Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mother-Baby Separation

By Dr. George Wootan, M.D.
Author of Take Charge of Your Child’s Health
[Leer en Español aquí]

I’m going to open up a big can of worms here, one that gets me into as much trouble as my thoughts on weaning: mother-baby separation. Imagine for a moment, that you are at the grocery store with your six-month-old. She starts making hungry noises, and you look down and say reassuringly, “I’ll feed you in half an hour, as soon as we get home.” Will she smile and wait patiently for you to finish you shopping? Absolutely not! As far as your baby is concerned, either there is food now, or there is no food in the world. Right in the middle of the grocery store, famine has struck!

Babies and toddlers, up to the age of about 36 months, have little concept of duration of time. To them, there are only two basic times: now and never. Telling a young toddler that Mommy will be back in an hour, or at 5:00, is essentially the same thing as telling her that Mommy is gone forever, because she has no idea what those times mean.

Let me submit to you that the need for mother is as strong in a baby as the need for food, and that there is no substitute for a securely attached mother. When he’s tired, hurt, or upset, he needs his mother for comfort and security. True, he doesn’t need Mommy all the time, but when he does, he needs her now. If he scrapes his knee, or gets his feelings hurt, he can’t put his need on hold for two hours until Mommy is home, and the babysitter – or even Daddy – just won’t do as well as if Mommy was there.

So, yes, this is what I’m saying: A mother shouldn’t leave her baby for an extended amount of time until about the age of 36 months, when he has developed some concept of time. You’ll know this has begun to happen when he understands what “yesterday,” “tomorrow,” and “this afternoon” mean, and when your toddler voluntarily begins to spend more time playing away from you on his own accord.

Of course, if you know that your child always sleeps during certain times, you can leave her briefly with someone while she naps. If you do this, however, the babysitter should be someone she knows well, as there is no guarantee that she won’t choose this day to alter her schedule and wake up while you’re gone. This could be traumatic for her if the person is someone she casually knows, and doubly so if the babysitter is a stranger. It is important to make every effort to be available to her when she is awake and may need you.

I realize that not separating a baby from his mother for the first 36 months of life may be difficult. Living up to this presupposes that the family is financially secure without the mother’s paycheck, and, unfortunately, this is not a reality for some people. I would not argue that a mother who must work to support her family is doing less than her best for her children by working. However, I believe that many women return to work not out of necessity, but because they (or their spouses) want to maintain the two-income lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed. These parents need to do a little soul-searching about what they really need and not sacrifice their child’s best interests.

If you must leave your baby for several hours a day, there are some things you can do to try and compensate for the separation. One of these, of course, is nursing until the child weans himself. Another is sharing sleep with your child until he decides he is ready for his own bed. If you have to spend 8 hours away from your baby, make an effort to spend the remaining 16 hours of each day in close physical contact. That extra effort will go a long way toward helping him feel secure an develop a healthy attachment with you.

In our family, we have found that many events that would require leaving our baby or toddler at home are the ones that we don’t particularly mind missing. We also have found that because our children have their needs attended to promptly, they are happy and secure, and we are able to take them to most social gatherings. I don’t mean to suggest that you’ll never encounter any problems, but generally, you’ll find that if you take care of your baby’s immediate needs by holding him, nursing him, and loving him, he’ll be a pleasure to have around, well into the toddler years and beyond.


George Wootan, M.D. is a board-certified family practitioner and medical associate of La Leche League International. He and his wife, Pat, are the parents of eleven children and the grandparents of twenty-one. Dr. Wootan has practiced medicine for 33 years with a focus on pediatric, family, and geriatric care and chronic illness. He speaks nationally on the subject of children’s health, healthy aging, nutrition, wellness and Functional Medicine.


115 comments:

  1. I high five your post. You are completely right and if a mom can stay home she should.

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  2. Even though I'm not sure I agree that it takes three years for a child to understand object permanence, it is an interesting read and something I have heard from LLL before as an argument against women working outside of the home. I will say that we deliberately live close to extended family so that the grandparents can be involved, and I consider it a good thing when the children can spend time with them.

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  3. Agree with you!
    Especially about the two income families. So many people could at least have one parent with the kids in early childhood....but alas must pay a high morgage, two car payments, vacations, new wardrobe seasonally...etc We went to one car, cut down on entertainments/clothing and more so I could stay home. I chose not to let the negitive stigma of being a 'stay at home mom' discourage me from being with my three kids untill they enter full time schooling.

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  4. I am a stay at home mom with four young children, and I have found that each child is different. My first child was very attached to me and it was difficult for me to leave when he was awake (so I didn't do it often). My other children, however, were perfectly content to stay with their father or grandparents. I think it is important for a mother to have opportunities to leave the house without a child on occasion providing it is not causing any distress to the child. My daughter is two and loves to go to grandma's house (next door) if I have to do errands--and that is just fine with me.

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  5. Such an important conversation!

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  6. Thank you so much for posting this. It was refreshing and encouraging to read. I was successful in a career I loved - and made more than DH - but when our daughter was born it became obvious that she very much needed her mother with her. No one else would do. Relatives told us she had a problem because she wouldn't be happy in daycare or left in the church nursery for even an hour away from me. I felt I knew her well enough and was intune enough to know it wasn't her problem... I started investigating the science of attachment and lo and behold, find out that she is a normal, healthy, securely attached human baby. No one ever told me (even in all my years as a professional in medicine) that human babies respond to mothering the same way that all other mammals do when they are in their dependent state (typically the first 3 years - sometimes less, sometimes more depending on the child).

    In any event, I left my full time work because I CHOSE to become a mother and my daughter was going to get 1st priority. We moved from a house to an apartment, sold our extra car, and learned to live more simply. In most cases, when there are 2 adults in the house, this CAN be done - almost everyone can reduce in a way to parent their children. It certainly eliminates a daycare bill and doctor's visits because babies are not sick much when they get to eat from and be comforted by mom 24 hours a day. Not to mention the money saved on formula when baby nurses for a longer duration of time without need for other means of feeding.

    I do certainly miss my profession - some days more than others. But it will always be there for me to go back to. My daughter will not always be in this beautiful, irreplaceable young age - one that I cherish extra specially because of all I sacrificed to mother her gently.

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  7. I agree completely! We co-sleep, I breastfeed and I wear my one year old daughter. We're also always around my mom, so my daughter is extremely familiar with her (in fact she insists many time sitting on grandma's lap while I lean over and nurse her!) So if I do have to leave her for a couple of hours (never more than 3 hours at a time) she is very comfortable being with my mom.

    Excellent article!

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  8. i totally agree but i think there are exceptions to every rule. so to speak.

    for instance infant bonding. I think you know how important those first 12 hours are for mom and baby. well in cases where mom and baby can't be together for those first precious hours. if the baby does have a constant they will bond to them. In my case I had a homebirth, it was all fine but i was hemmoraging, so i had to go the hospital. My daughter stayed home with my mom. my mom never put her down. finally 12 hours later after i got out of surgery they brought her to the hospital. and well the damage if you will was done. From that point on I was just as good as gma to my daughter, only slightly better because i had the "noni" (what we call breast milk). If given the choice when my daughter skinned her knee in the first 2 years she ran to my mom. then once she calmed down she would then come to me. she only ever came to me when gma was around if she was hungry. she is now 3 and still prefers to sleep with gma... it had its advantages but at the same time it made me a little sad..

    so yes i think any woman who embarks on this journey of motherhood should know that she has to sacrifice 3 years for each child. not just the 9 months it takes to create them.

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  9. LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT!!!!!

    and the REASON i love it!?!?! because three is EXACTLY the age where i finally got to the point where i felt comfortable leaving my son, and actually WANTED to leave him for a while (any parent of a three year old can relate! LOL they get a little sassy then dont they?!)

    i looooove this post.

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  10. Fantastic post - I so agree. I was fortunate to be able to work from home when my youngest was an infant, and part time from home until the economy tanked and I became a SAHM by virtue of unemployment. My Three year old is one of the happiest, most emotionally secure children I've ever come across (the antitheses of his 5 year old sister) and has benefited from Mommy being available so much. In retrospect I wouldn't change a thing with him, I just wish I could for my eldest.

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  11. Wow, I read this post nodding my head. At the same time, I realize how controversial it could be! There are certainly some moms who won't like to read this news...but for me, it justified the things I am doing. The way I am mothering, bed sharing, breastfeeding with child-lead weaning, and staying at home rather than working, has come to me naturally. It just feels right.

    Thanks for this post!

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  12. Thanks for this great article! I too feel very strongly about always being available to my children. My second son was 19 months old the first time I left him at all...and it was because I was in hospital! lol. So nice to read the other comments and hear other moms doing the same thing. Even amongst my AP friends I sometimes feel like the odd one out.

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  13. I think a parent needs to realize that for the rest of their lives, not just 9 months or 3 years, that they are sacrificing their own needs for those of their children.

    So many parents have it ingrained in them that they will have children then force them off on government schooling to finish raising as well.

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  14. I both agree and disagree.

    Can anyone replace mommy when my daughter needs me? No. Not even daddy. However, that doesn’t mean that mommy needs to be with the child 24/7. There have been times when I will go to the store by myself and Nick(my hubby) will stay home with our daughter. Dads as well as moms need to put in the time to establishing a good, solid bond with their children which is why we made sure Nick got “just daddy time” with our daughter, so he could have a good bond with her, so she would know that he would always be here for her.

    Sometimes, mommy and daddy need a bit of time alone and that is where family comes in. Today for example, my hubby and I went to a movie while our 17mo old was at grandma and grandpa's playing with her cousins. When we came to pick her up, she yelled "daddy" and ran straight to him and it was great to see the huge grin on her face. 90% of the time, we are together whenever we go somewhere. If parents don’t take time to keep their relationship strong, it will fail.

    Sadly, both my hubby and I do have to work. We wouldn't make the bills if I didn't. It’s not even so we can have the latest fashion cloths or go out all the time or have cable tv or buy a new car or new furniture or anything like that, it honestly is just to survive, have healthy food(as little processed crap as possible) and good cloths(resale shops are amazing lol). Even if we cut out ever small thing that isn’t an absolute necessity, we would still need me to work. Neither of us wants me to work and I would quit in an instant if I could. I was able to stay home with my baby for 9 wonderful months, but eventually, need overcame want and it was back to work(thankfully just 28hrs/wk).

    Thankfully, the only people who have ever taken care of our baby are her grandparents or one of her aunts. My little sister works in the church nursery, so even then she is with someone who has been there since her birth.

    Maybe my child is the exception, but from a very young age, literally a couple weeks old, when she would start crying because she wanted to nurse she would calm down as soon as I told her something like “hold on, mommy is getting ready” or “ it’s ok, just a minute” or “we will be home soon“. She now that her food was coming. She has always been very patient when she wanted something, so I don’t think it takes all children 3yrs to understand.

    Clearly we are making it work as we have a very happy, very healthy child. She is hardly ever sick. She has never been to daycare and still nurses at least 3times a day. I love that even though I work, I get to nurse her first thing in the morning and then I nurse her to sleep every night.

    We are actually waiting to have baby #2 until we are at the point where I don’t have to work at all. We hadn’t planned on having a baby as soon as we did because of finances, but, well things don’t always go to plan. ;)

    So, would it be great if every mom could be with her child 24/7 for 3 years straight, maybe but is it always possible, no and no one should be judged if they can’t.

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  15. I don't disagree with what you are saying. We sacrifice on one income so I can be home with the kiddos and we've hardly ever had to use a babysitter in 16 years of parenting.

    BUT, here's a point I'd like to add. It was a really big deal for my husband and I to leave our first baby (which was why it didn't happen). But with babies number 7 and 8, when mom and dad left, it was only a small fraction of the family gone and those little ones hardly noticed when we left.

    In other words, with a smaller family, mom and dad make up the entire family and stability thereof. In our larger family, all the siblings are part of that permanence and security and my little ones are just as content to be left with their doting and adoring big sibs as they are to be with me. And sometimes they think it's just better to be with the big sibs who are more playful and have more energy.

    Nothing beats having a teenager come home from school and the baby holding out her arms for her sister and struggling to get down from my lap in order to get to her! Nothing beats having a tough teenage boy come home from a rough day and snuggling that baby as it all melts away.

    I've also co-slept with all of my babies for two to three years. I'm burnt out from 16 years of sharing my bed. But now my two teenage daughters co-sleep with their baby sisters.

    I tend towards an attachment parenting style. But I think the value of siblings (and especially teens) is under-represented and often dismissed.

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    1. I have to agree with this. My very attached 2 1/2 year old can go all day playing with her siblings and not miss me until nap time. But she is one of six, five of whom are home and home schooled. I can leave her home with them for either the whole morning til nap time, or the whole afternoon til bed time without being missed. As long as she doesn't have a major problem or isn't sick, she's happy as a clam. Now, when I get home, I have to put in make-up hours and on days like that she nuzzles her head into my back all night long. But siblings do become part of the security in large families, especially older ones who have helped with care from the beginning.

      My baby was a NICU baby btw, for five weeks, and the first 24 hours I was on bed rest and not allowed to see her. I've never had a more attached baby. When I could see her, I came at the same time, for the same feed, to do kangaroo care while she was tube fed. On the third day, she woke 10 min before I arrived and stayed alert until I was holding her. This continued until I was able to feed her 2x a day. It was the only time during the day she maintained an alert phase. She was 29 wks and 1190 grams, and I was so important to her even then. How did she know when to wake? I am in awe.

      We still bf to this day; she was born to bf.

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  16. For the most part I agree with this... BUT
    When my son was 2 1/2, my daughter was born with a serious birth defect and spent 4 months in the NICU. I had to make the most difficult decision I had ever made as a parent- should I leave my son, who'd had the benefit of 2 1/2 VERY attached years already, with my parents, so that I could be with the baby full-time (our NICU had private rooms), or should I leave the baby for the NICU nurses to take care of, so that I could continue to spend time with my son and be sure he wouldn't feel abandoned...
    Ultimately, I decided that my son had me for those first 2 1/2 years with very few interruptions, and that my baby needed me at the hospital with her, managing her care and being her advocate to ensure that everyone was doing everything they could for her.
    There have been times that I've regretted my decision, but I think that it helped my son and my husband develop a much stronger relationship (we started dating when my son was about 18 months old), and my son was completely comfortable and happy staying with my parents during the day every day (we lived with them until he was 2). Yes, being with your children and not leaving them with anyone until they are 3 would be ideal, but real life can and does come into play, and sometimes you have to make decisions you don't want to make, weighing the benefits and risks of the situation...

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  17. I don't think that it takes three years for a child to develop object permanence. True, the concept of time, as is defined by our "clocks" doesn't develop fully until around the third year. But that doesn't mean that children can't understand before then that when Mommy says she'll be back soon, she will be.

    Mothers should be able to take some time for themselves; quiet time to read, write, reflect, whatever rejuvinates them, without their children - if that is their wish at the time - without the fear that their children will somehow suffer. Its imperative for a feeling of wellness, to feel okay about taking care of yourself for a little while. A father or grandmother make a perfectly good loving substitute for short periods away from mom. To suggest otherwise is to degrade fathers. My husband is capable, caring, and I absolutely trust that he has my children's best interest at heart at all times. When I leave my children with him, they are happy with him, and he with them.


    As for the working issue. I don't like the suggestion that working mothers is about working because you have to vs. working to support a "lifestyle". There is certainly some middle ground. We live in a very small house, drive used cars, don't shop for clothing, etc. I don't HAVE to work - certainly we have options but I choose to work because I enjoy my work. My husband and I started our own business eight years ago and we love our work. I don't want to eliminate that from my life, because it is a part of who I am, who we are as a family. My husband doesn't eliminate it from his life, and he still is able to be an attentive, present, and very attached father to our children. I believe its okay for children to see their mothers and fathers as multi-dimensional people. With varied interests & responsibilities.

    A working mother also doesn't always have to be away from her children, with kids in daycare. We both worked from home when our first child was born, and I brought her to the office as she got older. Once my son was born, after about four months, we hired a very loving attachment parenting mother as a nanny in our home. I would still breastfeed on cue, and nurse my baby to sleep in our bed when he needed. And our nanny would sling him when I wasn't with him for a few hours of working time. Its not all or nothing.

    I think the focus should be more on helping mother get to a place of comfort in her life, so she can be a better mother to her children - more in tuned to their needs, than feeling like things are all or nothing - which can breed resentment or depression. Helping parents find care which honors their childrens' needs - back to back work schedules perhaps so baby is always with a parent, or part time work or working at home with a caring nanny or grandmother, or work situations which allow mother to bring baby to work, or have baby close by for nursing.

    We have a family bed, I nursed my first child until age 4 and am still nursing my now 3 year old. We never used sleep training. And I worked all this time. And neither of my children has ever suffered a lack of attachment.

    The working attachment parenting issue isn't all or nothing. Mothers working don't necessarily damage their children. The bond can be strong whether the work is by choice or necessity. The attention & care & honor (or lack of these things) you give your children when you are with them is what forms (or breaks) a bond; and it has little to do with working status (other than perhaps a working mother must work harder to be certain that childrens needs are being met in all ways when apart from her). I have met many children who have stay at home parents who are very unattached to their children.

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  18. So true and so rarely talked about enough. I get so tired of people asking why I don't leave my two year-old. I could, but there's just no reason not to take him with me!

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  19. I agree with what your saying. I have a 1 year old and had never left him up until last week with his Daddy for 1 hour so I could have some time to myself. But, are you suggesting that we NEVER leave our children until they are 3?
    For me, I think it is also important to have time to yourself, and as long as baby is happy with daddy or someone else, and you are not leaving them for very long, 1-2 hours or so, then it should also be fine.
    I think if you don't take care of yourself then you will have nothing to give to your children.

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  20. i have a question. i am breastfeeding my 9 month old daughter. i keep getting mastitous so my midwife says i may need to ween my baby soon and it would be easier if i stoped bed sharing at the same time. i feel like a bad parent i wanted to leave it up to her when she felt ready. how can i make this easier for her? how can i do this without making her feel i dont love her anymore? please email me sa163003@ohio.edu

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    1. dear, you do not have to wean your baby. you need to see a good board certified lactation specialist to see if they can help with the repeat infections. if you wean now, baby will need formula. i bf and co-sleep with my 2 1/2 year old while preg. do you want to wean? if not, find someone who will help you solve your problem instead of just offering you weaning before you wish to. hugs

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  21. Agree 100% but I think keeping up with a life style is not the only cause to mothers returning to work to soon. Health care plays a major role as well, as a physician he must be well acquainted with costs for medical care. A great number of families rely on mother's work benefits.

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  22. This article to me sounds like mothers shouldn't be separated from their young children for any amount of time before they are three. Is that really what this author is saying? What about mothers needing some time to decompress, get away, be an adult, etc for short periods?

    Being a stay at home mom who bedshares, breastfeeds on demand, babywears, etc is a demanding, exhausting and consuming load. While I find that its well worth it, burn-out can be a realistic outcome. Those short periods of mom-time can be all thats needed to recharge and be ready to carry on with her role.

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    1. I was thinking the same thing. In order for a Mom to be at her best Her mental health has to be intact.

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  23. Preach it, Sista! :-)

    I also am not sure that 3 years of age is the exact milestone, but I still agree with the practice and concept in your post.

    DD has started to show an understanding of time and permanence, but that disappears when she needs something, or needs me.


    Most of all, what I don't agree with is the idea that parents have to teach their young children how to wait, be patient or be apart from them DURING A TIME WHEN THE CHILD NEEDS SOMETHING OR NEEDS THEM.

    There is certainly plenty of time in the day to learn about time and separation when it is fun and exciting for the child, such as through little games (stop on the circle and freeze when the music stops) or when at a party or family house (baby is happy with a relative so mama gets some food).

    Why wait until the child is hungry, tired, scared, etc to force her to learn something? That's horrible!

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  24. I agree about 98%. My fourth child surprised me with how closely he attached to his father. My husband got laid off and I began to substitute teach when the little one was 9 months old, and from the first day he never even pouted when I left, much less threw a huge fit, which is what the other three would have done. If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn't have believed it. I was still breastfeeding him, but he ate mashed food and had juice for the few hours I was gone.

    I also believe, as some other commenters have pointed out, that if we lived the way nature intended, i.e. in a tribe surrounded by extended family, a lot of the pressure would be taken off the mother as sole caretaker isolated in her Mommy box all day, and children would have many more sources of comfort and support. I think the fact that a child desperately needs his or her mother until age 3 speaks to what an unnatural arrangement we have in our society.

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  25. Elena, I loved your comment. Thought you might like to know it prompted me to write an entire blog post about it.

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  26. Wow.

    My husband and I have been talking lately about how people pressure us to leave our daughter, now that she's one. I have no doubt that we might leave her with her grandparents while we have a date night sometime soon - after all, she sees her grandparents four or five times a week, so they are hardly strangers - but overall, neither of us feels that she is READY to be left alone. Even when we have a baby-sitter, it's always a relative who comes to our home while we're still there. We just ask them to help entertain her while we get some stuff done (like taxes).

    It's nice to know that when I feel uncomfortable being away from my child, I'm not a complete freak =) I might not always agree with everything on this site - and when it comes to working outside the home, I disagree with this post a little bit because I think there are many, MANY reasons parents work outside the home - but I love this post. Love.

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  27. This is one of my favorite articles by Wootan. I don't believe he is saying that ALL babies absolutely need their mother at all times till the age of 3, but rather that human infants, in general, need to be gently mothered - and have access to their mom's comfort, milk, safety, etc. while they are still dependent on her for so much. This may be till 2 years for some - and maybe even 4 years for others (he talks about one of his 11 children who 'needed' mom till the age of almost 5 years). It is also yet another reason to space children closer to 3 years apart - you never know which babies will REALLY NEED their momma for those 36 months and it is less taxing on mom to focus all her baby love on 1 at a time during those early years.

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  28. Please note that Wootan here is referring to babies (not children) under the age of 36 months, and that he is not saying that mothers do not need breaks - YES they certainly do! And unfortunately, as someone else pointed out, we do not live in a community of supportive adults any longer who all pitch in to help and empower mothers. In fact, we (in North America, and especially in the U.S.) live in a very mother-UNfriendly culture. This makes mothering overall much more difficult. But this does not negate the fact that babies NEED their mother - period. They need her milk, warmth, regulation of her body, comfort, hormones, etc. The problem here is more of a societal ill than a problem with babies or mothers -- if we lived in a culture where women were free to sling their babies to work and nurse them anywhere/everywhere they pleased, it wouldn't be as problematic.

    Because we don't currently have this supportive cultural environment, women are forced to choose - between being a fully devoted mother to infants, or being a fully devoted career woman, or splitting time between the two - in which case neither one can get her 'full cup.'

    I've certainly felt this deeply rooted issue myself having completed my doctoral work, practicing in a career I loved, and then being forced to decide between career, motherhood, or some hybrid combo of the two. It is NOT easy.

    But our struggles (in society and with ourselves) does not change a human baby's NEEDS. And in infancy, no one else can meet these needs perfectly like Mom can. If we elect to bring a baby into this world, then we certainly should think ahead of time about how we are going to meet the needs of this new little life.


    It appears that reading the rest of Wootan's book would be helpful in understanding his overall thesis in this article. He is very supportive and encouraging of women and their mothering... but maybe this does not come through in this particular excerpt.


    The book, "Why Love Matters" delves into this subject even further. As a neuroscientist, the author explores how powerful the first 36 months of life are in laying a foundation for the entire rest of a human being's life. These early years matter IMMENSELY and should not be discarded as unimportant to later health, security, and wellbeing.

    Why Love Matters:

    http://astore.amazon.com/peacefparent-20/detail/1583918175

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    1. I like this article, but now I'm having a hard time figuring out just how I can take occasional, short breaks from mothering without making my daughter suffer. She's 14.5 months old, and I'm expecting another baby in a few months. I haven't left her at all so far; she's quite securely attached to me. She also has strong bonds with her dad and great-grandmother. My husband and I plan on having a large family with children spaced about 1.5-2.5 years apart; I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around the idea of never being without a little one(s) until all of our children are at least 3 years old. Let's face it: being a stay-at-home mom is, at times, exhausting and time consuming. How would I be able to keep it up for that many years without any REAL breaks? Wouldn't my marriage and/or mental health begin to suffer at some point? Or how else could I prevent that from happening?

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    2. This is one reason our children are spaced 4 years apart - and we also have a large family. :) Each little one receives the time with mom that s/he needs, and of course I take breaks for 1-3 hours here and there as needed (we all need these!) but I am available to my babies when they are babies, and none are forced out of babyhood faster than they naturally progress into independent little children.

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    3. Well, that seems to be the simple solution to the issue. But I just don't believe that Dr. Wootan is recommending to space children further apart as a solution. He seems to be an advocate for natural parenting; most couples will conceive children less than three years apart by utilizing natural child spacing methods.

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  29. Finally. This is the VERY FIRST time since Cecily was born that someone has validated what I instinctively have known and acted upon. I'm not saying that no one who knows me agrees, nor that everyone has disapproved, but this is the very first time I have ever felt fully supported in my decision to parent according to my instinct and intuition, regarding this matter.

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  30. My experience is that loving, bonded adults do not necessarily have to be the mother. It might be true for some children, and each child's needs should be considered -- but for most kids, the importance isn't the biological relationship, but the attachment, and that can be with dads, loving nannies, or a combination of people including moms, dads, very good teachers, grandparents, and family of choice.

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  31. My 2 yr old step son prefers his daddy over anyone even his mom. his "real" mom abandoned him for a time and he was with his daddy my fiance. she left lived in a hotel with some guy and partyed while we took care of him. she saw him maybe 10 times in this period than decided to come back into his life and act like she never left. I helped raise him from the time he was 14 months til the time he was 21 months. He started calling me mommy right off the bat and still does. the only reason i was helping raise him is because his mom left him.

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  32. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is exactly what I needed to read today. I've been getting a little pressure from my husband that I need to wean my 21 mo. old so he and I can have a weekend away. While I would love to have a fun weekend away with my husband, I also know how hard it would be on our little girl. I really loved this article and a lot of the reader comments... it's great to know I'm not alone and I AM doing the right thing by leaving my daughter as little as possible!

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  33. I totally agree. I stay at home with our son, and we have never left him, not even with family. He is almost 3, and we still cosleep and breastfeed. Most people look at me like i'm nuts when I say we've never left him...lol.

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    1. i do that too. My daughter is 34 months old. I still nurse her on demand --this has decreased significantly--and we co-sleep. we carried her at the back until she was sixteen months old --no stroller. We had a queen size bed. Six months ago, we decided to buy a king size rather than buying a separate bed for her. I take her to family place, to programs where parent participation is required, to parks, and to play dates.
      I feel so satisfied when I see her confidence while playing with other kids.
      By the way, I work part time--about two days. We decided to rent very close to my work place. I come home during my breaks and nurse her. So basically, I have never been away for more than 4 hours at the most.
      I do get looks and lots of comments from my family. Had to set boundary with them. They do not know anything about my child and thus I do not feel they have the right to say how long I can nurse my baby or if I should co-sleep or not.

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  34. that's because "most" people don't enjoy their children ♥

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  35. sadly, that's very true. I remember seeing a fellow mom from a social mommy group post like it was the end of the world, when her kiddos had the day off of school due to flooding. She was in a full blown panic. She is a SAHM. :(

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  36. Kasey, us too. We didn't even let anyone babysit until my kids were old enough to tell me in their own words what happened while we were gone. Breastfed each to +/- 2 yrs., and we've just started trying to get them into their bunkbeds, but don't mind them coming into our room at night. They've just turned 6 and 4. We made sacrifices so that I could be home with the kids ... we're a 1 car family, and I took an at-home job in sales making $10,000 less than my old job so I could be a working SAHM. But it's worth it.

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  37. That makes so much sense! I had never thought about a child's "clinginess" as their inability to understand time! My daughter was extremely "clingy" and would not leave my side until she was about 4.5 years old. I took her everywhere, did everything with her-- and if I couldn't bring her along, *I* didn't go. My husband is in the Navy and gone a lot, so I always thought that was why she didn't want me to leave. My son, however, has a totally different personality from my daughter, and he was fine staying with people he knew from about 2 years on. I still took him most places (all the teachers in my daughter's school knew him!) but sometimes I would give him a choice: come with Mommy, or stay and play with a friend. Sometimes he chose Mommy, but sometimes he stayed as well. My daughter nursed until we gently weaned at 6 years 4 months, but my son had to be emergency weaned at 13 months because he had a health emergency. He still sleeps with me at 6 years 10 months, and always has. Daughter moved into her own bed around 8 years old, but is welcome to sleep in our room any time.

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  38. I think each child is different, but I know that this article rings true of my child's personality. At 16 months she gets upset when I leave a room even if her Daddy or other close family member is right there. I get some negative comments about this from some friends and family but I always point out that it's a sign of secure attachment and a good thing that she is attached to me. I have no desire to leave my child in any one else's care even if she didn't cry when I left. Having mommy with baby for 3 years is a very short period of time when you think about it.

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  39. My child was able to choose when he was ready for separation and funnily enough..this was in his third year.

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  40. This does make sense. That is why finding work where I can bring my LO with me is crucial. Hence, I am going to school now, to be a daycare worker.♥

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  41. i agree that with a little (or a lot) of rearranging/crunching/sacrifice most 2 parent families can afford to have one stay-at-home parent...i understand not every1 wants to but if the want exists, it can be done!...from the outside looking in, it may seem like we can't afford it, but we can and are...it is the best choice i've ever made-- & the best ~job~ i've ever had!! ♥

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  42. I'm a SAHM and we can't really "afford" it. BUT being with my babies all day is well worth any sacrifice. ♥

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  43. whether to be a stay at home or a working mom is an age old debate. I find that some people find it hard to respect my decision (and me) for being a stay at home mom. I can count the amount of times I left my daughter on one hand and still have fingers left over. She is now three and off to preschool in september.....I applaud women who work outside the home because I know it is hard to leave your children but you are doing what must be done for your family. being a stay at home mom is a job too soooo end the end you do what works for your family. BTW I think children can learn a great work ethic from stay at home parent too!

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  44. Even separation (between mom and dad) with young children is really tough on everyone but the rights of the child must come first.

    And the child has a right to the most stability possible. So, when you apply this to a toddler you need to assess who the toddler has the most secure attachment to and who did most/majority of the parenting, night and day, prior to the separation and the reality is, that 85% of the time it is the Mama. It doesn't mean that Daddy is kept from the toddler but it might mean a load of compromise on the part of both parents - Daddy spends meaningful daytime time with his baby and if overnights are really a big deal, then Daddy and Mummy need to compromise and Daddy stays at babies house. It's a shitty situation but you have to keep the kids needs at the centre of it all.

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  45. I love this article and I totally agree!

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  46. My son is high needs, everyone told me to leave him to ease his clinging and make him more independent. Well I didn't listen and he decided on his own when he was almost 2 that he didn't need me as much. It is important to listen to your mothering instinct and do what ever your child needs. Sometimes that is hard and almost impossible. It is better for most children to have a parent or grandmother while they are very young.

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  47. I am a (mostly) stay-at-home mom with a 2 year old son. I say mostly because I do work part time as nanny and I bring my son with me, so no separation. I would encourage mothers who need to work but don't want to send their kids to daycare to look into working in a childcare setting, because you can usually have your children with you. You may not make as much money as in other jobs, but I think if you want to be there for your children you need to prioritize. My husband works very hard to provide the majority of our income and by no means is it easy financially, but we have structured our life such that we make it work. We live very simply and frugally so that I can stay home. In most 2 parent homes, it can be done.

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  48. i have found myself saying that a lot lately. about the whole keeping the lifestyle from before.. its crap.

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  49. Completely agree. I feel that one parent should be home with the kids...preferably the mother. I'm a SAHM. We have made a ton of sacrifices for me to stay home on my husband's *very* modest income. We have a very small house, used clothes, don't go on vacation, etc., etc. It is possible to stay home without going on financial assistance contrary to what a previous poster said (though I would never berate a family for taking assistance and would do it myself if necessary).

    As for what age to be away from mom/parent, I think it depends on the child. My oldest recently went on his first overnight trip to my mom's house. He's 3.5 and only stayed two nights, but I don't think he was ready at all.

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  50. Sarah....I always feel if you want to stop the clinging hold them tighter.

    I had my daughter in a sling and close to me 24/7 til she basically said get off mum you are smothering me I wanna "do it myself" she's gone all clingy again now at 3 (we're moving house soon and she is feeling it) so all I am doing is cuddling her all the time letting her in my bed when she wants etc etc cause I know once she is settled again I'll get the sign to back off again ha ha ha. I'm the one who gets rejected :( lol

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  51. I agree with the article 100%!!!

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  52. I loved this article, my daughter is nearly 2 and VERY attached to me. I'm able to leave her with Daddy or Oma to go to the gym or ride my horse but she doesn't let me out of her sight at other times. I tried part time work for a while but it didn't work for us. I often find people give me a hard time about how she is so attached to me and at her age, so to read something that suggests there's at least another year of this and that it's normal makes me feel so much better :-)

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  53. I find it harder to leave my toddler than when he was a baby. He cannot be 'fobbed off' with someone else - he knows he wants ME. I miss him more when he's away from me too

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  54. This article was JUST what i needed to hear!!! Its exactly what I do and what i tell others ( from instinct) and now I have support and others that feel the same way... I just needed the reaffirming article to tell me i was doing things right !

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  55. I agree - I could never stand to leave my baby for more than an hour or so and it's a puzzle to me how mothers can bear leaving their little ones in daycare. However, I didn't agree with the part about daddy not being enough - my 19 month old loves being comforted by his dad.

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  56. Completely agree with the article. I hated leaving my eldest to return to work full time when he was 2. In fact, it transpired that the childminder was neglecting him and had possibly abused him too. Absolutely heartbreaking and I still feel the tremendous burden of guilt 18 years later. That is apart from the fact that it just didn't feel right to be separated from him anyway. With my youngest two I shared child care with their father, there is no way I could have left them in the care of anyone else. The pressure is always on to rush back to work asap but it is very rarely in the best interest of the child.

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  57. I am glad some of have mentioned family members, as my granddaughter is very attached to me.. i have been one of her primary caregivers since she took her first breath and her mom(my daughter) and i saw her for the first time. I was up with them at night, those first few months, running home from work on breaks to help burp and soothe her, etc. As we are in the same house, that made all this possible.. When i am not working, etc.(which i need to as i am single), i am caring for my granddaughter. Her separation are with me more then anyone.. She finds it very upsetting when i do have to go to work, so i am very much looking forward to the day, when she knows i will always come home to her, as soon as i am able.

    I just need to add.. i find the separation from her just as difficult and i am old enough to know that i will be returning.. lol

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  58. It is so wonderful to read about all the moms who have the support and help from their childrens' grandparents, fathers, and other extended family! I have always wished I had family closer, but unfortunately with a military husband we have almost never been near any family. For those of you who have grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, sisters, etc. near by to see and care for your children-- give them a big hug and enjoy all they can give your children! ♥

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  59. great article...i am sahm and have been for seven years (my oldest is 7 btw). I wouldnt have it any other way. I know what my kids want and when they want it. I didnt think I was going to be a sahm before I had kids but the minute I saw my beautiful daughter I knew I wasnt going to leave her for a second. I have four kids and my youngest is 11 weeks and obviously I cant leave him bc i am nursing and wouldnt think twice about giving him a bottle. I love my job as a mother and I have the support from my husband to stay home with them.

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  60. i needed this article! my son is 13 months old and recently had a meltdown because i felt that my identity was being taken from me since he was no longer "needing" me like he did when he was a newborn. i am so glad to see that i am not alone on leaving my child and i agree that 3 is a great age to allow them to venture out and expericence with world it is emotionally safe. i have been away from my son for 5 hours and that was not by choice. i hate being away from him and when other mothers say i am harming him blah blah blah i say "he has his whole life to be independent i want him to be secure in himself and me as his mother before he ventures off" they think i am nuts but my son is the reason i was born so i do not take it lightly! thanx so much for posting this i needed it!! great reminder!

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  61. re-assuring information. thankyou.

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  62. i am a SAHM, and i love spending time with my kids. however, my 2 1/2 year old loves spending a few hours a week with my friend who takes him on adventures. Also, I believe it's important to take time out to spend time alone with your partner (even if that means leaving the little ones once in awhile)

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  63. This makes me so angry. I knew all of this to be true, no one had to tell me. But the bastard who tried to control me, emotionally abused me, than hurt a two month old baby gets to continue his traumatizing behavior by forcing my toddler away from me every weekend. He doesn't want to go and displays disturbing signs like throwing up, clinginess and personality changes when he comes back. But no one cares. I can't seem to make up the damage that he is doing to him.

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  64. Perhaps Kinsey you need to find another lawyer who is willing to fight for the right of your child to live peacefully, feeling secure and loved.. as well as a chld advocate and therapist that can attest to the fact that this is harming your child.. We mothers and grandmothers would fight to the death to protect our children and grandchild.. Dont stop til your child is safe. I lived in hiding for years with my children to protect them when they were young.. Which i am sure, other people would say was not the right decision. However, i would do it all again, to keep them safe.. I must add though i did have legal custody of them, Their father though, was not known for following the law.

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  65. It takes a village. Communities the world over show children being reared by the extended family, not simply a mother. Children can be nurtured by a community of loving, responsible adults. We are living in an increasingly isolationist society, where children develop great fears and anxieties about the world around them. I say we encourage our children into the arms of loving, responsible adults in our communities, teach them the world is safe and their family is more then what we see on TV. And mothers can and should nurture themselves and others as well.

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  66. As a low-income single mother, I was unable to stay home past 15 months.

    But I moved back in with my mom to assure that I was able to spend as much time with my son as possible in his first year & it was absolutely worth it!

    I recommend finding any way you can, especially if you are a single parent, to stay home for at least a year. Fortunately, the university I attend has an on-campus school for wee ones & my son totally loves it.

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  67. Some people assume that all of us have members of our family, or friends that we trust to leave our children with. I don't. I do have one friend I trust and I've left my 5 yr. old with her about 5 times for 1 hr. Not everyone is so lucky/blessed with trustworthy folks around them. Nor wants to leave their children anyhow.

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  68. Danielle, same here.

    We moved to our house partly to be nearer to my husband's brothers -- my family is all an hour away or more. And it turns out, the one brother and his (*expletive*) wife aren't in our lives anymore, and the other does come around often enough to be our babysitter but we rarely ask.

    There really isn't much outside of work related appointments and sometimes anniversary dinners that I want to do 'alone,' and even when I have something like that my husband can watch them or vice versa.

    I know everyone needs breaks and I respect that lots of people get them lots of ways, and that's fine, people should do what makes them feel at ease. But I don't like, 'need' to get away from my boys either. you know?

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  69. I was wondering if anyone here had any advice on my situation. I have a 3 month old and a 21 month old, my intention was to nurse my 21 month old until she chooses to stop but at 37 weeks pregnant with my 3month old I had some complications and felt the need to stop her until after the babe was born. Since, I have been asking older babe to nurse but she acts as if she can't remember and this breaks my heart. I don't feel ready to let that go. I really want her to nurse and she acts as if she does as well. Any suggestions on helping her remember???

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  70. Britnee -

    Keep snuggling her, rocking her, letting her be close to your breast, and if she chooses to 'try' nursing out, let her try... Some babies lose their ability to latch/suck when they haven't done so in a while, but will remember when given the opportunity. Others are happy to just remain close to their mom. For her health benefit, you may want to pump some milk and offer this to her - either in her cup or on her cereal, or in popsicles

    http://www.drmomma.org/2010/03/breastmilk-popsicles.html

    or any other fashion she'd like it. Even if she does not start to nurse again, your milk is still very valuable to her in toddlerhood (and free too) in both keeping her healthy and contributing to her continued brain and immune system development, so you may wish to put it to use.

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  71. I love the straight-forwardness! My spirited now 5 yo made sure that I did just that. Feels good to read something that supports our "spoiling" way of living!

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  72. Is there anyway to have this translated into Spanish..??

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  73. I do appreciate your post. However, as others point out, it is attachment parenting, not attachment mothering. My husband and I feel very comfortable leaving the toddler with just him. They love going on "daddy & daughter" dates, which to us is especially important in view of the way female hormones work (when hugged for 30+ seconds, the trust hormone level rises in females, so you want safe people hugging, not unsafe).

    We want her to know and experience how to be respectfully and lovingly treated by a male, so we have time with each daughter to have a date. Granted, our four-month-old doesn't yet. :) But as she gets closer to 1 year old, she will have dates with daddy too.

    I'm not planning on being gone for long stretches of time, because we've been able to work things out that way. But we practice attachment PARENTING, not just attachment MOTHERING. :)

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  74. I totally agree. I have a class every Saturday so I am separated from my 5.5 yo and 15 mo for about 4-5 hours. It's not so bad when he naps through most of it, but when I call and hear him crying, it tears me up. I'm doing this class for me though, and it is only once a week so I think it's okay. He stays with the hubby and his brother so he's usually pretty happy. I could not leave my child every day, some women can but that's just not me.
    Anna

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  75. This is rare.... I actually disagree with a post on DrMomma! I believe the isolation of the "immediate" family is one of the reasons that kids today have so many troubles.

    My son spends a lot of time away from me. He spends it with his grammy (who mothers him while I work), his daddy, his aunts, uncles and cousins. He has a village, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

    When you look at other cultures worldwide, the Western world is an abberation in its focus on the immediate (Mom-Dad-Kids-Dog) family. In cultures that are closer to "nature", grandparents and other relatives handle far more responsibility than Western cultures. We have diminished the importance of extended family and community, and we are suffering as a result.

    Moms cannot always be with their child 24 hours a day. They should, however, be constantly surrounded by people who love them, and who take ownership of them. I believe that my son would be worse off if I stayed home and his father worked all day, distant from family and close friends.

    This community provides a support network for me - and also for him. When he is older, he will have that network to teach him anything - even things he doesn't want to discuss with his parents.

    Mommy shouldn't be absolutely everything. We're not Superman, and sometimes we break under the pressure. Grammies and Papas and Grandpas and Nanas and Unkies are additional cornerstones, and their importance is often overlooked in the push to be Supermom.

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  76. I love this article and believe if need be then mothers should be compensated for staying home until their children begin school full time. Society would benefit greatly from more mothering and hands on childcare but also needs to be supportive of the mother role and give it the value it deserves.

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  77. Erin Kate - your comment made me rather envious... I WISH I had a 'community' of mothering adults around me, I wish we could trust the grandmas and grandpas and aunts and uncles around us. But there really are some people (maybe a lot of people?) who don't have this community support. Certainly we (as humans) were meant to parent in collective union with others - just look at how much support mothers used to receive (and still do in many parts of the world) - where their mothers and sisters and aunts also hold and rock and carry baby, and even nurse each others children when needed. But reality in modern Western culture is that we are isolated and a lot of us are separated from anyone we can trust. My in-laws are pure nuts. I wouldn't trust them with a baby of ours for a second, let alone leave them solo with them. My own parents live thousands of miles away and we do not have the option to move, and even so, they also don't typically respect our choices as parents (my mother, for example attempted to force feed our 3 month old solid foods when we left the room at Christmas last year). Thankfully I have had a friend here and there to exchange hours of baby care with - so each of us can shower or go work out or run to the store. You are right that no mom can be 'supermom' and we so need support and help and encouragement. But please also realize that not everyone has the luxury that you have been blessed with to have family you trust who can step into your place as 'mom'. Also, as Wootan mentions, there is no replacement for mother's milk and her nourishment of a baby. No one else can breastfeed like she can (unless you have a regular wet nurse or another family member nursing baby, I guess). So really, there are some things that no one can replace mom with. :)

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  78. hi there,

    have to say there were some points there i don't necessarily agree with.

    i think a majority of children would understand the concept of mummy leaving and coming back much sooner than 3 years. My children certainly learnt the concept of daddy leaving for work and coming back at a young age as they do when a behaviour is constantly repeated.

    I agree that a child's need for their mother is incredibly strong. However, my children also have a very hands on, loving dad they can turn to for comfort as well as doting grandparents who love them unconditionally. I guess I'm just fortunate that I have a family around me that can step in for me and provide the love, nurturing and affection my children may need while i'm away.

    I believe time away from the kids is essential for a mum's mental health. While not ignoring all the wonderful elements of motherhood, it can also be a tiring, challenging and non stop job. A little break is often needed for mum to clear her head, nurture her relationship with her partner or work on some personal goals that don't involve being a parent. (Not forgetting that I still have a life and this is my journey).

    I firmly believe it takes a village to raise a child. Studies show that time spent with grandparents leads to improved social skills, fewer behavioural problems and strengthen family values.

    Not that I think this is your intention, but let's not make mums feel guilty about more things. I certainly don't feel bad or ashamed for needing some time out occasionally.

    Cheers :)

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  79. For everyone who has ever looked at me sideways for disliking being away from my baby/toddler, I'm sharing this! Thank you, peaceful parenting, for another gem!

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  80. I am a SAHM of four and do not regret that choice,although it is not w/o its drawbacks. I vividly remember the difficulty I had initially in leaving my child with anyone. I do not want to seem heartless. However, it seems that for some mothers,refusal to leave their children is a thinly veiled attempt to justify their own insecurities. At times, their own unhealthy attachment extends far beyond three, and becomes detrimental. It is important for a young child to assert herself, make choices independently and develop the ability to get her own needs met. IF a parent is always there,the acquisition of these important life skills may be hampered. At 2-2 1/2 years of age, most children greatly enjoy group settings, and playing with others their own age. Cooperative nursery schools, which exist world wide, allow parent participation on a rotating basis, allowing this healthy separation to occur. Additionally, I envy families whose children have a strong attachment to their grandparents. It seems so beneficial to both parties.

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  81. MY youngest is 18 mths old. A few months ago I had planned to leave all 4 kids with my b/f for a break on my own. Closer to the time I changed my mind. I knew I couldn't do that to my then 16 mth old. My eldest (now 13) used to thrive going for short visits to grandma and grandad's (as they had been a big part of his life) from several months old. I had left my 16 mth old daughter to go away for a break ... i didn't regret the break as i was burned out and i came back full of life but i regret that her dad told me i had to wean her to go. I regret weaning her before she was ready... that was more damaging to her then leaving her for a couple.

    I didn't realise that until i had baby number 4. I also weaned my 3rd child sooner than he wanted (at 18 mths) as it was taking a lot out of me. So here i am with an 18 mth old and I realise i won't be weaning him anytime soon; it's starting to take a lot out of me but I plan this time on looking after myself better.

    Nor do i plan to leave him behind while i go away for a few days. I may leave him for a few hours but not a few days. He is a different child to my others and I believe it would be very traumatic for him. I'm not putting a time limit on it though.

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  82. This is sort of a morbid thought but, what if the mother of that 0-3 year old dies? What will happen to that child emotionally if he or she is not bonded to anyone else? My son has been bonded to my husband, my mother, and myself since birth. I work 9 months of the year and have a few days off a week - I feel this is a perfect blend of having time for myself and to allow other people that cherish my son to have some quality time alone with him. My son cries when I leave (sometimes) but, as reported from my husband, it lasts for all of 30 seconds before he's doing yoga with Daddy again. I bed share with my son at night (and Daddy takes a night or two) and feel that the time that I am with him I can be completely focused on loving him up. I definitely feel that this is because I get to spend time away from him. When I am off with him during the summer for 3 months, I am much more exhausted and end up feeling emotionally depleted. It's not that I entirely disagree with this article but I think my basic human needs sometimes win.

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  83. "However, I believe that many women return to work not out of necessity, but because they (or their spouses) want to maintain the two-income lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed."

    You assume dad is 1) present and 2) working. That statement does not consider that there may be families where the mother is the sole earner. Also, that statement does not consider that there may be other (non-financial) reasons women may want to return to work. Mothering is my absolute priority, but I don't think it's as simple as you put it.

    I believe that in the US we need laws requiring LONGER MATERNITY LEAVE so that women can take time away from their careers to focus on their children and maintain job security.

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  84. I very much agree with this article. I would just point out a couple of additional things: one is that studies have found that children in daycare situations have high levels of stress hormones. The researchers also pointed out that you can't always tell which kids are the most stressed by their behaviours. The child who screams and cries and protests may be only moderately stressed; the child who calmly waves goodbye to mom and then goes to play with some toys may look fine, but may actually have very high levels of stress hormones. I think many parents are not aware of this.

    It's also true that many mothers have to be away from their children for various reasons. I think the important thing in those situations is recognizing that the separation is stressful for the child, and planning to give extra love, attention and understanding when you return. Don't expect him to amuse himself while you make dinner or do a load of laundry - he needs lots of time and attention to reconnect (EVEN IF he doesn't show it!).

    And yes, children can form other close connections with other adults and caregivers. But if you look at most tribal communities, a baby may be carried and cared for by another adult for a while, but is quickly brought to mom when he is distressed. It's that availability that is important. Not about working, not about having others help care for the baby - what matters to the baby is having mom available when he needs her.

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  85. Very beautiful article. As a mother of a one year old I could not agree more on all the points. The affection of the mother and her care of her baby make the baby not only happy now but give him a secure emotional platform with trust in himself and his parent. This mothering in the first years of life shapes the personality. This cannot be emphasized enough. I a, always glad to read thoughtful articles like this one by reputable M.D.'s. Thank you. And I would like to add one point: Babywearing is a great parenting tool an facilitates the bonding process, the best baby carrier I found to be the traditional Asian ones.

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  86. "However, I believe that many women return to work not out of necessity, but because they (or their spouses) want to maintain the two-income lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed. These parents need to do a little soul-searching about what they really need and not sacrifice their child’s best interests."
    Statements like this one break my heart. I would gladly do anything at all to stay home with my son: move to a cheap apartment, get rid of a car, get rid of the dogs, anything! My husband does not see things the same way. Not only does he hotly resent the thought of a child "depriving" him of the lifestyle he desires, but he also sees stay-at-home moms as "leaches who are using their husbands." Well he's my husband and he's my son's father and he is not abusive; and of course, my son loves him. I can't believe that his parents splitting up would be in my son's best interest. And so my heart breaks every day when I leave my baby for work. People all have different circumstances, and we all try to do the best with what we're given.

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  87. I LOVE your article and agree.. I am going to put this out there and dare to say this is why my nephew is bonded to my mom and not my sister. Although he was breastfed and my sister had immediate contact with him when he was born, after 12 weeks, she went back to work,(she lived with my mom) and my mom was his primary care giver, day AND night. He is now almost 5 and although he lives with my sister he still has a deep bond with his granny that can never be broken. I completely believe those first few years made all the difference.

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  88. My husband and I both have to work outside of the home in order for our family to make ends meet. Because our daughter (15½ months) must be in day care for a good portion of the day, we spend every available moment with her when we are not at work. We have a family bed, she and I bathe together, and I plan to nurse her for as long as she chooses. I know our family isn't the prototypical attached family, but we're doing the best we can and our daughter is happy, healthy, and super-intelligent. I believe we are fostering a secure attachment with our daughter, even if it isn't the textbook example of attachment parenting.

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  89. I can see why you would feel like there might be a backlash about this but I 100% agree and for the most part do this. I don't feel comfortable being gone at all during the first year. 45min-1hr feel like a life time to me. I can only imagine how my baby must feel. After the first year maybe 3 hours at the most and they are 3-4 now. I still don't like being away for more then 3 hours unless I know they are asleep ie date night, but that is rare.

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  90. Hear, hear! Although I believe object permanence can be understood earlier than 3 years for some, I agree with the statement this article makes. We made so many adjustments so that I can stay at home with our children and I don't regret it at all, and blessedly neither does my husband.

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  91. I have somehow managed to have a securely-attached toddler after going back to work more than full time once he was 4.5 months old. I nursed him until he weaned at 17 months (I'm pregnant and my milk supply basically stopped). We coslept and I nursed him every 1-2 hours every night since the day he was born, only having 5-6 hours of total sleep myself before going to work for 8-12 hours a day. I made it home before he went to bed every single night regardless of how busy I was and just worked up at my computer late at night while he slept. It took a lot of sacrifice but as a result my son is still securely attached to me. I did not choose to go back to work for any lifestyle - I have a six figure student loan debt that is bigger than a mortgage and a house that is under water that we can't sell, so I had no choice but to work as my husband is a teacher and doesn't make enough money to even pay our student loans. I wish I could be at home for the first few years but it wasn't an option. I am grateful though that despite having to work full-time, I had it in me to sacrifice my sleep and be there for my son to nurse him on demand and pump milk for him every day regardless of where I was (court, parking lot, another person's office, in the backseat of a car, on the train - anywhere). I think there are many different ways moms can maintain a secure attachment with their young toddler other than being home with them 24/7 - breastfeeding on demand, cosleeping, babywearing, etc.

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  92. While I agree with the premise, you are leaving out the women who serve our country in the armed forces and do NOT have a choice about leaving to go back to work at 6 weeks. They cannot simply just tell their employer (the DoD) that they quit. And before people jump in and say "well maybe she shouldn't have children while in the military" , tell then exactly when she is supposed to start her family? Military service members are in from the age of 18-40, prime childbearing years.

    As a LLL Leader and IBCLC who breastfed each of my children to the age of 6 years, I co-slept, and practiced attachment parenting WHILE serving in the military. I can tell you that it can be done! Would it be better for our babies to have us home for 12 months, at least, sure it would. But that simply is not feasible in the military. Mothers serving our country can certainly still meet their babies needs and be excellent breastfeeding, co-sleeping, attachment parenting mothers even if they must be separated. It just takes a lot more work on our part... And by the way, those kids of mine that I had while on active duty...they are 15, 12 and 8 years old and very securely attached to me, unlike many of their peers who were NOT breastfed and attachment parented (even though the mom stayed home).

    You can have parents that stay at home and ignore their babies, put them in a crib all day or a bouncy seat with a bottle propped while Mom surfs Facebook...but they stayed home with the baby. Or you can have a committed mother who works a 12 hour shift, but breastfeeds when ever she is home, co-sleeps and baby wears her baby ALL the time. Please don't paint this issue with such broad strokes!!

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  93. I have a question about something you mentioned in your article. I am a single mom of an 18 month old and I am going to college. I am still breastfeeding her and we co-sleep. There was one sentence that said that since the child's needs are always being met then the child will always be a pleasure to be around and essentially better behaved. Although I am with my child any moment that I am not in class and constantly in close contact, I would not say that she is an easy child for having no needs. I can't hardly focus my attention elsewhere without her being upset and she needs constant amusement or she will throw a tantrum. This article has made me feel... bad. As far as this article is concerned, I am doing everything "right" but my child behaves as if I'm not... is this just a personality thing?

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  94. Anon - the fact is that when your child's needs ARE being met she is a joy. When she interrupts you - she is displaying a need & if you respond to that need (be in nursing, play, cuddles, whatever) I am sure she responds delightfully. I have a Ds a few months older than yours & an older one as well...and I can say they are not always delightful BUT when I am responding to their need,s they are always easily soothed. If they want to nurse & we put it off, of course they respond with annoyance or tantrum. The need for attention & interaction is no different than the need for food or sleep. It is simply an emotional need. There are times as parents that we can't meet their needs immediately. Perhaps they want to nap at home in their own bed, but we are running late & MUST get groceries. That doens't mean you are doing things wrong or are a bad mom, it means you ought to expect some grumpy behavior & perhaps having to work a bit harder to keep them as happy as you can & hurry to get it done. I am sure as a single momma who is Bfing and cosleeping with her toddler and a student you are doing a fantastic job. The measure of how good your parenting is, is not in whether your child never fusses at you, it is in how you choose to respond to those fussy moments. <3

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  95. I would love nothing more than to be able to stay with my daughter but I know that I am going to HAVE to go back to work when she is 9 months old - we are going to need the money and I cannot give up my job. We are a 2 parent family but I am the key earner as a teacher and my husband, who is not entitled to any UK benefits as he is Indian, can get a poorly paid part-time job at best so there is no way he can support us financially (though he supports us in so many more important ways). We are in India at the moment for my maternity leave - decided as it is so much cheaper to live here and I can spend as much time as possible with her before having to return to work.

    But I have made the decision that I am going to go part-time and only work 3 days a week, with my husband looking after her on those days. I will find some other work that I can do at home; like tutoring or exam marking to help make ends meet. It is going to be a struggle; we have never lived an extravagant lifestyle anyway but we will just be able to cover bills/costs etc, I have minimal savings, no family support. But it is going to be for such a short time in the greater scheme of things and there are more important things than money - my daughter. From a selfish point of view also, I don't want to miss out on all the wonderful things she will be learning to do.

    But I am already beginning to regret having to leave her and feeling guilty about it and it is not for another 5 months yet. I have spent less than 4 hours away from her, as in out of the house, in 5 months - we co-sleep, I wear her and BF on cue. I am worried that I will have to express for her and not be able to personally give her all feeds she wants. She loves her Daddy but when the crunch comes, she is reaching out to me. I know I will do the best for her, I just wish I could take more time 'out' to be with her.

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  96. I have to disagree with the complete lack of a concept of time in children under 36 mos. My daughter is 27 mos and I'm a full time professional student, and I work part time. My days range from 4 hours to 16 hours and my husband stays home with our kids. Every morning before I leave I hug and kiss my daughter and tell her "I'll see you for lunch" or "I'll see you before bedtime" or "I'll see you in the morning" (usually when I get home after they go to bed). If I'm late for lunch or dinner/bedtime she'll ask about me appropriately. If I tell her that I won't see her until the next day she doesn't ask about me at all. She might ask to text or call, but she won't ask where I am unless she is expecting me. Maybe she is an anomaly -- it will be interesting to see how my 9 mo old son reacts when he gets older.
    I think it is realistic though to maintain a close relationship while returning to work or school. For us its a good fit. My kids love my husband and get a good dose of me on the weekends and some week days. They make impromptu visits while I'm at school or work sometimes too. I enjoy being in school and working. My son sleeps in his crib in a room with his sister, but I am quick to bring him to our bed if he fusses. He nurses full time when I'm around. My daughter joins us in bed when she wakes up -- we're going to have to get a bigger bed if we have another! They get lots of love and attention from BOTH myself and my husband, and I think my extended absences are noticed, but not detrimental. In contrast, for my daughter's first year I stayed home for the most part while attending a few classes. It was miserable for all parties involved. Whether mom works depends on the entire family and what works best for them. There's no right way to do it.

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  97. Mrs. Fed up at the Middle East!

    I have to say after reading this article it gives me a great relief that there was nothing wrong with my decision to quit at work and decided to be home with my 19 month old daughter. She is gorgeous, adorable, sweet and she is really our very precious one and only. I was working on a very huge chain hotel industry in the Middle East called Jumeirah which is based in Dubai. It is very tough really, working 10 hours away from our daughter whilst leaving her with our Nanny. I was very discontented as well with the pay, the working hours, the incompetent Managers around with me but most of all working even on holidays. The thought really occured to me that this whole thing wasn't worth it and not very rewarding at all. So, yeah I quit and what's next, I think we're going to be fine. Any mothers who choose to be at home can always find some work to do while being withtheir lovely ones. I do agree with most of the Moms here, our society plays a vital role to the Mothers, it so happened that we are in Dubai and although a lot of foreigners were quiet used with the lifestyle here. This place is not really an ideal working place for women, as a matter of fact a Housewife is not allowed to work according to their policies. A lof of local women had been through a lot of depression because their husbands do not allow them to work. I said to myself, why? if you can do two things at the same time, why NOT. It is very important for women to work nowadays, I do believe on this really. For the time being I am thinking to continually work for our family only and focus on family business whilst being with our lovely one.

    Have a lovely day to you all!

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  98. What happens if you have joint custody of a child under 36 months. I only have my son 3 and half days every week. Is it going to damage him emotionally?

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  99. Iloved this article. I caught quite an earful when I left my career to stay home. People kept telling me I would lose myself. My son is 15 months old. I fell like now and the next few years are the only time I have any real time to keep him happy in my space. Once he's is school, he's in someone else's universe. Right now, we are in our own special bubble and he is the happiest, coolest kid ever. My husband and I are ap parents by nature. We have no grandmas (they've both passed) and no family nearby. My husband is happy taking over when I need a break. I wish more people would focus on their children and less on the money for them. There is always time to make more money but you can never make up what you miss in quality time.

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  100. I love Robyn's comment above! This was a great article, in that it stated the facts beautifully without criticsm. With that said I am a working mom and had to go back out to work after 7 weeks.

    I agree 100% with moms needing to be there for their kids, however you need to not be so glib about people's financial situations. You don't which family is one emergency away from losing their house :/

    When I went back out to work, I worked 3 days (12 hr shifts) so I can be home the remaining 4 days. Of the remaining 3 days, 2 were with dad, and one was with a sitter. I hoenstly feel that since I have to 'work harder' at being a mom I appreciate it more, and am more deliberate with my decisions. Baby sleeps with us, I breastfeed on demand at home, and I feel I am more responsive. I don't baby wear because I can't figure out the darn moby that I have (yes I've watched the youttube video) but I end up just carrying my LO all over the place. I have a Baby Bjorn but I heard those weren't good for baby's hips.

    For the record- we have one car, do NOT have smart phones, or cable (well we pay $10 for netflix) and we live out in the country so we could have gotten a cheaper mortgage. My husband and I took on lower paying jobs so we could spend time with our family. Had he stayed at his older job I would have been able to stay home, but when I see him bond with our child, the sacrifices are worth it :) We don't have much really but we have each other and I guess that's all that matters.

    *Kerry*

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  101. I totally agree with you. I'm a SAHM and we are very happy, but I know a friend who wanted to go back to work after a month of her maternal leave because it was easier working than to tend to the baby, even though she does have enough money to live comfortably without having to work, I think it's sad.

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  102. I think it goes beyond luxuries and lifestyles, some people just know how to live like that and only that, and sometimes even, if one of the parents doesn't work they have to give up their luxurious house because they can't pay it. A couple whos worked hard for all they have desired shouldn't be shamed and guilted on because they want to keep it while at the same time, having a child.
    I'm a stay at home mom don't get me wrong, I've just also observed families who could probably give up one of the parents working, but they don't have to, and it's not bad. It's not all that simple.

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  103. great blog... and I would also add that mothers should be encouraged/invited and allowed to stay with their babies 24/7 in neonatal intensive care units

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  104. This is a great and TRUE article. Let me tell you why. I'm a 52 year old woman who is currently doing research as to why my emotional health has been horrible my entire adult life. I've never been able to form meaningful friendships or relationships. I had difficulty coping with authority on the job, and I have struggled endlessly to control a rage issue, which till now I never understood.

    Basically, my research has provided me with why I have struggled so desperately throughout my adult life. I was left with a stranger for several weeks when I was 3 months old because my mother was sick. This is not the only maternal deprivation I endured, because even when I was returned to my mother, I was the 9th of 13 children my mother had, so needless to say, my needs were never met on any level. However, I do think the total abandonment at 3 months old was highly detremental to my emotional well-being. Maternal deprivation, basically, ruined my entire life. No relationships, no decent career....even my familial relationships were highly threatened by my inability to form bonds, trust and my anger.

    Those of you who think leaving your baby won't hurt your baby....in 52 years, this could be them writing this post.

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