Beyond Breastfeeding

My 2-1/2-year old son was tired. It was past his nap time. As I laid him down for his nap, he looked up at me very lovingly and said, “Can I have some of your milk, mommy?” His voice was tender and sweet.

It had been about six months since I had breastfed him at naptime. We had been through this before. I told him I understood that he wanted “Mommy’s milk”, but that I didn’t have any milk for him during the day – only at night and in the morning – and I let him know he could have cow’s milk if he wanted. He asked again, even more politely, “Please can I have some of your milk, mommy?”

I came close to him and said gently, with lots of warmth in my voice, “Oh, I know you really want some of my milk right now, but I don’t have any milk for you now. You can have cow’s milk or water – your choice.”

Typically, he would give one of two responses. He would either go into a full blown emotional release, with lots of crying, kicking and screaming, in which case I would come close, stay calm, and listen with warmth and love as he told me all about how much he wanted “Mommy’s milk”. Or, he would perk up a little at the option to have cow’s milk or water, and he would be content with that. However, on this particular occasion his response was different.

He quickly covered his eyes with his hands, whined a little, and turned away from me. I tried to come close to him, to let him know I still loved him even though I wasn’t going to let him nurse, but he turned away from me even more roughly, pushed me away with his hand and made a grunting sound “Uh,” informing me that he didn’t want me to come any closer. As I continued to stay with him, he squirmed off the bed, still covering his eyes with his hands, and wedged himself tightly into a small corner between the night table and the bed. It was hard for me to reach him there, and I wasn’t quite sure what to do. It seemed like he was feeling rejected, and I wanted to try to stay connected to him even though he was pushing me away, so I tried my best to meet him where he was at.

I got down on the floor, I sat right in front of him where he was wedged in the corner, and I put my hands over my own eyes, pretending to hide from him the way he was hiding from me. I spread my fingers just enough so I could see him a little bit without him knowing I could see him. With a scowl on his face, he eventually peeked out from behind his hands. When he did that, I peeked too, and then quickly covered my eyes again, as though I didn’t want him to see me either. He quickly covered his eyes again as well, and we both sat with our eyes covered.

After a few moments, he peeked again, I peeked too, and we both covered our eyes again. We did this a few more times. Then, after a few rounds of this, he lowered his hands away from his face, slowly walked towards me, and he opened his arms for a hug. He leaned his head against my shoulder and we embraced for a while. His body was relaxed and giving. After the hug, I held him in my lap so he could see me, I looked into his eyes and said, “I love you very much.” He looked up at me for a few moments and reached up to give me another hug. Then he looked at me and said, “Can I have some cow’s milk, mommy?” His voice was calm and relaxed.

“Yes, sweetheart. You can.”

My son is very cuddly and likes to snuggle, but he doesn’t offer hugs very often. This was a special moment for us…a true moment of connection. I couldn’t give him my milk, but I could give him my loving presence in a way that he could really take in and digest it. That moment warmed my heart, and made me feel grateful for having multiple ways of connecting with my son…not just by breastfeeding, but through loving limits, warm listening and a spirit of play.

-A Hand in Hand mother of one

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