27 answers

How to Explain Breastfeeding to 3 Year Old?

I am due with baby #2 in a month, and my son is turning 3 a couple weeks after that. He has a much better understanding of the baby than I expected. When people ask him about the baby, he'll point to my stomach and tell them his baby girl is in there. When we pass the hospital he reminds us that's where we'll go to get the baby out. He also likes to tell everyone how he's gonna help me change her diaper and give her a bottle. The only problem is - I'm planning to breastfeed, and I have no idea how to prepare him for this! I weaned him at 17 months, so I'm pretty sure he doesn't remember it. I don't have any friends who are currently breastfeeding to show him by example. How on earth do I bring this up to him? We've done our best to prepare him for every other part of having a new baby in the house. I don't want this to be a shock to him or cause jealousy.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thanks for all the great tips! I got several books from the library that talk about new babies, with drawings or photos of moms breastfeeding. He's completely fascinated with it! He's been asking a ton of questions and wanting to look at the books every day. I don't have any photos of when I was nursing him, but he loves to hear about how I used to feed him. I'm SO glad we're working on this now so he has time to get used to the idea.

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Dr. Sears has 2 children's books about pregnancy and babies. I'd get them and start reading them to him.
http://www.amazon.com/Baby-Way-Sears-Children-Library/dp/...
http://www.amazon.com/What-Needs-Sears-Children-Library/d...

You could youtube some videos of baby animals eating, and point out that people feed their babies like this too.

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My friend was nursing her baby when my older son was just turning 3, and I never really wondered about it. When I had him, I was babysitting some girls who were 3 and 4 years old and they were really curious, so I just told them that was how mommies feed their babies. Since my husband gave bottles when I was at work, I imagine my older son will know that his baby brother (when this one is born) will get bottles from daddy because only mommies can feed babies that way, but kids are pretty accepting. When I would nurse my oldest and the girls I was watching would ask, we would end up on these long tangents of "cats feed their babies, horses feed their babies, lions feed their babies, dogs feed their babies," etc. If he asks, tell him that is how babies are fed.

2 moms found this helpful

I would just tell him you will be breastfeeding and how it happens. I will warm you though, its not easy adjusting to two kids, so your not always going to be able to be discreet about the breastfeeding, you will have to do it all in front of him. My daugther would just sit there and stare. I said "will you stop staring at me please" My daughter "Nah". Ugh, especially when I pumped, that was SUPER fasinating to her. She wouldnt go away!! So, thats pretty much how they learn, and evetually, it will just be normal to them. Baby eats from moms boobs! lol

2 moms found this helpful

I never talked about it with my son; I guess I forgot to mention it! We talked about everything else, like you have, but how the baby eats wasn't brought up. Things were so new when we brought the baby home, nursing was just part of the baby's life. He didn't even seem to notice for the first few days, and then when he asked questions, I answered as simply as I could. My baby's almost a year old now, and my older son and I have had many discussions about nursing, breasts, nipples, etc. All of these things were brought up by him, and while I didn't want to ignore his questions, when we're talking about it, I always hope he won't bring up his new knowledge with other people!

2 moms found this helpful

Sounds like he can probably handle straight-up answers and those are always best anyway. It's taken my son a while to understand that only mommies make milk - he's tried to drink from his own nipple from time to time. Showing him other animals that nurse was another idea I had for you I already see suggested.
One other thing, our pediatrician did suggest laying the baby down from time to time and specifically telling her, "I am going to play with your big brother now, he needs me" so he can hear you say that to the baby and see that he's just as important.
Best wishes!

2 moms found this helpful

just keep it simple and casual. this is how lots of babies eat, you ate mamas milk too, its so good for you. he will get used to it in no time. dont be surprised if you walk in on him trying to breastfeed some of his teddy bears :) good luck

2 moms found this helpful

I have a 6 week old and a 4 year old. I didn't say anything to him about it. I just waited for him to ask. When he did, I explained I was giving the baby special milk only for little babies, and that he did the same thing when he was a little baby. That was enough of an answer for him. He never asked again and went about his business when I was in a room breastfeeding like it was no big deal. Just do your thing and answer his questions briefly and to the point. You might be surprised at how naturally he takes it.

1 mom found this helpful

go to youtube and find Maria breastfeeding on Sesame Street!

1 mom found this helpful

Do you have any pictures of him nursing??? If so, show it to him. I have pics of me nursing my kids as babies.
Don't act like its something like a big deal... just something matter of fact... that is how Mommies feed a baby etc.

I would also maybe, get HIM a doll... (they have many for boys) and a toy baby bottle or something, so he can also "help" you... and have his own 'baby' to 'take care' of.

I would ALSO explain to him, what a baby does... that it wakes, it cries at all hours, that you need to feed her... etc. My daughter was 3.5 when I had my 2nd child... and I clearly explained to her, what a baby does and is. Otherwise, the oldest child may be in for a jolt.
I ALSO explained to my daughter, that she is NOT "responsible" for her baby brother... that MOMMY will wake and feed her brother and she does not have to "worry." My daughter, was the type that was very caring and would tell me of ANYTHING her baby brother was doing... and if he was crying, she'd get a bit worried....and she felt 'responsible' somehow, for her baby brother. So I had to EXPLAIN to her, AHEAD of time, what a baby "does." I would also, suggest doing that... BEFORE your baby daughter comes home...

all the best,
Susan

1 mom found this helpful

Look for books on being a big brother that show the Mom nursing the new baby. Just point it out and say "look - the Mama is feeding the baby, that's how I'll feed your sister when she comes". Then, see what questions he asks and answer them as simply and factually as you can. I nursed all my kids, and my boys (aged almost 2 and 3 1/2 when my last was born) never questioned it.

I had one great little board book that had only drawings (no text) and there were a few images of mom and baby nursing. I'm sure you could find more if you look at Amazon or another book source.

Here is the info on the book I liked.

My New Baby (New Baby Series) [Board Book]
Annie Kubler (Author, Illustrator)

Congratulations!
J.

1 mom found this helpful

Dr. Sears has 2 children's books about pregnancy and babies. I'd get them and start reading them to him.
http://www.amazon.com/Baby-Way-Sears-Children-Library/dp/...
http://www.amazon.com/What-Needs-Sears-Children-Library/d...

I have twin daughters who are 4 months old. My oldest just turned 3 in August, and she too is very perceptive. She knew the baby was in my belly and eventually would come out. I would take her with me to my OB appointments and she would remind the doctor "there's TWO babies!"

I breastfeed my twins.

I didn't do anything to prepare her for the breastfeeding. I just started doing it. When she would ask questions like "what are you doing" then I would just tell her "babies drink mama milk and this is how they get it".

Just be matter of fact. Only answer the question he poses. It will be fine. Kids find those types of things more natural then you would think. It didn't take long before my daughter was asking to use my nursing pillow and then would nurse her baby!

Early on, she often would want to sit right next to me when I would nurse the babies... which was fine. She still likes to come up and give the babies a kiss on the head when they are eating... which is fine. I just remind her to be gentle.

If you feel you NEED to say something in advance... when he mentions giving the baby a bottle just tell him "well, the babies will drink mama milk, not bottle milk so mama has to give it to your brother/sister. But you can help me with lots of other things!"

I will tell you... my daughter LOVES to help me with the babies. She gets things for me all the time, offers to help ... it's wonderful.

Congratulations!

I'm not sure if you really need to do anything to prepare him for it. He probably won't be shocked or jealous if he were to see you breastfeeding his baby sister once you get home from the hospital - just naturally curious. If he asks about it, which I'm pretty sure he will, just tell him something simple like, "This is how mommies feed their babies." He may ask you if you breastfed him when he was a baby and you would tell him, "yes," and that will probably be the end of that discussion.

Hope you delivery and tranisition to a 2-kid family goes well.

Don't make it a big deal; discuss it briefly just like any other part of having a baby. I think it works better if you dn't bring it up until he does, when you actually have the baby and begin to feed (he won't understand unless he sees it happening). I said stuff like, "oh, time to feed the baby"...mommy doesn't use a bottle because our baby can get his food straight from me, just like YOU did!"...and, "yes, this is what mommy's bodies naturally do for their babies".

Since you will be actually holding the baby closely, it is reasonable that he could get a little jealous. But then give him extra snuggle time if he wants it and needs it. The breastfeeding part won't be shocking if you act like it's another normal part of having a baby, but the time factor might be something to work at; so give him extra time and hugs as needed!

First of all when he sees you feeding baby from breast, at 3yrs old, he will think nothing more than baby gets food from mommy (he is not thinking adult boobs like you are probably imagining) You may have more of a problem with you nursing baby a lot and him feeling left out, then you have the tantrums and need for attention. I think you should be fine breastfeeding while your son is there.

Explain to him that you won't be using a bottle, but he can help you with the nursing! I always had mine bring me a special pillow or something when it was time to nurse. I showed them a video of a baby animals nursing and it helped them understand that it's a natural thing for humans too :) Enjoy everything that is about to unfold! It will be a wonderful journey!

Explain to him that the baby will drink "baby milk" from you - point to you chest. He can do other things to help with feeding (turn on music..pat baby's back .. Etc) Did you pump any with him? It's a good idea to pump some and freeze so that if you need to be out or away you can be. He can occasionally feed the baby that way. Electric pumps work best and are easier/more comfortable than manual ones :)

I wouldn't make a big deal of it, like the other ladies say. I had a 4 year old when I had baby #2. In the hospital, the first time I nursed her in front of my daughter, she asked, "why are you doing that?" I replied, "that's how mommies feed their babies. That's what boobs are for when you are a mommy."
Her eyes got big.....she thought a moment.... "how does Daddy feed her? His boobies are small like mine. I don't think there's milk in there." Then, we discussed that some moms bottle feed, too, and that Daddy would use a bottle.
When the baby would cry in Walmart, my 4 year old would yell, "I think she's hungry. She needs boob milk Mom! My mom feeds my sister with her boob milk." FUN TIMES! ;)
***On a completely different subject. I noticed you mentioned you didn't want to have any jealousy probs. I had big probs the week before I was due. My kid regressed and peed her pants everyday. It was awful! The day we brought the baby home, we gave her a super special Barbie horse she'd been wanting forever. We said that baby told mommy that she wanted to get that gift special for her big sister. After that, Big Sis thought Lil Sis was AWESOME.

Simple truth....The baby gets milk from mom's breast. This is where the milk is made. You can even tell him that that is where his food came from too when he was a baby. My son was 2 when we had our daughter. This is what we told him. He was fine with it. He did make some embarrassing comments when we were in public though. Two years later and those comments are funny now. I remember one time we were at the mall playland and my boobs were huge because I needed to nurse. In front of everyone, my son announced that mommy's boobs were full and needed the baby's help. I don't think I have ever had as many people stare at my boobs at one time as I did that day. The really funny thing is that normally, I have a maybe B cup. When I was prego and nursing I was at least a DD.

Just say that mommy has to feed the baby. That's how mommy's are made. And KEEP THE BOTTLES HIDDEN...... If he sees them, he may want to use one to feed the baby. Our kids never questioned it. (They are 5, 3 1/2, and we now have a 1 month old.......) They think it's completely normal for me to be breastfeeding. And they don't ever see anybody else that bf's.............

You don't have to prepare him for it, when your child is born, he will see you feeding her and it will be second nature, he won't even question it other than asking what she's doing, you say she's eating, getting milk because thats how babies eat, thats how he ate as a baby, and thats enough.

My son was 3.5 when his little brother was born, and he didn't even ask. But when we seen a friend one day make a bottle for her baby, he seen her put the formula in and spazzed out thinking she was giving the baby sand, since the formula was powder.

If its always seen, children growing up will always know that nursing is what you do, nursing is how babies are fed. My boys are both still at 8 and 5 completely unaffected by breastfeeding, they have seen it so much they don't even notice.

Take him to a LLL meeting to prepare him! You might have some questions too that they could help you with. He'll see babies and toddlers of all ages nursing. We also like the book by Dr Sears, "When You Have a New Baby" or something like that. It was a great book for little ones.

get a book at the library. there are loads of them. and maybe show him a pet nursing (puppy or kitten, little pigs etc) that gives the basic idea. see the mommy is feeding the baby. I will do that with the new baby soon. etc..

I just told my daughter that the baby drinks mommy milk, not milk from bottles. That was enough for her. I wouldn't worry too much about it, it becomes their normal, if that makes any sense. My biggest issue was that my daughter knew that when I was nursing, I couldn't get to her. She would get just out of reach and disobey. :) Good luck and congratuations!

You could youtube some videos of baby animals eating, and point out that people feed their babies like this too.

I didn't say anything to DS, who was just over 3 when DD was born (just didn't think to say anything ahead of time). I just fed her in front of him. He was freaked out for the first few days because it seemed to scare him ("I don't want her to drink you!" (We were also clued into the fear when he scraped his knee a couple days later and it bled and he told DH that he didn't want the baby to drink his boo boo.) We just kept happily saying she wasn't hurting me and this is how babies eat and this was how he ate when he was a baby. We were nonchalant about it and within a few days he was telling us when he thought she was hungry and that I should feed her!

I'd tell him some babies drink from a bottle and some babies drink from mommies. Your baby is going to drink from mommy.

He may remember it. I breastfed my son till he was 2.5, and he would sometimes ask for a drink a few months after we'd weaned. I just told him that he was a big boy and ate regular food and that nursing was for babies. He seemed ok with that. You may find something in the library that can help you explain it as well. It's probably a bigger deal in your head than it will be in real life.

Congrats :)

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