on tandem nursing

I had never thought much about infant feeding until I found myself pregnant with my first child and inundated with information about breastfeeding versus bottlefeeding, on demand versus scheduled feeding, etc. etc. etc. It was overwhelming.

My first kid had a few issues with breastfeeding to start off, mainly due to his tongue tie. It took a few weeks to get into a real rhythm and every few months there was a new challenge. Despite all that thought we continued to breastfeed on demand for the first 21 months of his life. Then we night weaned, mainly because I was having such strong nursing aversions during my pregnancy, but also because I could not imagine night nursing TWO kids. Up until then he was nursing approximately every 2-3 hours when I was around – he was also in full-time daycare so we would sometimes go 6-8 hours without nursing but he would usually make up for this with extra night time feeds. The first night that he was able to sleep next to me without waking for night nursing was incredible!

Then my second kid came along and I thought I was an expert on breastfeeding. I soon realized that I was not at all prepared for the wonders and difficulties of tandem nursing. The first few weeks I felt I had to hide from my toddler to feed the newborn. I tried nursing both at once a few times but always had strong aversions to this. It took a few months before we settled into a new pattern, and by then the infant was changing his schedule and we had to readjust again. I was fortunate that my second child was much more easy-going with breastfeeding, and was sleeping 4-6 hours straight by 4 months old. Quite a difference from his older brother.

I now have a 3 1/2 year old and a (almost) 1 1/2 year old who are still both nursing. My eldest has gone weeks at a time without nursing but there are still days when he asks (such as today, which is what prompted me to write this). When he does nurse he rarely stays latched on longer than a few seconds, but it is definitely still very important to him that he can still have “booba” when he needs/wants to.

I am also pregnant, with another little one expected to join us earthside sometime early in the new year. Unlike the last time around I have already come to peace with the fact that by then my infant’s breastfeeding needs will be quite different from what they are now. I have no intention of trying to wean either kid although I’m still considering night weaning the little one so that the newborn can at least have all of my attention during those first few weeks. This is more for my own mental health than anything else, and I plan to wait until near the end of my pregnancy to do this although I am open to doing it sooner if I find myself having aversions again.

I guess the point of this post is to provide a quick summary of what breastfeeding has been like for us so far, but also to give some background before I begin sharing the journey from here on out. I hope that I will be able to share more about our tandem nursing struggles and successes in real time. While there are many breastfeeding resources out there, I have not been exposed to many women who tandem nurse and/or nurse a pre-schooler, and I only know of one black blogger sharing her experiences with extended breastfeeding. I hope that by sharing my own story I will be able to add to the important dialogues occurring about infant feeding, and to show other parents that not only is tandem nursing possible, but it is actually one way to help siblings form a secure attachment both with one another and with their parents.

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On anti-Black racism (Canadian)

When I first thought of starting a blog I wondered whether I truly had anything to add. Are there not already a plethora of parenting blogs? What could I possibly add to the conversation? But then I started to pay attention, like REALLY pay attention, to which voices are represented and which are not.

I’ve always been aware that as a Black woman my image and voice is either underrepresented or misrepresented. But as I began to think about raising my children and searching for resources for the challenges I was facing, I struggled to find anyone who was both Black AND Canadian. For a while I thought this was reflective of a lack of need. Maybe there really is no difference between being Black in Canada and Black in the USA. Maybe it was enough that there were some great Black parenting blogs and it didn’t matter that none were Canadian. Or maybe there really isn’t much racism in Canada, which seems to be the general consensus in the mainstream parenting groups I have come across.

But then….

In 2016, following an investigation by the Toronto Star revealing that Black children are hugely over-represented in care, a ministry-funded review of the Children’s Aid Society recommended changes at every level in order to dismantle the systemic anti-Black racism within the organization.

In November 2016 a school trustee used a racial slur when addressing a Black parent. (After a lot of pressure from community members she eventually resigned.)

In April 2017 a review of a local school board revealed “systemic discrimination” which echoed what parents have been saying for years.

Finally last month, June 2017, an inquest was held into the July 2015 shooting of Andrew Loku by a police officer. The inquest jury put forward a number of recommendations for addressing anti-Black racism within Toronto Police Services. (Although the coroner’s inquest ruled the death a homicide, no charges are being laid.)

And it became clear to me that not only is racism a huge Canadian problem, but anti-Black racism in particular underlies many of the systems which my children and I will rely upon. And I began to interact with other Black and racialized parents who are feeling the same way. My initial instinct had been right, our voices are missing not because we don’t exist but because in a strange Canadian twist, it has been seen as impolite to discuss racism. Our voices had been “swept under the rug”.

So while I have already started this blog, I have become more and more aware of the fact that anti-Black racism in Canada is both insidious and systemic. And that there is absolutely a need to both address this racism, and to share resources and experiences amongst ourselves to help navigate this racism. There is something unique about Canadian racism, something that distinguishes it from that in the USA, and which needs to be exposed and discussed. I hope to provide a space here for those of us who are living this racism every day to both unpack what racism looks like here, and to share how we are working towards dismantling it through our parenting.

I look forward to hearing from all of you about the challenges of raising Black/racialized Canadian children and to sharing my own journey!