In the News: Breastfeeding and Parental Sensitivity Linked

Submitted by Courtney on Thu, 04/22/2010 - 20:38

There are many reasons why breastfeeding has been touted as being the best method to feed a child up to two years of age. Firstly, it is the most nutritionally complete food that your child could ever ask for, and it helps support their immune system (studies have shown that breastfed babies suffer from far fewer illnesses than formula-fed babies). It is easier to digest and helps protect your baby from future allergies. And then there’s the argument that breastfeeding also helps a mother and baby bond and become more attached than if a mother (or father) were to bottle feed. But can bottle feeding a baby truly lessen a parent’s attachment to their own child?

Breastfeeding Studies

In November 2006, a study was set up to either prove or disprove this very theory. 152 new moms were recruited, all between 32 weeks gestation, and 12 months post partum, to help determine each mother’s maternal “sensitivity” based on the Sensitivity to Cues subscale of the Nursing Child Assessment Satellite Training Feeding Scale at 3 months. The quality of the interaction between a mother and her infant was also measured by the Nursing Child Assessment Satellite Training Feeding Scale at 6 months. Security was also measured by implementing the Ainsworth Strange Situation around a child’s first birthday (12 months).

The results? Each of the tests that were administered actually showed no direct relationship between breastfeeding and attachment security. What breastfeeding did show was that mothers who choose to breastfeed displayed increased sensitivity to their babies’s needs during early infancy. This, in turn, can result in a more secure attachment to the parent in the long term – though the secure attachment isn’t solely dependent on whether or not a mother chooses to breastfeed.

So mothers who breastfeed can have a better chance of forging a secure attachment with their child simply by choosing to breastfeed, but that does not mean that bottle-fed babies will not be able to enjoy that secure attachment as well. The biggest factor in having a secure attachment with your child is still the amount of quality time you spend interacting with your baby and the manner in which you do so (i.e. being attentive to their needs).

photo by Irenaeus Herwindo

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