World Breastfeeding Week – Talking to my Daughter about Breastfeeding


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!”

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?



I’m celebrating World Breastfeeding Week with Natural Parents Network!

You can, too — link up your breastfeeding posts from August 1-7 in the linky below, and enjoy reading, commenting on, and sharing the posts collected here and on Natural Parents Network.

(Visit NPN for the code to place on your blog.)

9 thoughts on “World Breastfeeding Week – Talking to my Daughter about Breastfeeding

  1. Sometimes I think what little people see in action touches them in ways that words alone cannot. Especially children like the Grasshopper who have been surrounded by such incredible nurturing since day one.

    When she watches you nurse your baby, she’ll see that “love interaction”. She’ll remember. She’ll probably come to you to tell you when the baby needs to nurse (if you are busy doing other things) because her own nurturing instincts will kick in so powerfully, she won’t want the baby to be hungry. I predict she will start nursing all of her own baby dolls.

    My most health-conscious son is a fighter (MMA). At age 26, he thanks me on a regular basis for breastfeeding him. It always makes me laugh–but he is so sincere.


    1. I think you are right. I think it’s that she hasn’t seen other babies being breastfed that much. I think a lot of it is that she doesn’t necessarily associate her own experience of nursing with the concept of nursing a baby. I think, too, that the more she sees it in action, the more normal it will be for her.

      You know, I think you have the sweetest boys on the planet sometimes. It goes to show: Don’t judge a person by his body-building, MMA fighting exterior. Underneath there’s a kind, sensitive and kind man who loves his mama very much.


  2. Definitely a challenge there! For our older son, it has really helped to have him see me nursing our little guy, so I’m sure seeing her sibling nurse will help a lot. Also, the “dolls with baby bottles” is definitely a big thing! If we have a girl, I will definitely be sneaking any doll baby bottles straight into the trash (I would ask family just not to give them to her, but I know they wouldn’t understand). Good series you’re running this week!


    1. My extended family (and my husband) doesn’t understand the bottles/dolls thing either. It’s very frustrating. I just feel that the babies=bottles imagery is so pervasive in our society that she doesn’t need a toy that will reinforce that further. I’m glad to hear that it helped your older son to see his little brother nursing. I’m pretty confident things will fall into place once she sees her own mommy nursing a baby. I hope so anyway.


  3. It’s such a delicate topic with the current forceful insistence that breast is best because that harbiurs so much guilt for some women. So I really like what you said about sharing that it is natural. I find it difficult to talk to my mum about my plans to breastfeed as she bottle fed me and my sister and never once wanted to try breastfeeding. So I feel we don’t have the shared experience of it. My husband finds it shocking because his mum breastfed all 4 of her kids but I understand why my mum chose not to. After years of the hell of undiagnosed endo and two undiagnosed HG pregnancies she wanted to feel some level of control over her bodily functions and breastfeeding was too much for her to consider. Strangely it is my own experiences of endo and HG that actually make me more determined to try breastfeeding as it would be my body doing what it should naturally do for once! But I do understand my mum as I know her so well and so it is hard to talk about breastfeeding with her.

    My friend has a different problem with another of our friends. She had a very traumatic birth with her first child and didn’t even begin to bond with her ubtil 9 months had passed. So her partner fed the haby formula. When our other friend fell pregnant she wad extremely pro breastfeeding and made my friend feel so guilty for choosing another option. But this friend never msnaged to produce any milk despite weeks of trying and had to use formula in the end as her daughter was lising weight rapidly. So when my friend who had bottle fed by choice then went on to have another baby and took really well to breastfeeding our other friend got very jealous and it has caused some upset for both of them. So really we need to be promoting that breastfeeding is natural and normal but that for those who choose to bottlefeed to feel able to do so without guilt or feeling abnormal if they cannot do it. And that is such a hard medium to find even for us as adults so no wonder kids get confused sometimes!


    1. Stay tuned tomorrow or the day after. I’ll be talking about the notions of guilt and “breast is best” which are two very important concepts to break down and examine when discussing breastfeeding.


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