Let me start with I know this isn't my typically "DIY for Mommies" fashion, but I felt like this was a conversation with my readers that I had to have, even if it's a touchy subject to some.
Breastfeeding is on of the most wonderful bonding experiences, not only that, but it's a cheaper and healthier route for child. I never struggled with the decision of should I or shouldn't. To me this wasn't a question from the moment my husband and I even began trying for our miracle. In fact we took this seriously and not only took a breastfeeding class, but also meet with two lactation consultants. I honestly feel like it was one of the best decisions I have made for our little one so far...plus it really helps losing all that baby weight...fast. ;) As I say all this and can go forever about the positives, how do I feel about my child pretending to breastfeed?
Last week we were all so happy to have a old friend stop by with her newest little bundle of joy. My daughter, Riley was in awe with the cutest little baby girl, she wanted to do everything for her, it was ADORABLE! She would bring her little toys, keep her blanket in perfect order and keep her laughing. But then it came to food time...Riley offered to give the baby her a bottle an we gently explained she didn't have a bottle, of course that started a puzzled look. We then explained she had her mama. Well the curiosity grew. I have never been private about myself breastfeeding an of course I thought this may be a good lesson time, so I didn't force my friend into a bathroom to hide. We got to explain how much healthier it was. We also got to explain that is why I did that with her. It was good! Riley got to asks us, mamas a tiny bit about it and went on wanting to help with the baby. She even got to burp the cutie (by the way, Riley was very proud when she was rewarded with a big one).
With Riley being a only child it's extra nice just seeing that she loves others and she fully understands it's not all about her, all the time. She actually wanted to help! Was sooo loving and attentive, it was a great thing to watch. She "can't wait to babysit." (Though that is years away.)
Well, shortly upon them leaving she began to play with her babies and mama them...an then pretend nursing. When I say pretend, I mean pretend, she didn't pull down her shirt or pull it up, just held her baby's mouth to the right area over clothes. Here's where the issue lies, we live in a world of obey social norms or be a outcast. But, on the same token, I also didn't want her to get a negative impression of breastfeeding either.
That first pretend moment, I tried to explain that is a great thing for Mommies and their Real Babies, but when it comes to our stuffed ones it's best to give them a bottle. My husband works in the veterinarian field so I also tried to explain if it was a baby animal their mommy would feed them, but if we were taking care of them would we feed them that way? She got it, "No, we'd use a bottle." I took her response and our short little conversation as that it sunk in.
It had been a whole week since incident number one an I hadn't seen her pretend to nurse again, then as she was playing outside with my mother and husband watching she did it again...let me say their responses weren't like mine. My mom didn't talk about it, but I also didn't ask her, but I think my husband might had been horrified. He ran right in the house with her an told me what I've missed. He's first thought was whatever toy she does it with take it away an put it on time out. Just in case you wondered, no we didn't go with that method, but poor dads. I understand, we grew up in a time where everything needed to be hidden and we had little if any education on this kind of subject, especially for the boys. I guess being a girl and having two younger sisters made this less strange to me. But, I still thought that his actions or thoughts of "punishment" was a little extreme and would really send her a bad message about breastfeeding. I hope one day when she is MUCH older, happily married and with a new baby of her own she gives her child the best leg up on the world an nurses. I'm not saying that I wanna run out and get my daughter "The Breast Baby," but how do we walk the fine line of teaching our child positive associations to something that is natural, but denying it as a appropriate behavior?
I truly don't feel at ease either way. I must admit what I once would had sworn up and down that it is completely not okay, but now I almost feel like I'm doing wrong by her. She has a sweet nurturing and loving personality, an I never want to change it. Like any parent I just want to protect my child, so she isn't deemed a "weirdo" and gets treated as a social outcast. I just wish the behavior, although it does come from the right place (her heart) just disappears on its own an this becomes just a limited time action. My reassuring thoughts are just that she still is in "monkey see monkey do" after a bit she'll forget and it won't be a thing. My nagging thoughts were, did I do something wrong by not hiding it in the first place? No way, we have to use teachable moments an I still don't feel like its something to ever be ashamed about, in fact I know I have a ton of pictures of me feeding her.
After the seconded time, I did attempt to repeat our conversation, just like the talk after the first time. She remembered that it was between Real Babies and their Real Mom's. I didn't bother to ask her why she did it, just tried to remind her it's just not something we play about and for now bottles are the best thing for her babies. I guess we'll see if that works.
In my quest to deal with "Pretend Nursing" on the home-front, I found a few articles that I wanted to share, not saying that I agree or disagree with either, but they did make me feel less alone in this motherhood experience: Daughter learns from her mother & 'Play Breastfeeding' is Not Porn.
Thanks for your input and support. I'll admit that this subject was so touchy and personal that even what image to use was a battle. Oh the joys of parenthood!