It sometimes seems like the world can’t get enough of criticising breastfeeding women, and now there’s another thing for new mums to worry about.
‘Brexting’ is the latest criticism directed at nursing mothers. The term refers to breastfeeding while texting, which people say ruins the bond between mother and baby. Users of parenting forums are shaming the mothers who do take time out while feeding their baby to catch up with friends or family via their phone.
Having a new baby can be an isolating time for a new mum. It can feel like you are the only one struggling through this steep learning curve of feeding problems, sleep issues and worrying about this little new person who depends on you for everything. Many of us live away from our families and our phones are a portal into a world of friends, reassurance and knowledge.
Brexting isn’t simply texting. Time on your phone is time with your Facebook group of mums sharing your challenges and successes, the article written on blocked ducts by the lactation consultant, the local Twitter account advertising the baby massage group. It’s also a door into a world beyond parenting: the local newspaper, the article on international events, a reminder of things that mattered to you before baby arrived. Your phone is a conversation, access to learning and a time to be you.
And you can do all this while sitting down and feeding your baby.
Would we say to the mother reading a novel, don’t do it when you are feeding your baby? I think some of the judgement comes from people who don’t realise that phones are more than just daftness but a chance for connection and knowledge and relief from loneliness.
But like most things in life, there needs to be a balance. You are your baby’s first intimate relationship. You are the first face they stare into it. You are their first conversation. A newborn’s vision allows them to focus on the distance between them and your face when they are at the breast. A bit of a shame if that period is instead spent focusing on the grey rectangle of the back of your smartphone. The world of the phone is so appealing, it’s easy to get sucked into it and eventually your baby may just not bother to look for eye contact or consider a breastfeed a chance to look at your face and read your expression. New mums need to take those moments too. They are slow-moving, unexciting in many ways and come with a less obvious ‘like’ button, but they matter. Babies don’t understand why you don’t return their eye contact and instead are staring intently at something to one side.
Plus staring into your smartphone isn’t a great idea at night when artificial light (even the ones with the fancy ‘night time’ setting) could be affecting your sleep patterns.
I would say to new mums: enjoy your phone, don’t feel you’ve got to justify using it, make the most of the connections to the world it gives you. But take some conscious time each day to give your baby your focus during a feed. It doesn’t need to be every minute of every feed but we don’t want time to pass and before you know what’s happened, your phone feels more important to your toddler than they do. Just find a balance.