Stepdaughter Jealous of Baby Nursing

Updated on December 16, 2011
M.S. asks from Los Angeles, CA
22 answers

Hello! I have an amazing 9 year old stepdaughter who I love as if she were my own. I always refer to her as my daughter but need to make the distinction here for this question. Even though my husband and I share 50/50 custody with her birth mother, she calls me mom and has done so since she was 5 and my husband and I were only still dating. She asked me of she could call me mom and I of course told her that I would love for her to do that if it's what she wanted. I don't want to sound like I'm bitter towards her mom but the truth is that her birth mother is just not that great of a mom and neglects her on emotional and physical levels.

My question is related to the fact that I am about to have my first natural baby in a few weeks. My stepdaughter is not jealous about the baby and is very excited to become a big sister in our house (she has a 1 year old sister at her other house). She wanted us to get pregnant long before we actually did so the jealousy is not over the arrival of the new baby. The issue is that she knows I plan on breastfeeding and is jealous. Her birth mother did not breastfeed her because she "thought it was gross" and actually told this to my stepdaughter. She also did not breastfeed her other baby. Anyways, my stepdaughter had a lot of questions about breastfeeding because it was not something she was familiar with. We discussed all the reasons with and she understands. The problem is that now she is distraught because she said she'll feel left out and that I won't be her real mommy anymore because I didn't get to feed her when she was a baby, and more specifically, that she won't have shared the bond of breastfeeding with me. She said that if she didn't get to, she doesn't think it is fair that the new baby will get to. She knows it is healthier for her and asked if I could just put the milk in a bottle for the baby. We have tried explaining that she has nothing to worry about and that I will still be her real mommy (obviously not technically but you know what I mean) and that she and I have a different kind of bond that is super special between us that the new baby and I won't have. She is still upset about this and asked if it would be ok for her to try so that she can feel special too. She has had trouble with abandonment issues in the past related to her other house that she was in counseling for and she still sees her counselor once a month because she likes going and it helps her adjust between two very different households. She has an appointment in a week and I plan on talking with her counselor about all of this but I would like some advice beforehand. First, is it weird that she wants to try breastfeeding at age 9 just to try it? And is it weird or unethical that I am considering letting her try? I took a few psych classes in college and I remember one theme of role playing in therapy sessions to relive missed experiences in youth...the part I remember was about a grown man who was not shown much affection when he was an infant so he had a lot of cuddling and rocking done while in therapy to regain some of this. Would this be similar or just creepy? Obviously I could just put some in a glass for her but she doesn't want to taste it, she wants the experience. Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself because she might not want to after her sister is born and sees what it is. I'm very emotionally sensitive to "mommy" things right now and after hearing her plea and express so much concern over this, my heart is breaking for her and I want her to feel as loved and connected to me as her sister and don't want her to be upset. Everytime she brings the subject up she cries and tells me how much she loves me and how much she wants me to be her real mommy. I just don't know what to do. I want to do whatever is best for her in the long run. I don't want to do this and scar her for life. Is this something some people would view as molestation even? But then I don't want to deny her something that she feels very strong about. Plus, what with the sensitivity to "mommy" things, she's making me sad that I didn't get to bond with her over breastfeeding when he was a baby, too! All I've wished ever since I first met her is that things could be different and that I could have actually given birth to her, fed her, changed her, watch her speak her first words, helped her take her first steps... Everytime she has had any kind of milestone while I've known her, it always reminds me of what I missed when she was a baby because I wasn't in the picture.

Anyways, I've rambled long enough. What are your thoughts on all this? I just want her to feel loved and special and have for her grow up to be an emotionally healthy, confident woman. Any advice will be helpful!

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So What Happened?

You are all so helpful! I think the reason I feel so much angst about this is because I think it would be creepy to actually breastfeed her (she's 9!) but I wasn't sure if I was the weirdo for feeling that husband feels the same way I do and we were wondering if other people would think its perfectly normal. I feel a lot a relief after reading your postings. I have always planned to pump so that my husband can take part in feedings and have told her she can help, too. That way the whole family is involved in feeding the baby. And I have talked with her about how some babies are breastfed and some aren't, even brothers and sisters. I was 2 months premature and had to be fed via tubes when I was born. After this, I had to be on a special low birth weight formula and I was not breastfed but my siblings were and it did not affect my relationship or bond with my mom at all. I've explained this to her and I think it helped. The more I think about it, the more I don't think she would actually want to go through with it but more of a question if I woul let do I love her enough. I know my feelings for her won't change and she says she knows that too but I can definitely see how perhaps deep down she is worried and this is a way for her to tap into that worry. I like the comment about joking that I'm a cow and might have to try that if she continues to be upset! I've been a vegan for many years (hubby and sd are not) and when they question my soy milk and soy ice cream, I joke that I'm not a baby cow so I don't need cow milk so she'll get a kick out of that and it might squash all the issues.

More Answers


answers from Redding on

Just explain to her that some moms breast feed and some moms dont. You havent had your baby yet so you dont even know if you will be able to breast feed. I read a lot on here about moms that were just unable to do it do to unforseen complications.....
Tell your stepdaughter that this is a learning experience for both of you and that she can now see the differences between breast feeding and not breast feeding which allows her to make a choice of what she will want to do when she grows up to be a mommy.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

"All I've wished ever since I first met her is that things could be different and that I could have actually given birth to her, fed her, changed her, watch her speak her first words, helped her take her first steps... Everytime she has had any kind of milestone while I've known her, it always reminds me of what I missed when she was a baby because I wasn't in the picture."

That (above, what you wrote yourself) is what you tell her over and over. You do not let her breastfeed.

The reality of the situation is that she was born to her own mother, which, in fact, makes her very very special. You really wouldn't want to change a thing about her.

At 9, she needs to learn that just because we wish something was different/had been different, doesn't mean that we can make it so.

You got to start your relationship with her when she was older. Even if you had been around as a baby, you couldn't have breasfed her. She wouldn't be the same little girl that you and her daddy love so much if you had been able to, because she would have been born to you.

Definitely talk with her counselor, but it's time to teach her that we can't have everything the way we want and that sometimes life isn't fair. Let her know that it hurts you, too, that she's not biologically yours because you feel so strongly that she should be. Let her know your hurt and pain over it, and let her learn to deal with disappointment.

It's not the same disappointment that she has from her bio mom, but she will be disappointed by others in her life, too. Teach her that it doesn't mean anything changes. Just that we can't always have what we want, even when we want it really really badly.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I would treat it like a child who is adopted. Tell her that you picked her specially to be your step daughter. Tell her that you feel a bond to her that is unbreakable and that you don't have to have given birth to her to feel so much love for her. Tell her that you are soooo happy that she will be there to help you when the baby comes. Tell her she has more experience with babies because of her younger sibling and you're really counting on her. Tell her that babies are great, but secretly you like children around her age because they can talk to you, keep you company, you can cook together, and take a walk together and all of the things tghat the baby can't do with you. Just make her feel like she is very special.

And yes, I think it is a little wierd for you to let her try breastfeeding. Let her watch, maybe put some in a glass, but don't let her actually breastfeed. If you do and she goes home to birth mom and tells, who knows what kind of mess that could lead to.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I would talk with her and the counselor. If my own DD (who is now weaned) wanted to try nursing at 9 I would tell her no.

This is not about nursing. This is about her seeing you provide something for her sibling that her mother could not and trying to process the failings she sees in her mom. She may say she's not jealous, but I suspect her worries are the way she is expressing a basic fear - that you will love the baby more than her and she will become less-than. I would find other ways to remind her that you do love her. Don't feed into the guilt. You weren't there. The point is, NOW you are and NOW you get to do things together. You know from your own experience that you don't just love a child you gave birth to. Maybe you can take a few tips from the adoptive community. My aunt didn't hold my cousin til he came off a plane with he was 5 months old, but he's no less her son than her daughters that she gave birth to.

I also think that part of helping her be emotionally healthy is to navigate these incidents without feeding into the fear or making yourself into a pretzle to make up for her mom's failings. It is what it is. Do not deny yourself or your baby for SD's concerns here.

My SD wanted us to hold back on DD's first Christmas because we were not scheduled to have them that morning. I said no. Not because I didn't care, but I was NOT going to set the precedent that DD's life gets held up for the sks' schedule. I wouldn't even pump for SD's sake or offer her a taste. I would take the whole thing off the table because it's the iceberg you see, not the one you can't and as far as feeding is concerned, your infant takes precedence over SD's curiosity or jealousy. If SD wanted to be in diapers, what then? Don't even go there, IMO.

You cannot roll back the past and it's not all about her. Reassure her, but don't enable her, KWIM?

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Spartanburg on

The love you have for her is amazing and I can see how she wishes to be your child too. Guide her through this transition by involving her with the baby, just like a previous poster mentioned, keep showering her with love and affection until, with your help and the therapist, she will grow out of this phase. As of breastfeeding her, well, it's not "natural" anymore after a certain age for a reason, wether the child is yours or not. You don't want to complicate an already complicated psychological situation by simulating an act which is only natural for babies. Use your love and common sense, she'll be fine.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I wouldn't breast feed her. I would gently explain that it is not appropriate for a 9 year old to be nursing. I think I would downplay the "specialness" and marvelous benefits of breastfeeding in conversation with and around SD. Even though you don't have a lot of respect for her birth mother (and I don't doubt you have good reason) you should tell your SD that bottle feeding Moms don't love their babies any less. Not all Moms breastfeed. Plenty do not. Maybe you can point out some close friends or relatives that chose bottle feeding so she has some perspective. It is OK that she was not breastfed. Formula is also nutricious and healthy. The new baby will not have any special memory of breastfeeding, just like she cannot remember getting fed a bottle as a baby. Tell her that your love for her and the new baby will be same. You love her just as much as if you had given birth to her. But she and the baby will not always get the same things at the same time because they are different ages. 9 year olds and babies do not have the same needs. Many, many other privileges and things she will have first, because the baby will be too little. Parents give children age appropriate things. 9 year olds don't nurse breastmilk OR drink from bottles. Babies can't play with small toys or eat hard foods. Then just stop talking about all the wonderfulness of breastfeeding around her because it makes her feel bad that she missed out on getting that from you. Change the subject. She knows you love her. Just keep showing her. She may be a little jealous when the moment actually arrives that you feed the baby, but that happens with any siblings. She'll be OK.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Green Bay on

I think you should think of something special for just the two of you (step daughter and you) to do together that the new baby won't be able to do. That way, she won't have Breastfeeding, but she will have that other activity/bonding time to be with JUST you where your attention is JUST her.

What about pumping a little milk for her to taste? I have heard of parents doing that for siblings. I would really take time to explain to her that she is too old for breastfeeding. I also would bring up the issue with her counselor so he/she can help her through that transition and really focus on her feelings toward it.

Also, what about making a point to pump enough milk for one bottle a day for your step daughter to help feed the new baby? She is old enough, you can sit with her on the couch, show her how to hold the baby, burp the baby, etc. If you are comfortable, allow your step daughter to be a part of breastfeeding as much as possible - allow her to watch, talk to her, tell her about what is happening, etc. Invite her to sit with you when you feed baby so she can be close as well.

If she has those issues from birth mom/treatment/etc, you will need to really put in even more effort that the typical "new baby" transition, I think. I think she will be upset that she can't participate in this one event, but then you should find other ways for her to participate in the new baby to compensate. :-) GOOD LUCK!! :-)

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Wow, I'll be thinking about this question all day...

No, I don't think it's creepy that you are considering letting her try breast feeding at age 9, though I do think it's inappropriate and possibly a danger zone, even with your best intentions behind it (if she goes to school and mentions to her teacher that you let her suck on your breast... that, to me, would fall under "mandatory reporting" and now you've cracked open the hornets nest)...

Continue to reassure her and it's great that you are getting her into counseling. Perhaps, once your milk comes in, express a tablespoon or two into a cup and let her try it. She'll (hopefully!) decide she doesn't like it and your issue will start to fade.

Blessings to both of you. She's lucky to have you as a mom.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

I like what Grandma T said. Also tell her that you are sorry she feels sad and left out, but that you will always love her like your own daughter even though she wasn't born to you (or something similiar). Maybe pump 1 bottle per day and let her feed the baby - this can be special for her bonding with the baby but also showing her that you are willing to negotiate and allow her to have some say so in the relationship to breastfeeding. If it were my biological 9 year old and she wanted to see what it was like (because she forgot or maybe I didn't do it with her) I'd WANT to let her...but not sure I would. Can you imagine explaining that to a teacher, bus driver, etc? And for a step daughter - I def would not. That may be opening you and your husband up for somethings said/done on her mother's part. Not that I think she would do that but you never know!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

Well, I probably would not allow her to try to breastfeed from you because to me, that would just be creepy and inappropriate. At least, not without discussing it with her father, her bio-mom, and the therapist first. But who knows what would happen if she talked about it to someone else.

I would just tell her that not every mom breastfeeds and there are many reasons for this. It's unfortunate that her bio-mom gave the response that she did, but the truth is that some moms have difficulty, some babies don't nurse well, and sometimes there are medical reasons why a mother cannot nurse her baby, like medications they might be on. And what about babies and older children that get adopted? They can't nurse either, but that does not mean they are loved any less, or their mothers don't bond with them.

It's great that breastfeeding can be presented to her in such a positive light, but it might also be causing her to interpret the fact that she was not breastfed as a negative thing. She needs to learn that this isn't that black-or-white, and just because there are many advantages to breastfeeding doesn't mean not being breastfed is "bad".

That's about all I can think of without having you discuss this with her therapist, so I hope this helps. Good luck to you!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I would not let her breast feed! This could cause many unknown problems w/your hubby & his ex.
It can easily be misconstrued.
While I applaud your reasoning, this can only lead to problems.
I think she may be feeling jealousy as any young child would.
My stepdaughter went through this and it quickly escalated getting out of
All of my good, kind, loving hard work I did when she was 3 & her mom
just couldn't handle the day-to-day responsiblities (she wanted to be
single & date), quickly were forgotten. By everyone: her, dad & her bio
If I could turn back time, I would have let dad be dad & I would have taken
a step back. As I said, it all blew up in my face.
I can easily see where this could be miscontrued & blow up in your face.
Even though your thought process behind it is kind & loving.
Show her you still love her in other ways: time w/just you before the baby
comes, verbal reassurance etc.
Get her a special "big sister" gift to give her the day your baby is born.
If you love & support her, she will grow into a healthy confident woman.
You do not have to breasfteed her to do that.
Best wishes & congrats on your pregnancy! :)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

you can point out how some biological moms breastfeed one child and not the other and that they don;t love the one breastfed any less. I find it amazig that you have so mihc love for her. I was J. asking if this was possible last week, because I am not with my daughters father and i worry noone will love her like a biological parent would, but you've answered my question in your worrying, and concern for wanting her to feel loved. As for actually doing it I wouldn't. there will be many things you will experience with the new baby you didn't get to with her, she has to learnt that doesnt mean you love her less. Also it could open a can of worms with children services ecspecially since shes ot biologically yours

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I haven't read all the responses, but here's mine: I'm a big advocate of breast-feeding, but not for a 9 year old. She's too old, she'll always remember it and would possibly regret it or be weirded-out when she's older. It shows what a great mom for even considering it though - as moms, we want to do whatever we can to make our kids happy and it's so tough to see them upset.

It's a good idea to pump, just so your baby can get used to a bottle so you can leave the house alone sometimes! I breastfed my daughter until she was 17 months, but started giving her a bottle of pumped milk when she was 4 weeks old. Have your stepdaughter help with giving her the bottles, and have her cuddle up with you while you breastfeed. But she's got to understand that she's just too old to do that herself.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Amarillo on

Wow. I think it would creep me out to nurse someone that old just for them to see what it is all about.

There are a lot of emotional scars that this child has and that maybe she should have her time with the counselor upped a bit. She seems to feel that she is going to be replaced by the new sibling. But then that does sound a lot like the only child that now has to learn to share. The counselor maybe able to give you some suggestions on what to do.

Tell her that she will always be your first child. You also feel unhappy about not being able to be there when she was a baby but you are here now for her. Plan something that the two of you do together like hair or nails or something and put it on the calendar as a date. Reminder her that life is not fair and she has to learn this. Like one person said you can always get what you want when you want it. The world does not revolve around her she is just a piece or part of it. The sooner she learns this the better she will be. Does she have any friends in your neighborhood or any outside activities that she participates in that could/can help her get over this hurdle?

Whatever you do do don't let her set the tone of what life will be like in your household. You set the tone.

I have one adopted and one biological and understand where you are coming from. I love them both equally but in different ways. I would go to bat for them now and they are adults.

Do keep us updated. Good luck to you and happy holidays.

The other S.

PS We don't want social services knocking on the door. Don't give anyone any reason to have them stop by.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Just creepy and if she shares the experience of nursing on you to her mother, you and dad just might lose your 50 50 custoday and find yourselves with superivsed visitation ONLY, not to mention other legal ramifications. NO NURSING with the 9 year old.


1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

This reminds me of something I've read about, adopted children who express how upset they are that they didn't grow in their mommy's body. The experts say what the child is really saying is "I want to be that close to you" You have to reassure her that you couldn't feel any closer to her than you do right now, no matter what! She may be picking up on your feelings (kids are Very intuative) that you wish things could have been different and you could have experienced more with her. You have to reinforce that you feel just as close to her despite missing those first few yrs.. You've gotten great ideas of spending one on one time with her, letting her give the baby a bottle, "desperately NEEDING" her help with the baby, and finding things for just the two of you that dont include or center around the baby. and I'm not sure that letting her try breastfeeding would help her get over those feelings of having missed something.



answers from San Francisco on

I agree with Grandma T. You can also explain to her part of life is things will happen to us that we think aren't fair or we didn't get our fair shake. But when we love someone as she seems to already love this baby, we want the best for them no matter what happened to us. The things we want and the things that are are often different but we make the best of what we have.



answers from Dayton on

Try to explain to her that she's had you all to herself for 4 years and that this new baby will never have that. So each child has some special bonding type experience they can call their own. I would bring it up with the counselor, it could be more of a curiousity type thing. I would not let her try it. She is too old and is old enough to understand that, especially considering that you have been trying to explain so much to her about it.



answers from Phoenix on

Hmmm, if it meant that much to my daughter, I would consider letting her try breastfeeding but I would explain that sure, you can try it, but you don't need it now that you're big so it's not something you get to do on a regular basis. I would probably be pretty uncomfortable, though, especially since she's old enough to remember. When my daughter was born my son was 2 and he wanted to try breastfeeding so I let him a couple of times, but he lost interest after that. I felt like letting him and not making a big deal out of it was the best route. But he was much younger than your daughter. I would DEFINITELY feel comfortable letting her try some of the milk out of a bottle (heck, I was dying to taste the breastmilk out of curiousity), but that doesn't sound like what she's asking for.



answers from Los Angeles on

I didn't have a chance to read the other answer, but just wanted to give you some quick encouragement. I think you have an amazing relationship with your daughter, which really shows how safe she feels with you that she is able to articulate her feelings! I also think she must be expressing what all toddlers feel when the new baby arrives, but can't say- they just act out. But perhaps an approach that works with toddlers may work with her too- use the breastfeeding time with baby to bond with your daughter. Use it for special reading or talking time. One mom who had 8 kids said that whenever she nursed the baby she would spend time with the toddler, and this seemed to help lessen the jealous acting out. I think lots of empathy with your daughter to validate her feelings, but at the same time point out how special your relationship with her is, even though you didn't even meet her till she was five. Ask her what kind of special things she might want to do to bond together, things that the baby can't do- that only you and she will share, after the arrival of baby. You might also ask her what ways she wants to bond with the baby- she too will have a unique relationship with the baby that no one else will have, of being the big sister. This may help her feel more included, rather than left out.

Sorry to ramble, I hope some of this helps. I actually think it will, since you have already provided her with such a strong foundation.

Blessings to you!!


answers from Los Angeles on

Here's something that I experienced with my older (birth) daughter after our youngest was born last year. I always figured I'd be the mom who was okay with letting Madelyn give nursing a try again when she expressed interest. Turns out, when faced with the real situation right in front of me, I wasn't comfortable at all with the idea. Kind of shocked me, really, and my daughters are only 28 months apart. My response was to say that breastmilk was for Fynnie because she wasn't able to have anything else for a while.

So clearly I'm fickle on this subject. My personal feeling is that she is too old to try it out, that you are opening yourself up to her biological mother going into mother bear mode (I think many of us have seen people who are otherwise negligent go ballistic when someone else does something that they consider wrong) and that there are other ways to help your older daughter adjust. Looks like you've gotten a lot of good advice already. I will just add what we were advised to do to help Madelyn prepare for the arrival of her little sister. Talk up being older and talk down being baby. In this case, talk about all of the foods she gets to eat and beverages she can drink that a baby can't have. A baby only gets breastmilk or formula for *months* before getting to try other food.

Best wishes, and congratulations... not only for your new baby, but for the strong bond you *do* have with your older daughter.



answers from Charlotte on

Marie, please don't let her breastfeed from you. Aside from the creepiness of it, you might just end up being party to a new obsession, and that's worse than anything you can do.

You should talk to her pediatrician about it, in addition to the therapist. I'm not sure that her therapist is the right person to talk to - if she will actually know much about this area. I would not accept the therapist's opinion one wit if she said to do it.

If not allowing this girl to breastfeed from you will scar her for life, then something is wrong with her and all kinds of other things will scar her for life. If you give in to this, what will she demand next? This thing about having to do everything that the baby did is a real problem, and not one that you should be giving into her for.

Get past the idea that you wished you could have been her mother. I hope you aren't telling her this. As far as fair is concerned, nothing is fair in life. If you let her think that she can achieve fairness on the back of this baby, you are doing her a real disservice, because other people will not allow her to manipulate them like this, and she will be in for a rude awakening.

If I were you, I'd stop talking to her about it. She might keep pushing you to talk about it in order to get you to change your mind and do what she wants you to do. We aren't talking about a 5 year old. She is old enough to be calculating what she wants and how to get it, and you should not play into this fantasy of hers.

Good luck,

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