If you find yourself doubting the need to breast-feed, consider the cultural influences that make you question this natural act. In the United States, the art of breast-feeding is one that has to be taught. It does not feel like a natural practice to most American women and therefore is not done easily. This may be because a woman’s breast has come to symbolize sex rather than a means of nourishing a baby. Society tends to make mothers feel uncomfortable about nursing in public because of the sexual connotations of the breast being bared. Many American women feel that breast-feeding is uncivilized and something only done by women in developing countries. Additionally, American culture glorifies independence, even from infants. This may make women believe that breast-feeding will limit their freedom.
As more research and information become available, many mothers are challenging these beliefs and changing common parenting practices. Women are learning to trust their innate ability to feed the baby at the breast, while their partners are learning a new respect for the mother’s ability to feed and nurture the infant. Breast-feeding opens a new path in the development of their life as a family.
Breast-feeding is intertwined with a parenting style that enhances the physical bond between babies and parents. This style is called attachment parenting. When parents put aside social constraints and stay physically close through breast-feeding, wearing or holding their baby, they learn more quickly how to meet and become responsive to the infant’s needs. In turn, the baby is encouraged to communicate more with the parent and develop a sense of trust at an early age.
Attachment parenting includes the following:
- Breast-feeding your baby (Women who are unable to breast-feed can still practice, and gain benefits from, the other aspects of attachment parenting.)
- Being physically close to the newborn in the early days after delivery
- Practicing responsive caregiving and being open to the baby’s cues
- Sleeping near or with the baby
- Carrying or wearing your baby
- Respecting your baby as an individual right from birth
Despite some cultural beliefs, breast-feeding is the most natural and effective way of feeding your baby. Through attachment parenting, you are truly present to your child physically and emotionally.