I stared at the dimmed screen of my phone, looking over my baby’s tiny body. The red notification bubbles drew me in and I set to work accessing them all whilst she completed her job of breastfeeding. In the beginning, I was glued to my feeding chair for an hour at a time, many times a day. It seemed like the ideal time to catch up on my emails, messages, and Facebook notifications. Often, my baby’s eyes were closed so I read whilst she fed – perfect!
Only, over time, I began realising that there was so much I was missing out on; so much SHE was missing out on. Although we had an intimately physical connection in those moments, mentally, we were out of sync. I was not supporting her as her caregiver. I was merely providing the food and inviting her to help herself.
I knew this was not the relationship I wanted with my daughter. Those close moments together, although plentiful, were limited and I wanted to be able to make the most of this time together. As I looked down at this child gaining nourishment from me I began to notice things I had been missing out on.
I noticed her sweet hands; the way they rested on my breast or reached up to explore my necklace, my face or my shirt collar. I watched those same little hands gently grab little fistfuls of my skin or ever so slightly compress my breast as if wanting to aid milk flow. I noticed her miniature finger nails and smiled at their similarity to my own nails. At the base of her fingers lay four of the cutest dimples you ever did see. I glanced at my own hands and noted only wrinkles across my knuckles, I wondered how long her dimples would be there for before they disappeared and smoothed out.
My gaze shifted to her face; her beautiful blue eyes, staring up at me. How long had they been staring? What had she thought of my cold, unresponsive eyes looking over her shoulder to something more captivating than her below. I drank in the pureness of those eyes. There was nothing but absolute devotion; a love so tight, nothing could break it. Her eyes shifted to something over my shoulder, I followed it and noticed she was interested in the pattern of the blanket draped over the back of the chair on which we sat. What else had she been looking at? What was my girl seeing around her and showing an interest in whilst I had only shown an interest in my phone? Did she think I even cared?
I looked at her perfect ‘Special K’ shaped lips. They seemed so smooth and so capable in carrying out the task of retrieving the milk she needed to fill her belly. Occasionally, I could see the edge of her tiny pink tongue, working tirelessly to aid the process. What an incredible feat of engineering those body parts are. She stopped drinking momentarily, seemingly curious at my sudden interest in her. Her lips turned up at the edges and gifted me a sneaky smile before busying themselves back to the task of drinking.
I caught a glimpse of her luscious golden hair. Where had all her baby hair gone? It was once dark and lengthy with a distinct wave that fell to the side but now all that remained of that newborn hair was a small strip at the back of her head. The rest of her head was covered in the beginnings of her next stage of hair; wispy, blonde and straight. I wondered whether it would begin to curl as it grew as her older sister’s had done.
As I took her in, I noticed the small full body movements she made rhythmically as she drank. I wondered what they were about and how long she had been doing them. It seemed to soothe her. It began to soothe me as I maintained eye contact with her. I felt connected; present. There was nothing else on my mind but her; us.
I started to become more aware of the feeling of milk leaving my body to give life to her. I then noticed when that feeling changed; when she was starting to slow and tire. I was ready to assist her, helping her get the last of the rich, hind milk from my breast with small compressions. She stopped drinking. She’d had had enough. She drew comfort from sucking and I let her momentarily before asking if she was finished.
She sucked a few moments longer and then voluntarily pulled off and looked up at me. Her mouth formed a sweet, appreciative smile. I couldn’t stop looking at her. What moments like this had I missed? I had been filling her with milk but giving her nothing of myself and conversely, she was giving me all of her and I was taking in nothing.
Often, whilst reading an enthralling article on my phone as she fed, my baby would go from drinking to asleep before I even noticed the transition. There was no acknowledgement, no moments of connection between these phases. I would then lie her in her cot already asleep and she would wake some hours later with no memory of that transition. Her feeding was a job she completed physically attached to me but emotionally she was on her own. Our mind to mind connection was lacking; my mind was on something else.
Thankfully, I had this realisation early on in our breastfeeding journey and I have since been able to make this special time about more than just nourishment for her. It’s about our relationship and our connection – mother to child. In those wonderful moments together, there is no one else in the world; it’s just the two of us. We linger together, unhurried and undistracted.
These times are sacred and I now treasure them dearly. Unlike my baby, my phone will always be there (unfortunately) unchanging, ungrowing and emotionless. My phone stores moments in it’s memory for me to access at any time but my baby does not, if I miss them, they are gone forever. I don’t want to miss a thing. I have a ‘no phones in the nursery’ rule now and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
You might also enjoy these related articles on the topic of connecting during caregiving moments:
Connection – It’s Child’s play – Kate Russell
Respectful Parenting: Encouraging Cooperation from Birth – Kate Russell
The Breastfeeding Challenge – Janet Lansbury
My parenting is inspired by Magda Gerber’s RIE approach which I learned of through Janet Lansbury’s blog. If you are interested in learning more you can find some good information here or I highly recommend these books (affiliate links)
Dear Parent: Caring for Infants With Respect (2nd Edition) ~ Magda Gerber
Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting ~ Janet Lansbury
No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame ~ Janet Lansbury
Photo Credit: The Heart of Motherhood