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Breastfeeding ≠ Attachment

I love breastfeeding. Breastmilk is a perfect concoction of all proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins & fats that a baby needs. It has amazing immune support & contains many living cells, known as 'bio-actives' that offer medicinal qualities to infants. I think breastfeeding is great.

But… breastfeeding doesn’t equal attachment. It’s important to talk about this. Not because breastfeeding isn’t great, but because NOT breastfeeding is totally cool too. Mothers who aren’t able to, or choose not to breastfeed don’t need any more piled on top of them that isn’t true. Including the idea that if they don’t breastfeed their baby, it damages the bond with their baby.

This (uninformed & incorrect) idea stemmed from American paediatrician William Sears who said that the “5 Bs” form the basis of Attachment Parenting: Bonding at Birth, Breastfeeding, Babywearing, Bed Sharing & Being Responsive. The only one of these that has been shown to promote a secure attachment is ‘Being Responsive’.

“Attachment is not a set of tricks”. Attachment is defined by the relationship between caregiver & baby. The magic & strength of a secure attachment is in the connection between these two individuals. Everything else is just a tool to facilitate this.

When it comes to feeding an infant, there is lots of rhetoric around how breastfeeding is highly attuned & formula feeding is mechanical & disconnected. There are certainly instances in which both of these could be true, but it’s by no means guaranteed. Babies can be bottle-fed in a highly sensitive way, following their cues, talking & singing, eye contact etc. Likewise a breastfeeding mother could feed in a highly mechanical & insensitive manner, avoiding eye contact & ignoring or misreading cues.

It’s now how a baby is fed, but the quality of the interaction that matters.

References: Sroufe & Siegel 2011; Divecha 2017; Cooper et al 2011

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