Our top priority as parents is to raise our children as best we can. Raising children is the most important work we do as parents. Almost all of us want children who are physically and emotionally and spiritually healthy.
One of the concerns stressed at a brain-research conference I attended was that the kind of care you give to your children may come back to you. It is these children who become teenagers and eventually may become our caregivers as we age. They are the ones who will be in the voting booth deciding our future.
As one workshop speaker said: What kind of care do you want in your last years? Will your face be cleaned with a fresh washcloth or a soiled one? Will your bedpan be empty or full? Will you be spanked when you dribble accidentally?
If we want caring children who are also caring as adults, a helpful step to achieving that goal as parents, whether breastfeeding or not, is to nurture our babies well during the first three years of life. I do not want to rule out the exceptions, the wonderful conversions that occur, but, by and large, the treatment children receive in their first three years has a great affect on their later lives.
A building needs a foundation. Our children also need a foundation. That foundation is the first three years of life. Our job isn’t over after childbirth. Nor is it over after they celebrate their third birthday. But experts keep telling us that it’s what the mother (and soon the father) does during those early years that is so important and determines whether we give our children a healthy start or a troubling start.
Next week: Research concerning the early years
The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding: The Frequency Factor, 2008
Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing, 2008, classic 1974 edition
Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood, 2005