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Breastfeeding, Bonding, and the Mother-Infant Relationship

From: Merrill-Palmer Quarterly
Volume 49, Number 4, October 2003
pp. 495-517 | 10.1353/mpq.2003.0020

Abstract

Mothers often report that breastfeeding is an enjoyable and emotionally beneficial experience they share with their infants. However, little research has investigated the role of feeding method in the development of the maternal bond and the mother-infant relationship. This study tested two hypotheses—the bonding hypothesis and the good-enough caregiver hypothesis—regarding the association of breastfeeding with maternal bonding and the mother-infant relationship. Using data from a longitudinal study of 570 mother-infant pairs, bonding and the quality of the mother-infant relationship were measured at 4 and 12 months. Although breastfeeding dyads tended to show higher quality relationships at 12 months, bottlefeeding dyads did not display poor quality or precarious relationships. Such results are encouraging for nonmaternal caregivers and mothers who bottlefeed their children.