No evidence that breastfeeding promotes bonding

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One of the primary reasons that women give for deciding to breastfeed is the belief that it promotes mother-infant bonding. Breastfeeding advocates have emphasized this point for years. There’s just one problem. There’s no evidence that breastfeeding promotes bonding; it’s just another cruel deception advanced by those who adore competitive mothering.

In Breastfeeding and Maternal Mental and Physical Health, a chapter in the forthcoming book Women’s Health Psychology, Jennifer Hahn-Holbrook and colleagues supply an exhaustive review of the existing literature.

The authors appear to strongly favor breastfeeding, but even they have to admit:

Conventional wisdom holds that breastfeed- ing helps mothers bond with their babies. In fact, one of the most common reasons given by women for wanting to breastfeed is the opportunity to bond with their children. In the scientific literature as well, breastfeeding is often assumed to aid in maternal–infant attachment, without necessarily giving reference to direct evidence. Given this, it is surprising that only a few studies have actually tested this hypothesis in humans, and even fewer have found significant results. Here, we review the small literature on the impact of breastfeeding on the mother–child bond. Briefly, however, we found no studies with evidence that breastfed infants are more securely attached to their mothers than formula-fed infants.

So if there’s no evidence that breastfeeding promotes bonding, where did the idea come from? It came from the same place as most claims of attachment parenting advocates: they made it up. In the absence of any evidence to support the claim, why has it been promoted so vigorously and so widely? For a very simple reason: it raises the stakes in the ongoing battle of competitive mothering.

Competitive mothering, which reaches its apogee in the philosophy of attachment parenting, is all about investing relatively unimportant infant caring practices with major benefits, both real and fabricated, mostly fabricated. Why? Because parenting is hard, and pretending that there are only a few physical tasks that you must perform makes it much easier to feel good about your parenting. It’s hard to parent a child, involving years of caring, worrying, helping and standing by to pick up children when they fall. Even then, you will not find out how you’ve done for nearly two decades, when the child is finally grown, and you may find that your efforts have not produced the results that you would have desired.

How much easier then to pretend that a few relatively meaningless task of infant caring have outsize significance and can determine which mothers are the best mothers. That’s why many attachment parenting advocates cling desperately to attachment parenting behaviors whether they benefit a particular infant, whether they strain a marriage or whether a child has demonstrated that he or she no longer wants to be treated like an infant.

The bottom line is that there is no evidence that breastfeeding has any impact on maternal-child bonding. Despite the lack of evidence, attachment parenting advocates continue to promote this lie because it serves them well in their primary task: building their own self-esteem. Wait, what? You thought attachment parenting was about babies? Don’t be silly. This was never about babies, only about some mothers and their deep seated need to feel superior to other women.

  • naturallyanm

    You guys are a detemined bunch. Good for you! We clearly have different foundations from which our premises originate and I’m happy to agree to disagree. Good luck with everything!

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      There is only one of your posts that didn’t make it, that I found to be “Awaiting moderation.” However, I could look at it anyway.

      If you don’t see your post immediately, it is usually a discus issue.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      We clearly have different foundations from which our premises originate

      Yeah, it’s tough coming to a situation where, suddenly, not everyone shares your premise, when you are so used to it. Maybe instead of taking the lazy way out (“agree to disagree”), why don’t you actually try to find a way to really support your assertions?

      The problem is, you are encountering this idea for the first time. You have just assumed all along that this is the way it is, and no one has ever contradicted you. That’s why, when faced with a different view, your response is, “You must not have breastfed,” as opposed to any reasoned argument.

      Having discovered that your presumption is wrong (many who have responded HAVE breastfed, and they still disagree with you), instead of questioning your premise, you dig in and try to find some other way to maintain your view.

      So this is all new to you. But it’s not new to us. We have seen countless like you come in with the same attitude, that you have this great wisdom that none of us can appreciate and you are going to set us all straight.

      So, as I said, instead of taking the lazy way out, why not consider the issue from this other perspective, one that you’ve never thought about. Because, trust me, we’ve considered it from your perspective, and discovered that it just doesn’t make sense.

    • sdsures

      Sooo…fathers and adoptive parents can never bond with their babies because they don’t breastfeed?

  • naturallyanm

    Let me guess…you didn’t breastfeed your child, dear author. No woman who did would say such things.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      Swing and a miss!!!!!

      • naturallyanm

        Man you guys were all over my comment! Why the heck are you guys so upset?! I believe it definitely promotes bonding from my own experience. 11 months still going strong. Seems weird that she sounds so spiteful if she did breastfeed. Very interesting. Either way I’m all for do what you want. The result of parenting if definitely more than breastfeeding.

        • corblimeybot

          You got two measured replies from users who were logged in at the same time as you (and thus got comment notifications in the sidebar), and you depicted it as an overly emotional reaction. You’re now referring to a pretty evenhanded piece as “spiteful” because it doesn’t agree with your experience. That’s unimpressive.

          • naturallyanm

            Did you breastfeed?

          • Erin

            I did, for three months. I hated every single second of it. If anything it made bonding far harder as I came to hate feeding time with a burning passion.

            My latch was great, it wasn’t physically painful. Despite an emergency section after a long labour my milk came in relatively quickly and I produced more than enough to sustain my son. It was however hugely triggering and even now trying to find words to explain how it made me feel, I can feel my skin crawling with revulsion again.

            However I was told by so many health care professionals despite explaining how I felt about breastfeeding, that I should carry on…and therein lies the issue. Breastfeeding isn’t guaranteed bonding and whilst it worked for you, it didn’t work for me.

          • naturallyanm

            I’m sorry that you had a bad experience…I really am. And mothers should not fault you for that at all. Sounds like it was psychological for you. My only point is that when it works, it is helpful. But thank goodness there are alternatives when it doesn’t. And I’m sure it doesnt interfere with true bonding with our children.

          • Who?

            Which is exactly the point. Breastfeeding is good when it works, and when it doesn’t, those lucky enough to have options can use them.

            And before you ask, since you seem to think it is critical, I breastfed both my children.

            And now we have ‘bonding’ and ‘true bonding’?

          • naturallyanm

            Lady, that’s semantics. Stop it.

          • Who?

            Well, no, it’s asking you to elucidate your own remarks.

            Like the song says, you tie these knots, you undo them. And think before you speak.

          • Amazed

            Wrong question, dear commenter. Since you already know Dr Amy did and dismissed it, you should be asking, Did you breastfeed AND if you did, do you share my opinion, else your opinion is not valid.

        • Amy Tuteur, MD

          So you wouldn’t love your children as much if you hadn’t breastfed them? Interesting. Hard for me to relate since I love my children for who they are, not how I fed them.

          To each her own, I guess.

          • naturallyanm

            Nah, not saying that. Just saying it’s a physiological advantage. You should understand that.

          • Amazed

            What physiological advantage? Proven, if you please. Let me warn you: mothering dot com isn’t considered a valid resource here.

          • guest

            Zing!

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          Man you guys were all over my comment! Why the heck are you guys so upset?!

          Hey, you were the one who thought it a matter so important that you responded to a three year old post.

        • sdsures

          “Man you guys were all over my comment! Why the heck are you guys so upset?!”

          You don’t want any of us to respond?

    • corblimeybot

      Dr Amy famously breastfed all four of her children. That’s a big reason that lactivists hate her so much.

    • demodocus

      I am bonding far more quickly with my ff child than my bf’d child because i freaking hate bf’ing. Did it for 11 months anyway until I realized lying curled into a fetal position hoping neither husband nor child touches you ever again is not a sign of health and wellbeing.
      Glad it works for you, as it did for Dr. Amy and many others, but it’s all the people who ask “are you still breastfeeding?” and “you know breast milk is best!” eats at a person who does *not* find it wonderful.

      • naturallyanm

        Understood.

        • Charybdis

          Really? I doubt it.

          I hated, loathed and despised breastfeeding as well and switched completely to formula somewhere between 3 and 4 weeks. It was so much easier, less stressful and, dare I say it, more blissful.

          • demodocus

            and formula makes it a lot less likely that I’ll take that knife to my wrist. I really should stop reading this conversation…

          • Charybdis

            I do a lot of FIDO (Fuck It, Drive On) with crap like this. Plus, I get a great deal of perverse pleasure of saying “No, I didn’t breastfeed. I HATED it” to the lactivists and then watch them try and come to terms with someone who won’t cave to their propaganda.

          • demodocus

            Zoloft is helping.

      • sdsures

        If complete strangers walk up to me and inquired how I use my breasts, I’d be seriously creeped out.

        • demodocus

          I was creeped out by a couple of the non strangers asking. One was the old guy who was trying to figure out whether we adopted or had our son the usual way. He thought that I was “beyond the age of childbearing.” This time I made sure he knew we were expecting.

          • sdsures

            This is a great BBC documentary about parents with cerebral palsy expecting their second child, and also renovating their house to put in another bedroom (or was it redo the nursery?).

            Anyways, they need to widen a couple doorways so the dad can get into the room with his electric wheelchair. The father, Laurence Clark, is a stand-up (or sit-down, as it is) comedian by profession. During one comedy show, he related the following story:

            “When we are disabled parents expecting a baby and non-disabled people ask when the baby is due, you can just SEE the other person’s mental gears going, asking themselves ‘How the fook did they do it?????’ (ie have sex) You can see on their faces that they’re DYING to ask, but they won’t dare!”

            (Yep, disabled people can have regular sex lives – it’s just that we sometimes have to be more creative when going about it. I have cerebral palsy, too, so I was very happy to find this documentary; my CP is less severe than Laurence Clark’s. Hubby has fibromyalgia.)

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSn3r0_VpsE

    • Monkey Professor for a Head

      I breastfeed my son. My love for him is not based around breastfeeding, and when I look at my son I cannot imagine loving him less if I had formula fed.

      My husband loves his son. My son loves his dad. They are very much bonded, despite no breastfeeding taking place.

      I am also not nasty enough to think that women who formula feed love their children less than I love my child. Which is what you are (albeit indirectly) implying.

      • naturallyanm

        Ugh…

        “You thought attachment parenting was about babies? Don’t be silly. This was never about babies, only about some mothers and their deep seated need to feel superior to other women.”

        This is what I was referring to. I don’t understand this statement and how she could say it and have breastfed. Don’t put words in my mouth. Of course what you’re saying is the case. You can breastfeed or not and still have a wonderful bond. But breastfeeding offers PHYSIOLOGICAL ADVANTAGES. Put it another way: being tall offers advantages to reach objects on higher shelves. Doesn’t mean that if you’re shorter you can’t reach them. But it may make it easier. Or not! I’m just speaking about my own experience which in no way is exhaustive. Hope this clears it up for you.

        • Poogles

          ….Right, attachment parenting (the movement) as a whole, not specifically breastfeeding, which is a part of AP, but not the sole province of AP.

        • Poogles

          Also, I don’t think you would’ve received these same types of responses if your original comment hadn’t seemed so condescending.

        • Monkey Professor for a Head

          “I don’t understand this statement and how she could say it and have breastfed.”

          You don’t understand how women could have had a different experience to you? Or you don’t understand how a woman could have a good experience breastfeeding, and yet not assume her experience is universal? Or you can’t understand that women can breastfeed and not like attachment parenting?

          I think your intention was pretty clear. You wanted to invalidate the opinions and experiences of people who have not successfully breastfed. It would explain why you felt the need to ask corblimeybot if they breastfed when they disagreed with you. And now that that backfired on you, you are trying to backpedal.

          • naturallyanm

            You’re right. I’m trying to invalidate people who do not successfully breastfeed.

          • Amazed

            You think you’re being sarcastic? You unwittingly proved yourself as the perfect specimen for what Dr Amy wrote about in this article. You didn’t like what she had to say, so of course, you immediately decided that she must not have breastfed, unlike you, who’s been breastfeeding for 11 months and still going strong. Then, when you want to denigrate other women’s opinion, you immediately asked if they breastfed. Only breastfeeing would give their opinion any weight! (Unless they were agreeing with you. I am sure that in this case, you wouldn’t have cared if they breastfed.)

          • naturallyanm

            Lol

        • swbarnes2

          Sigh. What ADVANTAGES are you claiming, and where is your evidence? Your previous citations were horseshit, and showed nothing of value to your argument.

    • momofone

      I breastfed for 21 months, and though I didn’t write this, I certainly agree with it.

    • Guest

      Sorry, nope. Dr. Amy breastfed four, and many of the regular commenters here also breastfed. You know what they say about assuming…

  • mehh

    so what? am i suppose to feel guilty that i’m breastfeeding my child? guilty and stupid?

    • Captain Obvious

      Sigh, just read a little bit more before you comment. Breast feeding is fantastic if it works for you. But don’t belittle women who are not breast feeding insisting that formula feeding is horrible. The benefits of breast feeding exist but are small. So many lactivists condemn formula feeders, and Dr Amy is just standing up for which ever way you want to feed your child. She actually breastfed her kids.

    • naturallyanm

      Exactly. For someone who apparently did breastfeed it definitely seems that there’s something else going on with Amy psychologically. When it’s used as a superiority tool yes, she’s right. But it absolutely does promote bonding. It’s a physiological fact despite what she assumes to know.

      • Amy Tuteur, MD

        Citations please.

        • naturallyanm

          Here’s just one of many
          http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/118/5/e1436.short

          But to your point, the article points to correlation rather than causation.

          • swbarnes2

            “A direct relationship between attachment security and breastfeeding practice was not identified. The quality of the mother-infant interaction at 6 months, rather than the type of feeding, predicted security of attachment.”

            Again, can you explain how you think this supports your point?

          • naturallyanm

            I knew someone would pick that as their overall point. Did you read the rest?

          • swbarnes2

            Yes. It shows nothing. Tiny differences according to one particular scale scale at 3 months, a big fat nothing at six months. When the authors have to resort to “Maybe there’s a TINY effect that our study was too small to see” you are in big trouble.

        • naturallyanm
          • swbarnes2

            Really? A paper showing a 37 millisecond difference in attention bias? Can you explain the proven long-term clinical outcomes to the health of children that you would expect from that?

          • naturallyanm

            Lol. Listen, I cited articles. At the end of the day it’s an individual decision. You decide not to breastfeed or to breastfeed, whatever works for you! All I know is that I’m glad I chose to and in my own little bubble of experience, it has brought me indescribable joy. But im not saying formula wouldnt do the same. I just happen to think that there are physiological factors that we may not yet understand at play…either way “do you”!

          • Amy Tuteur, MD

            You cited crap since you couldn’t find anything to support your point of view. And since YOU are unable to find citations to support YOUR claim, we must conclude it represents wishful thinking on your part, not science.

          • naturallyanm

            Okay. I’ll cede your point. I hope we as humanity are less skeptical than you however so we continue to evolve in love. I support any woman who makes decisions based on what’s best for their children. If that ff, or breastfeeding that’s fine. Just don’t, as a a SCIENTIST, downplay potential physiological effects just because our scientific methods aren’t advanced enough to quantify them. Oxytocin, oxytocin, oxytocin. I’m just a little disturbed that you as a doctor are speaking this way. Done.

          • swbarnes2

            So people who are as evolved in love as you are tell strangers that they must have psychological problems?

            Sorry, but downplaying unproven nonsense is what scientists are supposed to do. What effect can you show is significant and clinically meaningful that you claim the author is downplaying? Because the first two paper you cited were horseshit at proving your case.

          • naturallyanm

            As evolved in love as me? Of course. Because that’s exactly what I said right?

            Do you! You see what you choose, same as me.

          • Amazed

            “Because that’s exactly what I said right.”

            Of course not. You’re too much of a coward to say it openly. You just ascribe psychological problems to internet strangers who just happen to know more about physiology than you. Oh, and you’re all saccharine sweetness, with your passive-agressive “dear author”.

            That’s what you said, not so dear moronic commenter. Of course, that’s what your “dear author” meant as well but a craven like you won’t ever say it.

          • naturallyanm

            🙂 okay dear

          • Amazed

            Love and light, mama!

          • demodocus

            well, i do have psychological problems, and i think my oxytocin system must be broken because no matter how many people tell me i should feel better by nursing or exercizing, somehow i never do.

          • Poogles

            “Oxytocin, oxytocin, oxytocin.”

            I’m curious, do you realize that oxytocin is released any time you snuggle your baby, whether that’s while breastfeeding, bottlefeeding or just plain snuggling? It is not unique to breastfeeding in the least.

          • sdsures

            I’m betting oxytocin gets released when my cat snuggles on my face.

          • Amazed

            “Oxytocin, oxytocin, oxytocin. I’m just a little disturbed that you as a doctor are speaking this way. Done.”

            Crap, crap, crap. I’m just a little disturbed that one day, you’ll be helping a child find sources for school work. Not done since you seem to be hanging around backpedaling but not quite.

          • guest

            You know what else releases oxytocin? Hugging. Holding hands. Watching a sad movie. Bungee jumping. Singing in front of people. Checking Facebook. Oh, and pitocin? That’s also oxytocin. Oxytocin, oxytocin, oxytocin! So here’s the question: Does oxytocin cause bonding, or does bonding cause oxytocin?

          • sdsures

            Hearing your favourite song. 😀

          • sdsures

            Why would anyone want to be less skeptical? Loving our babies has zero to do with whether or not we breastfeed them.

          • swbarnes2

            If the articles you cited don’t support your argument, then you just made yourself look ridiculous. You don’t get to insult someone, say that your insult is rational and evidence based, and then waltz away when it’s shown not to be. That’s dishonest behavior.

          • naturallyanm

            Bye. Do or think whatever you want lol

          • Amy Tuteur, MD

            That isn’t about bonding. Try again.

          • naturallyanm

            I love this discussion by the way. Thanks for replying.

            Sensitivity to infants is one aspect of bonding. It’s not a one way street, or is it?

          • Amazed

            Discussion? You’re suffering under the delusion that your single unrelated source is a discussion?

  • With my first child, I was sucked into the propaganda that if I didn’t breastfeed that I was somehow depriving my son of a healthy future. I tried to breastfeed, but after two months of agonizing pain and a hungry baby who always needed formula supplements anyways because of my low supply, I “gave in” and just made him a full formula bottle. MAGIC. He was happy, I was happy, and we enjoyed feeding together for the first time. I believe we bonded more over that bottle of formula than we ever did over stressing about trying to breastfeed. It didn’t work for us, and I have made my peace with that. He’s healthy and happy and so incredibly smart.

    Now with my second child, I am attempting to breastfeed but only if it works well for both of us and doesn’t cause us any grief. I am ok with formula feeding supplements (because my low supply issue is still a problem) despite many lactivists around me who believe I’m satan’s spawn for doing so. So far things are working out ok, but he lost more weight than what was typical when he was at the hospital, and after two weeks is not back up to his birth weight. I don’t feel that breastfeeding establishes any different kind of bond. I love both my children equally, with all of my heart. If this doesn’t work out, if I need to switch to formula and pumping to make absolutely sure he’s getting enough, I am ok with that. In the end, it’s about the health of my child. I want him to thrive. Why is it that lactivists who claim to want “what is best” don’t understand that depriving a baby of enough nutrition is absolutely NOT the best?

  • Cassie

    From what i have read oxytocin, the feel good hormone is released during breastfeeding, therefore helping some mothers perhaps feel more attatched.

  • Did you just seriously describe breastfeeding as “relatively meaningless”?

    Do we need tougher CME requirements for OB/Gyns? Because unless you’ve been completely ignoring the medical literature since graduating in 1984, I’m pretty sure you know that breastfeeding, whether or not it promotes “bonding,” has a boatload of other major health benefits. Right?

  • I took a look at Attachment Parenting International’s website and see the same unrecognized, wildly inclusive definition of “Reactive Attachment Disorder” which is something that APSAC and the APA’s Division on Child Maltreatment have denounced, along with other aspects of Attachment (Holding) Therapy.

    http://www.attachmentparenting.org/support/articles/artadoption.php

    Furthermore, this bogus disorder is based on a belief in something called the “Attachment Cycle” (aka Needs Cycle, Rage Cycle, Soul Cycle, etc.) – another bogus concept that has been traced back to Wilhelm Reich (Mr. Ozone Therapy). The unfounded notion behind this cycle is that attending to a neonate/infant’s needs creates attachment and conscience development.

    Also note that Attachment Parenting International links to Nancy Thomas’ website. This is very telling. Thomas is the leading proponent on Attachment Therapy Parenting (ATP), a brutal practice that has been linked to many high profile criminal child abuse and death cases. Horrible stuff.

    It appears that while Attachment Parenting may have some wrong ideas, it may lead people into a “therapy cult” called Attachment Therapy/Parenting which is highly abusive.

    More on our website:

    Advocates for Children in Therapy
    http://www.childrenintherapy.org/

  • The terms “attachment” and “bonding” frequently get muddled.

    *Bonding* is the affection developed by the parent for the neonate at or around the time of birth.

    *Attachment* is something we surmise starts to happen around 6-8 months of life when we see certain behaviors, such as shyness with strangers and separation anxiety. This is when we believe babies start to realize that people are individuals.

    Attachment Parenting adopts some bogus concepts from a brutal psychotherapy/parenting method called “Attachment (Holding) Therapy” and from the supremely wacky pre- and perinatal psychology –– although Attachment Parenting looks downright reasonable compared to these two fringe groups.

    I recommend, for the latest science-based research, a book by Jean Mercer (professor emerita of psychology/child development) called simply “Understanding Attachment.” She also has a fun book and a blog called “Child Myths.”

  • Gretta

    I am currently nursing and formula feeding boy number 3. I am so over this competitive mothering baloney, I don’t even enter the competition. I just basically concede that yes, I lose. Yes, I am going to feed my baby this formula. Yes, I am doing it because I don’t like nursing in public and don’t want to pump. Yes that makes me weak and lazy. I am also stupid because I don’t think formula is poison. You win competitive Mommy. You go collect the trophy. My healthy, happy son and I will just wait here.

  • ratiomom

    Yes! This!
    Breastfeeding isn’t a requirement for a good baby-mother bond, nor is it a guarantee for developing one.
    The idea that breastfeeding is the be-all, end-all of motherhood is very recent.

    Wetnursing has been practiced all over the world throughout history. In ancient Rome, there was a ‘columna lactaria’ in the produce market. By that column, wetnurses gathered to rent out their services. You could even bring your baby along for ‘drive-by’ service. Islamic law has entire chapters devoted to wet nurses. In most cases, the wetnurse was a woman of much lower social standing than the baby’s mother and the nursing relationship didn’t imply any special or exclusive bond with the baby.
    In the primitive societies that the NCB/lactivist movement aspires to emulate, women usually spend the day foraging in groups and they breastfeed each other’s infants as the circumstances require. The notion that one women isolated in her house exclusively breastfeeding her baby to the exclusion of every other activity is essential for bonding was made up by Dr Sears.

  • Playing Possum

    Brief rant – family member calls to debrief. New parents, moved out of very rural home for a few weeks to deliver at a bigger centre. Intend to breast feed, do ok for a few days, then baby looks a bit peaky, lethargic. Go to clinic just to be sure, seeing as they’re away from home and supports. Ask how to make formula for a top up, what supplies they need. Midwife/ lactivist REFUSES to tell them. They leave, horrified, and go to local ER – baby now admitted with dehydration, ng feeds. Still giving bf a red hot go, plan to ebf. No surprise, baby bfs really well after getting some nutrition. I was gobsmacked. How could this woman think she had the expertise to advise parents on feeding, when she can’t recognise a dehydrated infant?!?!?! And how dare she refuse a baby food for the sake of ideology?!?!? Why is denying a baby food for the sake of breast feeding not considered neglect… End rant. I feel better now.

    • Yes, the midwife lactivist is dangerously incompetent. She deserves to be reported and sent in for re-education and deprogramming.

  • Jessica

    Breastfeeding advocates do so such damage in their zeal to get women to breastfeed. The idea that breastfeeding is crucial to bonding doesn’t even make sense, and yet it has probably convinced many a vulnerable postpartum woman that her baby won’t love her unless she keeps fighting the good fight even when it’s making her, her husband, and/or her baby miserable. What a shame. Surely there is a better way to advocate and support breastfeeding – which many of us do enjoy! – without marginalizing and alienating so many women.

  • Veebs

    I didn’t bond with my son until I stopped trying to breast feed him. He refused to latch and I tried in vain for 6 weeks and was miserable. Formula allowed me to bond with him and saved my sanity.

    • moto_librarian

      That was my experience as well, Veebs. My son would sob inconsolably whenever he was put to the breast because there was so little milk for him, and I began to dread feeding times. I struggled so hard with giving it up because I was convinced that he would get the H1N1 without my antibodies from breastmilk (this was at the peak of the epidemic and he couldn’t be vaccinated until he was 6 months old). Once I finally did, I began to relax and actually enjoy my baby. While I tried nursing again with his baby brother, when we encountered the same supply issues, I very easily gave it up and made the switch to exclusive formula feeding. It was a much better postpartum experience.

  • Felicitasz

    This is hard to believe.
    However: the fact that the combination 1,2,3,4,5 has the exact same winning chance in a 90/5 lottery draw as any other combination of 5 numbers is also hard to believe.

    Reality sucks. (Maybe on a breast or a bottle but I practice some self-control and stop at this point.)

  • Meagan

    Without those precious hours upon hours of nursing my son, I would never have had the chance to watch the entire run of Scrubs, X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Netflix.

    • Becky05

      I learned to nurse hands free so I could type more easily. . .

      • anonomom_LLLL_IBCLC
        • auntbea

          I call BS. A real baby would have had that phone out of her hand 20 seconds ago.

          • An experienced mother wouldn’t be wearing white..

          • Elizabeth Abraham

            Eh, white’s fine. Spitup is white. It works.

            An experienced mother wouldn’t have ironed it.

        • Becky05

          That’s awesome. One reason I didn’t wean my youngest to a bottle at three months as I’d planned is that I couldn’t do anything else while feeding him. It drove me crazy. Besides being mind numbingly boring, I had dozens of other things I had to do.

          I admit it. I breastfeed because I’m lazy.

    • Lisa the Raptor

      Mine was Grey’s Anatomy

      • An Actual Attorney

        I watched Inglorious Bastards and Judgment at Nuremberg. Kid’s going to have a Nazi issue and curse like a sailor!

    • Awesomemom

      I could say the same. With out those precious hours of bottle feeding I would have never seen loads of episodes of things like Law and Order.

    • Gene

      With my daughter it was Man Men and Dexter. My son got some slighter more PG things (if daughter was around)..

    • mamaellie

      I watched six feet under start to finish. This time it’s scandal and other abc guilty pleasures.

  • Lisa the Raptor

    Disqus is killing me here. Mrs. W made a lovely post about what babies need to thrive and it was a list of things like food, love, shelter. And I wanted to reply but I can’t find it again. Anyway I’ll reply here. The beauty of such simple needs is that ANYONE can do it. And many people can take over certain tasks. Daddy can love and siblings can help feed and bathe and the true beauty of it is that baby learns that many people are safe, trustworthy and worth loving and not all of it is put on Mom like so much of this AP stuff is.

  • Mrs. W

    You know what promotes bonding: meeting the social, emotional, educational, and nutritional needs of your child and demonstrating unconditional love. HOW you meet those needs is really secondary to those needs being met.

    • Becky05

      Exactly. Responsive parenting and meeting your child’s needs do lead to good outcomes and secure attachment. Sears greatly errs by conflating “responsive parenting” and AP.

      • fiftyfifty1

        I find even the term “responsive parenting” rather silly. As opposed to what–unresponsive parenting? Like in the CPR protocol? “Ma’am, Ma’am [shaking patient’s shoulder], are you okay? Help! Help! You [pointing at bystander], yes you. Call 911! This woman is unresponsive. [roll unresponsive person onto back, look listen and feel etc.].”
        Seriously. Now in addition to worrying if we are “bonded” enough do we have to worry if we are “responsive” enough? Ish.

        • Becky05

          I’ve seen some unresponsive parents, it’s worth talking about, I think. It’s just, “meet your baby’s needs.”

    • Lisa the Raptor

      Ah! Found it. I’ll post here what I posted below. The beauty of such simple needs is that ANYONE can do it. And many people can take over certain tasks. Daddy can love and siblings can help feed and bathe and the true beauty of it is that baby learns that many people are safe, trustworthy and worth loving and not all of it is put on Mom like so much of this AP stuff is.

  • fiftyfifty1

    The idea of following the parenting advice of a self-appointed expert, conservative Christian with a stay-at-home wife and a passel of kids strikes me as ridiculous. Does anyone seriously waste even a moment of anxiety over not following this man’s made up ideas?

    • Elle

      As a Christian stay-at-home wife, who was raised as one of a “passel” of kids, I find your comment very shallow. I don’t follow Dr. Sears, but what basis does his faith or his family status have on his teachings about parenting? Can’t you simply disagree with him on principle rather than because of who he is or what religion he’s a part of?

      • fiftyfifty1

        It’s that his choices regarding his family life are so different than mine that it seems ridiculous to become anxious over not meeting his parenting standards. Especially since he just made up his standards based on nothing more than his own home life experience.

        I am non-religious and reject the idea of God-given gender roles. I have only 2 kids. My husband and I both work full time. Why would I think that what worked for him would work for me? Why would I expect that what he wants and values in a home life would be what I should strive for?
        My mother was a Christian stay-at-home wife with a passel of kids. I can see Dr. Sears appealing to her perhaps. Just the same way James Dobson and Focus on the Family appealed to her. But why would it appeal to me or most mainstream Americans?

        • Elle

          Well, I certainly agree that you should have no reason to be anxious about meeting his parenting standards. But you would probably make that choice regardless of his religious background, since there isn’t anything “Christian” about using a baby carrier or not. On the other hand, there is Gary Ezzo, author of Babywise, whose views are quite opposite AP (he teaches the ‘cry it out’ method), and yet he is also a conservative Christian (though it doesn’t come out in his book much, and I’m not a big fan of him either). But his teachings aren’t religious in nature either, at least not the ones about infancy.

      • ratiomom

        Dr Sears is part of an ideological movement that sees women primarily as wives and mothers. He doesn’t approve of women working outside the home. When a family chooses to adopt his parenting style, they are unavoidably pushed towards the ‘husband as provider/wife as SAHM’ model.

        One gets the impression that this is not an unintended ‘side effect’, but rather the primary goal/hidden agenda of his publications. So yes, his religious background and family status are relevant to the discussion.

        • Elle

          Unless they are Alan’s family. Parenting is a broad topic, but it’s funny, most AP-ers I know are anything but religious. It would be different if AP was all about what you teach your kids, but there’s nothing “religious” about the idea of attachment parenting (other than following it as a religion unto itself). I know some religious families who have home birthed, but that doesn’t make it a practice that is associated with a particular religion either, even if some of its proponents are.

  • Sunny Wagner

    What an irresponsible post.

    • I’m sorry, I think your comment was accidentally truncated. Why is this an irresponsible post?

      • Lisa the Raptor

        Clearly babies will die….Wait. That BS. Yes, why?

    • moto_librarian

      There you have it – no evidence as to why this post is “irresponsible” because there isn’t any.

  • Bonding also does not imply lifelong love and attachment. In many mammals the adult does not even recognize mom once separated for some time. Less true for social animals like primates. But consider that in societies that routinely use wet nurses the wet nurse is usually a social inferior, a peasant woman or even a slave. Yet the grown man or woman does not continue to regard the wet nurse as a mother. There may be tender feelings, but not true friendship.

    • Elle

      Although among royalty especially, children often felt closer to their nurses than their parents, even into adulthood. But I would contend that was due to the fact that the parents hardly spent time with them during the early years, rather than a breastfeeding issue.

      • AmyP

        Wasn’t that situation not uncommon among upper class English families? The mother was often a glamorous, rarely seen figure, while the young children might spend most time with and be most comfortable with servants.

        I believe Winston Churchill’s early life was an example of this pattern.

  • Hi Dr. Amy,

    Thank you very much for this post. My wife has been struggling with breastfeeding vs. formula feeding mostly because of the guilt associated with it. She has finally come to terms with it and wrote about her feelings in our personal blog. You can read her insights here:

    http://daveandcorrinahale.blogspot.com/2013/03/breastfeeding-isnt-for-everyone.html

    • Karen in SC

      beautifully written post! thanks for sharing.

  • Charley

    why are you so anti-breastfeeding? well, if you aren’t, sure SEEMS like you are.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      “Not believing that Breastfeeding is critical for bonding” or that it is the end-all, be-all of feeding =/= anti-breastfeeding.

    • PoopDoc

      It’s not anti breast feeding. It is just not anti-bottle feeding. Sadly there is no wide spread “formula is best” campaign out there.

      • SarahSD

        I don’t think that’s particularly sad. What’s sad is that there is no pro-feeding-babies campaign to counter the divisive, competitive crap out there.

    • I don’t have a creative name

      No one here is anti-breastfeeding. I love breastfeeding and have done so for each of my children. However, I and many others are sick to death of the notion that formula feeding signifies failure and breastfeeding is this magic thing, when FF is a perfectly acceptable substitute which can be delivered with just as much love and tenderness.

    • Lisa the Raptor

      I’ll have you know that I have 25 months of BFing over three kids under my belt and I’m doing it right now. But if the science is not there, and it’s not, then it does not matter how much we want something to be awesome opossum-better than everything else– it’s not. It’s not. If there is anything I have learned out of all my time BFing and being a parent for 10 years it’s how little BFing matters in the long run. Women and men of a moderately healthy mind and ability will love their kids and kids will love them back and they are going to be who they are going to be. The end. Not anti breastfeeding, just pro-science.

    • Meagan

      Breastfed my son for 17 months and aside from the mastitis and occasional cracked nipple, loved it. I even sort of tricked him into going a couple weeks longer when he started self weaning because I wasn’t ready to stop so suddenly. I also think its harmful and, at best an exaggeration, the extreme emphasis we put on “breast is best.”

  • Esther

    There was a study in Pediatrics several years ago which showed a correlation between a prenatal intent to breastfeed and attachment security later on: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17079544, but actual breastfeeding apparently didn’t matter. It could well be that intent to BF is confounded with something else – maternal personality type, SES etc.

    I can’t seem to access the link in the blogpost; did the authors discuss this study and if so, what did they have to say about it?

  • Amy Tuteur, MD

    We’ve already done the large scale population experiment. Several generations have included large numbers of formula fed individuals. There is no evidence that mother-child bonding has been affected in any way.

    • Not randomised. You can’t throw out the conclusions of breastfeeding research for this reason, as you frequently do, but then embrace a “population experiment” when you like the conclusions.

      • fiftyfifty1

        Come on Alan, think harder! Dr. Amy actually is perfectly correct in criticizing the current breastfeeding literature for confounding, and also perfectly correct in drawing the conclusion she did from the example she cites above. They are not the same just because they involve “populations”. Can you think of how they differ? Hint #1: What is the difference between the current breastfeeding situation in the USA in 2013 vs. the breastfeeding situation in the USA in 1950? Hint #2: What does it mean to randomize?

        • #1: In 1950, formula was middle/upper class and breastfeeding was something po’ folks did. #2: It can mean different things depending on the context. In this context, discussing prospective rather than retrospective research, it means taking a group of subjects to be studied, randomly sorting them into two groups (it can be more than two for some studies, but here we would have two) and then assigning one group to do one thing (breastfeed) and the other group to do the other (formula feed).

          And sure, they’re not the same, but if you don’t like retrospective (or “associational”) research in general, it still looks suspect to embrace it in this case, where the “results” support her conclusion (or do they? Actually, she never really demonstrated that either).

          • yentavegan

            in 1950’s even po’ folks formula fed.

          • “When artificial formulas became safe enough for infant survival and were endorsed by the medical profession, upper-class women were the first to adopt it. Middle-class women soon followed. During the 1950s and 1960s, poor women in the United States still breastfed (including those living on poverty-ridden reservations) because they did not have the economic resources to do otherwise (Fildes, 1988; Golden, 1996).”
            http://nursing.ucla.edu/workfiles/CAIIRE/Articles/breastfeeding%20practices%20of%20ojibwe.pdf

          • Sue

            And what did poor people do if they couldn’t breast feed and couldn’t afford “approved” formula? They used their own “formula”. Or goat’s milk. Or cow’s milk. Or the baby died.

          • yentavegan

            i come from an immigrant stock of left/socialists and no one was breastfed, my poor immigrant grandparents made baby formula as per the doctor’s instructions,
            i am the first of 3 generations to have breastfed my babies,

          • fiftyfifty1

            you got it!

  • Courtney84

    Isn’t there a decent amount of research out there that says parents have to work pretty hard to mess up their children’s attachment to them? It’s always been my understanding that even in situations of abuse and neglect children still want their parents.

    • Spiderpigmom

      AFAIAA, attachment can be secure (when the caregiver is perceived as consistent and reliable) or insecure, with several sub-categories. A different set of behaviours is indicative of each attachment type. Which is why I secretly freak out each time my toddler refuses to acknowledge me when I pick him up from his sitter’s.

      • auntbea

        My baby has been saying “dog” for two months, but refuses to say “mama.” I wonder what category that classifies us in…

        • To the best of my knowledge, MOST babies come up with da da
          before ma ma. More to do with the order they learn to form phonemes(the nasal m takes a bit more babbling practice than d) than their personal preference for individuals. (Some of the phonetic sounds don’t come till quite late)

          • LibrarianSarah

            In my family women explicitly teach the kids how to day “dada” or “daddy” so when they are crying out in the middle of the night they go “dada dada” and we can say “she’s asking for you honey”

          • Lisa the Raptor

            Well, my BF son’s first word was Ba-ba. Ha!

          • Amazed

            Very clever.

            My mom says when I was about 1 1/2, I regularly woke them up with ‘Don’s sleep! Read!’ My dad valiantly tried to meet my needs but after the empteenth reread of Andersen he gave up and started sleeping on his good ear (he’s deaf in the other one), so unless my mom literally kicked him awake, she alone read to me about the little girl who didn’t want to marry her rich neighbour who was a mole (can’t remember the title in English).

          • Lisa the Raptor

            Clearly books on tape were made for kids like you!

          • Amazed

            They tried this. Didn’t work. I insisted that they read to me, apparently. And my grandparents couldn’t believe it because when I was with them, I obviously slept like a champ. But with mom and dad it was either read or listen to “Don’t sleep! Read!” all night long.

          • Lisa the Raptor

            Well bless their hearts! You liked the spoken word 🙂

          • Lisa the Raptor

            You know in his book “Look Homeward Angel” Thomas Wolfe wrote about being in love with worlds and sentences and books and just language in general from his earliest memories. I could think of worse people to share these qualities with 🙂

          • Amazed

            Oh yes. And when I was about five, my dad started putting me to sleep with tales from the history of our country. I am certain that my interest in history started back then. Later, I pursued it at the university. I cannot fathom that there are women who deliberately deprive their children of that just because someone dictated that Mom should be the primary caregiver and if she wasn’t, the bond between mother and child is forever broken.

            Yes, the tale was Thumbelina. I knew it would be something to do with “thumb”

          • Box of Salt

            Amazed, I think it’s Thumbelina.

        • quadrophenic

          My 9 month old has been babbling “dadada” and something that sounds like “dog” for a month or so too. We don’t have a dog and she says “dadada” to everything. So I’m not classifying them as words, just sounds.

          • auntbea

            Oh, she’s definitely talking about the dog. She points right at the dog and says, “DOG!” Then she looks at me and is all, whatever, lady.

        • areawomanpdx

          hahaha, my son said “dog” and “dada” by 9 months and didn’t say “mama” until he was nearly a year-and-a-half. Even said “boob” clear as day before “mama.” Totally gave me a complex.

      • theadequatemother

        My toddler runs AWAY from me when I pick him up at daycare. I am not as good as toys…must be my fault for putting him in daycare and allowing him access to toys. Maybe I will quit work and shove him in a sling.

  • Renee Martin

    I think AP and lactivists also see attachment differently than everyone else.
    Hear me out-

    Most people think of “attached” as when a baby knows and loves his family, and is secure in their love. This takes many forms, and is an internal feeling. This includes kids that cling to mommy, and kids that run to others without looking back, and everything in between.

    APers and Lactivists don’t see it this way. To them, attachment is something particular, seen in a set of behaviors, which you can see. Your baby cries anytime you put it down, no matter how briefly? Thats secure attachment! Your baby grabs for your breasts, even at age 3+? Very attached. Your baby has to be with you at all times? Baby is so attached. Obviously, baby wearing and BF is key to this type of “attachment”. Any other behavior that doesn’t conform is seen as a baby thats not attached.

    I realized this basic difference in outlook because of my DD, who was born fussy, and has been EBF, side car’d to my bed, and worn a lot, out of necessity (ie, nothing else worked). My DS was FF, cared for by DH, had his own bed as a baby, and was never worn.

    When people see DD freak out when I put her down, theres a range of responses, based on their parenting philosophy. APers think this is normal, wonderful, and proof of a strong bond. Mainstream parents thinks it’s her personality, and old school parents think shes just spoiled, and needs to be left to cry (I get that a lot). The APers aren’t helpful when I ask about weaning or getting a break, and the old school type aren’t helpful by demanding I just put her down and ignore her. Both of their opinions are formed by their ideas about how babies work.

    I think the hardcore AP/lactivist approach demeans everyone who isn’t a BF mother. Their narrow idea of what is attached also underestimates babies, and tries to fit them into a very narrow band of behavior.

    • Dr Kitty

      This is spot on!

      AP seem to have missed the bit about classical attachment theory that describe a securely attached child as being upset when mum leaves, but quickly getting over it. AP kids don’t seem to be allowed the chance to get over it.

      • Flat-out false:

        http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/attachment-parenting/7-benefits-ap
        “The most securely attached infants, the ones with the deepest grooves, show less anxiety when moving away from their mothers to explore toys.”

        • I don’t have a creative name

          I just don’t like stuff like this, that can make younger or first time moms doubt themselves. My kid that was held the least is by far the most independant/least anxious, and my baby girl has been velcroed to my butt since the day she was born and STILL freaks out if I try to leave the room. All babies are different and have different needs and different temperaments. We’d all do better to just do what we can to meet their needs and stop worrying about whether we fit into certain labels or not.

          • Sue

            That’s the thing, creative name – sometimes the “needy” ones are held more because they demand to be, others happily go off on their own because they don’t need constant physical contant. Chicken and egg.

          • After a terrifying start, I had a “needy” child. First three month in Special Care – not sick, just growing slowly from 3 lbs to 5, and struggling with the consequences of a damaged brain. Poor feeding, temperature regulation, apnea. Could scream for hours. What used to be known as a “mother killer” (I did overhear one nurse saying “How is this poor mother going to manage this terrible baby?” I was pretty confident I would . She was alive, that was good enough for me.) Officially, discharged with “colic” – she screamed from 6 till 10 every night for quite some time, in my arms but still inconsolable. (Jittery, healing nervous system a more likely explanation.) Not great at sucking, feeding a nightmare. BF already abandonned as hopeless by then, without any great trauma on my part.

            So, lots of holding, constant attention. We were bonded alright – and, for several years, she would be inconsolable if cared for by anyone but me. This was a problem through another difficult pregnancy, with the possibility of another extended hospital stay. I used to start every ante-natal appointment with “I am not coming in…” very anxious about the consequences of having to hand over care.

            As a precaution, I found a nursery that would take her for a couple of hours while I visited the hospital. They dismissed my fears, assuring me that she would be just fine in my absence. She wasn’t. She screamed. The only thing they could do to console her was to put her in her buggy and wheel her round the streets, pretending they were looking for me. Fortunately, the (abrupt) end of that pregnancy coincided with my mother coming to stay, and we all survived. The onset of her devastating epilepsy coincided with my second daughter’s first few weeks – and each time she was admitted to hospital, I had to go to. (Nurses couldn’t cope with relentless screaming for mummy.) Daughter 2 perfectly happy with Daddy, to my relief – but it was not a fun time. Leave the hospital while she slept to get back to baby, back again to soothe. It was a great relief, to me and to the nurses, when she was about three, and I was again doing this frantic shuffle to mother two, to find her grasping the hospital cot’s side chanting “Mummy’s coming back” – our mantra through those years.

            Not a tale of normal mothering. But never much doubt that we were “attached”

        • S

          Two entirely different scenarios, Alan. Your quote refers to the child’s behavior in the presence of mother/caregiver (and yes, that is how securely attached children behave in that scenario). I’m fairly sure Dr. Kitty is referring to the research on how young children respond to being left with a stranger and the whole secure/avoidant/ambivalent attachment framework. (A little hazy on the details by now, sorry.)

          • Entirely different? Renee’s comment that Dr. Kitty responded to snarked: “Your baby cries anytime you put it down, no matter how briefly? Thats secure attachment!” Dr. Kitty responded “This is spot on!”.

            So…different how?

          • S

            I see now where you were going with your comments (and Bofa already addressed it). Would you prefer if Renee and Dr. Kitty used “APers” or some other term rather than “AP”? I understand that distinction is important to you.

            (Please don’t misunderstand me; i don’t think the Dr. Sears link says much of anything. Sears describes the normal process of socialization/individuation — basic child development theory stuff that no one will argue with. Then he tosses in a bunch of claims about how being “emotionally available” and breastfeeding your child will somehow enhance bonding and individuation, but completely fails to substantiate that part… oh yeah it worked for his wife and some other people he talked to. Kind of sneaky.)

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            “parents who claim to be AP”

            I still think Alan needs to go hang around with those “online whack jobs” and teach them True AP.

          • I have tried, believe me!

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            I’m sure. Just like the baptists who tell the catholics they aren’t True Christians. They even point to their book to try to prove it, just like you do. To a non-believer, it’s meaningless bickering amongst themselves.

        • Esther

          Here’s a hint, Alan: Dr. Sears makes up a lot of stuff.

          • But my point is that Renee and Dr. Kitty were essentially asserting that babies playing independently was not even considered *desirable* in the AP paradigm. That is what I am calling “flat out false”.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Yes, Alan, we know that YOU do correct AP, and that all those others who claim to do AP are doing it wrong, but that does not mean that many who CLAIM to be doing AP are not as Renee and Dr Kitty describe.

            You can feel free to knock them around and teach them TRUE AP if you want.

          • More goalpost moving. When someone from the Sears clan does or says something unfortunate, they are treated as being the core of the AP movement. When (as is more often the case), their advice is more moderate and sensible than what some Internet “AP” extremists do, suddenly the Searses are beside the point and it’s all about the online whack jobs. Conveeeeniennt.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
          • Renee Martin

            I was not referring to online “whack jobs”, or extremists.

            I was referring to things that have been said TO ME, about *my baby*, whom has been raised doing pretty much every AP thing (EBF, baby wearing, cosleeping, etc), by self described AP parents, in a local AP parenting group.

            I have heard these things repeatedly, directed at my baby, and many, many, others. Always by people that practice AP very sincerely. I have read similar things as well, but I was talking about IRL.

            (Alan wants to split hairs, and jump on every sentence that’s not exactly as he would word it, as if there is no nuance in the world. This is why I find him so tiring.)

          • It’s not about splitting hairs at all, but about defending a parenting philosophy I strongly believe has great merit against being mischaracterised in the public square. And yes, that is a two front war, as a lot of the problem comes from the misunderstanding of the philosophy by people who claim to be “AP”. Now, if Dr. Sears were some obscure figure rather than a best-selling author who appears frequently on national TV, I might throw up my hands and say “oh well, too late: this battle is lost.” But millions of people still see him and his family as the most prominent advocates for a parenting philosophy that goes by that name.

            And even if the people I call extremists have completely hijacked the label “AP”, I still believe Dr. Sears’s philosophy is an important one that I would like to see spread as widely as possible. So what to call it if it is not AP? Searsism? I really don’t care, as long as people are clear on what it refers to. But right now, it is a big murk, and that is most unfortunate.

          • fiftyfifty1

            A wise professor in graduate school once taught me that the words “I strongly believe” = “I have absolutely no proof”.

          • Lisa the Raptor

            Well yes because if you have proof you say “the evidence[citation] shows that…”

          • Becky05

            Whatever you call it, the claims to its superiority are still bullshit. If it works for you, fine, but there IS NO EVIDENCE that it is better than mainstream parenting.

          • Meagan

            Hang on, saying you believe in something isn’t a statement of superiority. I “believe” in AP too… I believe it obviously works for some people and some families even though it is in many ways contrary to the way my family operates and lives.

          • Becky05

            Dr. Sears makes numerous (false) claims to AP’s superiority over other styles of parenting, as do many, many other AP proponents. That’s what I was referring to. It isn’t promoted as “This might work for you!” but “This is better for your baby!”

            But even here Alan says that he believes AP is an “important” philosophy that he “would like to see spread as widely as possible.” To me, that is implying it is better than the parenting styles it would be replacing.

          • Meagan

            I agree about Sears. I can see how the comments you pointed to (Alan’s) could read as superiority, but I don’t read them that way.

          • Sue

            Alan’s definition of an expert: “a best-selling author who appears frequently on national TV”. You mean, like Oprah?

          • S

            Somehow it’s always only Alan who needs everything clarified in endless detail.

            Neither “true” AP or not-really-AP is backed by any evidence, so it’s not a necessary distinction for most of us (i.e. those of us not invested in any parenting philosophy).

          • That’s a perfectly fair argument, but in all philosophical debates, establishing definitions of the thing being argued is crucial.

          • DiomedesV

            Sure. But that doesn’t mean that establishing definitions is your sole provenance just because you happen to be the “practitioner”.

          • Meagan

            I think Alan is fair to want to define AP here… People will always define any parenting philosophy differently to suit their own beliefs and we can always pick one statement to say it represents the whole when it doesn’t necessarily. Personally, I think Dr. Sears is a giant ass, but you can’t argue that he doesn’t represent AP (his statements regarding AP, not the fact that he’s an ass).

          • We obviously very strenuously disagree about Dr. Sears himself, but I greatly respect your honourable debating tactics. Forensic background, I’m guessing? And/or law school?

          • Meagan

            Lol. BFA studio art. MFA creative writing.

          • :::whiff:::

            Uber-cool CV though! Tweet me slides of your work sometime? I always liked hanging with the FA crowd, and I kinda think I have an “eye”. 🙂

          • Meagan
          • DiomedesV

            It’s like the ultimate tautological argument: Christianity can’t have any element that inspires people to behave badly because any “real” Christian wouldn’t behave that way. Ergo, there’s nothing wrong with religion generally, and Christianity specifically.

            Convenient, that. Glad to see it used in a secular context. Alan has more in common with some of the most defensive Christians I know than he would ever believe.

          • Meagan

            Actually I think it’s more like Christians who claim to believe something because that’s what the Bible says, without having read the Bible. There are many Christians who do and say things that go against their faith in the name of religion. For the record, I’m agnostic, so I’m not saying this out of defensiveness.

          • Renee Martin

            I didn’t say ONE word about playing. Not one word.

            I was saying that there are certain behaviors that are seen as a normal part of AP, that show attachment, as practiced by most AP parents.

          • Meagan

            This sounds like a valid point to me. AP isn’t for me, but I don’t see that it’s a bad way to do things if it works for your family.

          • Depends why you are doing it, and what you think it means. If it is because most of it fits in with what you would do anyway, and your baby is happy maybe not too much of a problem. If it is because you are terrified your “bond” will be damaged if you don’t, or because you believe it is the One True Way, a “parenting philosophy” that will guarantee results and validate your wonderfulness, I’m agin it.

            My memories of my children’s infancy are a series of rather blurry snapshots now, but I do know that the closest I came to depression was briefly on reading Bowlby. Simply, I did not want to be SO indispensable that my child’s entire psychological well-being depended on me, and me alone. I remember it as a terrifying book. But his theories came from dealing with children where bonding wasn’t just less than perfect but non-existent because they had no-one available to bond with – not just in the first few minutes, but over long periods of time. Of course the damage from that kind of indifference would be profound and permanent. But what relevance does that have to the average mother? If one extreme does harm, why should it follow that the opposite extreme is automatically beneficial? Babies need love and attention and surely they get it (have ways of making sure they get it) except when something has gone very badly wrong.

            I stayed at home with my infants because I wanted to be with them; and in my “parenting philosophy I did believe they needed a loving and consistent care giver. Don’t actually think it matters that much who it is. Being, there, being responsive and attentive – sure. The idea of having a child clamped permanently to my breast frankly horrifies me. Maybe I would feel differently if that was what worked, (If someone had convinced me that was essential in advance, I think I might have settled for getting a dog) And “loving formula feeding”? WTF? You love your baby, you feed it – and coo and sing and cherish. Breast milk may have plusses. Don’t think the means of delivery matters a damn.

          • Esther

            As far as I can tell from the APers I know, whatever their baby does is good and a salutary result of their chosen parenting methods. Baby is independent and non-clingy? That’s because she was APed! Baby won’t let mama out of eyesight and screams when she leaves the room for a second? That’s because baby is so attached, again thanks to AP! (Extrapolate as needed to sleeping/eating/other issues).

          • S

            I’m impressed by how neatly Dr. Sears buys
            himself credibility by mixing well-accepted basic child development theory with
            his unsubstantiated nonsense. (Is that
            a common quack technique?)

          • Becky05

            “Is that a common quack technique?”
            Yup.

          • Don’t see how you are going to sell books that state the bleeding obvious if you DON’T make things up.

            Not that I am an expert on Sears, but on Alan’s recommendation, I read some of his stuff. As someone said, it seems like basic, common sense child development , embroidered with some personal experience of a special needs child (they do need a lot more intensive attention) and a few thou shalt nots thrown in.

          • Becky05

            What did you read, though? Their child development stuff is fine. On the other hand, their advice on postpartum depression is outright dangerous. Their claims about the superiority of babywearing and co-sleeping are simply made up. Basically, if it is mainstream stuff, it is fine. When it is AP stuff, it is baseless.

          • ejohns313

            I was directed to his summaries of “cry it out” research. I read one of the articles myself, and the study’s findings were completely different from what Sears suggested.

          • Esther

            Dr. Sears’ handout on CIO research is mainly what changed my mind about him – previously I thought he was competent and sincere, but misguided, afterwards I realized he was purposely misrepresenting research for financial gain: http://mainstreamparenting.wordpress.com/2008/06/25/of-sources-and-straw-houses-the-annotated-dr-sears-handout-on-cio/

          • ejohns313

            Thanks for the link. The Rao study was the one I happened to look up (because it was free online). It has nothing to do with crying it out! I also had the same problem with his total failure to define or quantify “crying it out” in relation to these studies. The Sears CIO thing was being tossed around Babycenter to criticize some lady who let her baby fuss for 5 minutes before he fell asleep. The horror!

          • Meagan

            Same here.

        • AmyM

          Also, my impression of some AP mothers is that they think baby shouldn’t WANT to move away and explore toys. I’m sure that only a very people have that mindset, but I think there are some.

        • Ibanezsrx

          Clearly an academic source.

          • What academic source would demonstrate what AP proponents think about setting a baby down to play better than a quote from Dr. Sears? Maybe some sociologist has done a questionnaire or something; please cite it if you know of such.

          • Sue

            I don’t get why anyone would follow a parenting system from one individual dude with such reverence and precision.

            William Sears was a conventionally-trained paediatrician whose wife bore eight children, one of whom has Downs syndrome. He is now 73 yrs old. He has written several popular books, which apparently contain a lot of common sense but also some stuff he just made up – his personal philosophy. Sure he has experience and knowledge as both a paediatrician and a parent, but he hasn’t researched attachment psychology – he just gives his views.

            I found one paper from 1976 when he was the third or fourth author about pathological findings in truncus arteriosus.

            As Amy has explained before, many people confuse popular “AP” with actual attachment psychology – which relates to the outcomes of extreme neglect, such as that seen in the old Romanian orphanages. Like most of science, these findings can’t be extrapolated to whether you give breast milk in a bottle or from the breast in the context of an otherwise happy and secure environment. It’s just another “pop” psychology – like extreme dietarism and extreme exercisism, the mythology of “toxins” and antivaxism.

        • areawomanpdx

          This may or may not be true, but I will say that neither one of my breastfed, worn, co-slept with babies allowed me to take a dump by myself until long after they were weaned. If I ever have another, you can be sure I will be pumping so that other people can feed them. And utilizing a babysitter on occasion. Both things that hard core APers eschew.

          • But which Dr. Sears is totes cool with. Obviously my kid gets plenty of pumped milk! We didn’t even worry about “nipple confusion” but started the bottle very early to make sure he’d take it.

          • WhatPaleBlueDot

            But if you have PPD, you should breastfeed more. That will cure it. Thanks for your infinite wisdom, Dr. Sears.

          • Granted, the causality arrow is unproven, but the evidence is pretty clear that breastfeeding mothers are less likely to be depressed than are formula feeding mothers. So it’s a plausible hypothesis, and it seems unlikely at least to be horrendous advice on his part (he is after all a clinician, not a researcher).

          • fiftyfifty1

            Happily married women are less likely than recently divorced women to report depression. Therefore women who have recently left a marriage should be counseled just to return to their husbands! Plausible hypothesis. I shall start recommending this to my patients. It seems unlikely at least to be horrendous advice on my part (I am after all a clinician, not a researcher).

          • Sue

            (fiftyfifty wins the thread!)

          • And yet for many women, my wife included, PPD is caused by the imbalance of hormones in the post-partum period and don’t normalize until the baby is weaned.

          • Amy Tuteur, MD

            No, the evidence is not clear at all.

            From the chapter that I cited above:

            “A recent systematic review identified 12 studies that reported that breastfeeding women had lower rates of postpartum depression in comparison to formula-feed- ing women (Dennis & McQueen, 2009). However, there is an important question that few studies explicitly address: Does less breastfeeding lead to more depression, or does more depression lead to less breast- feeding? The vast majority of research on this topic to date has focused solely on the ways that depression can lead to less breastfeeding.”

          • I generally hate that whole “reading comprehension” dig, but ummm…I really don’t know what else to say here. You are obviously a highly intelligent person (they don’t give out Harvard medical degrees in Cracker Jack boxes), so I guess you must have skimmed my comment really quickly. Here’s the key sentence–please note the qualifier that makes up the first six words:

            “Granted, the causality arrow is unproven, but the evidence is pretty clear that breastfeeding mothers are less likely to be depressed than are formula feeding mothers”.

            So that does not contradict what you said at all.

          • Meagan

            Maybe the formula feeders are depressed because everyone is telling them they’re failures as mothers.

          • Depends on where you go. Around here it is BFers who are treated as the Other.

          • DiomedesV

            “So it’s a plausible hypothesis, and it seems unlikely at least to be
            horrendous advice on his part (he is after all a clinician, not a
            researcher)”

            And yet he presents his ideas with an academic flourish (referencing a theory he apparently doesn’t understand or doesn’t care to), complete with meaningless references.

            Not only that, but in general pediatricians know diddley-squat about postpartum psychiatric issues specifically, and adult psychiatric issues in general.

          • Sue

            Why should we care what William Sears is “cool” about?

        • Becky05

          The problem with this is here he’s citing attachment theory, but when he describes how to get attached he completely makes it up and doesn’t reference attachment theory at all. The most securely attached infants do show less anxiety while exploring, but securely attached and “most APed” or “deepest grooves” in his terminology aren’t the same thing.

        • Dr Sears?

          Really?

          Dr. “I pull facts and figures out of my posterior and present them as meaningful” Sears?

          That Dr. Sears?

          Yeah, I don’t consider him an expert on anything.

      • Antigonos CNM

        I often think that AP parents are really upset if their kids DO get over being separated from them. IMO, the whole AP phenomenon is about insecure parents, not insecure kids.

    • antigone23

      That’s a good point. I’ve often felt bad because my toddler has never seemed to demonstrate as much separation anxiety or preference for mommy as the breastfed and especially APed toddlers in my playgroup. I feel like my daughter does have a pretty good bond with me and is very secure. I try to see her willingness for exploration as a sign of her sense of confidence and security rather than a failure on my part to make her “attached.”

      • Renee Martin

        Thank you. THIS is what I am getting at. APers see those behaviors as a sign of attachment, when that has little to do with an actual bond. If your kid doesn’t do those things, well, your doing it wrong.

        • How about instead of the sweeping generalisation “APers see those…”, saying “Many self-proclaimed APers see those…” and perhaps even adding the caveat that this does not reflect the advice of AP’s longtime most prominent advocate? Highly ironic that *I’m* the one being accused of lacking nuance!

          • LukesCook

            There’s a fine line between precision and pedantry. I can see how you’d miss it if you lack nuance though.

          • Sue

            LOL, LukesCook!

            Every couple of months we explain to newbies that “HB” or “NCB” is an abrreviation for “that extreme part of the home birth and natural childbirth movement that sees “natural” as always the ideal and demonises obstetrics”.

            Now we can add that “AP” here is an abbreviation for “that extreme fringe of the competitive parenting movement that subjugates women’s bodies to the permanent attachment of their children 24 hours a day and requires extreme parental sacrifice to the physical needs of the child and the emotional needs of the parent(s). It bears no relationship to psychological attachment theory, which looks at the adverse effects of extreme neglect in infancy.”

            Can we move on now?

          • That still makes no distinction between the extremists and the mainstream of AP (millions of books sold, appearances on network morning shows, etc.). Republicans would like swing voters to think Dennis Kucinich is representative of the Democratic Party, but we in the mainstream of the party try not to let them get away with it and that is just the kind of trick you are pulling here.

          • Sue

            No tricks, Alan. Non-extremists are just practising “parenting”.

          • StupidFlanders

            Alan, I find your modality shallow and pedantic, your praise of people who kept thier children uncirc’d Herbertesque in it’s creepiness, and find your eagerness to push breastfeeding onto other insincere.

          • If Alan can’t handle generalizatons perhaps he should stop making them about mainstream parents and hicks from the heartland. Don’t dish it if you can’t take it.

  • Amy Tuteur, MD

    Ironically, attachment parenting represents a deliberate inversion of attachment theory. Attachment theory, as developed by Bowllby and others, specifically states that all that is necessary for bonding is the “good enough” mother. In other words, bonding requires that a mother meets a baby’s basic needs and it is IRRELEVANT what method the mother uses to meet those needs.

    Attachment theory says that the baby will bond to the mother who feeds him and it matters not one whit, whether it is breastfeeding or bottle feeding.

    • EB

      I also think true attachment is evidence by a child who separates from his or her parent easily. An attached child has internalized her family love and so feels safe and loved everywhere. It’s not a physical bond.

      • Sue

        This may be so, EB, but I think it also depends on the child’s innate sense of security. Some can be anxious, others confident, with the same parents and environment.

        • EB

          Right. I have three kids. The toddler right now sobs hysterically if I leave her. Refused to eat lunch at daycare because I wasn’t with her. I don’t look at that and go, “Attached! Yay me!” I don’t consider it a personal failure, or lack of attachment, either, but I do consider it something to work on and improve. My eldest separates beautifully and that I do consider a sign of a healthy attachment. I raised both kids the same way.

    • Sue

      And doesn’t the science of attachment relate to the adverse effects of extreme neglect? As I understand it, nobody in the psychological world applies this sort of thinking to a child living in a loving and nurturing environment – not matter how they are fed or moved around.

    • Becky05

      Well, being responsive to baby’s needs and not scary, unstable or unreliable is part of being a “good enough” mother, according to attachment theory, but by responsive they don’t mean “must pick up baby at every peep” and they don’t specify anything about how to carry or feed baby or where he should sleep. Parents can be responsive to baby’s needs while meeting those needs in a very wide variety of ways.

  • Elle

    But what would these mothers say if you asked or suggested that the father had less of a bond with his children than the mother? They want to have it both ways, but they can’t.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      Or adoptive parents.

      • There are some things that are rarely said because they would be unnecessarily hurtful and because there is nothing that can be done to remedy the situation, not because the statement would be untrue.

        • Amazed

          Interesting. Would you care to elaborate which relationship you perceive as weaker – father/child or adoptive parents/child?

          • No.

          • Amazed

            Didn’t think you would.
            I was breastfed for more than a year. The same goes for my brother. And oh! according to my grandmother, since the very beginning he was always more attached to my mother while I was always Daddy’s girl. That is, despite the fact that she started breastfeeding him when he was about a month old. There were no lactivists to tell her that because she was recovering from almost bleeding to death after birth, she’d never be able to breastfeed, so in her blissful ignorance, she just did. I, on the other hand, never tasted anything else than mommy’s boob the first six months of my life. Still, my brother was the more attached one. Maybe deep inside he still carries the scar of being subjected to a month of malnourishment, who knows. I prefer to think that he was just more clingy than me. God knows that once he learned to open the doors, my life was over – he was always following me around. Wanted to be. Just. Like. Me. Arrrghhh!

            Still, I never said I wanted to send him back. And we are pretty close today. My parents obviously did something right.

        • Elle

          Sure… “those children are not biological and therefore don’t share your genetic makeup” is true but doesn’t need to be pointed out by anyone. On the other hand, “adoptive parents have less of a bond with their children simply because they can’t breastfeed” is both unnecessary AND a load of hokum.

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          So you think that adoptive parents have less of a bond with their children, but you won’t say anything because you are too nice?

          • Amazed

            He likes to be mysterious. I hope he answers you, though. He certainly didn’t answer to me. See below.

            By the way, Alan, if your children never cried for you when they were with their mom, that doesn’t say anything specific about breastfeeding. It might say something about your success as a father – the primary caregiver, at that!

            I am telling you this not to be unnecessarily hurtful but because maybe something can be done to remedy the situation. Or maybe, if the type of personality you showed us here is something to go by, maybe not.

        • Guestll

          On behalf of adopted children everywhere, my lurker Deadhead adopted husband says — Alan, fuck off. Oh, was that unneccessarily hurtful?

          • anonymous

            As the wife of a man who was adopted, I’m with you!

          • No, I deserved that.

            The corollary of “these things aren’t said for a reason” is “these things aren’t even obliquely hinted at for a reason”. I got caught up in the debate, and I sincerely regret my coy little move there. Please tell your Deadhead lurker DH that I’m really sorry.

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          And then there are things that are rarely said because saying them would show everyone what an asshole you are. Republican politicians call them “misstatements” but not because they do not reflect what you believe, but because saying such things reveals things about the real you that are not very attractive.

          • Yeah, it was a dick move. I’m sorry. 🙁

        • ejohns313

          Fuck your dumb little takebacks below. No one just writes out thoughts like this in the heat of the argument. These are the actual, arrogant ideas in your head.

          Unbelievable. I certainly would rather be adopted than be raised by you.

    • DiomedesV

      Yeah, that’s my favorite reply to the SAHM claim that working mothers can’t really “know” their children. Given that the ranking of parental time expended goes thusly: SAH mom or dad > working mom > working father with working spouse > working father with SAH spouse, that would imply that if a working mom doesn’t “know” their kid, then working fathers with a SAH spouse have no chance at all.

  • Allie P

    Hanging out with your kid promotes bonding. Breastfeeding (unless you are pumping at your office) usually requires hanging out with your kid. Ergo, bonding. Of course, you can always hang out with your kid and a bottle. Same-same.

    As my LLL leader (so non-crazy, she saved my sanity) said: Feed your kid. Save the rancor for people who DON’T feed their kids. See how simple that is?

    • Good point. Maybe the assertion should be modified to “breastfeeding virtually guarantees mother-baby bonding”, with breastfeeding being narrowly defined as not including the bottlefeeding of expressed or pumped milk.

      • Bonding is a two way street. Breast feeding that is net negative for the mother – baby nurses constantly, baby is fussy, baby has problems with latch, nursing is painful, supply problems, thrush, mastitis, blocked ducts, and so on – that negative experience repeated multiple times per day isn’t going to generate any warm fuzzy feelings.

        It’s more likely to generate PPD.

        • auntbea

          Wait. Are we concerned about the mom bonding with the baby, or the baby attaching to the mother? Which one is breastfeeding supposed to fix? Both?

      • EB

        Breastfeeding does not promoting bonding if the mother hates breastfeeding. Women who hate breastfeeding are not lesser women or lesser mothers.

      • Elizabeth Abraham

        But Alan, we have no evidence that breastfeeding guarantees mother-baby bonding either. It certainly was not my experience that breastfeeding guaranteed any kind of bond – by the time the second child came along, I had no warm feelings at all for anything that involved contact with my breasts. I didn’t really feel bonded to my second baby until she started sleeping through the night. Bonding took another great leap forward with weaning (at which point, I went on better anti-depressants).

        The usual effect of narrowly defining breastfeeding to exclude pumping is to make working mothers hate you. I don’t blame them.

        • Maybe you didn’t catch that I’m a SAHD whose wife works full time and pumps. I narrowly defined it that way, and called it “narrow”, for a specific purpose. But would you say that when I’m feeding my son pumped breastmilk, I’m “breastfeeding” him? Really?

          • Sue

            “Maybe you didn’t catch that I’m a SAHD”

            Hands up anyone who didn’t catch that Alan is a SAHD? And had a perfect SAT score?

            (Joke: How can you tell which people at a party are vegans? A: Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.)

          • Elizabeth Abraham

            Alan, have I been somehow not paying enough attention to your details? Or do you just not get that they don’t always support your points they way you appear to think they do?

            I worked full time and pumped with my first, and all kinds of people fed him, and no, *they* weren’t breastfeeding my infant, but *I* sure as hell was. I pumped for my NICU baby and dropped off bottled milk at the hospital so that the nurses could feed her overnight, and the nurses weren’t breastfeeding, but I still was. I pumped breastmilk for months when the baby came home, so that we could keep fortifying the stuff and get our daughter the maximum possible calories and I was still breastfeeding.

            Does your wife put up with this hairsplitting crap?

          • Look, the only point I was trying to make is not something that should be particularly controversial. Let me try rewording it:
            “If a woman feeds her baby directly from her breast several times per day, then even if she is not particularly trying to bond with baby it is highly likely to happen due to the physical closeness and the prolactin. But I would call it ‘sufficient but not necessary’ because a woman can still bond with her baby without breastfeeding”.

            To put it another way: if all we know about a mother and baby is that the baby drinks directly from mama’s breast regularly, we can be virtually assured they are bonding. Otherwise, we can’t be sure. Maybe mom is 16 and lives with her parents, who do all the babycare while she goes out with friends. Maybe mom works 80+ hours a week and a nanny raises the baby. Or maybe she bottlefeeds with love (a chapter in the Sears’s Baby Book, btw). We just don’t have enough information.

            See what I meant now?

          • Amy Tuteur, MD

            “To put it another way: if all we know about a mother and baby is that the baby drinks directly from mama’s breast regularly, we can be virtually assured they are bonding.”

            No, can you say “wet nurse.”

          • You really are a skimmer! I said “from MAMA’s breast”.

          • ratiomom

            So how does the baby know whether the breast he is on is attached to his mother or a wet nurse?

          • Elizabeth Abraham

            I saw what you meant the first time. I disagreed with it then. I said so. I provided anecdotal supporting evidence contradicting your belief that having a baby drink regularly from a mother’s breast “virtually assures” that the two people involved are bonding. Other people have made similar arguments, with particulars concerning potential negative responses to breast feeding caused by factors that affect quite large numbers of women.

            You chose to hare off on the tangent. Now, you’re choosing to re-argue a point that’s been amply refuted.

            Real engagement in conversation requires you to actually read the things that other people write, and then to actually think about them. Fake engagement in conversation lets you talk about whatever you want ad infinitum, but it’s boring as shit. Please, either put your brain into gear, or stop talking.

          • Okay, I will stop talking (here, that is). Meagan’s sudden attack of reasonableness, disagreeing without being disagreeable, reminded me in a flash that spirited debate need not entail a poisonous atmosphere of vitriol and spite. I just as suddenly find myself no longer able to stomach it from most of the rest of you. Life is too short and all that.

            Peace out.

          • Sue

            ” I just as suddenly find myself no longer able to stomach it from most of the rest of you. ”

            Is this the most astounding lack of insight, or some very clever teenager posing as “Alan”?

          • SlackerInc

            Frickin’ DISQUS is bombarding me with notifications that you (no one else) responded to several of my comments “one day ago”…WTF?

          • Eddie

            Disqus is very, very buggy.

      • Sue

        “Maybe the assertion should be modified to “breastfeeding virtually guarantees mother-baby bonding”

        No, maybe the assertion should be: “All other things being equal, the way a baby is fed makes little or no difference to the loving relationship between parent and child.”

    • EB

      If breastfeeding makes you feel: like a slave who is losing her identity; the way you did when you were sexually assaulted; inadequate as a mother; horrible physical pain; — then these are the feelings you will associate with your baby. That is not a bonding experience.

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    Briefly, however, we found no studies with evidence that breastfed infants are more securely attached to their mothers than formula-fed infants.

    Whoops!

    OTOH, their language actually hints at the issue.

    There is no evidence that breastfeed infants “are more securely attached to their mothers” than formula-fed infants. However, that does not address the question of how parents feel about their kids. I obviously do not know how it feels to breastfeed, and it makes sense that breastfeeding brings with it, on the whole, a different emotional response than does bottle feeding. I know that my wife lamented the kids giving up breastfeeding, because she really enjoyed doing it. But even if that is so, that is mom’s response, and does not suggest anything about the baby.

    • SarahSD

      This is a good point – bonding, or the character of the bond, is experienced by both parties involved, and so can be experienced differently by each. I would be curious to know what are the common ways of defining/operationalizing “bonding” or “attachment” in the literature these authors reviewed. It seems like a difficult thing to study because of the deeply subjective component. It does become somewhat of a moving target, like you say in another comment.

    • Ceridwen

      And what about your bonding as a father? Do you think it was better because of breastfeeding or would it more likely have been enhanced by bottle feeding? It seems silly to focus only on the bonding of the infant with the mother.

      Interestingly, a lot of the women I know liked breastfeeding fine but express a sense of relief about it ending. Mostly because of the mental and physical effects of the hormones brought about by breastfeeding. Not that they didn’t like breastfeeding, but that they were ready to have their bodies and their minds back by the time weaning occurred. So it’s definitely far from universal for women to be disappointed when weaning occurs and not all of the emotional responses that breastfeeding brings with it are positive, at least for the moms.

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        And what about your bonding as a father? Do you think it was better because of breastfeeding or would it more likely have been enhanced by bottle feeding?

        We actually did both. My wife breastfed, because she could. When she wasn’t there, I fed the kids with a bottle.

  • thankfulmom

    My bottle fed preemie is just as bonded to me as her exclusively breast fed siblings.

  • Lori

    Maybe kind of random but bonding discussions always bring to mind how my youngest brother was born when I was 11 and I was quickly infatuated with him, despite obviously never having breasted him. We stayed close, even through the awkward teenage years, even when I moved away and got married and my mom and I sat side by side, teary at his graduation. This is my sibling, I wasn’t even present for his birth, in fact, I barely saw him for the first week or two of his life as he was not released from the hospital for several days. I really think bonding has to do with being present in their life and even if it is closely related with oxytocin (which I think is kind of dubious, human relationships are probably much more complex to be boiled down to a single “love hormone”) don’t we produce oxytocin when laughing together, hugging, eating good food, and probably a million other things? Why would it make sense that only a few proscribed things lead to bonding??

    Oh and all those baby obsessed feelings came back with my daughter (you know, sniffing their baby breath, “biting” those cheeks, creeper-like staring at them while they sleep), but incidentally, the one time I had that, “take the baby before I hurt her,” feeling was when I was breast feeding through a bought of mastitis.

    • AmyP

      “Maybe kind of random but bonding discussions always bring to mind how my youngest brother was born when I was 11 and I was quickly infatuated with him, despite obviously never having breasted him.”

      My oldest was 10 when her new baby sister was born, and she was exactly the same. In fact, I think she may be more bonded to the baby than I am. I’m the more reliable care-giver, of course.

      • Lori

        Aww, I bet they will be close, I always hate hearing that adage that you need to make sure your kids are close in age or they won’t have much of a relationship.

        • Amazed

          I was four when they brought the new thing home. What I remember was that he was blue – he turned blue in seconds while he was wailing for his food. My, what lungs did he have! The biggest baby in the L&D unit.

          I don;t think I noticed him too much. He was a nice baby, he didn’t have colics, he didn’t cry much. He wasn’t bothering me. We started bonding when he reached a developmental level that allowed him to interact meaningfully – throwing a ball for me to give him back, smiling at me when I entered, waiting for me to come back from kindergarten. And yes, I fed him – I tried to feed him what I ate instead of that nasty milk they made the mistake to tell me that he was eating straight of my mom’s breast. So, pastry it was. I never realized that must be the reason we’re pretty bonded.

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          We made sure our kids were close in age because we had to have them before we got any older.

          • Lori

            Yeah, I doubt I will have much of an age gap since I had my first at 29 and we want 3.

        • Josephine

          Yeah, does not have to be true. I have four younger sisters, varying from 3 to 12 years younger than me. We’re all pretty darn close even now.

      • Elle

        Good example – I have a close bond with all my siblings too, and I never fed them until they were old enough for solids. Obviously different than a parent’s bond, but it’s the time spent together in helping them with a variety of things that contributed to the bond, not feeding alone.

    • mamaellie

      My oldest is 11. My baby is 5 months. They absolutely adore each other. It’s very sweet.

  • AmyM

    I think that breastfeeding can promote bonding, but only in the sense that FEEDING (and therefore holding/cuddling) the infant promotes bonding. Since formula feeding allows others besides the mother feed the baby, that gives them a chance to spend some one-on-one time with the baby also. Even the quote you posted specifies that there are no differences in attachment between breastfed and formula fed (which seems like a no brainer to me). It does not say that breastfeeding (in and of itself) doesn’t promote bonding.

  • Sometimes the “evidence” for a claim consists of anecdotal observation and common sense–both understandably distrusted by scientists, but not necessarily always divorced from reality. My son stays home all day with me and gets bottled breastmilk from me; but he has never been in my wife’s arms and cried out for me to take him, yet the reverse happens every day.

    • Claire

      My son stayed all day with me and cried when my husband would leave but not me.

    • LibrarianSarah

      Anecdotal observation and “common sense” are not just distrusted by scientists but anyone who cares about knowing the truth.

    • quadrophenic

      Well I guess my anecdote and common sense can cancels out your anecdote – my baby cries out for me when I get home from work after my husband has stayed home and fed her formula all day, and she never latched.

      Maybe your son just misses his mom for reasons other than her lactating breasts.

      • But I don’t mean just when she gets home. On weekends or school breaks, she likes to spend as much time with him as possible. Sometimes I will go out with a friend or something and come back hours later, when he has spent the whole time with her, and he is still content to stay with her. Same was true for his older sister.

        Now, you make a good point that it may be something inherent about mothers, whether a baby is formula fed or breast-fed. I don’t know, not having had experience with formula feeding, except for two times giving a supplemental bottle to our son. I guess the question I would have is: what would a baby see as inherently different and preferable about a mother, absent the breastfeeding aspect? Is it from some familiarity bred in the womb? Some kind of innate preference for a higher voice, shorter stature, or less facial and body hair?

        • An Actual Attorney

          Maybe your wife is just more pleasant?

          • Well, definitely. But still…

        • AmyM

          I think it is just individual preference. My children didn’t show a preference when they were babies, but as toddlers, they preferred Daddy to me. We both work, so the children are in daycare and have been since 12wk old. Now they are 4, and though they’ll prefer Daddy if they are upset, they listen/behave better for me, because I don’t put up with some of the shiat that Daddy does, and they know it.

          • Lisa the Raptor

            Our house is the same but backwards.

      • Renee Martin

        You mean mom is worth more than her boobs? Say it ain’t so.

    • Renee Martin

      That’s exactly why ancedotes and common sense aren’t evidence.
      Everyones “common sense” and experiences are different, and higly dependent on their circumstances and worldview. Evidence is something seen across people, without regard to those things.

      DS stayed with DH every minute of everyday for the first 7mo, so he wanted to be with him, not me. I think it has more to do with who the primary caretaker is (if there is one).

      • Do you mean every minute of every 24 hrs., like you immediately left the country after birth or something? If you just mean 40 (or 50) hrs./wk., you can’t just say “x, therefore y” because in my case with both of my younger kids it has been “x but not y”. (My older two were as infants home with my ex-wife, a SAHM, while I brought home the bacon; they too preferred their mother although one of them seems to favour me now.)

        • Renee Martin

          Yes, 24/7. I worked in USA, but we all lived in Mexico. DH was always w DS. Even when I was there, they were still together, he was a major baby hog. We also had a (male) nanny, but he didn’t get any alone time either.

          The only time DS saw more of me than DH, during his first year, was when he was in the NICU for 6 weeks. I stayed in RMH next door, while DH stayed in Mexico where we lived. Once he came home, daddy took over.

          • That would probably do it! Very progressive attitude btw, to hire a male nanny. If it’s not getting too off topic, I’m curious as to where you’d even find one (when I was a teenager, I was envious of female friends who got to go overseas as au pairs, but was discouraged by the agency from even bothering to apply).

          • Elizabeth Abraham

            Where would you find a male nanny?

            Same place you’d find a female nanny. Craigs List. Sitter City. Ask around at church to see whose kids want to babysit. Let an agency know that you’re open to male candidates. Check the local coffeehouse and library for flyers. Network.

      • Calla

        Every baby is different. My husband is a stay at home dad whereas i work 50+ hours a week, yet from day one, our son has always been mama’s boy. He has never asked for my husband when he is with me. Luckily hubs doesn’t take it personally.

    • Susan

      Oh Alan! Your wife probably doesn’t mention her SAT scores, change to talking about circumcision from nursery rhymes or lament her that her Dad didn’t buy her a plane as a teen like her friend’s rich Dad? ( just teasing can’t resist) but SERIOUSLY, I think most moms play second fiddle to the excitement kids have when Dad comes home at the end of the day. It sounds like a bit of role reversal.

      • Amy

        My kids get super excited when dad gets home (I am home with them all day) but if I go to the grocery store for 5 minutes, I get the exact same greeting when I get home as if they haven’t seen me in a month! I think kids just love their parents and get excited when they haven’t seen them.

    • AllieFoyle

      Common sense and anecdote do deserve a place at the table, but you know, apply it to your comment as well. Your breastfeeding baby sometimes cries out for your lactating wife and not you. So what? Maybe he digs the boob more than the bottle. Maybe he doesn’t have as much time with her as he’d like. Maybe she feels conflicted about leaving him and he picks up on that. Maybe he sees enough of you and has Alan-fatigue. Maybe your heavy commenting schedule is having an adverse effect on bonding. At the end of the day, I think common sense tells us all that it just doesn’t matter. Babies cry. They go through periods of separation anxiety and favoring one parent over the other. It passes. As long as he’s loved and well cared for it really doesn’t matter at all in the long run.

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        Anecdotes mean very little in a world consisting of distributions of outcomes and non-perfect probabilities.

        • AllieFoyle

          A verified anecdote is a data point of one. If you show me ten studies that show that x is completely safe, but I know of one instance where it caused injury then I’d argue that the stats are not providing a complete or accurate picture.

          I love data as much as the next nerd, but there are limits to every approach and many places to look for truth.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            If you show me ten studies that show that x is completely safe, but I know of one instance where it caused injury then I’d argue that the stats are not providing a complete or accurate picture.

            Depends what is meant by “completely safe.” If you require completely safe to mean 100.000000000000% safe, then you aren’t going to find any that do that.

            But what about something that is 99.9% safe? Is that “completely safe” or not? How many 9s are needed for it to be “completely safe”?

            Drunk driving is 99.9% safe, in that 999 times out of a thousand, nothing will come of it – no accident, no ticket, no nothing. Clearly not “completely safe.”

          • Sue

            The lack of “completely” in life seems to be a constant struggle for Alan.

    • GiddyUpGo123

      With my kids, I’ve noticed that they tend to cry out for whichever parent they see less of. But my personal experience is pretty meaningless because not all families are the same, and not all kids have the same motivations for wanting one parent over the other.

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        And our kids are basically the opposite. They want whomever they have been with all day. If it is me, they want me. If it is mom, they want mom.

        I remember when our first was 14 mos or so, and his mom went to a conference for a week. Took him two days after she got back before he warmed up to her again. When she first came home and tried to hold him, he screamed bloody murder. He was not happy with her.

        • Sue

          Right, Bofa, and this also changes over time and with stages of development, personality, activities, interests etc etc. If our children feel secure and understand that their parents love them, we’re already doing OK.

  • Durango

    I find the obsession of AP-ers with bonding bizarre. It’s as if parent-child bonding is this difficult, rare thing, unattainable by most and only attainable by the most dogged parent. And elevating breastfeeding that way just shuts out every other person in the child’s life: a child must bond with their mother to the exclusion of everyone else. What a joke.

    • quadrophenic

      Exactly! C-section? Epi? Pitocin? Eye ointment? Baths? It seems like everything is blamed on interfering with bonding. I’m pretty sure your average “uneducated” mom who gets a c-section and formula feeds and has never heard of AP or babywearing bonds with her baby just as well. Actually, she probably bonds better because she isn’t constantly worried about things that interfere with bonding and just goes with the flow. AP ends up creating a lot of insecurity and demand for perfection in some moms. And that isn’t good for anyone.

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        C-section? Epi? Pitocin? Eye ointment? Baths? It seems like everything is blamed on interfering with bonding.

        My general thought is that I really don’t know what this “bonding” is that it can be messed up by these types of things.

        I think that is one thing that is probably coming out in these studies. If you actually sit down and try to define “bonding” in a meaningful way, you realize that none of these things matter. The only way you can assert an issue is if you make “bonding” a moving target.

        You see this all the time in highly subjective topics. As soon as you try to put a definition of what X is, differences disappear.

        • AmyP

          I grew up on a cattle ranch and I think I know what it means for cows. It means that the mother doesn’t want the newborn calf, doesn’t allow it to nurse, and tries to avoid it. It’s pretty obvious when it happens. It tends to happen with first time mothers and mothers of twins who are puzzled by the presence of an extra calf. The family cure for this situation is to pen up the mother and calf (or calves) together until the situation resolves, perhaps with some bottle-feeding to tide the rejected calf over.

          I suspect that human mothers need somewhat different treatment.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Such actions clearly indicate a failure of bonding between them, but, as I note above, these are reflecting the feelings of mom, and not of the calf.

            But that leads to an interesting issue: are the people who are so concerned about “bonding” actually suggesting that because they aren’t adequately bonded to the child, they will neglect them as a cow who is not bonded to their calf?

          • AmyP

            “But that leads to an interesting issue: are the people who are so concerned about “bonding” actually suggesting that because they aren’t adequately bonded to the child, they will neglect them as a cow who is not bonded to their calf?

            That is interesting.

            Bear in mind also that infant care is much more taxing than calf care. Calves can stand and walk within minutes of birth and feeding them just requires that the mama cow stand still.

            I think that human mothers do have certain things in common psychologically with other mammal mothers, but we’re also a lot less instinctive in our parenting. On the one hand, it means that compared to the average mammal mother, we are pretty incompetent as first time mothers. On the other hand, we’re a lot better than other mammals at learning stuff and figuring stuff out and we have “should” in our vocabularies. Being human, I can conceptualize what good parenting means for my kids and try to execute that plan, rather than just being propelled mindlessly through the day by a series of instinctive reactions.

          • That’s not a sure cure. Someone who runs sheep and (smaller) cattle together reports their bottle calves end up with the sheep because the cows will run them off. Including the calf’s mother.

            A farmer has to intervene early to keep the calf from dying of neglect. It makes me think of human mothers who won’t feed their babies anything but breast milk, even as their babies lose weight. Objectively, we see that as dangerous neglect while the mother thinks she’s doing the best she possibly can. Breast is best. Try harder. Keep the baby on the breast and your supply will come in. Supplementing will sabotage your supply!

        • Antigonos CNM

          “Bonding” became the buzz word about 30 years ago. I don’t remember it being mentioned either in my nursing school or midwifery studies, although, by the time I had my first child [32 years ago] it had achieved prominence. If you didn’t hold your child within 30 minutes of birth you would be inevitably and forever estranged from it. [Phooey]

          Victorians, of course, were encouraged to believe, by medical “experts” that women only loved their children because they had “suffered” childbirth, and that was the excuse given to deny women analgesia in labor for about 20 years after general anesthesia was discovered. Only after Queen Victoria had chloroform with the birth of her 7th child did it become acceptable and no one ever accused the Queen of not loving her children…

          • theadequatemother

            Wowza…an old idea repacked and resold by Dr Odent. Unmedicated childbirth = oxytocin rush = bonding.

  • guest

    What about when breastfeeding is so painful that mom cries every time baby cries to be fed? That can’t be good for bonding. I am proud of myself for nursing through the pain for three months until it stopped hurting, but that was my decision–mothers who bottle feed don’t love their babies any less. The right choice to make is what works for mom.

    • GiddyUpGo123

      That’s what never made any sense to me. Breastfeeding was extremely painful for me, so when I did it I would be rigid, teeth clenched, toes curled, just begging for it to be over. But on those occasions when I bottle fed, I relaxed, I cuddled my baby, and I paid attention to him/her because I wasn’t so focused on the pain. That’s when I felt like we were bonding. Yet everyone still told me to buck up and deal with the pain because breastfeeding was “better.”

    • mollyb

      My sister-in-law was determined to EBF her second child just as her first despite crippling PPD. She spent the first few months of his life nursing him while staring straight ahead like a zombie or crying to herself. I can’t imagine that was a better bonding experience than bottle feeding while looking into your baby’s eyes and cooing and singing. Anyways, it’s a silly discussion either way as he’s a total mama’s boy and they are bonded like crazy despite their rocky start.

  • quadrophenic

    My baby refused to latch (piercing screams every time I tried to put her on the breast). I tried for 5 weeks to get a latch before giving up, because each time I would do it, it would just end in tears for both of us. I don’t think I really had a chance to bond until I stopped worrying about breastfeeding.

    I’m sure some women love nursing. But I don’t think their love of nursing created any superior bond than the love I felt letting go of the misery of breastfeeding and letting myself enjoy feeding my baby with a bottle.

  • Gene

    Agreed. The whole breastfeeding and bonding marginalizes adopted children (unless you re-lactate, making you super mom), step children, and let’s not forget FATHERS. I’m all for breastfeeding and both my kids were breastfed for over a year each, but that does not make me any more bonded with my kids than any other parent. Love bonds you, not milk.

    Oh, and as the SCOTUS is currently hearing arguments on DOMA, etc, let me also say that we shouldn’t forget about lesbian mothers whose partners are the biologic parent. They aren’t lactating and are just as bonded with their children as any other parent. Hurrah for LOVE!

    • An Actual Attorney

      Yes my son said to my wife (I gave birth to him) this morning: Mommy I love your boobies! He is currently sitting on her lap reading books totally ignoring me.

      • Lisa

        Kids are so fickle. You’ll be the favourite again next week. 🙂

        • An Actual Attorney

          Whichever of us isn’t making him do something he doesn’t like is the favorite!

    • mollyb

      The one good (great) lactation counselor I had used to say at the end of every miserable session “Remember, breastfeeding is not bonding. Love is bonding.”

    • Sunny Wagner

      There are many adoptive mothers who are, surprisingly, able to produce milk for their adopted babies, despite having never given birth or nursed a baby. Also, there are many ways to bond.

  • Michelaw

    I have doubted the superior bonding claims of breastfeeding ever since my daughter was born in 2007. I breastfed my son born in 2003 but not my daughter. I loved her just as much as her brother when he was a baby and she responded to me with smiles and coos despite being bottle-fed by various family members who helped take care of her while I recovered. I was not too surprised by this fact since my brother and I and all my friends loved our mothers even though we were all bottle-fed. Along the same lines, I am dismayed when I hear mothers worrying that being apart from their newborn will disrupt bonding. My daughter had to be put in an incubator for few hours after birth; my son spent every moment with me following his birth. I saw no difference in our relationships in the days after their births and in the years since. Who are these parenting experts who have decided that a strong parental bond can only be formed in the minutes following birth or from one method of feeding? It’s time to call this nonsense the bs that it is.

    • Karen in SC

      And as a mother of two teenage boys, I wonder where that “extra-special” bond went.

      • Alenushka

        Me too.

      • AmyM

        I would like to see how the current crop of babies with extreme AP-ing mothers turn out in 20yrs. Odds are, they will be indistinguishable from their mainstream parented peers. (I’m not counting the really out there off the grid folks) Then, we should look at the parents of all of those kids, 20yrs from now. What are the extreme APers doing now, now that the children are grown and gone? .

        • Allie P

          I can tell you how they look at 2. I look around my daughter’s preschool class and you cannot tell how the kids were born, how they were fed, what their parents’ parenting philosophy is.

          • An Actual Attorney

            You might be able to tell but not in a good way. I can tell which of my interns had over-involved (helicopter) parents.

          • Dr Kitty

            If my adult (20+) patients have their parents call on their behalf asking advice about ailments, or request treatments or appointment for them, or attend surgery visits with them, my first thought is not “what a secure bond!”.

            Adults, at some point, need to act like adults. Which means not asking mummy or daddy to do it for you.

        • mollyb

          My best friend’s mother was an AP parent before it was called that (as my friend is now with her kids). My friend and her mom as very, very close growing up. Then mom met a new boyfriend, moved five states away and now only calls my BF once a month or so and just talks about her amazing new life. So much for the unbreakable AP bond.

        • JayDee

          Well, if they aren’t indistinguishable, I’m afraid it will be in an unhealthy way. Will college kids be crying into their freeze-dried placentas for mommy every night in the dorm? We shall wait and see, and check the Daily Mail occasionally for confirmation.