Spring Mini Series Installment #1 – Baby Training and the Breast

by Jasmine Carlson on April 12, 2010

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Baby training stems from the idea that babies need to become independent as quickly as possible. It is beneficial to everyone involved if a baby conforms to some sort of schedule. The primary thought being that babies need to fit in to the family instead of the family flexing around the new child.

The starting point for all this is generally eating, which is what this blog post will focus on.

It is a commonly held belief among baby trainers that children should be fed on a set schedule so that they are able to sleep better and do not suffer from digestive problems. That may sound all well and good but there are some difficulties that immediately arise from this train of thought. The first question may be how often do you feed your baby? Baby training would have a “flexible” set schedule. That immediately caught my attention. How do you have a flexible set schedule? Aren’t flexible and set opposites? Parents who are baby training are to set a strict schedule that allows for flexibility (go ponder that one for a while). This “flexible” set schedule is desired so that you can have your baby sleeping through the night and eating on your schedule as soon as possible.

The problem with this is that most mothers who attempt this kind of baby training may soon find that their milk supply is waning. Breast milk is produced in the quantity that is demanded by a child. By setting a strict feeding schedule, a baby is not able to suck freely. Therefore the breasts do not get the message that they need to produce more milk. The baby then becomes frustrated, which in turn leaves the mother feeling frustrated. The mother may then assume that there is something wrong with her supply and there is! But since the mother wants to do what is best for her child, she continues to schedule the feedings.

If a child does not seem full enough, baby trainers suggest that you may supplement with a little formula. Thus begins a downward spiral. A frustrated mom is left with a discontent child who desires to nurse freely. However, since this is not the “right” way to parent because it leads to a child being dependent and developing poor eating habits, the mother does not give in to what her natural instinct would be or give in to what her baby is demanding.

Demanding. That is the word that makes baby trainers shudder. A child knows no other way than to “demand” her parent’s assistance. The baby knows that her very life depends on her “demands” being met.

3144320227_181421d6dbFeeding on demand is not just a source of food but is also a source of comfort for the baby. It is one of the first ways to affirm a baby’s trust in the parent. When the baby cries, the parent responds promptly with the food/closeness that the child is demanding. The child then begins to realize that her cries of desire will be met and fulfilled by her loving parent.

Baby trainers are adamant that a baby should never be comforted by the breast. For centuries, people have been comforted by breasts! Babies are comforted by a breast as it gives warmth, smells of their mother, and nourishes them. Children are comforted by the breast as they are folded in to the arms of their mother and bury their heads in her chest, breathing in her warmth and comfort. Men are comforted at the breast, and this is not meant in any type of perverted way, but men find their comfort at a woman’s breast as well and that is where the cycle begins again. Breasts are comfort. Breasts are food. Breasts nourish a generation. Let’s not train away their beauty.

Discussion?

Jasmine is a co-housing community living mama with a passion for fierce writing she blogs.

Photo: Guttorm Flatabø/Flickr

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Jasmine Carlson (50 Posts)

Jasmine is a community living mama with a passion for fierce writing and fitness. She her way on Team USA by fitness coaching. Shaping Her. (www.shapingher.com) Join the conversation at (www.facebook.com/ShapingHer)


{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

FC Mom April 12, 2010 at 7:11 am

I am so glad I decided to listen to my baby rather than a bunch of sleep training books. Actually, the one book I read before I had the baby was Dr. Sears’ Attachment Parenting book. It all felt very right to me and rarely have I wavered from my commitment to trust what my baby is telling me, and trust that my baby is not “manipulating” me. I think it helps that I am a very confident person, very easygoing, so there is not much that my baby can do to throw me off my game. I don’t have to look elsewhere for answers.
Every once in a while my husband starts to campaign for getting the baby on a “better” eating and sleeping schedule. This often makes me doubt myself and the decisions I’ve made about how to feed and sleep with my baby… but then I look at my perfectly happy, pleasant kid, who loves to explore, and loves people, and laughs… and I know he is fine. I don’t know why my husband worries so much, but I refuse to fall into the trap of parenting guided by fear. We have a fabulous kid and I don’t think I’m spoiling him. I feel badly about not taking my husband’s input, but if what he is saying goes against my every mothering instinct…. well, it’s just not gonna happen.
Do I wish my one year old would go to sleep without nursing? Sorta, but not really. I know it’s normal and I love the closeness, especially because I work full time. I don’t think I’m ruining my kid, because I know he’ll eventually sleep great because of how safe he feels in his life. I’m just not worried. I wish other people would chill the frig out… including my husband, my three pediatricians who’ve told me my son needs to cry himself to sleep, and others who tell me that he needs to learn to self-soothe. Folks, I’ll smile in your faces, tell you I’m not worried, and go about my happy way.
Maybe I’m a big smarty-pants, but I think I know what I’m doing. My confidence in myself has taken me far in life, and I’m not going to be swayed by others telling me that my feelings and instincts are wrong. When my son needs to self-soothe, he’ll self-soothe. I am just not worried about it. I also have confidence in my baby.

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Jasmine Carlson April 12, 2010 at 10:38 am

Mothers really do understand their babies the best. Especially if you have fostered attachment. I do think that if attachment is not fostered however mothers lose touch with their babies.
Kudos for hanging in there.
It is really difficult not to have the full support of our spouse.

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Courtney April 12, 2010 at 11:55 pm

Well written and right on the money. The more I follow my son’s lead, the more successful I parent him. He knows far more than any ‘trainer’ would have me believe so listening to his needs in the subtle ways he communicates them to me results in a happier, more confident, relaxed child than if I’d tried to bend him into my schedule.

He is 3 years old and still nurses, though nursing is now very different than when he was a newborn. But I still let him lead. He goes off into the world to explore and learn but knows he can return to the comfort and security that nursing provides. This makes him a more resilient and self-assured kid when you compare him to others his age. And our bond is unbelievable.

Simply put, having a child means adjusting your expectations. They shouldn’t be rushed to maturity and independence. In fact, when you meet those needs they have early on, on their time schedule (feedings included), they mature faster and in deeper ways than if you ‘train’ them to give up and take whatever you happen to offer.

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Stephanie April 13, 2010 at 2:37 pm

I also have to say that women enjoy breasts, as well. I enjoy a really good hug from my mom and her well endowed woman-bits! There is nothing as comforting as being held by a woman with a good set of breasts — it probably comes from that closeness that we felt as babies. I think for some of us – especially myself, since I was only BFed until I was 3 months old – I really love that cuddle-y hug! And I will take it from acquaintances and friends alike!

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Tania April 13, 2010 at 9:51 pm

Here is some re-assurance to those who worry about long-term nursing and independence. My father (who’s in his 50s at the moment) was nursed till 3 and a half years old. He still remembers how his mother nursed him to sleep after she came back from work.
He is very independent, intellegent, successful director of a big company. And he has a great family too. I’m so lucky to have a family who support my values in raising my daughter. The only problem my parents leave overseas and can’t give me as much support as they want to.
P.S.: I’m still nursing my 15 m.o., including to sleep and I think it is perfectly normal (most of my friends don’t think so).

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Maegan April 13, 2010 at 10:40 pm

I read 20 or so parenting books and have felt too much guilt over following my instincts. I feel that ALL of the books (Sears included) have an aspect or a dozen that I disagree with.

I have to follow my instincts or I am being insincere to myself, my child, my husband, my entire family. I say: do what you feel and think is the right thing. Period.

It’s always good to educate yourself and seek knowledge, BUT…know when to put down the books and listen to mama’s instinct. You are your own parenting guru. Your child is an individual.

Have fun and be in the moment with your family!
Peace
I will not train my child. He is not a dog.

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Jasmine Carlson April 14, 2010 at 10:11 am

I agree with you Stephanie, women enjoy chest-y hugs too! Comfort!

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BJ Pramann April 14, 2010 at 10:27 am

Very good article, I found that by feeding on demand (that word has so much stigma to it, shame on grown ups…) from the start my son very quickly created a schedule because he knew food and comfort would always be there.

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Sash April 14, 2010 at 5:35 pm

It startles me to read a lot of mums against ‘training’ their babies.But the truth is no matter what type of parenting style you choose to apply you are ‘training’ your baby. There is no parent that does not train her/his child. In this case mum is training her baby that the family will revolve around her/him, because the whole family has to be flexible for baby. How about training your babe to be PART of the family instead of being it’s center? and if you do choose to make the family flex around babies needs when will the dynamic change? That baby is part of the family and learns to consider others? I’ve seen many parents underestimate the potential of their little babies to learn in loving ways! Our babies are smarter than we think! ( any of you seen the tv add “Your baby can read”, I think that program proves a lot!) Parenting and guiding a child starts from the moment he/she is born. I’ve met mums and dads who made the family flex around their new baby’s needs and didn’t know when to change the dynamics and ended up with a demanding toddler throwing hissy fits whenever he didn’t get instant gratification.

I think that there can be some of the many baby ‘training’ books that can be too extreme but there are some of them that are pretty helpful. Nevertheless you must consider and always tend to your baby’s needs. I just think that there is a way to balance it all out.

I did! All of my baby’s needs are met but rather being the center of our family she is a pleasant addition and for 100% part of our growing family!

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Mamapem April 15, 2010 at 10:06 am

I fail to see what is wrong with having a baby “infant” in the center of ones life. As they grow they will move into the larger circle of family. A baby is a part of the family when he or she is born and doesn’t need training to be family. The infant is born helpless and completely dependent on that family to feed and nurture him. I am not sure that “flexing” is the word I would use but rather “making room” people are “big” every time we bring a person of any age or size into our lives we make room for them. One of the beautiful thing about babies and families is that it does make us change and grow. Ignoring a babies need and I said “needs” , (and we are talking about infants here), is not loving. ( with this attitude of mine my children grew up loving and now serve others and I enjoyed them as they grew and now I am enjoying my grandchildren as well ;)

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mamapoekie April 26, 2010 at 10:05 am

very solid

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Gen May 5, 2010 at 4:09 am

One of the good things about meeting my baby’s needs is the flexibility it gives me to continue to meet my family’s needs. Because my baby is not trained to a schedule and is not dependent on being at home to get a good sleep, our family can still do all the things we’re accustomed to doing, including bushwalks, camping, singing in the choir, dancing, youth groups, sport, music lessons, teaching classes at school etc etc. She stays happy and content, feeding, sleeping, playing and being cuddled whenever and wherever we are. She is our fifth, so I’ve experienced this before, but it still amazes me how many people are astonished at how good she is and how rarely she cries. I certainly haven’t made a rod for my own back in raising her to be so peaceful, joyful and so little trouble. She is an essential part of the family pulling us all together in joyfully anticipating her needs. And have the others grown up to be demanding children requiring instant gratification? Quite the opposite! As my son’s teacher said the other day, ” If only I had 20 others like him in the class.” And my mother wonders why my teenager is still so calm, polite and focussed

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