Fostering Independence from Birth

Part of mothering, maybe even its most basic purpose, is to help little children become self sufficient. I believe this process starts with breastfeeding.

My little squirmy, squiggly newborn boy experienced a lot of things the second he popped out of the womb. He gasped air for the first time. Opened his eyes and looked at bright light and heard unmuffled voices from familiar people and strangers alike. He had his first bowel movement and was probably even a little cold. All of these things happened to him without his permission or his assistance.  It wasn’t until I scooped him up, my hand on his little bottom, and presented a boobie the size of his head to his face did he attempt to control his situation.

I couldn’t make him nurse. Any mom who’s breastfed knows that there is no force feeding a baby who isn’t willing to participate. My son had to do some complicated sucking and swallowing, taking in just the right about of nipple and working his jaw up and down just to get anything. And work he did. It was his first act of independence.

People would say my son, now nearly two, is an independent eater now. He can handle a spoon with dexterity and get a fork to do almost anything he wants. But I believe he was on the run to independence not the first time he picked up a utinsel or shoved a cookie in his mouth, but when he worked so hard those first few times nursing.

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