Thursday, February 20, 2014

The One Where my Daughter Starts to Breastfeed

I saw my 9 year old "breastfeeding" over the weekend, and I nearly broke down in tears. 

Please don't judge me just yet, its not what you think.

I fully support breastfeeding. I have read the pamphlets, watched the videos, talked with the doctors, and helped my wife as she has nursed each of our babies. Breastfeeding is simply the best, most natural way for babies to feed. It provides lots of benefits for both mom and baby. I want my children to reap the benefits of breast feeding, and I want them as they grow to see it as a natural healthy part of the care of a baby.

So, lets discuss the events of the weekend. I recognize that there are two pars o this story: my daughters actions, and my reaction. Lets start with her actions, with a little background.
Kate and I were getting ready to head out alone on one of our all-too-rare dates, the first since Thanksgiving when baby was born. My parents would be watching the kids for the evening at their house. At home, nursing is a normal thing, as the little guy has quite the appetite. We make no effort to hide his feedings from his siblings, who are both very comfortable with the sight of him at his mothers breast. We talked with Godzilla early-on about what was happening, explaining how he needed to eat and giving a simplified summary of the benefits he got by eating this way. This is the second baby who Nat has been able to observe breast feeding, as the 4 years between her and Godzilla left her old enough to process his feedings the last time around. Basically, breast feeding is normal, and I know it, Kate knows it, and the kids know it. 

While I know some moms have issues with nursing covers, for the sake of her own modesty, and the comfort of extended family, other shoppers at stores, or guests in our home, Kate uses one. And so, as we dropped the three kids off at my parents, Nat sat down with a baby doll, Kate's nursing cover and nursing pillow to do what kids do best: mimic the behaviors of their parents. To this point, I say we're doing something right. We've set an example, and provided Nat the tools and opportunity to further embed a positive reflection of a life well lived. She in turn has taken that example and made it her own, proving yet again her stellar independence and self-confidence. I could not be more proud of those traits I see in her. 

But of course, this brings up the second issue in need of discussion: my reaction. 

I teared up when I saw her sitting there, proudly nursing her baby. It was literally hard for me to witness, and I had to turn away and take a moment to compose myself.

I want only good things for my daughter, and am proud of the woman she is becoming. I see growing in her daily a confidence that will carry her through times of self-doubt. I see independence that she will use to take possession of her life choices down the road. Frankly stated I see more maturity in her at the age of 9, than I did at the age of 4, when last she had an example of breastfeeding in front of her daily. Enter my sudden gut reaction to her nursing adventure. This maturity I see so strong in her brings a certain wistfulness for the time when she was 4 and younger. The age when she was my little princess who wanted me to put on my nice suit to play dress up with her so I could be Prince Charming to her Cinderella. The age where I was so new at being a parent, every day was a new milestone, something I had never seen before. An age of innocence and wonder.

The maturity on daily display also belies her current age. She is 9, which is still a child, but nearing the precipice of teenager. She wants to play with her imagination, and yet in her play copies actions and emotions that are still beyond her years.

Watching her nurse a baby doll leaves little room to imagine the baby is not hers, as one could do watching her feed from a bottle. Having her own baby implies that shes grown old enough to have sex. This thought affirms that very specific journey laid out before her, the one fathers struggle with for their little girls and mothers likewise struggle with for their little boys.

She will turn 10, and then 11, and 16, and 21... and I can see signs of the great woman she will be at each age.

She will grow up.

She will have boyfriends. She will have heartbreak. She will get married, have sex, and have kids. (Hopefully in that order - remember, traditional family here) It's human nature, and while I joke about polishing my guns, waiting for her future boyfriends to bring her home, I want her to have what her mom and I have. I want her to find true love. 

Back on point, this one act is not just an image of her mimicking her mother as a 4 year old would, nor is it simply a view of her impending sex life, but a statement of her youthful innocence and at the same time, a preview of the mature woman she is growing into. It is this dichotomy staring me in the face that brought a flood of emotions to the surface on Sunday afternoon.

And so I shed a tear. I cried for the memories of the princess she was, knowing she has outgrown that wondrous innocent play. I cried for the inspiring mom she will be, proud to know our examples continue to have an impact. And I cried for the joy of getting to share the amazing journey with her, every step of the way. 

She is my little girl, and no matter how old she gets, she always will be. And by that, I mean she holds my heart in her hand today and tomorrow the same way she always has since the day she carried it home from the hospital.


  1. Thanks for sharing this. I can barely picture my own 6-year-old at 9, but I know she'll be 16 before I realize it.

    1. I can still remember her at 3 or at 6 and often times it's hard to remember she's not that anymore!