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Extended Breastfeeding Myth #4: A Boys Sexuality

on July 14 | in Motherhood | by | with 65 Comments

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:

Heather,

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’d love to give some really profound closing thought on the subject, but Pocket Buddha already did that in her comment on Myth #1:

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?

Related Posts:

Extended Breastfeeding Myth #1: Extended Breastfeeding Causes Homosexuality

Extended Breastfeeding Myth #2: Your Kids Will Resent You for Making Them Weird

Extended Breastfeeding Myth #3: Your Child Will Be Uber-Clingy

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65 Responses to Extended Breastfeeding Myth #4: A Boys Sexuality

  1. Des says:

    I agree with you on the fact that my 3 1/2 year old daughter still has NO grasp of sexuality. She actually just told me, “Maman I’m so in love with you and we are going to get married and I’m going to give you lots of gross bisous” [my daughter speak Frenglish- her own mix of French and English so sorrry for the random french]. She just knows that she loves me, but has no awareness of any sexual connotation to anything she says. She has no idea that you can’t marry your mom and that you marry/kiss boys not girls. I’m not really sure how breastfeeding till 3 or so would all of a sudden make a boy more aware of sexuality at that age? I don’t think so. Almost NO one I know of really has specific memories of early-early childhood so I’m not sure how it would shape someone negatively. I think it’s a beautiful natural thing and as long as the mother does not have werid ulterior motives behind extended breastfeeding, I don’t see how it would ever be negative.

    However, that said I will say one thing from my own experience breastfeeding both a boy and girl (although I did not do extended breastfeeding past 1 year). It seems that while Lyric breastfed and was a great feeder, Shiloh LOVED it and was very aggressive about feeding. My sister said the same thing after nursing 3 daughters and then when she had the boy. She just said it was different and I agree with her. I’m not saying it was sexually driven, but it was different. Take that for what it is. Just a random observation.
    Great post though! you’re awesome :-)

    • Des says:

      omg why do I write the LONGEST comments. I swear I don’t mean too!

      • Heather says:

        I don’t know, but I was beginning to feel like I was talking to myself in this post. I love your comments and your unique perspective and now I feel like the whole post was worth it just so we could have this “chat.” So thanks!

    • Heather says:

      Frenglish – I love it! Your kids are privileged with an experience most of us only dream about. Maybe someday I will stop being a chicken and leave Texas, too ; – )

      I think you may be on to something with the difference in boy and girls when it comes to breastfeeding styles. My friend’s son is much more demanding than Katie. He wants to nurse more often and longer. I imagine that can be pretty challenging for moms of toddler boys. If this baby is a boy the differences may take some adjustment on my part, but it’s worth it to me!

      • Sabrkna says:

        I agree that boys are more aggressive and needy-er at the breast. My daughter was born first and was a breeze to nurse and wean. My son, on the other hand, nursed almost every hour for the first 5.5 months, and I had to be away from him over night in order to wean. They both are very aware that mamas have milk for their babies and that other women have just regular boobies. Neither child is necessarily more sexual or interested than I think is normal. I think it’s normal and healthy for our children to learn about their bodies and who else, but their own parents, would you rather teach them? They’ll learn plenty of useless, uneducated opinions later.

        • Heather says:

          Just to add my two cents here, my son is actually less intense than may daughter was when nursing. I think every little one is different <3

  2. Great post! I am flattered that you chose my words to help you convey your point.
    I stand by those words. And add this;

    If it was extended breastfeeding that caused children to be over sexualized, or to act out in sexually inappropriate ways then over aggressive and sexually inappropriate children would likely be a LOT less common as less than 10% of breastfeeding pairs in the united states even make it to the first year with the breastfeeding relationship intact.

    In my opinion, what is much more harmful to my son’s perception of himself and his sexuality are adult concepts being marketed to him.

    Example: movies like iron man.

    I liked the movies. Action movies are like brain candy to me, and I found the arrogant, mysogonist, narcissistic character of iron man to be funny. Because I am an adult and know that the humour is in his behavior being totally inappropriate.
    But this movie was not marketed to me, it was marketed to little boys. When I went to see the movie there were no less than 15, probably more boys who looked to be under the age of 10 in the theater. During the opening scene where the main character parachutes out of a plane, land on a stage full of half naked women and taps one of them on the butt with a charming smile and a wink and all the adults in the theater laughed at how rediculous the entire thing was what did those little boys learn about sexuality?
    When they went home to play with their iron man happy meal toys did the act that out? Or any number of other scenes where the main character acted inappropriately? If the didn’t I bet you they did act out the scenes where he acted violently.

    This very long winded and kind of preachy response can basically be boiled down to this:

    There are much worse things for our boys to be exposed to than the love, nourishment, and comfort of their mother’s breast.

  3. Mae says:

    Really, REALLY good points here
    And I can’t help but say it…AGAIN…
    “…And lets just take a look at society today.
    There are more and more openly gay, and decided gay than ever before. Not to say this isn’t an age old sexual preference [I doubt it would be mentioned so often in the bible if it was unheard of] but there is a clearer presence in our society.
    Now look at how many woman breastfeed, period- regardless of time. The numbers have dramatically decreased since the invention of formula. LLL and several others have proven this again and again.
    If you graph it out, to me it would seem more logical to link NOT breastfeeding to an increase in homosexuality.”

  4. Melanie Buck says:

    I am nursing a two year old boy. Between fingers up my nose and in my navel, toes in my mouth, turning his head to see something (while still attached), headstands and the occasional toy car being shoved down my pants; believe you me, there is nothing sexual about it.
    My confirmation comes from observing that he comes to me for milk, but has NEVER shown any interest in another woman’s breast.

    • Heather says:

      Good point, Melanie. The only interest Katie has other shown regarding other women is to ask whether or not her friends mom’s “have milk” or not. Apparently, she is concerned her friends will starve without it, LOL!

  5. Erika says:

    You make some great points regarding young boys and sexuality. In my human sexuality course we were given a chart that shows human sexual development. So much of having a healthy sexual development involves healthy bonding beginning in just after birth. Breastfeeding is such a huge part of it.

    A young son that inquires of a mother breastfeeding a younger sibling is at a different stage of his sexual development. You are so right that it may result in approaching it differently, but it doesn’t “sexualize” him to begin talking about the body and the role of breasts and feeding. He sees nurturing in such a healthy way. He may ask awkward questions, but it gives the opportunity to strengthen the nurture bond. Anyway, I could go on. But I’d love to find this chart and send it your way. It will support so much of what you said.

    On a counter note, we teach shame/embarrassment when we hide and avoid conversations. The young boy/girl is then taught that breasts are shameful and to be hidden, rather than they are beautiful in their function (as well as appearance) and respected with modesty.

    According to Erik Erikson, a leader in human development work, from 12 months to 3 years of age the child is working through “autonomy versus shame and doubt”. To quote the text: “Toddlers discover their own body and how to control it. They explore feeding, and dressing, toilet training, and new ways of moving about. When they begin to succeed in doing things for themselves, they gain a sense of self-confidence and self-control. However, if they continually fail and are punished or labeled as messy, sloppy, inadequate, or bad, they learn to feel shame and self-doubt.”

    There is so much to break down there, with so many implications and expositions. My main point is to say that how parents approach their own and their child’s sexuality during those years (and all of them for that matter) begins to shape how they see themselves. By calling breasts “breasts” and a penis “penis” just as a nose a “nose” the child begins to learn these are parts of himself/herself and not to be ashamed of. Along with that is teaching modesty. Yet, when a son says “I have a penis” in front of others, it helps to affirm his statement and respond by not overreacting in embarrassment. I think once we realize the child is learning and react with shame, he/she moves on to explore other aspects of his world.

    Phew, hope I haven’t bored you. I just love when parents are on board and working these things out for themselves. It’s great!

    • Heather says:

      Erika – I am far from bored! You’re right, there are so many implications in what you wrote. Still trying to wrap my head around it . . .

      Oh, and regarding that last paragraph, I LOVE IT when individuals who have no personal investment in breastfeeding one way or another take the time to leave insightful and challenging comments on this post ; – ) I have known since college that I would nurse past a year but I never gave much more thought to it than that. Wish there were more people like you out there.

  6. Christy says:

    I am really liking this series. I have 3 boys and am BF my 17 month old now. My other 2 were 9 and 13 when the youngest was born and I have always covered up because of my own modesty. I just am not comfortable having a pre-teen and teen looking at me while BF. The baby is less distracted when we are alone as well.

    Do you mind if I ask about how often you nurse Katie at 31months old? My 17 month old never refuses to nurse, but doesn’t really ask for it. Other than comfort I’m not sure how much he is getting from BF at this point. I feel like there is so little milk I am just not sure how long to continue.

    • Heather says:

      Christy – Katie nurses when she wakes up for the day, before and after naptime and at bedtime. When she gets hurt she’ll often want to nurse, and sometimes when I’ve had to discipline her she’ll ask to nurse just to make sure she’s still accepted.

      One thought on the benefits of continuing: Katie was two when I got pregnant. My milk supply did drop off in the first trimester and BAM! she got sick almost immediately. Fortunately, I was still able to nurse her enough to keep her hydrated and somewhat nourished. She is impossible to reason with when she doesn’t feel good and I have no doubt that if we weren’t still nursing she would have needed and IV during that illness. I’m so glad we were able to avoid the stress of doctors offices, hospitals and NEEDLES. It’s a simple benefit I’d never considered before.

      I know that was completely random. I think I need to go to bed now ; – )

  7. Melodie says:

    I don’t have any sons but most of my friends do and none of us have a problem breastfeeding in front of them. In fact, we all agree that boys should see breasts being used for feeding so they can grow up with the impression that that is what breasts are for. There is ample time to learn about the sexual nature of breasts. When we tell our kids about the birds and the bees do we say “and breasts are for sucking, licking and kissing?” Well, if that’s what other people say then it’s the first I’ve heard of it. As far as I know we mostly let our kids figure that part out themselves or tell them if they ask or iif the conversation turns that way. So I think it’s vitally important to breastfeed in front of children. I remember my step son at 11 was uncomfortable seeing me nurse my daughter for the first time, but as soon as his dad said that that is what breasts are for and it’s okay to look at me when I was nursing there were never anymore problems. Now he is 17 and I’m still nursing and he still looks at me when we’re talking and I’m nursing.

  8. Linda says:

    I nursed my 2nd son (my youngest) in front of my oldest son who just turned 3 in May. I nursed my youngest up until 9 months, and I never had a problem nursing in front of my oldest. He knew it was for feeding, and he never asked questions. I’m not sure how I would have felt if he was much older, but I don’t think I would have had a problem there either.

  9. Amy says:

    I just stumbled upon your blog, and I think I have a new mom-crush! Love your parenting philosophies and you write with such a great voice I could hang out here all day.

    My son nursed until 28m, then one day just stopped. Crawled right into bed after hugs and kisses. I went downstairs and cried…but only a little because I knew that my willingness to stick with nursing as long as he wanted (even through horrible nausea and breast sensitivity in the first trimester of pregnancy!) was the best thing for all involved. There were only a handful of days in those 28 months I didn’t enjoy nursing him and when I have a nursing relationship to do over again in a couple of months, I hope not to do anything differently! My extended family were generally supportive…to my face. Behind my back my mother got a lot of “can you believe she is STILL nursing that child??” All I had to say to that was “my child, my boobs, MY business.”

    Found this series of posts very interesting and looking forward to reading more of what you have to say!

    • Heather says:

      Thank you, Amy! Since writing this post I have actually welcomed a baby boy into the world, so not I get to put theory to practice. My oldest is still nursing also :)

  10. This extended nursing thing is hard to explain, but here’s my attempt. It was written awhile back, and yet now I have a son it ring so much more true.

    P.S. I had a FABULOUS guest post arranged for you today, but the author and I are still waiting on permission to print one little part, so it’s on hold :(

  11. This extended nursing thing is hard to explain, but here’s my attempt. It was written awhile back, and yet now I have a son it ring so much more true.

    P.S. I had a FABULOUS guest post arranged for you today, but the author and I are still waiting on permission to print one little part, so it’s on hold :(

  12. Shannon Brown via FB says:

    wow. people are so bold about their thoughts sometimes! :) hey, what better way to have a nice flight for all!! I wouldn’t complain. :)

  13. Shannon Brown via FB says:

    wow. people are so bold about their thoughts sometimes! :) hey, what better way to have a nice flight for all!! I wouldn’t complain. :)

  14. Julie Whetstine via FB says:

    we flew with my one year old and we were moved to first class so i could nurse her and keep her asleep for the flight — who knows what they thought but thanks to their actions it all worked out fabulously for me and my baby — who wants a crying baby on their plane versus a nursing one?

  15. Shannon Brown via FB says:

    to julie: yet another reason to nurse! flight upgrades! ha ha! :) :)

  16. Sorry you had to endure that. I have never had anyone say anything but how proud they were of me. Still nursing at 33 months and happy to do so. I call it full term nursing as the average weaning age is much higher than a year.

  17. Tiffany Nicholas via FB says:

    oh- I love the phrase “full term nursing”!

  18. Vivian Pollard Mock via FB says:

    One of my favorite quotes, from former United States Surgeon General Antonia Novello: “Lucky is the child who is breastfed for two full years.” (1993)
    I used that in my childbirth classes back them when she was still the SG.

  19. Vivian Pollard Mock via FB says:

    oh, and the Am Acad Pediatrics recommends a year! Will send you link…

  20. @Michelle – I love the term “full-term nursing/breastfeeding,” too! Hadn’t really heard of it when I wrote this post last year, but I think it reflects how natural nursing beyond a year truly is. I’ve begun saying it instead :)

  21. [...] don’t I know that I’ll make my child gay, or uber-clingy, overly aware of “sexuality” or maybe just plain embarrassed? Apparently, I do not. But I do know two more fantastic reasons to [...]

  22. michelle says:

    I have 7 children. Ages 21 tomorrow down to 15 months. My only breastfed child is the baby. My mother was not for breastfeeding in fact she would call people out in restaurants and such, so that is what I grew up with. I had no contact with my mom after age 19. But the way I grew up stuck with me, I never even tried to breastfeed my other children because I thought it was so wrong. I changed my mind with Jeremiah, I though of all I had overcome from my childhood over the years and was determined with this one. I did not have alot of support from people I knew but I did not care. The hospital was even shocked that I wanted to try!! It could not have gone smoother. I had no issues he had no issues it was so natural and just happened. I get teary eyed sometimes wishing I had that time back with my other children. But we can’t go back. I think it is the most beautiful thing ever…Now. I has only planned on breastfeeding for 6 months maybe. But Jeremiah had other plans haha. I am now in the catagory of extended breastfeeding and self weaning I guess. I don’t really think that much or deeply about weaning him. I just figure when he is ready he will stop. I would have thought before he was born if you told me I would be breastfeeding a 15 month old that was gross. It is not gross. It seems very natural to us both and our family. I don’t notice any of these problems. I can tell you that from experience. Compared to my other children, the benefits I see from breastfeeding.
    1. He is more independent than any of the others and plays well alone.
    2. He does not seem to be growing up so fast, which to me is a good thing.
    3. He loves to try new foods and seems less picky by far.
    4. He was not a fussy baby nor did he have colic which all of my others did have.
    Michelle

  23. Annette says:

    Great discussion, really enjoying it. My husband was breastfed and had three little sisters, so I believe (unconsciously perhaps) he learned the difference between real women, and porn. Porn never interested him, not even as teenager – not because he had no hormones, or no interest in girls, or no opportunity to view porn, but because porn created attitudes in his friends that would have threatened the real women in his life, and he knew it.

  24. Krista says:

    Hi, Heather! I am thrilled to have not only found your website but this particular article, as we are planning to welcome home our second son any day now, and I’ve got some questions rolling around in my head about breastfeeding. Our oldest son only nursed for the first ten weeks (despite being a champion nurser, I was given some misinformation and decided to switch to soy formula – but I’m digressing) and hope to nurse this little guy well past his one year mark. But I know our oldest will have questions, and I’d like to be prepared to answer those questions as best I can. Do you have a post on this topic, or might you be willing to create one? My oldest is so attached to me, so I know we may have some jealousy hurdles to jump (another topic I’d love some info on), but I’m ready to jump with him. And when it comes to nursing, I want to create a great atmosphere for all of us, and I couldn’t agree more with the points you laid out in your post. They are spot on.

    • Heather says:

      Hi Krista! I haven’t written a post on explaining breastfeeding to toddlers, but I will post on FB and ask the incredible mamas in this community to share their wisdom. Wish you a beautiful, butter birth!

  25. Mary Crockett via FB says:

    Our oldest son was quite intrigued by the time our 3rd son rolled around :) We told him that was how God made mommies to feed their babies. We found that very soon it was nothing but natural with him. (He was only 14 mo old when our 2nd son was born so nursing was nothing he even noticed then!) If you make it a big deal, it will be a big deal. When our 4th son was born, there were no questions or anything…it was just part of life :)

  26. Melanie Hoffman via FB says:

    I have 4 boys, all nursed past the age of 1. My youngest I’ve nursed the longest, going on over 2 years now. All I did was talk to them about breastfeeding, how it was so good for the baby. Children are much more accepting of breasfeeding and extended breastfeeding than adults are. My oldest is 11 and is my biggest supporter. He told me, “You are going to let him nurse as long as he needs, right?” I know they are going to by their wives biggest supporters too. Just be honest and open.

  27. I agree with Mary. My son was 6 when our 3rd was born. We told him the same thing. It was how mama’s were made. He then saw a few pics of mama animals nursing, and he agreed it was the way it was supposed to be. I nursed the 3rd until just a few weeks ago (the 3rd is 2 1/2 and my son is 8). It really was not a bog deal. Right now he just thinks of them as a way to feed a baby. No more. I truly believe that comes a little later. And if you teach them this, I think they will have greater respect for women and the wonderful miracle they give their babies!

  28. Alison Wonderland Sheffield via FB says:

    My almost 6 year old grasped the idea easily after sharing examples of how animals in nature feed their babies. I used familiar animals like cows and dogs. He thought it was “kinda weird” at first and I didn’t try to hide it from him. Once the curiosity was taken away it was no longer a big deal.

  29. Kristin Fisher Lawler via FB says:

    My son was 4 1/2 when my daughter was born. All we really had to say was that mommies feed their babies from their breasts, that we have milk for them. He completely accepted that explanation. He also would pretend to nurse his teddy bear while I nursed our daughter. ;)

  30. Holly Massie via FB says:

    our oldest was 6 when our younger boy was born … it just wasn’t a big deal because I didn’t make it one — just told him that’s how mama’s are supposed to feed their babies, you learn to be discreet and wear a shirt you pull up and go from there — nursed younger til he was 3 and I never used a nursing cover — I hate those things! (1. they are awkward and another layer if you live somewhere hot and 2. they literally scream LOOK I’m NURSING to me …) I much preferred an untucked tee and a little practice and soon nobody even knows. Breastfeeding is not a sexual act. As far as an atmosphere just make it the most natural thing in the world, have a book basket he gets to choose from while mommy is feeding the baby and read to him, special toys

  31. Anna Maijala via FB says:

    My older son is only 3, but he understands about breastfeeding. He says, “Mommy! Bebe Chai needs milkies!” whenever his brother gets fussy. He knows that mommies nurse babies, and that’s how babies eat. He knows he ate like that when he was a baby. His little brother is nursing longer than he did, and shows no signs of weaning anytime soon, so odds are, he’ll have a few more years to develop his understanding of this concept. He thinks it’s cool, though. He loves telling people how his mommy makes milkies for his brother. It’s so cute.

  32. Karen Nordseth Roos via FB says:

    What questions are you expecting? I have two teenaged sons and a bf one year old. They never asked anything. :)

  33. Haley Lawson Smisek via FB says:

    My oldest son was 6 and my 2nd son was 3 when my daughter was born. We explained to our boys that mommies have special milk that helps babies grow big and strong. They were curious at first, but after a couple of days didn’t think anything of it. Make it as normal and no big deal as possible and they’ll follow your lead.

  34. I only have one child and I tell her and show her how Mamas feed their babies :) I show her with a doll and she immitates me as well, when we are out with friends who are nursing she knows what they are doing, and when in the future God permitting we welcome another child she will know that its a natural thing.

  35. LOVE these responses! Your future daughter-in-laws are so very blessed <3

  36. I have three boys and my oldest son was 4.5 when my youngest born. He and my second son had already tandem nursed through most of my pregnancy with their little brother. There wasn’t much explaining to do. However, I think about how different things would be if I had another child now. My youngest would be seven and probably have questions. I think a child’s age will determine how many and what type of questions he or she will have. It could be a wonderful science lesson or a simple lesson about nurturing and using/nourishing our bodies as they were created to be used and nourished. After a few weeks, as long as you are open about nursing and don’t make it something you feel you have to hide within your own home for the sake of modesty, most children will accept it as the natural thing it is and move on from the questioning stage.

  37. We showed this video to my 4 year old before be became a big brother. He was 3 1/2 when our second son was born. I had a lot of challenges with nursing, and never covered up. He asked things like “is there a hole for the milk to come out?” and “why is you nipple so big? Mine’s so small!” We would just answer his questions. He also saw some of the struggles we had, and using a supplemental nursing system. I explained that milk was the best thing for him. Now he gets excited when he sees other mothers nursing babies when we’re out. This video also helped a lot…. http://youtu.be/7-L-Fg7lWgQ

  38. Sara Creitz Rockarts via FB says:

    I have 3 boys and a baby girl who were all nursed (still nursing baby). The boys are ages 8 1/2, 6, and 3 1/2. I don’t cover up at home. They understand that it’s inappropriate for me to show my breasts in public, but there is no inhibition at home for me to breastfeed completely exposed (just on one side at a time… I don’t go around topless or anything).

    I am very proud that they are able to grow up around a normal breastfeeding experience. My daughter may not see me breastfeed a baby (she might be our last… not sure), but I feel like I can encourage my own daughter to breastfeed. My advice may not be as welcome to a daughter-in-law, but since my sons are growing up around breastfeeding, THEY can encourage their wives to breastfeed!

    My oldest was 5 when #3 was born, and he asked every question there was. He knew all the terms like uterus, placenta, umbilical cord. He knew how the baby came out, just not how it got there. I just evaded that one, and he seemed fine with it. He still doesn’t know that unless he’s figured it out by now, which wouldn’t surprise me. We used to live on a farm after all.

  39. Holly says:

    Awesome post! I completely agree ….. (nursed our second son til 3 by the way and he is not now at 12 overly sexual… snort)

  40. Great post!

    My oldest son will be 11 in a couple of months. He nursed until he was four. Despite having covered reproduction and development in our science course this year, he is probably the most sexually naive child of his age. I credit that to keeping tabs on what he watches on TV, not having adult conversations around him and, absolutely most importantly, keeping him out of school and social situations where one adult is put in charge of too many children and the children have too much free time amuse themselves. (In other words, his social interaction is mostly sports and other activities with a purpose. He has brothers for free and easy, unsupervised, down-time play.)

    When I was his age, I knew more than my mother on the subject of sex. A lot of it was “street information” and full of misinformation that I had to figure out for myself. I learned it ALL from other children at school. My mother did not allow us to have a TV in our home, so I didn’t learn it from there. I wasn’t allowed to read teen books or even view teen magazines. All of my information and views about sex came from friends at school and church.

    Of course, we can’t and shouldn’t keep our children from socializing with other children! And, while it is important to know the families of the children your child socializes with, we can’t be assured that those other children won’t share what they know with our child before our child is ready to handle the information. The key is to answer their questions about sexuality as they come up, in a frank manner, and at an age appropriate level.

    Give your children the facts, tell how nature works in a matter-of-fact way and share with them and model for them your own values surrounding the subjects of sex and relationships. (Breastfeeding openly in your own home is a great way to model your values and show nature at it’s finest!)

    As they reach dating age (whatever that may be for your family) go over scenarios with them and help them have a healthy set of go-to responses for stopping or getting out of tricky situations.

  41. My boys were 6 and 7 when our daughter was born. At first, it was comical and awkward for them. Now its a part of everyday life for our family. I think its good for kids to get a normal perspective of breasts and instead of their only exposure being our culture’s lustful way of representing them.

  42. Elisabeth Carol Harvey McCumber via FB says:

    just tell the truth. There’s nothing to be ashamed about, so nothing to be “delicate” about. He might ask funny questions that make you feel awkward, but realize that says more about our societal taboos than it does about the subject being discussed. In cultures where everyone nurses for years, kids are totally nonchalant about breastfeeding and no one’s worried about whether or how to broach the subject. The best way, I think, to create the same positive atmosphere in our own culture is to be truthful, matter-of-fact, and willing to talk about it, even when our own upbringing makes us cringe a little. Actually, I think that in so doing, you also lay a really important foundation of openness for talking about sex.

  43. My sons are only 18 months apart, but my oldest (who just turned 3) still says that babies drink “mommy milk”, even though my youngest hasn’t nursed in 6 months. With a new baby baby on the way (my oldest will be 3 1/2), I’m completely comfortable nursing around both my boys.

    My husband watched his mom nurse his two younger siblings (who he is 8 and 10 years older than) and I think that’s why he never expected I’d do anything other than nurse. I can’t believe some husbands don’t want their wives to nurse!

    I say, be modest about it, as you feel necessary, but I have no problems with my kids seeing me nurse, or other people’s kids for that matter.

  44. I’m nursing #3 right now, she was 1 mo yesterday. Our boys are 6 and 3.5. We talked some before she was born about how baby’s are made to eat Mommy Milk and where mommy milk comes from. I don’t cover up in front of them, I treat it like it is absolutely normal, because it is! They have now decided that I should nurse their toys along with baby sister! I think it is important for them to know it is normal and natural, that way they will be supportive one day for their wives.

  45. Jennifer Sebby via FB says:

    Our son is 10 and we have a now 4 month old baby girl who is breast-fed. He thought it was a little weird at first so we talked about how God made us so that we could feed our babies (and also compared/talked about all the other animals that nurse their young). He had a few questions about why some people don’t breast feed and then that was that. I don’t try and cover up around him at home and it is just common place for him. He will even come and kiss baby girl good night on her head while I am nursing. To him they are just food for his baby sister.

  46. Brandis L Roush via FB says:

    I’m not nursing now, but I’m also pretty liberal about where I strip down inside my home, so my 3 year old and 5 year old get regular looks at my breasts, and we talk about them probably more than most would be comfortable about. But my thing is, if I hide them and ban any talk about them then I am simply making them more mysterious and exciting and they will be more curious. We talk about them very matter of factly- they are there to feed babies, girls have them boys don’t (but boys have nipples, a very important point they never let me leave out), girls get them when their bodies are getting ready to mature, they are a personal area and we shouldn’t touch another person’s… stuff like that.

  47. I think my son will actually remember breastfeeding (he’s almost four and still going) so I won’t need to explain anything to him ;)

    I think your boys are very lucky they will get to see their mother breastfeeding. I believe it helps them learn to respect a woman’s body, not to mention make them supporters of breastfeeding and not be uncomfortable around it.

  48. Camille says:

    Dear heather,

    I am obsessed with your blog! My friend just told me about it yestureday and since then I am a mad woman trying to read every article, post, and comment on it. You are really amazing and have a beautiful family as well.
    I was wanting some advice. I have a 6 month old and a 2 yr old that’ll turn 3 in September (both boys). I am still nursing my 6 month old and plan to let him wean himself. On the other hand I was only able to nurse my older son 1 month bc I was finishing my last semester in college when we got pregnant, so needless to say I was so stressed out and because I wasn’t as educated as I am now about breast feeding and how amazing it is. Since I gave birth to our second son in January, I also pump milk and give it to my 2 yr old in a bottle. I have always felt so good to give him a bottle of my milk every so often since he wasn’t able to have it when he was younger, and he loves it by the way! The only thing is I’m getting so sick of pumping but I want to still be able to give him my milk. So my question is would it be so weird if I starting trying to feed him at my breast? And how would I even go about getting him to? I’m just afraid that he will say no and that it’s for baby Luke (his little brother) bc he sees me nursing him all the time. I also don’t know what my husband will say about it. He loves when I give him a bottle of my milk bc he knows how good it is for him but I think he would have a problem with him at my breast at his age since he never really has. I just feel so bad for my older son (Brady) like I cheated him out of something so good and healthy for him and now his brother is getting everything he didn’t. Please help and offer any advice. I’m open for anything. I just feel like while I’m producing something so healthy, why just give it to just one of my kids? I love them both and I want them to both have the best/breast nutrition possible! Haha thanks so much!

    • Heather says:

      Awww, I love this comment Camille! So nice to “meet” you! I wish I could offer advice on getting your older son to nurse, but I don’t really have any wisdom on that. My daughter got the flu once after she’d weaned and I offered to nurse her (I had milk since I was nursing her little brother) – she said yes but when she latched on she couldn’t remember what to do! Maybe someone from the La Leche league could help, though! Regarding the demands of tandem nursing or nursing while pumping for your older son, though, I highly recommend that you take good care of yourself nutritionally. I can say from experience that it can deplete your stores fast, which is why I recommend this diet to mamas who are nourishing their babies this way: http://www.westonaprice.org/childrens-health/diet-for-pregnant-and-nursing-mothers

      Big hugs and can’t wait to hear more from you!

    • Halley says:

      Hi Camille,
      First of all, I can tell just by what you wrote here that you are an extremely dedicated, wonderful mommy. Your boys are SO lucky to have you as their mother!! I am definitely not an expert on tandem nursing as I only have one baby (although I absolutely will tandem nurse if I get pregnant while my current babe is still nursing). I think tandem nursing is awesome! To answer your question, I do not think it would be weird at all to try to get him to latch and nurse. I would search kellymom and see if she has any info on it. She is THE source for all things breastfeeding related. And like Heather said, definitely contact your local La Leche League. They usually have people who answer all hours of the day to answer breastfeeding questions. As for how to go about getting him to nurse, I think you are probably the best person to answer that question since you know your son better than anyone else. If it were me I would keep it really casual and maybe tell him that that’s where the milk he drinks comes from (if he doesn’t already know this) and if he wants he can get it from there just like his brother does. You could say, See how Luke’s doing it? You could do that too. Would you like to try? That sort of thing. Maybe even squirt some out for him so that he can see that it really does come out of there! I don’t know! However you end up approaching it with your son, If he says no or doesn’t want to try to nurse I would probably leave it at that and not push it any further. If he is okay with trying it you will most likely have to help him with his latch as it won’t come naturally to him anymore. (Telling him to cover his bottom teeth with him tongue, etc.) I also agree with Heather about the Weston A Price diet!!

  49. Sam says:

    Thank you so much for writing this article!

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