Small children and breastfeeding

I’m not going to do a post about the benefits of breastfeeding for as long as possible.  There are many many many posts and many different opinions about this on the internet.  I’m going to talk about how you explain breastfeeding to other children.  Particularly children that don’t belong to you.

My first experience of this dilemma was when I was still feeding The Toddler.  My friend A had fed her daughter L for 6 weeks and then gone to a bottle.  L is 5 months older than The Toddler, so doesn’t remember the breastfeeding experience at all.  The Toddler was about 1 and I was at their house.  She started giving me feeding cues (pulling at my t-shirt and being very cuddly) so i sat o the floor, got out a boob, she expertly latched on and began to nurse.

L couldn’t get close enough, much to A’s embarrassment.  She wanted to see everything, up close and personal.  I’m not shy about feeding (now) and I don’t believe is hiding my breastfeeding like a bad habit.  If people are curious, I talk to them about it.  If they want to see, let them see (although I haven’t found many adults who are actually curious enough to want to watch the baby latch on and most just pretend I haven’t got my boob out at the dinner table/in the restaurant/at the party.)  A was trying to get her away from the feeding Toddler.  She was obviously intrigued and perhaps began to wonder why she couldn’t have a sample.

I had a similar experience today, although perhaps slightly more surprising.

I was at OHs sisters with Oscar. Some of The Cousins were there.  One Cousin in particular was very interested in the baby.  I have discovered this about young children – they have a innate fascination with babies and feel the need to poke and/or kiss them.  Well, this particular Cousin was no different and decided he wanted to share his dinner with Oscar.

Cousin: “Give the baby a chip?”

OHs BIL: “No, baby doesn’t eat chips”

Cousin: “Give the baby a bean?”

OHs BIL: “Baby is too little for beans. Baby only drinks milk.”

Cousin: “Where’s the milk?”

OHs BIL looks at OHs sister.

“Do you want to explain? It’s a whole different conversation…” He says.

“I think we’ll leave it for now.” She says and Cousin loses interest for long enough for the subject to  be swiftly changed away from my boobs.

This in itself isn’t particularly surprising.  Cousin is 3 and it’s likely that questions about babies and where they come from may have followed.  However, OH’s sister breastfed all four of her children.  She breastfed the 3yo Cousin until he was about 19 months and only stopped because she found out she was pregnant with Baby Cousin.  Baby Cousin was breastfed until he was about 6 months old, so 3yo cousin had been exposed to it.  The issue is how do you explain to a small child that it’s ok for a baby to do this and that the milk is especially tailored for that baby and that it’s not like cows’ milk and can’t be bottled up and served up to everyone?  I know that it is possible to make breast milk donations (I might even blog about my thoughts on this later) but the act of breastfeeding is such an intimate yet open one that it’s hard to explain why one child is allowed to suckle and another may not, especially at that delicate age.

Incidentally, The Toddler hasn’t tried to nurse at all.  I half expected her to try during her regression phase.  I’m not sure whether I would have let her feed, although during engorgement I was tempted as she would have cleared that no problem.  She doesn’t bat en eyelid when I’m currently feeding as she is for more interested in molly-coddling babies than trying to get at my boobies.

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4 responses to “Small children and breastfeeding

  1. Interesting that explaining it is an issue in some cases. My toddler is just over 3 and he just accepted from day one that the baby, now 4 months, gets milk direct from Mummy and has never seemed confused or worried about it at all. Not sure how I would explain it if asked so I’m glad he just accepts baby gets milk from boob and he gets it from a cup! Maybe girls are more interested?

  2. My Daughter has just accepted it despite her only being weaned off me when I was already 4 months pregnant with Oscar. I think they find it easier to adapt to because it’s always been that way since Mummy bought the new baby home. Other peoples’ kids seem to be more overtly curious. The most surprising thing about the incident today was that they didn’t want to explain that the baby got the milk straight from mummy even though 3yo had seen his mother feeding Baby Cousin.

    • Yes. I think being totally honest and open about it with a toddler is generally for the best as they are totally accepting of so many things which grown ups are often less comfortable with. I guess maybe it is embarrassing for them or they were worried it would be for you.

  3. Pingback: The Boobies | Deskmonkeymummy's Blog

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