Breastfeeding and Attachment Parenting

The following is part of a talk I gave some years ago in Southern California.

My topic tonight is attachment parenting in a detached world.  If you as a parent said to your two-year-old child:  “I don’t love you anymore,” what would happen?   Your child would cry!  Your child and each person needs to feel loved, to feel special.  Love means helping the one we love.  It means service.  It means trust.  It means that someone likes to be near you.  It means sharing in someone’s pain or discomfort.  It means being inconvenienced.   It means sacrifice.  Parental love is caring love.

Babies especially need to experience the love of their mother and soon their father, and that is what attachment parenting is all about:  Conveying love to your child in various ways.

On the other hand, by detached parenting I mean ways that will be perceived by the child as less loving due to less involvement or distancing.  For example, some mothers who let their babies cry-it-out for 15-30- and even 45 minutes say they do this because they love their children and are teaching them that they are not the boss in the home.  I can’t judge any mother, but my point is that the baby will perceive that behavior as less loving than being picked up and comforted.

Some would define breastfeeding as attachment parenting.  Yet there is the rare situation where a nursing mom can be detached.  Some might say:  It’s certainly not bottle-feeding your baby.  Yet some of us know bottle-feeding moms and parents who are very attached to their baby.  In fact, the first couple we knew who took their baby everywhere with them were bottle-feeding their baby.

Thus attachment parenting is not necessarily defined by the type of feeding we give our baby.  However, I have promoted natural mothering for over 30 years [now 50 years], and I am convinced nature’s way is best.  Mothering is really what breastfeeding is all about.  Through breastfeeding, as mothers, we learn to give of our time, and we learn to give our child that special emotional and physical care to show that he is loved.  With breastfeeding the child receives plenty of that important lap time with mother.   Natural mothering, I believe, is at the heart of providing the best experience for the baby during the early years.

Breastfeeding offers an easy learning environment for the mother.   She learns how to be patient, how to be inconvenienced, how to be unselfish in providing the proper care for her child, and therefore she learns to love better.  I believe that both my husband and I are better parents because I chose to breastfeed.

And, most importantly, the breastfed baby or young child at a critical age is feeling loved and is learning how to trust.    The world tells us that we should strive to have that good baby, but my conviction is that the baby teaches its mother how to be a good mother, especially when she breastfeeds.
(Sheila Kippley, part of keynote address, LLL So. Calif. State Conference, May 1998)

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