Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Significance of Feeding

I have so many friends and acquaintances who are at the point that their loved ones want to feed their babies. These are babies that are anywhere from 100% breastfed (no bottles) to ones who are supplemented with either breastmilk or formula, to babies who are 100% formula fed. It's the same dilemma with each one. Loving friends and family always want to help feed the baby.

By looking at nature's way of feeding a baby, we can easily observe that feeding is meant to be an intimate time between a mother and her child. Baby snuggles close and can inhale the scent of mama, feel the warmth her skin against him, look into her eyes and see her looking back at him with that special "look" that is reserved for just this particular mother-child relationship. When you closely watch a mother nurse her baby you can see both of them relax and go into another world. A world in which mother knows that she is the one who is in charge of nourishing this child. She is the one who will have to, and is willing to, make the sacrifices it takes to protect this baby and teach him everything he needs to know to grow and thrive in this world we live in. A world in which baby knows he is safe, protected, and, most importantly, unconditionally loved.

It's no wonder that everyone around this baby wants to take part in that special time.

Soon after baby is born loved ones all around will begin asking if they can give the baby his bottle. Shortly thereafter comes the pressure to introduce solids. Then our world's infatuation with junk food comes into play (and never leaves).

For example, at one month old I decided to try Caleb on a bottle of expressed breastmilk. I stood in the other room while Adam fed Caleb the bottle. Afterwards I asked Adam how he felt about being able to feed Caleb. His answer completely shocked me. He told me that it was okay but he didn't feel that it was his place to fill that need at that particular time. He said something along the lines of "I love to see you feed him. That's your special time with him. It just doesn't feel right when I do it."

I wish more people had that attitude. This is not to say that Caleb has never "nursed" down with a bottle in anyone else's arms (my mom can attest to that). This is not to say that letting other people feed your baby is bad mothering. I just mean that I wish more people understood that a mother is entitled to share that special bond with her child. With no interference or outside pressure to "spread the love" (for lack of a better phrase). Some fathers I know felt that the only way they could connect with their baby was to give them a bottle. I'm very tempted to say that this is a bad attitude on their part. I won't say that though because that's not really true. I think that these fathers saw the closeness that their wife and baby have and are just looking for a way to bond. I will say, however, that there are many other ways for a father to bond that don't interrupt this particular way of bonding between mom and baby. (Perhaps I will be able to convince my husband to help me write about his experience at some point in the future.)

I wish that I had some really great advice about how to deal with these well-meaning loved ones. I like to find solutions to problems. But everyone is different and every one's situation in different. I just told people that Caleb didn't take a bottle (he sucked on it fine, I just chose not to give him one very often). As he got older and finally started eating solids (he wasn't really interesting till around his first birthday but that's a whole other story) I told people that he was very particular. So they just asked me what he could and couldn't eat (perhaps they thought it was allergies). Some people thought it was just that "new mom's syndrome" (you know, the one where a new mom is wanting to do everything perfectly to the letter for her child). In reality it was a very conscious choice that my husband and I made.

From mom to mom, I just want to encourage you to cherish that special time of feeding your baby. You are entitled to take your baby out of someone's arms to feed him. It's your right. There is a biological response if you know that your child is hungry to want to fill that need. It is your right, it is your duty, it is your privilege. No matter what you're feeding him (or her of course) you are entitled to that special privilege as a mother. You are entitled to feel that special closeness. And no, you don't need to share.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I think that you have to remember that feeding a child isn't necessarily a "bonding" experience for all mothers. Some moms might feel like they bond with their child when they are playing with them, dancing with them etc. I also think that if that is a bonding experience, its extremely important for a dad, aunt, grandparent etc to feel that as well.

  3. Sorry it's taken me so long to respond. I typed out a response several times but couldn't post it for some reason.

    Anyway, I totally agree that there are other ways for a mother to bond with her child. But I believe that God intended nursing (whether by breast or bottle) to be a time of intimacy between a mother and her child.

    As you mentioned, there are many ways for other family members to bond with that child. It is not important for a grandmother to feel the same bond with that child as the mother. Or even for the father to feel the same bond as the mother. It is, however, important for other family members and friends to find their own special way to bond with the child, but this should be done without interrupting the mother-child bonding experience.

    I speak from not only my experience but from many other mothers who have gone before me when I say that my son has had no issues bonding with anyone and I did 99% of the feedings. In fact, it is likely because of the close bond that he and I have which has made him feel comfortable enough to bond well with others.

  4. Im taking a guess at this, but im guessing the other mothers who agreed with you breastfed their children?
    I still have to say that I admanantly disagree with you. I bottle feed my son and i feel no bonding with him when I do it, to be honesst I usually surf the web. On the other hand when we are playing, or when he is sleeping on my chest- THAT is when I feel bonding.
    I guess my point is that everyone has their own OPINION, and their own way of raising theur children. I honestly believe that if a mother chose to do NO feedings she and he child would not have a lesser "bond". I think some people feel a bond from feeding, and some dont. And theres nothing wrong with that.