I often have my phone in my hand while breastfeeding my one-year-old daughter. This isn’t a confession, because I don’t feel guilty about it. Even though there are lots of people implying that I should.
For example, at a research forum hosted by Children and Screens: the Institute of Digital Media and Child Development, while researching my new book on screen time, I saw a video of a psychological experiment. You can find it on YouTube. I challenge you to watch it without getting a lump in your throat. An infant is strapped into a seat. His mother leans toward him, smiling, widening her eyes, playing peekaboo and this-little-piggy. He squeals, responding to her coos in the kind of baby conversation that is crucial to the development of speech and healthy attachment.
Then the mother turns away for a moment. When she turns back, her face is set in a blank expression.
Edward Tronick at the University of Massachusetts Boston has been conducting these “still face” experiments since the 1970s. He uses them to model the effects of neglect and maternal depression, especially postpartum depression, which affects about one in 10 women. He’s found that repeatedly denying children opportunities to connect can cause severe distress. Adherents of “attachment parenting,” a relatively extreme parenting ideology that advocates co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding, and babywearing, have cited his research to emphasize the need for constantly responsive, attentive care.