Mothering Expectations

I love Diane Wiessinger’s thoughts about breastfeeding. I always see things in a new way after I read what she has to say.

Today I was reminded of Diane’s motherhood-magnet analogy as I talked with a very tired mother that was hoping her little breastfed baby would sleep through the night. Diane pointed out that if you hold magnets either far apart or touching, it’s easy — there is no tension. If you hold them very close but not touching, they’re always trying to move somewhere else (try this with a couple magnets yourself!).

Mothering a breastfed baby with attachment parenting is like letting magnets touch: when mothers stay close to their babies, hold them, and co-sleep they have an easy time responding to their babies’ cues and breastfeeding goes smoothly. Mothering a bottlefed baby with our culture’s rules is like keeping magnets far apart: formula-feeding works fine when babies sleep in the other room and eat on schedule. Trying to breastfeed while mothering with our culture’s rules is like holding magnets close without touching: there is constant tension and frustration. Lots of breastfeeding problems happen when mothers expect their babies to eat on a schedule and sleep through the night.

Breastfeeding mothers can be caught in the middle. Their babies are trying tell them when they need to eat and for how long. Their families, friends, doctors, co-workers, and the media are giving them a list of rules for what their babies “should” be needing. These mother’s lives are under tension a lot of the time — a sad thing since mothering a little baby is plenty of work even without having to juggle conflicting expectations…

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