When you become a parent for the second or multiply times, dealing with your older children whilst breastfeeding can be a challenge especially in the first few weeks.
The age of the older children will of course create different challenges. Possibly the biggest challenge will happen with the younger children: toddlers to approx age 7.
Dealing with them needs a lot of patience and love! We must remember, they will feel ‘dethroned’ from their role, as the younger child takes over most of the limelight due to their obvious need of constant care. Generally, when this happens, a lot of these children will become distant from their mother and start seeking more their father. This can make a mother feel really bad, guilty, jealous and sad amongst others. This is though quite natural and should be welcomed as a respite from dealing with two or more children while adjusting to having a new addition at home.
Children can become jealous of course of their younger sibling who is taking so much time from their mama. One way to counteract this, is by being proactive and deal with it before it actually happens.
- Before baby is born, explain and show what a new born looks like: that they nurse, cry and sleep and need to be held most of the time
- Showing pictures of them and telling stories of how needy they were and how much attention you needed to give them will help a lot.
- If your child is already weaned, explain to them how mummy’s breast make milk and that that is the only food a baby takes and that is what babies need also when they are afraid, sad etc
- If your child is still breastfeeding and expecting to tandem nurse, speak to your child how babies need much more milk than them and how they will have a breast each. Tandem nursing normally helps to reduce sibling rivalry any way.
- discussing ways how they can help you and the baby will make them feel less left out and more responsible.
Having older children though, might not be an easy ride in the park either. Some are worried of whether these older children should see them breastfeed – especially if the older child is male.
Contrary to what many believe, it is absolutely necessary for older children to see breastfeeding mamas, whatever their gender might be. This is the only way we can parent nurturing parents, normalize and teach how to breastfeed to the younger generation. Of course, when teens are in the house, they might still feel embarrassed seeing you do so. Once more, we can use this scenario as a teaching tool. So whilst we recognise their embarrassment, do not feel the need to cover up or go in a different room. They need to learn to get hold of their feelings and if they do not feel comfortable, it is them who need to move and not yourself.
Jealousy might still struck the older child, especially if this is a second baby. Again teaching them about infant behaviour before they are born and discussing with them ways how they can help you and soothe the baby can go a long way to feel not just helpful and responsible (again teaching through experience) but also to not feel left out.
Whether your child is young or on the older side, make sure you carve special time for them. The younger child will need at least 30 mins a day, the older child will need at least 30 mins a week.