What nourishes maternal bonds? Focus on subjective bottle and breastfeeding experiences predicting parental bonding

Shir Bar Emet Gradman, Dana Shai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The notion that breastfeeding contributes to mother-infant bonding is well accepted in both popular culture, and in the academic discourse regarding the benefits of breastfeeding. Nonetheless, studies examining the relationship between breastfeeding and maternal bonding have failed to convincingly demonstrate a significantly beneficial contribution of breastfeeding to maternal bonding. The aim of this study was to address the gap between theory and research by focusing on a new variable: maternal subjective feeding experience. To examine the possible contribution of maternal subjective feeding experiences to maternal bonding, this study examined 99 community-based women, who intended to breastfeed while pregnant. The research design was a follow-up study that included three time: at pregnancy, three and six months postnatal. Data was collected through self-report questionnaires and telephone interviews. Feeding data included quantitative characteristics of infant feeding and maternal subjective feeding experiences. Bonding was measured six months postnatally. Bonding to fetus and postpartum depression were added as control variables. Findings showed that feeding experiences up to three months postnatally predict maternal bonding six months postnatal. The more positive and less negative the feeding experience, the greater the bonding. In contrast, the feeding characteristics did not have a unique and significant contribution to bonding prediction. This study suggests that maternal feeding experiences, rather than the actual feeding style, contribute to the maternal bonding to the infant. Hence, feeding experiences are an essential variable that needs to be further explored.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCurrent Psychology
StateAccepted/In press - 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by grants from the Israeli Science Foundation [No. 1888/14], and the FP7-PEOPLE-2012-IEF ? Marie-Curie Action: Intra-European Fellowships for Career Development (IEF) [No. 300805] awarded to D.S.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Bonding
  • Breastfeeding
  • Feeding experience
  • Mother infant bonding
  • Motherhood

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology (all)


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