If you are in a hurry…Creating strong attachments with you, his parents, is essential for your baby's development. Beyond all the known and recognized benefits of breastfeeding in terms of nutrition and health, breastfeeding also allows you to create these bonds that are so important for your child. In concrete terms, how does it work?
Thanks to breastfeeding on demand, your body secretes oxytocin and you are constantly listening to your baby:
→ your baby feels your love and comfort
→ your child is soothed and serene→ you feel an immediate protective instinct towards your baby
Thanks to breastfeeding, attachment bonds are created in the most natural way possible! Nature is well done, isn't it?
In our article "Attachment theory : What impact on your child ?", we saw that, for your baby, creating a strong attachment bond with one or more people around him is a vital need. Thanks to this attachment bond, your baby has all the necessary tools to grow up serenely and independently.
Several gestures and behaviors on your part contribute to creating and strengthening this bond. Breastfeeding is one of them. Here are some explanations!
Breastfeeding involves constantly listening to your child's needs
Breastfeeding is not just about feeding your baby. Breastfeeding also meets other needs of the newborn such as security, love, and comfort. Specialists (lactation consultants, midwives and other health professionals trained in breastfeeding) agree that breastfeeding should be done on demand.
In the first few weeks, it is even recommended to breastfeed your baby at the first signs of awakening. Thus, a good start to your breastfeeding implies being fully attentive to your baby's needs. This constant and benevolent listening creates a very strong bond between you and your baby. Through breastfeeding, you and your baby develop a special and privileged relationship.
Bonding with your child is facilitated by oxytocin
In 2006, the work of Dr. Kerstin Uvnas-Moberg showed the importance of oxytocin in the attachment between the mother and her baby. This hormone is released in the mother's body at each feeding, about 8 to 12 times/24h in the first weeks (fig.1). Its release continues as long as breastfeeding is continued. Oxytocin, also known as the love and well-being hormone, causes the mother's instinctive protective behavior towards her baby. So, research shows that it promotes bonding. If you are breastfeeding, you have probably already noticed that nothing and no one can disrupt this intense and privileged moment! Bonding through breastfeeding is unique.
Figure 1: Plasma prolactin and oxytocin before, during and after breastfeeding. From Dr. Alan S. MC NEILLEY (Medical Research Council Reproductive Biology Unit, Edinburgh).
Your baby also benefits from this oxytocin production since this hormone is also released in breast milk. Haven't you already noticed that your baby is calm and serene during and after feeding? Well, this feeling of well-being is due to oxytocin! And the more your baby will suckle, the more oxytocin will be secreted, the more milk will be produced and the more you will be attentive to his needs. Nature is well made, isn't it?
Breastfeeding, and the dad in all this?
Are you the dad? If your wife decides to breastfeed your child, she will surely become his main attachment figure. But don't be discouraged! Despite this special relationship, you also have a big role to play. You can change your baby, bathe him, carry him in a sling to walk him or put him to sleep, or play with him.
Gentlemen, by taking on one or more of these activities with your baby, you are also creating a strong bond with your child and will in most cases become his or her second attachment figure, which is also very important!