Carrots for Michaelmas: Musings of a Catholic Wife, Mother, and Occasional Redhead

March 30, 2012, 2:56 pm
Filed under: Breastfeeding, Motherhood | Tags: , , ,

(Lucy getting a snack before Ellie’s wedding, Photo courtesy of Jade Pierce Photography)

Well, I feel like I’m at a motherhood crossroads with my sweet baby girl. I’ve been following the principles of ecological breastfeeding very thoroughly since her birth. I read Sheila Kippley’s The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding and Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood which promote mama and baby togetherness, on-demand nursing, co-sleeping, no pacifiers, no bottles, baby wearing, exclusive breastfeeding until 6 months, and daily naps with baby (what’s not to love?!). Ecological Breastfeeding naturally delays the return of fertility because of super frequent breastfeeding as a way to naturally space out babies.

The natural baby spacing aspect of this method of mothering is what attracted me to it in the first place since I’m terrible at charting. But then I really adored the close relationship with my baby that ecological breastfeeding supports. I guess it’s a good thing that I really enjoyed it because I was surprised and a little bit bummed that my fertility returned after only 5 months. I was seriously really careful to follow all the principles, although occasionally I didn’t take a nap, and was shocked that my fertility returned before I even started solids with Lucy. I had friends tell me that it would be so unlikely for my fertility to return before a year if I was co-sleeping still. Oh, well, not having to even consider NFP was nice while it lasted! And it did delay the return of my fertility a month longer than after I had Benjamin. And the past five months have maybe been the best of my whole life with my precious baby. What a light this sweet girl has brought to my heart!

Anyhow, now I need to decide if I want to continue doing ecological breastfeeding or make some changes. Should we get the crib out of it’s packaging and start moving her toward sleeping in her own space? Should I start pumping so that I can occasionally leave her at home with Daddy?

As for co-sleeping, I’ve slept much better having her in bed with me than during my desperate attempts to try to get Benjamin to sleep by himself during his first six months, but maybe we could move towards sleeping through the night if she had her own room. She’s such a good sleeper already! We got 5 hour stretches for the past three nights which was awesome. We tried cry-it-out when Benjamin was 6 months old because I was so sleep-deprived I thought I would lose my mind. But I don’t want to go that route with Lucy, I just can’t. Whatever we choose to do sleep-wise won’t involve tears.

And as for no bottles, I hate the idea of having to pump (I pumped so much when I was working during Benjamin’s infancy that the idea is just repellant to me) but on the other hand, having a girls night also sounds amazing. But who knows if she will even take a bottle? And washing out bottles….blerg. Hate it.

And what kind of NFP should I use? I was using the sympto-thermal method (kind of) but taking my temperature at the same time each morning after having uninterrupted sleep is just…NEVER going to happen. Uninterrupted sleep? What is this miracle you speak of? So, I want to look into NFP methods that look for other fertility symptoms, not temperature. Got any recommendations? Part of me doesn’t really want to bother…babies rule.

I’d love your thoughts on good methods of NFP and gentle sleep training!


20 Comments so far
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I think my fertility came back with Jax around 6 months…but I could be remembering that wrong. We co-slept with him in the bed sometimes, but he was mostly in the pack and play bassinet next to the bed for a while. Maybe you could try that as a transition? We started putting him in his crib for naps around 2.5 months just to get him used to it, and then one night around 3 months Austin put him in the crib at bed time and while part of me was so sad, I also didn’t want to interrupt his sleeping to move him again. He slept like a champ waking only twice to eat like he normally did. He was alway such a good sleeper, and it sounds like Lucy is too! We had our nights of rocking and rocking but they were few. We never did CIO with him, mostly because I couldn’t bear it. But we did have a 5 minute rule once he got a little bigger ( I tended to him immediately when he was a newborn). If I heard him stir or start to wake, I would give him 5 minutes and a lot of times he would just go back to sleep. If he actually woke up and was crying, I would go get him and nurse him back to sleep. I think you’ll find transitioning her to her own space isn’t as stressful as you fear. I hope any way!

Comment by Jeni

Thanks for the advice, Jeni. I really like the idea of starting out using the crib for naptime and we could actually start using our co-sleeper at night so she would be next to me but not touching me to get used to that. Then maybe move into the crib at night very gradually.

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

I was just thinking a ladies’ night was in order…….just one little bottle? ๐Ÿ™‚

Comment by Kaitlin @ More Like Mary

I think I’m game, Kaitlin! Maybe I’ll pump this weekend and see if she’ll take breastmilk in a bottle or not.

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

I’ve never had my fertility hold out even that long-so good for you! I’d recommend looking into the Billings Method, as its a lot simpler to use than sympto-thermal and can be used through breastfeeding, weaning, etc very successfully. I believe their website is

I agree with the awful pumping situation, I find it horrible. And also the crying through sleep training can be terrible as well, I know that the Baby Whisperer books have helped me sleep train my babies so much. I’ve adjusted her guidelines into a more attachment parenting style and its really helped me get them sleeping independently for naps which has really saved my sanity. I don’t think I could have 4 under 4 without some good naps around here! But good luck, you’re doing such a great job!

Comment by Christy from fountains of home

Thanks for the encouragement, Christy! I will definitely check out the link.

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

What I’ve learned is that every baby is so different, so if you’re not sure what you want to do, just try it, and baby will let you know if it’s a good idea or not.

So put the crib together and see if she likes it. See if you like it. You can always just bring her back in bed with you if you don’t. I also hate pumping, but if baby is willing to take a bottle and you want an evening out, give it a shot! When my Cecilia was a few months old, I pumped, left a bottle, went out for a couple of hours and when I came home, discovered that she had refused it and was waiting not so patiently for mama to come and give her the real goods. We both survived, but I just realized that with her, I would have to nurse, leave, and then nurse when I got back and that’s just how it was going to be.

Trial and error is sometimes the only way ๐Ÿ™‚

Good luck!

p.s. I used to use the sympto thermal method, but got sick of taking my temperature, so I just switched to the sympto without the thermal method with equal results. Plus….yeah….a full night’s sleep? What’s that? ๐Ÿ˜‰

Comment by Dwija Borobia (@HouseUnseen)

That’s wonderful advice, Dwija. I’m just gonna try some things out and not stress if she’s not into the changes. After all, things really are great just as they are so if she decides sleeping separately and taking bottles aren’t for her…no problem. ๐Ÿ™‚

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

If I remember my FA/NFP book sympto thermal generally requires a 3 hour period of “rest”, not necessarily sleep – just 3 hours without movement so that your body temp achieves some sort of stasis. =D I’d recommend other methods that rely heavily on tracking mucus, etc. That gives me the best information right now!

If pumping and bottles sound icky to you just remember that Lucy is probably only a month or two away from being able to start some sort of solids (mushed up peas, etc.) and that will be a big help to you getting that girls night in the near future – just bf her before you leave, have the husband or who ever give her a mushy snack and be prepared/make smart choices so that you’ll be able to bf the moment you step in the door!

Good luck!

Comment by Molly W

I think you’re right that a method that focusing on tracking mucus and other fetility signs would be the best fit for me right now. I’m thinking in a few weeks we’ll see if the girl is into avocados, sweet potatoes, and bananas ๐Ÿ™‚

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

We do the Billings method and I really like it. And I’m going to be honest, I probably never chart, ever. I just pay attention to signs of fertility and keep a calendar of my period and we’re good to go. We successfully spaced babies the way we wanted to, but Baby 2 was a teensy bit of a surprise, though in retrospect it was no surprise at all. You might check out the Couple to Couple League. They’ve got a ton of resources and do a combo of the temperature stuff and the Billings method. They do charge a fee to join, but you get a lot for your money, from what I understand. Or you could just keep having babies…you guys seem to make some great ones!

Comment by ohblessyourheart

I’d heard of the couple to couple league. The annoying this is that there are no couples teaching NFP in my town which is just weird because it’s a sizable city. But I know you can order books from then, maybe I should do it.

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

That seems to be a pretty common problem. The closest teaching couple to us in TX was in Austin, so that was a downer. However, Mags’ former babysitter was a member anyway and I think the way it works is that if you’re not near a teacher they give you like nine chart reviews. You send in a certain number of charts and they go over them and send back a detailed report with anything they see (patterns, mistakes, etc). I think you also get a thermometer and a subscription to an nfp magazine. The lady I knew really liked it and seemed to think it was worth the money. Just worth a thought…

Comment by ohblessyourheart

I started using the Marquette method for NFP, which involves monitoring your urine each morning with a Clearblue monitor (in addition to monitoring mucous patterns). It’s expensive to buy the monitor, but you can use it forever once you have it. Especially because I could never quite get my mucous patterns straight, I have found this very useful. They have a breastfeeding protocol as well, that worked well for us x2 babies. You can google the method. Hope that helps!

Comment by Julia

I haven’t heard of that method. I’ll google it!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

We use the Creighton Model and I do not really chart anymore. I just keep track of my symptoms and go from there. I have always gotten my cycle back at 3 months so we have had to adhere to NFP pretty soon after having our babies. We have 4 kids and the only “surprise” was our last baby. And, like the comment above, in retrospect it really wasn’t a surprise. ๐Ÿ™‚ As for our kids’ sleeping habits…they have always moved out of our room at around 6 months and then we would go from there, in terms of sleeping through the night. I would also, maybe, pump a couple bottles per kid (each time I was breastfeeding another child) if I had to sing for an event, but it wasn’t a big deal. I preferred not to, but it worked out alright when I had to. It sounds like you are doing a great job…just trust your instincts and experience!

Comment by Danae

Thanks, Danae! I have friends who love Creighton method and one has recommended a teacher who will teach it over the phone since nobody close by teaches it.

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

So, I’ll give a few thoughts if you take a grain of salt on the side.

My fertility never returns until at least 18 months. EVER. And I did follow eco-breastfeeding principles, and loved the book when Laith was a wee little sprout, but of course I didn’t follow it for 18 months. I mean, you know, I’d leave for 4+ hours, they would eat solids, I would pump (for Laith), but still, no fertility. My body just takes a long time to get back into the swing of things.

The only thing I can say, with 3 children, is that they do (and all too quickly) reach the stage where you, as the mother, don’t need to be around to feed them or put them down. Noni is about 16 months now, and it seems like it just snuck up on me. I can go out for hours at all hours, and you know I do! (…that’s clearly a joke.) Anyhow, I can, and have, on occasion. I can run out the door, not having time to nurse, and remind Zach to give her some raw milk before bed. We started doing that after a year, probably. I didn’t plan it. We just grew into it. I rushed Laith to be eat independently way too soon, and I think because of that, I have just relished Bela and Noni’s babyhood. Of course, pumping or not co-sleeping doesn’t equal “not relishing.” It’s just that, well, we used to have a family bed, and then when Bela hit 18 months he happily hit the bottom bunk with Laith on top. (Now they sleep in a full together.) Noni still co-sleeps but goes so long without nursing and loves having her daddy put her down and then later sleep with her, if I’m out late. It all just goes by so fast! That’s basically what I’m saying. Enjoy it.

I know you do.

There is something really sacred about being one with your baby while they’re young. Of course, I don’t think it’s moral or anything. I’m just a big sap and have really let myself sink into it.

Also, I have no fertility advice for you! At all. I’m an NFP cheater, or something. I say it’s what we do, but really I just get pregnant when I get fertile, which is always “good” timing for us. We’ll have to think of something soon, I suppose. (I have the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility, but have only employed its methods for procreating.)

Comment by amy

Oh, Amy. Every time you leave a comment it makes me wish we still lived close and could hang out.

And you are so right about the baby stage moving faster with each child. I am really savoring it this time around (last time I couldn’t wait for Benjamin to stop needing me every second but I love having Lucy near me always now that I understand how short and sweet this time is).

And I do think I’m going to start having Lucy nap in her crib and then see if she likes it for nighttime, too, if napping goes well. I feel like I really forced nighttime separation on Benjamin once we moved him into his own room at 16 months–no more being in our bed. And I kind of wish I hadn’t. It’s good to hear that on their own, kids really will “graduate” as you said on their own when they’re ready.

As for NFP, I’m going to do some research on what might be a good fit for us now, but part of me just wants to let go and see what happens…

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

Oh, and PS!

So, we set up Noni’s crib when she was a newborn, and she’s always taken naps in it, and gone down in it around 8. It’s in our bedroom, so when Zach and I come in later at night, she will either a) hear us if we are loud and feel like snuggling her, peak her little head up like a curious animal and reach out her arms for us, or b) wake up for a little cuddling or nursing sometime in the middle of the night, or perhaps early morning.

Whenever she seems very confident in her mobility, we’ll put a bed in another room for her and lay her down in it to sleep at night, and then, if she’s like Bela, she’ll probably walk to our room in the early morning hours for some cuddling. And then they graduate, and just stop walking into the room! It’s a bit sad, really. Those little rascals just grow up and start sleeping by their lonesome.

Of course, it’s wonderful to sleep. Don’t get me wrong. I’m just sentimental.

Comment by amy

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