Teaching Boys About Breastfeeding Doesn't Suck

Sheri Reed

breastfeeding illustration My 8-year-old second grader has definitely hit the inquisitive stage. He has questions about everything lately -- everything! Of course, I am happy to be the person he comes to with questions about his body and girls and friendships that don't feel all that good, especially because he's getting lots of misinformation from other 8-year-olds.

Last week, in fact, he came home from school and shared with me that another kid told him "breastfeeding is gross." I remained calm, but I was screaming inside. Nooooo! How dare some young boy, with a few ugly naive words that he probably heard from someone older and uninformed (possibly even a parent!), threaten to reverse all my hard work of raising a breastfeeding-aware son.

Turns out the classmate was actually a girl badmouthing breastfeeding, but I'm not going to get into all the reasons that's even worse in this discussion.

I breastfed both my boys, explain to them often that they were breastfed, and have since been an advocate for breastfeeding, when asked, but that's not enough apparently to guarantee that your sons automatically will see the good in it. After my son shared the "breastfeeding is gross" comment, he told me that he responded by saying, "It's not gross. You did it when you were a baby too."

However, when I told him that isn't necessarily true, the look on his face nearly broke my heart. You see, it was then that he realized for the first time that he could very well be the only "breastfed freak" among his friends. Now I doubt that's true since breastfeeding has become far more prevalent again over the past few decades; however, now my son was realizing he revealed to countless second graders that he once drank milk from his mother's breasts. And, you know, kids are cruel.

This whole conversation was a bit of an eye opener for me, and all the intertwining emotions and complexities of the issue struck me pretty deeply. I had never considered any of this when I decided to breastfeed, not that it would have changed my mind. However, I never thought breastfeeding would even be a subject of conversation again -- at least not in terms of defending it -- after weaning my youngest and before my boys become parents themselves. It just goes to show you that our decisions as parents are bigger than they seem sometimes. Huge, in fact.

My son and I have talked a lot more about breastfeeding since. I talked to him about bonding and how amazing it feels as a mom to breastfeed and feed your child from your own body. He asked to see photos of himself breastfeeding, and we've talked about the fact that it's not the choice every mother makes or can make. We also talked about the role that men play in breastfeeding, as supporters and advocates for their partners, and how someday it may be a big part of his life. And to tell you the truth, all this was easy, and my son responded beautifully and openly.

What was not easy was realizing that this is the just one of many topics I will have to explain to my kids about why me and their father hold certain beliefs and make the choices we do. And sometimes that's going to mean breaking down judgments, miseducations, or completely different belief systems from some of their closest friends and perhaps even their friends' parents or families. I can only hope the slew of conversations to come feel as good as this once they've begun.

Do you talk to your son about breastfeeding?


Image via Bludgeoner86/Flickr

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