If I had to trust the intuition of anyone at any age, I’d throw my lot in with a baby. As we get older we start to pick up on cues from elsewhere, react in learned ways, start to neglect our gut reactions because we know what’s expected of us. Intuition hits the side lines many a time. Babies only know instinct. And if you’ve ever tried to shush a baby who doesn’t want to be shushed despite the fact etiquette dictates that they should, you’ll know what I mean. Babies cry, laugh, eat, drink, smile, hug, poop, respond and engage in direct correlation with how they feel at that moment in time; they trust in themselves.
M knows something’s up. He can’t quite work out if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but there is no doubt he senses that change is afoot. He’s both clingy – sobbing if I shut the bathroom door or close the gate on the kitchen..if he can see or hear me but not touch me, we have problems; yet at the same time, he’s increasingly independent and has astounded me this week twice leaving the flat, not necessarily happily but not complaining either, with two separate friends. He will play happily in a water tray on his own and since we bought him his own mini-sized table and chair, his concentration for puzzles or crayon-time has seemingly, inshallah, returned. I’m able once again to do the ironing while he occupies himself, cook a meal without him on my back or tugging at my skirt. Yet no matter how many hours of independence each day brings, each new rising sun simultaneously brings an increased appetite for breastmilk.
When this need to feed. all. day.long started, I initially let Mummy guilt set in, started to wonder if in encouraging independent play though engaging with him, perhaps I wasn’t giving him the intimacy he needed from me. Now I realise that was just hormones again – not a day goes by without us cuddling up for minutes every waking hour, to read or just snuggle, to count toes or sing playful songs. His increased nursing need isn’t connected to a drive for attention because attention is lacking, though I do think it is part of an increased need for me. You see, even when feeding M knows there’s something different. Each time his brother kicks, wriggles toe or belly-flops – all frequent while M is breastfeeding – M looks up at me, his one-sided dimpled face displaying either confusion or amusement but certain acknowledgement of that thing that’s in there. He will point to my belly and stroke it, lay his head there whilst watching the TV, actively pull up my top so he can “kiss” it even though G and I have not encouraged, nor demonstrated any attention to the Bump that will be a baby so very soon. M’s intuition is telling him that time with Mummy is going to be shared and he’s sucking up as much as he can.
Breastfeeding M as a toddler has had more than a few ups and downs, and keeping up with this enhanced demand for feeding is another test we’re undergoing right now. I love feeding my son, my heart swells physically as his mottled eyes grin up at me, his fingers reaching up to wrap around loose strands of my hairs, his toes digging playfully into me. And at the same time, I sometimes struggle to let him near me for the millionth time that single day. It’s likely now that the interest in breastmilk is changing from just an expression of needing me, to a physical response to the changes in my milk. At this stage in pregnancy, colostrum will start to come in and I know from M’s hearty gulps that supply is up again. The way he’s taken to popping off, licking his tongue on my nipple, rubbing his nose from side to side and popping back on again leaves me – not only in fits of giggles – but in no doubt of his appreciation of the milk he is getting! Whenever I find it hard to let him latch on once again, or repress the urge to unlatch him a few minutes in, I give those teeny fingers an extra little squeeze and remind myself this *could* be our last feed, just the two of us, and I breathe deeply, close my eyes and wait for his next burst of garbled noises to escape as he pauses in the middle of a drink for a chat.
There are times though when I simply cannot do it again for a while and this morning was one of those times. M woke up at five and for the next three hours, was on and off the breast continually. Saturday’s if G has to work are always tough in some ways. psychologically I guess I gear myself up for the weekend, for a day when I can take a step back and don’t need to be on the ball the whole day. When that space is taken away and I need to keep both Mum shoes on hot swelling toes, clinginess, extra neediness and whining – toddlers, why?! – grinds me down a lot quicker than in the week. Having exhausted our love of water play this week and being home in case of blood pressure fluctuations, I decided noise was what we needed, he and I both. So we pulled out the musical toy box, grabbed extra percussion from the kitchen’s vast supply and set us loose on eager dancing, frustration relief and unadulterated joy at the smallest pleasures that life can bring.
No matter how hard the day, how tough the circumstance, music and kisses are cures for the soul…