Why I’m pleased my toddler understands breastfeeding

When I look back on mine and my daughters feeding “journey” (cringe, hate that word), I feel pretty lucky. Then I think, don’t feel lucky, you worked bloody hard to make that happen! It was by no means an easy task…

At the beginning

I can’t really remember the first feed all that well, but what I do remember is a midwife coming and squeezing my boob and sucking up colostrum with a syringe and putting it into my baby’s mouth. Then when my husband left later that night, I was all alone and my baby wouldn’t latch on. I had to ask the midwives to help throughout the night and all the next day. After no sleep and being told I couldn’t go home until I’d fed her I got extremely upset. I remember sobbing on a midwife saying “she doesn’t like me!” I was exhausted from two days of no sleep and being on a noisy ward. After more tears and a third night in hospital I’d finally managed to feed my baby and we were allowed home.

The rollercoaster of emotions didn’t stop there though. I was so sore and she lost more weight when she should have been gaining it and we were very nearly forced to give formula by the community midwives. Then those same midwives spotted that she wasn’t feeding well and had a possible tongue tie. We were lucky and only had to wait a week or so before having that snipped. That, plus multiple visits from my NCT breastfeeding counsellor, really saved us. After three or four weeks it all got a lot easier and we enjoyed so many days feeding, having snuggles, watching TV box sets and getting into our feeding groove. She wasn’t a sicky baby and despite a brief biting stage (OUCH!!) she fed very well. I fed her until she was just 18 months old and she pretty much self weaned.

Now – a deeper understanding

Fast forward nearly a year, and my toddler is still interested in the boob, but in a naturally inquisitive way. I have friends who are breastfeeding and she fully understands what boobs are for. If she sees a friend or even a stranger breastfeeding, she says “Mummy, baby having the milk!”. She knows babies are fed that way. At first when she started vocalising her knowledge in public, I cringed and thought “sssssh!!” But I have been met with smiles from both my friends and those well-meaning strangers.

For a while she’s been pulling my top, having a good look and saying “boobies!” then laughing, usually as I say “yes, Mummy’s, put them away, leave them alone…” Now, if she looks down my top she says “boobies! for milk!” She knows she no longer needs the milk, but she still knows that is what they are for.

And when we went to see some baby lambs recently, she saw lambs feeding. “Mummy, baby sheep having the milk!” She could tell they were having milk even before I told her. It got me thinking that actually, I’m proud my toddler understands breastfeeding. It’s human nature. I’m not saying it’s for everyone, and I’m not saying it’s easy. But it is natural.

Choices

She has a toy baby which we bought her for Christmas and it came with a bottle of milk. When she first played with it she enjoyed giving the baby it’s bottle. I have, some months later, been given said baby, and asked to give it milk. As in, pretend to breastfeed a plastic doll. Hmm, what is one to do in this situation, I thought? Should I say no, and say the baby’s got a bottle? Or should I be comfortable with her wanting her baby to be breastfed? I did cringe, and I did say, the baby can have a bottle. But I also said “or does the baby want milk from the boobie?” And yep you guessed it she said “boobie”. So yes, let’s add it to the list of things I thought I’d never do… I pretended to breastfeed a baby doll!

It get’s better – a few days later, I watched her pick up her doll and hold it to her chest and pretend to feed it! But, as I stood there, I didn’t say anything. I sort of reluctantly, got over the feeling of embarrassment. I let my inner “is this weird?” question go. I let her be. I mean if we’re supposed to encourage women to breastfeed, what is the point of hiding it from children?

So yes, some people might find it a bit odd, but I think it’s lovely that my toddler understands breastfeeding and how babies are fed.

 

**This post first appeared as a guest post on Mimi Rose and Me as part of The Baby Feeding series.**

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