Tuesday, March 9, 2010

When Toddlers' need R.E.S.P.E.C.T

The time my midwife handed me my baby wrapped in towels for her very first introduction to her mommy’s milk, I thought “this is going to be a breeze!”

The next morning, I was in tears. I was up all night with my ribs feeling like they were caving in and by morning, I was no longer fitting in the one blouse I had brought with me. I spent the day trying to figure out positions that were comfortable for both Monster AND me to breastfeed. The lactation nurses kept telling me “newborn hold” “football hold” and “don’t lie down!” until I almost gave up.

Ironically, it was at home and with my sister’s help that we were able to latch successfully, when she told me to lie down on one side, let Monster get comfortable with me while laying skin-to-skin with me. Monster fussed around for only a few seconds before latching on without any help and sucked me dry! The last time I had been that happy was before my back labor had started.

It bothered me why the lactation nurses didn’t tell me to hold my baby skin-on-skin. I was confused why all the positions they forced on me had me hold Monster as if she was an inanimate object. What I took from their brief sessions of “help” was that all I need to worry about is the shape of the tongue and “stuff your nipple in when she yawns!”

My sister taught me to just lay down with the little baby in bed, “let her become friends with the milk” were her actual words, something that still makes me chuckle, but it worked. Her words never fail to help us, even 2 years into motherhood.

Now as a toddler, Monster has become a picky eater eating only bland white rice and picking food from the floor where she threw it herself 15 minutes ago. (Incidentally, that has resulted in my floors being kept sanitized every day since I know she’s going to be eating food off them.) I saw the same behavior in my sister’s daughters and accepted it as being an inherited trait. I went to her home once, worrying about how little Monster was eating and seeing her kids eat their food opened my eyes to what was going on with my own child.

Rida and Amal, my nieces both eat on their own. My sister plops down a small portion of food in the kitchen table and leaves them both to their means. There I am, watching in amazement at the 4 year old and the 3 year old dig in, leave to wander around the house and my sister taking the opportunity to refill their plates just as they come back and dig in again.

A light bulb goes off on my head and I put another plate next to them and get floored as I see my very own Monster climb up and spoon the food into her mouth! Of course, that also started off a cute exchange of food as the 3 year old and my Monster began to feed each other and giggle happily.
We have since then stopped trying to “feed” Monster. We make foods available, accessibly and then give her space to eat at her own pace. It just never occurred to me till I saw my nieces that there will be a stage when kids will want to do everything on their own. Be it eat, potty, or play. Just like she won’t let me stay in the bathroom anymore while she pees, or runs away from me if I follow her on the jungle gym, now I know she’s asking for space to try things on her own in more areas.

I have accepted the changes as best as I can without letting it bother me. I still follow her every move on the jungle gym and am there when she gets too close to an unenclosed edge and I let her chose her own mismatched clothes (usually pink) when we are getting ready and I’m letting her decide which part of the egg she eats and which she stows away for later.

It is a constant struggle just like every part of parenthood is. What has changed is that her eating habits (or lack thereof) don’t bother me anymore. I don’t get frustrated with her if she throws her pasta around. I don’t cry when she wastes a plate of bulger and I just laugh when I see her push pieces of meatballs inside the storage bin.

I merely go ahead post a note on Facebook for laughs, reminding me to empty the said bin of leftovers before bedtime.

This post is part of the 2010 API Principles of Parenting blog carnival, a series of monthly parenting blog carnivals, hosted by API Speaks. Learn more about attachment parenting by visiting the API website.


  1. I'm so sorry you got such horrible advice from the lactation consultants you saw. A lot of so-called LC's in hospitals are not IBCLCs and may not have had more than a few hours of training. So glad your sister was able to help you! What good advice she gave you.

  2. I've also found that when I let my son take the lead, whether with breastfeeding or eating solids - he more often than not takes us in the right direction! Great post.

  3. Annie and Sheryl, thank you. Yup, the little monsters know exactly what they're doing =)