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My Toddler Wants to Breastfeed Her Dolls

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When it comes to my daughter playing with dolls -- should I draw the line at breastfeeding?


Momlogic's Andrea:
Watch out, La Leche League ... you might have the world's youngest little solider to add to your ranks. My three-year-old daughter is just crazy about breastfeeding. No, I'm not breastfeeding her anymore. Hell, no. I quit at three months. But she's WAAAY into it.

At any given moment, she's pulling up her shirt and pushing her doll's plastic mouth up to her tiny chest. "You drink out of my breasts, baby," she lovingly tells Jella, her fave doll. (Don't ask where that name comes from...we have no clue.)

I guess it's kinda of my fault. I'm always playing back her little life to her. "You used to live in here," I tell her, pointing to my now flabby stomach. "You used to drink milk from these," I say, pointing to my saggy breasts. Then we laugh because it seems so strange to us now that I actually supplied four-course meals from body. These days, I barely have enough energy to cook instant Kraft Macaroni and Cheese --- and that's from a box.

Now breastfeeding is her favorite game. She whips her shirt off faster than those misguided teens in a "Girls Gone Wild" video. She hasn't done it in public (yet!) and frankly I'm a little nervous she's going to becomes the first-ever toddler wet nurse at her preschool.

I'm being very serious here ... should my daughter be allowed to "breastfeed" in public?

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34 comments so far | Post a comment now
Annie @ PhD in Parenting February 15, 2009, 9:29 AM

I think you should definitely encourage her. You don’t want to do anything to give her the impression at this young age that breastfeeding is something to be ashamed of or something to be hidden.

Rather than telling her she is doing something wrong, perhaps just teach her how most moms would do it. E.g. say “when moms are breastfeeding, they usually don’t take off their shirt. Instead, they just lift it up enough to let the baby latch on to nurse”.

Maria February 15, 2009, 9:51 AM

My two year old son nurses his dolls (try explaining that at daycare and church childcare!), and I do not discourage him. In fact, I try to talk to him about it and encourage it so if/when he is married and his wife is nursing, he will understand and be supportive and encouraging. :)

ashley February 15, 2009, 9:54 AM

I think it’s sweet. And if you don’t make her think it’s wrong then she will grow up and breastfeed her babies. I agree with Annie, just let her know how to do it appropriatly. I breastfed my baby girl for 13 1/2 months and it was wonderful for both of us. Well, when she was first born, my son, who had just turned 5, thought it was fascinating. He would come sit on the bed and just stare at his baby sister in amazement. He had many questions. Then for about 2 weeks, when he would come home from school and go get his Bart Simpson doll, sit on the bed next to me, and pretend he was breastfeeding Bart with a big smile on his face. I thought it was so precious!! His dad wasn’t thrilled but didn’t make too big a deal out of it. The phase quickly passed though. As I’m sure it will with your daughter. Enjoy it!

ls February 15, 2009, 10:09 AM

She’s just imitating; all kids do this for years. It isn’t wrong or inappropriate for her to do this, in my opinion, anywhere. Who cares what a three year old is doing with a doll, particularly a loving, maternal act?

Lindsay @ Kickypants February 15, 2009, 10:16 AM

I think it’s wonderful that your daughter is doing this. You can encourage her to see breastfeeding as a natural and normal way for babies to eat. I agree with the previous posters - just encourage her to do it in public the way most grown-up women do it (ie not stripping down!) You could even make her a ‘nursing shirt’ with an old t-shirt - cut a slit across the chest and then she can really imitate the grown-ups! Many, many kids go through a breastfeeding the dolls phase, especially when they’ve seen women in their lives doing it. Like everything at this age, I promise she won’t be doing it in high school!

laura February 15, 2009, 10:25 AM

Awww good for her! I find that far more appropriate than little girls feeding their dolls from a bottle. Good habits start early in life, and if she is enjoying her little feeding game, all the power to her! How cute! :)

michelle February 15, 2009, 10:30 AM

Both of mine “nursed” their dolls. I thought it was cute enough to take a photo of it.

Amy @ Taste Like Crazy February 15, 2009, 11:36 AM

My two year old nurses her dolls and we don’t encourage it or discourage it. The way I look at it is that she’s exhibiting natural mimicking behavior since she was breastfed and her five month old brother is breastfed and as long as she’s not getting obsessed then there’s nothing to be concerned about. When she bottle feeds her dolls we don’t say anything either-both are just examples of her playing.

If your three year old is dead set on hiking up her shirt to feed her baby then you have to do what you are comfortable with-give her a blanket to cover up with of don’t give her anything and just let her play. Whatever you do, don’t make her feel like she’s doing something wrong. She’ll get enough of that when she has real kid sof her own.

Heather February 15, 2009, 1:05 PM

Actually I have to disagree with most of the comments. It’s not acceptable to have a little girl lifting her shirt in public. Any more than it is for an adult women to breast feed in public exposing her breasts —without at least attempting to cover herself. A toddler doesn’t know about modestly we must teach it.

Anonymous February 15, 2009, 1:52 PM

I agree with you completely Heather. Just because everyone is trying to force feed nursing down our throats doesn’t mean it’s ok for a little girl to lift her shirt up and put a doll up to her breast. Its just inappropriate.

MrsEmbers February 15, 2009, 4:45 PM

I “breastfed” my stuffed Smurf when I was a toddler and my mom was breastfeeding my little brother- my mom thought it was sweet, and I never thought there was anything weird about it. I’ve gone on to bf my two little guys to one year- so far.

As far as her doing it in public, sure, teach her to hike up her shirt… or not, as you see approprate. I mean, I’d tell my boys to keep their shirts on at the mall, “breastfeeding” or not, but that’s because the mall has rules about that, right?

I’m so sick of people acting like it’s scandalous for a toddler girl to be topless in the yard, at the beach, etc. Get over it- let them have that freedom before they get to an age where they’ll be made self-conscious of their bodies.

Just don’t make her think there’s something shameful about breastfeeding itself, even if modesty is encouraged. :)

KateCake February 15, 2009, 6:10 PM

Heck yes! I used to do the same thing. It makes no sense to discourage her from doing something so natural and nurturing. She’s building her mommy skills, and plenty of grownups should take a lesson!

anony February 15, 2009, 9:09 PM

While it is perfectly natural for her to want to understand and emulate this behavior, especially if you’ve discussed it with her, you need help her understand that this is something that Mommies do with modesty and that not everything mommies get to do is appropriate for her to do. That’s my opinion and how I would handle it. But if you are perfectly alright with her trying to breast feed her dolly then I suggest having her wear a body suit or tucked in tank top under her clothes and let her now that this does not come off… out in public, at school or at friends homes. Of course as two year olds go… she will be over this and onto something new soon enough so I wouldn’t stress on it too much.

K&C's mom February 15, 2009, 11:24 PM

It is natural for a child to do this. My sister and I both did it, my daughter does, too. Though the funniest was when she at 5 tried to nurse her then 3 month old brother.

GG February 16, 2009, 12:15 AM

I think this is far more appropriate than kids bottle feeding dolls! Why teach something that should only be for emergencies (bottle feeding) as normal and regular? But yes, it should be stressed that mothers nursing in public do so discretely. It’s good to give kids an opportunity to learn about modesty and discretion, while realizing that this doesn’t mean a fear of the body!

lawrebce February 16, 2009, 1:20 AM

You can let her give it a try> It must be very funny.
A hot debate is taking place at now among
celebrities and beaitiful people. Many mamas said they were super-excited about it~

Bec Thomas February 16, 2009, 3:00 AM

My boys breastfed stuff animals while they were toddlers, my middle son would run and grab a stuffed animal when I sat down to breastfeed his younger bother and sit down with me. Toddlers mimic, it’s how they learn about the world around them and if you demonize the behavior you are just laying the ground work for future insecurities. She’ll grow out of it soon.

George February 16, 2009, 9:50 AM

I must disagree with the comments by Heather, “anonymous” and “anony”. Little girls don’t HAVE breasts. They have nothing that needs hiding. There is nothing wrong with a toddler showing their bare chest, boy or girl. To compare a preschooler’s chest and a woman’s breasts is what’s inappropriate. Where is your mind? If you have issues with breastfeeding, better get over it — breastfeeding is back to stay, and you’ll be seeing a lot more of it. Children wanting to breastfeed, and playing at doing so, is a very good thing indeed.

Sanity February 16, 2009, 2:34 PM

I also disagree with the comments made by ‘Heather’, ‘Anonymous’ and ‘Anony’

There is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG with a little girl wanting to nurse her dolls, especially if you teach her that grown ups do it discreetly. If it really bothers you, get a her a little dolly sling (a small half yard of 45 inch wide fabric will do) and teach her to nurse in the sling, where the fabric is covering her.

Toddler’s mimic, this is how they learn adult behavior.

Allison February 17, 2009, 8:40 AM

That is the cutest thing I’ve ever heard! Let her do it, it’s adorable, natural, and healthy.

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