First vs Second

All parents with more than one will tell you that there are differences between their children. Some of then are obvious, boy vs girl, or blonde vs dark haired, others are more subtle like the fact that one has a sweet innocent smile and the other has the wickedest grin you’ve ever seen on a kid so small. I want to share some of the differences between what my girls were/are up to between the ages of 12-18 months and hopefully you’ll have a giggle along with me.

Nursling 1 Nursling 2
Mobility Sat on bottom until 12 months, then did a funny kind of bottom shuffle. Pulled up and cruised from 12 months, but only in one direction otherwise she’d get her feet tangled. Finally walked at 17 months Traditional crawler, skipped the pulling up and cruising stage entirely in favour of toddling. Regresses to crawling when she needs to get somewhere fast (e.g. to steal a toy from her sister)
Addressing family members Mum, dad Dad, sista, Ted (referring to both of our dogs)

What happened to mum?? Well, mostly I’m just referred to as dad

Curiosity about objects what dat? what dis? mine dat!
Learning to share Looks slightly baffled that toy is gone, finds another toy happily Makes a sound best described as the sound played in quiz shows when you get the answer wrong. Snatches toy back.
Obtaining food Learned to say variations on please (eez, weez) early. Prefers someone else to feed her, so it all gets into her tummy faster. Snatches from nursling 1 and forages dropped food. Will say ‘ta’ if needed. Prefers to self feed. Will spit out food three times before accepting it and gobbling it down.
Commonly used words Gok (meaning milk, clock, or any other thing she didn’t have a word for) Neng and Faff (yes, they’re both completely made up, I’ve no idea what they mean) Uh-oh, Yay and Hee Wah Wah (Here you are – usually accompanied by a gift of some sort)
Quirks Loves to suck on jumper cords, and play the in/out game, which involves shoving jumper cords in an adults mouth and then removing them When asked to take an object somewhere, will do superman arms with the object held out in front of her whilst powering towards her destination
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In Our Own Time

I still remember the first time I was asked when I was going to stop breastfeeding my first child. Nursling 1 was probably only 10 months old at the time, and I was still well and truly confidently feeding her around family and in public. I’m not sure exactly where we were, but as it was my Gran, who was unwell at the time who said something along the lines of: “You’re not still feeding her are you? When are you going to stop?”

Hold on a second! I thought, We haven’t reached the Australian guidelines of 12 months yet, let alone the WHO guidelines of 2 years and beyond. I chalked it up to generational difference, and the fact that my Gran never did mince words.

Then, when I was in hospital with Postpartum Psychosis with nursling 2 when she was only a few months old, again the question came up, but this time it was around psychiatric illness, their associated medicines and what the doctors were willing to give me whilst I was breastfeeding. “Will you stop breastfeeding, as the drug we want to give you is not advised during breastfeeding?” My husband and I fought to protect my girls access to breast milk, and ultimately we had a good outcome. We found a suitable medication and both my girls remained breastfed without any significant need for ongoing observation.

Fast forward to the last few months, and it being winter here, plus me having some challenges with recent medication changes, we’ve been frequenting doctors offices of late. Once again the question has come up: “Are you still breastfeeding? Just the little one or both of them? When do you intend to stop?” (Nursling 1 is 2 years 8 months and nursling 2 is almost 16 months, just in case you were wondering)

I used to think the answer was simple. Way back when I first started breastfeeding nursling 1, before I was pregnant again, or tandem feeding, and medication became a complicating factor. Quite simply, I was going to breastfeed for at least 2 years. Well, that target has come and gone for nursling 1, and I fully intend to do the same for nursling 2, if God be willing and my health cooperates! I have realised that despite all the complications that have come our way, the answer to when will I give up breastfeeding my girls remains simple: In our own time.

A New Kind Of Tandem

We have reached a milestone! Nursling 2 has decided she is happy to, and now quite regularly does drink a bottle of warm cows milk. Just over a year ago the feed before afternoon nap consisted of a lot of wrangling to get 2 girls attached, fend nursling 1 off of the few months old nursling 2 and then the dilemma of transfers hen everyone was finished and sleepy. Now I make 2 bottles of warm cows milk, cuddle one with each arm as they wrangle their own bottles and kick each other’s legs. When both are finished I put nursling 1 in her adult sized bed, and then rock nursling 2 to sleep in our room. Then walk away…..tiptoe…hush…hope it lasts!

The Mystery of the Missing Pears

Two is a magical age at which many things that previously had to be asked for have become accessible. Nursing 1’s “help yourself” moments are sometimes messy, like the time flour got spread all over the kitchen floor (she did try to help me clean up!), sometimes problematic, when she finds dad’s tools lying around, and sometimes hilarious, like the time she got stuck in a slippery puddle of dog shampoo on the bathroom floor. But by far her favourite thing to help herself too is the fruit bowl. I have often found her helping herself while I’m busy in another room, and sometimes she even shares with Nursling 2.

After putting Nursling 2 down for a nap today, I once again found her sitting at the kitchen table, pear in one hand and pear core on the table. But it wasn’t until after her I put her down for her nap that I realised the fruit bowl wasn’t 2 pears down, but 5. Surely she couldn’t have eaten them all? No suspicious cores… no sticky marks… where could they be? I looked around but they weren’t forthcoming.

After naptime, Nursling 1 finally did lead me to them, where they were hiding in a loot bag leftover from her cousin’s birthday party.

Meanwhile, Nursling 2, who can now stand and walk too, is getting up to some shenanigans of her own and is carefully and methodically emptying the kitchen bin.

A day with toddlers is never dull, that is for sure!

Dear New Mum

Dear friend with a new baby,

Please forgive me for staring at you and your baby.

You see, you can’t possibly know, but your smile when you look at her reminds me of the precious happy weeks before my world turned upside down. Those times I had with my own newborn when she was just a thriving baby and I was just a mum doing well despite the demands of a toddler as well.

Dear friend with a new baby,

Please forgive me if I seem nervous around you, and I feel I struggle to know what to say and stand awkwardly. I can’t help but remember what happened to me, and fear for you as well. I am relieved when you say you are well, but for no good reason remain fearful, and keep looking for signs that things might be going awry.

And sometimes I struggle to relate to all the normal day to day experiences that you have with your baby because mine were so very different.

Dear friend with a new baby,

I’m sorry if I sometimes come across wrong, but above all I am so glad for you! I am glad this new precious bundle is in your life and that you are both well. And I will say a prayer that it stays that way.

Feeding Two

Feeding two girls means wondering how I can possibly fit a 2 year old and 10 month old fit on my lap with access to my breasts at the same time without them being on top of each other.

Feeding two means stacking them on top of each other anyway and hoping that no-one wriggles too much or kicks the other one.

Feeding two means sitting one on top of a pile of books that the toddler has just read to avoid them being stacked on top of each other when they’re already tired and cranky.

Feeding two means rationing the toddlers feeds when the baby is sick and has lost her appetite so the baby gets enough. Negotiating with a toddler defies logic.

Feeding two means feeling like a milk truck some days when they’re both sick and we’ve been feeding on after the other all day.

Feeding two means beautiful moments with both girls when our eyes connect during a feed. It means tickling one while the other finishes, or reading a book to the other when things are reversed.

Feeding two means having nipple thrush is twice as painful.

Feeding two means bites from the teething baby and tooth mark rings from the toddler when she gets lazy and rests her teeth there.

Feeding two isn’t always easy, or comfortable. But it hasn’t been worth it for us, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

In Public?

It’s always been my goal to breastfeed for 2 years and beyond, just as the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends. Nursing 1 has been quite agreeable with this, and, now at a month past 2 years of age is showing no signs of losing interest. In fact, she seems to be showing renewed interest!

Feeding at home, in private, has always been comfortable and easy. But I must admit that the further past 12 months Nursling 1 got the less comfortable I have felt feeding her in public. It’s not that I think there is anything wrong with it. There isn’t! Feed your kids for as long as you and they want to! But I have feared other people’s judgement and having to deal with their reactions, especially on days when I’m already struggling with my mental health, or otherwise just having a challenging day parenting 2 insanely gorgeous, but also cheeky and active girls.

One morning a week I rush the girls out the door to attend a free parenting course with a creche (which, just quietly is very nice). Because I struggle to get up any time before 8:30 due to the anti-psychotics, this usually means Nursling 1 misses out on her morning breastfeed because we’re pressed for time. So after a missed morning feed and 2 hours in creche I was hardly surprised when upon picking her up, she wanted a feed even more than Nursling 2 did.

So, a little apprehensively I picked both of them up, sat down on one of the couches they had at the creche and settled in to feed them both together. I was pleasantly surprised when I didn’t even get one funny look, and the other parents even commented on how cute they were there together and how nice it was.

A shout out to the other parents, thanks for normalising toddler breastfeeding for me, and making me feel comfortable by doing so. You guys rock!

Breastfeeding through PP

Breastfeeding through Puerperal Psychosis was a very different experience to breastfeeding through Postnatal Depression. And to any mums out there who have had PP who are reading this, whatever your experiences and decisions were I respect them. I can only reflect on what mine were.

Unlike Nursling 1, Nursling 2 emerged hungry and fed very soon after birth, and has fed well ever since. For the first 6 weeks breastfeeding both girls was a great way of sharing my attention between the two, and began a bond between my 2 girls as well, as Nursling 1 would often be very affectionate towards Nursling 2 while they were sharing a feed together.

Then when Nursling 2 was about 7 weeks old PP hit. The emotional swings that came with PP very much impacted on my feeding. At times, breastfeeding became a magical experience and I felt like I had an amazing bond with my children, as if we were at one with each other. Then, although breastfeeding my girls had always been very important to me at times I was convinced my milk was harming them, and at other times I became very annoyed at having to feed the girls because I was forced to sit still and it kept me from doing very important other things (like cleaning the house and solving the worlds problems). Still, I had enough insight to remember how important breastfeeding really was to me and persisted.

Things became more complicated when I was admitted to Helen Mayo House. Firstly, because of how important sleep is to recovery from PP, it was decided that the nurses would care for and feed Nursling 2 overnight. I already had a pump and an abundant supply, so I would pump first thing in the morning about double what was actually needed and Nursling 2 had her breastmilk from a bottle overnight.

What really complicated things was medications. Some Psychiatric medicines are among the few things that are truly contraindicated (in lay mans terms a huge no-no) when breastfeeding. There are other psych drugs which are not recommended but breastfeeding can be possible under tightly controlled conditions. But the doctors were perinatal specialists, and kept me on medications that could be breastfed on for as long as possible, and alternatives were discussed, albeit they sounded more scary than stopping feeding, when it began to look like I might need the “not recommended ones”. We had in depth discussions with the doctors and pharmacist about a particular drug, lithium, and whether it would be possible to continue to breastfeed on it, but thankfully were spared having to make that decision when the antipsychotic I was on started doing the job.

Being separated from Nursling 1 was tough as well. Breastfeeding became an important point of connection between us when she visited, and helped in the transition to home as well.

As if psychosis wasn’t enough, PP is often followed by depression, and it can be pretty severe. For me, I experienced is much as a pendulum on an old clock swinging between mostly okay, perhaps even tending towards mania, and really down. Once again, breastfeeding became something I could always rely on to work, something that I was good at, and helped me to have a little self confidence, and importantly stay bonded with my girls during that time.

I’m still recovering, and I am so thankful that despite the challenges that we faced, that we managed to keep breastfeeding all the way through my experiences of mental illnesses.

Yoghurt

Recently, we discovered the joys of homemade yoghurt.

Nursling 1 was already a great yoghurt eater. When asked “are you hungry?”, her most frequent response is “Yoghurt?” followed by a dash to the kitchen to get out a bowl and tug on the fridge door. Seriously, she would eat yoghurt for breakfast, lunch and tea if she got the chance.

Daddy was also known to down a whole kilogram tub when we bought it crazy cheap marked down because it’s use by date was the next day.

Now our family yoghurt consumption has gone from approximate 1kg tub a week, with the occasional markdown yoghurt binge, to approximately a metric tonne (okay, I may be exaggerating here, but it isn’t unusual for me to make 4 or 5 kg batches per week). And there is a good reason why, not only does it work out cheaper than the yoghurt we were buying before (when you get the sachets on special that is, or my diy milk powder version which works out to $1.65 a batch), but it beats the regular store bought one for taste and overall experience hands down. Especially banana. Seriously, if you get into making your own yoghurt, which you definitely should, just make lots and lots of banana flavour.

Did I mention that it’s also ridiculously easy?

Now nursling 2 has started to get in on the action as well, happily downing a whole baby-size portion of yoghurt when its offered. Generally followed by, “mmmmm” noises, messy grins and lots of bouncing up and down in the high chair.

Now, you’ll have to excuse me. I’m off to eat more yoghurt.