Home Sociology Infant Observation: Creating Transformative Relationships
Observation at fifteen weeks (15)
As his mother spoke to me on the intercom I heard Daniel for the first time shouting in the background. As I entered the flat I told his mother that I had heard his voice downstairs and she laughed and said that he had been driving her crazy with his shouting this afternoon.
He yelled from the kitchen where we joined him. He was sitting in his chair on the table and when he saw me he grinned broadly. His face looked more mature, with his slightly pointed chin and bright eyes. He shouted at his mother and she came to pick him up. He turned to look at me away from his mother's shoulder and smiled at me again. I returned his smile and he put his tongue out. His mother said she would try feeding him again and we walked into the living room where I sat across the room and his mother talked whilst she tried to give him her right breast. He yelled a bit and his mother said, "Oh, Daniel, don't be grumpy" and he pushed his head back against her hand and then he lunged towards her breast and latched on.
She kept her hand on his head throughout and his right arm was against her left breast and holding on to her clothing above his head. His body was tucked around her abdomen.
His mother spoke of the night feeding through the week and of her concern about his weight and trying more bottled formula. She had been trying this because she felt that if she didn't she would be breast feeding him for the rest of her life even whilst he was on solids.
More chat about runny nappies and buying freezer ice trays so she could start making food for Daniel.
His mother sat on the feeding chair after the bath with Dad and said to Dad who was playing with Daniel, "Come on, Tim, stop taking so long and prolonging the agony before I feed him with this bottle." Then Dad came and sat with Daniel on the bed near me and said,
"I think we will have a little look around" and faced mother so that Daniel could see her. He looked entirely peaceful and at home on his father's lap as if this was his rightful place. As I left the house I heard his mother say to Dad, "OK, Tim, can I have Daniel now for this bottle which he probably is not going to take."
There is a different feeling around the breast feeding this visit. Something is changing in the family. Neither Daniel nor his mother are relaxed into the feed. There is a new intensity and a battle of wills. There is a concentrated see-saw of emotions highlighted by Daniel's response to me when we first meet. He smiles at me as if he is pleased to see me, then smiles again seductively (and I am seduced and smile back) and then he sticks his tongue out as if pushing something bad out. I certainly feel rejected. It feels as if this hitherto quiet, responsive little boy has turned into a loud monster who is capable of spitting me out and eating his mother up.
Daniel lunges towards his mother's breast as if he has a phantasy of "devouring and poisoning" something persecutory (Klein, 1952). His mother holds his head firmly which possibly adds to his fears of being attacked by something he cannot withstand. I wonder whether Daniel's loud shouting, whilst exciting and exploratory, may serve as a defence to protect him from his anxiety stirred up by the powerful feelings of loss which he is experiencing during this weaning process. I also see how Daniel, in his mind, is splitting his parents into the good father and the bad mother. I leave their home with some anxiety (I assume partly projected by his mother) as his mother prepares to do battle with the bottle.
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