Although Elizabeth Gooden had raised four children and four step-children, when it came to her daughter’s colicky baby, she couldn’t offer any advice that would soothe the 2-month-old because she had never dealt with colic before.
As Gooden wrote in article for Scary Mommy, her daughter had tried every bit of advice and recommendation from doctors, pharmacists, and fellow moms, but nothing worked. Colic is a condition in which babies cry for more than three hours a day for more than three days every week, for several weeks, according to the Mayo Clinic. Little can be done to bring relief until the condition goes away on its own.
When Gooden’s daughter was ready to go back to work Gooden offered to care for the fussy baby. The reality of the overture hadn’t yet occurred to the grandmother. As Gooden — a new mother herself — explained:
When my oldest daughter was 21, I gave birth to my youngest daughter. Then, 11 months later, my granddaughter was born. Having a child and grandchild less than a year apart certainly has its advantages.
Not only would Gooden have her daughter’s crying baby in her charge, but she would also have her own baby to tend to. The challenge, however, was far from Gooden’s mind, as she was all too eager to lend a helping hand to her daughter:
When she arrived at my house, she had an overpacked diaper bag, enough pumped milk to last through the apocalypse, and apologies (many, many apologies). And while she worried that it would be a burden for me, I assured her I was thrilled to have some time with my granddaughter. We hugged, she kissed the baby, and left for work.
Unfortunately, the 2-months-old’s “uncontrollable sobbing” set off a chain reaction causing the 1-year-old to cry:
Ten minutes prior, everything was fine. Now the two were crying in unison while I had dinner cooking on the stove, and the cartoons on the TV were no consolation.
Nothing Gooden did to console the crying babies seemed to work, leaving the struggling grandmother in tears:
So there I was, holding two crying babies, one on each hip, scolding myself for thinking I was a parenting expert. I set the babies down, raced to grab the Bjorn, and strapped my granddaughter in. This only left my own daughter jealous and wailing, so I scooped her up and placed her on my hip while trying to calm them both. This is what it must be like to have twins, I remember thinking.
In all of the chaos, I hadn’t even realized it. I felt helpless, useless, and defeated. This twin-momming was hard. And beyond that, I felt what my daughter experienced daily with her restless baby. I wanted to be a good mom and grandmother, but I felt like a resounding failure.
With her own child now in the arms of her husband, Gooden sat down on the couch with her daughter’s baby. Without thinking about it, the instinct to breastfeed kicked in; before she knew it, her grandchild had latched onto her breast:
She was rooting around, and I felt the letdown even though my milk had been dry for months. It was a phantom sensation, but my maternal instincts kicked in and so I latched her on my breast. I didn’t think about it really. She rooted, I offered, she accepted. Within a few minutes, she was sound asleep.
Gooden wrote she couldn’t think of a reason why it wouldn’t be alright to soothe the fussy baby in any way possible:
All my children had comfort-nursed. I was used to being a human pacifier, and I was sure my daughter would be happy I soothed her baby by any means necessary.
At pickup, Gooden’s daughter didn’t seem to mind her mother’s actions, telling her: “I don’t mind if you don’t.” Since then, Gooden explained her granddaughter has “needed a breast” each time the baby has been left in her care:
I understand that to some this is seen as controversial, but truthfully, I don’t care. I love my daughter and granddaughter and will continue to do anything and everything I can to help them both — even dry-nursing.
Facebook commenters on Gooden’s story don’t necessarily agree that her daughter’s baby should have been soothed “by any means necessary.” As one commenter wrote at Scary Mommy’s page: “As a grandmother and mother I can’t picture myself being comfortable with this from either role.”
Another said: “I had to formula feed (do to (sic) medications I have to take) and seriously I never felt the need to shove my boobs in my babies mouths simply to console them let alone someone eleses baby. Hopefully this child never knows it used to suck on grannies nipple. Im gonna go barf now.”
“Ehhhh the ick factor comes in because there is no milk. To each their own, but to me dry nursing isn’t exactly a sensible solution to a crying baby,” said another.
One commenter posted: “I’m freaked out by this article for sure lol I have four kids and I’m sorry but there are other ways to soothe. Grandma’s boob was not necessary. I wouldn’t want anyone elses boob in any of my children’s mouths but mine. End of story.”
Not everyone was put off by Gooden’s attempt to soothe her daughter’s fussy baby, though.
“The baby wouldn’t take a pacifier or a bottle. The baby was exhausted, missing her mom, and wouldn’t stop screaming. I’d rather someone dry-nurse her than lose their patience and end up doing something to harm the baby. With the mother’s blessing, I don’t see the problem here,” read one comment.
Another wrote, in part: “…When a breastfed baby is crying 90% of the time the boob will stop it. I honestly do not know how the heck to calm a baby without sticking a boob in their mouth so I understand why the grandmother felt the need to do it. It’s definitely weird to me but I suppose it’s better than shaking the baby or letting her scream all day.”