A couple of months ago, breastfeeding mothers came under attack for texting too much while breastfeeding (or “brexting,” a term which makes me cringe). The claim was that too many moms are distracted by their phones while nursing their babies, and thus miss out on important bonding time. The naysayers even allege that mothers are at risk of missing their babies’ feeding cues if they spend too much time on their phones.
As a breastfeeding mom and lactation consultant, I take issue with these kind of critiques—big time. Breastfeeding is a huge commitment and can be really difficult at first. By my calculations, most new moms spend about a fourth of their day breastfeeding (at least). So you’re telling me that if they spend some of those hours texting, they will be missing out on important bonding time with their babies?
I call bullshit. Maybe there are extreme cases of mothers who are on their phones for every second that they nurse. But most of us are spending at least as much time smiling down at our babies, smelling their delicious heads, wondering if they are full, crying because they are so beautiful (and also because we are so overwhelmed and tired).
Really, breastfeeding mothers—mothers in general—do not need something else to feel guilty about. And let’s face it: Breastfeeding can get boring, and moms sometimes feel a little antsy while nursing for all those hours. These are normal feelings to have at times, and a bit of distraction is useful when it happens. Not only that, but lots of us have stuff to get done. What better time to answer a few emails or texts than while sitting there for hours on end feeding our babies?
I think that if moms get the message that breastfeeding is supposed to be sacred and precious every moment, it will only make them feel inadequate because it’s impossible for breastfeeding to be that way all the time. And it makes breastfeeding feel like something that does not fit into real life. Breastfeeding is supposed to be a normal part of life—not something you have to set aside a special time to do for the sake of bonding or whatever idealized moment you are trying to make happen. The lovely moments happen on their own, but breastfeeding is meant to happen amid the craziness that is parenthood.
I have not only texted while breastfeeding, but I have done basically everything while breastfeeding. This was especially true when I added more than one kid to the mix. Let me give you some real-life examples of what breastfeeding can look like for busy, “distracted” moms like me:
I’ve breastfed while pooping, peeing—and helping my other kid do the same.
I’ve breastfed while wiping butts, mopping up snot, cleaning crumbs off the kitchen counter, and scrubbing crayon off walls.
I’ve popped my baby in a baby carrier and nursed him while playing mini-golf, helping my kid climb up the slide, grocery shopping, hiking, and waiting in line at the amusement park.
I’ve nursed in the bath and shower, while putting on makeup, dressing myself, dressing my other kid, baking cookies, doing art projects, and waiting in the car to pick my kid up from school.
I’ve opened the door for the delivery man with a baby on my boob; I’ve had a pap smear while nursing; and I’ve nursed while holding in many poops—and even once when I had to vomit but didn’t want to wake the baby.
I’ve made whole meals while nursing (yep, kept baby far away from the stove), and I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve eaten a meal with a nursing baby on my lap.
I’m not telling you these things so that I sound like some sort of breastfeeding martyr. I just want all breastfeeding moms to know that breastfeeding is meant to be a normal, fluid part of our real lives. Otherwise, I don’t see how we would even be able to do it! And for the brand-new moms out there: You will get more adept at doing everything while nursing too. Give it time.
So the next time the way women breastfeed comes under scrutiny (and believe me, it will), remember this: Breastfeeding isn’t supposed to be about perfection. It’s about doing the best you can with that you’ve got. It’s about finding ways for breastfeeding to fit into your life so you don’t go crazy. It’s about your choices, your life, your body, your baby. And anyone who tries to butt in and tell you otherwise can kindly shut up.