Why do lactivists like Bauhauswife find it so hard to bond to their own babies?

Silhouette of a narcissistic and selfish woman with a crown on her head standing on the word ego

I feel sorry for Bauhauswife, Yolande Norris-Clark. Apparently she can’t bond to her own children without the exchange of bodily fluids.

I, on the other hand, had no such trouble.

I’ve always loved this quote from Maureen Hawkins:

Before you were conceived, I wanted you. Before you were born, I loved you. Before you were an hour, I would die for you. This is the miracle of love.

It beautifully describes how fiercely I bonded to each of my four children, even before they were born.

I would have — and to this day still would — give my life for them.

For those who love their babies more than their mothering performance art, Fed Is Best!

I had no control over it. It happened without my doing a single thing.

The quote does not mention feeding method, yet lactivists appear to have trouble bonding to babies unless they breastfeed them. They must breastfeed for extended lengths of time to strengthen the tenuous bond. Indeed, their ability to bond with their own babies is so fragile that unless they immediately hold their babies skin to skin, they have trouble completing that natural bond.

That’s not to say that every woman bonds to every baby immediately. It can take days or weeks or more, but nearly every woman manages to bond fiercely to her child and nearly every child bonds to his or her mother with or without breastfeeding.

Why do lactivists have so much trouble doing what every other woman does naturally? What accounts for the irony that the women most committed to natural infant feeding can’t manage natural bonding without the exchange of bodily fluids?

Consider the Yolande, Bauhauswife. In her post, No, Fed is Not Best, But You’re Just Fine she writes:

As a culture, I believe we drastically misunderstand the importance of the breastfeeding relationship as simply a delivery system for what is arguably the nutritional “best”.

Instead, it’s my profound conviction that the actual food infants receive from their mothers is only a small part of a countless number of aggregate needs that breastfeeding fulfils, including physical warmth, love, care, socialization, relationship, the basis for a healthy sexuality, the origins of language, the foundation of empathy, and on and on.

Physical warmth? Seriously? I don’t know about you, but I mothered with my entire body, not only my breasts. Long after they had weaned themselves from breastfeeding — indeed until they were school age and beyond — my children clung to me when they needed physical and emotional warmth.

Socialization? One of my sons has Asperger’s Syndrome. I breastfed him just like I breastfed the others but as a child he had profound difficulty with socialization. It’s almost as if breastfeeding has nothing to do with socialization.

The origins of language? Another one of my sons has a profound language deficit. He was not speaking at the age of 4 and required years of speech and language therapy. It’s almost as if breastfeeding has nothing to do with language.

Relationship? Healthy sexuality? Does Yolande believe there was no sexual dysfunction and no sexual crime before the advent of formula? If so, she’s living in a fantasy world of her own creation.

The foundations of empathy? If that’s the case then Bauhauswife was not breastfed since she demonstrates precisely ZERO empathy for women who don’t mirror her own personal choices back to her.

I feel sorry for Yolande when she writes:

I know from experience that thawing milk, or mixing powder to put into a bottle and popping a silicone teat into my baby’s mouth is not even remotely similar to holding him to my heart, helping him latch on to my nipple, meeting his eyes as the electrical letdown buzz surges through my body and my milk starts to flow, in response to our mutual love.

I was fiercely bonded to my babies before I ever breastfed. Why wasn’t she? Why did she need to breastfeed in order to have the fullest, emotional relationship with her child?

Yolande worries:

Yet it’s almost forbidden in this era of validation-and-inclusion above-all-else, to suggest that not all choices are equal …

You’re right, Yolande! That’s why I feel no hesitation in refusing to validate the ugly nonsense that you spout.

Don’t get me wrong. You are entitled to feel however you wish to feel about the daughter you bottlefed. And I am entitled to feel sorry for that poor child since you consider your relationship diminished for the most trivial of reasons. No child deserves that.

That’s what happens when lactivists view their children as mere props in their mothering performance art. Like bridezillas who become enraged by a wedding cake that is the wrong flavor and think the wedding is ruined, lactivists become distraught when the baby “ruins” their experience. Sadly, lactivists seem to have trouble appreciating, bonding to, and loving their babies for who they are, instead of what they can do for them.

Yolande concludes:

I will never begrudge, or judge the individual women who chose to, or have to, pump, and bottle feed, for any reason under the sun.

Again, I did it, which is why its so important to me to speak the truth: bottle-feeding is not the same as nourishing a child with our breasts.

I can’t be so generous. I do judge women who can’t bond to their babies without breastfeeding. That’s why it is so important to me to speak the truth:

For those who love their babies more than their mothering performance art, Fed Is Best!

  • Lurker

    I understand the point of these posts about how BFing isn’t necessary for bonding, but it really feels like I’m being called out as an inferior mother, because for me, it was. I don’t know why, exactly, but it probably had something to do with the fact that I worked full time and had a long commute from the time my son was 12 weeks old, and so my husband got him up, got him dressed, dropped him off at daycare, stopped in to visit him during the day, brought him home, fed and played with him, and sometimes got him ready for bed and put him to sleep before I even got home. By the time he was old enough to express a preference, he was fiercely bonded to my husband, and wanted him for EVERYTHING. Nursing was my saving grace, because it was the one thing my husband couldn’t do. If my husband could feed him, play with him, bathe him – he wanted Daddy to do it. If Daddy could have nursed, he would have wanted him for that, too.

    I’ve long since stopped working those hours, and nursing, but to this day, (he’s 5) he complains fiercely when it’s my turn to put him to bed, for example, and literally cheers when I’m going to be away for bedtime. We’re working with him on expressing his preferences in a way that doesn’t make other people feel bad, obviously, but it’s hard not to look back on those first couple of years of breastfeeding as the only time he wanted anything to do with me. (I know that people say kids go through phases of preferring different parents, but the most I’ve ever done is pull equal, and only when I’m not working, which has been relatively minor periods of time during his life.)

    Consider that when you “judge women who can’t bond with their babies without breastfeeding,” you may be judging not just lactivists but women doing their best with the most painful, difficult to discuss parts of their motherhood.

    • fiftyfifty1

      That is a tough situation. Society sets such different expectations for fathers and mothers. Men are raised with the message that babies and toddlers prefer their mothers, and that’s not a problem because real men don’t really like babies and toddlers anyway. But women are raised with the exact opposite message: that you will look into your newborn’s eyes and experience a love beyond any you have ever felt, that your most important life relationship is with your children, and that your baby will prefer you and cling to you (and if it doesn’t what the hell is wrong with you?)

      But the truth is that babies usually prefer whomever spends the most hours with them, especially if that person is the one doing especially fun things with them.

      I have always been the primary bread winner in my house, and worked longer hours. Both of my kids went through long stages where they made it clear that they preferred dad. (Well actually more than anyone they preferred my mother-in-law who doted on them non-stop, but dad was a close second. I was a distant 3rd.) I remember how when I would pick one of them up from grandma’s, there was always a tantrum. They would point and say “No, Not You!” in a rage. My son actually called me by my first name between the ages of 3-5, while continuing to call my husband “Daddy.” I figured it was just his way of expressing his favoritism. Finally however I thought to ask him why he did it, and he said “Well, don’t you prefer it that way?” And I told him that no, I preferred to be called Mom, and he immediately switched to Mom and has called me that ever since. So much for my ability to read minds!

      For me, all of this did hurt my feelings a little, but not super much, as I had much younger sibs and I remembered their shifting favoritism over the years. My family also provided role models of women who were not goo-goo over babies, so I knew it was fine not to be “in love” with my babies.

      Fast forward to now and my kids are adolescents. I have very close and loving relationships with both. They trust me with their problems big and small. They seek out my advice, love and warmth. They know I am their biggest fan, and will always have their backs (although they both would agree I am also sort of strict.) They have a similar close relationship with dad. Neither remembers their toddler favoritism years and I hardly think of it either.

      And for what it’s worth, 1 was breastfed the other switched to bottle very early.

    • rational thinker

      “Consider that when you “judge women who can’t bond with their babies
      without breastfeeding,” you may be judging not just lactivists but women
      doing their best with the most painful, difficult to discuss parts of
      their motherhood.”

      This is not really directed torawards your situation you have described. This is more about the lactivists that try to make mothers breastfeed by telling them it is the ONLY way your baby will ever love you or bond with you.

      As for your situation let me just try to reassure you by saying children especially toddlers and small babies are among the most selfish creatures on the planet and Babies take a lot more love than they give. Yes they go through phases of parental favoritism.

      I have 2 almost grown teens and I had some trouble bonding with my second for a lot of reasons, but it eventually happened it just took a long time (years). So I kind of get how you feel. The only advice I have is maybe try to take some interest in things he is interested in and if you can find a mutual interest that is something you could do together that may help you bond better.

      • Lurker

        “This is not really directed torawards your situation you have described. This is more about the lactivists that try to make mothers breastfeed by telling them it is the ONLY way your baby will ever love you or bond with you.”

        I know that’s who the post is aimed at. But it doesn’t just say that it’s not true that you need to breastfeed to bond with your baby. Instead, it turns their rhetoric around on them, saying, “far from being a superior mother and having a superior bond because you breastfeed, you’re actually an inferior mother because only inferior mothers need to breastfeed to bond with their baby.” It’s a clever rhetorical device, and who knows, maybe it’s true – but it stings.

        • Anion

          Except the post isn’t saying you’re inferior if your baby doesn’t prefer you aside from breastfeeding or whatever; it’s not talking about the baby’s bond to YOU. It’s talking about your feelings for your baby. It’s talking about women who do not seem to feel much for their babies, who do not feel an emotional bond with their babies, unless they breastfeed.

          In other words, it’s about the emotions and feelings of the women, not the babies. Your son may have preferred Daddy and you didn’t get much time with him outside breastfeeding, but presumably you love/d him just the same, right? These women didn’t, and don’t. That’s the point. They act as though all babies are interchangeable, and they feel nothing for their own, unless they’re breastfeeding.

          You clearly feel the pain of a son who prefers someone else (and I’ve been there with my oldest daughter, I know how much it hurts. It really does get better over time for almost all of us, I promise. My older daughter and I are quite close now and have a lot of fun together). But that’s proof of what Dr. Amy is saying; you felt that bond right away. If you didn’t, it wouldn’t hurt. She’s not saying anything about women enjoying nursing because of the bond (pretty much all of us do) and she’s not saying breastfeeding can’t deepen that bond, she’s saying most of us–including you, obviously–felt bonded with our babies right away and didn’t need to spend hours breastfeeding them before we felt something for them.

          I hope that helps. Again, it’s not about the baby’s feelings; it’s about women who genuinely seem to need to breastfeed in order to feel anything at all for their children. IMO it’s clear that’s not you/your situation.

          • Cristina B

            Actually, that makes a lot of sense as to why they don’t understand how people who don’t/can’t breastfeed can still bond to their kids.

    • Nina Yazvenko

      I’m actually in the same situation, except my daughter started favoring daddy when I weaned her, and still continues to. And you know what, I’m ok with being 2nd most loved parent. Somebody’s got to be the most loved, right? That’s just how it works. And my husband is a fantastic father, so he deserves to be the most loved. Usually men accept babies’ preference for mothers, why can’t women accept babies’ preference to fathers?

  • Abby

    I had something which I’ve since discovered is probably dysphoric milk ejection reflex in that when I breastfed I felt absolutely awful, like all the sadness in the world overwhelmed me when she fed, and it was painful so overall each feeding experience made me want to throw her out the window. I didn’t bond with my baby until I stopped breastfeeding her. I found it really hard to do that as I had read all the stuff and thought she would be obese, sickly and stupid and didn’t stop until about 14weeks. I also had found this awful blog called the alpha parent which was really vicious about formula feeding. My husband has an older daughter who was bottle fed from birth so he thought I was a bit mad to keep making myself so miserable – it was a great relief for everyone when we packed it in and I discovered this website which helped enormously. She’s 7 now and clever, scrawny and robustly healthy, and I would say as a family we are pretty well bonded!!
    It’s annoying that that silly woman doesn’t realise that she is describing HER experience not everyone’s experience. They’re all like this, these NCB/breastfeeding zealots – they can’t understand that their experience is not everyone’s experience. No one expects all humans to experience all bodily conditions exactly the same in anything else. ‘No you don’t have coeliac disease as I can eat wheat and I feel absolutely fine!’

    • rational thinker

      Most of us here are very familiar with with the ramblings of the self proclaimed alpha parent Allison Dixley. Even some lactivists do not like her. Dr. Amy has written about her several times just type alpha parent in the search tool on the right of this page and you can read all the articles she has written about her.

  • Mel

    I’m nearly 38 and my chin still quivers if I’m upset enough…..

  • Azuran

    I have a strong milk letdown. Often my baby choke on it, let go of my breast and then gets sprayed in the face, up the nose and in his eyes. Isn’t our mutual love beautiful?

    Weird how she thinks that giving a bottle means she isn’t allowed to hold her baby, look at it or help it find the nipple. Does she plop it directly on the ground, turn her back and hold out the bottle in the baby’s general direction?

  • And then there are those micropremies that are too sick to breastfeed. Or really have skin-to-skin.

    And don’t you know it…. Prehistorical societies didn’t exclusively breastfeed. Clearly they were more scientifically advances that the majority of today’s lactivists. https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-49813039

    • Mel

      Oh, don’t worry. Lactivists have figured micro preemies out; they’re doomed to be lesser beings along with all those formula-fed babies.

      And that’s the sad part, really.

      Lactivism is essentially a security blanket for moms. If the moms sacrifice hard when their babies are tiny, the moms reap knowing that their kids are in a special class of super-humans.

  • demodocus

    My ff 3yo still clings to me whenever there’s an unfamiliar adult about. My bf’d 5 yo is friendly as hell but he’s rather bad at expressing this, apparently. He’s in a “friends’ club” at school to help him and the other kids learn to socialize appropriately

  • Mel

    Let’s see.

    I could have breastfed my son – but he would have been diagnosed with failure to thrive within a short period and been at high risk of permanent damage to his lungs when they failed to heal. Damaged lungs would have put him at high risk for pulmonary hypertension which can lead to right-side heart failure.

    Instead, we fed him formula.

    He’s almost three now. His lungs are fine. We have one more cardiology appointment next year sometime to see if his minuscule PDA that was still visible at 6.5 months adjusted closed. (Hopefully he won’t lick the ultrasound probe as many times this time…but we’ll see. )

    I’m pretty sure he’s bonded to me and my husband; we’re pretty bonded to him. I’m screwed if he ever figures out that I struggle to not give in when his chin wiggles when he cries because that’s the same way his impossibly small chin wiggled when he cried after his CS at 26 weeks.

    And seriously – how the hell could I justify anything else? “Spawn, I know having heart failure as a teenager is hard, but don’t you understand how important bonding is?” Yeah, I’d just as soon watch him play soccer or dive or whatever, thanks.

  • StephanieJR

    I worry about these lactavists being unable to bond with anything that doesn’t pander to their narcissism; presumably they have partners, and didn’t breastfeed them, or their own parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, friends, pets, etc. How much do they care about anyone they don’t have that ‘special bond’ with? How little empathy do you must have, to only love a helpless infant that has no choice but to be yours.

    There are dogs that have shown more empathy and care towards abandoned babies than some of these people would.

  • Queen Khentkawes

    I’m always nonplussed by these lactivists. What do they suppose formula-feeding families do? Make a wire “mother” with a bottle attached and stick the baby to it, like some Harry Harlow experiment gone mad? These lactivists are nuts.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      Yeah, all the “gaze into their eyes” nonsense and that. In fact, my wife quit breastfeeding the kids at 9 – 10 months because they were looking at anything except her eyes or focusing. Completely distracted, looking all over the place and, oh, not bothering to eat.

      Real magical experience that was.

      • KQ Not Signed In

        Mine stared intently at my armpit. Until he got old enough that he was looking at literally everything else in the room except me.

      • Christine O’Hare

        Yeah the only time I covered up to breastfeed was to keep my baby from getting distracted.

    • Mel

      ROTFL.

      Ok, I sometimes referred to myself as the terry cloth mother monkey when my son was in PT as a toddler.

      My son was hell-bent on not bonding with his PT – and he’s a persistent little boy. She was great with him. She figured out what kind of toys he liked and stashed them so he could have them during PT. She challenged him, but didn’t push him too hard or too fast. She gave him lots of cuddles – and meanwhile – I was the mostly absentee mother. Oh, I’d give him lots of verbal praise and encouragement – and a hug when he really needed it – but pretty quickly I’d be prying him off of my shirt and handing him back to his PT….who would give him cuddles that he liked – not that he was going to admit that ever, thank you very much

    • rational thinker

      They just like to claim that formula feeding moms just always put the baby down and prop a bottle in babys mouth and never hold baby, which is bullshit.

      I do find it funny they complain about possible bottle propping, but then tell breastfeeding mothers to just co sleep put boob in babys mouth and go back to sleep while the baby is breastfeeding.

      How the hell is “breast sleeping” any different than bottle propping.

    • Nina Yazvenko

      One of the best pictures I have of my husband and my baby is a photo of him holding her in his arms at night in a rocker as she sleepily clutches the bottle. They are soooo cute, and very well bonded. In fact, she ended up daddy’s girl… even though I did breastfeed her.

  • ArmyChick

    This infuriates me! My paternal grandmother raised me from age 2. She and I had a very strong bond…when she passed away in 2009 I was devastated. Even now I can’t think about her without getting emotional.

    My daughter is 8 and is always glued to me. She says I am the best mommy in the world. Fun facts: she was born by c-section and formula fed.

    I feel sorry for women who think that breastfeeding plays any role in how much their child loves them or how close they are to them. That came naturally to me even though I *CHOSE* to formula feed.

    • sdsures

      You ARE the best mommy. 🙂

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    Fathers and adoptive parents can just piss off.

  • We all know what CAN truly interfere with bonding–postpartum mood disorders, which can be exacerbated by breastfeeding difficulties.

    • Emilie Bishop

      It was hard for me to bond with a screaming creature who caused me physical pain every couple hours and extreme anxiety over whether he would get enough milk or be shortchanged in some way as he became increasingly dependent on formula. I was madly in love with him,but I’d have been way less hard on myself without lactivism. And, frankly, the letdown just made me tired and hungry…