Did you know that ya’ll ask some really good questions? Questions that force me to examine myself. Questions that make me want to write A LOT and then make me feel too intimidated to try. Because they are GOOD questions. And I don’t always have answers. But I always have opinions! Here is one I’ve been mulling over for a few weeks:
I would love your thoughts (and maybe a guy’s point of view from Daniel?) regarding the breastfeeding concerns that parents often have about their baby boys breastfeeding longer than 9 months to a year. Some of my friends have stated this concern and fear:
- They are worried that it will cause them to be overly in tune to sexual things and inclined to “stumble” in the area of sexually explicit material, immorality, etc.
- They are also concerned that boy toddlers watching their mother nurse their younger brother or sister can set him up for future failure. Should the mother cover herself so her boy toddler won’t be “exposed” to breasts at such a young age?
In a nutshell, Myth #3 is this: Breastfeeding BOYS Past Nine Months Will Increase Their Sexual Awareness
Our Kids Are Growing Up Too Fast
At thirty-one months Katie still refers to my breasts as “mommy’s milk.” Or sometimes “cream and sugar” when she’s being cute. She seems completely unaware of sexuality at this point, and I am more than happy to keep it that way.
Of course she is still really young, but the kids I see at the local pool are a different story. At far too young an age (but not much older than Katie) they seem aware of the power of their bodies to attract. It’s disturbing.
Every once in awhile, though, I spot a young girl or boy that still plays and acts like a child. They may be eight or ten, or even on the cusp of puberty, but their behavior is completely unassuming. Unlike the kids that are apparently trying to make themselves clones of whatever young superstar is hottest right now, these rare individuals still wear an open, curious expression.
It is then that I wonder to myself: How do I get my kids to turn out like that?
It doesn’t seem accidental to me. In most cases, the kids who still seem to have their innocence are dressed more modestly than their counterparts. I wonder if their parents set these guidelines, and what others they have in place to protect the innocence of childhood.
Boys and Boobs
A lot of people seem to put extended breastfeeding in the category of experiences that can catapult a child into early sexuality. I disagree. In fact, I think not allowing young boys to experience the nurturing aspect of breasts sets them up to view them as strictly sexual objects later on. What I’m saying is, if the first time they are exposed to breasts it is a completely sexualized experience, that may catapult them into the very behaviors their parents were trying to protect them from.
The thing about porn is how insidiously it portrays people as one dimensional beings. The women are always ready and willing. They’re never too tired. They never criticize men for tracking mud into the house. They never have babies and need to be “out of commission” for six weeks. They are not REAL people. And you know what? They may offer a cheap thrill, but they can never comfort a man or truly give him the honor his heart so desperately needs. They can’t softly whisper reassurance in a man’s ear when he has lost all confidence in himself. They can’t even properly need a man . . . and men need to be needed just as much as we do.
Almost every boy’s first encounter with a “real woman” is his mother, but it won’t be the last. Daniel was about 9 years old when a neighborhood kid showed him a porn magazine for the first time. It’s sad to say, but every one of our sons is going to encounter this at some point. It doesn’t even have to be a sleazy magazine. In our culture it’s impossible to completely escape the onslaught of racy billboards and commercials. And then there are all the gorgeous women walking around. ‘Nuff said.
Whatever it is, there will come a time when a new definition of womanhood vies for supremacy. If the old definition is too flimsy it will be washed away.
In my opinion, if we can’t win our sons hearts, we won’t win the battle for their purity. Despite “safety measures” like curfews, we have all seen young men move from mild interest to porn and then to premarital sex. If they are going to stay clear of that sad, dehumanizing trap they need to want something better than a one-dimensional thrill. They need to want a real woman: her warmth, her laughter, and even her quirks.
They learn to want those things through their relationship with us, their mothers. Although I don’t think extended breastfeeding is absolutely necessary, I do think it is a valuable way of communicating a rich, complex definition of womanhood. It is an experience that directly contradicts the definition the porn industry would like young men to believe.
If our baby is a boy, I hope the early years of nursing and nurturing will create an impression of womanhood that is not easily dislodged. If we have another baby after that I will probably be more discreet nursing in front of my son than I will be in front of Katie this time around. It just seems like common sense to me that at some point I will not want my son to see me naked, whereas I will never care if Katie does. I don’t mind if my son sees me breastfeeding (even my breast), but I am the TOTAL OPPOSITE of discreet at this point in my life and that will probably have to change.
I want my son to witness mothers breastfeeding their babies. I want him to know that a woman’s body, while certainly attractive, beautiful, and at times sexual, is also functional, powerful, and life giving. I want him to know and understand what breastfeeding is all about and be comfortable with it so that if he has his own children one day he can be loving and supportive of their mother, instead of embarrassed of her and jealous of his own children’s needs being met. I am hoping that by seeing breastfeeding openly as the norm, he will find his wife attractive as a mother as well as a sexual being.
The Daddypotamus Speaks Up
I (Daniel) see a psychological angle possibly at play here. You could say that by early weaning, you deprive a boy of intended comfort. The boy innately knows that the breast was there to bring him comfort, but because he was weaned so early, he has no recollection why (or how). As a young boy, being introduced to sexual imagery or marketing of any kind causes the boy to draw incomplete conclusions.
Suddenly, the breasts have magical properties – which seems to fit this innate understanding of its created purpose to comfort. The ignorant boy may take all of his desire for comfort and project it upon the breasts from a sexual perspective because he knows no better. He is also always at war with this internal desire to receive motherly comfort from his wife/mate and the resentment of being shunned early on pre-accessible memory. He doesn’t want to be controlled, but he wants to be nurtured. He did not have the luxury of choosing to let go of the breast as a child, and he now has to control it and seek pleasure from it in an incomplete way as a young (or old) man.
My two cents.
Are you concerned about how your children are/will be affected by all the sexual imagery in our culture? If so, what do you think is the best way to minimize it’s impact?