Most people probably do not think of natural family planning by this rule: Be one with your baby after birth. But when I gave talks on natural child spacing for many years in the NFP movement, my main talk was on mother-baby togetherness, the key to natural child spacing. A mother who remained with her baby was likely to find it easier to nurse her baby as needed. In addition, this togetherness makes it obvious that the baby needs the presence of the mother as much as he or she needs mother’s food. With ecological breastfeeding, this biological oneness becomes evident. In addition, such mothering makes the mother feel valued. She is extremely important to her baby and the baby will move in excitement as the mother offers her breast. He will cry when she leaves the room. He wants to be in her presence. Many breastfeeding moms learn this. The baby becomes strongly attached to his or her mother and then to the next significant or intimate other—the dad.
Below are some comments from mothers about this mother-baby attachment.
My son doesn’t have an object he’s attached to either, just my husband and me. It’s really interesting to watch his attachment grow to my husband now that he’s getting older. My son got a Charlie Brown book for Christmas (Happiness is a Warm Blanket); it’s about Linus’ grandmother wanting him to give up his blanket. At one point Linus says, “This blanket is the only real security I have.” I think that’s one of the saddest things I’ve ever read!
None of my children have ever had a security object. The closest my children have come is my oldest when I allowed thumbsucking before nursing on demand. When looking for comfort or help, my children seek me or my husband as well. When looking at other young kids I know, they are usually attached to some object (blanket, sippy cup, pacifier, doll/teddy bear, etc) and I notice the children do not seek help from their parents. If the parents do step in, the parent usually directs the child to the security object. I’ve had a blanket left at my house, and when the parent came to pick it up the next day they mentioned their child was crying and wouldn’t sleep all night without it.
I’m surrounded by many women who formula-feed. Some have breastfed for a short time but none of them made it to the minimum one year recommendation. All but one weaned before 8 months age; one did not even nurse a week. All of them have said one of the following statements regarding breastfeeding to me: “It was too hard.” “I wanted my body back.” “I needed a break.”
I realize there are very devoted formula-fed moms out there but I’m surrounded in real life by families who formula-feed and seem very detached from their kids. They use a “crying-it-out” method and nearly all their kids are sleeping through the night within 6 weeks of being born (whereas an eco-breastfeeding mom night nurses sometimes for years). They leave their infants in car seats/swings/bouncy seats with a bottle propped up, and they seem to be oblivious to their children’s cries or just pop in the pacifier.
I once watched a friend panic as her daughter screamed and cried because they lost her pacifier. Nothing the mother could do for her child helped; her child was more attached to that object than her mother. I know two Catholic forumula-fed larger families and it seems the older children do more of the parenting with the babies than the parents. I’m not against children helping out, but this goes beyond that to where I’ve seen siblings rooming in with newborns to tend to the waking baby even though the siblings have school and work the next day. Maybe that’s typical but it seems odd to me.
This type of parenting looks much different and less demanding on the parents than eco-breastfeeding because a lot of the child’s needs are met by objects or other people (or ignored). I hope this is just unique to me and the people I know, but it’s hard to shake this image of formula-feeding when this is constantly what I see among friends and family. In comparison, I have some secular friends who are more in line with eco-breastfeeding and the differences between the families are night and day.
I have noticed that none of my 6 children have been attached to objects, like a blanket, stuffed animal, pacifier, etc. My theory is that they have all been attached to myself or my husband and so they didn’t need an object to latch on to.
SHEILA: I took care of a formula-fed baby only once for a few hours. The only thing I noticed was the unpleasant smell when the baby spit up. You do not get this smell from breast milk. We liked to camp when we had children and camping was something we could afford in those days. Breastfeeding made camping in a tent easy. I’d have baby zipped up in my warm jacket cuddled right next to me during the night. I have done volunteer work, hiked, shopped, taught tennis, NFP and breastfeeding, taught dental hygiene to kindergarten kids and mothering/breastfeeding classes to high school kids, gone to church and learned to do anything I wanted to do — taking my breastfed baby or older nursing child with me.
To be fair to formula-feeding mothers, there are the rare few who are the only ones that feed the baby. I heard of such a mother when I started a LLL group in Canada. She later breastfed her next baby and said it was like not having a baby in the house. She had a very contented baby.
With my first baby I was so shy that I left the room when I was at a LLL meeting and had to nurse my baby. If I, as shy as I was about nursing in public, could learn how to nurse modestly anywhere, I think any mother can learn to do likewise. I have had someone ask me about the baby completely unaware that I was nursing! Reflecting, I think one reason I really promoted breastfeeding and natural child spacing is because I found breastfeeding to be such an easy lifestyle as a mother. My husband also was and still is a strong promoter of ecological breastfeeding.
Some mothers have criticized me for talking about breastfeeding in such a positive tone because of their difficulties, but I am simply grateful and want to share. First, I attended LLL meetings with my first pregnancy and got off to the right start. I was very grateful for LLL in those days and for the two doctors (my ObGyn and the pediatrician) who supported my exclusive breastfeeding. Secondly, I also was never exposed in those early days to the cry-it-out-control philosophies for which I’m grateful. Thirdly, if I had an unhappy or negative experience with breastfeeding, I probably would have never written my books.
I still can’t understand the Church’s silence on this issue since family planning is brought up often when discussing Church teaching. Unfortunately, when natural family planning discussions occur among the laity or NFP teachers, ecological breastfeeding is usually ignored. The research was there when I got interested in the 60s. We published our research in 1972 and 1989 and Dr. William Taylor published his research in the 90s.
I encourage our readers to promote natural child spacing to local priests, bishops and missionaries whom they support. God does have a plan for mother and baby so that married couples will have some spacing between the births of their children, a plan that also protects mother and baby from diseases associated with non-breastfeeding substitutes. And the best part is that mothers enjoy being one with their baby.