Can Boys Nurse Babies?

Photo by valentinap via Flickr
Photo by valentinap via Flickr

I stumbled across an interesting article by Amy Rawson today. Called “Raising Boys,” her article delineates her attempt to raise boys unfettered by society’s expectations of what a boy should be. Her boys, she says, are free to play with trucks and dolls, to sport long hair and to cry when they’re hurt.

The part of her article that took the most heat, though, was the part where she admits that her two sons pretend to nurse their dolls.

I was not shocked, surprised or offended by that statement. I’ve nursed four boys, and at least three of them have pretended to nurse a doll or stuffed animal at some point in time. And why wouldn’t they? Children learn to parent by watching us, and my boys saw me nursing the new baby many times a day.

Many readers, though, were disgusted by her admission. A sampling:

“Boys acting like they are nursing!? Ok, I think that is a bit extreme.”

“If my girls were pretending to nurse, it wouldn’t be so bad. After all, I nursed mine til they were a year. But, I would be offended if I saw my son “nursing” a baby, I would not if he had a bottle (it can always be a bottle of “breast milk”). They don’t have the “equipment” and I just don’t think it’s right. I think this kind of raising (in the article) may turn him into a “girly man”, and I hate that.”

“Of course a child acts out nursing. Because he saw you do it. He’s testing you to see your response. If you don’t guide them, and teach them, they will grow up as an animal in captivity and will be very sad when they hit the “real world” and probably ill-equipped to cope.”

I’m speechless. Do people really believe this stuff? What’s your take on boys nursing babies?

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6 Responses

  1. My boys have both pretended to nurse babies – especially the younger one. They know they can’t really, but they are pretending – aren’t we supposed to encourage pretend play? I’ve got no problem with it at all!

  2. My thoughts are with you on those who were offended. When I had my second son, he had difficulty with nursing and gaining weight. I ended up having to pump in order to know how much he was getting–although even with a bottle he lost about 25% out the side of his mouth. My 3 year old boy saw me pump all the time and I had an extra set of ‘cups with tubes’, so he would get those and also pump. I have pictures of it and it is priceless. A few months went by and one day he asked me why he didn’t have any milk. A comment which I also treasure. I think the fact that her boys were trying to nurse babies and take care of them will actually better prepare them for the world today when so many moms have to work. What a great thing to have a dad that is nurturing and hopefully sees the needs of their children.

  3. Um, yeah, I don’t see the problem at all here. My youngest, a boy, pretended to nurse his sisters’ dolls when he was younger (say, 2 or 3). He’s seen his aunts do it and he knows that’s how many babies get their food. So what if he doesn’t have the “right equipment?” Chill out, people!

    To me, it just shows a nurturing, kind, sweet personality. My other son would never even think to do this.

    Now if he were still doing it when he was 10 or 15 or 20, that could be a problem…

    The person who said that the mother needs to guide the kid so he doesn’t grow up like “an animal in captivity” makes me mad. Like the child will be unable to cope in the “real world!” Kids learn really fast what’s socially acceptable once they spend any length of time with peers. They also learn who has the “right equipment” for what. 😉

    Also, the “girly man” comment — I’d just like to say that we need many more “girly men” around! I love men who understand and relate to women and I hope my boys grow up to be compassionate, nurturing, sympathetic, affectionate individuals. If that makes them “girly,” then so be it.

  4. Wow, that’s sad. Max nurses “Mynava” (or My Ava, as the case may be) all the time. And holds my pumps for me. Ok that’s a little weird, but still. 🙂

  5. I think some people just have a fear of nursing, in general. My sister-in-laws both expressed discomfort with my nursing of my children as young toddlers. I can totally imagine them coming up with those kinds of comments. I am always so encouraged to hear from other parents who don’t stress about what is gender appropriate for their child! Children ARE people and they take in SO much – as they grow and process these things they let go of what doesn’t work for them. If we allow them to!!

  6. Amen, Sarah, about the “girly men.”

    Jill #2, I think you’re right on about this attitude reflecting a general discomfort with nursing. So many people still have a problem with nursing in public, nursing any baby older than a newborn and nursing in general that perhaps this attitude shouldn’t surprise me.

    But nursing is 100% natural; that’s what breasts were intended to do. And I’ll keep nursing, writing, education and talking until that’s accepted.

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