How an attachment parent with a breastfeeding almost 4 year old transitions gently into preschool (or “Kindy” as we call it here in Australia)…
My almost four year old, little Mini The Milk is “still” breastfeeding. Only just barely left our bed to sleep through in his own bed, in his own room. He slept in our bed until he was 3 and continues to come into our bed some nights when he needs some extra cuddles.
“Still” waking early for his “sun up” boobie. The first day he started at school, he woke like every morning. Looking for me. He found me at the computer, in the middle of a breastfeeding consultation with someone across the world. He didn’t bat an eyelid, just hopped up and breastfed as if we were still in bed.
Just 2 hours later he was at preschool for his first day without me. I was ready to cry. Ready to stay if needed and just hang out until he was ready for me to go. He didn’t need me there though. He gave me a thumbs up as I said goodbye and didn’t even look back at me as he continued to eat his snack.
He loved it there. He didn’t want to go home. Every time I peeked into his classroom or went in to say hi he was happy as could be. This child who has been attached at the hip and boob only away from me for long periods a handful of times in his whole life…completely at ease and happy. The child who “still” breastfeeds to sleep. Yes, he is breastfeeding. And he is also independent. The two are not mutually exclusive.
We are obsessed with independence in our culture.
We worry about our child being independent. We have others constantly question our “attached” child and if they will ever part from us. We have people criticize our babies for breastfeeding so often or continue to such an “old” age. Everyone called my boys, “mama’s boys” with a hint of criticism like it was a bad thing. We hear jokes that our child will still be breastfeeding while heading off to school! Well here we are…and yes, he is.
I received an email from a breastfeeding/attachment parenting mother today who was told by her daycare to, “Hold your baby less” When she was home with him because he cried a lot at daycare. My heart ached for her and I was sick when I read it. How could you ask someone to hold their child less? Yes, I understand that the daycare staff are very busy during the day and look after many children, but some children NEED to be held very frequently and are looking for some extra love and attention. These children do not need less cuddles, they need more. Children who are breastfed 24/7 are held 24/7 too. Often times these babies will need some extra love and attention as they have been mothered through breastfeeding.
Mothering through breastfeeding facilitates the growth of a baby, into a toddler, into a small child heading off to preschool. It creates a bond, a relationship that is unlike any other because all of their needs are met at the breast. Our child is comforted at the breast, they are calmed at the breast…they are nourished at the breast. We mother through breastfeeding to form these strong attachments so they can form a strong sense of self and confidence. They have been loved so they can now go out and love others. They have had their needs met so they can now go out and offer their help to others in need. Independence flourishes once their needs have been met.
How to do this preschool (Kindy) transition as easily as possible for mother and child…
If you have the option, try to do this when your child is ready…don’t rush it. About six months ago when Mini The Milk was just over 3 years old I tried putting him into preschool. He HATED it and it was traumatic for us both. He cried. I cried. We attempted it once and I decided it wasn’t time. Although it was increasingly challenging for me to run my private practice and keep him home, I knew I had to just put my career on hold a bit longer so I could spend time with him. 6 months later we tried again and he was ready! Not everyone has this option, but if you do then try to respect where you child is at.
Let him settle in before you leave. We visited his preschool together and hung out there about 6 times before I left him for the day. He got used to it and I could also talk with the teachers about my parenting beliefs, what was important for me and what I thought he needed. COMMUNICATE with the teachers and carers there! Make sure you tell them what your child’s needs are and what’s important for you. I am so grateful for Mini The Milk’s wonderful teachers who respect my parenting beliefs and his needs.
Talk about it with your child , communicate with your child. Leave in shorter chucks at first. Explain what’s happening and start with shorter visits when you first leave them. If Mini The Milk had cried when I tried to leave I would have stayed. This was something I felt strongly about. Some will leave their child crying and I’m not saying one is right or wrong, and some parents who have to go back to work don’t have a choice! I just knew for me I could not do it. However, by talking with him and starting the transition slowly with him, he was comfortable and knew what was happening.
A note to daycare providers and preschool teachers to help understand what is going through our emotional, breastfeeding minds…
We have always mothered through breastfeeding. We have met our child’s needs through breastfeeding, cuddles and gentle parenting methods. It’s not that we don’t trust you! It’s that is hard for us to leave our child when we have always been the one to comfort through breastfeeding. We just want to make sure our child is comforted, loved and that their needs are met. Please welcome our frequent visits and/or phone call if we want to check on our child to see how they are doing during the day. We just need to know that someone else is there paying attention to them as best they can, since we are not there to mother them through breastfeeding as we have always done. It’s a transition, and one that takes time and extra care when their comfort has been mainly or solely sought through us.
And to all of you “attachment” parenting, breastfeeding mamas out there…
Don’t worry about your little attached child. Don’t fret that your baby will never leave you. Because they will. Cuddle those babies of yours. They might head off to school still breastfeeding like my little one. And you know what? I’m so happy he is. This morning before he got dressed for pre-school he hopped into my bed and breastfed (on both sides of course) for about 20 minutes. That will be his only breastfeed today until he heads off to sleep tonight. He still finds comfort, he still find security, he still looks up at me with his big blue eyes while breastfeeding and is content. And so am I.