"My son uses my breast as a pacifier. It's a kind of pacifier." This idea translates a sense of discomfort that a part of breastfeeding women, at some point, feel more and more pressing. What are the reasons behind this perception?
To reflect on this delicate and complex issue we involved two experts: Antonella Sagone, psychologist and Professional Consultant in Breastfeeding (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, IBCLC) and Sergio Conti Nibali, family pediatrician, head of the Acp feeding group (Cultural Association of Pediatricians) and WHO-Unicef trainer for the promotion of breastfeeding.
Read also: Breastfeeding or cow's milk: the most substantial at 12 months?
In this article
- Mother's discomfort may be due to the dominant culture,
- The mother's breast gives not only nourishment but also comfort,
- However, every mother has her own style of care. It is right that you find it,
- Mothers today are lonely and tired. A little support would be enough,
- The alternative to the breast as a comfort: cuddles, caresses and small consoling rites.
Mom's discomfort may be due to the dominant culture
"The phrase 'He uses me as a pacifier!' echoes the countless times in which mum has been told: 'What are you doing, are you still attaching him to the breast?' - says psychologist Antonella Sagone and maternal breastfeeding consultant.
In our culture, which prefers the early posting between mother and baby, breastfeeding after the first few months is viewed with a certain suspicion. A nursing mother often finds herself in trouble. Every woman strives to give the best of herself, despite the contradictory information that surrounds her, but in some cases she can make her the dominant cultural vision ".
When mom thinks she is being used as a pacifier, she is often frightened because following her instincts makes her go against social conventions.
In the same vein, pediatrician Sergio Conti Nibali argues that our society has subverted a normal physiological need: "that of the child to latch on to the breast also to seek comfort and not just nourishment".
"Precisely because breastfeeding is not considered 'normal' and physiological, it may seem strange to the mother that the baby is looking for the breast for that reason", adds the psychologist.
From the pediatrician's point of view, "it is also important to remember that up to 60-70 years ago, babies often took their mother's milk up to 3-4 years and no one was surprised".
For the doctor, today there is a cultural upheaval that considers breastfeeding only as a source of nutrition. The pacifier, on the other hand, is perceived as the norm in every type of situation and to reassure the baby. Not infrequently, this widespread cultural attitude ends up causing feelings of guilt in some of the mothers.Read also: He does not drink my milk from the bottle
The mother's breast gives not only nourishment but also comfort
Il breast milk it is a valuable source of nourishment but breastfeeding is also an important one moment of relationship, emotional and affective, between mother and child.
Through sucking, the baby feels reassured and can try to latch on even if he is not hungry.
According to the psychologist, today, this function of contact, typical of breastfeeding, is diminished by a cultural approach that reduces each breastfeed to a simple way of feeding.
In reality, often, when a baby gets scared, for example, and cries, cuddling him and latching him to the breast is the best source of consolation. "In this way, he also takes possession of his mother, he immediately enters into a relationship with her", explains Conti Nibali.
Furthermore, for the psychologist Sagone, it is good to know that if the mother wants to give her breast to the baby to comfort him, she can do it peacefully: it is natural and there are no psychological contraindications.
However, every mother has her own style of care. It is right that you find it
According to the pediatrician, it is essential to consider that every mother has her own care style. Consequently, the attitude towards latching on to the breast also changes considerably.
"In the clinic, it happens, for example, that the sound of the intercom scares two children around 6-7 months. A mother picks up her son and, after a while, he calms down.
The other mother, on the other hand, immediately attaches him to her breast which for her is the best way to make him stop crying, "says the doctor.
This means that each woman has her own model of care for her child, unique and personal. All of this calls into question his experience and life story as a human being.
"When the baby is restless, for some mothers it is instinctive to attach it to the breast, they do not experience it as a stress - explains Conti Nibali.
And if this is the case, generally, the attitude is shared in the family, by the husband, by those around them ... They probably don't have a mother-in-law who repeats, every time the baby latches on to the breast, 'what are you doing?' ".
In this case, the mother does not pose any problems: she attacks the baby whenever she deems it necessary without even asking the pediatrician.
Mothers today are lonely and tired. A little support would be enough
Generally, today, it is quite rare that a woman can count on an extended family or on a solid network of friends and relatives willing to support her, and help her if necessary, with the small child.
For the psychologist Sagone, the fact that a mother (maybe 24 hours a day with her child), can feel alone is an underestimated aspect.
"The experience with the baby is truly enveloping, and the mother who feels used as a pacifier is tired, alone, sleepy ... In addition, she did not expect breast research to go on after the first months.
This mother would need to be reassured, to have social approval from her and some useful advice to reconcile breastfeeding and rest, "explains Sagone.
In such a case, for example, if she was told to breastfeed in an armchair leaving the baby in her bedroom at night, everything is more difficult. Instead, it would be enough to place the baby in a nearby bed to alleviate the 'fatigue' of nocturnal awakenings.
The alternative to the breast as a comfort: cuddles, caresses and small consoling rites
Ultimately, what matters most is the fact that every mom should understand what she really wants to do, without guilt or anxiety.
"Those who no longer feel like attaching the baby to the breast when seeking contact, can console him in other ways, with different and personal strategies", says the doctor.
One solution, for example, could be to pamper him by singing a special song every time something is wrong.
But even a book with beautiful illustrations can prove to be a precious ally in overcoming difficult moments together.
"It is possible to create new rituals and offer the baby different options to find comfort and consolation compared to breast research. If every time the baby gets scared, cries or is agitated, he is equally calmed, and calms down, over time , he will ask for this kind of pampering himself.
In any case, professional figures should trust all mothers and offer correct and objective information on all aspects of breastfeeding, from birth onwards, in each of its different phases ", concludes the pediatrician.
You may also be interested:
10 myths about breastfeeding to dispel
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Breastfeeding, all you need to know
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READ ON MAMMENELLARETE: AT 14 MONTHS USE MY BREAST AS A PACIFIER
Questions and answers
Is it okay to breastfeed the baby to comfort him?
Yes, if you wish. Breast milk is a precious source of nourishment, but it is also an important moment of relationship, emotional and affective, between mother and baby. Through sucking, the baby feels reassured and can try to latch on even if he is not hungry.
Breastfeeding: Is there a single "care style" for all mothers to follow?
It is essential to consider that every mother has her own care style. Consequently, the attitude towards latching on to the breast also changes considerably.
Could the discomfort of a mother who breastfeeds even beyond the first months depend on the dominant culture?
In our culture, which favors the early separation between mother and child, breastfeeding after the first few months is viewed with a certain suspicion. A nursing mother often finds herself in trouble. Every woman strives to give the best of herself, despite the contradictory information that surrounds her, but in some cases she can make her the dominant cultural view.
- first year