Media consciousness and parenting

IMG_5228“Boom!” fireworks exploded abundantly over Sleeping Beauty’s castle. My mom to my left, Iris snugly wrapped and sleeping on my chest, Willow perched on my husband’s shoulders, and me, watching the bit through the lens on my phone.

Snap out of it! some sort of something shook me from a daze, a spell I often find myself under. I tapped off the red record button. How refreshing to watch the light of the fireworks flicker across my darling Willow’s face, unadulterated by a screen!

The next day on my way to lunch at the International Breastfeeding Conference, I walked past a line of participants in the hotel lobby, eyes scrolling, faces glowing. Captivated by their devices. Presumably uninterested in life around them.

During lunch, I sat with Nikki Lee (check out her awesome blog here) and a few other conference participants. I told them about my experience at the firework show the night before.

“I wish you would write about that,” Nikki told me. So here I am.

Nikki went on to tell us a story she heard from a nurse about a grandmother who recorded her grandchild’s resuscitation in the delivery room.

Our discussion continued. I shared this: I sometimes look back on Iris’s early weeks, and I can hardly remember them. Surely there are several forces at play messing with my memory, but I’m convinced two things are mostly to blame: my phone and laptop.

When I look back, most of our nursing sessions were accompanied by one or the other. Sometimes I aimlessly scrolled through Facebook, sometimes I checked my email, sometimes I checked the weather. Other times I nursed her while writing for the blog.

P1000011When one needs to get things done, breastfeeding is an amazing distraction for a baby in need. I thought I was so slick multitasking. But now it just makes me sick– sick to think of how many twitchy newborn smiles I missed. How many fluttering eyelids fluttered unnoticed. How many sleepy, peaceful gazes I ignored. Those moments were ephemeral. They are never again.

Breastfeeding is a relationship. More importantly, parenting is a relationship. How can we establish a functioning one if most of our time together is spent drooling over a device? I like this New York Times article suggestion to set up device-free outings and device-free zones in the home to “escape the clutches” of technology.

Of course our gadgets have their place. Arguably, they even play an important role in helping some mothers breastfeed in our culture. Apps like LactMed and Nancy Mohrbacher’s Breastfeeding Reporter can be a useful tool for families and health care providers. Social media grants mothers some semblance of a tribe throughout our journeys parenting, and it’s a great tool for driving social change.

But what happens when our left brain is “lit up like Christmas tree,” as Dr. Evelyn Jain puts it, and the right brain is turned off? Too much left-brained information violates our natural instincts, Dr. Kathleen Kendall-Tackett writes in How Too Much Information May Cause Problems for Breastfeeding New Mothers. Or, in my experience, I breastfed just fine– that is I made milk to feed my baby, but a significant portion of my memory of feeding her involves a *expletive* phone. Our experience was diluted.

I LOVE the video Can We Auto-Correct Humanity? It’s a beautiful spoken word piece about not letting technology control our lives. Admittedly, I first watched it on my phone (probably while nursing Iris,) but it has helped me develop a consciousness about how much time I spend “connected.”

As I type this, my three year old pulls my chin toward her, “Look at me, Mama!” she says. When there’s no other way to disconnect, I can’t tell you how lucky I am to have her help me reconnect.

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