As an exclusively breastfeeding mama, I have noticed Nolan's feeding patterns fluctuate over the past 20 months. Sometime it is just from a growth spurt, and sometimes, I have learned, it is from changes in his life. I read in the wonderful book, (a MUST-HAVE for all mothers!) The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (La Leche League International Book), that many times when babies have a sudden change in schedule, activity or caretakers, they will want to nurse more often for comfort and security. So, when your baby wants to nurse more often then usual, it can be because of a growth spurt OR is it because of a change? This change might be slight to you, but dramatic to them. Babies are like dogs - they can sense when you are afraid, angry or frustrated. Maybe you have been pre-occupied with work or something very important. Maybe there has been alot of house guests or traveling to new places. Whatever it is, try to step back and look at it from the baby's perspective. Be prepared to give them lots of love, attention and nursing. Don't be so ridgid with their feeding schedule. Relax and let them take the lead - they will eat as little or as much as they need at a given point.
I think this is also a coping mechanism for babies and toddlers going off to a baby-sitter or daycare for the first time. Many kids get sick right after they start going to school. Is it because of the contact with other sick children? Maybe. Or, maybe it is because they are stressed? When we are stressed out, we are more susceptible to getting sick. Even thought they seem to be having fun, there is a stress factor - at least at the beginning. They don't know if you are going to come back. They cry. Everything is new and different. The breastfed child knows what he needs - Mama's Milk! Loaded with antibodies, and is the perfect blend of proteins, fats and carbs. This child will rarely get sick, and even if he does, it will last only a few days.
My heart breaks for the formula-fed child, and even more for the cow's milk-fed one. Not only are they NOT getting the physical contact from mama, but their little stressed-out immune systems are being suppressed even more by the HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) in the the formula and the hormones and sugars in cow's milk. These kids don't have a chance! I shake my head when I overhear mothers say, "My kid is always sick!", "It must be that dirty school with dirty kids", or " I took them out of preschool because they were always sick." It is not the school, it is what you are feeding them - or NOT feeding them! A stressed out kid loaded up on sugar is a ticking time-bomb to get sick.
When Nolan started preschool, for the first few weeks, he did cry when I left him. The teachers said he quickly stopped, though. He seemed to be having fun. But, when we got home, he wanted his "ba-ba" (to breastfeed) and often. Almost all afternoon. And that was fine with me. I was ready for that. What I did not realize was how other events affected his nursing habits. Looking back, knowing what I know now, he nursed alot more then usual when we moved, when I act frustrated or distracted because of work, when Avery travels, etc. To him, his world is turning upside-down. His body innately knows what it needs to stay well.
I am so grateful that I can provide for him the comfort and nutrients he needs.
To new mothers - your baby's feeding habits will change often over the course of their life. Sometimes it will be from growth spurts, but also be aware of environmental and emotional stressors that might encourage them to nurse more. Love them, comfort them; that is what mothering, and "nursing" is.