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Toddler Tips

Should I stay or should I go?

From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 25, No. 2, 2008, pp. 34-35

"Toddler Tips" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help parents of toddlers. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's lifestyle. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.

Mother's Situation

Lately I have had lots of invitations to go out in the evenings. I have turned them all down because my 14-month-old toddler is still nursing. Although he doesn't wake frequently, if he did and I weren't there to nurse him back to sleep I think he'd be very upset. There just isn't anyone whom I'd feel comfortable leaving him with. While I don't resent my child’s need for me, I do miss spending time with my friends. How have other mothers dealt with this dilemma?

Mother's Response

We just recently moved to a wonderful neighborhood with lots of young families. We were immediately invited to the monthly block parties only to discover that everyone left their young children behind. This just wouldn't work for my baby's need to be close to me as well as my need to be close to my baby.

I decided to take a turn hosting the block party at my home. I gave the party a "Family Carnival" theme and made it known that children of all ages would be welcome and cared for. I have five children including a young baby and a toddler, so my house is already child-proofed and well stocked with children's things. I set up the master bedroom as the nursery with portable play cribs for the babies to sleep, a diaper changing area, and comfortable chairs. One of my children's bedrooms became the designated toddler area with age appropriate toys and activities. I hired two neighborhood teenagers to supervise the toddler room so the parents could join the adults. The older children had games and a root beer stand to keep them occupied. We made it clear that this was casual and everyone was welcome to leave the adult area to care for their children as needed.

Everyone commented on how this party turned out to be so much fun. With just a few adjustments, all ages can attend and have a good time. Thankfully, our idea rubbed off on others and it is now the neighborhood trend to invite all ages to the block parties.

Kara Brown
La Quinta CA USA

Mother's Response

It can be hard to turn down invitations to go out in the evenings, either because you'd like to go or because you don't want to upset your friends with repeated rejections. From what you say, though, if you were to accept and go along, you wouldn't enjoy yourself because your heart would be at home with your toddler.

I have found the hardest part of such a dilemma is making others understand why I won't use a babysitter. I used to wonder if I was being overanxious, but experience has shown me that there is nothing unusual in a toddler wanting only his mother at nighttime. This is something that time will change. So now I don't feel the need to explain in detail why I can't accept an invitation any more. I simply say that my child needs me.

Barbara Higham
Ilkley West Yorkshire Great Britain

Mother's Response

I understand what you are going through. My son is seven months old and I am unable to be away from him longer than two hours. He refuses to take a bottle or cup so I am the only one who can meet his needs. There have been so many evening events I have not attended during these past seven months. In the daytime he has been by my side (and on my breast) at showers, birthday parties, volunteering, breakfast and luncheons, even a funeral. It isn't always easy, for either of us. We often need to leave a function early because he isn't having fun sitting on my lap for three hours.

I gave up attending evening functions and I see no end in sight. I say this because my son's nighttime sleeping pattern is erratic and I never know how often he'll wake up. My attitude is pretty good about it, but I have a feeling my family and friends get annoyed. Regardless, I enjoy having him next to me. His needs are met before he even knows he needs something! He must feel safe and loved. What's wrong with that?

After months of my family and friends' gentle nudges to wean him to a bottle and sleep alone, I simply say, "I don't want to force him to take a bottle. I like breastfeeding him, even if it's 12 times a day!" After all, this is my choice. Sure, I tried to get him to take a bottle. But when he screamed and those tears rolled down his cheeks, it broke my heart! So I say to myself, and anyone else who asks, "Breastfeeding isn't a feeding choice, it's a lifestyle choice." This really puts it into perspective for me and hopefully for my family and friends who say they miss me. I miss them too!

Like all things, this period of my life will pass. There will be many years to spend time away from my child but only a couple of years to devote my time exclusively to them. Think of this time as less of a sacrifice and more of a gift to your baby, a foundation of trust and love only you can give him. Know that there are mothers out here who understand this gift and how much it truly costs.

Jeanine Sweeney
Blackwood NJ USA

Mother's Response

When my second child was 14 months old, I went to my first La Leche League meeting in the evening. That helped me get out and be with others but I did not have to worry about my baby son getting upset if he woke up. I took him along with me. This is a perfect time to get a sling if you don't have one. They can sleep when it gets late.

How do your friends feel about bringing baby with when you go out? Or, can you invite your friends over for a movie and popcorn at your home while baby sleeps in a room nearby?

When my La Leche League friends and I wanted to get together, we always took nursing babies and toddlers with us. We went to a local all night diner. We brought lots of toys and sometimes pillows and blankets. The baby or toddler can even wear pajamas.

This reminds me of when I was growing up and we went to the drive-in movie theater with my parents. We still have one open near us. With a little preparation and snacks, children travel and it can be fun for all.

Vera Lynn Richardson
Chillicothe OH USA

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