This content is sponsored by The Breastfeeding Shop
As parents, we set an example for our children: Sometimes good, sometimes bad, and sometimes, we don’t even realize we’re doing it. My oldest child, a son, has picked up on all kinds of things throughout his 10 years of life. He likes football like his dad, he likes chocolate milk like me. And he loves taking care of his siblings.
When my son was just 20 months old, a daughter joined the family. During my pregnancy, he’d talk to my belly, excited as only a toddler can be about something they really don’t understand. Soon after my daughter was born, my son picked up on the things that having a baby around changed. He’d help get diapers, he’d help with the pacifier and he watched and learned.
Learning by example
He learned so much about carrying a baby, feeding a baby and even wearing the baby. In fact, I remember one time we used a scarf to help him wear his baby — a stuffed animal — on his back the same way I wore his sister on my back.
But the day he lifted up his shirt and “fed his baby” the way I fed his sister threw me for a loop.
After thinking about it a little bit, though, it made perfect sense. This is how I fed my baby, and so this is how he was feeding his baby. Thus began his understanding of breastfeeding. And in his toddler way, he would walk up to other women feeding their babies and smile in understanding. As he aged, he knew what was happening and it never fazed him one bit.
There is a six-year gap between my daughter and our third child. So when the newest baby was born, my big kids were 6 and 8. They thought they knew what to expect, since so many of our friends had had babies. They knew how to hold a baby, knew he would cry and thought they would be able to help with changing diapers. We had never discussed how the baby would eat, mostly because we didn’t really know.
Breastfeeding is not always easy
Sometimes breastfeeding is really hard. It may mean someone exclusively pumps and feeds their child with a bottle. It may mean a mom breastfeeds at home but chooses formula when they are out. Some mothers use a cover, some go to a quiet place and some don’t do either.
One specific situation stands out in my mind. Our youngest was days old, but I had that itch to get out of the house, so we went to the summer reading program kickoff. Being so little, the baby wanted to eat while we were out. So I took the big kids to a quieter section of the library where they could sit and read while I nursed the baby.
It was the early days, where things are still complicated and everyone is learning how things work. I was fumbling with my nursing bra, my tank and my t-shirt in hopes of avoiding a screaming fit from my newborn. In those moments, my dearest son noticed the trouble I was having, picked up a receiving blanket and walked over towards me. He gently laid it over my shoulder, talking calmly to his brother, and helped us get settled. It brought tears to my eyes.
This is precisely how I want him to respond in these situations. To see that someone needs help, and to offer them that help, without making a fuss about it. To comfort a new mother and her baby when things aren’t going as planned. And to do it with love.
My son is now 10, and he doesn’t blink an eye when he sees a mother breastfeeding. He respects her decision to do it anywhere she wants. He understands that it’s good for both baby and mom, but he also knows that a fed baby is best. He learned by example, and I couldn’t be prouder.