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Instilling discipline in a child through breastfeeding

Mayim explains the connection between nursing and your child's emotional growth
By Mayim Bialik     Published on 08/20/2018 at 10:00 AM EDT

For National Breastfeeding Month, Grok Nation is running a series about nursing by our founder, Mayim Bialik, who is a Certified Lactation Educator Counselor (CLEC). For her past posts full of tips, tricks and advice, click here.

Breastfeeding provides nutrients, natural immunization, emotional bonding and closeness, and a custom-tailored diet that is free and made in your body. But, did you know that breastfeeding can instill discipline! “Whaaat!? That’s crazy-talk!” Well, it’s just crazy enough to be true, my friend! Here are four ways that breastfeeding helps with discipline.

  1. Breastfeeding establishes who’s boss. Newborn babies like to sleep a lot. They sleep something like 20 hours out of every 24. If you leave it up to them, they will sleep and sleep and sleep. It seems like they would sleep too much to nurse enough to survive! Breastfeeding is the first way you signal that you know what’s best for baby. They are the baby and you are the parent. Wake the baby and feed it! Every two hours in the day and no more than a four-hour stretch at night is what most lactation counselors recommend.
  2. Breastfeeding indicates priorities. Around the time babies are 6 months old, they start to get very curious about the world around them. They want to engage with other humans besides you and your partner, and they want to look around at everything. This can be really disruptive to a good nursing pattern, because just when you think you’ve figured it out, they start squirming and craning their little necks around and you sometimes cannot get baby to nurse! Breastfeeding gently demands that the baby focus. Again, if left to their own devices, six month olds would look at things all day and not nurse nearly enough. We get to establish a healthy pattern and we also reorient baby so that nursing gets priority. Taking a curious distracted baby away from crowds of adoring family members can really annoy said family members, but it shows baby (and the family) that nursing is not something we just hope we get around to; it requires patience and discipline.
  3. Breastfeeding helps with weight maintenance. Breastfeeding teaches a natural discipline surrounding food portions and a notion of being full. Here’s why. Breastfed babies cannot be overfed; your milk modulates itself based on the time a baby spends at the breast. As babies become more active and want to spend less time at the breast for example, milk becomes concentrated with the sufficient and appropriate amounts of fat, protein, and all other good things milk contains.
  4. Breastfeeding soothes the savage child. Most people cannot imagine nursing a toddler. Many people have strong opinions about it, and I totally get that. However, for those of us who have nursed babies beyond one year of age, we have seen that putting an older child to the breast when they are hurt, upset, or scared is a magical thing. I have seen children furious with rage, furious with shame, and furious with pain calm down almost instantly because of the power of being held in that kind of embrace. Offering the breast can almost be a discipline magic wand; I’ve seen it with my own kids dozens and dozens of times. There are so many reasons to breastfeed, and I hope that you now see how discipline and breastfeeding go hand in hand.
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