15 Nov 2020

Common Sense breastfeeding II

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I was referred to a young couple, parents of a 3-month old, by a friend. The couple was struggling with their baby’s reflux, wanted information about TummyTime!, and breastfeeding.

Thanks to the miracle of ZOOM, we all spoke together today. I got to see their sweet baby and their dog.

The parent in greatest distress was the father. He felt helpless to be of assistance to his wife, as the baby won’t accept a bottle nor a pacifier. The baby won’t rest in its crib. The baby wants mother and the breast much of the time. The baby is not on a schedule. All the young parents in their world are using Cry It Out techniques to make their babies independent and scheduled. The question they hear from everyone is, “Baby sleeping through the night yet?”  They are feeling like the odd ones out. No one has ever asked them if their baby is happy and healthy. He is concerned that his wife is spoiling the baby, and teaching the baby to be dependent; at the same time, he sees that his baby is thriving. He likes seeing how happy his baby is when she wakes up in the morning, in bed with both parents, and of how his baby smiles at him.

The mother says that at age 36, she’s never felt better; that she is following her gut to care for her baby. She said that “I did what I wanted in labor, and the hospital nurses didn’t like that.”  She is parenting the same way. She is surprised to be waking up at night a minute before her baby does. She feels rested and is happy. She loves having the baby in bed with them. The conflict between the books she read in pregnancy (BabyWise, Cry it Out and the like) and what she and her baby enjoy doing together is disturbing.  She tried letting her baby cry it out, and half an hour, her baby’s distress and questioning look (“What did I do, mom, that you left me?”) broke her heart and she abandoned that technique.

They rented a SNOO (a “Smart Sleeper/Bassinet”).  After the baby spent 4 hours in it, the mother was so upset she could never use it again.

Both parents have noticed that reflux is not an issue if the baby is in bed with them, or when they hold their baby. It’s only a problem when the baby is put down in the crib. Her friends are telling her that she will ruin her baby, that her baby will never be independent.  No one has ever told them that they are doing a good job.

The baby is adorable, and nursed at least 5 times during our hour consultation.

I was delighted to work with this family!  It felt wonderful to validate their instincts and offer them evidence to support what they already know.  I gave them resources about the Safe Sleep 7, and Dr. james McKenna  and attachment parenting. I listened especially to the father, to be sure that he was hearing and understanding my suggestions.  We worked to find ways that he can engage with his baby; they already enjoy skin to skin together. He could  be the one to take a bath with his baby; perhaps get a backpack and go for walks outside with his baby. He could sing to and read to baby while she is skin to skin.

Why does this baby need a schedule? She’s not employed. That made him laugh.

We talked about how humans eat: sometimes a little, and sometimes a lot. Sometimes we eat and drink when we are happy or sad, or in pain, or lonely, or bored, or tired. That’s how a baby breastfeeds.  We talked about infant doubling its birth weight in 6 months, or less. I asked him how he would double in size in 6 months; he replied, “Eat a lot” . . . .isn’t that what his baby is doing?

We talked about context. Already 3 months of this baby’s life have flown by; parenting means adapting to each change the baby goes through on the way to maturation. This process is complicated by individual temperament and life; they are doing very very well. Their happy healthy baby is proof.  And someday, this baby will be Daddy’s girl; just not yet.

This is my favorite work; reminding families of the glorious ease and simplicity of parenting a baby, by paying attention to the baby, gut instinct and love. The first 6 months can be the easiest, because everything the baby needs and wants lies within the parents’ inherent ability to provide.

I am grateful.






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