nursing

Mothers Warned Against Texting While Breastfeeding, Because They Weren’t Being Shamed Enough Already

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First they came for the texters at the playground. Then they came for the breastfeeders who ate fast food every now and then, and we said, “Give a lady a break, guys!” And now they have come for the people texting while breastfeeding, to which many of us will respond, “Wait, but then what else am I supposed to do!?”

According to SCPR, “experts” are now telling mothers not to text or use the Internet while breastfeeding because it could interfere with mother-baby bonding. They’ve even coined a new term, “brexting,” for breastfeeding while texting.

“It is very hard to bond and talk to the baby if you are on the phone,” said Terry Bretscher, a nurse and the lactation supervisor at Pomona Valley Medical Center. But babies eat virtually 24 hours a day in those early months, and they also sleep for a lot of it. Of course we talk to them and look at them and take phone pictures of them, but we’re going to be sitting there for months. We shouldn’t be shamed for messing around on the Internet during that period. Do the babies really need us to be staring at them 24 hours a day for the first years of their lives? It really seems like breastfeeding should be one of those times it is completely OK to go on Instagram and see what the Kardashians are up to.

Breastfeeding in the early months is an utter monster. Pediatricians tell us that babies eat every 90 minutes, but that 90 minutes is counted from the beginning of a feed, not the end of it. And babies often fall sound asleep the moment they start sucking, so basically the first several months of motherhood for a breastfeeding woman is just an endless stretch of sitting in one place trying to feed a baby that is either hungry or sound asleep, or possibly both.

Feeding a baby without falling asleep is a sisyphean task, and I suspect pumping or formula feeding is just as difficult. I do not know how anybody survived the newborn period before Facebook and smart phones and Netflix.

For me, I built a little barricade out of a bassinet and blankets so the baby could not see the TV, and then I basically just sat and watched The Good Wife for three months straight without sleeping. I don’t think the baby left my lap for more than two hours for the first three months of her life. It was excruciatingly difficult to stay awake during that period–I know for a fact I failed at least a few times–and TV and the Internet helped immeasurably. If anyone asked me for breastfeeding advice, I would tell them to find a long-running TV show they had not yet seen and get really into that right before the baby was born. Boston Legal is a good one. It’s also a good time to start watching Doctor Who.

The Internet is also a godsend when it comes to staying awake while breastfeeding. The baby is just doing its baby thing, drinking and sleeping. As adult human beings, most of us are pretty good at multitasking, so we can watch the babies and coo at the babies and then, when the baby dozes off, look at our phones to see that NASA has announced that it found running water on Mars.

But doctors in the SCPR article assert that screen time might distract us, and that will make our babies anxious and nervous.

“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,” said Dr. Kateyune Kaeni of Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center.

That makes a certain amount of sense, but I think most of us are more than capable of noticing when a baby moves or smiles or makes noises and knowing when to put down our phones or computers. News like this is just another way of shaming mothers for another little thing they might not be doing perfectly. It seems like it will be no time at all before strangers at the park start approaching breastfeeding women to harangue them for both breastfeeding in public and being on their phones while breastfeeding. We just can’t win. I think mothers deserve more credit for doing their best and knowing how to feed and nurture their babies while also knowing when it’s OK to play around on Instagram to stay awake and sane during one of the most difficult periods of their lives.