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facing criticism re breastfeeding pattern

(22 Posts)
flatwhite Fri 10-Jun-11 12:47:29

Hi there,

I am feeling a little bit sad and tormented in response to repeated comments made by my mother (who is also a child psychotherapist) regarding the way I feed my 8 month baby. My baby has been fed on demand since birth and is thriving on it. He is now enjoying 3 meals a day and as a result his day feeds have dwindled down to short sips for comfot when he is tired. This sometimes mean I breastfeed him in the middle of playgroups/sessions (to help manage fussing/reduced attention span when he is tired) and I note that very few other older babies are breastfed in such an ad hoc way. He also feeds 1-2 hrly over night and I find the only way to manage this is to have him co-sleep in our bed. I wasnt overly concerned about the way I manage my baby's feeding - it is entirely baby led and I tend to ignore (and tolerate) other mums who sometimes express concern that my baby will never manage to self soothe and wonder why I am not worried about this. However my mother continuely harps on about how my little boy is never going to manage his own frustration and that I need to initially withhold the breast when he demands it and distract him/ignore him. She bases her ideas on Winnecot who talked about "disillusioning " your baby over the first year of its life so it is able to understand that it cannot always have his needs met instantly. I am sure there are natural delays before I offer him the breast and the idea of actively timing out delays when he demands feeding feels unnatural and wrong.
By the way he is developing so well - he is so happy, socialble and has started to babble contently to himself. He is very clingy in the evenings though and as mentioned is unable to self soothe.
The issue is more complex in that in really hurts when ones own mother critizes one's parenting whislt at the same time fails to offer any supportive advice/help to balance the criticism.
I often get upset and angry in response to my mother's comments and the other day when she did it again I told her I wanted to sever all contact.
I feel so guilty now but I dont know how else to manage the situation - she is passionate about her thinking and is convinced by her argument so she will not back down.
I feel so confused and anxious about where to go from here.
Am I causing my baby to develop difficulties with self-regulation in the future? Do I need to take heed of mother's advice if so how do I go about this?

Thanks for taking the time to read


BranchingOut Fri 10-Jun-11 12:57:12

Well, if it is any help I breastfeed my toddler pretty much on demand (just turned 21 months ) and was day-time feeding just as you describe when he was the same age.

He now sleeps through the night and has done (with a few blips) since about 14 months.

His feeds are now mostly:

Before breakfast
After breakfast
After lunch
Sometimes after his nap
Sometimes after supper
Before bed - feeds to sleep

But if he wants it at another time, well, I don't see the harm in giving it to him.

Tell her that you trying to build secure attachment by responding to his needs, according to the prinicples of John Bowlby. hmm

eastmidlandsnightnanny Fri 10-Jun-11 13:02:32

Do what is right for you and your baby

my 9 and 1/2 mth old was same as your baby up until a mth ago and I used to let him comfort feed to settle him as well inc in baby groups etc. I had to structure his feeds in the end ready for my return to work so he now has 3 feeds a day and his food during the day. feeds being 6.45am/4.45pm/7pm

He has slept thorugh the night from 15/16wks 8-6.30/7

A friend has an almost 12mth old and she feeds about 2hrly day and night and thats what works for them.

mamadoc Fri 10-Jun-11 13:10:46

It must be very hard to have your mum responding to you with her professional knowledge rather than just as your mum!

Winnicot's theories are just theories. A psychotherapeutic framework doesn't have an evidence base as such and I wouldn't find an abstract theory convincing over my maternal instinct either. OTOH your mum will clearly be very invested in believing in it so its probably pointless to argue. I would just take a 'I have heard what you're saying, I respect your opinion but I want to go my own way on this' kind of attitude.

I remember feeling very sad when my mum got uncomfortable with me bf DD after she was a year old. It was actually pressure from her more than anyone else that made me give up (and she still didn't sleep through as everyone assured me she would!) I felt so let down and that she had withdrawn her support which I valued so much.

Since then we've disagreed on other stuff too and its been a bit easier. You find your own confidence as a mum and she needs to help you by respecting your choices.

EauRouge Fri 10-Jun-11 13:18:20

Nope, what you are doing sounds fine and perfectly normal to me! If you want to read some books that might help you to back up your arguments with your DM then you could try-

Three in a Bed- Deborah Jackson

Why Love Matters is meant to be good but I haven't got around to reading it yet.

Anything by Dr Sears should be helpful too.

Alternatively you can just practice a non-committal 'mmm' and a half-smile when your DM suggests something you don't like the sound of. It is infuriating and will hopefully put an end to it grin

Or you could confront her (politely but firmly) and say 'thank you for your suggestions but I am very comfortable with my parenting abilities and the choices that I'm making for my son'. Would it be easier if you wrote her a letter?

FWIW the way you are raising your DS sounds very similar to what I do with my DDs and they are both doing brilliantly. I know it's anecdotal but I always find it a bit reassuring to find I'm not alone. I think 'self-soothing' is a load of bobbins personally, DD1 (2.8yo) has never mastered it but DD2 (13 wo) will happily fall asleep on her playmat with no assistance from me. I think it's just one of those things that is personality-based and not a result of parenting techniques. Or as DH would have it, DD2 is chilled out like him and DD1 is dramatic like me hmm

PorkChopSter Fri 10-Jun-11 13:20:50

How does she know that you feed him every hour at night and during playgroups - is she there? Just don't tell her wink Practice the nod and distracted "Yes, Yes, thanks for that advice - oh look at that over there" approach.

If it wasn't his feeding, would she be trying to apply her theories to some other aspect of his life?

TheCrackFox Fri 10-Jun-11 13:26:10

You know I would tell her that you need her to be your mum and not a professional. Point out that she is missing on all the fun of being a grandma by trying to be a child psychotherapist to her grandchild. If she persists ask her why she has such a need to control the situation and what does it say about her own personality. Alternatively you could just tell her to butt out.

mamadoc Fri 10-Jun-11 13:37:16

Self soothing definite bobbins:

My SIL and MIL are very proud of my niece's ability to self settle. Just pop her in her cot in a dark room and off she goes. Textbook stuff. Apart from that she then wakes 5 or so times a night and requires horrid electronic music played down the baby monitor for 15mins to get back to sleep.

Her baby, her choice but somewhat annoying to have to listen to it all night when they came to stay lately! Give me a nice quiet, cuddly feed in bed any day. Beats me why other people object to something so unobtrusive.

boobiesagogo Fri 10-Jun-11 13:46:47

Ha! I BF my first baby til 1 and fed on demand - so whenever she wanted it, I just gave it to her. She's a lovely, caring, child, same as any other child who is bf on demand or to a routine or whatever. (Can you tell I don't buy into the theory your mum believes?)

My other DD - I feed ALL THE TIME. She is four months old and loves it. She goes no longer than about 3 hours at most in the day. So I let her have it.

I started to be a little concerned but then I realised, that hey, it's mother natures gift to us to be able to BF our children and it's amazing that BFing can be soothing, calming, nurturing, nutritive and helps you connect with your child. So stuff the other theories and do what you think best smile

KnitterNotTwitter Fri 10-Jun-11 13:59:02

Just to add another message of support - it sounds VERY similar to my DS at that age... Then at 11 months he spontaneously day weaned.

At 13 months I moved him into his own room in a double bed - he was fed to sleep and would then sleep through to about 2am at which point I'd go in and feed him again and then sleep the rest of the night in there with him...

We continued like that until 19 months when a stay in hospital for me meant that we night weaned too.

There can't be much more cruel than purpously 'disillusioning' your child. Life will teach them this lesson without parents adding to the load. Plus at this stage your child doesn't really have 'wants' it's still all 'needs' as far as I'm concerned and a parent's job is to meet those needs...

Do you think she's reflecting on how she raised you and questionning herself/her parenting. I know my mum went through this for a bit and my MIL went through it a lot - my parenting is very different from MILs...

Every parent believes that they're making the best decisions for their children, and when someone makes different decisions it challenges their original decisions - if their original decision was 'wrong' should they consider themselves bad parents...? IMO that's why so many people are so keen to make suggestions around childraising decisions...

Hopefully she'll calm down soon...

jaggythistle Fri 10-Jun-11 14:00:56

I agree - 'disillusioning' a baby sounds pretty horrendous when you think about it!

DS (20 months) will sometimes need cuddled/fed to sleep, sometimes not. It seems to depend how he feels.

I have never really refused feeds, even at night and he sleeps through about 75% of the time with no effort from me. Bobbins indeed!

paddypoopants Fri 10-Jun-11 14:11:18

I had no idea until I had my ds how opinionated and judgmental a lot of people are about bringing up kids. There are an awful lot of people out there who think what they did is the definitive answer to child rearing from sleeping, to weaning, to feeding, to discipline and there is literally no other way. The previous generation can be the worst - they can conceive no other way but their's and if your mum is a child pyschologist it is probably worse.

My MIL is still spouting the 10 mins each side every 4 hours claptrap now my SIL is pregnant despite me showing her all the updated bf research when I was demand feeding.

People don't tend to be this judgmental in other parts of life but somehow if you have a child who doesn't sleep, or feeds often then it must be something you are doing wrong but they did right.

You are doing great- tell your mother to butt out. I was sure there was research that showed attending quickly to the needs of infants rather than making them cry it out made them more secure when they grew up - it might be by somebody that other posters have mentioned. You should read up on that and then show it to your mother. It's hard enough without the constant criticism over and over again.

VeronicaCake Fri 10-Jun-11 14:54:22

My DD fed exactly the way you describe up to 10m or so (though I couldn't hack the nights so she got bottles from her Dad some nights too). Then she pretty much stopped asking in the day. She asks occasionally in the day now (13m) but only when she is poorly or too over-tired to settle for a nap without a bit of cuddling first.

I think the disillusioning point is bobbins. You will instinctively respond to your child's needs with less urgency as he gets older. He will show you when he is ready to soothe himself, or accept something other than a breastfeed for comfort, and when that happens you can follow his cues just as you have up to now. You don't need to engineer disillusionment. Bloody hell wouldn't it be great if childhood was so automatically perfect we had to make deliberate efforts to fuck it up!?

flatwhite Fri 10-Jun-11 15:21:18

I am so touched by all your supportive comments! Hurray I am not alone! I thought I was going crazy with my thoughts and ambivalence as to what was right but really I should just carry on as I have been because it works for me and my DS. Its especially comforting to know that so many of you had bubs who didnt sleep through till beyond 1st birthday!
Thank you mumsnet!

PorkChopSter Fri 10-Jun-11 16:09:57

<cough> or beyond 2nd birthday

tiktok Fri 10-Jun-11 16:44:00

This is an incorrect interpretation of Winnicott, IMO - he observed that the 'good enough' mother inevitably 'got things wrong' every so often and that this was absolutely fine for the baby and his attachment. Because the baby learns as the days, weeks and months go by, that his mother is 'good enough' without being perfect, he learns his world does not fall apart when something is not quite right - because mummy knows how to make things right again.

He may have written something about deliberate disillusionment, I don't know - but even if he did, you have to remember that the attachment theorists of his era were working within the expectations of their own time and infant psychotherapy did not freeze in time with Winnicott (who died 40 years ago, let's not forget).

Any baby, including one like yours fed ad lib, is going to get his normal moments of disillusionment anyway - I can't see you have to engineer them!

The other issue is your mother's interference and her apparent freedom to undermine you - that has to stop. It's not on at all. Your baby is loved, well-cared for, healthy and normal. How wrong does she think you are getting it, FFS???

spaceal Fri 10-Jun-11 19:09:31

My understanding of Winnicott echoes Tiktok's - I think he suggested that infants slowly come to realise, for themselves, that they are separate from their mothers and not forever entirely dependent on them. I thought this is what he meant by disillusionment, a process 'led' by the baby and, as Tiktok says, by the good enough mother not always doing everything perfectly. I think Winnicott was extremely sympathetic to the instincts of mothers and I'm surprised your mother has used his ideas to have a go at what you're doing. It sounds great to me, and I think Winnicott would approve, for what it's worth - but I'm not a child psychotherapist...

spaceal Fri 10-Jun-11 19:12:59

P.S. Having a mother who's a child psychotherapist must generally be tough - one of my best mates is and I'm always convinced she's judging my parenting/DD's development, even though I have no evidence that she ever is!

Pesephone Fri 10-Jun-11 21:10:17

Why not challange her to read up on attachment theory and ask her her thoughts on the work done in that area. After all the theory she is advocating is just that as TikTok said a theory and though she has interpreted it one way others have interpreted it differently.
You are afterall entitled to rasie your son as you his mother see fit. Perhaps she would respect this a bit more if she realised you are not just "winging it" and that there are people with dgree's who agree with your methods. Seen as that is what apears to matter to her? Your son is still so young regimenting his feeds seems so unnatural and uncalled for.

NurseSunshine Fri 10-Jun-11 21:37:26

I find the idea of "disillusioning" an 8 month old child heartbreaking sad Of what, exactly? That his mother is there for him, loves and cares about him?

Why on earth should a child that young be able to "self soothe"? They can't look after their most basic physical needs by themselves at that age why on earth should they be able to deal with their emotional ones? That's what the parent is there for!

I hate hearing people talk about "independence" in children that young. Babies who are neglected learn not to cry. Can they then be called "good babies" or "independent babies"? Or is it heartbreaking that they have learned that nobody loves them enough to come when they are upset or in need? (I'm not saying your mother is advocating neglect btw, OP, I'm just taking it a step further).

These are obviously just my thoughts but honestly it sounds as though you are doing a perfectly good job and doing the natural and right thing for your son.

TheSnickeringFox Fri 10-Jun-11 22:30:38

Not much to add except my support and to say that I am another one feeding a baby of a similar age on demand. We also co-sleep.

I also find the idea of "disillusioning" a baby terribly sad.

naturalbaby Fri 10-Jun-11 23:11:01

i'm very interested in how kids self regulate. i stopped bfeeding ds1 when he was 13months and only feeding for comfort, but i was pregnant which affected my supply. instead of comfort feeding all my kids have a dummy and comforter but i didn't want them to spend all day clinging onto them or running for them at the slightest upset. ds2 is 18months and still does need to most of the time but it stopped being an automatic response for ds1 to get his comforter around 2 1/2 i think.

it depends what your long term goal or idea is about your baby self settling. i wanted my kids in their own room in their own beds so worked really hard on getting them to self settle from 7months but it took a few months to work.

as my kids have got older there have been plenty of situations where their needs couldn't be met straight away - a new baby or two has given them a real eye opener! i think 8months is still too young to be worrying about it. i tried to follow attachment parenting as much as possible and worried it wasn't working when ds1 was clingy and very shy but now he's 3 and gets comments almost every day about how well behaved and confident he is which i put down to being very baby/child led and meeting his needs immediately (when i can!).

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