Fertility and Breastfeeding

  • Post category:Pregnancy
  • Reading time:7 mins read

“I have a 26 month old son who has always breastfed enthusiastically and still breastfeeds frequently. My menstrual periods returned when he was approaching two years old and I’m now thinking about trying for another baby. However I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to conceive with such a keen breastfeeder! Is it likely that I will be able to get pregnant without weaning my son? He is really not ready to give up his beloved “nunu” and I don’t want to rush him.”



Nicole Evans, Whangarei – My son has always been an avid breastfeeder too, we started trying for another baby when he was two and a half.

I did have some difficulties conceiving our second child. Breastfeeding delayed ovulation so I wasn’t ovulating mid-cycle, and had a short luteal phase (the phase after ovulation until menstruation starts) so there wasn’t long enough for an egg to implant.

It would be worth charting your cycles to pinpoint when you ovulate, as my daughter was conceived on day 22, and I think this may be fairly common.  I took vitamin B6 to lengthen my luteal phase and it worked the first month I took it.  It also might be worth you reading Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler, as this book helped me no end.

I breastfed throughout my pregnancy with no problems (I was really nervous about it being painful), and am now tandem feeding and finding it easier than I ever imagined.

Good Luck!

Adith Stoneman, Kelston Auckland – Isn’t it wonderful that you do not have to wean at all. . The return of your menstrual cycle indicates that you are able to conceive. When you do fall pregnant you may notice a real tenderness in your breasts, which for some women is so strong they need to limit breastfeeding time. It is also true that some women feel emotionally unable to keep breastfeeding their toddler.

Sometimes it is our toddlers who wean completely during our pregnancy as the milk tastes different and is not quite as abundant as before. This helps to move the breastfeeding relationship along to get ready for the new baby.  And then of course there are many mums and toddlers who keep breastfeeding quite happily which may lead into tandem nursing both baby and toddler.

As with so many things related to birthing, breastfeeding and parenting, nothing is a given. Each mum and baby dyad is unique. Be prepared for the physical and emotional turmoil that a pregnancy can bring and always know that La Leche League Leaders are able and willing to provide you with correct information.

Claire Hargest Slade, Timaru – The return of your fertility can be affected by the frequency and intensity of breastfeeding your adorable little one. In cultures where babies and toddlers are given free access to the breast, they may feed briefly several times per hour round the clock. Exclusive and intensive breastfeeding followed by gradual introduction of solids and continued breastfeeding day and night has been reported to delay ovulation for up to four years.

The LLL mantra of “don’t offer and don’t refuse” might be useful to space feedings a little more so that ovulation isn’t suppressed. Usually an eight hour gap between feeds at night is enough to let ovulation begin again. But as we all know not offering the breast to a fractious and very put-out toddler in the middle of the night is easier said than done. I remember being told not to breastfeed my 20 month old son during night hours, and I wondered what parallel universe that advice was coming from!

Offering plenty of nutrient dense food, frequently throughout the day and water for thirst may decrease breastfeeding frequency just enough to help your fertility return.

Mother Nature is so clever in naturally spacing our children, giving number one the chance needed to become more mature, and to let our bodies recover from childbirth and lactation and build up nutrient stores. Further discussion with your GP regarding hormone levels may be useful also.

Robin Jones Greif, Blenheim – Of course you can have another baby while still breastfeeding; every mother who tandem feeds has done just this!  Once you are having regular periods, it would be unusual to not be ovulating as well. Remember all the warnings that new mums are given about not relying on breastfeeding as a contraceptive?

At 26 months breastfeeding is highly unlikely to interfere with an ability to become pregnant. You may find he weans himself during your pregnancy as the taste of your milk changes and the quantity diminishes, but this may not bother him at all. You may also find that nipple tenderness makes you encourage him to cut back on his feeding, but once again, this may not happen to you.

There is certainly no need for premature weaning in order to add to your family. I wish you all the best on your breastfeeding journey; long may it continue!

Sandie Fransen, Te Awamutu – My first was a relatively keen breastfeeder.  When he reached 14 months and I still hadn’t had a menstrual period I worried that I might have to wean him in order to have another baby (which we were keen for soon).  I decided to wait until he was 18 months old and see if anything had changed, then maybe I might think about weaning him.

However I got my periods back when he was 16 months old and after a few cycles we discovered we were pregnant.  As baby number one was still having his milky-milks, he wasn’t too impressed when my supply dropped when I was about seven weeks pregnant – but that didn’t deter him that much at all!

When  number two reached toddlerhood, and was much more attached to his milky-milks than his older brother had been I thought; this will be interesting…  He was about 20 months old when my menstrual cycle returned, and after only two periods we are expecting again!   Baby number two still loves his ‘milks’ but has naturally cut back on how many ‘feeds’ a day he has – however if it’s what he wants – nothing will stop him!

My suggestion is to start trying for another baby, and if after a few cycles you haven’t conceived start noting your ‘mucus’ daily as it changes throughout the month – then take these notes along to a natural fertility advisor/Billings teacher or your family doctor who should be able to help you work out if you are actually ovulating.

If it turns out you that you aren’t, then I’d just gently try to cut back the amount of ‘nunu’s’ your son is having for a while to see if that makes a difference. I definitely wouldn’t wean him outright before trying the other options first. My first ‘baby’ only gave up feeding when I became pregnant with number three (just as he turned four).  Perhaps after the drop in supply this time he decided that it wasn’t worth it? All the best with trying for baby number two.

Continue ReadingFertility and Breastfeeding

Adjusting to a New Sibling, Open to Tandem Feeding

  • Post category:Pregnancy
  • Reading time:8 mins read

“I am expecting our second child in a few months.  I don’t know whether my two-year old will still be breastfeeding – he has shown less interest in breastfeeding as my pregnancy has progressed.  I am open to tandem feeding; however, I want to be prepared for our new arrival either way.  What can I do to help my two year old adjust to having a new sibling, whether he’s still breastfeeding or not?”


Jessica Parsons, Central Auckland – My son was still a very keen feeder at about two when I became pregnant the second time.  As with you, he was less interested both because of the reduced milk supply and my saying “Ouch, mummy all done!”  But he still wanted to feed when he could.

For tandem feeding:  learn some boundaries together with your first child well before the birth.  We used countdowns during breastfeeding – “1 minute!   10, 9, 8…” (This helps with numeracy, as a bonus!)  We also agreed to some breastfeeding manners, because older children can develop habits which make feeding less pleasant.  That distractible phase is not really a phase and it only gets stronger.  I also explained to my son that the milk would be for the new baby first and then he could have his turn.

I also weaned my son onto Daddy!  I knew I could not handle night duty for my son and a newborn, so about mid-pregnancy, Daddy handled night-waking and so my son was night weaned.  Very late in pregnancy we coached my son to go for his first sleep with only Daddy there.  He still fed during the day and in the evening, but not to sleep.

For general sibling information, I highly recommend the book Siblings without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.  LLL Group libraries carry this book.  It has specific strategies to practise (and avoid), and they’re not all just common sense.  Perhaps some of them have worked, since Alex and Nadia get along fairly well and have lots of fun together.

Claire Hargest-Slade, Timaru – I tandem fed my second and third children. It is an interesting experience!  I found that I never had an issue with supply because of two babies making the milk. Often the toddler gets stroppy just as you sit to feed the new baby. I found a great tool was a special toy box that was only opened while I was feeding.  Have plenty of food and water on hand for both you and the big kid.  Keep the doors closed so the toddler doesn’t disappear into the bathroom cabinet to tip $60 worth of makeup down the loo… or worse! Reading while breastfeeding involves the big baby and allows for closeness.

When the small baby is asleep, this is the time to reassure your big baby that she hasn’t been replaced – give all your attention, lots of fun cuddles, and mummy’s milk if that’s still on tap for the toddler. All children experience sibling rivalry. It’s normal and to be expected. Charlotte and Jemima are still great rivals; maybe that’s just their place in the family.  Charlotte always feels sorry when she hears a new baby is on the way to “ruin the older one’s life!” A friend even suggested a homeopathic remedy to help with grief, which is worth a thought. It certainly is a big adjustment, but think of the benefits Charlotte!?

Lastly love the mother. Mothers are not bottomless pits of love and devotion. Call on dads, grandparents, friends, DVDs, new toys, to help support the big baby to realize that their life isn’t completely over when the new baby hits the ground. Caring for yourself well, with lots of nutritious food, rest, water and emotional support will help you be the best mum you can be to two babies.

Contact an LLL Leader or peer counsellor to talk over how they coped when number two, three, or more arrived.  A problem shared is a problem halved. Good luck!

Cecil Tamang, Port Chalmers – I hadn’t intended to tandem feed, but my three-year-old daughter wasn’t ready to give up breastfeeding when I was pregnant with my next child. Breastfeeding did become less comfortable, and I night-weaned early in the pregnancy. By the end of pregnancy my breasts were making only small amounts of colostrum, but my daughter didn’t mind, and would breastfeed off to sleep for her day nap and have one feed first thing in the morning.

When the baby arrived, it was actually really rewarding tandem feeding. I had had lots of problems with mastitis and abscesses in my first lactation, so having a big robust breastfeeder was reassuring for me and I could call on her to help me with overfull breasts. I remember she grew enormous cheeks virtually overnight after her brother was born! As for my newborn, he benefited by having my milk supply fully there about 14 hours after the birth! There was certainly something special about feeding them both simultaneously, and I’m sure it supported my daughter’s transition from only child to sibling.

It took us a while to find a comfortable way to feed both children lying down, but eventually I managed by lying on my side, propping my newborn on a pillow with him feeding off my top breast, with my daughter curled in around him to reach my bottom breast. That way we all managed to fall asleep together for a long nap in the afternoon- a luxury I enjoyed (and depended on for survival) for the first six months.

After tandem feeding for six months, and in a trough of low emotional and physical energy, I felt that I needed to wean my daughter. She accepted gracefully, though she would likely still be feeding if it had continued to work for me. Overall, I found tandem feeding a very successful experience for all of us, and though I hadn’t initially set out to try, would certainly do it again, if only for the synchronised sleeping!

Stephanie Ross, Te Awamutu – We were not long ago faced with a similar dilemma. My girls, Eden and Heidi, are now four and 29 months. I was pregnant and I experienced similar challenges with a noticeable drop in supply, pain and incredible discomfort before, during and after feeding. I suffer from Reynaud’s, so the pain combined with the hormones of pregnancy was naturally making things rather difficult.

Around Christmas time last year we had family and friends staying for nearly a two week period when our farm workers were on holiday. Therefore I took advantage of other adults to mind Heidi, and I helped out in the dairy, at both morning and night milkings. Around this time is when feedings became like climbing Tongariro with one jandal, no wet weather gear and a 20kg pack.  We hung in there until the beginning of February this year…trying to get by with the minimum every day, to keep Heidi’s sucking reflex alive. Baby arrived in April after a beautiful home birth, but Heidi had already forgotten the art of sucking.

I have experienced periods of sadness and a huge sense of loss. One day I was driving home from the hairdressers after having a special feel good session and I had tears streaming down my cheeks. I felt like I was losing my baby and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I was not ready to stop breastfeeding Heidi – even though, at the time, the pain was unbearable – and she was not ready to stop either. I don’t think she weaned by choice and I feel as though the new baby took some time away from her. I don’t think I will ever forgive myself!

When thinking about what is right for you try to envision what you would like to see when your new baby arrives and devise a plan that will help you get there. Share your plan with those around you who support you in your parenting and enlist their encouragement. Looking back I should have rested more and focused on my supply (no milking cows) and spent more time skin to skin with Heidi to achieve the closeness she craves. I could have used breast warmers 24 hours a day to help my comfort level.

She still has “milkies” in her own way and drinks EBM from a cup. Instead we now read stories and I stroke her face while in the traditional feeding position to achieve the special closeness of breastfeeding.

Continue ReadingAdjusting to a New Sibling, Open to Tandem Feeding

Active Birth

  • Post category:Pregnancy
  • Reading time:7 mins read

“I am halfway through my pregnancy, and really starting to think about this concept of active and alert birth.  I am keen to find out what worked for other mothers.  My husband is really keen to be well armed with practical things he can do too.  What are some ideas?”


Claire Hargest Slade, Timaru – It’s easy to get hooked into creating labels for how we want to birth.  Instead, think about creating an environment where you and your partner feel safe, secure and at ease to do and be how you really are.  The actual venue is without consequence, but the relationship of trust and partnership you build with your birth attendants will help this.  When women have freedom to move, to position themselves in any manner, to be held as they want or conversely have the peace and privacy they desire at any given moment; then they birth in the instinctual way that is right for them.  I created an eight point guideline for birth support people that goes a little like this.

  1. Be her support person, offer comforts, drinks, touch or don’t touch as she needs it.  This will change throughout her labour.
  2. Privacy and intimacy enables the love hormone oxytocin to create effective contractions.  Try to keep disruptions and worry at bay for her.
  3. Be a tree. Let her hang off you in weight-bearing positions to help weather the storm of each contraction.
  4. Care for yourself well during the labour.  Eat, drink and emotionally refuel as need be; so you can stay strong for her as she is swept along by the power of her labour.
  5. Create an atmosphere of quiet confidence in her ability to birth.  Smile at her, hold her.
  6. Praise is a wonderful tool in any circumstance.  Warmly praise her to encourage her efforts.
  7. Be her advocate, be willing to ask for things you have already discussed she wants. Ask again about the birth pool being filled.  Know her birth plan, support her wishes.
  8. However she births, validate her strength and courage. Giving birth is a huge achievement.

A great book you may enjoy is Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering by Sarah Buckley.

Rosemary Roberts, Hamilton – This may not be for everyone, but for my second birth I used childbirth hypnosis. It was amazing. I was able to keep myself deeply relaxed through self-hypnosis and since the programme includes a special part for dads; my husband was able to be very active in keeping me relaxed and diverting my focus when needed through cue words and firm touch.

Phoebe Quinlivan, Wellington – I had a beautiful home birth experience with our first son, and a big thing for me leading up to and during it was my wholehearted belief and trust that my body knew what to do, and that I was not mentally going to be ‘in control’.  My body would just do its thing and I just had to concentrate on keeping as calm and relaxed as possible.

When the contractions started amping up in the early stages, I imagined my cervix as a big thick rubber band that had to be slowly stretched to let the baby through, so each time I began to feel uncomfortable, I imagined pulling that rubber band slowly more and more open. Once things were a little more intense, I stopped thinking anything and just concentrated on breathing through it (and squeezing the bottle of lavender essential oil that I was holding in my hand!). Staying as calm as possible is important in order to let all those lovely pain reducing hormones flow.

Your husband can be a big part of that by staying really calm himself and reassuring you.  I really wanted my hubby to stay up near my face and leave the midwife to do the delivering which worked well for me.  I found the pressure on the two points at the base of my spine during contractions really helped, then ice cubes fed into my mouth, and a great big hand to hold (squeeze!) while I was at the pushing stage.

Being at home, everyone was able to potter about, help themselves to food, read and relax and slip in to be with me when I needed it.  I think this also contributed to me managing well and being able to just focus on what I needed to do during the contractions (be in the zone).  Because I didn’t have everyone focusing on me all the time, I wasn’t feeling self conscious.

Having said that, some mothers feel more relaxed in hospital and so that’s where they choose to be and that’s good too. I was ready to go to hospital if we needed to, and had decided before the birth that I would be okay with whatever happened. Once I was fully dilated; I got into the pool –  I was loath to move at first because I had found a good position (squatting on the floor with my elbows on the couch) where I was managing, but once I was in, I felt the pain ease off by about 30 to 40 percent.  Lovely!

Your body was made for this. I am sure you will have a peaceful and empowering birth experience.

Jillian Grant, Wellington – Yoga ball, lavender oil, tens machine were helpful, but an emergency caesarean meant I had to leave all that behind, quite literally! But the thing I could take with me was in my head – the visualisation and relaxation techniques from the hypnotherapy CD I’d casually listened to through pregnancy.

I hadn’t taken it too seriously as it kept sending me to sleep, but something had filtered through. It helped me get through the medical procedures as calmly and alertly as was possible. My partner had listened to the CD too, so he knew what I was doing. There are probably local hypnotherapy CD’s or
classes.  I hope your birth and breastfeeding go well.

Stephanie Gudgeon, Te Awamutu – Relaxation and positive affirmations is a great place to start. Get super comfy with cushions and a blanket if needed. Doing this everyday is the ultimate and as you get into the groove, you will be able to call upon this technique when you have a spare moment or need some reassurance if you come across negative vibes.

Create a space of ‘you time’ every day, use this time to relax with some deep breathing.  Breathing from the stomach with big belly breaths, feeling each breath relax you into the floor. Imagine each new breath bringing in new energy for you and your baby within.  Send your breath around your body soothing any anxiety and creating a state of calmness and confidence. Visualise colour, either red for love, blue for healing flowing around your baby bringing it love and strength.

Create a positive affirmation that is focused on you, or look up online for some help.  It might be, “my body is growing a beautiful healthy baby and I am going to birth this baby with ease and joy.”  It could be shorter, or have a different meaning; but it is important that it is significant to you. On your exhale, think to yourself or quietly say your positive affirmation.  Do this for as long as you can. Start with maybe two to five minutes and who knows where it will take you.  Positive affirmations wire the cells in our bodies and our mind, helping our desires and dreams to become a reality.

Once you are well practiced, you will be able to use it during birth to keep you going and to bring you into a state of calm. Your husband may even say it with you. It’s a great way to focus together  during birth.

Continue ReadingActive Birth

My Favorite Place

  • Post category:Sleep
  • Reading time:7 mins read

We were waiting for our food to be served at the restaurant and the children decided to pass the time with a game. One person had to guess a word chosen by the others, and the others had to give little hints.
“Mum’s favourite location” my youngest daughter said, ending the game on the first clue because everyone in my family knows the answer to that. My favourite place in the whole world is my bed. And like many mums (to the chagrin of many dads) my favourite thing to do there is to sleep. I dream of sleep, preferably in long unbroken stretches.

In retrospect, even in the years B.C. (before children) sleep and I have always had our issues. I  remember playing the game Trivial Pursuit, where one of the science questions was “How long does it take the average person to fall asleep?” It’s been years but I remember the answer because I was so shocked by it. In my pre-child existence, I always took a long time to fall asleep, about an hour. I’d run through all of the details of my day, think of alternate snappy answers to questions that I should have said, and review and rehearse upcoming interactions. But I knew that one hour was long for most people so I shaved my answer down to twenty minutes. The correct answer was seven. Seven minutes! To my childless self that was astounding.

Having children was a wakeup call for me to the womanly art of sleep management. No one knows sleep deprivation quite so intimately as the mother of an infant. No question that it’s rough in the early days.
Many a new mother makes the comment that they understand now why it’s used as a method of torture. Post-kids I could and did fall asleep in seconds. But I still could not rid myself of my love of sleeping and my addiction to large doses of it. I experienced withdrawal like a junkie, when my baby woke me up I was irritable and irrational.

Part of overcoming my addiction was education. Our culture – but not our babies – seems to view the eight hour uninterrupted sleep as a sacred right. Our babies are not designed that way, their little tummies need filling up and they have a need to check in and make sure we are close by.

I read some of Dr James McKenna’s work. He studies mother-baby sleep in his lab at Notre Dame University in the USA. His research quashes the myth of unbroken sleep. The truth is that all of us sleep in cycles that include deeper and shallower stages. Most of us do wake up in the night, but usually we go back to sleep without awareness of these wakeful periods.

Dr McKenna’s studies have shown how breastfeeding mothers and their babies who share sleep spaces develop a rhythm to their sleep patterns. Fighting this rhythm and trying to control it is what just about did me in as a mother.

Our nights would go like this:
• 11 pm; fall asleep with baby.
• It’s 1:34 and the baby is awake. Feed, change, make calculation about how much sleep I’d got…
• Jeez, it’s 3:32! More calculations. Not even two hours!
• Sheesh!! It’s 4:19!!! Mental calculator going again. Indulge in self pity for several sleep-wasting minutes. Have trouble falling back asleep because of resentment.
• For crying out loud, does that clock really say 5:22?!!!! Work self into a tizzy about how many wake ups I’d had. Try to decide if it’s worth it to even go back to sleep. On and on they went, these horrible nights,
and it was during the height of my misery that I knew I needed to do something. It was high time for some practical mother to mother support from some LLL mothers. They had some great suggestions which I’d like to share with you.

I wasn’t happy to take the advice of the sleep training set – though it seemed at the time that the world was divided into two groups, mothers who bragged that their babies slept through the night and people who advocated the cry it out method. What I needed to hear was that night time waking was normal and manageable – it just needed to be tweaked.

The best of the tweaks came from a mother who said, “You know, you could get rid of the clock in your room.” This was a stroke of genius. For me, a significant part of my night time waking issues was my own attitude about it and that clock wasn’t helping. Those nightly mathematical calculations were adding fuel to a fire that needed to be put out. Another mum gave me her tip, “Don’t change your baby’s nappy in the night. Most nappies these days are pretty absorbent and often last right through.” “If they don’t wake up fully,” another mum added, “they won’t poo.” I found that to be true for my babies also. All that changing just served to wake us both up further, so that I’d be trying to chill us both out from a full boil instead of keeping the flame low from the start. A midwife friend shared her tip of cutting two round holes in a sweatshirt to make access easier in the night also. And gradually my baby and I got unconsciously skilled at breastfeeding too, so that we could both do it almost without thinking about it, almost in our sleep.

When my second son was little, I overheard my husband bragging at what a good baby he was. “That child has slept through the night since the day he was born,” he said. Of course, this was completely untrue. The difference was that none of us was making a big deal about it; I’d developed the knack of breastfeeding in our semi-awake state. We all slept better. My bed stopped being a battleground and
sleep stopped being a contest I was determined to win.

My oldest child is 20 years old now, and I can’t count the number of unbroken nights of sleep I’ve had since his birth, and the birth of his siblings. For those of you beginning your motherhood journey, you probably don’t want to know that there haven’t been many. I am proud to say I am no longer keeping score. Though my bed still is my favourite place in the world, my children know that they are my
favourite people.

Co-Sleeping Safely
Make sure that your mattress is firm and fits tightly in the frame, avoid waterbeds, recliners, couches or armchairs.
Provide a smoke-free environment; exposure to cigarette smoke increases the baby’s risk of SIDS
Sheets should fit your mattress snugly.
Always place your baby on his back to sleep, including after breastfeeding.
No one who shares sleep with your baby should drink alcoholic beverages, take drugs, be exceptionally obese, be on medication that makes him or her less alert, or be too unwell or exhausted to be aware of the baby.
Consider keeping your young baby next to his mother only, because mothers seem to be especially aware of their babies in bed, keep an adult between any older child and your baby.
Make sure the sides of the bed are either tight against the wall or far enough away from the wall that your baby can’t become trapped. Or use a bed rail on the side of the adult bed.
Keep the bed low to the ground, maybe even on the floor, to minimise any falls.
Keep pets out of the bed the baby will be sleeping in.
Keep loose pillows or soft blankets away from your baby’s face, avoid nightclothes or hair ties with  strings or attachments that might pose a strangulation risk.
Avoid thick bedding and dressing the baby too warmly – close bodily contact increases body temperature.

Good Nights by Jay Gordon, MD and Maria Goodavage, and Sweet Dreams by Paul Fleiss, MD, taken from LLL information sheet Safe Sleep, available from LLLNZ
“Sleeping with your baby” by James McKenna, New Beginnings 2009; 26(1): 4-9

Dr Alison Barrett is an obstetrician, who still gets up in the night for babies – they are just no longer her own.


Continue ReadingMy Favorite Place

Breastfeeding My Baby to Sleep

  • Post category:Sleep
  • Reading time:7 mins read

“I have always breastfed my baby to sleep, and this has worked quite well for us.  But now that he is seven months old, everyone is telling me that he really should be able to go to sleep on his own by now.  I have tried putting him to bed awake but it ends in tears for both of us.  I don’t mind breastfeeding him down for a while longer, but I worry about this habit in the long term – I might like an evening out when he is a bit older.  Is there anything I need to do now to make it easier later?”


Janet Wilson, Papakura – Trusting your gut feeling is such an important part of parenting! It sounds like you are feeling the way that is best for you, but are questioning yourself on the opinions of others. If you shut out the rest of the world, can you ask yourself if there even IS a problem?  Is there anything that can take the place of you and breastmilk at bedtimes?  If it is working for you and your family then it might not need to be ‘fixed’.

When we stop breastfeeding, for whatever reason and at whatever stage, we need to replace the comfort of the breast with something else – Other Mothering.  Is there something easier and less stressful, at the moment, than breastfeeding your baby to sleep?

In the early weeks, months and years of mothering there is nothing surer than change – what your baby is doing today may change tomorrow.  As they grow and develop at the breast they are learning and observing with you, in their happy place.  This stands our children in a great place to be able to take the proverbial big steps (going to sleep without breastmilk, going without you for increasing periods of time, walking…) when they are ready.  There are probably lots of things you can try, and there are certainly lots of books written about how to ‘make’ your child do A, B, C. There is, however, no book written for your child.   Follow your heart.  You ARE the expert on your baby.  Kia kaha!

Amanda Riches, Morrinsville – You sound like you are doing a wonderful job meeting your baby’s needs.  Many babies continue to breastfeed to sleep until they are two years old and even later. Slowly they seem to need it less and less until they fall asleep lying next to you or you just put them to bed one night without that last breastfeed.

If you are concerned about the future you can start introducing a sleep signal to use before breastfeeding to sleep, for example singing a song like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star then breastfeed or using a special toy/blankie that is used only for sleep times; place it between yours and baby’s tummy as you nurse to sleep then place it in the cot with him (my daughter had a fascination with my satin nightie so I made a cotton and satin blankie she now rubs between her fingers as she falls asleep).

Also many babies calmly and quietly fall asleep on daddy or grandma with no trouble but if mummy even thinks about trying to get baby to sleep without breastfeeding first, baby may strongly disagree and it turns into a battle with many tears. You can get your partner or mum to start attempting to rock baby to sleep every so often. Good luck and don’t let other people tell you what is right
and what is wrong because it sounds like you are doing what feels right for you and your baby.

Lisa Ross, Dunedin – It can often feel like our babies will never outgrow the needs they have now but they truly do, when they’re ready.  Often trying to push them to do something any earlier can cause the opposite – for them to cling to us more, need us more.  Often if we go with the flow and let them know we are there for them, in return they will let us know when they feel secure enough to move on.

Seven months is still very young and babies don’t understand very much at that age.  My baby who fed to sleep till far beyond seven months old, stopped long before she stopped breastfeeding completely and is a confident, independent, bright and easygoing eleven-year-old. Plenty of studies show that babies whose needs are met, become secure independent adults capable of forming healthy relationships.

Chris Gower-Rudman, Rotorua – A little bedtime routine is useful – even at this age.  Mum could do the dinner and bath thing before bed, as she may already be doing, and add a bedroom routine such as reading a story (looking at books) or singing a song before feeding baby to sleep. There is nothing wrong with feeding the baby to sleep except for the odd time when Mum may not be there to do it.

It is probably helpful to feed the baby in the room he is going to sleep in, rather than in front of the TV. This helps baby to associate other things beside just breastfeeding with going to bed and sleeping. It would be useful to have the baby’s father help with part of the routine so Dad and baby are familiar with it.

It is also a good idea to talk about what the routine is and if Mum is going to go out, tell the little one what is going to happen eg Daddy (or Grandma/Aunty Sue/teenage neighbour) will read you a story in your room/bed and sing you a song and hold your hand until you go to sleep.  If it doesn’t quite turn out like that, one night out of routine is not really a problem in the grand scheme of things.
Enjoy this cosy time with your baby.

Megan Lilley, Tauranga – I always breastfed my first daughter to sleep. It worked for her, me, and my husband. When I did return to some part-time evening work when she was eight months old, he was able to give her dinner, some expressed breastmilk and sit and read with her (or watch rugby) until she fell asleep.

Of course I had to always breastfeed her to sleep!  Although I was fine with this, I did think at the time – maybe I would try to do things differently next time. I was a bit envious of not just being able to put my baby to bed and walk away (like it seemed other mothers could do).

Second baby and guess what, I breastfed her to sleep every night till she was four-and-a-half, and apart from her being quite heavy to carry from the couch to her bed at the end of an evening, I loved every minute of it. It was our quiet time at the end of a busy day and who doesn’t love holding a sleeping baby/child in their arms?

Ten years after my first baby, and number three arrived (now two years old).  Yes, some days I do think “Oh I wish I could just put him to bed for a day sleep without having to lie down beside him till he drifts off,” but you know what? I wouldn’t change a thing. I am his world and he falls asleep in my arms every day and night, touching my skin in his milky bliss. There are never any tears or tantrums. There is no stress. For the 14 other hours of his waking day he is dynamite and I struggle to keep up with his energy and behaviour. For the times that he is breastfeeding off to sleep he is perfect in my arms, loving, gentle, warm, sleeping and still. I treasure it every day and I would do the same again if there ever was a next time round.

Continue ReadingBreastfeeding My Baby to Sleep