Am I Being over Sensitive? Trying to Help 4 Yr Old with Understanding Breastfee

Updated on September 24, 2010
M.!. asks from Boulder, CO
24 answers

UPDATE - WOW!!! Did I say anything about being hung up on breastfeeding.. NO!! I asked how I can help my son get over it. And I said "traumatized in a sense" which to him Ya it was bit unusual b/c we haven't been around other breastfeeding moms. He hasn't really quit asking me to buy bottles for the baby so again, I am trying to help him understand this - not bash public breastfeeding. No where did I say I thought it was wrong that she was breastfeeding in front of my children. I didn't like the fact that tho the child was NOT hungry she decided to pull her breast out and show my children how a baby latches on. It wasn't her place to do so p and again baby was not fussing and baby was not hungry. Just out of the blue she decided to do this. So, thank you for the moms who are giving me encouraging support to help my kid understand it so that when I do breastfeed my 3rd child (b/c I apparently have a hang up on it) that he understands. Thanks again

So my neighbor just had a baby in August and I am due with baby # 3 in November. I did not breastfeed my first 2 but was planning on with my 3rd. Anyways, the other day the neighbor was over and my kids (3 and 4 yr old) and her older daughter (3 y/o) were playing. My son asked for some water so I went into the house to get water for the kids and when I came back out my neighbor was breastfeeding her baby and my son (the 4 yr old) had a funky look on his face. I kind of just ignored it b/c I figured he didn't really know what she was doing since he has never been around a mother nursing her child.

Well fast forward 2 days later I was bathing my kids and my son goes "Mom... is the baby going to eat from your boobs." and with out giving me a chance to respond he continues on that "I really don't want to see the baby sucking on your boobs like Miss X baby was doing the other day. I really hope we can buy some bottles and feed the baby with a bottle". We talked a few mins and apparently the neighbor lady had whipped out her boob just as plain as day in front of the kids and then proceeded to explain to my kids what breastfeeding was. Now, I am not ashamed of public breastfeeding, so please don't think that, but I am a bit irked that she did this while my children were watching and knowing that they had never been around it. I kind of feel like I am the mom and should have explained to my kids what breastfeeding was, not the neighbor. Now, I understand I am probably being a bit sensitve to this issue (b/c I am 8 months pregnant and those darn hormones love to work against us at times, haha) but my 4 yr old has been traumatized in a sense by this. He hasn't quit talking about how he doesn't want the baby sucking on moms boobs. Even though I have explained our way of letting him know that is how baby gets food.

What can I say to help my 4 yr old understand that mom is probably going to be feeding baby the same way? I justg feel bad for him b/c its like he already has a bad view of it b/c neighbor lady just decided to explain her version of breastfeeding.

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

Also, just wanted to add that the mom was making a point to "teach" my kids. So she wasn't just trying to tend a fussy baby. And also, just so everyone knows I didn't care that she was feeding her baby just the point that she thought she should make it a teaching lesson. Thanks!!

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answers from Dallas on

I don't think you are over sensitive. I think she was insensitive.....

Personally, I hate it when I see a woman whip out a boob and feeds. When I was growing up I had relatives with babies and they just walked around with a boob out and baby attatched. I thought it was gross.. ( I was a teen)

I have no issues with boobs.. I'm one of the first at the topless beach but I hate watching someone BF.

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answers from Augusta on

I would tell him what I've told my kids , Boobies are for feeding babies. That's it , that's the only thing they are for. They need to do their job.

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answers from Dallas on

I dunno... I would be the first to "whip it out" right there in front of everybody, if my baby needed to eat. We are trying to make breastfeeding the norm in our society, and people need to get over their hangups about breasts. They are for feeding babies. That's it. That is the only purpose of boobs. You don't have to cover up when you nurse, if you are comfortable not covering up. It was fine for my son, but my daughter would not tolerate me covering her head.

I don't think your neighbor did anything wrong, and I don't think your son is actually traumatized. Just tell him that nursing is normal and what boobs are for, and leave it at that.

I think we need to also put ourselves in this neighbor's position: baby is nursing, child is staring and wondering what is going on. What do you do? Your son probably asked her what was going on. What should she do? What any normal mother would... just tell him that the baby is eating or drinking milk. It's NORMAL.

I might actually be thankful that she provided you with this teaching moment. Maybe if your kids could be around more often while she is taking care of the baby, they would get more used to it and not even notice anymore. They are only obsessing because they don't think it's normal. Once they realize that it is, they will stop thinking about it at all.

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answers from Washington DC on

what was she supposed to do? you weren't there, and your son clearly needed information. if you wanted to be the one to explain it, you could have done so any time in the preceding 4 years.
sorry if that sounds rude, but people who expect hungry babies to take second place to ridiculous sensitivities about boobs frost my nuggets.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Yes, my opinion is that you are being a bit over-sensitive (hey, you asked). I think the mom was being nice to explain what was happening and to use it as a teaching moment.

Even if you had not stated it in your post, I could tell you did not breastfeed your children, because I feel that any mom who has would never criticize another mom for 'whipping out her breast' in any situation.
I also think that if you end up exclusively breastfeeding, you should come back and read your post about 4 months into it, I'm sure your feelings will have changed drastically.

If you do plan on breastfeeding, I encourage you and your hubby to attend a breastfeeding class, and talk with your son about what you learn at the class, it is so important to have your family's understanding and complete support during those first few weeks of breastfeeding, especially hubby's.

Good luck with your new baby! :)

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

To put it bluntly, you obviously have some serious hangups about breastfeeding that your son has picked up on. If you're planning on breastfeeding your new baby, you need to work on those both on your own and with the rest of your family.

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answers from Philadelphia on

Do you think she was "making a point to teach" or responding to your son's natural curiosity? Kids ask a LOT of questions, and even if he was shy and didn't ask, if he was standing there staring at her she might have felt the need to explain what was happening.

You can explain that that is how people and all other mammals are designed to feed their babies. Maybe go to a petting zoo or farm that has some baby animals that he can see nursing.

If I was in public or even at a friend's house, I tried to cover up with a blankie or something, so my breast wasn't "hanging out", and it was most uncomfortable if I was at an event with a lot of friends from my office, mostly male. So everyone's comfort level is different, you don't have to be "flaunting" your breastfeeding, but it would be good if you could "de-sexualize" breasts a little for your son and let him learn from you that breastfeeding is natural and normal.

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answers from Seattle on

Gosh - I would have done the same thing as your neighbor! If you went inside and then I was going to feed the baby....and your son didn't understand I would have explained it. I think it would have gone something like, "After I had my baby my body produces milk for the baby to eat. She is hungry so I am feeding her. Some mamas feed their babies with their own milk and some mamas feed their babies with formula....good thing babies can eat both!" and left it at that.
I think I would explain to your child that when the baby comes your body produces milk. It's natural. He wont be traumatized, especially if you talk about it. I don't even think it's something that needs to be talked about a lot...just very matter of fact. I dont' think he has a "bad view" at's just something very new for him to be seeing.
Also, I think that there are always teaching moments. WHile I am a bit baffled that you are so sure that she used this as a teaching moment (did you ask her that), they happen all the time. I point out women that are breastfeeding and remind my boys that that is what's going to happen with their new sister (also preggers!), just to make sure that they understand (my boys are 5 and 8).
I think that everything will work out fine in the long run. It will be good for your son to see your baby nursing (which, may take some time!!), and it will NOT traumatize him, in fact it may educate him a bit.

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answers from St. Cloud on

If YOU don't/didn't/wouldn't make a big deal about this, neither would your son. We just had our third a couple weeks ago and I'm bfing. Our 3 and 5 year olds never thought twice about it! In fact, our 3 year old made the comment to my husband, "Mommy feeds the baby from her tummy..... I don't know how she does it!" Too cute in my opinion. But the kids know it's NORMAL and that's how God made mommy's! TO BE ABLE TO FEED AND NOURISH THEIR BABIES!

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answers from Chicago on

I hardly feel your son was "traumatized" by the incident. He's confused, he was taken by surprise. I feel your neighbor was wrong about teaching your kids about breastfeeding. But the damage is done.

In a matter of fact way, I would explain to your son that breastfeeding is the best way to feed a baby, it's the way babies have been fed since time began, and that the choice is yours - NOT his. He doesn't get a say in how you're going to feed the baby. I would tell him that when the time comes, you will make sure you cover yourself because you like a little privacy when you breastfeed. Remind him that every one is different, but different doesn't mean wrong. After you've explained this to him and he brings it up again, tell him not to worry about it and change the subject.

Good luck.

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answers from Detroit on

I would explain to your son that "Yes, I do plan on breastfeeding this baby. However, I plan on doing it in a way that others will not see my whole breast, like the neighbor did the other day."
I would also explain that "God made our bodies in a very special way that enables us to provide the milk for our babies and that I was unable to do that with you and your brother, which makes me a little sad, but I would like to try it with this baby." (Maybe he is a little jealous that you are going to BF this baby?)
I would also explain to him that the neighbor was just trying to help show him what BF was all about... and that you are sorry if it kind of scared him in a way. Ask him why it bothers him so much to have the "baby sucking on the mom's breasts" as he states? Maybe he thinks it will hurt you... you need to find out what is really bothering him about it. Kids have wild imaginations!
Also, tell him that you would appreciate it if he would use appropriate words for body parts... that might help change the situation around a bit... just a thought. Maybe your husband stepping in and talking with him would help too!

Congrats on your new baby and great job not getting upset with your neighbor, even though she kind of overstepped her boundaries there... she was just trying to be helpful and you saw through that despite how it negatively impacted your child.

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answers from Houston on

I don't think you are necessarily being oversenstive, but if you were planning on breastfeeding...I'd say it was a blessing in disguise. At least you can deal with it now rather than after baby is here.

I'd be simple and matter of fact about it. Breasts are breasts...not boobs. They are meant for feeding a baby. And while there are many very suitable way to do it, it is the best and most healthy.

I'm sorry to say it, but I think your hormones may be making his "trauma" more than it actually is. He is getting a reaction out of you. Have a little sit-down with him, explain how its going to be, and put a stop to the discussion.

Just as any adult, he can learn to avert his eyes if he is uncomfortable. It isn't the last time in his life that he is going to have to look away from something.

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answers from Joplin on

First of all don't feel like your being oversensitive. I have breastfed all three of my children and any time I was around other children who hadn't been exposed to it I always covered up if I couldn't find some place private. I have never felt that it was my place to educate someone else's child. As far as your son goes, you and your husband should set him down and explain to him that all animals fed their young that way and that it is the way that nature designed it. ( I tell my children that breastfeeding was the way God wanted it to be, but if you don't feel comfortable saying that...) Help him understand how much better the breast milk is for the baby. Explain to him that you don't have to be so open about it and that it's easy to cover up and maybe you can take him shopping with you to find a nice nursing cover. I suggest I got mine there and love it but it your handy with a sewing machine you could probably make one just as easy. This is a tough subject but be as frank as you feel comfortable and I'm sure he'll be just fine. Good luck.

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answers from Chicago on

I read this and had to laugh because of something that happened when I went to change my son's diaper when a friend of mine was over with her 2 young girls (7 & 4). I thought nothing of changing him in front of them but their mom did. She took them out of the room saying it was too soon for that kind of education! Hopefully you are laughing now.

With your son I would just leave it alone for now and don't comment on it every time he makes a comment. 4 year old children, as you probably know, can be a little obsessive on things. It is very easy to feed your little one without "whipping it out" for the whole world to see. I fed my kids everywhere in public and trust me, there was no peep show on display. Please don't let this incident discourage you from breastfeeding. Your son will lose interest soon enough with all the other excitement that comes with a new baby.

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answers from Lafayette on

Have they ever seen animals nurse? I wpuld tell him that humans can do the same and that the milk is better for the baby. I would assure him that if he didn't want to watch, he could always go to another room and play. I would also see if this is covered in the sibling classes some hospitals offer. I have been a nursing mom. You may not always be able to nurse in private with other young children to watch. But given the choice between a hungry and cranky baby and one who is contentedly nursing - I am sure what option I would pick!

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answers from Chicago on

I wouldn't get too upset- your son is always going to hear different opinions and ideas from people, as the parent you have to help him digest those.

My son was 3 when we had our daughter and the "eating from your boob" was his interpretation as well. He wanted to eat from my boob too- just like his sister. My husband called it "BOOB JUICE" and when my son went to the daycare at our gym, he was playing with the baby dolls and when someone suggested he feed the dolls he told them "Ok, have to get the boob juice". In our house there was no need to explain anything- it is just how it is. If anything, I would explain that going forward Mommy can feed the baby two ways, and it is the same milk either way. The important part is that the baby gets their food and grows. Our son takes a great deal of comfort in knowing that we are "caring for him and protecting our children"- this sort of explanation would really make him very happy.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I agree with you. While breastfeeding is common and natural, she had NO business whipping out the boob in front of your kids! The very LEAST she could have done was consulted you first. What a wack-o!

As for your son, because of the way he was "exposed" to bf-ing, he's going to have a rougher time accepting it. Another reason to give you neighbor a nice "thanks". :-(

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answers from St. Louis on

I don't think it was very appropriate for your neighbor to do that in front of your children and then to try to explain breastfeeding without your approval. Since it was done and your son it asking questions I would just answer them the best that you can. When my daughter was 2 1/2 she didn't question me breastfeeding baby but now that she is 4 shes asking questions with new baby. The first time we were back home from the hospital and she seen me nursing she asked why was baby eating my boob! I just told her that having a baby makes mommy milk for baby that fills his tummy up and makes him grow. If for some reason your son is not comfortable seeing you breastfeed maybe try wearing a nursing cover so he cannot see whats going on. He may surprise you and just get use to it like my 4 yr old. Ive even caught her pretending to breastfeed her dolls!
good luck

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answers from Cincinnati on

Have you asked your son why he's uncomfortable? I know he's only four, but perhaps together you can help him voice what bothers him about the situation, which will then help him get over it. I think it is a difficult problem to address if you don't know why your son feels the way he does. I also agree with other people that you need to explain to your son that this is the reason mommies have breasts. Breasts are for feeding babies. Mommies and Daddies are different, physically, so that babies can grow in mommies' tummies and then mommies can feed their babies. Perhaps it's good that you're starting now, since this bothers your son, and he may be able to adjust to the idea before the baby comes. Good luck!

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answers from Kansas City on

I think it was really rude of that lady to teach your kids like that, but I also think your kid is a little too sensitive if he cant handle seeing a kid being breastfed. I think we protect our kids a little too much from a natural process. My kid has seen other kids breastfed and it doesnt bother her or me, but I would be really po'd if a lady whipped it out and lectured my kid on breastfeeding. That's what Sesame Street is for.

Actually, come to think of it, maybe that clip from Sesame Street would help your son.

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answers from Columbus on

I don't think she should have whipped it out in front of your son. When I was breastfeeding and there was other children at our house, I would cover up. I even did it with my own kids at first until they got used to it.

I would let your son know the baby is going to eat like that at first but you will have a blanket over you. Let him know the milk that Mommy's give the baby makes them very healthy, something like that he can relate to. He might be unsure of it for a couple weeks once the baby comes but he will get over it.

Congrats on #3!

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answers from Norfolk on

If you are anywhere near any farm areas in the spring time, and there are farm parks around, take your kids. Let them see the Mama animals with their babies (sheep, goats, pigs, etc) and it's a pretty good bet he'll see the babies drink their mothers milk. We're mammals. It's the defining characteristic of what we do - feed milk to our young. Whales, dolphins, duck billed platypuses - all mammals do this. If there are no farms near you, a zoo might do. Or you might have to find an age appropriate book to help explain it.
The other Mom over stepped her bounds. She wasn't asked to teach your kids anything. But what's done is done, so you are going to have to teach your kids your way now.

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answers from Boston on

Perhaps you are being overly sensitive. I was always very modest when latching on the baby as I didn't want to "flash" anyone, so nothing was ever being "whipped out" and way more can be seen walking down the street with the current fashions. My neice and nephew were very curious about breastfeeding. They would come find me if I left the room and sit there and watch and ask questions because it wasn't something they were used to seeing. I would answer their questions without going into any lengthy diatribe about it. Really it could be uncomfortable for me at times because I had such an attentive audience! Kids are curious. They ask questions, you answer. Now if my neighbor was instructing my kids in God or sex or something, that would be one thing. But explaining breastfeeding? Where's the controversy? Breasts were intended for that purpose and babies were meant to be fed that way. If that's what she explained, I don't see a problem. Sounds like she may have gotten a little more explicit with the explanation (why you need to explain latching, I don't know) and perhaps he is just a little scared by the "weirdness" of it or the forceful way she presented it.

As for helping him understand, Dr. Sears has a good book for reading to children about birth and breastfeeding. It's has different levels of info for different ages. I am sure there are others as well. Maybe try the library and ask the librarian if she can recommend anything. And I think I would just ask him what his issue is. Try to bring it up with him when he isn't stressed and asking about bottles. I'm sure there is also an element of his fears about the upcoming birth complicating it. When you had your second child he was really young, so new baby and now this totally new idea. He's probably feeling a little bit like what the heck is going on. I imagine when he sees you nursing the baby and realizes it isn't some sort of weird thing, he will come around. But I'd try tracking down some books that show nursing and discuss it in terms he can get.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

i don't blame her for telling him what she was doing, now she probably could've said, i'm feeding my baby, and left it at that, then if more questions were asked, she could've said, "that's a question you need to ask your mom"...maybe tell your son that without bottles that's the only way babies USED to eat. i'd probably talk to her about jsut "whipping" it out in front of your son, she could've covered herself and baby with a blanket.....that's what i used to do

take him and let him see a baby horse feeding off mommy, and maybe even a cow...let him see it's natural, and nothing gross about it

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