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Brexting: should you be breastfeeding and texting?

Perfect world scenario: You sit down in your dedicated nursing chair at home to feed your baby. Calming classical music is playing while you sip lemon-flavored water and gaze deeply into the face of your newborn. You lock eyes with your little one and think, “I love everything about breastfeeding!”

Real world scenario: Your baby is screaming like a howler monkey. You put down your (now cold) coffee long enough to nurse her and quiet her down. While doing so you have your smartphone in one hand and check your latest social media feeds. You remember you need to buy more diapers so you quickly order those, too. Then you text your partner to bring home takeout for dinner. When your baby is done eating, you think, “I was so productive just now — I am Super Mom!”

Which one seems more realistic to you? And does it matter? Well, some people are starting to think so.

It turns out our babies may be overdoing it on the screen time, and not by watching too much TV themselves. Instead, there is worry that they are becoming exposed to screen time indirectly — during feeding sessions — because our heads are buried in our phones.

You may be thinking, Great, ANOTHER thing I have to feel guilty about as a new mom?? Isn’t breastfeeding hard enough without another thing to worry about?!

I don’t think this concern should add any undue stress for new parents, but it is something you should be mindful of. Hear me out.

The reality is that babies need to bond with their caretakers, and they primarily do this, during the earliest weeks, by making eye contact and watching you and your facial expressions. Also, watching your baby is equally important to allow you to pick up certain cues (such as when your baby is done eating) when you are first learning how to feed your baby. So, if every single time your baby looks at you during one of his or her many feeds each day and only sees you staring at your screen, that time adds up. It can mean a lot of missed moments of social interaction and, potentially, attachment.

Now I don’t think this should be taken so far as meaning you have to stare at your baby for every single feed, all day and all night long. Really, who can keep up that kind of marathon? And let’s be honest: sometimes sitting down to nurse your baby is the only time you have a chance to catch up on your email, relax for a few minutes, and see what your friends are up to in the world of social media.

So what’s a parent to do? Just as with almost everything else related to raising your little one, balance is the key. If you need help staying awake during a 3 a.m. feed and your phone is what helps, then by all means keep it out. If you need a little breather during the day and you achieve this by texting with a friend while you nurse your baby, go for it.

Just don’t overdo it or make it a habit to replace your baby with your phone for every interaction, at every single feeding session. Every now and again, keep your phone out of reach and just be present in the moment with your baby. You’ll be thrilled to see how your baby loves to look at you and sometimes may even pause to give you a gummy smile.

This will also set up good habits later on when you are trying to show your child that you are not constantly distracted by your cell phone. You’ll be practicing what you’re preaching, and your child will appreciate knowing that your attention won’t be diverted the minute a text message pops up.

At times you may feel that all you are ever doing is feeding your baby and that your phone is your only connection to the real world you knew before your baby arrived. I promise you, these years are short, and soon you’ll wish for the days when you had a snuggly baby in your lap who was so content to just sit and eat. Don’t let your phone rob you of cherishing some of those moments!

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About Dr. Jennifer Lincoln, Bundoo OB/GYN

Dr. Jennifer Lincoln is a board-certified generalist obstetrician/gynecologist and attending physician in Portland, Oregon. She primarily works on labor and delivery and has recently been certified as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.

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