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Siblings and Breastfeeding
By Sherri Hedberg, IBCLC

There are many questions that second-time moms ask concerning breastfeeding. Even those who breastfed their first wonder how they will fit it in while also caring for a toddler or even an older child. As the mother of three, I have had the experience of caring for an active 3 year-old and an infant. Currently, I have a 4 month-old son and my daughters, Caitlin and Jensen, are 10 and 6. Both have been unique experiences. Here are some tips to prepare you for this fun, and sometimes challenging, time.

Have a good nursing area ~ This is especially important for toddlers. Ideally, you will have one room in the house that you can close off and childproof. I knew one mother who used a spare bedroom and placed a mattress on the floor. She brought in a phone and TV as well and would nurse on the bed while her toddler had free reign over the room to play. This way she didn't have to worry about him while she was nursing. You could also create a similar area by using baby gates or a playpen (if your child is happy there). Having a good nursing place can also be important to the older child. I found that I was constantly asking my daughter to bring me this and that and answer the phone. She quickly tired of it, so I brought a small nightstand to sit by the recliner, placed a phone there along with diapers, burp cloths, etc. on it so that I had all I needed while I nursed. (For us computer addicts, maybe you could place your monitor there, too. . .<g>)

Dealing with jealousy ~ When it rears its ugly head, it can tear a mom apart. It is important to remember that jealousy is going to occur no matter what you do. Try to take those icky statements lightly. It takes time for things to fall into place when a new baby enters a family. No matter how old your older child is, he is going to feel bumped out of his spot. He may have trouble with that until he finds that his new place has benefits, too. You can ease this transition by finding special things that your older child can do for the baby and point out that you used to do all of these very same things with him when he was a baby. As far as nursing goes, they quickly discover that nursing is MUCH better than crying. My 6 year-old, Jensen, quickly reminds me when Colton needs to nurse. "Mommy, hurry, nurse Colton and shut him up." <g>

Especially for toddlers . . .

  • Waiting ~ Before your baby is born, help your toddler to learn how to 'wait'. We have to admit that being a first child certainly has its perks, but instant gratification becomes difficult when you're in the middle of a nursing, not to mention recovering from a birth. My mother-in-law pointed this out to me before my second was born and we quickly added 'waiting time'. Caitlin learned that, "in just a minute. . ." wasn't forever and that mommy would soon be there to take care of her need.

  • Have snacks ready ~ I discovered this idea soon after my second child was born. It never failed that as soon as I would sit down to nurse, my daughter would ask for a drink or a snack. I stocked up on juice boxes and made a box for her with a variety of nutritious snacks that she could choose from while I was nursing.

  • Use your extra hand ~ One special advantage of breastfeeding is that it only takes one hand (after the first couple weeks). You can use your extra hand to read books with your toddler, play with toys, or just snuggle. With practice, it is even possible to walk and breastfeed, which can come in handy if you're doing potty patrol.

  • Surprise Box ~ Since I do a lot of telephone counseling, I used this idea for when I was on the phone. I took a small box and filled it with special things to play with and would take them out when I absolutely had to do something else. Depending on the age of your child, you can usually find things around the house to use. Some of the things I used are: stickers, index cards, old address labels, old checks, extra family pictures, etc. One personal favorite was a small paintbrush. I would give her a cup of water and she would 'paint' the cabinets.

  • When all else fails. . .TV ~ We had a video filled with some of Caitlin's favorite programs and would pop it in if we needed it. (The only challenge here is turning it off!)

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As your older child grows, you will discover some unique benefits of nursing your baby. Older children are well known for bringing home little germs from play groups and school. You will be pleased to see that breastfeeding will give your baby that extra protection from these illnesses. Though he may get sick, he most likely won't get as sick as everyone else, and he will get better quicker. Also, if your child is participating in other activities, you will be glad to have your portable breastfed baby.

While writing this article, I thought I'd ask Caitlin and Jensen what they thought about breastfeeding. Here is what they asked me to write:

Caitlin (10) says, "I like breastfeeding because I think it is a good idea. The babies are healthier. My brother likes breastfeeding because it makes him stop crying. When you breastfeed it is easier because you don't have to carry bottles around. I will breastfeed when I get big because it's healthier and it's easier."

Jensen (7) says, "It's good because Colton eats it. It makes him happy."

Enough said. <g>

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