For the past couple of weeks Carter has been going through a bit of a nursing strike. It started when he was sick with the Hands-Foot-Mouth thing back at the beginning of April, when his little throat was so sore it hurt to suck. After a few days the throat was better, but the nursing wasn't. He would take his bottles at school, but didn't have much interest in nursing, except first thing in the morning when he was ravenous after 10 hours of sleep, and to fall asleep at night - and sometimes not even then.
The worst day was a couple of weeks ago when I found myself trying to nurse him in the parked car on a street in Beverly Hills after his Music Together class. He hadn't eaten in over three hours, and was hungry and fussing. Yet each time I offered the boob he pushed away. After all, there was so much to look at! Ooh! Look at that branch swaying in the breeze! The way that shadow falls on the ground! A bird flying by! At seven months, distraction reaches its peak, and everything is more fascinating than mommy's breast.
A virtual battle ensued - me trying to shove him on the boob, him arching his back, jerking away like a tiny pony rearing its head. I know the La Leche League would frown upon me sitting there, grappling with my infant and trying to force interest in nursing, yet whenever I successfully got him to the breast his hunger seemed to suddenly register, and he would lunge on and chow down. That is, for about two minutes until he, say, saw a REALLY INTERESTING car drive by.
Our nursing relationship has always been rocky. I spent the first four weeks post-partum in excruciating pain and considered giving up and formula-feeding. My left nipple was so brutally gnawed apart that I repeatedly had to pump on that side and nurse exclusively with my right just to let it heal. The lactation consultants said there was nothing wrong - no problem with latch, no tongue-tie. Simply put, our boy was just one powerful sucker - as evidenced by the pound-per-week weight gain.
Eventually it clicked, and all was well for a few months. He quickly became a speed-nurser, guzzling all he could within five minutes or so and then refusing to take any more. However, my overactive letdown resulted in most nursing sessions ending with him choking and pulling off while my milk sprayed hose-like into his face, onto his shirt, and in a three-foot radius around us. Not attractive, and certainly no fun for the Little Roo.
Upon starting daycare, he adapted to his bottles very quickly and soon seemed to prefer them to the breast. After all, with bottles he could control the flow and didn't have to worry about a faceful of milk if he pulled off. On weekends, I would generally have my husband give him a bottle each day in order to give myself a little break, and for a few months he was still able to seamlessly transition from bottle to boob and back again.
However, a couple of weeks ago he simply would not nurse. If, after much struggle, I managed to get him on the breast, he would bite me and pull away. I ended up pumping and giving him bottles all day. As I relayed this to a mommy friend (who also happens to be a doctor), she smiled knowingly and said "Ooooh, he's weaning."
Weaning?? At SEVEN months? The thought distressed me. At this point, I am pumping five times a day during the week - once in the morning after his first feeding, three times at work, and right before I go to sleep - so if he were to wean, I suppose I could simply pump and bottle-feed. I have friends who have done this with great success - the only problem is that I am not quite ready to stop nursing my little boy. After all, I had always thought I would nurse him til he was two - would he really call it quits after only seven months?
When I nurse him to sleep at night, it is the most peaceful time of my day. All the chaos of the week fades away as I rock back and forth, singing to the RooRoo as he eats and drifts slowly off to sleep. Once he's out, I look down at his tiny face, his warm little body, trying to memorize every little detail, to preserve these fleeting moments of babyhood in my mind.
Fortunately, over the past week things seem to have improved. I've been using effleurage, a technique I learned from our birth class teacher, and it seems to calm him down enough to focus on nursing. As a child, my mother would sit at my bedside and run her fingertips up and down my arms when I couldn't sleep. 25 years later, she did the same thing at my hospital bedside as I labored during Carter's birth. Now I use it to calm my little boy.
Only time will tell if we've successfully weathered the strike, but I am hopeful.