This article is produced by the Association "Pollicino" of Italy.
Breastfeeding is a priceless moment that allows the newborn to build a relationship with their mummy. It is a heavenly, yet complex, experience that doesn't just involve the physical aspect of skin contact, but also affects the heart and the emotions of both parties.
A breastfed newborn is nourished by milk as well as by the attention and love that their mummy sets aside just for them. Indeed, during feeding, the baby experiments with a unique and necessary form of contact that satisfies his hunger, while filling up on mum's gazes, sweet whisperings and affectionate caresses.
Breastfeeding is the channel by which the mother transmits the love she has for her child along with vital nourishment: while she holds her newborn in her arms, he feels protected, safe and, most importantly, unique.
And the infant responds by sucking and taking in all of the maternal care: this is how the first exchanges between mother and child come about, creating an intimate dialogue. The baby's response to what mummy offers makes her feel like she is fulfilling her role as mother and thus, feel good.
So, breastfeeding is not just a parental task, but also an intimate experience that touches on the most profound aspects that define new mothers: the apprehensions and insecurities that are a natural part of the early months are quickly reassured by the baby's positive response to breastfeeding.
This is why it is always best that the choice in how to feed a newborn is made freely by the individual woman who has just become a mother. For example, the choice to breastfeed or bottle feed involves the deepest sentiments the woman has regarding her relationship with her body and her approach to motherhood. It is important that each woman gathers information and advice from specialists, but also that she can make an informed choice that resonates with the person she is and her current frame of mind.
Breastfeeding experienced as a syntonic act, one that is in harmony with the person's lifestyle and subjectivity, can create a natural experience that is able to satisfy both the mother and her baby. Especially when it is the woman's first child, the inherent choices around feeding the baby can be secretly coupled with fears; some new mothers might be afraid of not having enough milk or not having the determination necessary to tolerate the fatigue associated with the first months of the baby's life. These realities – which are actually very common - if accompanied by an excess of alarming information, can contribute to “medicalizing” the breastfeeding, interrupting the dialogue between the mother and her baby, upsetting the bond that breastfeeding instinctively generates.
It is also important to point out that breastfeeding done well, will come to a natural conclusion, namely weaning, which is the beginning of a new method of being nourished and of interacting. During the weaning phase, the first signs of separation occur for both the baby and the mother, from a material and an emotional standpoint, that is smooth only if there was sufficient bonding and a good dialogue during breastfeeding.
It is in this phase that an important physiological change takes place, made possible if both mummy and baby are able to forgo a bit of the presence of the other, which has been sealed by the intimate and exclusive atmosphere of breastfeeding. Before starting to wean, it makes sense to ask if both mummy and baby are ready. It is essential that this transition happen progressively, without rushing things. When breastfeeding is a positive experience and weaning begins when both mummy and baby are ready, the gradual elimination of feedings and the progressive introduction of solid food does not implicate problems. It remains however that this is a very delicate change that sometimes becomes tiring and painful. It is useful to remember that even during breastfeeding, total satisfaction of the baby's requests is physically impossible; all babies – even the luckiest - inevitably gratify and frustrate their needs as they grow. Even the most attentive mothers find it impossible to satisfy the requests of their child always and immediately. For small babies, the wait, or rather the momentary deprivation of the desired object, can be a painful experience, but at the same time, it is necessary.
In fact, waiting forces the child to figure out that his satisfaction depends on the attentive presence of another, and to realise that mummy is not an extension of himself. The child then understands that the "good" mummy, who showers love and satisfaction, is also the mummy who might not be there, that's missing, and in this case is also hated. It is through this short wait that the baby realises his mummy isn't always there, that she isn't at his beck and call, leading the baby to respond frequently by getting angry or crying, maybe even spitting his food out or biting her. These reactions that may already be present during breastfeeding, intensify during weaning and require tolerance and comprehension.
Getting offended, yelling at baby or refusing him are reactions that leave the baby alone with his aggression and open up space to fears and insecurities that can be impediments to weaning successfully.
During both breastfeeding and weaning it is important for the adult to keep in mind that a small baby might turn to the use of food and the act of nourishment to communicate his emotions and unease, rather than expressing himself through crying or words.
"Associazione Pollicino e Centro Crisi Genitori Onlus" - ITALY