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nursing my toddler

Sunday, October 4, 2009

my little monkey had his first birthday a few weeks month ago. a little over a year ago was perhaps the most intense hour of my life – just 54 minutes of (excruciating) labour and out came the monkey, in a rush to get started. i am so proud of myself and my partner for how we got through that hour.

but i will save the story of how the firefighters came to be in my bedroom-cum-birthing room for half a second during our planned home birth for possibly another post.

what i want to write about now is nursing. i feel like it’s time to take stock of my nursing relationship with the monkey and make some changes. i think the days of nursing as a no-brainer Solution For Everything have come to an end.

i thought it would be a great idea to offer some breastfeeding statistics comparing argentina and canada but, alas, these were not easy to find, and what i did find was totally variable and contradictory.

by way of anecdotal evidence, i can say that i have never had any problems breastfeeding in public either in canada or in argentina, other than a bit of initial squirmishness on the part of one of my brothers and my dad.

in argentina, breastfeeding rates seem to vary along class lines. to grossly over-generalize: the educated middle class are more likely to nurse, seem to do so longer, and hold off on the solids for the first six months (though in just a few more months they're already drinking coca-cola and calling it 'juice'). the wealthy seem most likely to never have nursed at all, and the working class and the poor seem to nurse, but not for long, and tend to start solids really early. paid maternity leave is available for (legally employed) working moms up to a maximum of 3 months, one of which has to be the final month of the pregnancy.

no doubt breastfeeding varies along class lines in canada too, but i had way less exposure to class diversity in canada.  everyone i know there has nursed for at least a year, and waited until 6 months for the first solid foods. partially-paid maternity leave is available for (eligible) working moms for one year.

unlike what i assume (hope) are hospital practices in canada, in argentina babies are regularly given pacifiers and formula right in the maternity ward, even if the mother intends to breastfeed. that can't be boosting their success rates, or their confidence.

i am sure that age, education, ethnic background, and supportive partners, health care workers, communities and legislation all influence breastfeeding rates as well.

if anyone is reading this (hello!), is this more or less consistent with your experiences? do you know of any reliable statistics? please share!

okay, now back to me... like his brother, the monkey has always nursed well. he had only booby for the first 6 months, and then started eating solids as well. he took the occasional bottle of pumped milk until he decided, recently, that he would rather barf on his own tears than drink milk out of a bottle. so it’s booby booby booby, all the time. no pumping, no formula, no cow’s milk, nothing.

here’s what i do with all the milk storage bags i never got to use:

bulk cooking for the freezer!

his older brother, the monster, was even more adamant about only nursing from The Source. when i went back to work, he stopped having any milk intake at all during the day, just to prove his point. with no immediate plans to work outside of the house, i don't have to agonize about this for the monkey for now.

i like breastfeeding. i like snuggling in for a cozy nurse, i like having him in my arms when he nurses to sleep, i like that my body is still directly nourishing him.

but: he’s got seven teeth he sometimes uses, he wakes up 1 to 4 times a night (there is a huge difference between waking up once and waking up four times a night), he sometimes latches on and doesn’t let go, ever. really.

i am not considering weaning him. until further notice, i plan to let him self-wean. his brother self-weaned at 18 months, but i had already been back to work full-time for 6 months by then. the monkey is going to have me and my boobies around all the time, so it’s different. maybe it’s time to stop nursing him like he’s a baby, and to think about how to nurse a toddler.

i feel like in addition to all the nursing for nourishment, thirst, attachment, comfort and cuddling, he nurses when he’s bored (when i don’t pay enough attention to him), and i nurse him when i’m lazy (when i want him to go back to sleep at 3am without waking anyone else, or when i want to finish reading an email or planning my next lexulous move).

so not only am i going to try to pay more attention to him. i am going to offer a song or dance or story when he wants to nurse out of boredom. or i will grab the shovels and head for the sandbox instead of trying to peck out another one-handed-while-nursing blog post.

as for the 3am thing – i’m already trying to offer some bum-patting instead of booby, but my partner is going to have to take on more of a role in that one. i figure that as the monkey gets better at aiming his kicks directly into our ribs, bladders and other sensitive parts while he is so peacefully co-sleeping, f. is going to take the nighttime bum-bum-patting-so-he-won’t-have-to-come-into-our bed-for-the-rest-of-the-night more seriously.

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