We Are Both Right

Our Two Cents: How Far Should This Mom Go to “Save” a Friend?

©mummau55/stock.xchng

Can a mom and child ever spend too much time together? ©mummau55/stock.xchng

Dear Amanda and Suzanne: 

My dear, dear friend “Jennifer” and I have babies who were born seven months apart. How excited we both are to have children who will grow up together! 

Jennifer’s son “John” is a sweet boy with what I perceive to be a bit of an issue: He is 14 months old and won’t sleep through the night. You read that correctly…WON’T sleep through the night. 

Now, Jennifer is still breastfeeding him but John is also eating solid foods as well. Not to say that breastfeeding is causing the sleep interruption, but can it be part of the issue? Jennifer won’t try the ‘cry it out’ method and on average, John is up every 3 to 4 hours every night. 

I mean, I would go mental. I have wanted to gently broach the subject but I don’t want to seem like a know it all. 

And also, is it normal for moms not want to hang out without the kids? We haven’t been out to lunch alone since the babies were born. She “can’t” leave him. I feel like the worst Mom sometimes because I like to go out with my lady friends once in awhile. Anyway, that’s my issue and any feedback would be greatly appreciated. 

Signed,
A Concerned Friend
 

Suzanne: 

I could see where you would be concerned! Just the thought of not sleeping for longer than four hours for fourteen months straight makes me tired. And to envision your good friend suffering in silence, having been there yourself for however short a period of time, makes you want to jump through her bedroom window and save her.

But before you pull out your old Wonder Woman costume, maybe you could casually bring up the subject in conversation, without making your friend feel self-conscious about something she may or may not perceive as a problem herself.

Next time you talk, you might say in passing that your little one continues to sleep through the night and *fingers crossed* you hope it’s not just a phase. When she gives you the update on John (presuming they’re still in the same boat) ask in response whether her pediatrician has offered any advice as to whether she should try to stretch his feedings further apart. If she appears to not be looking for a “solution” you should just leave it at that — and maybe commend her for being stronger than you would be with so little sleep.

As for her not wanting to leave baby behind for a little girls-only time, you will just have to wait her out on that one. All moms find their comfort zone at different points in their child’s development. Some are ready to go immediately, knowing that baby is in good hands with daddy or grandma for an hour or two, while others might never leave their child’s sight until the drive to college.

For me, justifying time spent alone with friends took a few years and that was a direct result of my self-imposed guilt. I thought I was shortchanging my babies while I was at work, so I wanted to give them all of my free time otherwise. But now — well, I totally see the value in just hanging with friends for an hour or two and recharging in a way that ultimately makes me a more patient and well-rounded mom. Your friend should come around too — maybe after she starts getting some sleep! 

Amanda: 

I could be way off base here, but it sounds to me like Jennifer is practicing attachment parenting, whether she’s made the conscious decision to do so or not. Now this is just a guess based on what you are saying and from my own experiences as someone who did it as well (and sort of stumbled into the method).

If she is attachment parenting, I think everything you describe is actually pretty normal. The night waking, the extended breastfeeding, even the not wanting to leave the baby at all. I actually went through all of that myself — except for the extended breastfeeding part, which I had to stop at 13 months with S. because of my surgery. And while my husband T. and I did let our babies “cry it out,” at bedtime, if they woke in the middle of the night to nurse, I did let them and then they co-slept with us for the remainder of the evening.

Crazy? Perhaps. But it was the most natural thing for me, and I suspect, your friend. I’ve always felt that attachment parenting is inherent. Not to get all new-agey on you, but you don’t choose to attachment parent, it comes from inside of you.

And I promise, it’s no reflection on you if she doesn’t want to hang out. It’s just part of the attachment parenting style. Not that they dictate that, but it’s more like, moms who practice attachment parenting tend to not want to be separated from their babies. I knew that leaving the baby was fine and good to do, but it was just really hard for me emotionally. I have no way to explain it other than I just didn’t want to be away from them. I didn’t judge others that could leave their babies, I just couldn’t. Not for a while.

And that’s the thing about attachment parenting, you either get it and love it and do it, or you don’t do it and you think those who do are a bit looney. Which is fine!

If you miss your friend (and it sounds like you do) for now, maybe it’s best to schedule outings that incorporate all four of you — trips to the playground, walks, even a quick meal or coffee at a family-friendly place. Be supportive and patient — the good friend that you’ve been all along.

**************************************** 

What do you think? Does Concerned Friend have cause to be concerned? Should she talk to Jennifer or leave it alone? And if you are looking for a second (and third) opinion, ask us! Send an e-mail to advice@wearebothright.com.

Breastfeeding: First a Choice, Now a Must

When I started off, I never expected to feel so passionate about breastfeeding. In fact, I don’t even remember making a conscious decision to do it.

International Breastfeeding Logo Mothering Magazine  © 1997

International Breastfeeding Logo Mothering Magazine © 1997

The first of my friends to get pregnant and, like my husband, the eldest child of a mother who didn’t nurse, most of the knowledge I gleaned came from books (we didn’t really have good Internets back at the turn of the century). Everything I read did a good job of pretty much bopping you over the head with the message “breast is best,” so I’m sure my thought process was something like — “OK, well breast is best. Best is good. I’ll do that.” I don’t ever remember giving any thought to logistics or if it would be difficult or if I would have any problems. I made the decision to breastfeed, I figured I would breastfeed. Easy peasy right?

Heh. Aren’t first-time parents adorable?

The thing was, not everyone embraced and supported our decision (yes, my husband and I decided together). We got a lot of grief about it, which surprised me. Comments and questions constantly followed me about our choice, some curious and some downright combative — one relative remarked that it just “doesn’t seem natural” to not feed a baby out of a bottle (!) while another predicted I would find the whole process too difficult and give it up rather quickly.

But these dismissive judgments just made me dig my heels in even more. Usually I’m pretty placid and patient about things, but I don’t know, even in my naive new-mommy-to-be state, I somehow sensed that my decision to breastfeed was IMPORTANT and something I should stick to.

And, I quickly learned, it wasn’t easy. Due to some complications on my end, C. was whisked to the NICU within a minute or two of being born. I left the hospital before he did. Not ideal in any situation, but certainly not for an emotional, hormonal new mom who didn’t know how to do much of anything and who was completely overwhelmed by the thought that I was the sole provider of nutrition to this sweet, precious newborn. I quickly learned about the importance of hospital-grade breast pumps and football holds and the value of a Boppy.

Somehow though, we made it through. And for that, every day I am grateful.

As it turns out, breastfeeding is something that I’m awesome at — a marvel to me, a person who normally has absolutely no control over my body.

I cannot catch a ball, nor can I throw one or hit one with a bat (or golf club, or tennis racket). I’m not ashamed to say that I’m the “girl” they are talking about when people make derogatory remarks about someone’s physical ability.  My dancing moves would embarrass Elaine Benes. When I used to wrangle my way out of gym class in high school, my fellow students sighed in relief. I was never able to turn a cartwheel.

Effortless is not a word you would use to describe my bodily prowess. In fact, I think the word I’m looking for is unmitigated.

Basically, any activity that requires my body to take the lead ends badly. Except for this one.

Even with our delayed start, after a bit of a learning curve, C. took to breastfeeding like a champ. And nursing my daughter A. was easy — she latched on as soon as I brought her to my breast, minutes after being born — the ultimate reward after all that laboring. Six years later, when my son S. was born, once more, I was unable to nurse right away (he was a big boy, and they needed to do some blood work to rule out any issues), but once he was cleared to eat, we did just fine.

So, suffice it to say, I am a lactivist. I will encourage every pregnant woman I meet to breastfeed, and I will offer emotional support to anyone who chooses to nurse and has a question. But I’m not one who is shoving facts and studies in statistics down your throat. We’ve all read them, all been exposed to the research (my favorite, in case you were wondering, was a story I read in The New York Times where after reviewing another benefit nursing gave to infants, a doctor was actually quoted as saying, “So for God’s sake, please breast-feed.”) — breastfeeding adds IQ points, lowers risk of SIDS, blah blah blah — yes, these are important, and true, but you don’t need to hear more of that stuff from me.

Because for me, ultimately, breastfeeding was never about the science. There’s a really important factor that scientific research doesn’t account for — one that you will never find in a book or a study or an article in even the most revered journal. Human emotions.

On an acute level, breastfeeding is a very basic relationship between two people and two people alone: mother and child. Deciding to breastfeed, hands downs was one of the smartest, most wonderful decisions I’ve ever made in my life.

There is nothing like the strength of feeling that rushes over you when baby latches on to your breast and begins to suckle for the first time. The sense of calmness that overcomes you as baby drinks the milk that your body so lovingly prepared. No matter how crazy things get when you are caring for an infant, breastfeeding makes you stop. And relax. And focus on one thing. Your baby.

I found that after I nursed my little ones, my head was much clearer and I was a lot more refreshed and energized. And the babies always came away from it relaxed and content as well, always a good thing.

So no, all those years ago, I never expected to be so passionate about breastfeeding. But I feel so blessed that I am.

Suzanne formula-fed both of her kids and her now 8-year-old son is almost as tall as me, so I think she’s doing just fine in the baby-feeding department.

Originally published on October 23, 2010