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Our Way to Reconnect

Julie Vernon
San Francisco CA USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 24 No. 1, January-February 2007, p. 25

One of the biggest challenges I've encountered in divorce has been to separate from my child when her father has his time with her. This has been difficult for us emotionally and physically, and yet I've found that our breastfeeding relationship has helped us both through this painful time.

When my daughter was a baby, separation was especially hard emotionally, as we were not used to being apart for very long. She began to have overnights away when she was two years old, even though she was still breastfeeding at night. Before this separation began, my daughter had been a happy baby during the day and always slept easily at night. We would nurse and then she would simply fall asleep. But after the overnight visits began, she would, for a few days, turn into a high-strung child who could not easily sleep or be soothed. During the day she was fussy and clingy, wanting me to constantly hold her and nurse her.

This was a difficult time for both of us. Since I was not able to quickly change the situation, all I could do in the meantime was try to comfort her and myself as much as possible. Breastfeeding was the most important thing we could do to ease the anxiety we felt from being apart. Breastfeeding provided the comfort and closeness we needed. I know those nights would have been much worse without breastfeeding. During the days of clinging and frequent nursing, I know my daughter was soothing herself and regaining her sense of security. She instinctively turned to breastfeeding to alleviate the natural distress she felt from being away from me.

When my daughter was about three-and-a-half, the overnight stays with her father were suspended. Once the visits were shortened, the crying at night stopped. She began to do markedly better and now shows fewer signs of distress. However, even though she appears to be better at handling the separation from me, she still sometimes becomes upset before her departure. Now that she's older, I can talk with her, reassure her, and comfort her through breastfeeding. By the time her father arrives to pick her up for visits, she is in a better mood and more comfortable about leaving. When she returns, breastfeeding helps us reconnect. We can both relax, and it feels as though we've never been apart.

The other challenge of being separated from my breastfeeding child was physical. When we were having two days and nights apart, I grew concerned that my milk supply would diminish.

Using a breast pump has been a helpful, positive experience. It helps connect me with her while we're apart. I know I'm pumping for her so that I can continue to nurture her through breastfeeding.

It's been helpful for me to remember how lucky I am that I've been able to keep breastfeeding my daughter. Breastfeeding continues to be one of the most important things we do to help us through this time, and I thank LLL for supporting us.

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