What my children learned at my breast

Breastfeeding has taught me many things about being a mother, but I was thinking recently about what it taught my children. As I thought about it, I realized that it taught them much more than I realized at the time.
My son nursed until he was 5 months, at which time we weaned due to undiagnosed tongue tie that led to severe biting. Although it was a short time compared to the 3 years and 3 months that my daughter nursed, the many hours that we spent nursing taught my son that I was there for him and that his needs would be met. The skin-to-skin contact, my scent, the sound of my voice, along with my milk, all helped to nourish and grow his body and brain. My son learned that the world is a safe and wonderful place, and those emotional memories will be the place from which he approaches the world.
My daughter learned the same lessons as a young baby, and as a toddler, she learned many other lessons at the breast. My daughter learned to share at the breast. Little did I realize at the time that nursing all those stuffed animals, dolls and plastic toys was actually helping my daughter learn to share and wait her turn! My daughter learned to be gentle. The bruises and scratches on my arms from my daughter pinching me while nursing just couldn’t continue, so I taught her nursing manners. Whenever she started to pinch, I would take her hand and stroke my arm with it while saying “gentle”. When she started to bite I would say no biting, put her down and walk away for a moment. She would cry and then we would sit down again for her to nurse. She learned that there are limits on what we can do to each other, and that certain behaviours are not acceptable.
During those times of toddler nursing when I was feeling touched out and had to limit nursing for my own sanity, I would tell her “Mommy’s going to sing the alphabet (or count to 10) and then we’re done” My goal was to finish nursing as quickly as possible with as little fuss as possible, but during those trying times of me feeling touched out by a toddler who was nursing like a newborn again, my daughter learned the alphabet and how to count to 10.
During the wonderful, peaceful times that we had in the rocking chair as I was nursing her to sleep, I would sing to her. I am certainly no singer, but I sang because I had read that it could help to ease the transition to going to sleep without nursing. When she was ready, we gradually replaced nursing to sleep with just cuddles and songs. I was doing it to make things easier on myself and my husband, but I realize now that all of my singing helped my daughter to develop a love of music. My daughter is now 7 and my son is 9, and singing is still a part of our bedtime routine that all of us look forward to.
My daughter learned to be patient at the breast. As she got older and I became less comfortable nursing her in public, she sometimes had to wait to nurse. If I was feeling stressed, sometimes she had to wait for my milk to letdown. Although it may have been frustrating for her at times, those moments taught her that patience has its rewards.
At the time, as I dealt with the trials of a nursing toddler, I didn’t realize that I was also teaching my daughter life lessons. Looking back I can see that there are many things that she learned during our time spent nursing, and I am thankful that simply putting her to breast taught her the most important lesson of all. She learned to trust. I was always there, ready and willing to nurse her whenever she needed to. Whether she was hungry or thirsty, hurt or scared, tired or overwhelmed, I was there to nurse her and help her feel better. She learned that she was safe and secure and that her needs would always be met. Because of that, she is a very adventurous, outgoing and social child. It is certainly possible to teach children the same thing without breastfeeding (as evidenced by the fact that my son is also securely attached, outgoing and adventurous) but nursing just makes the whole process so much easier. I really miss the days of being able to soothe a tantrum or settle my daughter to sleep just by nursing. It often felt like I wasn’t doing anything other than sitting around all day, but looking back I can see that I was teaching my daughter some very important lessons, and laying a strong foundation from which she can fearlessly go out and meet the world, knowing that she has a safe place to come back to.



  1. Love this! We count to 20 or sing the alphabet to time out short nursing sessions over here, which helped my son learn to recite both on his own. He’s 2.5 now and he is slowly learning patience. We’re expecting his baby brother any day now and hopefully he’s as eager to share as he’s been to share with his toys. 🙂

  2. “It often felt like I wasn’t doing anything other than sitting around all day, but looking back I can see that I was teaching my daughter some very important lessons, and laying a strong foundation from which she can fearlessly go out and meet the world, knowing that she has a safe place to come back to.”

    I needed to read this. I am currently tandem nursing my daughters ages 3 and 1. The past year it feels like I haven’t done anything, but sit while my poor husband runs around trying to keep up with everything.

  3. I love this.I’m pretty sure that’s exactly how my daughter learned to count to 20, too!

  4. Thank you for this. I think about all of the lessons my daughter will be learning at my breast and it makes the breastfeeding process that much more special for us both in my eyes. Your words rang so true with me… It has really struck a chord in my soul.

  5. This is a beautiful article. I am currently nursing my 13 month old twins. They both crawl to me and cry in the morning so I have to tandem nurse, but what a great feeling to look down at them. I am still nursing them twice a day and hope to do this for many months to come.

  6. Beautiful article. I appreciate this article and the lessons (I think) my son learned at the breast.

  7. I read this while breadtfeeding my almost 5 mnth old lil girl
    We have come thru a lot of hoops such as thrush her teething
    And I’m so glad I’ve stuck with it and this article actually made me
    Reconsider and rethink about weaning her soon due to teething
    I loved it it made me cherish it more …..thanks and keep up the good articles

  8. I hadn’t thought this thank you for sharing!

  9. beautiful- thanks for sharing!

  10. Christy says:

    I absolutely needed this article! I’m currently nursing an 18 month old toddler and sometimes it can be very overwhelming feeling like a “piece of meat” to them. I am so glad though that I am there for him and he has a sense of security in this crazy world. Thanks again for lifting my spirits and I know I’ll miss him nursing in the years ahead of us.

  11. This is utterly beautiful. I read it while nursing my 7 month old. Thank you for writing this. I will be sure to share it. 🙂

  12. Beautiful! Thanks for reminding me that sitting down to nurse is not a prison sentence (as it sometimes seems when a nursing toddler nurses like a newborn).

  13. Fleur (Nurtured Child) says:

    Thank you everyone for you comments. It was certainly a revelation for me when I realized that I wasn’t spending hours a day “doing nothing” I was actually teaching my children some valuable lessons!

  14. This was healing balm for my soul. Going on 40 months with my daughter – yes she’s 3 years and 4 months and I think the next one will wean before she does. I did not plan to nurse this long, I nursed her brother – 22 months older than her – for 16 months. It just seems she’s needed it. I think one of the reasons is that it is teaching her things that might be difficult to teach in another way, things like personal boundaries, respect, love and kindness, patience, forgiveness… etc. Thank you for singing out what was already echoing in my mind 😀 It’s validating.

  15. Thank you for posting this. My daughter and I just hit our 2 year nursing milestone, and it’s articles/posts like this that reinforce to me that I’m doing something wonderful for her, even if it’s not common practice in my neck of the woods. It’s also nice to know that I’m not the only one with a toddler who can nurse like a newborn LOL. 🙂

  16. Kerrie-ann says:

    Thank you for such a wonderful post. Reading this was a great way to start my day!

  17. As a mother who is currently tandem nursing a newborn and a very attached 2.5 year old I just wanted to say Thank You! You made me feel better.

  18. It is great to read and know that others are feeling and going through the same things as me. Thank you so much for this post and for all of those that have commented. I’m amazed at how similar our stories are.
    My daughter is almost two and I have recently started to wonder if she is going to nurse forever. 🙂 But like a reader said – then I look down at her, kiss her sweet forehead and am so thankful for those moments I have with her.

  19. I was completely weaned off the breast a little after 3 years old. I learned that you can give a live radio interview or 2 while breastfeeding (it’s what you get to do when you are president of La Leche League of New York City in the early 70s. I was a champion nurser and knew my manners. 🙂

  20. Christina K says:

    Thanks for your comments & point of view. My 6 month old son is biting & I can’t seem to get him to understand it hurts. I’m going to try to put him down now when he does it. I hope it works for me as it worked with your daughter.

  21. Thank you for sharing this. It’s difficult to convey how much I truly enjoy nursing my son. He’s still a tiny baby (nearing three months) and I plan to keep going until he’s ready to stop. Breastfeeding is SO much more than a source of nutrition for my son. And the bond it has created between the two of us is immeasurable and honestly is the greatest thing I have ever done. So it’s nice to read another mom’s thoughts on the subject 🙂

  22. Thank you for this beautiful piece. I read it while nursing my 4 month old with a smile on my face.

  23. Thank you for these lovely thoughts! My son just turned a year old and has recently started nursing more than he has in months. As you said, I feel most of the time, that I am glued to the couch most of my day and definitely glued to his side throughout the night. Sometimes I feel anxious for him to stop nursing…but then I look down at his peaceful, trusting face, and I am proud of myself for sticking with it throughout all of the nursing hardships we’ve faced, so thankful that I am doing this for my son and even for myself.

  24. I actually had a conversation involving nursing with my son’s (in kindergarten) gym teacher today. The teacher was discussing children having physical issues due to the environment we are raised in today and one of the things he brought up was not nursing at the breast and having bottles propped instead. His theory is that is causing issues with children being able to track things with their eyes since they learn at the breast very early to track mom’s movement and get switched side to side. Interesting to me. He then proceeded to tell me my son did not seem to have issues with that (but did have others) and that was when I told him my son nursed for 18 months. My youngest child weaned at 35 months and I wish I would have had something like this as ammo for all the nay sayers then!

  25. This gave me a warm fuzzy feeling. My son will be 1 in a few weeks and it is interesting transitioning from nursing a baby to nursing a toddler. People who were supper supportive initially are starting to give me “helpful” weaning tips and stories. I appreciate having such an eloquently framed statement to reenforce my choice.

  26. What a moving piece. It’s wonderful to read how natural teaching occurs during moments of bonding. This is the deficiency in the lives of many children. If only their parents took the time to do the magical connections you did with your children, then there would be more happy children. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

  27. Dominique McGrady says:

    Thank you! I always wondered about tandem nursing and questioned why I did it…and only now when I see the relationship between my youngest two do I truly understand and feel grateful. Thanks for your insight. Breastfeeding is a gift.
    In families we have so many gifts to share and I am just so glad that breastfeeding was one I could share with my children. Dominique, Comox, BC

  28. hooray for you ! lovely points in this piece, great blog on a great website.

    and yes to drinks……..with a famous blogger!!


  29. Lovely article. You’ve nailed something that most people have never considered. Amazing.


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