During the night can be difficult, and you can find detailed info here.
Some points to remember are that you may still need to get up and parent your child at night, without the easy out of breastfeeding back to sleep. I often had to get up and get cheese, bread or fruit for my toddler when we nightweaned him during my pregnancy, and I often heard him drinking water from his sippy cup during the night. We were partially bedsharing at the time so this helped with the lost comfort of breastfeeding.
It’s ok to take a step back if your toddler is sick or teething or having a rough day. You can pickup again once you are both ready to. If at any time you start feeling sad or regretful about weaning you can pause and either resume demand feeding or just stay at the level you are currently at. For example alot of mums are ok with just a bedtime breastfeed and continue at that level for quite awhile before cutting out the bedtime feed.
Dropping the last feed can be challenging to get your head around.
We found that changing our bedtime routine was a big help to dropping the last feed. So where we used to breastfeed to sleep in his bed, we now have a wind down snuggle in my bed, and then he has a drink of ebm in a cup with hubby, and he and hubby snuggle till he falls asleep. After this became regular for him (a couple of weeks) he was happy to do the same with me as well. He still often wants to have his hand on my breast as he falls asleep, and he is content with that for his comfort.