Friday, 16 March 2012

I'm taking my cues from my baby

This post is part of the breastfeeding blog hop hosted by Erin at The Slacker Mom Marah at happiness redefined and Lori at The Gnomes Mom .

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.

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