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I Watch TV While I Breastfeed. Is That Bad?

There’s a new study in the journal Pediatrics that surveys the amount of exposure that children get to “background tv”. Basically, researchers were trying to find out how often the tv is on while kids are doing other things:

Researchers conducted a telephone survey of more than 1,450 parents or caregivers in the U.S. who have a child between 8 months and 8 years old. They were asked to fill out a diary about their child’s typical day, noting when the child ate, slept and traveled from place to place. For each activity, parents were asked if there was a TV on in the background.

Overall, kids were exposed to nearly four hours of background TV on a typical day, and children under the age of 2 had even greater exposure, at 5.5 hours of background TV per day. Older children were in a room with a TV on for around two hours and 45 minutes per day. Children living in single-parent homes had more exposure, as did children in the poorest households and those with televisions in their room.

The number for kids under two startled me a bit because that’s probably a pretty accurate profile of the amount of tv my baby is exposed to every day. I like to flip on the tv when my older child is at preschool and keep it on as background. Between that and the time the baby is in the room while her brother watches Power Rangers, yeah. She’s getting hours of exposure.

As I was reading further along and nodding and thinking that I should maybe limit my daytime tv and maybe only watch while I’m sitting down to nurse the baby, I got to this statement and stopped short:

“If you look at breastfeeding, for example, it’s not just nutrition, but also the intense bonding that is really, really important,” Rich said. “If a mom is watching ‘Oprah,’ she’s not looking at her kid.”

OK, hold the phone Dr. Smartybritches Science Guy! I’m all about limiting screen time for kids and from now on I’ll refrain from watching four solid hours of Millionaire Matchmaker with the baby in the room but let’s get real here. Have you ever been at home alone with a baby all day? Have you? Have you ever been in the position of spending the majority of waking hours with a non-verbal human who requires near-constant attention from you? Do you have to make definitive plans in order to obtain adult interaction during the day? If the answer to these questions is “No”, then get off your don’t-breastfeed-with-the-tv-on high horse, ok?

I don’t know about the rest of you, but breastfeeding is sometimes the only time during the day when I’m not in motion. I’m usually driving, or running errands, or playing with a child, or cleaning the house, or cooking, or writing witty and entertaining blog posts. And I often do it all in isolation. Sometimes, sitting down to nurse the baby is my break time and I like to flip on a rerun of The Daily Show while I do it and I REFUSE TO FEEL GUILTY ABOUT IT.

Maybe in that researcher’s universe, mothers do nothing but stare dreamily at their babies during breastfeeding but in the real world of moms, we multi-task. I’m sure tribal-living cavewomen took breastfeeding time as an opportunity to talk to other cavewomen about the gossip of the day. The modern version of that is nursing and making a phone call or cruising Facebook or – gasp! – letting Jon Stewart bring the laughs while making me feel a little more informed.

I’m all for a low-tech childhood and limiting the exposure of children to all kinds of media and I’ll switch from background tv to playing music for company. But I’m also a real mom living a real life and I need grown ups in that life. Some days, the best I get is a newscaster or a talk show host. And I’m pretty sure it’s better for a baby to listen to Oprah for a while than it is to have a mom who’s lonely and miserable because some study told her she can’t get her tv fix while breastfeeding anymore.

What do you think? Is some background tv ok for babies? How much is too much?

Source – The Huffington Post

 

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