Last night, at the dinner table, my daughter and I had a conversation that left me feeling so sad inside. We were talking about expectations for the new baby, and, as I often do, I asked her, “What do babies eat again?”
The Grasshopper said, “Milk!”
“Milk from where?”
A bottle? This from the kid who, up until a few months ago was nursing herself? So I dug a little deeper. I said, “Honey, babies drink milk from their mommies’ nipples.” (This echoed the language she used to use when she would nurse.)
Her response broke my heart: “EEEEEEEEWWWWWWW!!!!!!! Are you crazy?”
What on earth is going on here? Did she forget our own nursing relationship so quickly? Doesn’t she remember cuddling with me on the couch and in bed? That was just a few months ago. What happened? Where on earth did she learn that nursing is something to go “EEW!” about? Where did I go wrong?
We talk a lot about nursing in our house. The Grasshopper loves animals, and we have a book called Animals Born Alive and Well that talks about mammals. Whenever we see different animals we take the time to talk about them:
Look! There’s a bunny! What kind of animal is that bunny? A mammal. That’s right! What makes mammals special? They have fur and they breathe air. That’s right. What do baby mammals eat? They drink their mommy’s milk.
And so forth.
Every day is a science lesson with her. When she plays with her toys, we talk about it:
What does the baby horse eat? I don’t know. Is it a mammal? Mommy’s milk!
I’ve worked hard to make sure that nursing is something that we talk about as being biologically normal. It’s what mammals do.
We also have a book about new babies called What Baby Needs to help prepare her for what to expect after the baby is born. It’s a Dr. Sears book, and it talks about new babies from an attachment parenting perspective. Many of the images in the book (babywearing, nursing, sidecar cosleeping, etc.) are ones that she will see when the baby is born. I particularly like that the book talks about nursing and shows the mom nursing the new baby while she cuddles the older child. She chooses this book every few weeks at bedtime, so the concepts are ones that she’s become pretty familiar with.
One sticking point with the communicating about nursing is with her dolls. She has a couple of dolls that came with bottles (don’t get me started on that!) and I haven’t gotten around to sneaking the bottles into the recycling bin. She always insists on feeding the dolls with a bottle instead of nursing them. I asked her why the other night and she said it was because she didn’t have any milk in her nipples. I suggested she use her imagination but didn’t push the issue. I’d rather nudge things along then push them. I did point out to her that I’ve never fed her or any other baby with a bottle (truth), though.
I suspect a lot of this is what she sees at school. There are a few babies at her daycare, but since the moms are away at work, she sees them eating from bottles. She’s never really been exposed to breastfeeding outside of her own experience with it.
Could this simply be a case of her not making the connection between her nursing only a few months ago and a newborn baby (or horse or pig or manatee) nursing? Could these be compartmentalized in her mind?
I certainly have plans and intentions for helping her to feel included in the care and feeding of the new baby:
- I plan to get her a very nice baby doll as a “present from the baby” – one without a bottle
- I’ve already gotten her a child-sized Ergo doll carrier so that she can carry her doll with her like Mama and Papa will carry the new baby
- I’d like to get one of these nursing necklaces from my friend, and if I do, I plan to get a child-sized one for her to use if she wants
- If she asks to try nursing again after the baby is born, I’m more than willing to let her try
Will this help build within her mind the concept of breastfeeding as normal? I certainly hope so. I also hope that giving her some options on different activities to encourage her to mimic what we do with the baby will help her to view breastfeeding as a natural part of life.
Are there other ways that I can talk to her about breastfeeding? How do you talk about breastfeeding with your children?
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