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Observation at four weeks (4)

We went into the living room and settled into our usual places and his mother put Daniel on her knees firstly sitting him up and then laying him down. He was making some noises so she asked him whether he wanted some food. She collected her ring and before long he was latched onto her right breast. His mother began to talk about their week whilst still looking intently at her baby. She touched her pretty hair, pushing it out of her eyes. "You let mummy dry her hair this morning, wee man.” At one point she said, "Are you really interested in food?” and helped him back to her nipple. I moved to see Daniel gazing intently at his mother without sucking. He put his tongue out, his eyes still wide open and then rooted for the nipple.

His mother helped him back by supporting his head towards the nipple and then he sucked again contentedly. I could see his jaw working.

His mother is cuing into her baby's signals for food and is learning how to "demand feed" against her earlier best intentions to follow her own feeding schedule. There is a kind of early conversation going on with Daniel stopping his feeding to gaze at his mother (Stern, 1985). Possibly Daniel is unable at this stage to integrate sucking and looking (Bruner, 1968) but this intense gazing is like "eating up" with his eyes: in a way he is getting his psychological "food" by looking at his mother and being closely held by her.

At five weeks breast feeding is well established and Daniel and his mother spend long moments gazing at each other during and after the feed and the couple are highly sensitised to each other. Mother tells me that when she recently had a bad stomach upset she was unable to feed one night and Dad fed Daniel his first formula bottle which he lapped up. His mother told me that she wasn't happy with the colour and smell of the poo-y nappy and she reverted to breast feeding as soon as she could the next morning. Since then Daniel has been grumbling a bit when she tries to put him back onto the breast after a burp break. I wonder at the time whether there is a correlation between her illness and resultant bottle feed, and Daniel's present dissatisfaction which shows some anxiety around the loss of her breast.

His mother speaks of how much she is looking forward to bringing in solids so she can really see what amounts Daniel is eating. She talks of weaning around six months. She tells me that Daniel has started to suck his thumb which she is not happy about. She says she is concerned about what the dentists say but I wonder whether she is unsure about Daniel finding alternate sucking pleasure to her body, as if this feeds into her mixed feelings about breast feeding. I find myself feeling a bit confused. Daniel is so obviously thriving and enjoying the feeding experience and yet his mother appears not to be able to trust in her own ability to nourish her baby. I wonder if there are some unresolved conflicts around eating from her past which are visiting her at this time (Fraiberg, 1975).

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