Normalizing Breastfeeding for Older Siblings

Breastfeeding is one of the most natural things our bodies can do, so I set out to normalize breastfeeding for my older daughter as we welcomed little sister into our family.Breastfeeding is one of the most natural things our bodies can do, so I set out to normalize breastfeeding for …The closer I got to my due date, the more I thought about how I was going to talk to my older daughter, who turned 4 a month before Olive was born, about breastfeeding. Abby is very inquisitive, and some days I feel like her main goal is to find out more about how the world works. She asks lots of questions, and I wanted to be prepared to answer all of her questions about breastfeeding. But I wasn't quite sure if I'd ready her before little sister got here, or if I'd wait till later.

I remember someone I know, whose daughters have the same age gap as mine, asking the same question about a year ago. She ended up simply waiting until her younger daughter was born and letting the conversation flow naturally. She said it was no big deal. So that was my decision. I'd wait.

I knew Abby would be armed with her questions as soon as she saw me breastfeeding Olive, so I began mentally preparing to ready my answers during pregnancy. However, as my pregnancy dragged on, and my exhaustion intensified both physically and mentally, I forgot to prepare my responses. Before I knew it, Olive was here.

Looking back, I had so many opportunities to chat with Abby about breastfeeding. She talked a lot about how she would help feed sister a bottle. And as I was prepping for sister to get here, she even hijacked a bottle while I was unpacking to feed her baby dolls and sanitized all the things from when Abby was a baby. It was really sweet seeing her take care of her dolls, yet I missed so many chances to talk about another way of feeding babies.

Related: 7 Tips to Help Boost Your Milk Supply

When Abby came to visit me and baby sister in the hospital, she saw me breastfeed for the first time. Her initial response was to say, "Uh, she's chewing on your boob?!?!" My husband and I tried our best to quell our giggles. Once I regained my composure, I looked at Abby and read her eyes. She wanted to know what was going on. I simply said, "When mommies have babies, they make milk to feed the baby." Abby had no further questions. She got it, and that was it. I can't believe I devoted so much head space to figuring out how I would deal with breastfeeding with a preschooler in tow.

That's the great thing about young minds. They soak up so much information. Abby only asks follow up questions if she doesn't understand a word you are saying, or if she doesn't fully get what you are explaining. She got what breastfeeding was about with my one simple answer, and it's quite endearing as she talks about baby sissy drinking her milky. It's always milky that sissy drinks.

Olive is a 1-month-old now, and Abby has gotten super comfortable with me breastfeeding, save for the times she was frustrated that I'm busy with sissy and can't give her all my attention all the time. Breastfeeding is something normal to her. And the most heart melting moments are the times I catch Abby breastfeeding her dolls or stuffed animals, especially as she sits beside me while I'm nursing Olive, and she nurses her baby. Abby has no problems hanging out with us. In fact, she views it as prime time to give little sissy kisses and tell her to drink up her milky. More heart melting moments.

Pumping was surprisingly super easy to discuss, too. At first Abby was really confused. But I told her that pumping my milk meant she and daddy could give sister a bottle. That excited her. If anyone else were sitting there, watching me pump, I might get modest, but not with Abby. She'll sit and chat with me and keep me company. Pumping can be lonely after all. And we would talk about what the pump is saying. Every mom who has ever pumped knows they hear the breast pump talking to them. I never told this to Abby, but one day she got it in her head that the pump was saying, "Lacko Zacko."

I love how much of a normal part of life I've made breastfeeding for Abby. And as we are out and about, and she notices other moms breastfeeding their babies, I know Abby will get super excited to tell me, "Mama, they are drinking their milky!" She's enthused with life that way. When Abby mimics my every move and tells me she wants to be a mommy when she grows up, along with a paleontologist or a fireman of course, I know I'm doing right by her. Little girls idolize their mamas, and I'm so grateful I get to be the one to show Abby all the power mommies have. Because I'm still amazed this second time around, at all my body is capable of. Not only did my body grow two baby girls, but it also has the ability to nourish my little ones. That's pretty miraculous. And I hope Abby truly gets this miracle of life.

- By Tracy Brennan

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