Definitely one of my favorite subjects, the second Baby B is Breastfeeding. In case you haven’t read my blog before, this is a subject I am very passionate about and I could write a lot about. However, I won’t go into the many, many benefits of breast milk and breastfeeding for both mother and child, such as immune benefits, lower rates of allergies, diabetes, and obesity, etc., but will instead be focusing on how breastfeeding influences the mother-baby bond.
From a strictly biological point of view, the hormones that are released throughout the breastfeeding relationship, especially during actual nursing sessions, help the mother and baby feel more attached to each other.
But breastfeeding can do much more for the bond than 'just' the release of hormones! The frequent demand of infants to nurse makes the mothers stay close to their babies. During each nursing session, mother and child are in close physical contact, with at least some parts of their bodies being skin to skin. This physical closeness strengthens the bond and is (usually) highly enjoyable for both mother and child.
The breastfeeding relationship is one that has to gradually be established, just like any other relationship. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding uses an analogy that I just find perfectly suited: it’s like two people who are learning to dance. At first, the two people have to pay close attention to each other and learn the other’s cues and movements. After a while, things are able to go a little more smoothly, but both partners still have to be aware of what the other is doing so as not to step on any toes. Once the breastfeeding relationship is well established, it is smooth sailing and nursing sessions just happen without much thought having to be put in them. Breastfeeding your baby will help to get to know your baby and his/her needs, as well as help the baby to get to know you!
Of course, not everybody can or wants to breastfeed. That does not mean that your bond has to suffer. Always maintaining close physical contact while feeding the bottle will create much of the same close attachment. It can be particularly helpful to make sure that you get a lot of skin to skin time. Propping a bottle for the baby to self feed is not recommended.
I breastfed my daughter for 15 months, until my milk dried up due to my second pregnancy. I was very sad that our nursing relationship ended as soon as it did. I have been breastfeeding my son for almost 19 months and we are still going strong. I have no intention of weaning any time soon and hope to let him self-wean when he is ready.
Extended breastfeeding is definitely a great way to maintain the close relationship to your child. Toddlers become so busy with playing and exploring that there is little time in the day to be close to each other and snuggle. A breastfed toddler, however, will have at least a few moments in the day that are reserved just for him/her and the mother, in which they can reconnect and cuddle.
I cannot tell you how much I love breastfeeding! Tomorrow: Babywearing
If you have a breastfeeding post that you would like to add, please link up!