The Crucial First Three Years for the Child

What is so important about the breastfeeding—especially ecological breastfeeding and prolonged lactation—is that it gives a baby both the nurturing and the best nutrition. Prolonged lactation naturally provides those two realities that make such a positive difference! And, most importantly, prolonged lactation keeps the mother available and hopefully responsive and sensitive to her baby’s needs during those crucial first three years of life.

Following are a few good quotes from the experts on the importance of the mother’s presence during the early years of her child.

One thing we have learned about children in the past few decades is that they do best in early infancy if they are principally cared for by their own mothers. Given a reasonably stable household and a level of economic stability where the children can receive all the emotional and physical benefits offered to the general population, mothers responding to their own children are still best.” Dana Raphael, The Tender Gift: Breastfeeding, p. 168.

“When I review all the information available to us today, then I conclude that the mother is the best caretaker for the child, particularly during its infancy…As I have said, there are cases where surrogate mothers are necessary, but all things being equal, there is no substitute for a child’s own parents, especially his mother.” Bennett Olshaker, M.D., The Child as a Work of Art, p. pp. 39-40.

The child’s social development is always retarded if the child does not have a single main mother figure constantly about him, i.e., a person who has enough time and motherly love for the child. In this sentence, every word is equally important. Single does not mean two, three or four persons. Constant means always the same person. Motherly means a person, who shows all of the behavior toward the child, which we designate as ‘motherly.’ Main mother figure means that secondary mother figures (father, brothers, sisters, grandparents) may support the main mother figure, but not substitute for her. Person means that the respective adult has to support the child with his whole being and has to have time for the child.” Theodore Hellbrügge, Child and Family, 1979.

Mother and child are inseparable… For the mother has to feed her child, and therefore she cannot leave him at home when she goes out. To this need for food is added their mutual fondness and love. In this way, the child’s need for nutrition, and the love that unites these two beings, both combine in solving the problem of the child’s adaptation to the world, and this happens in the most natural way possible. Mother and child are one. Except where civilization has broken down this custom, no mother ever entrusts her child to someone else… Another point is the custom of prolonging the period of maternal feeding. Sometimes this lasts for a year and a half; sometimes for two, or even three years. This has nothing to do with the child’s nutritional needs, because for some time he has been able to assimilate other kinds of food; but prolonged lactation requires the mother to remain with her child, and this satisfies her unconscious need to give her offspring the help of a full social life on which to construct his mind.” Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind, pp 105-106.

While feminists and other day care advocates have repeatedly asserted that government must ensure access to ‘affordable, high-quality day care’ for all who want it, they assuredly are not referring to the only child care we know of that fits that description. What is needed is for someone to make the argument for the best (in fact the only workable) system of child care the world has known: mom.” Brian Robertson, There’s No Place Like Work, p. 32.

One mother wrote of her fears of staying home along as a child because her mother worked.  She also said she had no one to show an interest in her as a child and to be a champion for her when she needed one.  In her eyes, mothering is “the most important job…that literally saves lives.”  As she said:  “I would live in a dirt shack before I would not be there for my kids.”  Cincinnati mother

Andrew Payton Thomas in his book, Crime and the Sacking of America, says that children are neglected so that adults can have bigger homes and better cars.  He continues:  “The rise of daycare in modern America says some painful things about us as parents and as a nation and culture, things that are easier for adults to leave unsaid.  But the truth is always worth telling, and it is this: Many American parents today simply do not wish to raise their own children.  Indeed, never before in history have a people become so intensely individualistic that their love for their children can be purchased so cheaply…Children are taught, literally from the cradle, that life is looking out for #1.”

“I urge you not to delegate the primary child-rearing task to anyone else during your child’s first three years of life.” Burton White, The Family in America, February 1991.

Conclusion:  More information on this topic is available at the NFPI website at

Sheila:  Babies do need their mothers. The continuous contact with mom during the early years is the first step towards building a good foundation for life and future relationships. God provides for this essential foundation through the presence of the mother. How does He do this? With breastfeeding. The breastfeeding relationship ensures that the mother will remain with her baby. As Maria Montessori stressed years ago, prolonged lactation of 1.5 to 3 years is good for the baby because it keeps the mother with her baby.


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