Tips for Breastfeeding an Infant with an Older Brother or Sister
Ah, to be the oldest child. Their first months in the world mommy holds them as often as they please. Babe nurses at their own pace and often takes naps on mommy’s lap.
After you get past the pain and stress of nursing your first child you get to watch a lot of Netflix while rocking in your recliner, drinking lots of water and eating lots of snacks. Days and nights are similar as you are very focused on keeping baby fed and happy. People that visit help you by getting what you need and providing meals and other gifts. Everything is focused on your baby. You get to rest and focus on creating a positive breastfeeding relationship.
I hate to break it to you but.. This is NOT the case with your second child. You now have your oldest child who is still dependant on you and a newborn. Netflix shows are now Daniel Tiger or Mickey Mouse and your baby is often getting poked during nursing sessions. You nurse while potty training, cleaning snacks, and dealing with temper tantrums. You nurse while rocking your oldest to sleep and while giving them a bath. You nurse while brushing your oldest’s teeth or .. you get the point. Putting the baby down while they nap becomes a necessity so their sibling can get some one on one time with you.
On my journey from one baby to two I have developed some tried and true strategies that helped me nurture a strong nursing relationship with my baby as well as maintain my close relationship with my oldest.
- Teach your child independent play
This one took me the longest but has had the greatest return. Before I had two kiddos my time spent with Clairebear was often playing with her one on one. She hardly played alone as I wanted to spend every minute I had with her. When Natalie was born that type of relationship became physically impossible. It was hard for Claire (and for me) that I could no longer play with her 100% of the time. I began to demonstrate independent play to help Claire transition to play by herself once in awhile rather than always with a companion.
To do this, I would actually play by myself and let her watch me. I wouldn’t say “Claire, watch me play!” I just did it. For example, I pretended to put her dollys to sleep, I played puzzles while talking to myself, I read books out loud to myself. She was fascinated watching me do this. Soon she began imitating me and instead of always playing with me she would play next to me. Eventually there were times I was able to stay in my recliner nursing Natalie while Claire played independently.
Her learning independent play helped immensely when Claire stopped taking a nap but I still needed a break. Now she plays independently in her room from 1-2 or 2:30 every day without fuss. She actually enjoys it!
- Invest in a baby doll
-Or one million like Claire has, lol. Make your older child part of the baby caring process. Claire loves to nurse her baby, sing to her baby and put her to sleep. Often when I start nursing she runs over and does the same thing to her baby doll. It also provides practice and training for being gentle and kind to their baby brother or sister. To explain, when Claire first had her baby dolls she would cover their face with the blanket to put them to bed lol. Now, she understands that is not safe.
- Sing, sing, sing
This may sound weird but seriously, singing has saved my two year old from life threatening injuries many times. Believe me when I say your kid does not care what you sound like. I even sing in an opera voice sometimes and my girls love it but if a normal adult heard it they would probably stare and run away.
Anyway, when Natalie was first born and I was glued to the couch for hours nursing. Inevitably, my two year old would get into everything. Open all the cabinets, climb the bookshelf or just anything dangerous. I finally discovered she loved when I sang. Now, my go to song when Clairebear decides to go into the other room while I’m nursing is singing.. “Clairebear, where are you? Clairebear, where are you? Clairebear, where are you? Where are you today? I love you in every way.” This verse always makes her run back to me. I also sing to her when I’m nursing so she doesn’t feel as jealous and it helps baby to calm down.
Playing music has also helped keep her entertained and when I sing along to the music she likes it even more.
- Use snacks wisely
Setting the older sibling up with a snack is a great way to get in a good nursing session. However, you need to choose your snacks wisely. It can’t be too messy or they willl want help. It has to be an independant, time consuming snack. These are some of my favorite time consuming snacks:
- A banana they have to peel themselves
- A whole apple, peach or plum or really any whole fruit
- Animal crackers.. Have them make a game out of it!
- Goldfish, whales, bunnies or something like it
- String cheese
- Lower your expectations
Sometimes despite your best efforts one or all of your children will be screaming while you try to nurse. Sometimes the television is the only way to entertain your other children while nursing. That is okay! It can’t always be perfect! There will be times you have to nurse while cuddling the other child and you are getting poked everywhere. There will be times you want to scream STOP TOUCHING ME and that’s okay to feel that way. Your older child will look at you with jealously that they aren’t cuddling and it will hurt. We have all been there. You are doing a hard thing, give yourself a break Mama.