Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Bullying, Self Esteem and Breastfeeding

Charla Maclin from Koko and Friends
I just received a Facebook note from a young woman who is a former student of mine. I was her tenth grade English teacher at Westminster Christian Academy. I had no idea that she had been bullied as a child. As I read it, I recognized some of the same hurt that I have seen in one of my own daughters who was deeply hurt by the cruel words of classmates even at a Christian school.

It led me to think about what we could have done to prevent the hurt my daughter experienced. We did everything we could to create a strong attachment when she was an infant. There was never a time when she didn't know how much she was loved.  She nursed well into toddlerhood. She was a delightful, obedient, amazing little girl!

But when she was eight years old, her world was turned upside down through no fault of her own. We moved from Lima, Peru, where she had grown up, back to the United States. It was a difficult, depressing time for our whole family.

When one little girl began saying cruel things to our daughter on a regular basis in third grade, we didn't understand just how deeply it affected her. Like Charla, the young woman who wrote the Facebook note, she hid her hurt well for quite a while. But it took an incredible toll on her self-esteem. I was so busy teaching and trying to hold everything together, and her daddy was just trying to heal, so we didn't have anything extra to give at that point. Her self-esteem plummeted.

So what does all this have to do with breastfeeding? Simply this - during the first years of her life we established an incredible bond. Although we have had some deeply turbulent years, she would say that the early bond we established has helped her through some of the deepest times. Extended breastfeeding is certainly NOT a cure-all for all ills or an inoculation against teen angst. But combined with love, boundaries and lots of prayer, it can certainly help lay a solid foundation.

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