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Parenting Advice Bonding after delayed breastfeeding



My name is Tasneem. I am a first time mummy. I have a little girl who is now three months old. When she was born I couldn't breast­feed. I began when she was two months old. Could this affect the bond between the two of us?

Thanking you. Awaiting your reply.


Jan's reply:

Hello Tasneem,

While it is certainly best to establish breast­feeding at birth, that does not mean bonding will never happen later, or that it will never be as deep or as satisfying as it might have been under happier circumstances.

Nursing is not the only way to establish a close emotional bond; if it were, fathers would never bond with their infants, yet many fathers do so. Even for a breast­feeding mother, it is not only the nursing that establishes a bond, but the warmth in her eyes, the direct eye contact, the loving caresses, the gentle holding, the compassionate responding to cries, and above all, the delight she expresses in both verbal and non-verbal ways.

Despite the myriad benefits of breast­feeding and my passionate efforts to educate new mothers of these benefits, I would rather see an infant receive truly loving care from a bottle-feeding mother than abusive care from a nursing mother. Of course, these extreme examples are unlikely, because breast­feeding requires holding, and also triggers nurturing behavior through an increase of oxytocin (the "hormone of love") in the mother. My point is that it is the love that is the most important factor.

It would be important to avoid all use of bottles, and nurse your child until she no longer needs it. Sleeping next to her and allowing her to nurse on demand will also help to maximize bonding and to establish a successful nursing relationship.

My advice? Congratulate yourself that you've been able to nurse your baby despite an early setback. Recognize that you've done all that you can, allow yourself to grieve for what might have been, take delight in your baby now, and make up for "lost time" by learning about the benefits of extended nursing. An excellent book for you now would be one my personal favorites, Mothering Your Nursing Toddler by Norma Jane Bumgarner.

Best wishes!


Amalia adds:

Babies are extremely forgiving and resilient. Could it be that the early hormonal "bonding" is of particular benefit to the mother in helping her process the transition to motherhood?

Babies seem always ready to accept love, and have to bond with someone or something for their survival.


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