Two months ago Benjamin went on nursing strike. He had been poorly for a while, coughing like crazy since the beginning of December, bad cold over the following weeks. Then in January he was diagnosed with croup. Three days later, I put him to bed at 630 as usual. He fed normally, fell asleep in my arms and I gently laid him in his cot.
Two hours later he woke as usual screaming for food. I tried to latch him on, but he pulled away and howled. He refused totally to feed. I didn't worry, I put him back on the bed and off to sleep he went. He woke again after another 2 hours, again he screamed and refused to feed. I tried again and again, but for three days he refused to nurse.
I was distraught. Why was my baby rejecting me? Why didn't he want to feed? What could I do to get Him feeding again? I was adamant that I didn't want to give up breastfeeding yet, although I have said from the very beginning I will feed him as long as HE wants to. But I really wasn't ready for this to be it. I had comments from a few people about maybe he was weaning himself, although I had read on various websites, The Leaky boob on Facebook being one of them, that babies under 1 rarely self wean. (a view also held by the breastfeeding counsellor I spoke to) I held on to this although people tried to tell me it could happen.
We tried skin to skin - lots of it, bathing together, but anytime my boobs went anywhere near him he howled. This strike also seemed to coincide with him having bitten me for the first time a few days prior. I didn't make a big deal about it as I had read a story on The leaky Boob about a woman whose daughter bit her, and then refused to nurse again due to the reaction of the Mum.
Why not use this as a sign he is ready to stop breastfeeding? Maybe he's reached the stage where he wants a bottle? NO! I wasn't ready and that was that! He wasn't going to stop nursing! I pumped round the clock for 4 days to maintain my supply in case he decided he wanted to nurse again. The expressed milk was syringe fed to him (at the advice of a pediatrician at the hospital) so at least he was getting my milk. It was a tough 4 days. Physically it was uncomfortable, I got engorged and bruised from pumping so much. Emotionally it was awful. I never realised how strongly I would come to love this aspect of parenting. I felt immensely guilty for reading during the bedtime feed. If that was our last breastfeed, it wasn't very special, I read, I didn't savour our time together. Since then I have made sure that each feed My focus is Benjamin. I don't read or watch tv, it's time for us to be close. I savour each minute, in case it never happens again.
|Benjamin breaks the nursing strike|
Thankfully, after 4 days I managed to get him to latch on. He was screaming at me so I just shoved my boob in and he got on with it. It was hit and miss for the next 24 hours, but here we are 2 months later as if nothing has ever happenned. But it made me think about the whole weaning process. I am still determined to feed until Benjamin is ready to wean himself. I want it to be his decision, and if that is sooner than I hope for then that is my issue and I will have to learn to accept it and work through it.
The WHO recommends breastfeeding for 2 years. Right now my goal is to get to 1 year, which is in 8 weeks time. My sister said to me yesterday that she thinks I will be one of those "hippies who feed until the child is 8". I laughed and told her it wouldn't be that long, but it would be for as long as he wants. The decision to stop needs to come from Benjamin, and I will take my lead from him. I don't want to force him to stop before he is ready for some misguided notion of convenience or getting a decent night sleep, or because society for some reason seems to look at extended breastfeeding as if it is something weird that shouldn't be done.
Having said that, I don't want it to be all of a sudden like when he went on strike. Ideally I would like it to be a gradual process, cutting out morning and day feeds first for example. I would like to be able to know that it is time for our last feed, so I can savour it, and remember exactly how it feels to nurse a baby.