No Rules in Relationship

By July Guest Blogger:


Nikki Lee: Mother of 2

(Ed. Note: Our Milk Way blogger Jess Fedenia is on parental leave for the months of July, August, and September, 2016 to welcome a third child into the family. During Jess’s leave, members of the Healthy Children Project, Inc. circle are taking up the blogger role. We extend our gratitude to Nikki for stepping up with such grace and panache!)


Yesterday, I saw a lovely mother and her 5-month-old baby. The mother requested a consultation because her baby wasn’t happy. Part of their history was that the baby would breastfeed very well at night, in bed with mamma, but wouldn’t feed more than twice during the day.

During a lovely long hike through a nearby park, through the woods, and along the stream, with the baby alert and interested in the baby carrier, the mother and I talked about everything: her work, her marriage, her labor and delivery, and her life.  I have found that conducting part of a consultation outdoors is very helpful. It relaxes the mother, and makes her feel safe to tell her story. This easy dialogue creates a connection between us. Working outdoors often dissipates tension; mothers benefit from a reminder that they are part of a bigger world.

After nearly 2 hours of chatty strolling, we got back to my office. The baby was ready to breastfeed. The mother got ready, opening her bra, holding her breast and her baby in a cross-cradle hold. The baby got fussy and the mother got worried; the baby didn’t attach, and they started a subtle battle with each other. The mother was insisting on a particular position and the baby wanted to do it herself.

At that point, it became obvious that the mother’s expectations and understanding were the barrier to easy, fun breastfeeding. She was working to breastfeed the way she had learned in the hospital, every 2 hours whether the baby wanted to feed or not, by holding her breast, pulling it into midline and guiding her baby’s head onto the nipple.

The daytime breastfeeding relationship for this dyad had been a battle for 5 months. She was tired of the struggles, and now was eager for new ideas. She was ready to let the baby teach her how to breastfeed.

When the baby found her own position on her mother’s lap, she showed just how well she could dive at the breast, attach herself, feed, let go and look around or smile at mamma, and then dive back and feed some more. The mother had no idea that her baby had any ability to feed on her own, and was delighted and surprised to see her baby’s skills.  This sweet baby played at the breast, sucking her thumb and mother’s nipple at the same time while resting her foot on the other nipple. The mother didn’t know that this was normal behavior for a 5-month old.

Their interaction was charming to watch. Breasts are babies’ first toys.

Breastfeeding is a relationship that must evolve to suit the mother and baby. Relationship can’t be taught. What can be taught is how to create the environment where the mother and baby can figure out their own way. The problem for this dyad was that they had never developed their own style of breastfeeding; the mother said that every interaction with her baby was a mission to accomplish something, that they had never hung out and discovered each other. Breastfeeding during the day had been about following rules; breastfeeding at night had been mindless. The baby had made her preference clear.

They left all happy, looking forward to a new chapter in their lives.

I love my work.



[This post originally appeared on Nikki Lee’s blog Morning Thoughts, on April 18, 2016. Thanks to Nikki for permission to repost.]

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