Dr. George Wootan
going to open up a big can of worms here, one that gets me into as
much trouble as my thoughts on weaning: mother-baby separation.
Imagine for a moment, that you are at the grocery store with your
six-month-old. She starts making hungry noises, and you look down
and say reassuringly, "I'll feed you in half an hour, as soon
as we get home." Will she smile and wait patiently for you to
finish your shopping? Absolutely not! As far as your baby is
concerned, either there is food now, or there is no food in the
world. Right in the middle of the grocery store, famine has
and toddlers, up
to the age of about 36 months, have
little concept of duration of time. To them, there are only
two basic times: now and never. Telling a young toddler that Mommy
will be back in an hour, or at 5:00, is essentially the same thing
as telling her that Mommy is gone forever, because she has no idea
what those times mean.
submit to you that the need for mother is as strong in a baby as
the need for food, and that there is no substitute for a securely
attached mother. When he's tired, hurt, or upset, he needs
his mother for comfort and security. True, he doesn't need Mommy
all the time, but when he does, he needs her now. If he scrapes
his knee, or gets his feelings hurt, he can't put his need on hold
for two hours until Mommy is home, and the babysitter - or even
Daddy - just won't do as well as if Mommy was there.
yes, this is what I'm saying: A mother shouldn't leave her baby
for an extended amount
of time until about the age of 36 months, when he has developed
some concept of time. You'll know this has begun to happen when he
understands what "yesterday," "tomorrow," and
"this afternoon" mean, and when your toddler voluntarily
begins to spend more time playing away from you on his own accord.
course, if you know that your child always sleeps during certain
times, you can leave her briefly with someone while she naps. If
you do this, however, the babysitter should be someone she knows well,
as there is no guarantee that she won't choose this day to alter
her schedule and wake up while you're gone. This could be
traumatic for her if the person is someone she casually knows, and
doubly so if the babysitter is a stranger. It is important to make
every effort to be available to her when she is awake and may need
that not separating a baby from his mother for the first 36 months
of life may be difficult. Living up to this presupposes that the
family is financially secure without the mother's paycheck, and,
unfortunately, this is not a reality for some people. I would not
argue that a mother who must work to support her family is doing
less than her best for her children by working. However, I believe
that many women return to work not out of necessity, but because
they (or their spouses) want to maintain the two-income lifestyle
to which they've become accustomed. These parents need to do a
little soul-searching about what they really need
and not sacrifice their child's best interests.
you must leave your baby for several hours a day, there are some
things you can do to try and compensate for the separation. One of
these, of course, is nursing until the child weans himself.
Another is sharing sleep with your child until he decides he is
ready for his own bed. If you have to spend 8 hours away from your
baby, make an effort to spend the remaining 16 hours of each day
in close physical contact. That extra effort will go a long way
toward helping him feel secure and develop a healthy attachment
our family, we have found that many events that would require
leaving our baby or toddler at home are the ones that we don't
particularly mind missing. We also have found that because
our children have their needs attended to promptly, they are happy
and secure, and we are able to take them to most social
gatherings. I don't mean to suggest that you'll never encounter
any problems, but generally, you'll find that if you take care of
your baby's immediate needs by holding him, nursing him, and
loving him, he'll be a pleasure to have around, well into the
toddler years and beyond.
Reprinted with permission of the author.
George Wootan, M.D., is a Board Certified Family Practitioner and a
Medical Associate of La Leche League International. He has practiced
medicine for 33 years with a focus on pediatric, family, and geriatric care
and chronic illness. He is the author of Take
Charge of Your Child's Health, and speaks nationally on the subjects
of children’s health, nutrition, wellness, aging, and Functional Medicine.
Visit his website at www.drgeorge.net
and contact him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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