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March 23, 2006 / allyo

Nursing manners and the evolving relationship

We’ve been working on nursing manners since the first time Jamie bit me, which was at, oh, 4 months. Long before he had any teeth in fact. That was actually when I went to my first LLL meeting because I wasn’t sure how to deal with it. They assured me that even a baby that young would learn that biting=no boob if I consistently unlatched him and said no bite. My kid is so ornery I actually had to unlatch him, say no bite, and then sit him down on the floor, facing away from me, before he’d do anything but laugh. (As an aside, remember those days? When you could put them down and they were powerless to move, or even turn themselves in your direction? I don’t think I fully took advantage of those days. Kidding!)

Maybe it’s because I had such an early introduction to setting boundaries or maybe it’s just my personality, but I tend to have more of a limit-setting approach to nursing than many of my fellow nursing, kinda/sorta/mostly AP moms. Now that Jamie’s older and his attention span is that of a flea, I’m just as likely to distract him when he asks to nurse in public as I am to comply. It’s just been in the past month, but suddenly it’s obvious to me that I’m nursing a toddler rather than an infant, and unfortunately I’m a little self-concious about doing that in public. I’m working on it, though.

Another thing we’ve worked on for a long time has been his grabby, wandering hands. I don’t mind patting, stroking, and petting, as long as it’s gentle, but by all that is holy, keep your mitts off the other breast. It makes my skin crawl to have him touching the breast he’s not nursing from. Fortunately, I have years of practice fending off advances from his grabby dad, so moving an arm to block the breast is second nature at this point. But, if he’s too grabby, or flailing around too much, or yanking, I don’t have any problem telling him he can’t nurse until he’s more focused, and I started this at around 10 months, when he started getting very distractable.

I think something that gets lost sometimes is that breastfeading is a relationship that involves two people – baby and mom. And as the relationship between parent and child evolves, so does the nursing relationship. As Jamie is getting older, I’m becoming more and more aware of my body again. We are two distinct people again rather than a single, functioning unit. And for me, boundaries and nursing manners are absolutely essential to continuing the nursing relationship.

I wonder, though, just how long we’ll continue. I am committed to my two-year goal, as much for my benefit as for his. Beyond that, I think it depends. It’s really, really strange for me to be thinking this way because I love breastfeeding. I love the closeness, I love the bonding, for me it’s part and parcel of who I am as a mom. But…but. I feel like weaning may be not so far away either. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

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7 Comments

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  1. Jody / Mar 23 2006 9:10 pm

    “Fortunately, I have years of practice fending off advances from his grabby dad, so moving an arm to block the breast is second nature at this point.”

    This made me laugh out loud, mostly because: oh yeah.

    I found that there were periods all the way through where I felt like, ack, this nursing relationship is wonderful, but it is also just TOO MUCH. And then things would change, or I would change them, and it would be better again. So maybe you’re heading into the homestretch (and give yourself a huge round of applause for coming this far, especially if it’s taking you outside your natural comfort zone) and maybe it’s just a brief re-orientation, but any way you look at it, you done good. [Insert standard disclaimer re: everyone doing good however they done it, etc.]

  2. Moxie / Mar 23 2006 11:50 pm

    I love this post, and Jody’s response.

    One of my good friends from playgroup and I had a lot of tension because she thought I was cruel to put limits on my nursing (his second fall season I told him we weren’t nursing outside any more because it was too cold for me, and then I segued that into not nursing in public at all) and I thought she was misguided not to (I once saw her unzip her winter coat and lean over so her preschooler could nurse while sitting in the stroller when it was 25 degrees F outside). It’s tough to negotiate other people’s expectations of your parenting, especially when you thought you matched so well at first.

  3. MoMo / Mar 24 2006 2:32 pm

    This was really interesting for me to read – do the majority of infants/toddlers ask to nurse at random times? My son nurses before naps and bed, but has never tried to nurse at other times. I wonder if that means he’s losing interest in nursing? Or perhaps he only associates it with sleeping?

    I’m not sure that I would be comfortable nursing in public anymore – that strikes me as being incredibly sad, but true.

  4. emmalola / Mar 24 2006 4:16 pm

    I quit nursing in public when the lentil was about 15 months- he was too grabby and would pull off and make a scene and I just wasn’t comfortable with it.

    I admire your ability to be so clear about this- I wasn’t very good about teaching good nursing matters, and it was very difficult sometimes to be patient with the lentil’s wild behavior. I would even go so far as to say that his bad behavior contributed in part to his eventual weaning. Although that seems a bit of a stretch….
    So, good for you. keep it up! (and we miss you on dishandspoon!)

  5. KatS / Mar 25 2006 9:37 pm

    Wow. Great post. I love that you have a son pretty much the same age as my kids. I can see so many parallels to my life. I laughed and laughed about the grabbing thing. Mini has taken to scratching my side with her “underneath” arm. OUCH! She’s also begun to pull at the skin of my face, then “push” her hand onto her face, almost like she’s taking my skin and trying to put it on hers. Weird but endearing.

  6. Emmie / Mar 26 2006 2:32 pm

    I loved this post. I have friends who seem to think their toddlers own their bodies, and it’s a little hard to watch. It woudln’t be hard to watch if the moms themselves didn’t seem quietly resentful. I just hit my one year goal with my twins, and I’m hoping to go to two years, but I’m done pumping. I work PT, and I’m fine with the boys havinbg cow’s milk while I’m gone, if they even need that. A friend just told me that she’d never give her kid milk from another animal when she was still capable of nursing her, and even though part of me felt this was ridiculous, it also hurt to hear that. Why are we so damned hard on ourselves? At this point I plan on continuing as long at it works for ALL of us – with me having an equal share in that consideration. But part of me is very sad to even think of giving it up just yet…

  7. FriendD / Mar 26 2006 7:54 pm

    This part cracked me up: “As an aside, remember those days? When you could put them down and they were powerless to move, or even turn themselves in your direction? I don’t think I fully took advantage of those days…”

    My son, M, who you know very well spent the changing part of swim lessons the other day safely lodged in half locker 108 with the door closed. It was the most peaceful 10 minutes I’ve had in ages.

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