August 24, 2018

A Tale of the Curious Toddler: Normalizing Breastfeeding

“Why is baby eating mama’s booby?”, my 2 1/2 year old toddler innocently asked, staring at me from across the room as I sat hooked up for what felt like the 479,836th time that day.

She has seen me topless before, it’s called the “toddler no privacy” rule, but it never really dawned on me that breastfeeding would be something totally new. I had considered all of the changes that Morley would experience as we welcomed baby #2 - less attention, baby crying, possible regression, etc. - but breastfeeding was not one of them. As Morley would say, “Silly mama”.

But before I get further into the story, let’s back the train up a bit. For those that didn’t see it plastered all over my social media, we welcomed little sister Berkley on August 14. Settling in as a family of four (and more importantly, as a new big sister) has been well, um, interesting… 

Teaching Children About Breastfeeding

My breastfeeding journey has not been an easy one to this point. When Morley was a baby, I really struggled. I felt that I was inadequate because I couldn’t produce enough milk. I felt shamed by the hospital nurses when I went for a lactation consultation because it just wasn’t taking the way they wanted it to. I went into hiding when it was time to feed, afraid I’d be judged if I did it at a restaurant, at the park or anywhere in public. I lacked confidence in my ability to naturally feed my daughter. Because of that, I didn’t make it past six months before I switched to formula. And while I fully believe that "fed is best", I didn’t want that to happen again. 

Now, with baby #2, I’m going in knowing what to expect. I’m going in with more confidence. I’m going in knowing that it will be hard at first and that it will be painful at first, but that I just need to power through. No one said being a mom was easy - especially being the mom of a toddler AND a newborn.

More confidence for mom, means more exposure for Morley.

Teaching Children About Breastfeeding

And so, back to her innocent observation...

“This is how baby eats,” I try to explain. With my biology background, I could spew facts at her for days, but realize my audience and that I need to keep it simple. “She can’t eat big girl food like you and I, she drinks mom’s milk. Just like you did when you were her size.” “I want to see the milk come out,” she asks. Why the hell not, I think.

Breastfeeding is such a normal and very natural process. I want her to be involved as much as possible. From grabbing me the nursing pillow, to handing me my glass of water, hell, to even seeing “the milk come out”. I refuse to shy away from what breastfeeding really is. I want her to be comfortable when she sees me feeding, and more importantly nurturing, her little sister. 

I want our family to be able to have an open dialogue when it comes to the body. I want Morley to be able to ask me questions about feeding baby in hopes that when she gets older, she will be able to come to me with questions about her own body. (And thanks to Ontario’s government reinstating the 1998 sex ed curriculum in schools - yes 1998, aka what her dad and I learned when we were in elementary school 20 years ago - the majority of teaching is going to come down to us anyways.)

Teaching Children About Breastfeeding

We may only be two weeks into this journey as a family of four, but Morley is quickly learning what breastfeeding means and that it is natural. She has learned that when Berkley cries, she is hungry. And that when Berkley is “eating mama’s booby”, mama is actually giving little sister her breakfast, lunch or dinner, just in a different way than her and I would eat.

She has also begun to take notice out in public. She'll casually point out when she notices a mom feeding her baby before getting distracted and moving on. And, she's also learned that it's not just humans that feed their babies this way. Other animals do it too. On our recent end of summer trip to the CNE, we paid a visit to the Farm Building. It’s Morley’s favourite, she loves seeing the animals. She also loves seeing the baby animals. This visit, she happened to see the baby piglets feeding from their mom. And thanks to our talks about mommy feeding baby, she knew exactly what was going on and wasn’t shy to say it. That's my girl.

So, she gets it. Or, she is at least starting to get why mommy is always sitting in the chair with baby latched to her boob.

Now if only she’d understand why I can’t do five other things at the same time…

How did you explain breastfeeding to your children? Did you take a more conservation approach, or were you completely transparent? I’d love to hear your stories!

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