Breastfeeding and Avoiding Poor Attachment

How do we avoid poor attachment with our baby?  Let’s look at what some of the experts are saying about “poor attachments”?  William Gairdner in his book, War Against the Family, says that experts unanimously agree that “poorly attached children are sociopaths in the making.”  So, according to him, how do we avoid having poorly attached children?  Gairdner gives us the answer using 3 key words which pertain to the mother:


He stresses that “the pattern of attachment developed in infancy and early childhood is profoundly influenced by the mother’s ready availability, her responsiveness to his need for comfort and protection, and her sensitivity to her child’s signals.”  In other words, the mother has to be there to read the signals of her baby, and she has to respond to him in a sensitive manner.

He adds that the need for the baby to have this kind of care has been consistently shown to be true based on the work of three researchers, (Mary Ainsworth, Mary Main, and Alan Stroufe) each working at 3 different major universities.  Thus mothers must be available, be responsive, and be sensitive.  With breastfeeding these three characteristics are more likely to be present in the mother. 

Gairdner also states:  “Young children need an uninterrupted, intimate, continuous connection with their mothers, especially in the very early months and years.”  We are all here today to celebrate the reality that breastfeeding gives children what they need.

It’s uninterrupted.  The mother has to be there to nurse her child.

It’s intimate.  With breastfeeding there is a special closeness between mother and child.

It’s continuous.  Certainly nursing for one, two, or more years is a continuous event.

And prolonged lactation provides that one consistent person or caregiver that is said to be so important during the early years.

Gerald Campbell from Impact, a group based near D.C., claims that the #1 problem in our society is alienation, an emptiness, “an aloneness that cannot be tolerated by the human heart.”  Campbell lived with the homeless for three years.  He learned that even if you gave them a house and a good job, they would still be lonely.  As he said, what people need isn’t what is worn on their backs, it’s what is in their hearts.   According to Campbell, what people really need is “love, understanding, mercy and compassion, and commitment” from one person who learns to give of self “without any conditions or expectations whatsoever.”   From my viewpoint and from the standpoint of the baby, this one person would be his mother.  And isn’t that what breastfeeding is all about?  A mother learning to give of herself by showing love, understanding and compassion to her baby.

I heard Gerald Campbell speak in September of 1997 and was quite impressed.  He spoke ill of daycare and emphasized the value of the mother’s presence.  In his own words, “Personal relationships–whether within a family, among friends, at work, or with strangers–have become increasingly self-centered….The family today resembles more a collection of detached individuals than a community of love.  Too many Americans feel abandoned and alone.”

According to Campbell, the first three years in the life of a child are crucial.  If the child does not have a mother or that one person who offers consistent care, he says that “eventually, the child will become fearful of all others and, driven by rejection into an egocentric existence, he will succumb to a hedonistic and utilitarian self-indulgence whose emptiness can only be a lifelong burden.”

That’s why the attachment parenting and the breastfeeding that you do during the first three years of life are so important; it can have a lifelong healthy influence on your child.  And they may keep him or her from being a lifelong burden to others.

Sometimes the importance of those first three years comes up unexpectedly.  There was an article on “The Big, Bad Bully” in Psychology Today, their Sept/Oct 1995 issue.  Being a big, bad bully is very common behavior among school-age children, and at that time was almost always ignored by teachers.  The victims suffer physical or verbal abuse, continued social persecution or rejection.  What the researchers found out to their surprise was that they were studying younger and younger age groups for the cause of bullying.  First, they studied aggression in adult criminals, then adolescents, then younger children, and finally two year olds!   As one researcher said:  “If you had told me I was going to be studying two year olds, I would have said you were crazy.”  The researchers learned that bullies are made, not born.  That bullies are formed by “parental behavior or by neglect,” and it “begins in the early caregiver/child interaction.”
(Sheila Kippley, part of keynote address, LLL So. Calif. State Conference, May 1998)
More on attachment next week.


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