Today's guided topic was Natural Child Spacing and how to use breastfeeding as birth control, using Sheila Kippley's book Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing as the main resource. I was introduced to the term ecological breastfeeding, which is defined as feeding on demand (both for nutrition and for comforting), feeding only breastmilk, staying close to the baby, co-sleeping, and not using a pacifier. When a woman practices ecological breastfeeding, her chances of conceiving before 3 months are almost none; from 3-6 months, 2%; and from 6-12 months, 6%. The average new mother practicing ecological breastfeeding begins menstruating again at 15 months.
Throughout the discussion, conversation wandered off-topic to other ideas that seemed to interest the group. While we talked about co-sleeping, I shared my frustration on the lack of accessible literature online that supports co-sleeping. When we brought Tye home from the hospital, Tye naturally came into bed with us that first night. I hadn't done any research on co-sleeping before, though, and was concerned about the safety aspect, especially since Tye was sleeping on her stomach on our chests (it's a real SIDS rule-breaker to put a baby to sleep on her tummy). At first glance, all the articles contained strict warnings about the dangers of co-sleeping, but each contained at least one sentence mentioning that it can be safe. How's that for contradictions?
As it turns out, co-sleeping is safer for the baby than sleeping in a crib, with significantly decreased occurrences of SIDS and no crib safety-related deaths, as long as the family is breastfeeding, doesn't smoke, doesn't go to bed under the influence, and has a safe bed (without a crack between the bed and the wall for baby to fall into, and not a waterbed). The vast majority of families around the world safely co-sleep, and not for lack of resources but to stay close to the child. I had found it difficult to find information supporting co-sleeping, though, and only found it initially on mothering.com.
Other mothers at today's meeting agreed that the most accessible information online regarding co-sleeping is one-sided. One mother explained that studies on the dangers of co-sleeping were all conducted by crib or formula manufacturers, both of whom would benefit from a family purchasing a crib. When I mentioned that friends who visit us always ask where our crib is, everyone else chuckled knowingly. It was then that I realized that I had never before spoken face-to-face with someone about co-sleeping who was also co-sleeping. And here I was, in a room of women who were talking about including co-sleeping in family planning (and not for the lack of sex!).
Remember how I mentioned that most of the kids at the meeting were between 1 and 3 years old? They were all breastfeeding, too, even one who also had a younger sibling (a phenomenon called tandem nursing). I know Tye is only 3 1/2 months old, but I've already been thinking a lot about nursing older babies. It comes up frequently in conversations about breastfeeding in public. American women are told to breastfeed for their child's health, but are unwelcome doing so in public. Similarly, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization both recommend breastfeeding to at least the age of 2; yet women who breastfeed into toddlerhood face very real social stigmas. I don't know what the future holds for Tye and myself, but if I am able to continue to breastfeed into toddlerhood as I hope to, I appreciate knowing that LLL will provide me with a support network of other mothers doing the same.
I don't have many friends in the Chicago area with children, and most who I'm meeting aren't at all interested in the ways we're choosing to raise Tye- breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby wearing, even attending to her cries immediately. The LLL meeting today provided me with great support for our choices and a reminder that what we're doing isn't completely radical- at least not to everyone.