Friday, June 3, 2011

the power of the boob

One of the mamas I interviewed for my Sleep Question book used this term to describe the nursing relationship she had with her children. The power of the boob to comfort, nurture; to help bring to sleep.

I can definitely relate. Lilly will turn three this month, but the power of the boob holds strong. There have been periods when it's been driving me crazy, like at around the 18 months mark where she seemed to ask for it constantly throughout the night. When I had reached the point of oblivion to red stop signs and lights, a dear friend helped me find a strategy to reduce the nighttime nursings without feeling like I was weaning her (I've always wanted to let her self-wean).

Our solution was a combination of Dr. Sears' list of night weaning alternatives, in particular his "Just say no!," "Nummies go night-night," and "Let baby be the barometer." I would talk to her during the day and before bedtime about how the boobs have gotten so tired; how they need some rest and sleep at night now. Then I made up my mind as to how many of the nighttime nursings I wanted to end, and at what time she could have free rein to nurse on demand again. Finally, I told my husband to sleep in another room. We'd been enjoying our family bed up until then, but I had begun to feel crowded out in bed. I realized there might be some whining, and I knew I wouldn't be able to stay committed to my goal if I were to worry about my husband (who's as opposed to her crying as I am) as well as her.

The first night when she asked for the boob, and I said no, she did cry. Right away and almost before I had a chance to respond, knowing already the answer. And in an angry manner, not despondent or despairing. I used her daytime behavior to gauge how she was dealing with this new nighttime situation; and she seemed fine, just a bit more mama needy perhaps, and even more physical, with which I was fine.

Within a few days, the nighttime weaning was accomplished, quite the feat for someone who'd been nursing frequently throughout the night up until then.

Nights have been good since then. And her first morning nursing has been pushed back too, from around 4 a.m. first, then 5, and now not until 6 or 7 a.m. when it's time to get up.

A year or so after my boobs got to sleep at night, I began using a distraction method when I didn't feel like nursing, or offering her other food if she seemed hungry. And now within the last couple of months, she's started asking less for it, which has brought us down to three nursings a day: in the morning, before nap, and before bedtime.

The boob still holds the power to soothe in the morning and help me bring her to sleep at nap and bedtime. At times I wonder what power I will seize once the boob doesn't interest her anymore. Sometimes I feel like she'll enjoy our nursing relationship for years on end, other times she seems she might drop it any day.

Lilly at Catleton College: big girl looking ahead
And this month she turns three. The day after, she'll begin preschool. Or, a preschool summer program that is, at the Montessori Children's House in town. She's had her final Monday morning class at ECFE, and her last Friday morning at my friend's house to give me some time to write. She is very excited about school. And that she is a "big girl."

I am excited about the prospect of more freedom to write every weekday morning for three hours. And I am slightly nostalgic about the baby and toddler stage that we'll be leaving behind us as she's turning into a preschooler. I picture the years just spiraling away from me; in two years a Kindergartener, then a first grader; she'll be in college before I know it.

So I hold on to the power of the boob. At least for now.

1 comment:

  1. Good point! I'd be interesting to find out if there is any such feminist approach to breastfeeding. Like my midwife said, women are super-abled during pregnancy, not disabled (unlike the labeling by many employers of women on leave while pregnant).


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