ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR MANAGING OLDER SIBLINGS WHILE BREASTFEEDING
Being a mom is hard work. Managing older siblings while breastfeeding can seem like a daunting task at first, but it doesn’t have to be!
Moms are the ultimate multi-taskers. But if you have a toddler or school-aged child and are breastfeeding a newborn, you may need some tips for having harmonious nursing sessions.
With the right tools and strategies in place, you’ll be able to manage both your baby and the big brother or sister without much effort or stress.
Your older child may be excited about the new baby’s arrival or might be waiting to decide if this is a good thing or not. Either way, he will quickly realize that mom’s time is now divided, and breastfeeding takes up a lot of your time.
I’m going to share my most helpful tips that will help make managing your older child (or children) while breastfeeding easier than you ever thought possible.
HAVE A SNACK READY FOR THE OLDER SIBLING
Sometimes, older siblings will see you sit down to nurse and declare, “I’m hungry too!”
Stay one step ahead and set out a snack.
If she is old enough, you can even have a shelf or a drawer of mom-approved snacks that she can get by herself. This tactic can head off an epic temper tantrum getting thrown because of hunger pains.
Try to time meals to coincide with breastfeeding. If the older sibling is still in a high chair you know they will be occupied and contained for a bit of time.
MAKE A BREASTFEEDING BUSY BASKET
Just as I recommend having a Breastfeeding Basket with the essentials you need when nursing, it’s a good idea for your older child to have their own special basket filled with special things.
- Include toys that he can only play with when you are breastfeeding.
- Switch the toys out every few days so that he won’t get bored with them.
- Put in a few books you can read to him.
READ A BOOK TOGETHER
Reading together is a great way to bond with your older child. Read aloud to them and ask them questions about the story.
You may also want to read books that are baby appropriate such as Goodnight Moon.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar is another favorite of children everywhere.
A book about the new baby can lead to discussions about how your big kid is feeling about the new addition.
If age appropriate
My Book About Me can help them feel like the focus is on them.
You could read a chapter book with a child who is older. Anticipating what happens in the next chapter will help them look forward to the next nursing session.
GIVE YOUR OLDER CHILD A DOLL OR STUFFED ANIMAL TO CARE FOR
This is a great way to help distract your child from feeling left out. Your older son or daughter may want to pretend to breastfeed their special toy. Give them a diaper to change and baby clothes to dress the stuffed animal or baby doll.
This is a perfect time for your child to practice nurturing skills while learning about responsibility. It’s also wonderful bonding time with your older child, who may be feeling disconnected from this new family member.
When you handle this special toy, always treat it the way you treat your newborn. This can help the big brother or sister learn how to be gentle with the new baby.
ALLOW SPECIAL SCREEN TIME
It’s a delicate balance when deciding how much time watching TV or playing on the computer or a tablet is appropriate.
If you have an older child who is used to having screen time, it’s important that they still get some. Rather than giving them a set amount of hours per day, allow for more flexible times when you are breastfeeding their baby brother or sister.
You may also want to let them pick one TV show that they can watch and not interrupt you while breastfeeding.
If they enjoy time playing games on an iPad, you might let them use it during a breastfeeding session.
PLAY GAMES TOGETHER
Have some fun games to play with your child. They will enjoy the time, and you’ll be able to feed more easily.
You will need to choose games that don’t require you to move around. But that doesn’t mean your older child can’t.
Some good options include:
- Simon Says
- I Spy
This set is perfect for preschoolers.
- Matching Block Shapes – you pick out a shape and they find a match for it.
- Matching games
- This can also be a good time for them to practice counting on their fingers.
GIVE THEM A STICKER BOOK AND FUN STICKERS TO PUT IN IT
This can keep them entertained for some time. They’ll also have something new to show their friends!
HAVE ONE ON ONE DATES WITH YOUR OLDER CHILD
Spending quality time with the older sibling lets them know they are still just as important to you as they were before the brand new baby arrived. It gives you a unique opportunity to reconnect.
Remind your child regularly about your upcoming special time together without the distraction of the baby.
Fun possible activities include:
- Lunch at a restaurant
- A picnic at the park
- Going to a playground
- Getting a pedicure
I did this with my first child, and it really helped decrease the tantrums.
TAKE TIME EACH DAY TO SPEND TIME WITH THEM ALONE
It might be bath time or playing while baby naps. It can be a short time, but it will help them feel more important and loved.
ASK FOR HELP
If you are feeling overwhelmed with the responsibilities of caring for your newborn baby and older child, reach out to family members or friends. Ask them if they would be willing to come over on a regular basis to give you some time off with both kids.
Asking for a meal or just having someone move the laundry from the washer to the dryer can help tremendously as well.
If you are feeling extra tired, try to find someone willing to watch your older child so you can nap when your baby naps.
If it is within your budget you can hire a mother’s helper to play with your child for an hour each day.
DECIDE AHEAD OF TIME HOW TO RESPOND IF YOUR OLDER CHILD WANTS TO BREASTFEED
It’s not uncommon for an older sibling to ask if he can breastfeed, even if it has been years since weaning. It is vital to have a plan for how you will respond in these circumstances.
One option is to tell your child that he can’t breastfeed because the milk belongs only to his little brother or sister, and they need it more than he does.
This explanation may satisfy them even if they still ask again later on. Another idea is telling your older kid that breastfeeding isn’t something grown-ups typically do but offer an age-appropriate alternative like giving him some of the food from his own plate.
There is also the option of letting them breastfeed. They may think it is silly. They may love it. If you don’t want to tandem nurse, you should tell them ahead of time that it is a one-time thing.
A co-worker let her five-year-old sip some of her pumped breast milk, and the little girl thought it was pretty awesome. She said, “Mommy that tastes so good. It tastes like ice cream.”
If you are planning to tandem nurse, you will want to make sure your newborn gets first dibs on your milk supply. While the composition of breast milk is affected by pregnancy (Source) the changes do not have a negative effect on either child.
If your older child is worried about you not having enough milk, reassure them that breastfeeding makes more milk so they will have plenty to eat.
Be honest with your older children by telling them how much time per day they will get breastfeeding and how their baby sibling will probably be getting more time at the breast.
Acknowledge that it may be hard for an older child to share mommy or daddy’s attention all the time but remind them that there is still lots of love in a family even if one person gets some extra special care from Mom or Dad.
PUMPING WITH OLDER CHILDREN
When you need to pump, you can use all of the same tips to keep your older child occupied.
If your older child wants to help they can help you organize the supplies. When you are finished they can put the bottles of milk in the refrigerator for you .
ACKNOWLEDGE ALL THEIR FEELINGS
Your older child may not always be happy about the new baby. Big feelings can be confusing for little kids. Remember to acknowledge all your child’s feelings.
They may be sad, mad, or even happy about the new baby brother or sister. The best way for them to feel loved and supported is by listening to what they are feeling without judgment and validating their feelings with empathy.
Letting children know that it’s ok if they are angry helps them open up about how they really feel so you can better help them work through those emotions.
Give them safe activities to let off steam. Give them a pillow to punch or let them go outside and be noisy. Remind them that we all have negative feelings at times. It is how we deal with them that is important.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON MANAGING OLDER SIBLINGS WHILE BREASTFEEDING
When you become of mother of more than one child there will be ups and downs. With planning, creativity and a sense of humor you will soon be managing siblings while breastfeeding with ease.