Supporting Breastfeeding

La Leche League Canada

Words of Wisdom on Nursing Words

on September 3, 2014

Nursing past the first year is recommended by both health professionals and organizations, as well as by experienced breastfeeding moms who know firsthand the many benefits, both physical and emotional, for mother and baby.

As babies begin to form words, they quickly find one to associate with breastfeeding.  Mothers know that a word for nursing is often the first one uttered.  It may be indecipherable to anyone but mom, however, the word is like a secret code between the nursing couple.

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Here’s the challenge:  some of us forget that our babies will mimic our choice of words and before we know it, we’re hearing our toddler ask, sometimes loudly, for “boobies” or some other descriptive word for our anatomy.  While some might be comfortable with having their older nurslings ask this specifically, others might prefer to introduce a less graphic word.  My five children each had a different word for nursing and I still remember them to this day – despite the fact that they are all grown adults!  Just goes to show how often a nursing request was made for “booners”, “mercies”, “milkers”, “mer-mer” and “nummers”:  those special words are still dear to my heart.

A La Leche League Leader shared with me this funny story.  Her toddler was very fond of having a sip of her tea but she would often have to say to him, “Careful, hot tea” with a fair amount of urgency.  Before long, he was expressing his need to nurse, especially when he was ready for some time with his mother, by saying “hot tea” in the same urgent voice as she used.  Now, whenever they are out and about, people may hear him ask for “hot tea” but they surely don’t realize that he’s asking to nurse.  Instead, they are likely wondering why a mother gives her little one hot tea as a beverage!

Another experienced breastfeeding mother told about her experience with her son’s nursing word.  She was planning a visit to some relatives who were not aware of her toddler’s nursing.  She had been thinking ahead about telling them the importance of continued breastfeeding.  His word for nursing was “side” derived from his mother’s saying “let’s switch sides” when he was breastfeeding.  The visit went very well, and there wasn’t a need to explain long-term nursing; however, her little toddler was being dressed to go and play outside quite often since her relatives were sure they were helping when he asked for “side”.

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A nursing word is like a love exchange between a mother and her toddler.  She hears the word and she knows that her little one needs her milk, her presence and her touch.  She knows how very special and important she is to her child.  Breastfeeding is so much more than milk to a toddler – it really is an expression of positive attachment to the most essential person in his world…his mother.

by Lenore


If you need more information or have a breastfeeding problem or concern, you are encouraged to talk directly to a La Leche League Leader.  In Canada, Leaders can be located by clicking or Internationally








One response to “Words of Wisdom on Nursing Words

  1. Terran says:

    My 16-mo-old doesn’t have a word. I’ll ask her if she wants to nurse and/or use the sign for milk. She’ll wrinkle up her nose and start breathing in and out furiously, even in a barely-awake state in the middle of the night. If she decides it’s time to nurse and I’m not giving in fast enough, she’ll lick my neck or my belly if she can get my shirt up. She is entertaining to say the least!

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