More Than Food

So often discussions regarding breastfeeding seem to omit the fact that breastfeeding is much more than food.  I see this fact being omitted when people talk about scheduling feeds, feeding in public, nightweaning, etc.

When people talk of scheduling feeds, the underlying assumption is that breastfeeding is purely for food.  I say that’s the assumption because you cannot schedule when your child will need to be comforted.  I’m not entirely convinced you can completely schedule when they’ll eat, either; I have a general idea of when my children will eat, but nothing is set in stone.  Kieran usually wants to eat after he wakes from a nap and has had his “wake-up milk”, but sometimes he doesn’t.  Of course, I can’t even tell you with absolute certainty when I’ll eat.  I laugh that I’m a hobbit, as I’m fairly certain I could easily follow a hobbit’s eating schedule.

One rejoinder often heard in conversations about scheduling feeds or nightweaning is that the mother shouldn’t let the child use her as a dummy.  Let’s think about that one.  A dummy is something that is supposed to replace the breast and allow the child to fulfil his need for suckling away from the mother.  It’s a substitute.  Why use a substitute if the mother is available?  Babies need to suck, and biologically this is fulfilled by breastfeeding, for food or comfort.

Perhaps part of this is that many do not recognise comfort-sucking as an actual need for the child.  Comfort is more than just a want for a child, but is a real need.  He needs to know his mother is there.  I participated in a conversation where a parent was asking if his child should nightwean, and another person asked if the child needed to breastfeed or if it was just for comfort.  See the assumption there?  The assumption that breastfeeding for comfort isn’t a need?  While our culture may teach this, it just isn’t the case.

It’s also not true that a child who is comforted in that way will never learn to self-soothe or go to sleep on his own.  I’ve certainly not found this to be true.  As I’ve mentioned before, Kieran has always been a comfort-nurser and would still gladly nurse his cares away at times (he doesn’t ask for it every time he falls, though).  Even with wanting that physical comforting from me, he’s an independent boy who can calm himself down and can fall asleep without nursing to sleep.  He still gets milk before naps & bed, but doesn’t fall asleep like that any more.  I say that Charlotte doesn’t comfort feed, but that isn’t entirely true, as she does breastfeed to sleep (for naps and bed).  She simply doesn’t want to breastfeed if she hurts herself or otherwise needs comforting during the day.  I have no fear of her never learning to sleep without breastfeeding, for I know she’ll stop that when she’s ready.  There are many nights when she’ll breastfeed some and then flop down so she’s not touching me and fall asleep, and she’s tried to put herself down for a nap.  She’s making steps towards that, but I’m in no rush.

The conversation about breastfeeding in public also seems to assume that comfort-feeding is irrelevant (since it cannot be predicted), as well as assuming that you can/should schedule your child’s feeds.  When Kieran was little, I’d always try to feed him before going to class (yes, he went to my university lectures with me) or Mass or whatnot, but he’d almost always want to eat again at that time.  Perhaps he needed to be comforted when in a larger group of people, most of whom he didn’t know.  My choices then were to feed him, leave, or let him scream.  Some children can be held off, but not all.  Since all children are individuals, an arbitrary rule shouldn’t be applied.

Ultimately, I think a lot of the debate on this comes from the fact that breastfeeding, sadly, isn’t the majority practise here.  The majority bottle-feed, which as a different set of guidelines.  Dummies should be used with bottle-fed babes, since the need to comfort-suck isn’t met with the bottle, which is reserved for food.  Because this is what is so often seen, I think a lot of members of society have forgotten what the biological norm dictates: that babies feed often, for short periods of time, for comfort as well as food, and that they breastfeed for over two years, on average.  Hopefully the tide is turning, as more information and support are available for mothers, though unfortunately some still aren’t receiving the support and help needed and some healthcare providers continue to disseminate myths.

Book Nook

Who doesn’t love the old school Sesame Street?  Grover was always one of my favourites to watch and to read about in The Monster at the End of this Book, by Jon Stone.  Since Bart and I both grew up loving this book, we wanted to share it with our children.  My father has gotten some old school Sesame Street DVDs for the kids, so they’re well acquainted with Grover.  Once I moved the bookcase downstairs, the kids rediscovered this book and have been asking for me to read it quite a bit.  Of course, you have to read this book with quite a bit of feeling, just as Grover would.  I admit I can’t do his voice, but the kids don’t seem to mind, since they keep asking me to read it.

Body of Christ

I’m trying to stay off-line as much as possible on Sundays, so I thought over the next few Sundays I’d just post my thoughts, such as they may be, on the Anima Christi prayer.  It’s one of my favourite prayers, and one I say daily. Here’s the full text:

Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, inebriate me
Water from the side of Christ, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
O good Jesus, hear me
Within Thy wounds hide me
Suffer me not to be separated from Thee
From the malicious enemy defend me
In the hour of my death call me
And bid me come unto Thee
That with thy Saints I may praise Thee
For all eternity
Amen

Body of Christ, save me.

This line is one of my favourites.  When I was researching Catholicism, it was when I realised the truth of the Eucharist that I knew I had to convert.  I cannot explain or describe the pure love and joy even in kneeling before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament at Adoration, or exclaiming with the Apostle Thomas “My Lord and my God!” at the Elevation of the Host.  Jesus gives us His Body in the humble form of the Eucharist, telling us we must partake of His Flesh and Blood to have life within us (see John 6).  When we unite ourselves with Jesus in this way, we are slowly transformed by His grace so He may save us.  It is amazing how He humbles Himself in order to be so completely united with us.

Willpower

I have a fair amount of willpower.  I don’t give in to my every whim or craving and am pretty good at delayed gratification.  Unless, of course, we’re talking about the computer.  For quite some time I’ve told myself that I needed to cut down on my computer time, and in fact I did so during Lent.  Not only do I waste time on the computer, only to then wonder why the housework hasn’t been done and why I’ve not exercised, but I’m not all that nice/patient with the kids.  Kieran also demands to see videos or play games, and while we can have fun doing that, I still wind up being rather impatient.  I’d really like to nip this in the bud sooner rather than later, especially since we hope to have more children, God willing, and I wish to home educate.  Yes, there’s a good reason that sloth is one of the seven deadly sins.  *sigh*

As I mentioned, I did cut down during Lent, and I always try to limit my computer time on Sundays.  It isn’t a problem if the computer is off completely: the problem is when I turn it on and say I’ll be on for just a little while, only to then keep coming back to check things.  I’ll tell myself that I’ll only get on during naps, or when I’m feeding Charlotte, but it doesn’t seem to work for me.  Therefore, I’m just going to have to be stricter with myself.  I’m still going to try to keep the computer off on Sundays (with the exception being if we’re getting on Skype to talk to family), and for the other days I’ll set certain hours when I can get online.  I’d actually told myself that I needed to set actual hours before, but then I’d say “Oh, I’ll write that down later”, and it would never happen.  This time, I made myself set the hours when the thought popped into my head.  Maybe now I’ll actually stick to my schedule for housework and get back into exercising daily, as well as spending time playing with the kids and reading (both to them and just reading for my own enjoyment).

We Are the Borg. You Will Be Assimilated.

When I think of the debates in the parenting world regarding schedules and parenting styles and such, I find myself thinking about whether we’re treating the child as the individual he is if we’re imposing those schedules or styles on them from the start.

The extreme end of this would be the Babywise-type regimen that recommends imposing a fairly strict schedule for the child’s feeding, napping, and playing times.  The question is, is the imposition of such a schedule and style done for the child’s benefit or the parents’?  After all, it would seem that deciding on a schedule/style beforehand would not be taking into account the child’s unique personality, which is present at birth (at least to some extent).

It just seems to me that scheduling things is more about me than my child, since my children can’t tell time.  They know what they need when they need it, and we settle into a groove soon enough when I’m attuned to that.   Anyone who knows me knows that I’m very much an attachment parent, but I didn’t read up on Attachment Parenting and choose to do it – I followed my instincts and the cues of my children.   This has taken different forms with Kieran and Charlotte, even from birth.  This really threw me off when Charlotte was born, as I’d anticipated doing things the same way with her, but she’s a different person and therefore I had to change the way I did things.  For example, when Kieran was a newborn he’d sleep anytime anywhere provided he was touching me; Charlotte, however, demanded to be in bed nursing around 20.00 every night.  I couldn’t nurse her while standing or sitting, but had to be in bed.  So I adapted, as that’s what my instincts told me and that’s what she needed.  Similarly, Kieran would accept milk any time he got hurt or was upset, while Charlotte won’t comfort nurse and so I have to find other ways of comforting her, such as singing.

Speaking of instincts, it also seems to me that imposing a schedule tells mothers to ignore their instincts.  I know that any time I try to impose a schedule on Kieran’s nursing, even now, it just feels wrong and we both get upset.  He still needs that comfort and nutrition, and while I’d honestly like for him to cut down on his feeds, I’m not sure he’s ready.  That’s not to say I don’t set some limits, because I do, but I don’t think he’s quite ready for me to say that he gets it only at certain times of the day.  He’s never been one to adhere to a strict schedule (at least  not when it comes to nursing) and I don’t think he’s going to start now.  While maybe it would be more convenient for me if he did, I don’t choose my parenting style or schedule due to convenience for me, but by what’s best for my children (to the best of my ability).

So I’ll do my best to remember that my children are individuals and that their individuality should remain intact instead of being assimilated into the collective. 😉

Knitting Thursday

I know I’ve not posted one of these in a few weeks.  I’ve been lazy, and also busy with other things.  I’ve gotten below the armholes on my sweater, so I’ve run waste yarn through the sleeve stitches and joined the underarm.  Now just a few more inches to go before starting the skirt part, which means I need to figure out what I’m doing with that.  i was thinking zigzags, but we’ll see.  I’m sure I’ll put in a lifeline at the bottom of the ribbing so I can easily rip out to there if I don’t like the design I choose for the skirt part.  I’m also open to suggestions on designs.  I don’t want anything too lacy because I don’t want my belly to freeze, nor do I want to get fabric to line it.