Making It Work
My "Velcro" Baby
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 24 No. 1, January-February 2007, pp. 32-33
"Making It Work" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help mothers who wish to combine breastfeeding and working. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's lifestyle. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.
I have just gone back to work. From the time I get home until bedtime, and all weekend long, my five month old wants to nurse. She is inconsolable if I put her down long enough to go to the toilet, much less cook dinner. I've tried other forms of interaction, reading to her for example, but she's just not interested. What have other mothers in this situation done to maintain a breastfeeding relationship and get some necessary tasks accomplished at the same time??
I understand how difficult this situation is for you. Having literally no time do anything other than nurse and work is hard to manage. When I went back to work part-time, my son behaved in a similar manner. I found that the more I resisted his nursing, the more he persisted and demanded that very thing of me. I finally came to a point where I decided to just go with it. I have always honored his need to nurse and I could see that my working was a very difficult adjustment. By allowing him to nurse so much, I was reassuring him that I was still there for him. He really needed this reassurance.
When I arrived home from work, I would sit with him for a nursing session and then carry him around in a sling for the rest of the evening so he could nurse as much as he wanted. I found that once I made the mental shift to make this my priority, I didn't find it taxing. It also seemed as though once I decided to do this, he began to make his own shift and slowly became less needy.
My guess is that your baby is feeling insecure, uneasy, and unsettled with this separation from you because she needs to feel trust, nurtured, and secure with the new arrangement. As for how long it will take for her to pass through this phase, I think depends on how long it takes for her to feel that these needs are met.
Jen de Bourcier
Victoria BC Canada
You write that you have just gone back to work. Does that mean in the past week or two? It would seem that your baby is reacting to the separation from you and from her regular breastfeeding pattern that had been established between the two of you. Understandably, you are feeling a mixture of feelings in relation to the new situation, too.
It might help to reframe your baby's reaction into a more positive light in spite of how tired and worried you may be feeling. Breastfeeding your baby often when you are home from work and on weekends will keep up your milk supply and will perhaps allow the adjustment to the separation to be a bit easier on your baby and ultimately yourself, too.
Maybe it would help to look at this period as a time when you need to organize help with the other tasks (cleaning, laundry, cooking) so that you can be freer to sit and breastfeed your baby. Although you may be overwhelmed at the moment, it will change and will not last forever.
You might also look at the possibility of using the nighttime as a way of giving more breastfeeding and togetherness to you and your baby -- perhaps this would allow your baby to let go a bit during the day. Your baby is communicating just how important you are to her. If you can communicate back to her that you understand and accept this maybe this will help to lighten up the situation. If you can connect with other employed breastfeeding mothers, you will be able to share your concerns and to hear other mothers' experiences and how they managed to deal with them.
Most of all, be thankful that you have this connection with your baby. You are giving her the best start.
I understand the frustration in your situation. Dealing with work outside of the home and being a mother is overwhelming at times. Did you know that "stranger anxiety" can start around this time? Your five-month-old is not trying to drive you crazy. In our La Leche League Group, we call five to seven months the "velcro phase."
Consider using a baby carrier or back pack at this tender age. The book Babywearing by Maria Blois (Available from LLLI. Shop online at www.llli.org.) is a great read. Also consider attending La Leche League meetings for helpful tips, support, and to connect with mothers who understand what you're going through.
Vera Lynn Richardson
Chillicothe OH USA
Your five-month-old knows her needs and is trying to meet them as she sees best. At this age, she has an intense need to be close with you, her mother. It sounds as though she has a good deal of separation anxiety when you are at work, especially given that the change has been recent. Perhaps she is stressed over the change in her life. She needs to know that you will return regularly. Nursing calms and nourishes a child -- your daughter's reaction is normal and healthy.
I can't say how long this will go on -- every child is different -- but I think this may be "stress-related" behavior. You may find that wearing your baby in a carrier allows you to stay close to your child and still get some things done. Good luck!
Sooke BC Canada
You must be so tired! It's frustrating to walk in the door and feel as though you can't get anything done.Your baby is showing how much she misses you and wants to connect with you. Breastfeeding is going to be the easiest way for her to make up for lost time with you. In some ways, it would feel better if she wanted to play and interact in other ways; I would bet, though, that the nursing-all-the-time habit is temporary.
I also suspect that your baby has a very strong sucking need in addition to her strong need for an attachment to you. There are some things that many mothers can do while nursing, particularly if you can breastfeed while reclining. I've read newspapers and books, worked on the computer, and done paperwork while breastfeeding. I've found it makes me feel less antsy to be doing something while my baby is absorbed in breastfeeding and isn't otherwise interacting with me.
You asked how long the constant breastfeeding will last. I don't think anyone can predict exactly, but, just as your baby is behaving a lot differently than she did even three or four months ago, her behavior is going to change as she grows -- and as she gets more accustomed to your family's new schedule.
Riverside CA USA