'Brexting' Diminishes Mother-Child Breastfeeding Bond

Breastfeeding mother and child
By Sandy Hemphill, Contributing Writer, BabyMed


Sometimes it’s hard to imagine life without a smartphone in hand. We text, we sext, we shop, we look up everything, and entertain ourselves royally but new-baby experts are concerned that ‘brexting’ is on the rise and it might not be such a good thing for a newborn trying to get to know its mom.

Brexting refers to using the phone while breastfeeding but it applies to bottle-feeding, too. No matter which way the baby is being fed, during feeding time it is vitally important that the baby gets mom’s undivided attention. The mother’s distractions, such as smartphone use, diminish the mother-child bond that is so important for a growing baby’s emotional health.

Dr. Kateyune Kaeni says brexting could cause a mother to miss important messages the baby sends her. Kaeni is a psychologist who specializes in maternal mental health at the Pomona Valley Medical Center in Pomona, California. She says, "When babies are first born their vision is only basically from the breast to the mother’s face. That’s as far as they can see. So babies do a lot of staring and bonding in that way."

Terry Bretscher agrees. She’s a nurse and lactation specialist at Pomona Valley where more than 20 babies are born on an average day. Bretscher has seen first hand how it’s almost impossible to get some new moms to leave the phone alone while breastfeeding a new baby. "Sometimes they will actually answer that right then and we go, 'well let's work on this now,'" she says.

Kaeni understands that distractions happen but she expresses concern for the emotional outcome of babies being fed by mothers who are distracted over a prolonged period of time. "If baby is trying to make contact with you by noises or smiles and they can’t and they learn over time that they can’t rely on you to respond, it runs the risk of them becoming either anxiously attached to your or insecurely attached to you and they will ramp up their behavior until you pay attention."

New mother Rochelle Gonzales didn’t get warned about the distractions of brexting after her son, Ivan, was born at Pomona Valley. He spent his first four weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit before going home. It was there, on her own, that Gonzales became aware of the subtle but important messages her son was sending her as he fed.

Gonzales now knows to look for Ivan’s eyebrows going up to signal he’s full, his hands in a fist when he’s hungry, and his clenched fists uncurling and his arms dropping as he gets full and relaxes. She’s learned that feeding Ivan is a great time to re-charge her smartphone or keep it “as far away as possible.”

The Pomona Valley lactation team feels so strongly about avoiding brexting that it is developing ways to incorporate warnings against it in the breastfeeding classes they offer to new mothers.


Sources:

  1. Aguilera, Elizabeth. "Too much 'brexting' undermines bonding during breastfeeding." 89.3 KPCC / Health. Southern California Public Radio, 24 Sept. 2015. Web. 5 Oct. 2015.
  2. Liu, Jianghong, Patrick Leung, and Amy Yang. "Breastfeeding and Active Bonding Protects against Children’s Internalizing Behavior Problems." Nutrients 6.1 (2014): 76-89. PMC / US National Library of Medicine. Web. 5 Oct. 2015.
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