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Chatting with children about breastfeeding

Atualizado: 2 de set. de 2020

At the end of August, the month dedicated to encouraging breastfeeding across the globe, Professor Ana Eliza Port Lourenço comments in this article on ways to talk about breastfeeding with children. She brings suggestions for conversations that can be held, both at school and at home, and can help children grow up perceiving breastfeeding as something natural and important for life.

Photo: Pedro Vianna Tavares

At first glance, it may seem strange to think about talking about breastfeeding with children. However, for breastfeeding to be perceived as something natural and important for life, it is interesting to expose kids to the subject from an early age. We live in a time when families are smaller, and children do not always have breastfeeding women in their social worlds. Talking to our children can help so that, when adults, breastfeeding is not something unknown, strange, or far from their reality.

Showing photos and videos of nursing mammals is a fun way to get children's attention and talk, for example, about similarities between breastfeeding by humans and other animals. When possible, it is worth using photos of the child breastfeeding when he or she was a baby. Pictures of siblings, cousins, or friends being breastfed are also welcome. The most important thing is to show that breastfeeding is happening all around us.

Another suggestion is to show images of breastfeeding including women from different social groups, countries, and times. Depending on the age of the child, we can talk about the role of breastfeeding in the history of humanity and its benefits for mothers and babies. We can also say that breastfeeding is good for the planet, in terms of saving natural resources used in the production of milk formulas and packaging, in the heating and sterilization of bottles and utensils, not to mention the disposal of cans and plastics.

There are several challenges that women may have with breastfeeding, depending on the history of each woman, baby, and person close to them. One of the best things to help a woman breastfeed is having people around to support her. Therefore, it is important to highlight images of people supporting the woman who breastfeeds and emphasize how fundamental this support is for mother and baby.

We can all support breastfeeding, whether we are experienced in the subject or not, men or women, adults or children. After all, there are many ways of being supportive. We can help to take care of the baby or do household chores while the mother rests. We can also offer careful listening when the mother wants to talk, be available to help in whatever she needs, or simply show our appreciation and affection. When it comes to showing affection, children are usually experts! With crayons, colorful paper and art of all kinds, they express their open curiosity and love!

Public policies and social movements have been promoting breastfeeding and seeking ways to support women who wish to breastfeed. This is an important step, especially if we remember that, not long ago, advertisement for infant milk formula was even on TV, and breastfeeding was undervalued. However, we need to keep an eye on this issue and sensitize new generations, because especially during pregnancy and after birth, products from the commercial industry that may discourage nursing are widely promoted.

It is interesting to think about baby dolls and toys. These days dolls come with car seats, strollers, diapers, pacifiers, bottles of various types, among other accessories that are not always needed and may not reflect motherhood in real life. More than unnecessary, pacifiers and bottles are not recommended and can hinder breastfeeding. Role playing with these dolls and accessories does not encourage breastfeeding in children’s imaginations. Moreover, most of the time these toys are aimed at girls, which discourages boys from perceiving themselves as part of this reality.

Yes, the subject is not as simple as it seems. It is an invitation for us to think of ways of playing with dolls that can promote breastfeeding in a child’s world in a light and fun manner. The importance of studying, moving the body and eating healthy food are examples of topics that we bring to children when they are still young, so that they may build good habits. Following the same idea, we can encourage kids to get to know about breastfeeding and to support and protect it.

Breastfeeding brings benefits to mothers, babies, as well as the planet. We can't leave our kiddos out!

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