There’s a perception that breastfed babies are more clingy than those who are not. Is the term “clingy” fair or accurate?
You’re the mothership
Your baby grew INSIDE OF YOU and lived there for 9 months! Up until the day your baby was born, your body is all your baby has ever known. Your baby wants to be near you because you are your baby’s home. Compared to the womb, our world is loud, cold, bright and possibly scary. Everything is unfamiliar, except for you. Being away from you is alien.
Your baby doesn’t realise you are two separate people
That’s right. Up to several months old, your baby doesn’t realise you are two separate beings. Being away from you feels inherently wrong.
You’re (probably) his Number 1
Are you your baby’s primary carer? Aside from feeding, are you also doing the majority of the nappy changes, baths and clothes changes? Is your face the last thing your baby sees as he goes to sleep? Being away from you means he won’t be cared for.
You have the milk
Your baby enters this world with one goal – to grow. Your baby knows the milk comes from your chest. Being away from you means he will starve.
Our babies are very vulnerable when they are born. They can’t feed or protect themselves. Our babies are dependent on us. Staying close to the person who grew you, feeds you, protects you and cares for you is not merely “clingy”. It’s a calculated plan to stay alive. As a species, we have evolved by staying in close proximity to food and shelter, and away from danger.
The word “clingy” is about emotions, but your baby’s need to be close to you is about instincts. When you consider your role in this new human’s life so far, alongside their experience living in our world, how can you describe that “DON’T LEAVE ME!” cry as a sign that your baby is “too emotionally dependent? If I was under the sea, would you describe me as “clingy” to my air tank? No! My attachment to my oxygen would be considered a logical move to keep myself alive.
You may have niggling concerns that breastfeeding has caused this perceived “clinginess”, and it may be pointed out that you’re the only one who can feed your baby, so you must have caused this issue. The truth is that breastfeeding isn’t the problem – it’s a good solution. And in any event, there are still babies who are not breastfed that will be clingy for the same reasons outlined in this post.
It’s true that you will, naturally, be preferred over daddy or nana. Try to keep the situation in perspective – this is not your baby’s flaw, it’s her survival tactic. When she’s not so small and precious, she will learn to trust those around her that have consistently demonstrated they can care for her too. In the meantime, try to see yourself through your baby’s eyes. You are a life source.