I thought I would share my personal adventure in tandem nursing to mark the start of Black Breastfeeding Week 2019. Tandem nursing is when you breastfeed siblings of two different ages. It started when I found myself pregnant with my second child while still nursing my 2-year-old. What?!?! Breastfeeding a toddler? With teeth? Yes, extended breastfeeding is common and recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. There are many benefits to breastfeeding beyond 12 months: increased immune system function, added nutritional benefits, improved brain development, and lower anxiety. Additionally, nothing heals a boo-boo or stops a temper tantrum in its tracks like a mouthful of boob! Also, keep in mind that toddlers don’t nurse nearly as often as infants. Our nursing sessions were primarily before naps and before bedtime, about 3-4 times a day.
When I found myself pregnant while my not-quite-2-year-old was still breastfeeding, neither of us were ready to discontinue our breastfeeding relationship. I continued to safely breastfeed throughout pregnancy. What was that like?
Oftentimes, nurslings are the first to know when you are pregnant. The taste of your milk changes, becoming slightly salty. Some toddlers do not like the new flavor and will refuse to nurse. My toddler did not let a little funny-tasting milk stop her. She continued to nurse throughout my first trimester. As we approached my second trimester, my milk production began to decrease and eventually disappeared altogether. This is common during pregnancy. About 70% of women report decreased milk production during pregnancy. Still, my toddler persisted. This was the most difficult part for me. Dry nursing felt like nails on a chalkboard. Sometimes it was painful. But my toddler strongly desired to soothe herself with suckling, and breastfeeding interaction was still cordial. We worked through this challenge together. I agreed to allow her to continue to breastfeed but in limited increments. I would set a timer for 3 minutes. I would explain that she can have some milk but only for a little while because it hurt Mommy. She was very careful. Sometimes she was upset when the timer beeped and I would cuddle her instead of nursing for a few minutes. Then allow her to nurse again if she was still awake in 10 minutes. It was difficult for both of us.
During the third trimester, my daughter would nurse and feel her sister moving in my growing belly. She would smile and rub my belly while nursing. We would talk about how when the baby came, she would need to share milk with her new sister. When the baby was born, they both nursed together in the hospital bed with me. I was amazed at how big my toddler looked compared to my 6-pound newborn! My toddler was so happy to meet her new sister. Even better, my milk was back! It was like a kid on Christmas Morning when she latched on and milk came out again! She was so happy to have the gift of her mother’s milk! The oldest stroked the baby’s head as they nursed together. As months passed, they would hold hands and exchange glances. They shared this experience for a while until one day, my milk tasted salty again!
This is the time of year when families begin making plans for summer travel. I come from a tradition of horrendous family vacations. There was the trip where my brother got his head stuck between the railings at a hotel and we had to call the fire department to free him. Another time, my sister and I became violently ill after playing in a bidet while on a trip to the Poconos. The worst trip, however, was when my parents decided it would be fun to take a train to visit my uncle in Texas. My parents made reservations to leave Erie, PA on Christmas morning, which was also the during the worst snowstorm of the year. The entire city was buried under snow, and our train was leaving at 4:30AM. My parents woke us up at 2AM. We quickly opened our Christmas presents and then piled into the family station wagon. My siblings and I began arguing in the backseat. My mother started fussing at us, and my father started yelling that he couldn't see anything in the blinding snow. Before we knew it, we had skidded off the road and landed in our neighbor's ditch. We didn't even make it off our street!
We began the hike back home. At some point, my father had to carry me. He tripped and we both landed in the snow! I began crying as tears froze to my face. My parents had to buy new tickets but could not change the return date. The trip ended up costing my parents over $2,000. We spent 36 hours on the train ride to get there, 1 day in Texas, and another 36 hours back. To this day, they don't regret it because looking back, the trip was a laugh a minute and created memories that we will never forget.
The last month of school is the hardest. I start off each school year with a plan. We all wake up on time, pack nutritious lunches, eat breakfast at the table, and put on the outfits that we assembled the night before. As the year progresses, it becomes harder and harder to wake up on time. The kids pack their own lunches. Breakfast is eaten in the car. We arrive late to school, and I must endure the parental walk of shame.
Still, we continue to make an effort to finish the year with a little bit of dignity. I even volunteered to chaperone my daughter's kindergarten field trip to Sea Life one year. We spent the whole day exploring, looking at exhibits, petting sea creatures, admiring the octopus. It was a fun but exhausting trip. We returned to school with an hour to spare, and I took full advantage. I parked my van early in the school's car line for afternoon pickup. I rolled down my windows, reclined my seat, took off my bra Flash Dance style, unbuttoned my jeans, and rested my eyes. It had been a very long day!
I didn't mean to fall all the way asleep but I did in a matter of seconds. I was startled out of my deep slumber by the sound of my van door opening. Before I could comprehend what was happening, I saw something fall out of the door as the teacher was opening it. Was it trash? I wish. I watched the teacher bend over to retrieve what fell out of my van. I was mortified when I saw what it was. It was my discarded, extra large, sweaty bra! The teacher picked it up with two fingers and handed it to me!
All I could do was manage a sheepish "Thank you," as I mentally begged for this school year to end.
In 2012, my husband and I found ourselves in a hospital parking lot debating over which one of us would take our child in to see the physician. Neither of us wanted to go, yet our daughter sat in the backseat with blood coming out of her ear. You see, this was our 4th trip to the hospital that year.
The first time we took a trip to the ER, we thought our 3-year-old’s arm was broken. My husband and my daughter were playing in the family room. She squealed in delight as he held her hands and spun her in circles. She looked like she was flying as he gripped hands and spun quickly, zooming her feet off of the ground. She laughed and giggled and begged for more until POP! Her arm fell limp.
The second trip to the ER involved my 4-year-old. She had been “skating” in socks on my freshly polished wood floors. Her feet flew from under her and she fell directly onto her face, piercing her bottom lip with her tooth. Blood gushed. That isn’t even the bad part. The bad part was being in the room with the doctor when my 3-year-old spotted a discarded piece of previously chewed gum on the floor. It was like a scene from a horror movie. We all lunged for her with outstretched arms yelling NOOOOOOOO!!! But it was too late. She plopped used gum, found on a hospital floor, into her mouth. To make matters worse, the doctor determined stitches were not needed and sent us home. That unnecessary trip to the ER caused severe sickness in my 3-year-old days later.
That same year, as I was changing out my kids’ fall/winter wardrobe for the spring/summer wardrobe, I stepped out of the room for 1 minute. In that minute, my 6-year-old scaled the mountain of clothes and storage bins on the bed and took a tumble. She cried out in pain! A 3rd trip to the emergency room revealed an arm fracture.
So no, on this 4th trip to the emergency room that year, neither my husband nor I wanted to get out of the car and explain that another child had been injured in our home. Blood coming out of the ear is pretty scary. Walking into the hospital AGAIN and being judged, felt scarier. Instead, I pulled out my cell phone and called the after hours nurse at the pediatrician’s office. We explained what happened, and the nurse said that it sounded like a trip to the hospital was not necessary. Then she strongly rebuked us for putting cotton swabs into her ear. We felt double relief. Not only was our child OK, we also avoided the dreaded quaternary trip to the hospital!
The value of certification status is fiercely debated among birth workers. I often hear people complaining about the time and expense involved with completing doula certification. They often do not see a need to get certified, especially if they are practicing doulas with a steady stream of clients. Here are 4 reasons why certification matters.
“Doula” is an unregulated profession with no state or federal oversight. Anyone can call themselves a doula, even someone with no formal training, education, or experience. Today, consumers have more tools than ever to research who they hire, and it is estimated that 88% of consumers spend time researching before selecting a doula. They often come to interviews asking about advanced training, certifications held, and experience. Being backed by a major certifying organization lends credibility to doulas and assures people seeking doulas that they are hiring a qualified individual.
Doulas are not medical personnel and do not perform medical tasks or make medical decisions for their clients -- at least they shouldn’t. When a doula acts outside of her scope of practice and her client suffers injury, the doula may be found liable for damages. Untrained doulas do not always understand what is within their scope of practice and what is outside of scope. In a quest to make one practice more exotic than the next, an untrained doula may inappropriately use tools and techniques that may harm the client. Quality training by a reputable organization defines what is considered inside and what is outside of the scope of practice. Acting within scope, protects clients and doulas.
Successful completion of training and certification produces more confident practitioners. Doulas who have undergone formal training understand birth from a variety of viewpoints and know how to competently serve individuals and clients. Professionally trained and certified doulas have often received hands-on instruction and are frequently involved in ongoing education.
It’s Worth the Investment
If you aren’t willing to invest in your education and your credentials, why should a consumer invest in you? Ongoing professional development makes you a more skilled doula. When you hold a certification, an organization stands behind you and certifies that you have successfully completed the program and have demonstrated the skills necessary to provide physical and emotional support to the families you serve.
Kira Kimble is a certified doula and doula trainer for Birth Arts International. She travels throughout the country offering doula training as part of Birth Arts International’s Doula Certification Program. To sign up for a doula workshop, visit TrainWithKira.com
If you would like to bring a doula training workshop to your area, email Kira at 4myDoula@gmail.com
Last week, Charlotte was in the path of Hurricane Florence. The whole city was in a panic, preparing to be without electricity for several days or even weeks! I stocked up on non-perishables, made sure we had flashlights and batteries. Then I took a trip to our local library. If we were going to be cooped up without WiFi, I wanted to make sure we had plenty of reading material!
One of the books I picked up was Lady Day and Mister by Amy Novesky. It was an unexpected look at the life of Billie Holiday. My 9-year-old was already familiar with Lady Day and had even dressed up as her during her school's celebration of Black History Month last year. We had only known her as a singer. We did not know about the special relationships she had with her dogs and how they traveled with her. It was fun to get a glimpse of this Hollywood Star and her personal life. It brought Billie Holiday to life and made her relatable.
School is back in session for my kids. It's a pretty low-key event around here, no Facebook pictures or special outfits. We have very normal days now. That's in high contrast to how our days used to be.
Facebook recently reminded me of a disastrous morning we had getting to school a few years ago. We were rushing out the door, as usual. The kids had their breakfast in hand as they piled into the minivan. When we got about 2 miles from our house, my daughter started screaming about a spider crawling on the window. I rolled down the window, hoping it would go out, but it didn't. Fortunately, I had an empty coffee mug in the cup holder from the pervious day. I handed the cup to my daughter so she could smash the spider, but instead, she threw my cup at it! The spider and my mug flew out of the window!
I pulled over and ran to retrieve my mug from the side of the road. When I got back into the car, I told my kids to finish eating their breakfasts. That's when my daughter realized that she had been sitting in her toast and jelly while battling the spider. I handed her a roll of paper towels and kept on pushing, onward to school!
That was a horrendous morning. I don't know when the shift occurred, but we no longer have mornings like that. Those JACK'd up experiences are blurry memories that we can laugh at now, and I share them to let parents know that there is another side. The days are long and hard, but the years really do pass quickly.
One of your very first parenting tasks might be selecting a doctor for your unborn child. I suggest you interview at least 2, and choose the one that you feel most comfortable with. Below is a list of interview questions to ask.
What are your hours? What happens if my baby is sick after hours/weekend? Is there a 24-hour nurse's line?
Are you open on weekends?
Do you offer same-day sick appointments?
Do you have hospital privileges? If so, which hospitals?
What are your views on antibiotic use? Vaccinations? Breastfeeding beyond 1 year? Co-sleeping?
Do you have a lactation consultant on staff?
Questions to ask yourself:
Are there separate waiting rooms for sick and well children?
How did the staff treat you?
Were they receptive to doing an interview?
Did the doctor roll his/her eyes at any of your interview questions?
Were you rushed?
This is the time of year when we hear the ringing of bells among the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping. As I have discussed before, shopping with the kids in tow can be an adventure. I think it's that way for most parents. My mother, however, was a master at getting her kids to behave while out in public.
Every year, I am reminded of my mother's greatness when it came to getting her kids to shape up. It was a cold, December evening, and my mother needed to stop by the store on the way home. My sister and I bickered about everything: who got to sit in the front seat, who got to walk next to Mom, what treat we wanted to buy, etc. Then we heard the ringing of bells and saw the red kettle. Curious, I asked my mother what the bells were about. Without hesitation and with a straight face, she said, "That's where you drop off kids who are misbehaving."
My eyes widened and I tightened my grip on mother's arm. My sister and I didn't make a peep. My mother had no issues from either of us and was able to shop in heavenly peace.
Last night, my son and I read Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner. It's a picture book about a child exploring the garden in her backyard through the changing seasons. It describes the types of creepy crawlies found in the dirt such as grubs, crickets and earthworms. It also talks about the changing seasons and what the bugs and plants do as winter approaches.
My active 4-year-old sat intently the whole time, pointing out and naming bugs that he recognized. He made many connections between the book and his life, and remembered seeing and touching many of the insects and flowers described in the book. Now he's on a mission to find the bugs again and match them to the pictures in the book. His excitement about a book brings such joy to me! I love seeing my child excited about learning and engrossed in a book. If your child enjoys outdoor play, this book will be a hit and can be found in Charlotte Mecklenburg Libraries.
Living the JACK'd Life
I am a certified birth doula (BAI) in Charlotte, NC . I provide information and support to pregnant individuals and couples so they can have satisfying and empowering births. I am a married mother of 4 trying to navigate life, unafraid of sharing my truly JACK'd up missteps.