Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Finishing Potty Learning: An Update!

Isn't she just darling. Sitting on the potty and brushing her teeth. What a big girl!

You can read about our potty learning journey in We Like to Potty, A 3 Week Update, and a How-To as I've learned it.

When I first started helping Mary Abilene learn to use the potty at 12 months, I had a loose goal in my head of her finishing potty training at 18 months. 18 months is still pretty early in this culture, but hey, I'm ambitious. By 17 months I really didn't think we were going to make it, but I'm proud to announce that we did! Mary Abilene now at 18 months and one week has FINISHED potty training. Well, almost. She only wears diapers at night, which is totally fine. I don't expect her to be diaper-free at night for awhile. Especially considering she still nurses at night. The other "almost" part of finishing potty training is that she is not very comfortable using the big potty, which makes it difficult when we are out, and at places where it isn't socially acceptable to carrying around a baby potty.

The Update
Her potty training was stalled somewhere after 14 months. By 13 months she was successfully going in the baby potty and by 14 months she would go on demand, and would hold it for a considerable amount of time. We had taught her a sign to use when she needed to go potty, but she wouldn't use it very often before she had to go, only while she was going. I put her in panties or bloomers at home and never wore diapers at home, except while sleeping. And that's where she stayed until about 17 months. She had a couple of accidents a day, would most always go when we took her, but wouldn't go or tell us she had to go on her own. And then one day I read an article on Baby Center about the Diaper Free Toddler. It was about a method that toilet trains in about three days. You can read the method if you want, I think it is a pretty good idea. We were a little beyond this point, but I did get two major take home points from this and I think these points apply to EVERYONE who is potty learning.

The keys to potty training
1. The child needs to be naked on the bottom all the time while at home
2. The child can only wear loose pants when you are out. No diapers, no underwear, just loose pants.

The article says that you should keep this up for three months. The point of this is so they know when they have to go and know when they have gone. The only way for it to "click" is for them to see when they are going, and connect the feeling with the action. Pants and underwear can feel like a diaper, or can make a child forget that they are not wearing a diaper and then they have accidents.

Once I read this I thought that would help us make progress, so from that point on Mary Abilene ran around our house naked from the waist down. From the very first day that we kept her naked she had remarkable improvement. In fact, that first day, she took herself to the potty twice and she had never done that before! She suddenly started telling us before she had to go, and she would hold it until she was at the potty. I can probably count on one hand how many accidents she had while she was naked in the last month! I also started keeping her out of diapers if we were going on a short trip. I quit using panties and would just use loose pants like the article said. It really worked! And finally, just this weekend, we gave up diapers for good. We had 6 people over at our house on Thursday night and we put pants on her with no diaper. She was super distracted, playing with everyone, and she still used the potty and had no accidents. Because she proved that she could be distracted and remain dry, we took her out Friday night for her first night out diaper-free. We were out for 2.5 hours, went to dinner and the mall, and we took her baby potty with us. She went in it twice and had no accidents! Hooray! Saturday she went to a birthday party, the grocery store, and took a short nap and all day had no accidents and remained dry! So that's it. We get to say "bye bye" to diapers at 18 months of age!

Potty Training at Any Age
A child has been trained for one, two, three, or even four years to potty in their diaper. In every way I treat my daughter I try to look at things from her point of view. Children have been trained to potty in their diaper and sometimes, especially if they are older, it is so ingrained that they have no idea how to go anywhere else than in their diaper. It would be like you, who has learned that the only place you go is in the toilet suddenly being forced to go in a bucket in the living room. This is not where you usually go, this is not even how you are normally sitting when you go. Its hard! You have to be comfortable enough to relax the muscles in order to go. Despite popular opinion, and child's bladder does not just leak. The child has to be relaxed enough to go, just like adults. A child being forced to use the potty after years of going in a diaper may find this a pretty difficult task. Try to approach it from the child's prospective and it might be a bit less frustrating.

This is also why I really believe that potty training at a younger age is easier than potty training at an older age. Sure, it might have taken us six months, and it would only take a 3.5 year old one day, but it was an incredibly relaxed, fun, approach. There was no pressure, no stress, just a lot of fun and enjoyment. Also, I think that Pull-Ups set a child back rather than help. I don't think a child with a Pull-Up on really feels like that old commercial "I'm a big kid now!" because it is just a diaper that can slip on. Because it is a diaper, it feels like a diaper, and your child knows very good and well it is a diaper so they will likely use it like a diaper. In order to potty train, you have to get them out of diapers. Keeping them in diapers or Pull-Ups until they can keep it dry simply doesn't work. I have never potty trained a preschooler, so I know I don't have room to talk, but all the people I know that have potty trained preschoolers quickly and efficiently have gotten rid of diapers completely. They didn't slide into potty learning, they said "That's it, we say 'bye-bye' to diapers. Period" I also know what worked well for us and I know that is the only way I am going to potty train any of my future children. In fact, with my next, I will likely start putty them on the potty as soon as they can sit up. I'm also going to have them naked from the waist down earlier, so my next child might be potty trained even sooner.

Sure, it depends on the child. Absolutely, it depends on their disposition, temperament, personality, etc., but I really think that early potty learning could work for every family who has time to implement it. Day care could complicate things and might take longer, but the director might be willing to help if you tell them this is what you want for you child and that you need their help. Being busy and spending a lot of time out of the house could complicate it too, but the Diaper-Free Toddler (article above) says that you can do it in three days. Just one long weekend at home could be enough.

It is so awesome to have a diaper-free toddler. I want to tell everyone! "Hi, this is my daughter, Mary Abilene. She's potty trained." We have been bragging on her all weekend. We just can't help it, she's so awesome and we are so proud!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Bottle Nursing

Nursing a child is so much more than food or nutrition. It is comfort, bonding, showing love, and even the earliest form of communication. Nursing a child doesn't even have to involve the breast. While breast is best, some are unable to breast feed, or need to bottle feed breast milk. Other situations including day care, foster parenting, or leaving baby with daddy or grandma requires bottle feeding. Bottle feeding is not all bad, or even not bad at all, when done in a nurturing way. Unfortunately, I have seen people bottle feeding their children in ways that are neither loving nor nurturing. Bottle feeding in a car seat always breaks my heart. I've seen a lot of variations -propping a bottle up while the parents have dinner, having an older sibling hold a bottle while the infant is in the car seat perched on a grocery cart, they even make an apparatus that holds the bottle tipped upside down and dangles from the car seat handle. I've known people to prop a bottle up while the infant is in the crib (not only is this sad, but it is very dangerous!). And when the baby is old enough to hold their own bottle I've seen parents just lie them on the floor and give them a bottle, or of course, give it to them in the car seat.

To be fair, breast feeding is not always nurturing either. A nursing mom can find ways to busy herself while feeding too, but it is impossible to breast feed and not touch in some way.

You don't have to breast feed in order to nurse. Bottle feeding done in a loving and respectful way is called Bottle Nursing, or bottle feeding using the breast feeding model. Bottle nursing is:

- Holding the baby close while the caregiver focuses on the child. This enables the baby to gaze at your face, smell your scent, feel security in your arms and in essence, bond.
- Holding the baby close and giving comfort while a baby sucks on a pacifier (mimicking the natural comfort sucking done on the breast.)
- Switching sides while feeding to promote eye-hand coordination (and lets face it, to keep your own arm from going to sleep)
- Feeding on demand.
- Carefully observing when the child is finished, being sure not to over-feed. It is easy to over-feed with a bottle because it often pours out with a little manipulation. Over-feeding at the breast is virtually impossible.
- Allowing your child to seek comfort from you, rather than a bottle, pacifier, or thumb. Not that these "transitional objects" are all bad, but they often replace the needed comfort of a parent. These objects can be useful if a child is in day care, or away from the parent for any period of time, but they shouldn't be relied on when the parent, or primary caregiver is near.

Bottle feeding can absolute be a bonding time if you want it to be. If it is not used as simply a convenience tool, and you focus on your child as you bottle feed, bottle feeding can be just as loving and bonding.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tasty Tuesday: French Onion Soup

French onion soup and Salmon salad. That's what my 18 month old had for lunch yesterday. She actually loves this soup and dips her bread in it like she's been dipping bread in soup all her life! Oh, she has.

There is no such thing as "kid food" in our house. She eats what we eat, and every once in a while I am really surprised by the variety of things she will eat. Like, for example, French Onion Soup. She sops up all the broth with her bread and then eats all the onions out. My husband also said that this is quickly becoming one of his favorite soups, second to Broccoli Cheddar Soup. This recipe is from A New York Times article.

Vegetarian French Onion Soup
The recipe calls for water, and in most recipes, I ignore the water and use veggie broth, but I'd advise actually using water not broth. The miso makes this soup so rich and salty that it can not afford any more salt or flavoring for that matter. Water it is!

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
2 1/2 pounds large Spanish onions, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
8 diagonal slices of baguette (home-made is nice!), about 1/4 inch thick.
1/3 cup miso
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme, optional
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 large slices Swiss cheese

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place a large sauté pan over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Add 1/4 cup olive oil, and heat until shimmering. Add the onions and cook, stirring constantly and adjusting heat as needed, until the onions are soft and deep golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove pan from heat and allow onions to cool in the pan.
2. Brush both sides of the bread slices with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Bake, turning once, until just crisp, about 4 minutes a side. Remove from oven and set aside.
3. Pour 3 cups of water into a 2 quart saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Add miso, thyme, and cooked onions; mix well. Simmer and season with salt and pepper as needed.
4. Preheat a broiler. Place a large oven-proof serving bowl or four small oven-proof bowls on a broiling pan or small baking sheet. Pour the hot soup into the large bowl or divide among the small bowls. Place the croutons on top of the soup, and top with Swiss cheese slices. Place the pan holding the soup directly under the broiler until the cheese is melted, and the soup is bubbling. Serve immediately.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Changing sleep = better sleep?

I'm pretty sure that if my friends knew how often my 18 month old daughter woke to nurse in the night my mailbox would be stuffed full of BabyWise. But we don't do BabyWise - not in the slightest. We have not, and will not Cry-it-Out. In fact, we have not attempted to sleep-train Mary Abilene at all. I truly believe in letting baby take the lead when it comes to nursing and sleep.

I have read about baby sleep on many blogs/forums and in several published books. You see, it isn't all puppy dogs and rainbows at our house - not at night, and not during naps. Naps, *sigh*, oh naps. Mary Abilene has been a bad napper since the day she was born. I'm not even going to get into naps. The precious, oh-so-needed oh-so-hard mid day snooze. Naps - she'll have to just outgrow her nap issues. But so many people are having the exact same "problems" with their toddlers. These "problems" are normal and only "problems" if they are disrupting your family dynamic. I have read so many people say "I've made my child HAVE to nurse to sleep. I've created a monster!" It isn't your "fault"! It is extremely natural - a God given instinct. There is a reason every baby in the whole world is able to fall asleep while nursing or even taking a bottle - because mothers' milk is the perfect sedative. It was created that way and is one of your greatest mothering tools. So why WOULDN't you use it!? But sometimes, eventually, you do end up wishing or hoping that your child can go to sleep without the breast.

I would love to let her continue on her own path, nursing happily to sleep at every wake-up until she outgrows the need of my comfort. Left to their own devices, children usually start sleeping through the night somewhere between 2 and 4 years of age. That's right. Let me say that again - children start sleeping through the night between TWO AND FOUR! So next time great-aunt Bessie asks if your newborn is sleeping through the night, just smile and say "She's doing great!" because it actually isn't normal or natural for a baby to sleep through the night. Most every baby who sleeps through the night was trained to do so. Usually by being left alone to cry. Some babies do sleep long stretches on their own, but most wake often. I (mostly) do not mind nursing Mary Abilene at night. In fact, I don't even want her to sleep through the night, I'm just asking for a 4 or 5 hour stretch. Nursing at night wouldn't be an issue if she were my last child. But since I'm hoping to have more children, and the frequent nursing is making that a little difficult, we've gotta do something.

We've decided to take the plunge and start semi-night-weaning. It is so complicated. I am my child's lovey. I know I am. Just as you wouldn't snatch away a child's teddy-bear when they awake looking for comfort, so I can't just take away the breast. I want to do it as loving as possible, while still being available for her. I also am not interested in her sleeping 12 straight hours without needing me. As I said, I'm hoping to just go for a four or five hour stretch. We plan to use Dr. Jay Gordon's method. This method is the most baby-friendly method I have found outside of The No-Cry Sleep Solution. The NCSS is great... if it works for you. It doesn't seem to be working for us, because I've been working on some of her advice for the past six months, with no significant changes. Dr. Gordon's method is for night weaning for at least a seven hour stretch. I'm going to cut it down to five and see how it goes.

Mary Abilene is starting to show signs of readiness. She can actually fall asleep without the breast at the beginning of the night now. She nurses to sleepiness and pops off on her own and rocks the rest of the way to sleep. Because she can do this now, I think that she should be able to do it during the night. She eats more solids than milk these days, and another important note is that she is not sick or teething (that I'm aware of). I've thought about this and prepared myself and her as much as possible, its just time to do it!