By Sarah for Nurshable: Joy in Gentle Parenting
Read more by Sarah here.
You are three weeks old. You nursed pretty much straight through the night last night, as I sort of drifted in and out of being fully awake.
You’re going through a growth spurt.
When you switch sides I feel the sting of letdown. Sometimes you nurse eagerly and gulp down the milk. Sometimes you become upset because you don’t want milk. Or you don’t want the fast flow of my over-active letdown. Sometimes you just want to lay in the semi-dark and nurse peacefully while your little dark blue eyes stare at my face and your little feet kick the still-soft skin of my belly which was your former home. Sometimes you want to comfort nurse. When this happens I kiss your forehead and switch you back to the “empty” side and let you lay close. You are a wise little creature that understands what it is that you need.
I am not a human pacifier.
Usually when a mom says that, it’s an expression of frustration that their infant insists on suckling for comfort. This is not what I mean when I say this.
I am not a warm human substitute for a cold silicone and plastic doohickey.
Your father may sometimes be a human pacifier. You suckle on his pinky finger during diaper changes or when I desperately need to wash my milk-stained body in the shower and remember for a few moments that I have two arms with two hands and that the dimensions of my body do not include an oddly independent nine pound female child that is frequently suspended from my body in a wrap of lightweight gauze. Your grandfather may be a human pacifier, as he holds you lovingly while I get your big brothers ready for bed or eat a hot meal without waiting for it to cool first- a luxury of not being afraid of hot bits of soup falling on you while I eat. Your brothers may briefly be human pacifiers when they offer up their pinky fingers for you to suck on, always imitating their daddy.Your grandma may be a human pacifier when she offers you her pinky finger to suck on and sings you Russian songs from her childhood.
But my breasts are not pacifiers. Comfort sucking is not time wasted. It’s part of the job that my body and you have. It is how we evolved. We are the product of a long process of evolution that causes you to seek out my arms and my breasts, to suckle for comfort, to communicate with my immune system, to stay close and warm and protected, to stimulate the supply of your food, your antibodies, the components of breastmilk that scientists can see but cannot identify the function of.
Maybe you want the comfort of non-nutritive suckling because there is something that has you stressed out. Maybe you want a slow flow of high fat hindmilk that comes from comfort nursing. Maybe your body has some bacteria in it and you need the closeness so that your immune system can communicate with my immune system and it all can be taken care of without either of us ever knowing and without you ever becoming sick from the foreign invaders that your body cannot cope with but that my adult immune system attacks with the ferocity of a mama bear defending her cub.
Independence will come at your pace. “I DO IT MYSELF!” will become the phrase of the moment soon enough. The need to peel off and be independent is as natural a need as the need to breathe, to sleep and to eat. It comes from within the child when the child has the ability. It has come from within your brothers as they get older. It will come from within you as well. I can see it already as you bob your head against my chest in the wrap and peek over the side eager to strengthen your muscles and look at the world.
I choose to neither hold you past when you wish to be held, nor deny you comfort while it is something that you seek. I push you gently to be independent, recognizing that your world naturally expands within your comfort zone without me needing to push you past it into tears.
I am not a “human pacifier”. I am what you have a biological and evolutionary need for. I will not devalue your needs by implying that you lack the wisdom and understanding of what those needs are. I will not devalue your needs by becoming frustrated by your refusal to accept something that does not meet those needs. I want you to listen to your body from the beginning, to understand the difference between a healthy need of yours and a pacifying object. To have an understanding that dates back to the beginnings of your time on this planet.. That comfort comes from having your needs met, not from distracting yourself with something pink, pretty and plastic.
No manufacturer makes what you need for happiness, little one. I want you to understand this from the beginning of your life. Happiness comes from love, from closeness, and from deep inside of you. Seek this happiness, and never be distracted by things that simply pacify you rather than satisfying your needs.
Sarah is a gentle parenting mom of three who writes at Nurshable. Learn more about her passions and how to 'wait it out' when it comes to baby sleep at her site.
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