Chronicle of a 40-day nursing strike


My 'journal' of mailing-list postings

This is the day-to-day story (in the form of a collection of messages that I posted to mailing lists) of how my baby Arthur abruptly stopped nursing for a full 40 days, after breaking a front tooth left him with an exposed nerve which nothing could even touch without causing him a lot of pain.

I decided to put up a web page about our experiences after others suggested it and because most of the stuff on the web about nursing strikes is pretty bad. Even though this wasn't a normal nursing strike, people have said that they liked the ideas I tried, and that it has helped their own confidence and determination to read about how Arthur could still go back to normal and enthusiastic nursing after such a long interruption. I know that throughout Arthur's nursing strike I personally read everything I could get my hands/browser on that was even slightly related, and found a lot of it very depressing and pessimistic, so I think it will be good for other people to be able to read a long, detailed story that has a happy ending despite being such an extreme case.

I also want to say that I am extremely grateful for the support I got from the people who read and responded to these messages as I posted them -- the reasons that I cut out their names and writings as much as possible in this compilation were (1) to try to make it shorter, and (2) because I haven't asked their permission to show other people their comments, not because of any lack of appreciation.

So here we go back in the time machine to May 21, 1996:


Subject: Little Arthur just tripped and cracked a tooth in half :-(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Date: Tue, 21 May 1996 23:23:45 -0700

I'd been thinking of posting a message (to another list) earlier today about what a hard time my children have had with their teeth, and now this just happened at about 8:30 p.m. :-(!!!! I thought I'd post about it here and see if anyone had had similar experiences.

My older child Sam started to have a gap of decay between his front teeth before he was even a year old, and when he was five he had eight cavities filled (a local midwife's assistant's extended-nursed daughter who is almost exactly the same age as Sam had 12 cavities filled at the same time).* I'd hoped that Arthur would have better luck with his teeth, and at first he did (no decay gap), but then he managed to chip one of his front teeth some months ago, and decay started really eroding the chipped tooth away. And now it's his good front tooth that's broken in half horizontally, just hanging in there. :-( What a miserable night!

Earlier today I downloaded a new driver so I could use my scanner with Windows 95, and then I scanned in a picture of Sam and Arthur sticking their tongues out, and set it to be my Windows wallpaper. It seems pretty poignant now to see their big toothy grins like that. And Arthur doesn't want me to do any work or e-mail or anything that will cover up the picture ... he keeps coming up and complaining until I minimize everything and he can see the picture again.

At least Arthur doesn't seem very bothered by his broken tooth -- since then he's been playing, listening to stories, etc. normally -- but he also keeps pointing to it, and in the two hours since then has refused to nurse, drink from a cup, or eat. He'll pick up a piece of food and start to bring it to his mouth, then stop and put it back down again, and point to his mouth. OK, I finally (I keep having to start and stop this message) got him to take a few licks of an ice- cream cone with no problem, but then he got a drip of ice cream on his finger, put his finger in his mouth, bumped his tooth, got a shocked look on his face, and that was that for the cone.

I called the dentist and he just said to bring him in tomorrow. I could say more about this but I guess I should just get it sent while I have a chance. I wonder how we'll get through the night, though ...

* (I read this stuff -- like in the Midwifery Today breastfeeding booklet -- about how breastfed children are supposed to have about half the cavities of bottlefed children, and wonder, gee, does this mean they would have had total mouth-meltdowns otherwise or what?!)


Subject: Rough times (super-long but probably still leaving a lot out!)
Date: Sat, 25 May 1996 11:20:26 -0700

Tuesday night I posted about how Arthur (20 months) had just tripped and broken one of his top front teeth. As you might imagine, this is an update. The tooth was broken at the gum line and basically just hanging there in the back somehow -- when Arthur was standing up it looked normal except for having what appeared to be a deep (sometimes a little bloody) groove in it, but when he was laying on his back it could flop back and point back towards his throat.

It didn't bother him that night as far as playing went, but he was very firm about not wanting anything to eat or drink. I called the dentist and we were going to go in in the morning. Then it got to be nighttime, and here you have little Arthur who has nursed to sleep every day of his life and is now afraid to nurse because his mouth hurts. I lay down beside him, he reached out to me, and then when his mouth was only about an inch away he suddenly jerked his head away and became very upset. He finally fell asleep at 2:30 a.m. after a lot of walking and rocking, then woke up again about 4, and so on. I could hear his stomach growl but I couldn't get him to take anything.

Now normally I could brush a nipple against Arthur's mouth while he was asleep and he would open up and start drinking away in his sleep, but now, no matter how tired he was when I would offer, he would jerk away and get right up, very upset. When he'd be wide awake, no matter how happy he was, as soon as he'd see a nipple he'd get all upset.

We went to the dentist first thing Wednesday morning, and Arthur let him reach into his mouth and just take the tooth out. Then when we would look in his mouth we could see the root/nerve with a thin white circle of tooth around it -- it made me think of a sushi roll and I don't like sushi! The dentist thought that if the nerve was left alone it would desensitize itself in a couple of days, whereas if they put anything on it it would just traumatize Arthur more about his mouth, which sounded reasonable to me, so we left.

It had now been over 12 hours since he'd last eaten or drank anything, so I wanted to try to get him to start taking in nourishment again. He was still afraid to nurse, would get upset if I even tried to offer. I tried to squirt some milk into his mouth but he would just get mad and spit it out and cry. He was going around with his mouth open all the time, so when he fell asleep I tried dripping a few drops of milk into his mouth, thinking it might put him back into that automatic-nurse-in-sleep mode, but instead he woke up upset.

I talked to him about putting a straw (he usually likes drinking from a straw) or bit of food into the side of his mouth so it wouldn't hurt, but he wouldn't let me try. He was getting more and more upset about it -- he would see a food he liked, pick it up, start to bring it to his mouth, but then stop short about an inch away and sometimes start crying, while putting it back down and pointing to his mouth.

When it got to be about 19 hours after he'd had anything, he saw Jon's package of chocolate-covered expresso beans and asked for some as he usually does, but again stopped short and started crying instead of putting any in his mouth. I saw my chance and popped a tiny one into the side of his mouth while he had it open for a cry. He looked shocked but started sucking on it, and then allowed me to feed him about ten more of them -- he would hand me one, I would put it carefully into the side of his mouth while talking about that, then he would hand me the next one.

So that was a relief, but I was still worried about Arthur not getting any liquid, especially because he had been walking around with his mouth hanging open and drooling all the time ever since the injury. Finally when it got to be about 22 hours after the injury he let me feed him some expressed milk with an eyedropper in the side of his mouth, and after his first taste he let me feed him all that I had gotten out, and then some cows milk after that. I was so happy ... this may sound tacky, but the first thing that came to mind at the time was that I felt about as good as I did when Bush lost re-election, oh well! I was just so happy that my baby was not going to wind up in the hospital with an IV for dehydration. But he still was afraid to even try nursing.

Now that he had some liquid in him I decided to take him for a walk to the grocery store to pick up some things that might be easy/tempting for him. I usually boycott non-organic grapes, but Arthur loves grapes and they had some that were so tiny that I thought he'd be able to eat them pretty easily without hurting his mouth. Sam had wanted me to pick up some doughnuts, and when I went in the doughnut store the counter person tried to give Arthur a doughnut hole, but I explained about his tooth and so it just went into the bag. However, on the way back Arthur kept insisting that he wanted to get into the doughnut bag. I gave him the doughnut hole, but thought he would only hold it -- I was amazed when he started tearing tiny pieces off and giving them to me to put in the side of his mouth, then started doing it himself. Then he wanted another one and ate that too.

When we got home Arthur did eat a lot of grapes (as soon as he saw Sam eat some then he had to do it too), and was really into the eyedropper but still afraid to nurse. When he got sleepy he lay down and wanted me to feed him more with the eyedropper, but then disaster struck that, too -- at one point he suddenly turned his head so that the eyedropper bumped the sore place, and after that he would have no more of the eyedropper and was again very upset and needing holding and rocking for much of the night.

I was getting pretty knocked out by the sleep deprivation which was all very new to me -- Arthur and Sam before him had always happily nursed to sleep, nursed back to sleep, without keeping me up. On Thursday at one point I was playing a game with Sam and a friend, thought that I had better check on Arthur, then realized that Arthur hadn't gone into the backyard as I had just imagined -- actually I was holding him at the time! So I guess I was getting pretty tired!

Thursday morning Arthur's mouth was chapped (which I'd never seen before) but he still got upset at the sight of either a breast or the eyedropper. He wasn't interested in food, but as soon as he saw Sam drinking from a straw, then he had to do it too. By afternoon he was drinking from a cup again. By evening he was eating pretzels -- tiny ones, and carefully putting them on the side of his mouth, but I still could hardly believe it. But he still was afraid to nurse.

So now it's Saturday morning, and Arthur's eating is pretty much all back to normal except that he still will not nurse. If I brush against him in his sleep he just moves away instead of opening wide. As of yesterday (he's still asleep now) he's not crying at the sight of a nipple any more, but mostly interested in pinching them (I was expressing milk into a cup in front of him to try to interest him at one point, and had the thought that maybe he likes to pinch so much because he's seen me do this before and thinks he's just imitating it!) or laying with one hand on each and his head resting in the middle.

So yesterday I was working on at least getting him friendly with my equipment again -- I would lay him in my lap and tickle him and say funny things while patting a nipple on his forehead, nose, etc. Once he even let me spray some milk into his mouth without spitting it out, but he still didn't want to try going all the way, so to speak. At one point Sam decided that he would try to show Arthur what to do (usually Arthur want to do whatever Sam does), but all Arthur would do after that was repeatedly press his nose into a nipple while giggling.

Later I was laying down reading to Arthur and he leaned over, opened his mouth, and ... blew big raspberries on it! Well, it's a lot of progress, but I have no idea whether this means that he'll get back to nursing today or whether I'll be expressing for a month or what. I guess that this counts as a nursing strike, so I did a search for that on the net and basically came up with a gazillion copies of the nursing-strikes FAQ, some of which is pretty godawful (well, what would I expect from, such as:

My first baby weaned herself at 3 months. She much prefered the bottle. Since it was what she wanted, I weaned her then. I missed it, but the antibody protection was gone then and I couldn't see forcing the baby to nurse for MY benefit when she clearly didn't want to.
The LLL one was better of course!

Another thing that gets me about this is that this is basically how Sam weaned -- after a mouth injury (at a birthday party he tripped and bashed into a table edge, biting deep into his lip) -- but he was about 3 1/3 at the time and at that point only nursing briefly at night when going to sleep. Arthur on the other hand was still nursing many times a day, and I was very used to being able to take for granted that whenever he was tired, fed up, upset from having tripped on something, etc. I could nurse him and he would either fall asleep or pop off in a few minutes feeling much more happy and refreshed.

I was very used to Arthur happily nursing to sleep, maybe waking up during the night to nurse back to sleep again with no fuss. Now he wakes up crying and I rock him back to sleep, maybe having to start the whole process over again if lying him down in bed wakes him up again. I used to be able to just turn the lights out (this is after everyone has gone to sleep -- as long as anyone was still up doing something, Arthur would want to be up) and he would nurse to sleep. Now he just gets more and more tired and frantic and upset as the evening gets later, and I walk around rocking him, then try to lay us both down without waking him again in the process.

I'm pretty sure I'll be able to get Arthur back to nursing again if I keep playing around with him, squirting milk into his mouth and so on, but it's very sad to see him having such horrible nights. He was usually always so happy. I can understand that nursing might be the last thing to get back to normal, because it uses the mouth in such an active way (and can't be moved to the side of his mouth or relegated to the back molars) that it could put a lot of stress on his injury, but it seems so bizarre that even his reflexes-when-asleep could have completely changed so immediately.

Well, I guess I should do the end and send routine so I can get this out before Arthur wakes up (or after Jon finishes downloading a file, anyway -- he's tying up the phone right now), but as you can see, we're having some rough times here.


Subject: Re: Rough times (super-long but probably still leaving a lot out!)
Date: Sun, 26 May 1996 08:37:02 -0700

[Elaborating on my complaints about the nursing-strikes FAQ.]

It's weird (I know, not for, but still!) that a FAQ which starts out saying "I'm working on the assumption that all of the people who are concerned about a nursing strike wish to continue nursing, and that comments of the form 'let him/her wean' will not be useful or desired." contains several messages to the effect of "My baby weaned him/herself at because he/she preferred bottles", with this being presented not as a warning about nipple confusion but instead as (to include quotes from two different people) "He is starting to be independent and you have to accept it." and "These sounds like spunky, confident kids whose parents should be PROUD that they are making and expressing choices about their lives." The thing is, they're talking about three and five-month-old babies here.

Another person says "the problem solved itself", meaning that his wife's supply dried up just fine when their son went over to "100% bottles". Another person describes how her daughter also switched to bottles at three months and was so independent and strong willed that soon she (mother) didn't even hold her daughter after giving her the bottle!

I think someone needs to redo that FAQ!

And get this one:

I hope all works well for you. My sister-in-law nursed her daughter for over 1 year, and my niece has such a nipple fetish! She asks about your nipples, are they big, etc. It is cute to a point, but I'm glad I don't have to deal with that.

Subject: Re: Rough times (super-long but probably still leaving a lot out!)
Date: Sun, 26 May 1996 10:02:27 -0700


When Arthur was raising such a fuss at night Jon tried to hold him many times, but he only wanted me to hold him. Jon kept getting up and I kept making him go back to sleep, because when he would stand around talking it only made things worse, because then Arthur paid attention to him instead of dozing off in my arms. On Friday Sam had a friend sleeping over, and because they were still up at 3a.m. of course Arthur also wanted to be, and Jon got up at around 2 and played with him for an hour.

Today I'm going to have Jon try to get Arthur to latch on (or at least to make a little more progress) again by opening his (Jon's) mouth wide and going glom on me repeatedly for Arthur to imitate. (Before I told Jon I wasn't interested in his services because he didn't do it right, but now that it's been this long I decided I should just try to teach him to do it right.)

> I hope that he gets back to nursing soon and that you get some sleep.
> His little mouth must have been really sore.

I'm not sure how sore it still is, because Arthur is still putting food in the side of his mouth, and I haven't seen him bump it into anything lately (so I don't know how much he would complain if that happened). He did start feeding himself with spoons and forks again, too, but still isn't nursing. There was a little more progress this morning, though -- he started to wake up a little while ago, was rolling around and making some sort-of cries, I lay down beside him, this time he reached for a breast with his hands instead of turning away, but then instead of nursing he lay his head on it like a pillow, fell back to sleep, and a few minutes later rolled over.

And last night was the first night that he fell asleep relatively painlessly since this happened -- when he and Sam were very tired I lay Arthur down in bed beside me in his usual nursing position, pulled up my shirt, and he stayed there instead of immediately jumping up and/or getting upset. I started playing this game that he really likes right now (I point to a body part and ask him if it's a different body part, he says yes and laughs a lot, I say no and he shakes his head and laughs a lot), and after a few minutes he suddenly rolled over and closed his eyes.

I did more of the spraying some milk into his mouth while he lay in my lap bit yesterday, but one problem with that is that Arthur is very neat (he doesn't like to have any kind of mess on his hands, for example), and although he thought the whole business was funny, if a drop would get on his nose or chin he would get kind of flustered and be wiping it off. He also had no interest in letting the nipple go in his mouth, he was just rolling around giggling, which definitely made it hard to avoid having some go on his nose, chin, etc.


Subject: Re: Wow...
Date: Wed, 29 May 1996 09:29:50 -0700

> [...]

Thanks (and thanks also to everyone else who wrote) ... we're making a small amount of progress each day, but still, at this point it's been over a week since Arthur last nursed. The progress yesterday was (1) the first time he started moaning and rolling around in the morning I came and lay down next to him, and he went back to sleep with his hands on a breast and his (closed) mouth resting against a nipple, instead of pulling his head away or using it as a pillow, and (2) he started pulling my shirt up again, though to grab and hug rather than nurse.

On the more kinky end of things (I already told ****** about this), I've also been using a very lifelike poodle puppet to give him "lessons." I lay on my back with my shirt up and say "doggie open mouth wide" and open the poodle's mouth. Then I say "Arthur open mouth wide and he opens his mouth. Then I latch the poodle on and say "drink go in doggie's mouth." Then I have the poodle "nurse" and say "doggie go drink, drink, drink" until Arthur pushes the poodle off and puts his own mouth on. Unfortunately, at this point he just gives me a raspberry instead of starting to nurse (or at best, a few times he just put his mouth on and then took it off with no raspberry), but he does love this game and many times yesterday he hopped on the bed and waved the puppet at me to get me to come over and do it some more.

I hand-express some milk into a cup in front of him (maybe I should get a rent-a-pump, because this hand-expressing certainly isn't doing much for my supply, and a little hand pump I got when Sam was a baby doesn't work for me at all) and he keeps grabbing and drinking it as fast as (or faster than) I can get any in. One time yesterday when he handed me back the cup I was trying to encourage him to go directly to the source instead, but he just became more insistent, pushing the cup into me.

You might think, well, OK, Arthur prefers cups then. But yesterday was another rough morning: he woke up crying, and whereas I would normally have laid down with him and he would have either nursed back to sleep or nursed for a while and then gotten up happy, as it was I rocked him for what seemed like an hour, with him crying at changes in position. So I certainly wish he would go back to nursing!

If this were happening to someone else then I wouldn't have believed it, I would have thought that all they would have to do would be to spray some milk in the baby's mouth or brush against the baby's mouth during sleep! But the whole thing has been like trying to get him to drink from my elbows or something, like he's just totally forgotten how it works or even that it does, but he's too young for me to be able to really explain to him what's going on.

Arthur also managed to bump his broken tooth (or lack of tooth) again last night, against the kitchen table when he was holding onto the edge watching us play a board game. There was a tiny amount of blood but it didn't bother him past the initial yelp; he was eating normally a few minutes later.


Subject: Re: arthur
Date: Sat, 01 Jun 1996 07:19:39 -0700

[In response to a question about how Arthur was doing.]

He is very affectionate and sweet and mischievous and smart and funny and so on, but still not nursing. We also haven't made any progress since the last installment I posted :-(, in fact in that game with the poodle puppet he now usually just wants the poodle puppet to be continually switching sides, instead of taking turns (even just to give me a raspberry) with it himself. Yesterday at one point I was laying on my back with my shirt up, and he came pouncing on me openmouthed, aiming right for a nipple as he used to (I was really surprised because it seemed like he was suddenly going to start again just like that), but at the last instant he turned his head so that his cheek landed there instead.

I did try one new thing yesterday that was kind of against my better judgment but that I thought had a possible chance of success: I was asking him to bite me, of all things. He used to do that sometimes when he was being very mischievous, and I thought that if he did it again and clamped on with his teeth, he might try/remember a little more as well. But he just laughed at the idea.

He is still very interested in breasts but it's like it's completely switched over to using his hands and cuddling, for example when he goes to sleep he puts a hand on each and cuddles up against me. I try to spend as much time laying around topless with him as possible, e.g. lately I've been doing a lot of reading to him with both of us laying in bed instead of with him sitting in my lap as I would usually do it, and zip, his hands latch on immediately, but that's all.


Subject: Re: arthur
Date: Sun, 02 Jun 1996 10:30:07 -0700

> [...]

Arthur will take a spoonful of ice cream front and center in his mouth, but with everything else he carefully places it into the side of his mouth or the back of his mouth, avoiding his broken not-much-of-a-tooth. When he takes a bite off of something like a bagel, he has it pushed as far to the side of his mouth as he can. Sometimes he bumps his mouth (like yesterday, when he was sitting in my lap acting kind of wild, suddenly jerked his head back to whack against my shoulder, then jerked it forward and his mouth whacked into my arm) and then he acts more distressed than he would have normally, so I would say it's still sensitive. Even if it's not actively sore any more, it must still feel pretty different to have things press into it.

Arthur seems to have transferred some of his mouth associations to his nose -- not only will he grab a breast and then push his nose in it, but he's also changed the "grab someone's finger, stick it in his mouth" he used to do to "grab someone's finger, use it to push his nose."

Yesterday morning I was going to make a serious try to keep brushing against Arthur's mouth while he was sleeping, to see if I could ever get a nipple into his mouth, but all that happened was that at first he wouldn't respond in any way, and then after a little while he'd move his hand up (still in his sleep) and grab it.

Whereas it used to be that when Arthur would wake up in the middle of the night he'd just nurse and fall back to sleep with no fuss, at one point last night he just sat up and started howling and pointing to the room door, wanting me to carry him into the kitchen to get his midnight snack there. So we went in there and he had some chocolate milk, tofu dog and carrots. There was a cup in the refrigerator that I had been expressing milk into during the day, and he took it out and handed it to me so that I would have something to do while he was busy in the refrigerator. :-)

I don't like not wearing a bra because it makes me want to be stooped over all the time ... whereas a few months ago I was going without as much as possible to help some bites heal, now I'm going without a lot to (1) remind me to keep expressing some milk (I wonder if I'm the only person in the world to have accidentally knocked over some expressed milk into my laser printer paper tray?), and (2) to make it easy to keep pulling my shirt up on the fly with Arthur.

Actually I had a dream last night that he started nursing again, though he would also keep pulling off because of his mouth feeling funny ... as far as I know that's the only dream I've had about this.


Subject: Re: arthur
Date: Mon, 03 Jun 1996 06:34:51 -0700

> [...]

Well, Arthur is still very affectionate and wanting to cuddle a lot, so we can keep up the same amount of contact even though he's not nursing. Also, even though he doesn't talk much yet (and a lot of his words sound very much alike), he can understand what I say and can either answer yes or no questions or point to what he wants. I also keep thinking of new things to try -- obviously they haven't worked yet, but it pleases me to at least feel resourceful.

For a bizarre one, now I'm thinking about trying "reverse nipple confusion": I used to give Arthur a bottle of juice for the stroller or car, but stopped when it seemed like it was encouraging him to bite me, and threw the bottle away so Jon would stop giving it to him as well. So if I get another bottle and he remembers what it's for and is willing to drink from it, maybe I can be giving it to him in bed and then when he's very relaxed make a sudden switch of the kind I used to do when switching from the "bottom" to the "top" side. Hey, it might work, and wouldn't that be a funny thing if it did?

> Do you think it might be worth going back to the dentist and seeing if
> there's anything that can be done about the sensitivity? You mentioned
> a nerve before and I'm wondering if that's still bothering him.

He was saying that he thought it would be better to let the nerve desensitize by itself rather than traumatize Arthur more by holding him down to paint some nerve-killing stuff on it, but maybe I will call back and ask for more details.


Subject: Re: van lice
Date: Mon, 03 Jun 1996 07:32:27 -0700

> Every time I think about what your little guy has been going through,
> I feel sad. Did you get a pump, Tane'? I feel like I should have
> more constructive advice for you, but no one has ever asked me how
> not to wean a 1.75 year old who seems to be weaning.

You probably talk to people with children who are weaning because of nipple confusion (or whatever the equivalent term is for if an older child is getting to prefer the bottles they're getting rather than that their sucking technique is getting messed up), but yeah, that's different.

I kept going back and forth on what I was going to do ... I thought that a pump would be better than the hand-expressing for keeping supply up, and get out more milk for me to give him by cup. But then after exchanging mail with you I was kind of impulsive and thought "I'll just order that 'Pump in Style' pump that all the people seem to rave about, and not have to deal with renting one -- I can sell it or give it away later if I want." But because it was Friday night, I have until later today to think about it, because it was too late to ship then anyway.


Subject: Re: Arthur
Date: Mon, 03 Jun 1996 20:31:32 -0700

> [...]

Thanks ... actually I posted something along the same lines myself this morning, which was this:

For a bizarre one, now I'm thinking about trying "reverse nipple confusion": I used to give Arthur a bottle of juice for the stroller or car, but stopped when it seemed like it was encouraging him to bite me, and threw the bottle away so Jon would stop giving it to him as well. So if I get another bottle and he remembers what it's for and is willing to drink from it, maybe I can be giving it to him in bed and then when he's very relaxed make a sudden switch of the kind I used to do when switching from the "bottom" to the "top" side. Hey, it might work, and wouldn't that be a funny thing if it did?

I haven't been to the grocery store yet today though (but I'm going in a few minutes, now that it's cooled down), so I haven't yet come to the moment of truth on deciding whether or not to get one.

Actually I noticed Arthur doing one more thing today for the first time since his accident ... he was mad at Sam for trying to get him to stop sitting on the book Sam was reading, so he grabbed Sam's arm and wanted to bite it, but never got it into his mouth. This is something he occasionally used to do when he was mad, but it was a surprise to see him trying something like that now.


Subject: Re: Arthur
Date: Tue, 04 Jun 1996 07:17:41 -0700

[Responding to someone who recommends against trying a bottle with Arthur.]

Well, it's a little different with us because it's not that he's finding it difficult to nurse but rather that he hasn't nursed period for two weeks now (hmm, I just went looking for that thing I read about how a nursing strike can supposedly last up to two weeks, to show Arthur when he wakes up :-), but now I can't even remember/find what book/magazine/web page that was in!), so if he does remember what the bottle is for and is able to drink from it without pain, then it could possibly be a step towards nursing rather than further away.

And I did get one at the grocery store last night, but then Arthur fell asleep on the walk home, so I haven't found out yet whether he will think "Gee, what a blast from the past [I used to give him juice in bottles in the carseat and so on] ... yeah, give me a swig of that!" or "What?!?!! Why would I want a bottle when it's so much faster to drink from a cup or straw, and you can't even blow bubbles with it!"

I felt pretty embarrassed buying it, actually. And I know that the mouth/jaw process is different for a bottle than it is for breastfeeding (for that matter, Arthur could probably drink with it just stuck in the side of his mouth, which obviously wouldn't work for nursing), but hey, it's another experiment. He hasn't had a bottle in months, but breastfeeding and occasional bottles of juice coexisted just fine for him when he was younger, and as I said before, if I can get him to do it while he's sleepy and laying in bed, I may be able to make a switch on him similar to the "switch sides without turning over" routine.


Subject: Re: van lice
Date: Tue, 04 Jun 1996 07:57:38 -0700

> [...]

Well, it's not like it was when Sam weaned (3.333 after biting through his lip, as I've mentioned), because Sam was down to only doing it when he went to sleep and never seemed to miss it afterwards, whereas Arthur was still an active nurser, and even though he's adapted in many ways, in other ways he's still having a hard time of it. Hey, I go around quoting the "WHO and UNICEF recommend at least two years" stuff to people, so I certainly think the milk is good for him too on top of the "comfort" issues and so on.


Subject: Re: Arthur
Date: Wed, 05 Jun 1996 07:10:18 -0700

OK, here's today's installment! :-)

> [...]

Well, the one and only thing Arthur does with the front of his mouth with no complaint is to eat ice cream. Everything else, even banana pieces, gets carefully placed in the side or back of his mouth. My latest theory is that the way the nerve/root is sticking out causes it to get pushed against the sharp broken tooth shell edges when something presses on it, sometimes causing a little bleeding. So even if the nerve is relatively desensitized, it would still cause pain for that reason. I'm going to try to talk to the dentist about this this morning.

At least yesterday the bottle experiment was a no-go. I filled it with chocolate milk, which Arthur is a big fan of, and hid the rest of the chocolate milk in the back of the refrigerator so that he wouldn't see it anywhere except the bottle. As soon as he saw the bottle he really wanted it, but when he got it all he did was walk around tweaking the nipple, also occasionally pressing it to his nose. Once he put the nipple in the side of his mouth and bit down on it, but didn't try to suck or anything, immediately took it out again. When he would set it down and I would pick it up to put away, he would get upset and want it right back, but when I returned it to him he would again only tweak it and press it to his nose while giggling. Helpful Sam drank from it a little to try to give him the idea (usually Arthur wants to do whatever Sam does), but still no progress.


Subject: Re: Arthur
Date: Thu, 06 Jun 1996 08:31:50 -0700

> [...]

Hi! Thanks for the suggestions and thoughts, but I have to say that it's a little different here because Arthur used to drink from a bottle (juice) sometimes when he was younger (he is 20.5 months old now), which coexisted just fine with breastfeeding then, except that I stopped giving him the bottles because it seemed like it was encouraging him to bite me (he would hold the bottle nipple in his teeth and pull it snap out, and was biting me more). After that he just drank from cups and with a straw. Believe me, he finds cups, straws, cartons, etc. very easy to drink from. And with the way the bottle experiment the other day went, I get the idea that he's forgotten how bottles work.

I'm now using an electric pump instead of my crappy hand-expressing and it's definitely much better, I can sit here and type at the same time and get more milk and everything. I feel less neglected. :-)


Subject: OK, here's today's Arthur installment
Date: Fri, 07 Jun 1996 08:16:35 -0700

Well, Wednesday Arthur had fun at the SF Zoo and the Exploratorium, at a friend's house and a Mexican restaurant, etc., but Thursday morning (I started writing this yesterday and then didn't get back to it, so now I have to go back and change the "yesterday" and "today" references :-)) it was basically take him to the dentist as soon as he woke up. Here is what I wrote on Wednesday:

My latest theory is that the way the nerve/root is sticking out causes it to get pushed against the sharp broken tooth shell edges when something presses on it, sometimes causing a little bleeding. So even if the nerve is relatively desensitized, it would still cause pain for that reason.

I had assumed that the reason the nerve was sticking out more than before was because the bit of tooth shell surrounding it had gradually chipped off even more, but the dentist said that he was very surprised to see that in the last two weeks the nerve had grown instead of died. (It was easy for me to think things like "I guess this speaks well for his constitution," not that I know whether it would actually tie in with anything like that or not.) Being a Santa Cruz dentist after all, he kept phrasing this as "he's taking a different healing path." His view is that the options are:

  1. Continue to wait and see what happens. The nerve may continue to grow (not to the size of a minivan, though) or it may die, stabilize, whatever. This is what this dentist would prefer because he is very non-interventionist and doesn't like going through big traumatic scenes.
  2. Strapping Arthur down and digging out the nerve under local anesthetic. Obviously this would not be a good scene. :-(
  3. Extracting the remains of the tooth under IV sedation. Sam went through this at the age of five (he was experiencing pain from his cavities but was too afraid of the nitrous mask and noisy moving chair to take a less drastic route ... we had done a lot of play-acting at home with a funnel and electric toothbrush, but when he actually got into the chair he freaked out), and not only was it more frightening than his birth (to have him go limp in my arms and then stand there watching the heart monitor while the dentist worked on him), it also cost more! General anesthesia scares me in general, and Arthur is not even two ... I don't like the idea!
  4. Giving him some kind of oral sedative that has an "80% chance" of making him so sleepy that he just lays there and doesn't care that they are extracting the tooth at the same time under a local anesthetic. I don't know, all these things sound not so great.

So I guess I am going to wait a week and see how things look then, whether the nerve sticks out more, whether it seems more or less sensitive, etc. I would say that with things as they are, it doesn't look as if Arthur is going to nurse any time soon :-(, because I think there wouldn't be any way to avoid it putting pressure on that nerve.

I did, however, switch over from the hand expressing to using a dual electric pump -- my tiny (and next to Arthur's bed) desk's CD and tape cabinet is now a CD and pump cabinet -- and that is an improvement because I can sit here typing, reading, etc. while the pump runs (I stick the funnels into a loose bra rather than sitting there holding them with an orgasmic look on my face like the woman in the picture), and afterwards I sometimes feel like I would if Arthur had given me a good workout. Being a person with a home-office, I certainly never expected to be hooked up to a pump ... jeez ... well we are hanging in there as you can see ...


Subject: Re: Arthur and Tane''s dilemma
Date: Sat, 08 Jun 1996 08:32:52 -0700

[Responding to a person who asked if the dentist would let me hold Arthur in my lap during dental work, and be willing to stop if Arthur freaked out.]

Yeah, I'd think that he would definitely do those things, based both on the way Arthur has been in Jon's lap when getting checked by the dentist, and the way they are careful to stop anything Sam doesn't like. (Actually the hygienist went too far with that when Sam was there last month ... asking him things like whether he would rather be flossed this time or in six months. He was expecting and willing to be flossed, but with a choice like that, said sure, go ahead and do it in six months instead! Ahh for the days when Sam's teeth were the main topic of the TCS list ...)

> Die, nerve, die!

Well actually I would like to see his tooth start growing back too, but somehow I think that that one is beyond even Arthur's powers of regeneration. But if any of you have that book "uncircumcizing your teeth", well, I'm sure it wouldn't hurt to try. :-)


Subject: Arthur update again
Date: Sat, 15 Jun 1996 11:06:13 -0700

As of today it's been 25 days since Arthur fell and broke his tooth. I wrote before about how the exposed nerve had grown rather than died, making it look kind of like he had a little pink tooth with some white around it -- Heather saw it like this last weekend.

We had brought Arthur back into the dentist a week ago Thursday, and the dentist had again taken a "wait and see" attitude, saying that he wasn't in pain. Well, while it was true that he wasn't in constant pain, it was also true that he would be crying several times a day due to bumping it while eating or playing, not to mention the eating problems, not nursing and so on that I've written about here before. So I sent the dentist a fax on Thursday explaining in more detail all the problems Arthur was having and how we had reluctantly decided to go for surgery as the next step rather than have this continue indefinitely as it appeared to be doing. The dentist called back and we discussed this some more, then he said that his office would call the next day to make the appointment.

However, that day Arthur's tooth started changing again, with the nerve looking smaller and darker instead of the pale pink, and he didn't have a single bump/chew-waaaahhh!!! incident all day, which was a first. In contrast, here's something I wrote to someone else about something that happened last week:

Saturday night I took Sam and Arthur to a concert, and at one point there was a lead-in something along the lines of "This is a song of jubilation, we are going to show you how happy we all are." And about the time that the person said "jubilation", Arthur suddenly bumped his "tooth" on the straw he was drinking from, and made a huge intake of air in preparation for a cry. I thought, "oh no!" Then right after the person said "we are going to show you how happy we all are" he let out the huge wail that had been building, and the audience had a big laugh at the timing, though it was really very sad. :-(

Then yesterday, by the time the dentist's office called, the nerve had now shrunk/darkened to the point where Arthur was looking like he had a tiny white tooth with some food in it rather than the pink tooth with white around it. They said they had an appointment open for today, but (besides the fact that we're supposed to be going berry-picking with Heather's family today :-)) with the way his tooth was now changing, I wanted to put the appointment off for at least a few days to see if it would turn out that we could get away without the surgery. So we took the next available appointment after that, which isn't until 6/27 (!), though probably something will open up in the meantime.

I think they thought we were pretty flaky for sending that urgent fax but then not taking the quick appointment!

And Arthur didn't have any crying incidents over it yesterday either, and when he was walking around eating some pizza slices (and also cookies, afterwards) he didn't seem to be avoiding that area quite as carefully as he had been before -- though he was still biting pieces off using the side of his mouth, he didn't seem to be pushing it over quite as far as before. So maybe he's finally getting back to more or less normal.

I have to run but will also comment that Sam lost his fifth tooth last night, in a much more ordinary fashion, though, thankfully ...


And here is the fax that I sent to the dentist

To Dr. *****:

I'm writing to you to describe the problems my 20-month-old son Arthur Shemitz is continuing to have with his broken tooth, and how because of this we have reluctantly decided that surgery would now be the best option for him.

It has now been 23 days since Arthur fell and broke his top-right front tooth, and a week since you last looked at his mouth and were surprised to see that the exposed nerve was growing rather than dying. At the time your attitude ran towards "he's not in pain, so why not just keep watching it and see what happens?". Now while in general I do appreciate this kind of non-interventionist approach (I'm definitely not the kind of parent who takes their children to the doctor when they have colds), in Arthur's case I don't think you understand how much pain and disruption to his life his injured tooth has caused and continues to cause him.

While it's true that he's only in pain when something presses against his upper lip or directly on the nerve, it's also true that this happens and leaves him crying many times every day during normal eating and playing. He's afraid to have his face washed, and often wakes up screaming, instead of the gradual nurse/sleep/nurse/wake up happy that he would have done before his injury. As much as I dislike the idea of the trauma and risks of anesthesia and surgery, watching him go through 23 days of this has been bad enough -- I don't want him to continue like this indefinitely if there is an alternative.

While it's true and a great credit to him that he's adapted very well to feeding himself by tearing off little bits of food and carefully placing them into the side or back of his mouth, this has totally changed eating for him, making what was once an exuberant spontaneous experience into a delicate operation which rules out some foods completely and which will still leave him in tears a few times a day no matter how carefully he tries to avoid the tooth. In contrast, when Sam's cavities got bad enough that we decided (again, very reluctantly) to have you fill them under IV sedation, they were still causing him much less pain and disruption than Arthur's tooth has been causing him. I also don't think that any adult would put up with their eating habits being this crippled if there was something they could do about it.

While I appreciate your wanting to not make Arthur think of visits to the dentists office as traumatic experiences, in this case I think any concern about that is vastly outweighed by the way that experiences as basic as eating, drinking and playing have been turned into traumatic experiences.

Please give me or Jon a call at ***-**** to discuss treatment options and set up another appointment for Arthur. Right now we're leaning towards trying the oral sedation, though I wish you had a movie we could watch showing someone having surgery under it so we would have a better idea of what it would be like. We would like to know things like the name of the anesthetic, how alert Arthur would be during the surgery, what kinds of mouth and/or body restraints you would use, what happens with the ~20% of people that it doesn't work on, what would happen if Arthur started to come out of it during the surgery, and so on. Jon has been leaning towards just having the tooth extracted, whereas I think it would be better if you could dig out the nerve and put some kind of filling in the remaining shell, so that Arthur could chew on nuts and so on without them pressing right into his gum.

I should also note that his exposed nerve looks to my eyes to be a little darker and smaller than it did a few days ago (when it looked like a little pink tooth), so it may be starting to die after all, even though Arthur's reactions to bumping it into things haven't changed.



Subject: We're generally healthy and happy, but I get to complain anyway
Date: Sun, 23 Jun 1996 08:39:54 -0700

Well, the first thing I get to complain about is that I had this message almost all written yesterday, but then lost it when Netscape crashed on a web page. :-( Expect many long run-on sentences to follow.

Anyway, this is June 23rd. On June 20 Arthur was 21 months old. June 21st made it exactly one month since he had last nursed. I posted here last week about how we had reluctantly decided to get surgery for his tooth, but then had not taken the offered date of the 15th for the surgery because it suddenly seemed like his exposed nerve was finally shrinking/dying by itself after all. Well, that didn't last ... after a few days of smaller nerve and no bump-mouth/waaahhhhh!!!! incidents, the nerve started growing again and so did the incidence of eating/playing mishaps.

So right now Arthur has a dentist appointment for Thursday, though we still haven't been able to agree on whether to just have what's left of the tooth extracted or to dig out the nerve and put some filling in the little shell that remains, so that Arthur will have at least a little hard surface there instead of food pressing into his gum. Jon and the dentist want to extract; the other sounds better to me.

I'm wondering whether I should deal with my perennial mail-oversupply problem by signing off parent-l (despite the fact that mail volume seems to remain constant regardless of how many lists I unsubscribe from). Sure, I can still always flame people for homophobia, but otherwise I'm feeling like a bit of an impostor there these days, and my internal reactions to people's help/advice messages are, well, horribly monotonous, ala:

    Help, my baby's biting me! -- I wish I had that problem!
    Help, my baby nurses too much at night! -- I wish mine did!
    Help, I have oversupply! -- Sure would help with this pump!
    Help, my baby tweaks while nursing! -- I wish I had that problem!
    Help, my baby wants to nurse all the time! -- I wish mine did!

Etc. etc. you get the picture. I also feel a little annoyed reading messages from people who want advice on weaning children younger than Arthur, or complain that a child older than him is nursing too much. And the timing of the famed "nipple" shirts' debut kind of depresses me too.

The dual-electric pump is an interesting thing (I'm surprised that Good Vibrations doesn't sell them as sex toys -- I'm sure some people would really get into it), but I still don't get all that much from it, and it's very hard to use during the day when Arthur's awake. I could be hooked up to it for hours in the early morning while typing away, but during the day I'm usually having to be jumping up constantly for one thing or another, or sitting away from the pump, playing in the backyard, etc. Maybe I should get the battery adapter and put it in a backpack???

Another thing I was going to mention in a message a few days ago (but forgot) was to wonder whether any of you get cracked ribs a lot, or whether this is something that just happens to me, because, say, my bones are falling apart from eating too much dairy? Here I was thinking just a few weeks ago that it'd been quite a while since I'd had one, and then I go do the thing I know I really should avoid, which is to pick up Arthur while twisting around/leaning backwards, and pop, there goes another several weeks of pain from all sorts of ordinary activities. I think that trying to blow up a balloon was the worst. Lying on that side is not a good idea. Even hand-expressing milk from that side can hurt depending on how I press. So this contributes to my being more annoyed than usual. :-( I also should say that I'm very strong and great at lifting heavy objects or people in general, but it's the doing it at a twisted-around leaning-back angle that I really need to never do again!

The other day Arthur came up to me and pulled on my shirt the way he used to when he wanted to nurse, which was a big surprise, but then when I looked up I saw that in his other hand he was handing me a cup!

Obviously I could write many more long run-on sentences about all this!


Subject: Re: We're generally healthy and happy, but I get to complain anyway
Date: Mon, 24 Jun 1996 10:14:13 -0700

> [...]

Well, while there certainly are some messages there that really make me wonder "what is this doing on parent-l?!?!", I don't want to imply that I don't think the biting etc. problems are real problems - just that my internal reaction to all of it these days is "Gee, I wish I had that problem!" (And the people with much worse problems probably think the same of my situation. :-()

> [...]

I definitely had more biting problems with Arthur than I had with Sam ... at one point I had to restrict him to one side only for three days (expressing milk from the other) because I'd gotten this big hole that was getting pulled open wider every time he nursed on it. I guess it was good practice for what I'm going through now, but yeah, somehow big bites and bloody bras seem like they would be a welcome development at this point. :-(

[Responding to a comment that it was wonderful that I was still giving him milk from a cup.] He loves it, it's just hard to get much out, and it makes my decor a bit weird -- my mouse has got little spots all over it from wayward drops.

> [...]

Thanks ... yeah, I think I said to ****** (or maybe I posted it here and now will be one of those people who keeps repeating themselves) that if he can get back to nursing I should do an article about it so I can get written up as a major degenerate in the next edition of "Bottlefeeding Without Guilt."


Subject: Re: We're generally healthy and happy, but I get to complain anyway
Date: Thu, 27 Jun 1996 12:04:43 -0700

> >shrinking/dying by itself after all. Well, that didn't last ... after
> >a few days of smaller nerve and no bump-mouth/waaahhhhh!!!! incidents,
> >the nerve started growing again and so did the incidence of eating/
> >playing mishaps.
> This is a real bummer. I saw him bump it and it obviously really
> hurt a lot.

Yeah ... like I said, it was better for a few days right about the time of your party, but then the other day he even hurt it while chewing a banana piece!

We're just about to run out the door for his dentist appointment, and I just managed to talk Jon into trying for having what's left of the tooth filled instead of extracted. Of course now we have to worry about how well Arthur will deal with the oral anesthetic ("Versed" -- it was interesting to read about it and lots of other tooth stuff on the net in preparation for this) -- whether he will put up with it well or whether we will have to come back another day for IV sedation. :-(

> [...]

A lot of it is sweet and kind of interesting. If you remember my story about trying to get Arthur to nurse by having the (very realistic) poodle puppet (that I have had for about 12 years, actually) nurse, one thing that ended up happening with that was that Arthur got very attached to the poodle and often wants it to sleep with us. He still will want me to make it nurse but then will very quickly decide that he would rather have it chomping on his fingers instead. Oops, I've got to run and will say more later ...


Subject: Arthur's dental work went very smoothly ...
Date: Thu, 27 Jun 1996 14:05:22 -0700

... and he's now sleeping off the anesthetic/stress/etc. He now has a little flat white tooth. His brother Sam was there providing moral support and watching and so on. We'll see how things go ...


Subject: Re: Arthur's dental work went very smoothly ..
Date: Thu, 27 Jun 1996 16:07:57 -0700

> [...]

Thanks! I'm fine so far ... I was feeling really happy that I'd managed to talk Jon into the filling rather than the extraction (it would have been really great if it had gotten to appointment time and we still hadn't been able to agree on what should be done!), and again, that it went really well. Arthur of course didn't like having the sedative squirted into his nose, but I didn't think there was any possibility that he would have drank it (it's supposed to be very bitter) so that seemed the way to go.

Then he got more and more drowsy (or more and more slow-motion and floppy in his actions), and soon we brought him to a dentist chair (he didn't lie in anyone's lap, but we were holding his hands and talking to him throughout) and he also got the nitrous mask. He just lay there very sleepily throughout the work -- at one point opening his mouth more when the dentist asked. The dentist gave him a shot in the exposed nerve/pulp of the tooth, and then proceeded to drill it out. Soon there was a hole there which he filled with some filling material, then he put the capping stuff on that you cure with ultraviolet light.

When everything was done, we picked Arthur up and he was still sleepy, but immediately interested in toys. He fell asleep in the car on the way back and stayed asleep when I moved him to the bed, and he's still asleep now, which is about what I would expect after an experience like that.

So I'm sitting here at my desk a few yards from him, I installed a Netscape 3 beta, answered some mail, ate some ice cream (cherry with chocolate chips in it), should rearrange some stuff on my hard disks, etc. etc. :-)


Subject: Re: Arthur's dental work went very smoothly ..
Date: Fri, 28 Jun 1996 08:01:26 -0700

> [...]

Re "you watched this???" and "yeeeeeoooowwwww!!!!", actually it didn't occur to me that I was supposed to (?) be put off by it ... it did go very fast and everyone was calm including Arthur. If I hadn't been able to be with him holding his hand, *then* I would have freaked out.

He slept for many hours after we got back, and then when he woke up was in a fantastic mood for the rest of the day. He didn't act sore at all, or at least not different from the way he'd acted before the dental work. He had two bananas and then a pizza piece and was still sticking the bites into the side of his mouth as before. So things look good ...


Subject: Re: We're generally healthy and happy, but I get to complain anyway
Date: Sat, 29 Jun 1996 07:55:55 -0700

> Help, my baby's biting me! -- I wish I had that problem!

Well, I got this wish last night at least ... Arthur was giving me lots of raspberries and then started biting. I guess this means his mouth is all better now, despite the fact that he hasn't realized yet that he doesn't have to keep carefully putting his food in the side of his mouth any more.


Subject: OK, after exactly 40 days and 40 nights of no nursing,
Date: Sun, 30 Jun 1996 12:21:30 -0700

Noah :-) -- I mean, Arthur -- actually nursed for about one minute this morning as he was waking up, before jumping up and flinging himself on top of a sleepy Sam.

I could hardly believe it! :-)


Subject: Re: OK, after exactly 40 days and 40 nights of no nursing,
Date: Mon, 01 Jul 1996 07:09:14 -0700

> [...]

Anyway, he's 21 months. He was also just nursing this morning in his sleep, so it looks like the brush-against-mouth-in-sleep/open- mouth-to-nurse reaction has returned, though he didn't nurse at all during the day yesterday, and last night he did something kind of weird, which was not to bite on me so much as chew, and then he moved on to doing it to my chin and trying to do it to Sam.

He was running around playing most of the day yesterday and never wanted to settle down enough to even try getting him to nurse. At one point he was hot and tired and I lay him down in bed, and right away Jon started playing drums in the living room, and Arthur jumped up and ran out to investigate.

In the afternoon we went to a "Kids on Broadway" production featuring musicals and songs of the '60's by kids from 6-12, which was quite a trip, because the second half was a mini-production of "Hair" (not the sodomy song, though :-)) with some other songs from the period mixed in. Jon got all choked up on one child's reading of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech and then a playlet of "She's Leaving Home" after that, so I guess I'll keep him. :-) Arthur and Sam did a lot of dancing (in the audience, they weren't in the show). It was a lot of fun and definitely had its "only in Santa Cruz" aspects, such as a memorial to Timothy Leary in the program. But maybe I should go back to talking about Arthur. :-)

Then we came home and found that the power was out, and it stayed out until about 1a.m. And we don't even live in Boulder Creek! Anyway, Arthur stayed very excited and running around all day (even in the dark, after sunset when the power was still out, yikes!), so again, he was too wild to even try interesting him in trying any daytime nursing. We'll see how it goes today ...


Subject: Re: OK, after exactly 40 days and 40 nights of no nursing,
Date: Tue, 02 Jul 1996 08:22:37 -0700

> Wonderful! Pretty amazing stick-to-it-iveness in your family.

Thanks ... I will have to remember that line whenever it takes me 40 days (or longer) to get around to doing something (which is pretty typical) ... that it shows stick-to-it-iveness! :-)

A lot more stick-to-it-iveness is going to be required, too ... I mean, it's a major breakthrough to get any action at all, but there's still a long way to go.


Subject: Another long Arthur update (why are you not surprised?)
Date: Wed, 10 Jul 1996 09:39:35 -0700

OK, in one of my previous messages I'd said that finally, after the 40 days and 40 nights of no nursing, Arthur had gotten back the brush-against-mouth-while-sleeping-produces-opening-of-mouth-and-nursing-in-sleep reflex/habit/whatever, but that turned out to be not exactly right ... it was only working if I would get him at exactly the right state of slight wakefulness. If he was a little too sleepy then he would just lay there or roll over or arch away instead, and if he was a little too awake he would just give me raspberries and then jump on Sam, so I would have to keep trying him every so often as he slept to find just the right moment. At that point I couldn't get him to do it at all at night, only in the morning and usually only for a few minutes.

After that first morning Arthur also nursed briefly for the three following mornings, in fact twice on the third, so I was pleased about that, but then on the fifth day, which was July 4th, I just never found the right moment to approach him so he didn't do it at all. He fell asleep in the stroller at about 8p.m. on the way home from the grocery store, and stayed asleep when I put him into bed, which was unusual -- he usually doesn't take any naps at all any more. So I decided that as long as he was such a captive audience, I would keep trying him every 15 minutes or so, brushing against his mouth if it was closed, putting a nipple in his mouth if it was open, stroking his throat, etc. to see if I could get him to nurse at all that day. I went to sleep around 1a.m., with Arthur having stayed asleep the whole time, with no success at any of those attempts to get him to nurse in his sleep again. So I was depressed about that, as well as that my milk supply had been getting worse and worse no matter what I did, that my chest had gone back to pre-pregnancy size as well.

But then on the morning of July 5 Arthur nursed three different times, and then on the 6th he actually (1) had one of these waking-up nursings when he was fully awake, and (2) had his first post-accident nursing-to-sleep at night, though it was very brief. So we had a couple morning-and-night days like that (with the morning nursings getting longer and longer), but if I tried offering to him during the day he just wanted to blow raspberries.

Then on Monday Arthur had his first-ever barfing illness (Sam has still never had one) -- three times during the afternoon/evening, and again at 4:30 a.m. he just coughed a little and then up flew the entire contents of his stomach all over everything, with no other symptoms. This was the first night where he nursed during the night once, but unfortunately it was right before he sat up and barfed.

The next day, yesterday, he had a little fever until mid-afternoon (but no further barfing incidents), was more listless than I've ever seen him, and wanted to nurse and nurse and nurse during the day. I was feeling pretty sore after all the unaccustomed attention, so I guess I got what I wished for in that "I wish I had that problem" message. :-) By mid/late afternoon Arthur was himself again and then had no further interest in nursing until he fell asleep around midnight.

Oh wait, here is another thing that happened yesterday afternoon: I have a bunch of little Lego sets on a closet shelf to be used for prizes or presents or bets or whatever, and Arthur remembered that they were there and started clamoring for one. I said that he could play with a box and handed him one containing a tiny airplane set. Pretty soon he got mad that he could neither open the box nor get anyone else to open it for him, and was wailing away and throwing the box in anger. I scooped him up and took him into bed and he actually nursed and calmed down, I was so pleased that he was able to do that again! Then I felt a mix of bad that it had all been my fault, proud of my nursing-again baby, and sorry for my sick baby, and decided to give him the airplane set after all, and he was soon zooming it all around.

So progress has been slow but steady (except for the depressing July 4th), but we're definitely getting back on track. For one thing, it's been great to have him back to waking up gradually and happily in the mornings again as opposed to some of the sitting right up and immediately wailing to be carried to the refrigerator that he was doing for a while. His latch-on was pretty bad at first (a lot of chewing) but it's been getting better.

Obviously I could say more, but promise to try not to become too much of a parody of myself in the future by posting another long message every time another "the first time Arthur nursed on an airplane since his accident!" moment comes along. :-)

I'll see if I can come up with some relatively short message summarizing the whole experience to post on parent-l sometime.


Subject: Arthur's nursing all back to normal now; thanks everyone for your support
Date: Sun, 14 Jul 1996 08:56:19 -0700

Well, just what it says. I worried about how much all Arthur's old habits had changed, but now they've all changed back and he's back to being much more happy and calm. He wakes up and falls asleep gradually while nursing again instead of sitting up wailing for the former and basically bouncing around until he suddenly passes out for the latter. He snuggles up during the day again. If he wakes up in the night he can latch on in the dark by himself again. He's taken more naps in the last three days than he did during the 40 days of no nursing. Etc. etc.

I can lay around reading again -- nursing was my time to lay around reading books and magazines and so on, and when Arthur stopped I was depressed and for once didn't feel much like reading. I can lay around reading to Sam with Arthur cuddled up nursing again instead of bouncing on us and so on. When his frustration level gets high then he can nurse and be very quickly comforted and refreshed. It's even been a few days since he's bitten me or given me a raspberry. :-) I can convert my pump&CD cabinet back to a tape&CD cabinet. Etc. etc. again.

About a week and a half ago I was trying to get Jon to come in quick enough to see one of those first one-minute morning not-very-latched-on nursings, so that even if Arthur's habits and reflexes had changed so much that he would never get back to real nursing and that even the little bit of morning nursing that had restarted might just turn out to be a temporary fluke, well, I would still have a witness! But now Arthur is just totally into it again like those 40 days never happened.

So I guess this is the end of these installments, though after this whole experience I worry a bit about what could go wrong with the remains of Arthur's other front tooth, which he originally chipped on the sliding bathtub door, which then started to decay/erode, which got chipped more when its famous companion broke, and which now is looking a bit suspiciously gray ...



Subject: Parent-l: Chronicle of a 40-day nursing strike
Date: Mon, 22 Jul 1996 12:51:19 -0700

For many weeks I was leading a double life on parent-l. While to all outward appearances I was posting/flaming about more-or-less breastfeeding-related stuff as I normally did, in real life my happy nursing relationship with Arthur had come to an abrupt halt on May 21st (the day after he turned 20 months), after breaking a front tooth had left him with an exposed nerve which nothing could even touch without causing him a lot of pain.

In that instant, everything was totally changed. Nursing many times a day suddenly changed to feeding him EBM first from an eyedropper (and it was almost 24 hours of being afraid to let anything near his mouth before he would even let me do that) and later from a cup. Contentedly nursing to sleep changed to walking and rocking a crying Arthur until he fell asleep, then trying to gradually shift to a horizontal position without waking him up and having to start the process all over again. Gradually waking up as he nursed in the morning changed to his suddenly sitting up wailing to be carried to the refrigerator. Naps? No more. Being able to quickly comfort Arthur with nursing after he would bump into something or get frustrated with something? No more. All completely changed, in the fraction of a second it took to fall and break a tooth.

The story of Arthur's visits to the dentist, of how he adapted to his injury, of my attempts to interest him in nursing again, of hand-expressing and pumping milk, of how his exposed nerve grew instead of died, then shrunk, then grew again, of his dental work, of how he finally nursed again for about one minute a full 40 days after his injury, and then of how during the two weeks after that he gradually relearned how to nurse and got thoroughly back into it, once again going back to being the happy baby who hardly ever cries, well, as you can see, it's a very long story.

Now, while I did post the message "Little Arthur just tripped and cracked a tooth in half :-(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" to parent-l on the day that it happened, the many installments I wrote after that I posted to another smaller list instead. First, because so many long messages seemed a bit much for such a high-traffic list with hundreds of subscribers. Second, as one of the people who has decried the mainstreaming of this list, as you can imagine I felt pretty annoyed seeing "how can I get my baby to stop nursing at night?" or even "how can I wean to a bottle?"-type messages when I was at a stage where I would have been happy if Arthur was biting me 24 hours a day, anything, if he would only start nursing again.

Anyway, after Arthur got back to enthusiastic nursing, I was intending to post a message to parent-l summarizing the whole story. However, as every time I've started trying to write that message it's immediately become tremendously long, what I've decided to do instead is to just offer to mail a long version of the story (actually, just a collection of excerpts from the messages described above) to anyone who's interested, and not clog up the mailing list for the rest. So send me mail if you'd like to read more about it. [Editor's note - as you can probably guess, the collection described here is the same collection featured on this web page.]

I've also talked a few times about trying to write up something for _Mothering_, though a lack of ability to go the short-and-sweet route doesn't bode well for that either. :-)

I should also write a message talking about all the benefits of breastfeeding that it's so good to have back again. It also feels really good to succeed at something after having tried and tried and tried and tried for a long time. And having been successful at struggling and waiting to get back something that had been lost ... I'm definitely not back to the taking-it-for-granted stage yet.

Well, I guess I'll just end this here and send it off ... :-)



More about how Arthur learned to nurse again

A woman commented that there was one thing she found discouraging about this page: that my "journal" story made it sound like once Arthur's tooth was fixed and the pain finally gone, he was willing to try nursing again relatively quickly, whereas with her baby it had been quite a while since his ear and teething pain had ended, yet he still had no interest in nursing. So I thought I'd elaborate a little here to clarify what actually happened after Arthur's tooth was fixed and how he actually started nursing again.

OK, two days after Arthur's tooth was fixed I had reason to believe (i.e. he bit me :-)) that the pain was now completely gone. But he still had no interest in nursing -- it was still (to quote from the journal) "like trying to get him to drink from my elbows or something, like he's just totally forgotten how it works or even that it does." So what I had to do was to work on him when he was asleep and semi-asleep. [To be continued]



Some further background information

The "journal" messages were written for the parent-l extended-breastfeeding and attachment-parenting mailing list, and a related smaller mailing list. These lists were definitely the ideal places for me to talk about the problems Arthur and I were having, because the members were experienced, knowledgeable, confident, supportive, articulate breastfeeding mothers who understood why I would not want the breastfeeding relationship to suddenly be cut short like that.

If you're reading this page because you heard about it on parent-l or on a related list or web page, then you know what I'm talking about. But if you got here from a different route and don't know much about breastfeeding (especially if you're from the United States, where according to a recent survey only 22% of babies are still being breastfed at only 4 months of age*), then it may seem very surprising to you that I would be putting so much effort in trying to get a 20-month-old to go back to breastfeeding instead of seeing it as a good (and possibly even long-overdue) opportunity to wean him.

Well, as a person who breastfed her first child to the age of about 3 1/3 years, and who now has gotten through this long "nursing strike" experience of suddenly going from breastfeeding to no breastfeeding and then back to breastfeeding again, I find myself in a unique position to talk about all the great benefits of breastfeeding a child of that age compared to what it's like to have to do without them. However, as a person who is tired and wants to go to bed, I think I will have to write about all that on another day, and in the meantime beg off by recommending that you inform yourself about extended breastfeeding via the links listed below.

* (I got this statistic from J. Rachael Hamlet's Why is breastfeeding important? page.)



More about 'extended breastfeeding'

I remember when someone on the parent-l mailing list asked at what point breastfeeding becomes "extended." Some respondents defined extended as anything more than one year, whereas others defined it as anything over two years. Anyway, however you define it, here are some good resources for learning more about extended breastfeeding:



Tammy Chapek's Bonnie memorial imageThis page is dedicated to my dear friend Bonnie Bedford, who was always there for me with messages of comfort and support during Arthur's nursing strike, even though she was fighting her own battle with cancer at the time. See my Blissed-out Mother page for links to many Bonnie Bedford memorial pages.


Copyright © 1996-2006 Tané Tachyon
Last updated July 30, 2006
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