Posts tagged ‘nursing’

in response

Parenting is painful. It literally hurts.

There is the obvious pain of childbirth. A pain that is confusing because, unlike any other kind of pain a woman has felt thus far, it does not injure. A skinned knee hurts because flesh has been torn, a burned hand hurts so that you pull it quickly away from the flame, but a contraction hurts without harming. It is a mind bending, life altering kind of pain, but nevertheless it is pain.

There is the pain in your arms when you are rocking your baby to sleep. That crucial window when if you were to adjust those aching arms in any way, he would wake up. So you maintain the position longer than you ever thought possible and by the time you lay him gently down there is little feeling left at all in your biceps.

There is the pain that jerks through your belly when you see your child trip on the sidewalk.

And there is the pain of cold fingers and toes as you make your way, ever… so… slowly, around the block in the middle of winter while your one year old tries out her new walking skills. Stopping, every three feet or less, to investigate a leaf, a barking dog, or a fleck of dirt.

There is emotional pain too.

There is the pain of being rejected in favor of the other parent.

There is the pain of staying home with a sick baby while friends and family frolic somewhere else.

And there is the pain of watching your girl walk up the driveway to spend time at her other house.

And the pain continues beyond the kid days.

My dad has children in their thirties and his heart still seizes up with a worry so intricately woven around love that it makes him bend forward through his days. There is that kind of pain.

My grandma is in her eighties and she still dresses her heart in armor hoping to stave off any pain that comes from loving, and protecting her more than grown children. There is that kind of pain too.

When you think about it, no matter what parenting style you’ve chosen, there is a lot of pain in parenting. I happen to be in pain from nursing several times through the night, others may not have this type of pain. Perhaps they night weaned earlier, perhaps they never nursed. But I am sure they are not escaping some other form of pain.

I have said that I would change from a completely empathic approach to something else if my kid were in danger of hurting themselves or someone else, and even though I am technically being hurt, at least to some degree, by nursing so much at night, I do not see a contradiction. I am not an unwitting sibling or friend, getting punched by Echo’s wrath. I do not need an authority figure to step in and protect me.

No. I signed up for this. Each night, fully aware of the incredible strength of my body, and in constant awareness of my motivations, I willingly walk straight into the same exact choice to nurse my girl through the night. I do not want to wean her. Not because I’d like to avoid the task of weaning, but because I know her, and to know her is to completely understand how important nursing is to her. In honor of that interest, I choose the pain of less sleep. I choose the pain of sore nipples.

If I were putting someone else at risk by parenting this way, if I were sleepy enough to be a danger on the road, I would have to find another way to honor Echo. (No one else signed up to be hurt by the way I parent.) But that isn’t the case. I’m just not that sleep deprived.

What would it look like to parent while trying to avoid pain? What would I miss? I’m not sure I want to know.

If loving this completely, this wildly, this earnestly means I get a little sore now and then, I’ll take it. I think most parents would agree that though they can point to any number of painful experiences while parenting, the joy piled up high on the other side of the scale makes it more than worthwhile.  I know with absolute certainty that my dad wouldn’t trade in his bruised and tender heart, even on the most painful days, in exchange for his daughters.

Loving fiercely even when it hurts, that’s a legacy I’m happy to carry on.


March 6, 2010 at 10:29 pm 2 comments


My heart is full with the loving responses I have got about my sleeping vs. nursing predicament. I am honored to hear your stories, to feel your support, and to receive your shining doses of empathy. My life both in the microscopic sense and the macroscopic sense has changed for the better due to your words.

On the local level, when I lay with Echo at night and she snuggles up for nursing, I am now aware that I am not riding a dangerous precipice, that nothing need be done right this minute, that I am not in crisis. I have this sense now because each comment that I read that says “I have been there” reminds me that this is only a moment of time that I am experiencing, just a teeny tiny blip on the graph of my whole life and Echo’s. There will come a time when I look backward at these days, and merely remember.

She will not nurse forever.

And for those of you currently nursing three children, or that have nursed four children in sequence without a day of pause, you inspire in me further strength. If you nursed all those babies for all that time, then I can nurse this one baby for all of our time together as a nursing team.

Perspective is what you have given me.

I also feel less alone.

Before, awake in the middle of the night while Echo nursed, I felt like the only person not sleeping in the entire world. The cats snoozed, the dog snoozed, Nathan snoozed, the girls snoozed, and I did not. Now I know that, despite my loved ones blissfully dreaming around me, I am not alone. That you too are nursing your babes, yearning to stretch your back or roll over. Or, I know that even if you are sleeping now, you remember what it’s like to watch the moon move past the window, and you are awake with me in spirit.

Thank you.

And many of you, while reading the post, relived a past weaning experience with pain. I will not try to take this away from you, not because I think you deserve it   ( you do not), but because we all make decisions every day that we alone live with and no one can remove the emotions that accompany those choices.

Sometimes we make decisions with other people in mind, the aunts, grandmas, or friends that have walked the gauntlet before and want to ease our passage, or ease their own insecurities by watching us make a similar decision. These choices can rattle around in your heart as emotions that spring up with surprising sharpness when reading a blog post years later. Other times we make these difficult decisions wholly on our own, with much thought, and immense love. But because they involve a child, sprung from your body, and cleaved from your deepest dreams, even these independent decisions still carry pain.

It is quite understandable. Nursing is so tender a spot, that no matter what decision you make, to poke it again will certainly cause an ache.

January 24, 2010 at 7:29 pm 1 comment

bottom line

Can you think of any parenting decision that felt horrible, but you knew (without a shadow of a doubt) it was the right one?


Probably not. Let’s let feelings be the bottom line. If your behavior in response to your child, or your child’s behavior, does not feel good, choose something else. Despite research. Despite what your in laws say. Despite everything.

If pinning your boy down to make sure that his teeth get brushed does not feel good, choose something different.

If sleeping next to your children feels good, do that.

If finding a method to stop your girl from nursing does not feel good, choose something else.

If leaving your children in daycare does not feel good, choose something different.

If leaving your children in daycare does feel good, do that.

If you want approval, you can find all the research you want to support any parenting choice you choose. Might as well start by doing, saying, and being what feels good, and then find the research that backs you.

October 18, 2009 at 11:31 pm 5 comments

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