Explaning nursing to an older sibling (3 yr old)

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Joined: 11/01/07
Posts: 650
Explaning nursing to an older sibling (3 yr old)

Hello, I used to be pretty active on this board, I nursed my son, who is almost 3 for almost 4 months. I am due in November, and plan on nursing as much as I can again. I will return to work after 12 weeks and pump. Our son is very inquisitive and I am sure I will have many ?s from him!! What do you ladies think would b e the best way to explain things to him?

Also, I am worried about taking care of our toddler and nursing a newborn. My expectations are a bit lower this time around.

Thanks for any info or insight!

Joined: 05/23/07
Posts: 88

First, congratulations on the upcoming birth of your little one! My kids are 21 months apart, so I know that Maxwell didn't understand as much as your son will, being a little older. But now Maxwell is 3.5 years old, and I'm still nursing my 22 month old. Maxwell understands that Mady gets her milk from mommy's "boobahs". Occasionally he would say he wanted milk as well, and while I would tell me he could (he stopped nursing at 7 months), he really had no intention of having milk - in fact, I would usually laugh and say "no, you get your milk from a cup"!

One good thing, addressing your concerns about nursing your newborn and having a toddler is that he will be old enough to understand what you are doing. Just try to have fun things for him to play with in the room you are nursing - so that he doesn't feel shunned. For example, make construction paper cut outs of different shapes and have him bring you the "blue star" or something along those lines.

Good luck - and don't worry - it will work out great!

irishgirl's picture
Joined: 04/10/07
Posts: 1043

My oldest is 3.5 (tomorrow!). I nursed her until she was almost 3 and nursed my 16 month old until she was about 13 months old. So it's not strange at all to my 3 year old. I actually had to explain why my SIL was feeding my niece out of a bottle. She told us at dinner the other night "Little babies get their milk from here (points to her chest) but big girls drink milk out of cups" and I haven't nursed for a few months.

I've found the simplest explanation usually works, so I'd just say something like "this is how some mommies feed their babies" And see what other questions he has.
I did search for "breastfeeding books for siblings" on amazon and there are a few books, so you can go that route too.

I agree with having nice quiet activities he can do with you while you're nursing.

tink9702's picture
Joined: 09/28/08
Posts: 2977

I agree with PP to keep it simple. DS was 17 months when DD was born. I just told him DD got her milk from mommy. He asked if could have some, I said yes and he was not interested. Shoot, the kid never did BF, I pumped for 4 months with him so I would have been shocked if he had actually wanted to!!

TiggersMommy's picture
Joined: 02/14/10
Posts: 6043

I don't have any personal experience with this but I feel like the PPs gave great advice. Just tell him the truth. I had a BFing basket that pretty much lived next to the couch for the first few months. It contained my lansinoh, a burp cloth, a book, and some clean nursing pads. You could set up something similar with a few toys that your DS could play with while you're nursing. Also, if you didn't babywear with DS, its probably a good idea to learn how. It'll be a life saver when you need to nurse the newby and the toddler is requiring attention. A ring sling is perfect for the early days, is easy to nurse in, and is pretty easy to learn how to use.

mommycarrie's picture
Joined: 09/07/06
Posts: 358

My DS was 3 when DD was born. I explained that babies drink milk from their mommies, and that when he was little he used to drink mommy milk too. I asked him if he remembered drinking milk from mommy, and he said, "NO, that's silly!" And that was the end. He didn't really care, lol. I have also said to him, "Sometimes babies drink from a bottle, and sometimes babies drink milk from their mommy." He seemed to think that was just fine too, and didn't really care much about it.

I think your older child will be just fine with it. The only thing I will say is, think about what language you want to use. Little ones repeat what they hear, so if you call it a boob they will too. So we try to say "chest" since that's a pretty neutral word, and all people have a chest. He has in the past fed his stuffed animals "from his belly" (his words, not mine.) so don't be surprised if your son starts nursing his toys too. Lol

mandi04's picture
Joined: 08/10/03
Posts: 2272

For that age all you really need to say is just "that's how babies eat". I breastfed DS for 15 months and my girls were 5 and 3.5 when he was born, I didn't get much for questions about it. I just said that that is how babies eat and they were pretty content with that. This time around my DD2 has had more questions, we told her that she used to drink the same way and she thought that was gross Lol (and she was the one I nursed the longest and the one who seemed like she would have wanted to nurse forever!) I think she knows more than many adults about breastfeeding simply because of all the questions Lol

LMCH's picture
Joined: 02/05/07
Posts: 2031

my son was 3 when our second son was born. i just told him that baby brother is drinking mommy's milk. sometimes he wanted to see and would ask "he drinkin' your moke" and other times he could care less. after the first couple weeks it was just the norm and he wasn't so curious about it. he even pretends to nurse his stuffed animals Wink he has also seen me pump and asked about it...i just told him that is how i get milk out for bottles for the baby when i am not with him.

as far as nursing a baby while caring for a toddler, i agree with pp about having simple things to keep him occupied. sometimes my older son would bring a book and sit by us and i could read to him. my older son does play fairly independently though...of course he has his moments of needing something NOW NOW NOW when i am busy with the baby. i have been known to walk around nursing and helping the older one on the potty Lol but now that the baby is older that is harder. i at least talk to him, ask him about what he is playing, etc. so he knows i am present and available, if you know what i mean. worst case scenario has been when DS1 is truly misbehaving or needs immediate help, i have put the baby down for a minute or two and then continued nursing once i was done with DS1...and in almost 6 months that has only happened 2-3 times. it is doable. good luck and congrats on the baby to be Smile

lablover1's picture
Joined: 12/13/08
Posts: 44

Honestly- I didn't do anything "special" to prepare DS for a nursing sister. I prepared him to have a newborn in the house and the nursing just came with it. We got him a doll that we called his little sister. When I would play with him on the floor I would hold the baby, we talked about babies, etc.
He was interested in the nursing part for about a week or 2 after she came. He would ask to nurse (I always said sure but he never would actually nurse), he would touch my boobs after a shower (but that's not necessarily unusual for Jacob). When he asked I just said, "Ava is drinking Mommy's milk." The confusion came when he saw other babies with bottles because in his mind babies drink mommy's milk.
She's 16 months now (and still nursing) and he doesn't bat an eye- only when he happens to want something and she's nursing.

I would definitely have a basket of toys that he can play with when you are nursing. I also made sure that Jacob got 15 minutes of special mommy time after Ava nursed- not always possible but I did my best

Joined: 01/18/06
Posts: 1626

I tandem nursed for awhile, too, so my older DD needed no explanation. but one thing she does love to notice is how other mammal mommies nurse their babies too. That might be another way to introduce how natural and normal it is. DD1 loves to look for nursing mommies (horses, cows, deer) at farms nearby and the zoo.

Books that portray it is another great idea.

Joined: 01/25/02
Posts: 2023

I was going to say what Jordan did, show him other mammals nursing, and that is how they feed their babies. Smile My dd was 28 mo when ds was born, and I don't remember questions really, but she did breastfeed her dollies as well. My ds was 5 when the twins were born, and we had talked about breastfeeding enough around our house beforehand there were no questions then either. Wink

Recently we had a family over that I was babysitting (we swap sitting for date night) and I asked my daughter and the oldest girl (both almost 9) to watch the little girl (10mo) while I put my babies to bed quickly. When I said I needed to nurse them the older sister asked why I was still nursing them, and my dd seemed shocked and asked, "Isn't your baby still nursing?" (which the baby is, but the mom always weans at 1yr) I don't think my kids have any idea that not many babies breastfeed after 1 yr of age. I think what goes on at your house just become normal. Smile