"There is a difference between needs and wants, and she just wants to nurse, she doesn't need to," says a mom of a 5 month old baby.
"She's 5 months old," says I.
"It's just a habit."
Now, I didn't say, "I find eating a bit of a habit, too. I've gotten quite used to it over the years..." but I wanted to.
There are two things wrong with 'it's just a habit' and 'she just wants to nurse.' The first thing wrong with the statements is that they are predicated on a philosophy of humanity that I just can't agree with: people are, at their foundations, devious, bratty, bad and undeserving of kindness, love and generosity. This is the really big one that hurts my heart when I think of how stingy some people feel compelled to be toward their loved ones. This compulsion to hold all the goodness of life away from others seems to be in order to avoid the future: so they won't get 'spoiled' or come to think that they're worthy of love or generosity or anything else completely unreasonable like that. That dark view of humanity is quite painful to watch, and I just never know what to say to someone holding that opinion, I don't know how to bridge the gap -- but I want to.
The second thing wrong with those two statements is that they rely on an adult-level understanding of devious behaviour, maliciously aimed at 'getting something' undeserved or unwarranted. Now, I will skip over the fact that I don't think adults get up in the morning thinking 'now, how can I screw them out of happiness, love, and good things so they'll be miserable?' While I'm not an optimist, exactly, I am a pragmatist and I know that no one gets up in the morning thinking of anyone more than they are thinking of themselves. They may be thinking about what they get can 'from them' but it is 'for me' not to do damage to anyone else.
A friend has the best-ever response to the implication that an infant is capable of such advanced thinking:
Honey, I know that you're little one is exceptionally brilliant and superior to all other human babies born to date and advanced well beyond her age, but at 5 months, there is simply no way a child who can't walk or talk yet can successfully plot to overthrow her parents.
Babies certainly learn quickly, and every generation is significantly smarter than the last... but, seriously -- the child can't even get a drawer open yet! Let the baby be a baby without polluting their motives with anything other than the instincts they have for survival, one of which is the need to keep the big people who are fully capable of throwing them off a 21st floor balcony from doing so.
Babies are fragile, incapable of keeping themselves safe, unable to care for their most basic needs, from cleanliness to nurishment -- what would be 'in it' for a baby to antagonize the people who keep him alive? This is such an important question, I think I'll put it in bold...
What would be 'in it' for a baby to antagonize the people who keep him alive?
If the baby gets to nurse in the middle of the night -- for any reason -- what is going to be bad about that? Breastmilk is the best possible thing any baby can eat, and direct from mom it comes in a warm and loving embrace, a sense of being cherished, affirmation of the child being worthy of nurturing, and both physical and psychological comfort.