“Ewww, gross. What is he doing?” said my 8-year-old as he popped up behind me while I was nursing the baby. I hadn’t really been paying attention to the baby and didn’t realize that he had finished eating was now just contentedly playing “stretch the nipple.” The baby had a huge smile on his face and his little tongue looked like a baby killer whale’s. I looked up over my shoulder and replied, “eating.” Eph just rolled his eyes and walked away mumbling something about how boobs are weird.
When I first had the baby, I had open discussions with both my kids about breastfeeding. We talked about how God created women to grow babies in their belly and to feed them with milk from the breasts. We looked at pictures of the two of them breastfeeding and we talked about how the baby would suck on the breast to get the milk out. There were lots of questions, especially from my daughter who desperately wanted to give the baby a bottle and was pretty ticked to find out that it would be a few months before that happened. My son on the other hand didn’t seem to care one way or another and that is why his outburst of “grossness” kind of surprised me.
The baby and I have a great breastfeeding relationship. I have nursed him openly since the day he was born. I don’t use a cover and I don’t hide in another room to prevent the kids from seeing my breasts. I am modest. I don’t casually let my boobs hang out all over but at the same time I don’t hide and act like it is a secret. I try to emphasize that breastfeeding is natural and normal. I don’t want the kids to ever think that there is something dirty or inappropriate about a woman feeding her child.
Regardless, I am conscious of the fact that Eph doesn’t like it when I nurse in very public places. He gets a little nervous and worries that someone is going to see my breasts. I can see his eyes darting around and he will make comments about “if people can see.” When I can see him getting like that I “cover up” by draping one of my muslin blankets over the exposed breast but NEVER over the babies face. I know some people would balk at this and suggest that I should never have to cover up but I do this because at 8 years old, I want him to have a positive experience with breastfeeding. When he eventually marries, I want him to have fond memories of seeing me feed his brother.
Removing the stigma of breastfeeding starts at home. I hope, if I do it right, I will raise a young man who eventually becomes a breastfeeding champion. A supportive husband who encourages his wife. A wonderful boss that understands the importance of pumping. Most of all I hope he becomes a man who sees breastfeeding as a beautiful, natural process.
A few hours after the “gross” incident, I was nursing the baby on the couch. Eph was cuddled up beside me playing on his Ipad and the baby was popping on and off with huge giggles bending over backwards to see his brother. The next thing I know they are making a game of eating and then laughing and apparently all the grossness had faded away. But with any 8 year old boy I suspect he might find it gross again. I mean, I am his Mom after all. Kissing him at school is gross too.