Guest Author - Nicki Heskin
Nursies when the Sun Shines by Katherine Havener is the very first book I have ever encountered addressing the subject of night weaning. With lovely watercolor illustrations by Sara Burrier, the book shows a mom, dad and toddler going to sleep and teaches a child that nursing happens only when the sun shines. The book is absolutely beautiful and offers a wonderful approach to initiate night weaning.
I met Katherine a few years ago, virtually, as we were both leaders of Holistic Moms Network chapters. While we have yet to meet in person, I have come to value her as a like-minded mother and breastfeeding/gentle parenting advocate. I’ve watched with interest since she first conceived of the idea – like so many of us mothers who say “I ought to write a book about X,” – but am so proud of her for making it a reality. I am delighted to be sent one of the first review copies hot off the presses.
Essentially, the book explains to children that just when it gets dark out the window at night that Mommy, Daddy and Baby go to bed, and so do “nursies.” When baby wakes up and it is still dark, it is still time to sleep (and snuggle), but when the sun shines, then it’s time for nursies. The text is simple and loving; the illustrations are truly beautiful and add to the tender nature of the book. It’s worth noting that the toddler in the book is carefully drawn to be an adorable boy or girl, in a surprisingly convincing way no matter which way you look at it.
Let me first say that putting the milk “to bed” at night is exactly how I night weaned my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter. If wanting to try this, be sure to start discussing the concepts of day/light and night/dark. Until the child is able to identify and distinguish night from day, it doesn’t do much good to tell them that milk is for daytime and sleep is for nighttime. I think this book provides an excellent tool for a mother with a child at this stage that is ready to be able to stop nursing at night.
There are however a few things about the book that may limit its usefulness to some families. The first is the choice of the words “nursies.” There are many words for breastfeeding, and so it would be hard to find a term that would have applied to all families. While this one is sweet, a child who doesn’t use that term would not find the message of the book quite clear without further explanation. That said, the phrasing of the book makes it perfectly easy to substitute in the term of choice. I read it through with “mama’s milk,” which is what my younger daughter called nursing, and from the title through the end, it worked just fine. Since the “target audience” are pre-readers, this is a perfectly reasonable solution.
More challenging for some, because it communicates through the illustrations as well as the words is that the family fully co-sleeps. Sleep choice – cribs, family beds, and every option in between varies widely between families. My children co-slept with me until about 9 months, but then were unable to sleep successfully in my bed within proximity of the breast milk. After that time, to my tired dismay, I had to nurse in their rooms a few times a night until they were ready to make it all night.
So the parts of the book where the Mom, Dad and Baby go to sleep together and when the baby and Mom snuggle back to sleep in the night would be inauthentic for my children. I don’t begrudge Katherine, a co-sleeper herself, this choice – there are so few books out there without cribs and bottles that this one can be for the co-sleepers! That said, it would have been tricky to make it work for my daughter, and I had wished for a book like this when I was at this stage.
As a last caveat, the family in the book is unmistakably white and traditionally Mom-Dad. Because the book illustrates only one family from bedtime until morning, there wasn’t a lot of opportunity for diversity. While the illustrations are so beautiful I’m hesitant to criticize, I have to wonder if there wasn’t a way to draw the family in a less racially-specific way.
Overall, the concept of this book was a long time in coming and I’m so glad it is finally here. For those night weaning toddlers it is a wonderful gift, but might require some modification to fit the specifics of a particular family. My hats off to Katherine for writing a book that many have wished for in such a loving and beautiful way. It was a privilege to watch the book come to fruition over these many months and know what a labor of love the book truly represents. I know it will make a difference in the lives of many breastfeeding families.
Currently, the book is available only through the author's website at http://www.nursiesbook.com.