Happy New Year! Everyone knows that January is stereotypically a time of change, a time when people look at their lives and make “resolutions” or think about how their lives will be different in the new year. However, for a mom, sometimes the idea of change is daunting. A mom’s life seems to be riddled with constant change; you get to bring home this amazing gift – this baby who instantly has your whole heart- and yet comes with zero instructions. I know from experience that the minute that you think you have something figured out, baby laughs in your face and everything you thought you had figured out flies out the window. Personally, I hate and dread change. I like what is familiar, what is comfortable, and for me, change is really difficult and stressful.
I was lamenting the frustration of always facing a new challenge at a support group, when my son was a few months old, when a fellow mother brought up a point that resonated with me. She challenged me to change my perspective on how I was viewing the issue. She pointed out that while things may seem to keep constantly changing, it’s really just the same issues and challenges with a new twist as your baby grows. For example, sleep is a constant battle and always changing but it’s still at heart a sleep struggle and nursing a toddler has different challenges from nursing an infant but nursing is nursing and you can get through it. Looking at challenges from this perspective is empowering because you can take pride in knowing that you conquered the challenge before and you can do it again.
Sleep is one of the biggest challenges of mommyhood. Every week at my breastfeeding support group at least three or four moms bring it up. Mom is exhausted because baby won’t sleep or in the case of some newborns (like mine) baby sleeps too much and mommy is exhausted from trying to keep baby awake to feed. It’s an incredibly vicious cycle and it seems like every time you figure out how to get baby to sleep well, something changes to screw it all up. Whoever coined the phrase “sleeping like a baby” clearly didn’t have one because any real mom will tell you that most babies don’t sleep. Even mine, who slept too well in the newborn stage, decided that sleep is for the weak once he hit 6 months (maybe even before that… it all blurs together these days!) Currently, my toddler has decided that he doesn’t want to nap – at all. Imagine my delight – haha. The poor kid is completely exhausted and refuses to take a nap which results in super cranky moody toddler, and even crankier mom. Why is this happening? What changed? Your guess is as good as mine. It’s likely due to a growth spurt or his intense “fear of missing out” but instead of viewing this as a new challenge I decided to give my fellow mom’s advice a try. Refusal to sleep, or nap, isn’t at heart “a new issue” at all. So I’ve been looking at how I coped with it before. I’m employing strategies from rocking and cuddling to cry it out when necessary and they don’t always work but I can take heart in knowing that “this too shall pass” and that everything in a phase. Once it passes it will probably come around again but I’ll be prepared. It’s nothing new.
Nursing can sometimes feel like it’s constantly evolving too and I know that I dread it when something changes. While nursing a toddler is different from nursing a newborn, in many ways it is still the same. Nursing is nursing. It doesn’t get “new” just different. A toddler already knows how to nurse but they don’t like to sit still and sometimes they can get lazy with how they latch. Sometimes you have to go back to the basics to re-latch a child who bites or try to wrangle a wiggly nursling who wants to see everything and nurse at the same time. But at least in my experience, it helps to take a step back when you are at your most frustrated and look at how far you have come. You’ve battled nursing struggles before and won and while this struggle may be a different challenge… it’s not new.
So in short, for this new year I challenge you to not fear and dread change but to instead embrace it head on; not to look for change but to expect it. Know that you are a strong capable mama and you can do this. You’re not alone. Nurse and mother on… you are doing a great job.