I spent part of my Mother's Day reading the Time magazine article on attachment parenting. The cover is obviously quite provocative and has stirred a lot of discussion in and of itself. Even SNL spoofed it! But the greater discussion seems to me to be on how women mother and parent. What constitutes a good enough mother? (wonder if there is going to be a follow up article on fathers just in time for Father's Day - what would that cover look like?)
I guess my first thought about the article is that mother's often feel like they are not good enough. I don't think that is necessarily influenced by how long you breast feed, or if you let your child sleep in your bed, or if you ever yelled at your child. It is something about the female brain and we feel guilty about so many issues as they relate to mothering. I have now practiced for over 25 years and the topic of maternal guilt has always been an issue for so many of the mothers I see on a daily basis, it doesn't seem to change. Me included!
For some reason, the female hormones estrogen, progesterone, and prolactin that surge at the time of a baby's delivery must also turn on some deep area of the brain related to guilt. I often joke that with the final push comes enough guilt to last a mother's lifetime. (seems to happen with a c-section as well). The attachment to that baby is so deep that any little thing can cause maternal anxiety and it often starts with whether or not to breastfeed your baby. So let's start with that subject.
As a pediatrician I am a huge advocate for breast feeding, but with that being said I have also seen many a mother who is unable to breastfeed. There are any number of reasons (including breast reduction surgery and no let down, maternal medications which might affect the baby, and a mother who was diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant who started chemo immediately after delivery.)
There are also some mother's who just don't want to breastfeed. Should they be judged inadequate right out of the gate? I don't think that is my role as a pediatrician to make that mother feel guilty. I think I need to discuss the options and the benefits of breastfeeding but at the same time realize that one size does not fit all. Is it worth having a depressed, sad and anxious mother who is unhappily breastfeeding, over a bottle fed baby with a happy mother? I think maternal well-being and feeling bonded to that newborn is what is important, whether that be with a breast or bottle. You can be attached to that baby without out actually having a latch.
So...I digress. What about guilt and motherhood? I just don't know how to fix it but I don't think that the front of Time magazine really helped, but did provoke lots of conversation.
What do you think? I would love your thoughts! Leave them below.