There’s a word sweeping the world of new mums: “Brexting”. It is discussed often, with a multitude of varying opinions firing up the internet, even though the actual act of ‘Brexting’ is not really all that new. Whilst some may ponder what this really means and the effect it has on the future generation, the [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Are you a Brexter and do you need to apologise for it?


There’s a word sweeping the world of new mums: “Brexting”. It is discussed often, with a multitude of varying opinions firing up the internet, even though the actual act of ‘Brexting’ is not really all that new. Whilst some may ponder what this really means and the effect it has on the future generation, the definition of Brexting is simple enough: the act of using a smart phone (be it to access social media, catch up on current affairs, reply emails or actually texting) whilst breast feeding. At first glance it seems simple and innocuous enough but scratch the surface and it reveals there’s much debate about the pros and cons of Brexting. Some experts are warning new mums that that it could sometimes be harmful for the baby and women’s groups are crying out against the introduction of ‘yet another stick to beat new mothers with’.

There’s no dispute about parenting being one – if not the – hardest job in the world. Whilst in modern families, new fathers too do their bit to support and help the sleep/conversation/outside world deprived mothers, given the actual demands of a new born, the harshest effect is felt by the new mother. She often dedicates the bulk of the first three and often six months of the new baby’s life, solely to his or her care and well being. This often includes taking time off her own career, her own interest, putting her life on hold, missing the company of her partner, friends and colleagues and just taking a step out of the world in general, in order to master the all important job of being the primary care giver to new born infant. Thanks to modern technology and the ever increasing efficiency of our smartphones, there is now an easy access route for mums to be connected to the world at large, whilst still being fully committed to being a full time parent.

So why then are some criticising this almost normal practice of ‘phone surfing’ simply because it is in the context of doing it whilst breast feeding?

According to Terry Bretscher, a nurse and the lactation supervisor at Pomona Valley Medical Centre; “It is very hard to bond and talk to the baby if you are on the phone.” There are even suggestions that a new mother may miss crucial signs from a baby which if left unattended, could lead to anxiety. Dr. KateyuneKaeni, a psychologist specialising in maternal mental health, said:

“(A mother)…could be missing cues that they’re full or they’re still hungry or their latch isn’t secure or if they are having trouble swallowing…If baby is trying to make contact with you by noises or smiles and they can’t and they learn over time that they can’t rely on you to respond, it runs the risk of them becoming either anxiously attached to you or insecurely attached to you and they will ramp up their behaviour until you pay attention.”

On the other hand, there are those who state that this is the latest in a long list of ways in which to berate a new mother, who is already struggling to cope with the various aspects of motherhood, and particularly breast feeding. Writing to the UK Telegraph, Milli Hill says, “If you’re new to the motherhood game, be warned: there will always be a new stick to beat yourself with. Some are familiar: if you’re bottle feeding you should be breastfeeding, and if you’re breastfeeding in public you should be doing it in private on your sofa – and so on. But now comes another unwritten law: if you’re breastfeeding in private on your sofa, you should NOT be brexting…” As a stay-at-home mother of three children herself, she goes on to challenge the notion: “I beg to differ” she says. “I’d like to give social media a fist-pumping high-five that would probably evolve into an emotional hug…thanks to the superfast broadband that keeps me connected to the outside world, up to date with current affairs, and in some sort of loop. It enables me to feed the adult, intellectual part of my brain that I spent so many years developing prior to motherhood, whilst at the same time allowing me to ‘be there’ for my children, moulding playdough with one hand and earning real dough with the other as I reply to a magazine editor or quickly scan Twitter for writing inspiration…”

Whilst it is easy to sit and theorise about the merits and demerits of Brexting, Parenting and Motherhood, it ultimately boils down to striking a balance between what you learn and believe (throughout your new role as mother) to be healthy, appropriate and safe for your baby; whilst always being aware of keeping yourself – the new mother – healthy and happy. It is a huge shift going from carefree individual sans baby to becoming an all embracing and all doing carer of a new life. As mother nature’s multi-taskers, it seems appropriate that the responsibility of balancing the two – amidst all the chaos and change that takes place around them – is placed squarely on the shoulders of the mother herself, along with a healthy dose of maternal instincts to aid in the process.

We have many tools to guide us through this exciting and new journey and if we are very lucky, we also have a devoted partner, doting grandparents and qualified medical personnel to help us do the best job we possibly can. If Breastfeeding and Texting: Brexting; Reading: Bre-ading; and Chatting: Bratting helps to make the entire process a more positive one and does not actually cause any real harm, then I for one would be applauding it and not knocking it.

For me, what is most important is that in general a mother feels she is able to truly nurture another life, when she is also able to hold on to some semblance of one for herself.

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