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Using the milk sign.

Signing for milk.

I love hearing all the names kids use for breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is such a special phase of a young child’s life that I think it only appropriate for them to name this important and intimate time.

My own daughter’s name for breastfeeding evolved over the couple months it took for her to create discernible letter sounds with her mouth. Of course every time she made a new sound I said it back to her. (This is actually an important part of the language acquisition process. Mimicking infant sounds helps babies feel confident about continuing to explore making new sounds and eventually mimic your words.)

This is how I remember it starting.

Daughter: “Nnn, nnn.”  Then later… “Nnn, eeeee.”

Her vocalizations began increasing when she wanted to nurse, and I reinforced these sounds by responding and repeating them each time. Eventually, like Pavlov’s dogs, she and I both began associating the sound “nn-ee” with nursing. Add the cry sound “ahhh!” and you have “ahhh  nn – ee!”

How cute, I thought. It sounds like she’s saying “Annie.” (Exciting because Annie is a real word, therefore making my daughter a genius at 6 months old. )

“Do you want some Annie?” I started asking her.

“Ahhh neeee,” she cried.

And that was how my daughter began calling nursing “Annie.”

As an aside, I’m not sure if I capitalize it because Annie is a proper name or if it’s because it’s an important name to my daughter. Either way though, I choose to distinguish breastfeeding names from breastfeeding words, relative to their distictive role in the child’s life.

Anyway, to this day, at five, if she sees another baby or toddler nursing she says, “He’s having Annie Mommy!” Or, “That Mommy has Annie!” She knows the real names for nursing or breastfeeding and breast milk, but I believe she recognizes and can distinguish the specialness of the breastfeeding relationship from the act itself. The only time she doesn’t call nursing Annie is when her little sister is nursing. My other daughter calls breast milk “milkies,” an evolution from “milk,” which is what I kind of wanted both of my children to call it. I thought it would make my life much easier if they began shouting for it in a public place. Because there’s no confusion when a toddler yells “Mommy I want booby!” Anyhow, without asking, my oldest daughter respects that “milkies” is her sister’s special word and calls it such when referring to her nursing.

Other names I have heard for breastfeeding are usually derivations of nurse such as nursies and nur-nur, or num, such as num-nums, nummies or mum-mums. Repetitive consonant-vowel sounds are also common, like me-me, na-na, ne-ne, nu-nu, and boo-boo. In addition, many parents are beginning to teach their babies the sign for milk, as sign language usually can be acquired at a younger age than spoken language. I like to think my own usage of the milk sign and other signs helped my daughter acquire her own early language skills.

Did you and your nursling have a special word for breastfeeding or a special name for breast milk? What was it?

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31 Responses to “Names for Breastfeeding”

  1. #1 Judy - Mommy News Blog Says:

    December 14, 2009 at 9:25 pm
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