I breastfed all three of my boys.
When they were little, it was no big deal to feed the baby in front of them. It was a common every day thing. But as my boys have grown up, I have realized that they don’t remember those days any more.
I am a big supporter of normalizing breastfeeding so I wanted to be sure to have ongoing conversations with my boys about it.
I know that even girls can be embarrassed about seeing someone breastfeed and I think we should work towards normalizing it in general. I agree with Heather when she suggests we avoid using blanket statements about the differences between boys and girls. But I would say when it comes to boobs, the learning curve is a bit steeper as it pertains to teaching boys. How do I teach them to respect a woman’s body? How do I make breastfeeding a natural, beautiful thing in their eyes – not a chance to get a glance at these mystical breasts – something they’re pretty intrigued by and most likely talking about with their friends?
My attempts, however, always turn into something out of a sitcom. A few years ago we had a conversation that went something like this:
Kid: Mom, how old was Chewie when we got him? (Chewie is our dog)
Me: He was about eight weeks old.
Kid: Why didn’t we get him when he was first born?
Me: Because newborn puppies need to stay with their mommies so they can drink her milk.
Kid: Oh, poor Chewie. I bet he misses his mommy’s boob.
|Poor Chewie. Thwarted from his mother’s breast all too soon.
Hilarious, but it’s conversations like that one that make breastfeeding no big deal. Boobies are for babies. Charlie got that message loud and clear. Having chats about animals drinking their mother’s milk is the simplest and easiest way to normalize breastfeeding with kids. I also found that talking out loud helps teach younger kids. “It looks like that mommy is feeding her baby. Let’s give them some quiet time.”
More recently we experienced seeing a young mother breastfeed her toddler. The little girl and her mother are from another country where breastfeeding is so normal, that the child had no qualms at all about lifting her mother’s shirt in a crowd of people and getting a little drink. That day my boys had quite a lesson on the female body. Oh hai boobs, we aren’t staring. Nope.
When we got home we had a little talk about what we saw. That talk went a little something like this:
Me: So we saw a mom breastfeeding her little girl today, didn’t we?
Kid: Yep. That was awkward.
Me: It’s not awkward if you understand that this is how babies eat. Is it awkward for you to eat when you are hungry?
They got the point. We talked about what to do when a woman is breastfeeding. We look away, no need to stare. We talk to them in the eyes. No need to stare! And for the love of god, please don’t stare. And then…
Kid: How does the milk come out of the mom?
Me: Well, the baby sucks on the nipple and milk comes out.
Kid: You breastfed us, didn’t you Mom?
I nodded. And then, like a light bulb had exploded in their brains, all three boys’ faces went red and jaws dropped open.
Kid: Mom. Please tell me I never put my mouth on your boob.
Of course I laughed my butt off and explained that they had all, in fact, put their mouth on my boobs. I realize that for a young boy that concept may be embarrassing and apparently disturbing based on my boys’ reactions. But I hope that candid conversations like these will take away the stigma that boys like to look at boobs and boobs are there for sexual reasons and sexual reasons only. Boobies are for babies.
Since that conversation, we had another breastfeeding encounter. One of my boys was sitting next to a women who breastfed her baby and there he was, right next to an exposed breast. I sat and watched for his reaction. He turned. He looked away. When the woman asked him a question he looked into her eyes and answered and looked away again. He was a perfect gentleman. When we left I asked him how he felt about it.
“Fine. I mean, it’s awkward for a girl to just pull her shirt up all of a sudden but it was to feed her baby so it’s ok. I just looked away.”
That’s my boy.