Thursday, March 25, 2010

When people find out that I am a breastfeeding educator, they usually go on to tell me the latest thing their breastfeeding or the neighbor's breastfeeding baby is doing and to ask "is THAT normal?" We are all anxious to be "normal". I'm quite sure everybody is somewhat disappointed in my answer..... "well, it probably is normal for THAT child." I think that people want an instant "YES ...EVERY BABY LIKES TO NURSE WITH THEIR FINGER UP YOUR NOSE".... But human "norms" vary, and what might be "abnormal" for another baby, could be completely normal for yours.
Helping mothers to define "normal" for their children is challenging. So many of us want to look outside ourselves, to what OTHER people define as normal or acceptable. But really....if it is working for *you*, then it isn't broken, right??
If your baby likes to snack at the breast all day long then have a 10 course meal in the evening, who are WE to say that is wrong? Hay, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Sometimes I wonder if, in this "information age" we haven't, somewhere along the line, lost track of our inner compass. It is a mighty panicky feeling to not be able to sort out stuff and decide that you are on the right track based on mother's instinct. It does seem to fall completely FLAT when I ask some mothers, "Sooo, what is your gut telling you?" or " if she is gaining weight and pooping and peeing often, is it REALLY a problem that she baracuda's the milk down in 3 seconds flat and then wants to get back to the business of examining her toes?".....

This obsession with "normal" can completely hijack our relationship with our intuitions. We need graphs and charts to decide if our children are within acceptable ranges with ANYTHING; and sometimes, that tiny little voice buried in the back of our scrambled and exhausted brains is screaming........HE'S FINE.....

So, what I am saying is, let's get back in touch with our instincts about our own babes. As a mother, YOU know your baby best and when your eyes , heart and mind are telling you something is FINE or conversely, NOT FINE... listen. Embrace the differences between your baby and others. Babies have personalities and quirks just like the rest of us. When I look back on my own children, their individuality was there right from birth. My oldest son needed his world completely organized, really, he was obsessed with order as a baby, and HE STILL IS. Our middle son was born three weeks early, kind of skinny and STARVING... and he's been my "two cookie boy" ever since. He's 22 and he is still famous for needing a cookie in EACH HAND. And our youngest, has needed to be totally alone OFTEN and at first, when he was only a few days old, I was completely offended by this. WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON'T WANT TO CUDDLE WITH MAMA AND GAZE INTO MY EYES AS YOU EAT?? and really, 20 years later, he still hoovers down his dinner and leaves his father and I sitting at the table wondering what tornado just went through our dining room.

I think it is fabulous when breastfeeding women get together and swap war stories about their mothering experiences. This can validate your instincts and even give you perspective as long as you don't fall into the trap of internalizing the "normals" of someone else...


  1. I love this. And I totally agree that we are so overwhelmed with information that its far too easy to compare every little thing our babes do to someone else's version of normal!Every babe is so different (thank goodness) and we need to start trusting ourselves a bit more to know that our babes are their own version of normal :)

    Excited for this new blog!!

  2. Yay! Great job Sheri, you did it! Your made a post. And I LOVED it!
    I have a couple ideas. Fun fun!

  3. Great perspectives! It IS such a gift when our circumstances are different and our children are different! We should be an encouragement to each other to enjoy the differences! Great blog!