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My wife became pregnant with our third child when our second was only ten months old. She was nursing our second at the time, but she always had a problem of not having enough milk even though both her and the baby wanted to nurse. She knew she couldn't nurse two babies at once, so three months into the pregnancy when our second was just over a year old, she weaned her off the breast milk completely.

Now our third one has been born (that makes 3 girls for us), and some people have told us to not allow the second to witness my wife breastfeeding the newborn because this would remind her of when she was nursed and make her miss mom even more (she already lost a lot of mom's attention in the past few months and especially in the past few weeks when the delivery happened).

Should we follow this advice and keep the second one away from mom when she nurses the newborn (which is very frequent) or should we allow her to see it?

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up vote 52 down vote accepted

I'm not speaking from either personal experience (my children were all spaced farther apart) or from academic research in this answer. That being said:

I think that "hiding" the breastfeeding will eventually end up making the toddler feel more isolated and excluded by her younger sibling. It will require specifically removing one sibling from another's presence (whether the older must leave the room, or her mother takes the newborn out of the room) as well as preventing the toddler from talking to or interacting with her mother at all. That seems more likely to result in loneliness or even resentment.

Instead, invite the toddler to see what's going on. Talk about the differences that happen as you grow up ("you eat big girl food now!") and invite her to bring her own snack or drink to sit near mom while the baby nurses. Make sure that you set some boundaries (the older sibling can't climb on or roughly hug while the baby is nursing, and may need to wait patiently for attention), but those are inevitable parts of being an older child (the same restrictions apply during diaper changes, for example).

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4  
I stopped breastfeeding my 2nd when I had emergency surgery for an incarcerated hernia. I had to take pain meds, etc and my 2nd was well over a year old. I became pregnant shortly thereafter (oops!) and when I started bf'ing my 3rd I never hid it from my 2nd even tho the memory was still fresh in his mind. He was fine. Once he wanted to try it again but he didn't like it (neither being still on my lap nor the taste). – Jax Feb 18 at 0:03

It's not feasible to try to prevent the child from seeing the new baby nursing. It probably will be hard for her, as will lots of things now, but she will learn to adjust. You'll both just need to be extra mindful to give the other children lots of hugs, and lots of attention, whenever you can.

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My daughter liked to see me nurse her little brother. A few times she nursed her doll to keep me company. As he grew she liked to give him a bottle sometimes. They are greatest of pals now. – RedSonja Feb 19 at 8:34

Personal experience, single data point only:

Our son was a big fan of breastfeeding and the milk and the comfort of being on mom. He was weaned while we were expecting his little sister. (He was close to 2 years old.) I expected trouble when the newborn started nursing. (But I never imagined trying to keep it secret/separate.)

He complained/screamed and seemed envious the first time, maybe 2. We let him know that there wasn't room on mom's lap for the both of them and that he would have to wait his turn.

He still spent time reaching for mom's breast after that, but not when it was the baby's turn. Further, while on mom's lap, any overtures to nurse were redirected to the bottle.

It didn't take long, he didn't really "regress" to nursing at all.

I agree that older kids should be able to see themselves as part of the baby's life and care, as well as receiving plenty of individual focus themselves.

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