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I thought I’d be done with breastfeeding by now, but the world had other plans

Our accidentally-and-then-on-purpose extended breastfeeding has proved to be a gift for both of us.

I thought I’d be done with breastfeeding by now, but the world had other plans

My son and I began the process of weaning from breastfeeding months ago. He turned one in December, at which point I retired my pump and he began drinking whole milk with his meals. I felt ready to have my body back, and I wanted to wear clothes that didn't necessarily offer unfettered access to my chest.

But the habit of nursing—the way he might stop for a sip after an active hour of play, its place in our bedtime ritual, the comfort he sometimes sought from me and me alone—was hard to break. Almost every day, I'd set a new deadline: 2020. January 5th. 15th. 18th. 31st.


Each day my willpower cratered, I felt guilty and anxious and desperate, even though part of me simply wasn't ready. Around the same time, we were watching developments of the novel coronavirus like it was a slow-moving train careening toward us—first abroad, then on the West Coast, then right here in Chicago, which had become a hotspot.

Suddenly, weaning was no longer our priority. Instead, our accidentally-and-then-on-purpose extended breastfeeding has proved to be a gift for both of us.

Human breast milk is something of a biological marvel. (That said, many of its most dramatic benefits aren't well researched enough to prove causation; formula, too, is its own modern miracle, and those who can't or don't wish to breastfeed are not disadvantaging their children.) For one, it is not a static substance. Its composition changes over time—from golden colostrum to skim-milk-like to fatty and in-between. And perhaps most compelling in this time of coronavirus, it is rich in antibodies. Some studies (as well as anecdotal evidence) suggest these antibodies help activate the immune system or protect against some illnesses, especially in newborns.

So in a time of heightened anxiety about illness of any kind—like many people, worries over coronavirus have been attended by a deep-seated paranoia, and a desire to avoid the doctor as much as we can—I am grateful for any balm.

I do not know how much or whether our breastfeeding actually contributes to my son's health, or whether it is a mere placebo, but I believe in its effects all the same. Put another way: Breastfeeding has been good for me.

Anxiety has become a constant backdrop to my days amid the pandemic, so I have made a conscious effort to reduce stress where I can. Continually setting and breaking deadlines was more than I could bear. Breastfeeding also works by triggering the feel-good hormone, oxytocin, in the mother to cause milk to let down, and during a time of heightened global anxiety, when good news is scarce and new worries surround society's reopening, I need more good hormones to counteract the potent cocktail of adrenaline and cortisol.

I never would have predicted we'd be in this position.

In the beginning, I wasn't sure we'd be able to breastfeed at all—though not for lack of trying. When a lactation consultant came to my home for the first time, just a few days after my son was born, we were struggling. He was mildly jaundiced, and I was convinced that, despite the injuries my breasts had sustained in the act of nursing, he wasn't getting any milk. The first thing the lactation consultant wanted to know was what my goals for breastfeeding were.

At that point, the chasm between what I'd imagined and our reality felt vast. I've never met a recommendation I didn't want to achieve, and I'd read all the literature. But motherhood wasn't as simple as setting a goal and achieving it; birth had already taught me that I needed to hold my goals a little looser, but only just so. So I told the lactation consultant six months, but that ultimately I just wanted it to work, for us to have a chance to really try it. It took six months for breastfeeding to come naturally to us, and so that goal turned to nine months, then, with some finality, 12.

I found breastfeeding strange, and strangely beautiful. In quiet moments late at night, when our baby was still new, my husband would look at us in awe and remind me of this primal miracle, that for our son's entire existence, it was I who nourished and grew him. That is no longer the case now, but nursing still has a place in our lives even though—or maybe because—our needs have evolved since then.

I was focused, when we first started to wean, on the superficial benefits of no longer breastfeeding, and the idea that I would one day be autonomous, that I wouldn't have to be the one my son insists on putting him in his crib at night. But amid this once-in-a-lifetime crisis, I'm grateful to snuggle a little longer.

Without camps and back-to-school plans still TBD, the cries of "I'm bored!" seem to be ringing louder than ever this summer. And if you're anything like me, by August, I'm fresh out of boxes to check on my "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys.

With that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite wooden toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

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Products that solve your biggest breastfeeding challenges

Including a battle plan for clogged ducts!

When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

MilkBliss chocolate chip soft baked lactation cookies

MilkBliss lactation cookies

Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.

$23

Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

Evereden multipurpose healing balm

Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.

$20

Lansinoh milk storage bags

Lansinoh milk storage bags

For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.

$12.50

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.

$47

boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

Boob Ease soothing therapy pillows

For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.

$25

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.

$59

Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

Bebe au Lait cotton nursing cover

Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.

$36

Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

Lactation Lab breastmilk testing kit

Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.

$99

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this

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I wasn’t sure if I wanted to have kids—so here’s what I did

We asked our three most pessimistic friends who have kids whether it's worth it or not

As told to Liz Tenety.

Around the time my husband and I were turning 30, we had a genuine conversation about whether or not we wanted kids. I was the hesitant one because I was like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Let's just hold on. Okay, let's talk about this. Because we love our life. We like traveling. Is this what we want?"

My husband said, "Let's ask our three most pessimistic, crabby friends who have kids whether or not it's worth it."

And every single one of them was like, "Oh, it's unmissable on planet earth."

So when I got pregnant, I was—and I'm not ashamed to say this and I don't think you should be—I was as connected with the baby in my belly as if it were a water bottle. I was like, I don't know you. I don't know what you are, but you can be some gas pain sometimes, but other than that, we're going to have to meet each other and suss this relationship out.

But all the cliches are true that you just know what to do when the baby comes out. Some of the times are hard, some of them are easier, but you just gotta use your gut.

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