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This Ain't An All-Night Diner, Kid Print E-mail
Friday, 12 October 2007

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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