How to explain breastfeeding to young kids

For the record, this is NOT a PSA for breastfeeding. I am not a medical provider, lactation consultant or have any advice on this matter. My only thoughts are the following:

  • Fed is best
  • Happy mama, happy baby

That said, if you choose to breastfeed, the following are some tips to help explain what you are doing to your older kiddos.

Given the imminent arrival of baby #3, I have been wondering how to prepare Keener (4) and Grace (2.5) for breastfeeding the new baby. Keener was only 18 months when I had Grace so I wasn’t concerned about this aspect of having a new baby when she was born. He was still such a baby himself! But now, Keener being 4 and very aware of gender, I wanted to make sure I addressed this with them both.

Children’s books to the rescue

Not sure where to start with this conversation, I did what I normally do — turn to children’s books to start the conversation for me. I ordered the book, “Mommy Breastfeeds My Baby Brother” (affiliate link) and Keener asks to read it all the time. In fact, both kids ask for me to read it two times in a row.

The book explains simply and clearly for kids that when the baby is on the inside of mommy’s tummy, they get their food from mommy. Once the baby is born, the baby then “drinks special milk that mommy makes for him.”

The older sister asks great questions such as:

  • Can I breastfeed?
  • Does it hurt you mommy?
  • Why can’t the baby drink milk from a sippy cup?

All of these questions are answered using toddler friendly, honest responses. As a result of reading this so many times, my kids are now asking the same questions. I use the answers from the book to explain and prepare them for what is going to happen when our baby is here.

Highlights from the book:

Remind older children of when they were babies

The mom in this book informs the older sister that she was also breastfed. This has led to great conversations about when Grace and Keener were babies and I let them know they were fed this way too. They are able to ask follow up questions and we look at pictures of when they were just born. The more they know, the better they seem to understand why all the baby will do at first is drink milk and sleep! I’ve tried to explain he wont’ be able to “play” with them the way they play with each other and this helps solidify that idea.

Name what they can do

In the book, the mom lets the older sister know what she can do while mommy is feeding the baby. It’s so easy to tell children what they can’t do but naming what they can do gives them options. I *think* I had special toys for Keener to play with while I fed Grace but honestly, I don’t remember. That is the suggestion in this book and I think it is a great one. If the older siblings have special, high interest toys that they only get to play with when mom is feeding the baby, they will view this time positively.

Name boundaries

The older sister asks her mom to get her sippy cup while she is feeding the baby. The mom says no. Letting kids know that certain things are not possible while mom is feeding the baby is honest and clear.

What can help is providing kids with the certainty they are looking for which may sound like: “No, I can’t get it now. You can get it yourself or I’m happy to get it when I’m done feeding the baby.” Of course, the challenge then is remembering to get it when you are finished nursing! Which is a great reminder that if you say you will do something after, make sure it is something you can follow through on so there’s no resentment for you or the baby.

While the book is clearly about a baby brother, it would be easy to adapt it to baby sister or just “baby” if the gender is unknown.

I’m sure there will be many more newborn related posts to come!

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