Why I Teach My Son about Breastfeeding

Until about five years ago, I didn’t realize how amazing my mom is.  She exclusively breastfed my older sister and me, which I really didn’t think much of until I became a mom myself.  Being the younger sibling, I never saw anyone being breastfed regularly growing up.  Then when I was old enough to contemplate parenting, I was an ambitious college student and starting my career.  Breastfeeding was completely outside of my world.

Now I’m a mom and I totally get it.  Now I realize the sacrifice, dedication, time and energy she spent because I, myself, am a breastfeeding mom.  I took the time five years ago when my first son was born to thank her and I thanked her again when my second son was born seven months ago because she is amazing.  Now I realize.

Then it dawned on me: will my sons ever thank me for breastfeeding them?  I’m certainly not doing it for the gratitude and I know much of motherhood is a thankless job.  But my five-year-old is quite expressive about his feelings and often thanks me for things I do for him.  However for a son, breastfeeding just doesn’t seem like one of those things.

Why I Teach My Son about BreastfeedingMy sons may have wives who breastfeed their children one day, but they will never personally experience breastfeeding – with all of its joyous sessions of bonding, priceless cuddling, and feeling they are truly doing the best for their baby…or the hours of exhaustion, struggles of being tethered to another tiny being, and worrying if they are doing any of it right.  Without those moments, can my sons really appreciate my gift and would they ever think to say, “thank you, mom”?  I don’t think so and I’m OK with that.

There is something bigger I want than a thank you.

As a preschooler, my son was taught not to have any qualms about his body.  For better or for worse, he is willing to get naked in front of anyone and our bathrooms have an open door policy, as they did at school.  We also use most of the anatomical terms for our body parts.  With a baby at home, I’m often half dressed with exposed breasts before, during or after a feeding.  At first my son was very intrigued as I fed his baby brother and would watch intently the entire time. Now that the newness has worn off, half of the time I don’t think he even realizes it happening, as evidenced by the fact that he often wants me to do impossible things to help him while I’m breastfeeding.  Other times he’ll ask me, “are you on the second breast yet?” which is his way of saying, “are you almost done so I can get some attention?”

Lesson one accomplished!  Breastfeeding is normal, natural, necessary and happens often! Seeing a breast in the context of breastfeeding is the same as watching someone eat a sandwich, and one day he may even see the beauty in it.  But it is more than the physical act of breastfeeding that he needs to understand.

We try to be a teaching family and explain things to my son that are beyond his years and perhaps above his five-year-old capacity.  Nonetheless, we give him lots of information to see what sticks.  He astounds us with his knowledge all the time.  So why not teach him about breastfeeding too?

My son now knows that breast milk makes babies strong, helps them not get sick and it allows their brains to think hard so they can develop properly.  He also knows that breastfeeding continues to give children these incredible powers throughout their lifetime.  Discussing breastfeeding forays into a conversation about making good choices for our bodies and how we have the ability to support ourselves in staying healthy.  I have also been able to teach him about helping others who want to make good choices because I donate milk to a mother in our neighborhood who hasn’t been able to produce enough breast milk for her infant daughter.

None of these breastfeeding lessons are intended to elicit a thank you.  As every mother knows, there aren’t enough thank yous in the world to cover what we do nor do we need thank yous in order to lovingly provide for our kids. I teach my son about breastfeeding because it’s just another way I love my children like my mother loved me. I want him to know that mommy cares about his health, his strength, his brain, I care about making healthy choices for our family and I care about helping others.  It’s a value that was passed down to me and it is one I hope he continues to cherish and uphold.  He doesn’t have to be a daughter to accomplish that.

I will continue to thank my mom for the rest of my life for giving me the gift of breast milk and being a role model and advocate for my own breastfeeding journey.  My son will thank me for many things too.  Breastfeeding may not be one of them, but if he embraces the lessons of this act of love, that’s thanks enough for me.

Written by Erin, Loving Moments by Leading Lady brand ambassador