Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Valentine's Day the Disney Way

It's Valentine's week, as I'm sure you know. Everything is pink and red with little hearts and cupids, constantly reminding us that Valentine's is almost here.

Valentine's Day can be a divisive holiday. Most either love it or hate it. I used to love it, but I'm a romantic. Now I'm still on the pro side, but not in the extreme way some are. Growing up, my dad always got my sister and I a single rose for Valentine's Day. Even if we weren't in a romantic relationship, we still felt loved. That single, sweet action taught me more about what Valentine's Day should be about, and provided an armor against the onslaught of candy, card and flower companies that, let's face it, are just trying to profit off of the holiday.

So what is it I think Valentine's Day should be about, and when I am going to bring up Disney? Valentine's Day should be about taking a day to be grateful for the love you have in your life. Whether that's romantic love, or familial love, or even just how much you love your pet, isn't nearly as important as just taking a moment to think about the different types of love present in your day to day existence. That's why I tell all my loved ones, not just my husband, how much they mean to me on Valentine's Day. I also think it's silly to pay more for flowers and chocolates the first two weeks of February, and often celebrate Valentine's Day on the 15th…by shopping the clearance aisle.

Not everyone can, or wants to, go out on Valentine's Day. Maybe it's a financial thing, or a babysitter thing, or a we-don't-like-crowds thing. After spending two hours waiting for a table on Valentine's Day several years ago, my husband and I decided we didn't want to fight the crowds and barely hear each other over the din in the restaurant year after year. Instead, we decided to start our own tradition of a special dinner at home. So the next year, we bought steaks, and made asparagus, mashed potatoes and homemade rolls as sides. We spend the evening cooking together in the kitchen, ate a delicious meal together while drinking a great wine, watched a movie and enjoyed being loved. It's great. Very little fuss, but we get to spend quality time together. Each year since, for about five years, we've made our special steak dinner and forgone the traditional Valentine's Day hoopla. We celebrate how much we love each other by simply being together.

Where does Disney figure in to this? Well, if you've got kids and are spending Valentine's at home celebrating with them, you need a family friendly movie. Who provides better family friendly entertainment than Disney? Obviously, in my book, Disney is King. There are plenty of romantic movies to choose from. Here are a couple of lists for ideas for movies, depending on whether your focus is familial love or romantic love.

Family love:

101 Dalmatians (coincidentally, releasing TODAY, February 10, 2015 on Blu-Ray!)
The Aristocats
The Lion King
Meet the Robinson's
Lilo and Stitch
Brother Bear

Romantic Love

Sleeping Beauty
Beauty and the Beast
The Little Mermaid
Lady and the Tramp

There are, of course, many more Disney movies that could go on either or both lists. Disney is versatile, and can provide entertainment for parents and kids alike. A quality story is a quality story, after all. Our plan is to (hopefully) rent Big Hero 6, since my shame-faced self still hasn't seen it.

So instead of cringing when you run across all of the holiday hoopla, remember that you can celebrate Valentine's Day any way you wish. Me? I'll be cozied up with my toddler and my hubby with a belly full of steak, delighting in a Disney movie. Not a bad way to spend a holiday, in my opinion.

What are your holiday plans? Will you embrace Valentine's Day as a day to celebrate love in general, or will you be holed up burning through your Netflix instant queue? Whatever your plans, I hope your day is lovely! (Ha! See what I did there?!)

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Disney Lullabies

The first night we had our first son home from the hospital, I realized quickly that I knew very few standard lullabies. I relied instead on what I know best: Disney. I still sing him Disney lullabies, and I thought I'd share some of my favorites with videos in their original Disney glory (no, I won't sing to you. I'm sorry, you're great and that's why I won't sing to you. I wouldn't wish my singing on my worst enemy. But my kid likes it, so he gets to hear it.) I've included ones I sing as well as ones I'd like to sing, if only I could learn all the words (here's looking at you, Dumbo).

Cinderella: A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes

Dumbo: Baby Mine

Sleeping Beauty: Once Upon a Dream

The Little Mermaid: Part of Your World (and reprise)

The Lion King: Can You Feel the Love Tonight

Aladdin: A Whole New World

Beauty and the Beast: Belle's adventure song, and Tale as Old as Time

Pocahontas: Just Around the River Bend, Colors of the Wind, If I Never Knew You

Tangled: At Last I See the Light

I'd sing a song from Frozen, but then he'd dance in excitement instead of going to sleep. Since the point of lullabies is to lull the baby to sleep, it's out.

Confession: I'm not always 100% faithful to Disney. Three of my top lullabies aren't from Disney movies. I know, I know. I'm ashamed, but I can't stop. They're catchy and they help A drift off to sleep, so sing them I must.

All Dogs Go to Heaven: Home to My Heart

Anastasia: Once Upon a December

An American Tale: Somewhere Out There

There's one more that I sing that I wrote myself, when I couldn't remember the real words. It goes like this:

Lullaby, and goodnight
Go to sleep little (insert baby's name)
The hour is late
The time is nye
So close your eyes.
Close your eyes, little bear.
Momma loves you so.
Close your eyes, little bear.
I won't let you go.
Lullaby, and goodnight,
Go to sleep little baby.

What songs do you like to sing to get your babies to sleep? I'd love to hear in the comments!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Weaning a toddler from breastfeeding

When I began breastfeeding my son as an infant, I didn't know how long I'd last. We received a lot of misinformation at the hospital; each nurse had something different to say, and it was often contradictory. It wasn't until we saw two lactation consultants that I felt I really had a grasp on how it was supposed to work, and I didn't feel fully confident until I'd read the La Leche League's book, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.

In the book, which was recommended to me by a friend and that I recommend to all my planning-to-nurse friends, the section on weaning mentions baby led weaning. This essentially means that you follow your baby's cues as to when they're ready to stop nursing, and gradually wean from there.

When my son's first birthday came and went and he was still nursing, I figured he'd want to wean in the next six months. When that didn't happen, I planned on weaning him by the time he was two. Each time I'd start the process, we'd have a setback. There would be an illness, or an emotional event, and he would regress back to nursing more instead of less. Now that we're expecting our second baby, my doctor recommended weaning him before June, when his little brother arrives. This seemed like a good idea, as the climbing all over me was wearying and I knew I didn't want to tandem nurse. I also wanted to stop early enough that A, our first baby, wouldn't be jealous of the new baby for getting to nurse when he didn't. Since we'd had a trip planned for March, my doctor recommended weaning him by then: the trip would be a distraction, and he'd forget about mommy's milk.

I began weaning in December, by cutting out all non-sleepy-time nursings. Unless he was going to bed at night, night nursing, or napping, he had to drink cow's milk, water or juice from his sippy cup. We began potty training in January, and I realized weaning and potty training at the same time may be too much change at once for my little man. 

So after his birthday in mid-January, we put potty training on hold and I stopped nursing him at night. This was the easiest step, since we begin the night with him in his own bed but he joins us for co-sleeping when he awakes. When he wakes up and comes into our room, we would snuggle him without nursing and he'd go back to sleep. A week after stopping the night nursing, we cut out morning nursing. He often, though not always, wanted to nurse when he first woke up. Although he let this go easily, he is still asking for morning milk.

Shortly after the morning milk was gone, I cut out nap time nursing. This has been an especially hard transition. The first day, nap time fell on a Saturday when we were out and about, so he took his nap in the car. The next day, he'd had a late night and an early morning, so he just climbed in my bed with me, snuggled under our newly labeled 'nap time blanket', and I snuggled him to sleep. It took over an hour, but it worked. 

Our nap time success rate is about 70% at this point, at the beginning of February. He's still napping in our bed, as it's only been a week and a half since he hasn't gotten to nurse to sleep at nap time. Now we're easing him into napping in his bed by having him lay in his bed first, then moving him to our bed if he doesn't fall asleep.

The hardest transition by far has been cutting out nursing to sleep at night. I know, now, that allowing him to nurse to sleep for as long as we did set a bad precedent. We now this going into baby 2, and will change the way we teach him to sleep. Hindsight and all that. Anyway, the first night we cut out nursing at bed time we were out and about, and he was in PJ's and nighttime diaper, so he fell asleep in the car. The next night was more painful, as we were home. We tried giving him warm cow's milk in a sippy cup, rocking him and singing to him, laying him in his bed, rubbing his back, playing his soother, singing more songs, and all to no avail. He was obviously tired, but just not falling asleep. J had the idea to ease him into bedtime by letting him fall asleep in our bed the first few nights, and then trying to get him to fall asleep in his own bed.

If, like me, you nursed your toddler to sleep for too long and now they don't want to go to sleep without it, here's my recommendation (based on, you know, this one kid and my own experience. This is just what I think. I have no accreditations, this is just mommy advice!)

  • Go slowly to ease them into the transition.
  • Try to not make too many life changes at once (moving, stopping nursing, potty training, arrival of a sibling, etc)
  • Cut out the least-important milk time first, let them get used to that for a week or two, and then cut out the next least-important milk time next, so on and so forth.
  • Explain to your child what you're doing and why you're doing it. I know toddler reasoning skills aren't super great, but I didn't want to give him this big change with no explanation. Each time, I said, "No, we're not doing that anymore. We're going to do this instead. But that's okay- you're a big boy and you can handle it. Mommy still loves you." If he asked for it again, I'd say something about the milk taking a nap, and asked if he could drink from his sippy cup instead.
  • If you use a boppy pillow, put it out of sight. Sometimes he'd want milk when he was bored, and he'd go straight for the pillow. Now he goes to his sippy cup, or just sits with me or pulls me to wherever he wants to go.
  • Have a sleep routine and stick to it. Ours is bath on bath night (every other night), PJ's and night time diaper, teeth brushing, story reading, and bed. Our nap time routine is read a story, get the nap time blanket, snuggle and sleep.
That's where we're at now; he's gone to bed without milk twice, so he hasn't nursed since Friday, January 30. Easing him into it also eased myself into it, so that I've had very little discomfort (except when his little razor sharp elbows inevitably find their way to poke me!). I'm not a cold turkey type person, so I chose the gradual approach. It also helped me emotionally, since stopping nursing is bittersweet. I enjoy the quiet, calm bonding time that it provides. It's also hard to end the nursing relationship, because it's another sign that he's moving into boyhood and further away from baby days. 

What advice do you have for weaning toddlers? How do you get your kiddos to sleep? Was stopping nursing an emotional experience for you?