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This Ain't An All-Night Diner, Kid

Cora’s nearly five months (!) now,
and as she becomes increasingly alert and aware of her
surroundings, it’s become increasingly difficult to get her
to concentrate on her meal.

I remember witnessing this stage for the first time with a friend
of mine: she brought her 4 ½ month-old over for a playdate
with then-8-week-old Maddie, and we chatted while the girls stared
at each other on the carpet. When Lily got hungry, my friend began
nursing. After only a few seconds into it, Lily began pulling off,
looking around and smiling at everyone; only when my friend put a
pillow up to block the baby’s view did she get down to eating
in earnestness. Since I had a 2-month-old who at as if she’d
never had breastmilk before and thought it was the best meal EVER,
I couldn’t imagine competing for her attention.

Then, of course, Maddie hit around 4 months and began acting the
same way, and now it’s Cora’s turn.

I think it’s actually worse with
Cora because she’s got more distractions right out of the
gate – namely, Maddie. If Maddie is at all awake in the
house, she’ll come running when she hears Cora needs to eat
– even if Brian’s trying desperately to distract Maddie
and keep her away. I’ll get maybe sixty seconds of peace and
quiet before Madeleine bursts through the door, screaming, “I
think Cora wants to see me!” She’ll drag a step-stool
over so she can be right at head-level, then grasp Cora’s
nursing noggin firmly and say, “I’m helping Cora
eat.” Of course, Cora pulls off to see what’s going on,
and of course, that’s right when my milk lets down and
everyone gets sprayed in a dairy fountain.

After this point, I’m lucky to get Cora to nurse for 5
seconds at a time before she’s back to looking around for
Maddie – partly out of interest, and partly out of
trepidatious self-preservation: “Is that loud person who
grabs my head lurking anywhere around?” The interrupted
nursing would be frustration enough in its own right, but add to
that Cora’s habit of not letting go of the nipple right away
as she looks around – also known as “stretching it to
the breaking point” – and nursing’s no longer the
quiet, intimate moment it used to be.

Which is unfortunate, because I can tell that Cora needs those
quiet moments to recharge and reconnect with me. Life with an
adoring older sister can be tough on even the most extroverted
baby, and when I see Cora start to avert her eyes and avoid
interaction – when I see her emotionally shut down – I
count how long we’ve got until her next nursing
“break”. I know she needs these moments with me as
well; if we get a rare uninterrupted meal, she’ll finish
contentedly and begin cooing at me, flirting shyly and hoping
I’ll put down my book and chat with her.

These are the moments I look forward to and cherish with her, and
they’re fewer and farther between because my kid now takes so
dang long to finish her meal that long before Cora’s full I
start to hear, “Is Cora finished? Is Cora finished now? Is
she finished now?” floating from the living room.

And I can almost see Cora thinking, “I’d like to have
just one meal in peace . . .”

At which point I’d reply, “Oh, yeah? Then how about
focusing here, kid. You’re not helping.” And that
ultimate Mommyism: “Stop playing with your food and finish
your dinner!”


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