LLL Today #5 – Mothering through breastfeeding, it makes all the difference! 

My intention is not to set the relationship I have with my children as the standard for the mother-child relationship, but rather to bear witness to what has worked best for us. Nevertheless, I remain firmly convinced that it is through breastfeeding that the young of our species should be mothered. Indeed, I don’t see breastfeeding simply as a way of feeding the little mammals that are our babies. Breastfeeding is much more than that. It’s an art and a way of living out my relationship with my child. Breastfeeding brings proximity and immediacy between our bodies and our souls. This connection is instinctive. It’s this connection that means I know for sure what my baby needs. There’s no need to think, no need to calculate, no need to reflect, just put my child to the breast.

We often read that human milk is best for the child. But it seems to me that this is a limited way of looking at things, reducing breastfeeding to the transfer of milk from the breast to the infant. It seems to me that we should rather say that breastfeeding is what human babies expect. I wasn’t able to breastfeed until I understood that breastfeeding is more than milk.

My two older children were breastfed for one month and six weeks respectively. It was really an attempt to feed my milk, modelled on bottle-feeding. And it didn’t work for very long. With my first child, I experienced what I called “attachment disorders” or “maternal difficulties”: feeling sad while taking care of my baby, having the feeling that my baby didn’t love me… My mother used to tell me that this impression that my baby and I were having difficulty attaching was imaginary because, she used to say, “a child is necessarily attached to his mother”. True, perhaps, but in what way? My second child, despite a short breastfeeding period, benefited from greater physical closeness (co-sleeping, babywearing), which contributed to a much more satisfying and gratifying relationship. For the first time, I felt recognized as a mother. When my third child was born, I was able to breastfeed him through our initial difficulties. My breastfeeding changed from a way of feeding to a way of mothering. For a long time, breastfeeding was the main means of communication between me and my baby, so simple, so practical, so natural, so powerful, so effective.

My relationship with my later children is very different. Firstly, because they were intensely breastfed for much longer than the first ones. Secondly, because we’ve had a much longer physical, skin-to-skin, body-to-body relationship. Finally, because, even as they’ve grown, they seem closer to me and our communication seems more instinctive. With them, I acted in the way my gut told me to. I trusted my instincts. And I think instinct is a good guide. Breastfeeding amplified my maternal instincts. More attuned to my little inner voice, I became more receptive, more connected to the requests and needs of my breastfed babies.

But the icing on the cake is that this way of mothering also affected my relationships with my less-breastfed children, and even with the other members of my family. I’ve also become more attentive to others. In a way, everyone around me has benefited from mothering through breastfeeding. Mothering through breastfeeding has totally changed my life, and my relationship with others. It has allowed me to heal so many wounds. So yes, I can confirm that it has changed everything for me, for us.

Editor’s note: One of the ten concepts that express the philosophy of LLL is: “Mothering through breastfeeding is the most natural and effective way of understanding and satisfying the needs of the baby.”

Dinah, France