OK, this post is a little different. It is not so much a bit of my own story as it is about my ideals on nurturing children and helping them become the best they can be. As a part of my job I evaluate children under three years old for developmental delays. And if they show delays I provide services for them to help their development. Breastfeeding comes up fairly often. Some moms have special needs children that are born with a diagnosis and they need assistance in establishing or supporting a breastfeeding relationship. Others have a toddler that they want to wean and because that child has a delay they do not know how to go about the process, child led or not. (How do you let a child lead his own weaning process when he is incapable of communicating needs beyond a 6 month old developmental level?) All in a day's work.
But where did the title of this post come from? Because I come in contact with so many families with infants and toddlers I do see a lot of breastfeeding moms (not near the amount I want to see!). Well, occasionally I see a child that nurses ALOT and I evaluate their needs. They sometimes end up showing a measurable delay in their social, communication, and cognitive skills. This happened with one family I met. After I get a family history and observe the family for a while and ask what they feel their most frustrating moments are they share a surprising thing. The mom is tired of nursing. My gut response is to remind her that her child is only 18 months and that it is still OK and healthy for him to be nursing. Then I find out that that is all he does. He isn't interested in trying new foods (he does eat chicken nuggets and cheese). He nurses all night and doesn't play by himself. Well, my testing showed that he does not know how to play. It turns out that the only interaction this toddler receives from his mother is while he is in her lap breastfeeding. She does not get on the floor to play with him. She does not read to him. They do not go outside and play. She says that when she places him on the floor with toys he just sits there and doesn't know what to do. When I ask what he does when she plays with him with the toys on the floor she tells me that she has never tried that. Well, the problem here is not that the child is nursing too much it is that his mother is not guiding him in the way that is natural for so many of us. A lot of mother's don't know how to "play" with their child. This family had fallen into a rut. I gently brought all of this to the mom's attention and encouraged her to just spend time with her child and then he will be too interested in the world to be nursing all day. I never suggested that she wean her child but I gave her all kinds of "homework" to teach her how to support his needs to catch him up developmentally.
Breastfeeding is one of the best gifts that every mother should try their best to provide for their child. But it is not the only thing that makes a nurturing supportive mother.