Fear of rejection is pretty universal. But as bad as having someone spurn your romantic advances or a friend ending the relationship, the most heartbreaking experience I’ve had was when Sprout has rejected me. It wasn’t because of any emotional trauma; he simply didn’t want to nurse. But as a mother, it was very hard to not take it personally, even if I knew intellectually that he didn’t mean to hurt me.
The absolute worst experience occurred the week I returned to work, about three months after Sprout was born. I was working from home, so that Chris had ability to call on me for backup. We had introduced the bottle a few weeks before, but Sprout hadn’t really taken to it. Among my many worries, I was concerned that he would refuse to eat when I returned to the office.
After a week of Chris struggling to feed him, Sprout finally got the hang of the bottle on Friday. I was very reassured – until I went to nurse him. Something about switching back again bothered him at an innate level. He absolutely refused to nurse. He’d look away, squirm, frown and start crying.
After several attempts, he didn’t even want me to hold him. He’d start screaming in my arms. I was at a complete loss; the only thing I could do was cry as well. Seeing my helplessness, Chris took Sprout from me and cuddled him. Once he was calm, Chris took me in his arms, to create a hug sandwich. He then started leading a slow, awkward dance around the living room, holding the three of us together. Oh so slowly, he handed Sprout back over to me, stopping every time he started to cry. Eventually, I was holding Sprout again, with neither of us crying.
Once we recovered from the trauma, Sprout did eventually resume nursing. He started that night when he was half-asleep and then picked up again when he was hungry the next morning. Needless to say, that experience taught me not to take my son’s interest in me for granted.
I recently dealt with this issue again because Sprout decided the position in which I’ve nursed him for the past 9 months was completely unacceptable. Every time I tried to lean him back, he’d twist and try to flip over. We had some limited success with some awkward positions, but he’d only take little sips during the day. (Of course, he was fine in the middle of the night.) Then, after several days of this routine, he decided that the way he used to do it was just fine. I guess he got as frustrated as I was and realized it wasn’t worth the hassle.
But it was another reminder about how this relationship is a give-and-take, requiring both of us to participate. Since then, I’ve been much more engaged with him while he’s nursing, rather than reading blogs on my phone. I even made it one of my resolutions for Lent.
While our most recent experience ended well enough, I’m worried that an upcoming situation will be more problematic. A few weeks ago, I found out that my bosses want me to go to a four-day conference in May. It will be just before Sprout’s 11-month birthday, more than a month before our one-year breastfeeding goal. I can pump enough milk to feed him while I’m gone, but I worry that he’ll no longer want to nurse when I return. It won’t send me into despair like it did the first time, as I’ll expect it and we’ll be close to weaning anyway. But it’ll still break my heart a little.
Of course, nursing my baby has to eventually come to an end. But at this point, I know that at least we’ve had more than nine months of this special form of bonding.