A popular trope in modern parenting is shaming parents — mostly moms — for being on their phones too much. Now the “experts” are coming for nursing moms, saying that texting while breastfeeding could harm bonding between a mother and baby. To that I say, seriously?
There are many ways to shame mothers and dissect the way they parent, but in this age of technology at our fingertips, a common reason to criticize moms is to point out how much time they spend on their phones. We often hear about moms on the playground not basking in the glow of every precious moment with their offspring because they’re just so attached to their phones. Never mind the fact that young children demand the lion’s share of our time and energy and that any parent worth their salt is probably giving their kids all they’ve got 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s not enough. It’s never enough. Because now there are nurses at the hospital cautioning against texting and being on your smartphone while nursing, or “brexting.”
In a piece that’s gone viral and warns moms that “too much ‘brexting’ undermines bonding during breastfeeding,” nurse Terry Bretscher of the Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center says, “It is very hard to to bond and talk to the baby if you are on your phone.”
I suppose she is correct. Paying attention to your baby’s cues in those early weeks can mean a lot as far as establishing an effective nursing relationship. As Dr. Kateyune Kaeni, also of Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center, notes in the same mom-shaming article, “If baby is trying to make contact with you by noises or smiles and they can’t and they learn over time that they can’t rely on you to respond, it runs the risk of them becoming either anxiously attached to your or insecurely attached to you and they will ramp up their behavior until you pay attention.”
All right, that makes sense too.
What I’m taking issue with is the assumption that a mother doesn’t have the judgment to know when to put down her phone. There is a happy medium, and these experts need to give moms the benefit of the doubt.
I had my babies before I had a smartphone. In my days of seemingly endless feedings, I bonded with my infants and my DVR full of CSI: Miami episodes. My first baby was bottle-fed and an incredibly slow eater. I spent several hours a day with my arm going numb, holding the bottle while she took her sweet time, and you bet your bottom dollar I found ways to entertain myself other than staring into her lovely little face. Of course, studies will say you shouldn’t watch television while nursing either. To which I also say, nonsense. Like with anything else, moderation is key. So is knowing your child and knowing yourself.
When you’re learning to get your baby to latch and figuring out how to judge when they’re full and ready to stop feeding, it might not be a bad idea to set your phone aside until you know what you’re doing. I know that even without a phone next to me, falling asleep while my son nursed meant that he ate too much and spit up a lot more. I had to pay some attention so I knew when he was full. But if I knew a feeding would take about 40 minutes? What was the harm in spending the middle 20 minutes watching a rerun of Saved by the Bell? None. No harm at all.
New moms should get more credit for knowing when to set the phone aside and pay attention to their baby. New moms should also not be shamed for not enjoying every precious second with their child.
So much of the “advice” geared toward parents is centered around celebrating all these moments, and while that is a lovely notion, real life is a bit different. There are days when moms spend 20 hours breastfeeding. They can’t spend all of them gazing lovingly at their baby.
There is nothing at all wrong with a mom getting through a few emails or checking Instagram while her baby whiles away the hours nursing or bottle-feeding. We need to trust that moms know what’s best for themselves and their babies and to quit with the judging.