Motherbaby: breastfeeding, love and fathers too.
Babies and mothers are one body which is why they are sometimes called the "motherbaby". Newborns emerge totally dependent, a fact that cutting of the umbilical cord does not much diminish. Breastfeeding is the miraculous physical expression of their dependence. Scientific evidence has shown time after time that breastfeeding enhances health, from strengthening the immune system to decreasing the likelihood of asthma and other chronic complaints as well as preventing obesity and even enhancing intelligence. This is old news. The softer reasons to breastfeed are not so provable and are controversial to some. Harder to prove the intensity of the motherbaby breastfeeding connection, the bond, the love. After all, how offensive to suggest that the bond between one kind of mother and her baby is stronger than the bond between another mother and baby. Not only is measuring love impossible, but it is distasteful. Breastfeeding is important for health reasons. But...... it is inseparable from the love. And motherbaby love is a pilar of humanity. We have all lived in our mother's womb, emerged from it and transitioned to independence gradually. We may have been born with a long hard labor, a smooth butter birth or by cesarean section. We may have been breastfed or formula fed. We may have been adopted by loving parents or raised by biological parents with challenges that prevented a healthy commitment to parenting. However the mosaic of our life comes together, we can emerge functioning, healthful and whole. We are resilient. But love makes a difference. It helps. And breastfeeding is love's life template: It is the bond upon which all other bonds may be built. Our mothering instincts are about nurturing our babies, feeding them with the food that is love, expressing our love with our very body fluid, by having our love literally sucked from us, as blissfully our oxytocin flows and our love flows through us and our babies.
So yes, if you have to, formula will work. And yes, if you need to pump breast milk, rather than breastfeed directly there are health benefits that remain for the baby, but don't forget that it's about love.
So what about fathers? The other day Joshua said at a 2 day postpartum visit that he was going to start feeding the baby at night with bottles of expressed breast milk "to give Amanda a rest". "And I think it gives Joshua an opportunity to bond with the baby too" added Amanda. Well, all experienced breastfeeders will tell Amanda that 2 days is too soon to start bringing in bottles due to nipple confusion. Also this plan would interfere with the establishment of milk supply. These arguments are used frequently and justifiably in such situations. But I also believe that it interferes with the development of the contrasting roles of mother love and father love. Mothers, new babies, and feeding are part of a perfect biological system. Fathers' roles biologically are to do with not being the feeder. Over time parents roles evolve. Households vary. The father may be more or less present, or not at all. The mother also. We are an immensely flexible and resilient species. But the biological advantage of the mother feeder and the father not feeder, I believe remains important in the early days, weeks and even months. The father, by being the not feeder, can often calm a fussy newborn in ways that a mother cannot. He is often a baby's leader and facilitator in the wider world, introducing her to experiences that a mother in her more inward approach, may not.
Breastfeeding is perfect, miraculous, and it's about love, mother love.