While I was at a friend's house a few weeks ago Jellybean woke and needed to nurse. So I started moving things around to accommodate him while her 2 year old, already enamored with the tiny baby in her home, watched eagerly to see what I was doing. Looking at her wide little eyes I explained that he was hungry and that I needed to give him some milk and that my breasts made milk for him to drink. That was when her mom, who breastfed also, looked up and realized, "You've never seen another baby nurse before!"
She came over to the couch and held her on her lap while she watch Jellybean latch on and nurse. We explained that she used to get milk the same way when she was little. The rest of the afternoon she followed me around and asked repeatedly, "Milk? Baby milk?"
It was obvious that the moment made a lasting impression on her.
It reminded me of something that I once consciously chose to do but is now second nature. I chose never to hide breastfeeding from a child.
I grew up around breastfeeding women. My mother nursed me and my younger siblings. I had many, many, aunties nursing many, many cousins. Sometimes in our home while visiting, sometimes in theirs, in a quiet room at my grandparents house during a huge gathering. I loved the babies and so I gravitated toward their nursing sessions also. Nursing babies were there in the cry room at church, in the background at every get together in my home, and to my little mind, all around. I rarely ever saw a breast. There were the women who nursed under a blanket, there were those who just pulled up a shirt, and there were those, my aunt who had twins for example, who would just open a shirt and let it all hang out as she got both of them to latch on at once.
I always knew I would breastfeed my own children. There was never a doubt in my mind that I would be able to, and there was nothing more natural to me.
I'm constantly aware that not every child will get that. I may be the only woman they ever see breastfeeding a baby. The little girl who looks at me wide eyed today as I explain that once the baby is born my body is designed to make milk to feed it may be a mother someday. I don't know what kind of impact our conversation will have on her choices, and her confidence in her body's ability to nourish her child. I hope that her experience with me will give her the courage to do it, even if she faces obstacles or feels embarrassed. So I never hide it, and I always speak of it in the most positive terms when they ask. And little kids will ask, they always do.
The see me adjusting my clothes and the baby. The hear the snuffle gurgle sounds as they drink. They rarely see a whole breast, or nipple, I'm discreet, unless I know it's ok with their parents that they see. But they're observant little things. They know something different is going on.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm feeding the baby."
"I have milk in my breasts. My body makes it to feed the baby after it's born."
"Is it? How else do you think babies should get milk?"
"From a bottle?"
"What do you think people did before they made bottles then?"
The conversation goes in several directions, longer or shorter depending on interest, but I never shut it down, and I work hard to not shove them away, even the ones who are peering and twisting their neck trying to get a better look at things, even on the rare occasion when I do actually feel uncomfortable.
I think it's important that boys and girls alike see what breasts are really for long before they have ever begun to associate them with sex, and that they experience it as a very normal and natural part of life.
What do you think?