Have you ever seen a toddler or even older child pretend to breastfeed a doll or stuffed animal? Perhaps your own toddler or older child enjoys pretend breastfeeding because he or she sees you nursing your infant. Much like other forms of role playing and play-based learning that boosts your child’s development, the value of pretend breastfeeding is quite enormous.
We’re sharing four reasons to celebrate the value of pretend breastfeeding:
Imitation is What Children Do and How They Learn
From the beginning of their lives, children imitate their parents. In fact, we all bank on this form of normal development to teach our children how to speak, eat, behave, and countless other skills they’ll need in life. Imitating breastfeeding is no different than imitating dad cooking in the kitchen, mom putting on her makeup, or big brother practicing guitar. Young children absorb the lessons they observe in everyday life and practice them.
When kids pretend to breastfeed, they are demonstrating a deep understanding for how this process works: a baby is hungry and needs to be fed. Babies drink breast milk and therefore breastfeeding is in order. In the play world of a child a “baby” may be viewed as anything baby-like such as a doll or stuffed animal. Or it may be represented by a beloved object like a ball, truck or dinosaur.
Pretend Breastfeeding Emphasizes a Shared Value
Through your actions, words, loving gestures and dedication, you are constantly imparting values on your kids. If breastfeeding is a cherished value in your family, you are passing this along by sharing the experience openly. You may talk about how you used to breastfeed your older children or make breastfeeding your infant a normal part of your daily routine as a family. You might even point out breastfeeding when you see it in public and give other new moms a smile and approving nod while you’re at it. This shared value is solidified when you see your kids pretend breastfeeding, a true act of loving kindness.
Pretend Breastfeeding Encourages Health and Nutrition
Of course we can’t forget that breast milk is the most perfectly well-balanced nutrition for babies and offers a range of immediate and lifelong health benefits. As you’re always looking out for the health and wellbeing of your family starting with your decision to breastfeed, you are encouraging continued health and nutrition as your children grow. Pretend breastfeeding shares this ultimate gift of health. Plus it helps your kids understand the full circle of making the best nutritious choices from first food (breast milk) and beyond.
Pretend Breastfeeding Helps Normalize Breastfeeding
Although sometimes met with controversy, a new mom’s body is biologically meant to provide this natural act of nourishment and love. Breastfeeding in public, in particular, is still a hot button issue. Rather than a source of food for babies whenever and wherever they need it, some people relegate breasts as sexual objects that shouldn’t be exposed. Fortunately, enough people understand that breasts are meant to breastfeed. A mom has every right to nurse when her baby is hungry. This charge to normalize breastfeeding is catching on as the benefits of breast milk become more undeniable every year.
Pretend breastfeeding perpetuates the movement to normalize breastfeeding. As children grow they know breastfeeding is not just healthy and natural. It’s also normal, they will continue to promote the cause. Or better yet, it won’t even be a cause by the time they are moms and dads.
Part of normalizing breastfeeding is understanding it is normal for girls and boys to pretend to breastfeed. At a young age, the distinction between the functions of the male and female body is innocently unknown. Everyone has nipples and therefore in the eyes of a child everyone can breastfeed. It’s just that simple.
The value of pretend breastfeeding is about the wonders of childhood development and sharing values of love and health. This very precious, very normal behavior is one you can cherish for years to come.
Sources: Parents, The Leaky Boob, Parenting and Huffington Post