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Watching TV while breastfeeding: truly terrible? Babble.com’s Parental Advisory.

I got one of those “your baby at two months” emails from Babycenter and was alarmed when I read advice from all three experts stating clearly that watching TV while breastfeeding is a bad idea: “Nursing is prime time for you and your baby . . . He’s giving you important cues while he’s eating, and any distraction during this important time is probably best avoided. Plus, talking or singing to your baby while you feed him is an early learning opportunity . . . This is a precious time and it won’t last forever.” I definitely have been watching TV while feeding. Is it really so bad? – Boob Tube

Dear Boob Tube,

Sure, breastfeeding can be a good time to check in with your baby and get a little infant-mommy QT. But when a baby feeds approximately 8-12 times in 24 hours, there’s ample opportunity for being lovingly in the moment. A dozen instances of “precious time” a day seems like a lot of pressure. Also, we’re curious as to how any mother is expected to cut out “any distraction” every time the little one needs to feed. Phones and doorbells ring. People demand your attention, and demand the freedom to watch their TV shows even though the baby’s hungry. Never mind the distraction of another kid if you happen to have one of those around the house! We freely admit that our nursing stations have more than occasionally been blessed with books, Powerbooks and, yes, the remote control. Especially during the early months of feeding, a little “precious” screen time may be your only opportunity to check in with the outside world in a rare moment when your baby is otherwise occupied. In fact, we’re betting that even the most hardcore breastfeeding advocates would err on the side of electronic teat: “whatever it takes” being their bottom-line philosophy. On-demand breastfeeding is one thing. Demanding that you do nothing but look into your baby’s eyes while you breastfeed is another.

As with so many things, it’s a question of balance. We advise you to use your judgment about when to multitask and breastfeed. It’s true that breastfeeding is a finite relationship, and you may well miss it when you’re done. So being present and drinking in the moment, at least some of the time, is good advice. And there are many times when focusing on your baby during a feeding is an especially good idea: Sometimes your baby will be showing a serious interest in your face. And you can reward that interest with some expressive cooing. As babies grow up, they often go through stages of needing more help turning away from the world for a feeding. At these times, your focus can help focus him. You may not want to breastfeed an older baby with blaring and exciting images as they can be distracting. And, you probably do not want to watch TV during a middle-of-the-night feeding, when you might want to maintain total blackout conditions. But, just as often as the above mentioned scenarios, there are times when your baby may be half asleep during a feeding, or so into the sucking he hardly notices there’s a head above those milky orbs. So feel free to take a quick glance at “The Situation Room” to help break up a long day of bonding with a newborn. Hell, watch an entire episode of Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew for all we care. Some babies (and we have personal proof of this) don’t care much for loving eye contact during feedings no matter what you do.

Have a question? Email parentaladvisory@babble.com

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