Sunday, October 26, 2014

Why Not Use Substitutes?






There has been a lot of research lately which is looking at the biological effect that a mother has on her child.  As a result of skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby, the amount of certain hormones in the infant's body increases, which causes protein synthesis to increase.  What this means is that, as a result of the touch of a mother, a baby will gain weight 50% faster; infants who receive high levels of touch each day also have more of a sense of where their bodies end and other people or objects begin; they are better able to orient their bodies because they are able to understand space and their place in it; they also seem to be less startled by sudden noises, and are more in control emotionally.  So there are both physical and emotional benefits to a high level of physical touch.  Babies need to be held a lot, and for those times when you need to use your hands, a sling is the best thing.  Babies do not receive all these benefits when they spend a lot of time in swings, infant carriers, or lying in bed.  They were designed to be held.


Babies also respond differently when held by their mothers than they do when held by anyone else.  Babies have been found to prefer the sound of female voices over male voices, and they prefer the voice of their own mother over other female voices.  No one else can care for a baby in a way that is as beneficial as the way his mother will care for him.  Just her very presence is therapeutic.

Mothers benefit from spending large quantities of time with their infants.  When infants are carried a lot, either in arms or in a sling, when they are fed at mother's breast, sleep with mother, and play with mother, mother comes to know the child intimately; there is a relationship of closeness there that cannot be duplicated any other way.  Mother comes to know what is right for her child because she has spent time with the child; alternative caregivers can care for the child's immediate survival needs, but that is all.  They do not have the intimate knowledge of the child which is necessary for his optimum physical and emotional development.

Also, mother's milk has no other substitute.  No formula can ever come close.  As the child grows and his nutritional needs change, mother's milk also changes in composition to meet his needs.  I will not go into a lengthy discussion of breastfeeding and it's merits; that information isfound on other pages.  But one crucial element in keeping your milk supply up is frequent stimulation of the breast by letting the child drink whenever he is hungry or thirsty.  The more bottles are substituted for mother's breast, the more the milk supply will decrease.  Also, the more pacifiers are used and the child is diverted from his need to eat frequently, the more this effects the milk supply adversely.  As parents, we want our children to draw strength and comfort from their relationship with us, not from an inanimate object like a pacifier, stuffed toy, or blanket.  There is also some evidence that children who have been seriously attached to a transitional object are more likely to develop an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia later in life.  The use of a transitional object is considered an emotional crutch to help the child deal with situations in their lives which are too emotionally taxing for them to handle.    Because they are forced to "mother" themselves at times when they need emotional support, they do not develop high levels of self-esteem and therefore develop an image of themselves that is faulty, which leads to eating disorders.

I am sure you would want your children to rely on their relationship with you as their strength to help them cope with problems rather than turn to alcohol, drugs, sexual relationships, food, money, and other substitutes to help them cope with life, as many people do today.  They learn to manipulate their environment themselves in order to cope, when what they should do is rely on their relationships for strength.  Their relationship with themselves, with those who love them, and with spiritual higher power.

If I am upset, what should I do -- go get drunk so I don't feel upset anymore, or seek out someone with whom I have a shared relationship to help me?

In the same way, if our child is upset, what should we do?  Give them a blanket or a stuffed toy to cling to, or allow them to be comforted through our shared relationship?

If my child is fussy and crying, should I give him a pacifier to keep him quiet, or should I try find out what his need is and meet it?  Even the word, PACIFIER, has a negative connotation.  To pacify someone is not to meet their true needs, but simply to subdue them, to control their reactions.  When pacifiers are used, the true underlying problem is never addressed.  Children learn to avoid solutions to their problems by relying on the pacifier; they learn to ignore their emotional needs and meet them in illegitimate ways.

In short, there is no substitute for mother, at least not when children are small.  As they get older, gain more experience, and feel more emotionally secure, they will be able to spend time away from mother - with father, or other adults and children.  For now, accept their dependence on you as a God-given survival mechanism.

Why breastfeed instead of using bottles?  If the preceeding discussion wasn't enough to convince you, how about this verse?  "I learned to trust in you even at my mother's breast."  (Psalm 22:9).  Breastfeeding mothers hold their babies differently from bottle-feeding mothers; they receive more skin-to-skin contact; they spend more time looking into mother's face; they receive more intellectual stimulation, and their IQ is higher because the chemicals in breast milk stimulate brain growth (this has been verified by research).  Why give your baby a substitute that has been proven to produce inferior development?

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