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Nursing - The Physical Bond Part II

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Last week I wrote a post that I called Nursing - The Physical Bond. The more I think about it, the more I realize that I should have titled it Nursing - The Emotional Bond. When I think about it, everything that I described was emotional.

The reason I realize that I mistitled it is because tonight I planned to sit down and write about the physical bond and I realized I'd already used that post title. Oh well, live and learn.

So I've called this one...part two.

One of the biggest differences in my relationship with Emmitt over my relationship with Elnora is the actual physical attachment that I have to him. I don't just mean in terms of how often I nurse, I mean in terms of our physical proximity to each other...day, night, weekends...all the time.

You see, with Elnora I had the benefit that many bottle feeding mothers talk about. I didn't have to be the one to feed her. Yes, I was "tied down" in that I had to pump on such a tight schedule, but the reality was that outside of those four times a day pumping sessions, I was "free." As such, I took two business trips during that time period, both a week long, while she stayed with my mother. My husband and I also enjoyed several weekends all to ourselves as my mother-in-law kept her for the weekend once a month from the time she was 8 months old until right before Emmitt was born.

Even while I was home, there wasn't the same physical closeness. She moved from our room to her crib when she was a week old. She spent far more time in her bouncy chair or playing in her gyminy than she did in my arms.

None of this was because I didn't love her every bit as much as I love Emmitt...it's just because things were...different.

Emmitt was a baby that required physical closeness from the start. For the first three days of his life, he rarely left my arms. He fussed if we put him down for more than a few seconds and of course there was the nursing. The constant, ALL THE TIME nursing.

Because of that, he not only started off in the pack-n-play just a foot or two from our bed, but he has stayed there. He's nearly four months old and I don't see the need to move him to his room anytime soon. In fact, as we debate switching rooms around, I'm considering just putting his crib in our room. He's going to outgrow the pack-n-play soon.

Emmitt spends a good 2-4 hours a day sitting in my lap (not counting when he's nursing.) He just doesn't like to be on his own. He'll go from fussy and unhappy to laughing and smiling the second I pick him up. I don't even have to be talking to him, he just wants to feel a warm body next to him and I'm happy to oblige.

But it goes beyond that.

I had a business trip this past December. Emmitt was just ten weeks old. I simply could not leave him. My "excuse" was that I was afraid if I left him for two days with just a bottle that he wouldn't want to nurse when I returned. Deep down, I know that I couldn't leave him because...well...I COULDN'T leave him. We've had a few dates now...while I'm glad to go on them, I can't be gone more than three or four hours. He'll take a bottle, but I don't want him to. I want to be there for him. Last week I went out of town with my best friend for her birthday. I could have left Emmitt with Greg and some bottles of milk.

Emmitt went with me.

In April, I have a 6 day trip to New York for work. He'll be almost seven months old. I could pump enough milk to leave with him and he could stay with Elnora at my mother's.

Emmitt is going with me.

Once again, I'm terrified that if I leave him for that long...he will refuse to nurse when I come home. So, I've talked my best friend into taking a week off work and I'm taking her to NYC with me to play nanny during my sessions. The rest of the time, we'll have some fun doing whatever it is you do with children in New York City.

In August, I have a 5 day trip to San Jose. He'll be nearly a year old. I don't know yet if he's going with me or not, but right now I'm leaning toward "yes" if I can find someone to go with me.

It's interesting really. I don't know if this is something that all moms feel, something that nursing moms feel, or what the deal is. Again, I love both my kids more than I could imagine, but for some reason I'm ok with leaving Elnora and I just can't be away from Emmitt.

I have two theories on this.

1.) Emmitt is my last child (unless God surprises us) and I wonder if deep down I'm just trying to cherish every last second of babyhood. I'll never have another cuddly, wiggly little one of my own, so I don't want to miss any chance to get some baby loving in. They grow so fast...and Elnora isn't much for snuggling up.

2.) I hated pumping more than I ever realized. I did it because that's what it took to get that milk into Elnora, but I hated it. I never realized that I resented having to pump and that I was sad about having to give bottles. I really never got it until I got to experience the other side of things. As such, I think that deep down I'm still terrified of being rejected by him. I think it's why I held off on bottles so long, I think it's why I don't want to be gone long enough that he'll have to take a bottle. I think it's why I'm afraid to leave for more than a few hours.

So what is it ladies? Anyone else bottle feed one and nurse one? Did you feel physically closer to the breastfed baby than the other baby? Or do you think it's more likely that I've got some weird abandonment issues going on here and I'm simply afraid of being "rejected" by Emmitt?

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  1. Blogger Shelly | 6:23 AM |  

    I feel the same way about my youngest daughter, but since I breastfed both daughters, I think it has more to do with the fact that I had a homebirth with my youngest. She's just like Emmitt, always wanting physical closeness, and I truly believe it's b/c she has been physically close since birth.

  2. Anonymous Anonymous | 7:14 AM |  

    I know exactly how you feel. I have a nine-year-old who was bottle fed. I don't feel close to him at all. I was very busy with school and work when I had him that he spent much of his time with my mom. When I was there, I would feed him, but he never spent much time "with" me.

    My second is now 6 months old and is breastfed. I do work, but the first thing I do when I ge thome is nurse him. He gets upset if I don't hold him every few minutes. My husband doesn't like that he whines for me, but I love to be near him. He is "with" me all weekend long. I even vacuum the house holding him sometimes.

    Sarah

  3. Blogger Jennifer | 7:37 AM |  

    Shelly, Greg wondered if the homebirth had something to do with it as well.

    See Elnora was taken from me twice in the hospital. (not worth going into here.)

    Greg wonders if while they had her, she may have wanted to be held and cried and fussed the same way that Emmitt did, but they simply ignored her. (Well, were too busy to hold each baby, etc...) Thus, he wonders if that would have "forced" her to "toughen up" and not need/want so much physical closeness.

    I almost cried when he suggested that. I'd never thought of it that way but now I sometimes wonder what she was thinking when she was away from me. (Because I KNOW what I was thinking and it twern't pretty.)

    So yeah, maybe it is the homebirth.

    Hmm, I think in a few days I'll write about hospitals and separation (since some hospitals baby never leaves your site) and see if there's any pattern there...

  4. Blogger Jennifer | 7:47 AM |  

    Anonymous, I don't know that that's "exactly" how I feel. I feel very close to Elnora, we play and hug and tickle and laugh and read stories. She's my angel and I miss her when we're apart.

    It just doesn't physically pain me to be apart, if that makes sense. Like separation still kinda sucks, but it's easier to deal with.

    And while I spend a lot of time holding Emmitt, it's more that he wants to be held than that he wants ME specifically. He's just as content to sit in Greg's lap or my
    mother's lap, etc...

  5. Blogger Melissa | 10:23 AM |  

    I can't compare because I only have one baby. Dad is the stay-at-home while I work full time so I pump twice a day which I absolutely HATE but I will never give my child formula when I have perfectly good breastmilk inside me. My little girl is about 5 1/2 months and not yet on solids. So she is "bottle-fed" with breastmilk by dad.

    And she does not do well on her own. She is most content when she is held. Of course there are times when she WANTS to be put down but she certainly does not want to be ALONE. She can entertain herself for no more than 10-15 minutes after which she gets very grumpy and angry and upset if no one is there to immediately pick her up.

    I, too, nurse as soon as I walk in the door, as much for my comfort as for hers! She sleeps with us but is attached to me and nurses, still, 3-5 times a night. I am in the process of getting materials to make a sidecar to see if that helps everyone sleep better but I have my doubts as she seems to need to be physically touching me.

    My parents say that she is spoiled and that we need to start separating her, letting her cry when she is put down, etc. I say bullocks to that. This is probably the last of the children (I have two older stepsons), the only baby I will ever have, and if I have to carry her around until she is ready to walk on her own then I will do it and love it. Some days the consistent lack of sleep gets to me but I know it won't last forever and soon enough she won't want to cuddle. So if it helps her to grow into a more confident and self-assured child then bring it on!

    I don't think you should feel guilty for doing the best you could for your child at the time and given the circumstances. From what I have read and the pictures I have seen your little girl is perfectly content and happy and I bet you have a great bond, physical or not.

  6. Blogger Erin | 10:52 AM |  

    Jennifer, please please please don't think for a minute that the nurses in the nursery where your daughter was ignored a crying child. It makes me very sad that it was even suggested. I am a nurse & have been in maternal-child health for ten years, and I currently work in an NICU. I do not, nor I have never seen anyone else let a baby lie in it's crib or isolette and cry. We can't always get to them right away the second they start fussing, but I have never ever worked with anyone who believes that newborns need to learn to toughen up and comfort themselves.

    It is possible that the difference is in the personalities of the children. My children, though born in a hospital, both were products of natural, drug free deliveries, both were breastfed immediately, both spent the entire time at in my arms or at my breast while we were in the hospital. I stayed home from work for three months after both were born, and as I work nights, I have been able to breastfeed them both during the day (my husband wakes me when the baby needs to eat). Madeleine, my oldest, was a high-touch baby. I held or carried or slinged her everywhere. Noah, my five month old, loves to nurse and be held, but he also loves to lay on his gym or sit in the exersaucer and explore in a way Madeleine never did. The difference is night and day, though they had near-identical beginnings.

  7. Blogger Jennifer | 11:37 AM |  

    Erin, thanks for your post. I'm so sorry if it came across as me thinking that they ignored her...what I meant was that when you have a nursery with lots of babies (26 babies born in 24 hours at a hospital that usually has 10) it's a more babies than hands issue.

    But I do tend to agree with you on the how the kids react thing. My mom kept pulling the whole "you're going to spoil him" line which led to lots of eye rolling from DH and I. Whatever...he came out of the womb that way. :-P

    What I wonder more so than the children's need/desire for physical contact is my own. Why do I feel such a stronger need to be physically close to Emmitt than I did with Elnora?

    That's the thing that I don't get.

  8. Blogger stephanie | 11:52 AM |  

    It is so good to hear that someone else can't be away from their baby! I have a 14 month old that I have never spent a night away from. I have worked since he was 12 weeks old and we are still nursing. Last October, I needed to be in Tampa for a meeting (I live in Central Indiana) so instead of flying down the night before, I skipped some of my meetings, flew out of Indiana at 6am in the morning and had my baby back in my arms by 10pm that night. For the good of my career - I should be doing a lot of travelling during the next year - but if Cooper can't go with me I'm not going. That is creating stress with my boss, but I am holding firm on my conviction that my family comes first. My husband and I have decided to have only one child and I am not going to delegate his babyhood out to someone else. I am pretty sure that I am the one who needs the physical closeness with him - but for my own sanity I am gently saying "no" to travel.

  9. Blogger Jennifer | 12:04 PM |  

    Stephanie,

    Any chance you can take him with you? That's worked out really well for me so far. My mom went with me to Chicago. I figured hotel and everything was already paid for, so I pretty much just had to cover an extra ticket (about $90). Same for my NYC trip coming up, about $90 to add another person to the flight.

    That way I can spend the time that I need to, Emmitt can take a bottle if I'm in a meeting, but I can nurse him the rest of the time.

    It actually worked out well the last time. My mom hung out in the speaker's ready room with him and surfed the web. Everyone would come in and get some baby loving between sessions and I'd come in between sessions to nurse him. ;) The conference organizer actually asked if I'd bring him back to the next show because they enjoyed him so much.

  10. Anonymous Tamara | 12:41 PM |  

    Jennifer - I wouldn't worry or feel guilty about what happened to Elnora in hospital and if it caused her to "toughen up". My little boy was taken from me for about 24 hours (went to NICU) and I only held him maybe 5 or 6 times in the first day. He is still a very snuggly little boy... hates to be put down and loves to sleep on my lap (which he's doing right now). Elnora probably just needs fewer cuddles than Emmitt.

    I understand the frustration and anger with the hospital for taking your little one away though; I was so angry at the way I was brushed off by the doctors and some of the nurses... they wouldn't let me go see him when I woke up from my C-section recovery until I could get up and walk to the bathroom and back. I was like, don't you people have wheelchairs? Why do I have to jump through hoops to see my little boy?

  11. Anonymous Anonymous | 1:47 PM |  

    Jennifer-

    I may not have expressed myself well, because I would do anything for my first and we have our nightly routine that expresses just how much he means to me. But I do understand about leaving one and not the other. I am constsntly fighting myself because I have to work and would rather stay at home with him. I would love to be able to bring him to work with me, but i would never get anything done. I really didn't intend to make it seem like i prefer one child over the other... just that one child prefers me over the other... or that is how it seems to me.

    Sarah

  12. Blogger Jennifer | 1:52 PM |  

    Sarah, I get it. Hard to describe without it coming out wrong, isn't it? ;)

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