In my NFP post from the other day, I mentioned how ecological breastfeeding can be used to space babies and how for us, for many years, we didn't really have to worry about NFP at all. So, I thought I would devote a whole post to what ecological breastfeeding looks like for me.
My first three kids are spaced 32 and 40 months apart..mostly due to a combination of breastfeeding and a general lower fertility level. I'm not counting the spacing between #3 and #4 because we did use NFP in there.
Warning: Womanly Talk about Cycles Ahead. Avoid if squeamish.
After my first three births (after the 4th is still to be determined), my cycles returned at 12 months, 14 months and 17 months (consecutively), but I don't think full fertility returned until my babies were totally night weaned. By full fertility, I mean a normal length (as opposed to a short-length) luteal phase. The luteal phase is the period of time from ovulation until the start of the next menstruation and it typically lasts 14 days. Once my cycles do return, I tend to have very clear signs so, even without full-on charting or using NFP, I can generally tell when I'm ovulating and so had a general idea that the length of the luteal phase was shorter when cycles first returned and lengthened to the normal 14-day length after night-weaning occurred (around age 2).
This is MY experience...and definitely NOT the same for everyone., but from talking to other moms, I do think it can work this way for MANY of them. Of course, there are exceptions....there are always exceptions.
The 7 Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding
Let me say, right off the bat, that I don't believe this is the best way to breastfeed or that there is anything wrong with not following these standards. I believe this is the way that babies were traditionally fed...but, we live in modern times, not cave-man times, so certainly not everyone can, or even desires to follow these. And, that's okay. They work for me, and I follow them....not because I necessarily am trying to follow this style of mothering, but because this is what comes naturally to me.
And, because I'm lazy...super lazy.
But, again, for a multitude of reasons, another person may not be able to..and that's okay.
So, here are the 7 standards and how they work for me.
|My one blurry picture of breastfeeding which is decent enough to post.|
Do exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months.
This is pretty self-explanatory...it just means no formula or solids for the first 6 months and even the AAP recommends not introducing solids until 6 months of age.
Pacify the baby at the breasts.
This basically means comfort nursing, nursing to sleep. When I had Heidi, 11-years ago, one of the first things I noticed was the nursing made her fall asleep. And, I was all ha, an easy way to get the baby to fall asleep...I'm all over this one. Because, teaching the baby to fall asleep without nursing seems MORE work than just letting them nurse to sleep anywhere..and remember..I'm lazy. Plus. this nice thing about always nursing to sleep, is that you can do it anywhere...you don't have to be home for naps or even night-time. We can be out at night, past the time the baby typically falls asleep, and I can just nurse and baby will sleep in arms or the sling until we leave wherever we are..so she can nap anywhere. It's awesome..she's even slept through fireworks on the 4th of July.
This just works for us...which is why we've stuck with attachment parenting.
Don't use bottles or pacifiers.
I'm lazy, so it's easier for me not to worry about pumping and introducing a bottle or using a pacifier (that will NO DOUBT get lost and dirty in my home). If we used pacifiers, I'd probably have to buy like 3 dozen of them, because we have a tendency to lose things around here. So again, it just works for me, NOT to use those things.
And, I'm fortunate enough to not have to work outside the home, (I do some work at home)., so this is possible for us.
Plus, I'm lazy..so I'd rather be all sorry, can't wash the dishes, I'm nursing the baby. cause ya know, nursing is easier than washing dishes.
Sleep with your baby for night feedings.
This is the ultimate in laziness for me. Plus, I'm a worry-wart, and if I put my newborn babies in a crib, I CAN'T sleep and am constantly checking on them. Are they still breathing? Are they still breathing? Are they still breathing?? What can I say, I'm neurotic.
I just sleep better with the baby right next to me, since I know they are all right. Plus, I hate getting out of bed, so I'd rather have the baby right there and just nurse, instead of having to *gasp* get out of bed. I honestly, have NO IDEA how moms can get up in the middle of the night with babies. I've never actually been UP in the night with my babies, they wake up to nurse A LOT, but we all stay in bed and I can sleep while nursing, so it works out well for us and I don't feel too sleep-deprived.
Sleep with your baby for a daily nap feeding.
I actually have never done this on a regular basis. Who has time for that? It still hasn't affected when my fertility comes back, so I don't know that this part is all that necessary. What I do is nurse the baby to sleep for naps in bed, and then get up and leave them sleeping (our bed is a mattress on the floor, so I don't have to worry about them falling off). Then, I do sometimes have to go back in and nurse them again in the middle of nap, so they'll sleep another 30 minutes or so, but I rarely actually sleep WITH the baby for naps.
Nurse frequently day and night and avoid schedules.
This I do, because honestly, a schedule seems more work than just nursing whenever and wherever. And, I'm lazy.
Avoid any practice that restricts nursing or separates you from your baby.
Again, I realize that this isn't possible for everyone, but I've basically learned to just take my babies everywhere with me. And, it really doesn't restrict my activities at all. I've taken them to doctor's appointments, mom's nights out, conferences, retreats, etc. My babies are pretty happy to be wherever I am. Of course, as they get more mobile, it gets more challenging, but a good sling and nursing to sleep (so they can sleep anywhere) makes this much easier.
This is the style of breastfeeding which works for us...and has helped space our babies. This is what my mom did, so maybe I subconsciously picked it up..but it works for our family.
And, since there are 7 of these, I'm linking up with Jen for 7QTF.