Breastfeeding Photos (part two)

Today's post is part two of my breastfeeding photo post. These have all been used in various blog posts or shared on my Facebook page, but I've never gathered them all in one place before. Most are Agent A nursing at home and through our many travels, but a few others made the list as well.

1. Agent A taking it easy on moving day. (April 2012)

2. Agent A and Momma at a playground in Barcelona. (June 2011)

3. Five-month-old A at the Boboli Gardens in Florence.
(April 2011)

4. At the Piazza San Marco in Venice . . . next to a sign that says
"no eating or drinking while sitting down." (August 2011)

5. Baby Agent A (8 weeks, hiding behind toddler Agent J)
(December 2010)

6. Outside of our apartment building. (February 2012)

7. Following a gelato break in Palermo (Sicily). (July 2011)

8. Hanging in the hotel we stayed at in Venice. (August 2011)

9. At Planet Hollywood London (with sleeping Agent J).
(March 2012)

10. A painting at the Louvre. (December 2011)

Breastfeeding Photos (part one)

Today I'm sharing another photo post . . . this one of breastfeeding art I've discovered on our travels as well as pictures of Agent A nursing in various locations we've visited. All of these pictures have already been shared either in a previous post or on my Facebook wall, but I've never put them all together in one place. And I discovered that I have so many of them that this is going to be part one of two.

These are in no particular order; just how I found them when skimming through my very full iPhoto files. Enjoy.

1. Agent A taking a break at this old Italian farmhouse 
where we had family pictures taken. (April 2012)

2. Sitting outside Westminster Abbey after our tour. (March 2012)

3. A's newfound fascination with holding on 
to something while he nurses. (May 2012)

4. One of the sculptures I snapped a photo of on our visit 
to the Louvre. (December 2011)

5. Four-year-old Agent E nursing Daisy Duck 
at our hotel in Germany. (July 2010)

6. Agent E breastfeeding her doll alongside me breastfeeding 
two-week-old Agent A. (November 2010)

7. Agent A taking a little break on our second trip 
to Florence. (August 2011)

8. Fountain of Neptune (aka, lactating sea nymph) 
in Bologna, Italy. (July 2010)

9. Nursing Agent A in Hyde Park, London. (March 2012)

10. A pausing for milk at the top of the Eiffel Tower 
while E looks on. (December 2011)

11. Waiting for the bus to take us back to the cruise ship 
following our tour in Lerici, Italy. (July 2011)

A Tale of Two Weanings

While pregnant with Agent E, I read a lot of mainstream books and magazines. I hadn't yet discovered the joys of Facebook and all the wonderful information contained within, but I did receive e-mail updates weekly telling me my baby had eyelashes or reached the size of a small gerbil. Breastfeeding always seemed to get a mention. Sometimes in a very positive way, listing all the "benefits" (don't get me started) and various tips. Sometimes in a neutral way, offering it up as one equal choice of two. Sometimes simply making it sound like an awful lot of work. At the time I viewed breastfeeding as mainly a financial choice.

Then I actually had a baby and survived those early days of nursing and things began to change. Long story short, I became a Breastfeeding Momma and my whole mothering worldview shifted.

They were both "still" nursing when this picture was taken
Agent E weaned in August 2009, at age 3 years 3 months. Agent J weaned in June 2010, at age 2 years 2 months. Following is a little about each of their stories.

I intended to wean E on her third birthday. I know it sounds totally arbitrary, but at the time it made perfect sense to me. Then we had the Great Spider Incident, a week-long saga in which some evil bug or spider (I'm still not 100% sure what) chomped on her leg and it swelled up ridiculously, and then she got a fever, and started puking, and ended up in urgent care on a Sunday morning (Mother's Day 2009 to be exact) and received lots of strong antibiotics for an additional two weeks. This all began the week of her birthday, so of course I couldn't stop nursing her then. I never really pushed the issue for most of the summer. (Hubby had left in February and we were just trying to survive mid-deployment insanity.) But then around the beginning of August I noticed she was only nursing for about a minute before bed, and almost never fell asleep nursing. She had long since given up napping, so we had been at the "only bedtime" stage for quite a while, but now even that seemed to be more of a cursory nod rather than a true need, or even a heartfelt want.

So we stopped. I don't remember the last time I nursed Agent E. I imagine we probably sat in the rocker in our bedroom at bedtime and she nursed for 30-60 seconds before putting her down in bed and her drifting off. It may have taken a few days of "reminders" that we just snuggled at bedtime now, but no real fuss or muss of any kind.

By the time Agent J came along, I had more of a clue. I had already breastfed for almost two years, including through the entire pregnancy. We had none of the difficulties her big sister and I had. Agent J latched on immediately and never looked back.

J became more of a "serious" nurser than E; she rarely nursed for comfort, even as a newborn, and pretty much took an all-business approach. I was actually a bit surprised when she continued showing an interest past her first birthday, yet she did. I became pregnant with her little brother when she was 21 months old, and we started the pregnancy with our nursing relationship humming along at its usual pace.

Agent J on our trip to Germany, just after she weaned
I had this picture in my head of what our "last time" would be like. It didn't turn out quite the way I hoped or expected. One night as she nursed before bed, I unlatched her because she was chomping too hard and I was getting sore and told her that was enough (in a not so nice tone) and she started to sob. And then I did, too. Although, I think it was more cathartic than sad; we both knew. It was kind of a long goodbye . . . there had been several times when she seemed "done" and yet would ask again a day or two later. We were both ready; I just wish I had been more kind with her during that particular incident. She never asked to nurse again after that night.

Part of me was sad because I really, really wanted to remember her last nursing session as positive, especially since I could barely recall her sister's. Truthfully, though, I enjoyed the "break" I had from nursing for about five months until Agent A came along. 

I breastfed both of them for one year and three months. I nursed two children to sleep every night for over a year. Both girls remember nursing fondly, as I mused about in For the Love of Moe. They have watched their little brother nurse many, many times and talk about how some day they will do the same for their babies. Breastfeeding is so ho hum to them. It's just what mommies and babies do.

One final note: I have no pictures of Agent E breastfeeding. More than three years, and not one photo. I have one of Agent J, taken when she was about 2.5 months old. This is why I take (and post) a bazillion and one photos of Agent A nursing. If you are reading this and you are just beginning your nursing relationship, photograph it. Have someone take pictures for you at every opportunity. You won't regret it.

Our Experience With Child-Led Learning

In my short homeschool parent tenure, I’ve gotten a lot of inquiries from friends and family about what we do. My personal favorite: Someone asked me shortly after we began our homeschooling journey, “What qualifications do you have? Do you have a teaching degree?”

After I bit my tongue really hard to prevent even more snark from slipping out, I said something like, “Um, no . . . but I think I can handle kindergarten academics.”

I know folks are asking out of love and concern. Usually people want to know things like what kind of plan or curriculum I use, how much time I spend on each subject, and how do I not go crazy staying home and teaching all day. (Because, of course, all homeschool students are at their desks every day from 8:00 to 2:00 with nary a break for eating or going to the bathroom.)

But mostly they are genuinely curious: How do you “teach” kindergarten at home? When I tell them what we really do— child-led learning— I never know what kind of reaction I will get.

We let Agent E take the lead in most of her daily activities. If folks press about what she actually does I tell them we use a homemade curriculum, which while slightly misleading, is more or less accurate. Our style is kind of unschool-ish, although I don’t really use that term to describe us. I don’t know how our “style” of home education will change as she and her two younger siblings grow. But for now, we are very laid back, cooperative, life learners.

Actually, I’m not even sure what part of our day I would consider “school”: When she’s on the couch reading a book? When she’s playing math bingo? When she wants me to look up alligators on the computer with her? When she’s sitting at the kitchen table doing a word search? When we’re outside playing with mud?

It all kind of blurs into daily life here. If I count all of those things, however, we are pretty much “doing” school most of the day.

I guide her learning, in that I will offer different things for her to do.  For example, this week I printed coloring pages, word searches, and puzzles about the UK in preparation for our visit to London in a few weeks. However, she decides when and which ones to work on.

It’s the same with reading.  At the library this time of year I may steer her toward a few books on say, Easter or spring, but let her pick which ones come home with us. I might also throw some measuring cups in the bathtub for her to play with if we’ve been cooking together or talking about fractions. I will  purposely ask her what time it is more often because she is just learning and I want to see if she remembers and what her thought process is.

So what am I teaching my five-year-old? I’m teaching her to be proactive with her learning. I’m teaching her to self-pace her activities to a level that works for her. I’m teaching her to enjoy new things. I’m teaching her that her input into her own education matters.

And whether we continue down this path or ultimately choose something more structured, I think she’s going to be just fine.