(Lucy, age 4 months with me while the bridesmaids prepared for my best friend’s wedding)
photo credit: Jade Pierce Photography
After having such a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad experience with breastfeeding and creating a secure attachment with our firstborn when I was working full-time that I shared with you yesterday, I was determined to do it differently for round two. When I was pregnant with Lucy I started looking into Ecological Breastfeeding as promoted by Sheila Kippley (mostly because I was interested in the natural child spacing aspects). I fell in love with this practice of mama and baby togetherness and when I used it as my model for caring for Baby Lucy I was amazed at how natural, liberating, and stress-free it was. I highly recommend Kippley’s books: Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood and The Seven Principles of Ecological Breastfeeding.
On Friday we went on our first outing unaccompanied by 9-month-old Lucy since her birth. I have left her for an hour or so with Daniel on a handful of occasions and a couple of times with my mother, also for a brief time. Other than that I have been with her every second of her life. We have such a strong and secure attachment and I have never seen a calmer, happier, more independent, or more flexible baby. Now, I believe that Lucy’s temperament is simply calmer than our firstborn’s and she would be an easier baby regardless. But, I truly think ecological breastfeeding has helped.
God created women’s bodies with the ability to nourish their babies. Until recently when pumping became an option, breastfeeding meant that a mother couldn’t be away from her baby longer than a couple of hours because her baby would soon be hungry and need to nurse. It makes sense to me that this lack of separation between mother and baby serves other positive purposes and is a natural way I can choose to parent.
These are some of the principles of ecological breastfeeding that I have implemented:
Don’t schedule. Even now when people ask me what time Lucy eats and naps I don’t know what to tell them. I have never tried to get her to eat or sleep at a certain time during the day. Some days she naps once. Other days she naps 4 times. We follow her lead for a nightly bedtime which is now around 7:30.
Nurse on demand. If she acts like she’s hungry, I let her nurse. If she needs comfort, I let her nurse. I nurse her all the time. She never has to cry to let me know she’s hungry. I always nurse her before then. She is a delightfully perfect weight, not overweight, not underweight. And, I’ve lost 50 lbs since her birth without dieting or even exercising (eek, should probably do something about that) except for teaching ballet classes once a week! So, no complaints here!
Don’t do bottles or pacifiers. Now, I thought that I would hate not having the freedom to pump and leave her with a baby sitter and a bottle. I have found that pumping was WAY more of a drag than finding creative ways to take my baby everywhere I need to go. I also thought it would be torturous not to use pacifiers, but after not using them, I realize it’s so much easier than having to keep one with you at all times, not to mention those inevitable night wakings when baby screams because her paci fell out.
Co-sleeping. We did this for the first six months and I slept so well knowing she was right next to me. At five months she started waking 6-8 times a night. After a few weeks of that, we moved her to her own crib and she wakes 2-4 times a night (still a lot but a huge improvement). I think smelling my milk and bumping into me at night was waking her up and having her own space is improving her sleep and mine. I still nurse her back to sleep whenever she wakes.
Nap with your baby: I followed this rule rigorously since Kippley cites this principle as being crucial to help delay the return of the mama’s fertility. But mine still came back at 5 months, so after that I eased up and I will nap with her often but not daily.
Don’t be separated from baby. I thought this would really cramp my style and I did have to get creative with implementing this principle on the afternoon that I work part-time. I ended up paying a babysitter to watch Lucy at the studio where I worked and I would nurse her during breaks.
Lucy rarely fusses or cries and she is always easy to console. Daniel thinks this is because her needs are always met. While Benjamin would scream if he wasn’t touching my body (regardless of whether I was in the same room), Lucy will happily play and explore the house without needing to touch me or even stay in her line of vision. It’s as if she is secure in the fact that I am there and will always be nearby. If you’re interested in Ecological Breastfeeding in more detail, check out Sheila Kippley’s books!
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