When a routine is abruptly changed, especially when it has to do with a baby, the plethora of information that is available in the Internet world is amazing. It can be unbelievably supportive and helpful, but also confusing and overwhelming.
During the first few days of his nursing strike, I was trying everything I could to get him to nurse again. Offering, talking to him about it, not talking to him about it, walking around, trying different positions, in his sleep, in a bath... if it was suggested on a mom's message board, I tried it.
It all felt very fake to me. I felt like I was trying to get him to do something he didn't want to do. It didn't feel like what my baby wanted. I was constantly fighting with him about nursing. All of the things I read said to be patient, but persistent. Offer, but don't push. If either of us became frustrated, stop and try again later. Well, it got to a point where if it even looked as though I was going to try and offer he would arch him back and cry. Nothing was getting better.
I was off work for the weekend, then Monday night came and I knew I'd be at work the next day. I had a low grade fever at that point, so I thought about keeping him home with me Tuesday if I did still have a fever. I also found an article that said some very important words about dealing with a strike.
"Stop trying to feed him"
At first glance that might mean to stop trying to nurse him, but that is not what that is saying. It means, stop trying to get him to feed from you. It means be there and be available for him, but don't try and hold him in the cradle hold and get him to latch on as he did for the last 11 months. It means adjust your expectations and just be there, in case he changes his mind.
This was the first thing read that seemed to make sense to me and my baby's temperment. I tried it and while it didn't get him to nurse again, it is what allowed me to pay attention to and provide for my child again. I spent most of the day on Tuesday with my breasts very available to him. When he bumped his head I'd hold him close and asked if he wanted to nurse, without making any physical motions to suggest it. He didn't nurse, but he snuggled and cuddled and connected with me again. It was a wonderful day to spend with him.
When Wednesday came and I went back to work, I realized that there is no time first thing in the morning to just be there. The hustle to get two children and myself ready and out of the door, plus a time to pump leaves very little time to have a relaxed environment to gently encourage nursing. The evening is even worse. Between the boys winding down from school, me needing to pump (again), fixing dinner and all of that, there really isn't time for this. I began to worry about how I can continue to encourage him to try.
The other thing I was doing was resisting giving him a bottle. Everything I read said to avoid bottles and give him milk in a cup.I did this for a few days and would even rock him in his rocker with a sippy cup. I didn't see the point in giving him a bottle just to wean him from that later.
I'm not sure what made me think of it, but I decided to give him a bottle Wednesday night. Exactly one week after the last time he nursed, I sat with him in his rocker, with his face pressed against my breast, with his eyelashes gently tickling my skin, listening to him hum to his milk, stroking his light blond hair, as I had done each night since the day he was born . . . as he drank his bottle.
It was the first time in a week that he allowed me to hold him this way in his chair. The first time he felt the way he did each night leading up to seven days ago. The first time I again felt like a nursing mother. It didn't matter that the bottle was there. He was close to me. It was my milk he was drinking. I didn't have to convince him to sit with me or to be near me. It was exactly what he wanted, and was the closest to what I want as I have been in seven days.
So I decided to have this time with him when he wakes in the morning and when he goes to bed. I have done this since then and have an enormous sense of peace about it. My hope is that one time he will decide that he wants to nurse again when the bottle is gone and I will be there, ready to provide it for him. But if he doesn't, I can feel great about still having this time to connect with him. It has been a beautiful alternative to the nursing relationship we had.
I can deal with this :)