Breastfeeding a Toddler When a Newborn Arrives

Breastfeeding a Toddler When a Newborn Arrives

Written by: Allison, RN, IBCLC

Breastfeeding a toddler when a newborn arrives can pose some unique challenges both for you and your toddler. Most toddlers don’t like to share, and having to share mom can wreak havoc on your toddler’s everyday routine. Some toddlers may throw temper tantrums or act out in  jealousy when they see mom with their new baby. This is completely normal, and most moms will tell you that it is just a phase as your toddler adjusts to a new baby in the house. Here are some things to keep in mind if you are still breastfeeding your toddler when having a second baby.
 

INTRODUCING YOUR TODDLER TO YOUR NEWBORN AT THE HOSPITAL

Many moms first introduce their toddler to their new baby while still in the hospital. However, now with COVID-19 restrictions in many hospital facilities, this may not be possible. If your facility allows young children to the postpartum floor, there’s a few things to keep in mind.
 
When your toddler arrives, it may be a good idea to temporarily have your newborn in the nursery if your facility has one. That way, when your toddler greets you, you are alone and can spend some special time just with them. You can walk around the hospital unit and show your toddler where you have been staying while not at home. Then, when you feel the time is right, you can walk with your toddler to the nursery and greet your newborn together. You may find your toddler is excited to finally meet the new baby.
 
If your hospital doesn’t have a nursery and your baby is in your room with you, try not to hold the baby when your toddler arrives. Seeing mom holding someone else may trigger jealous feelings in your toddler and they may get upset. Instead, you can have someone else holding the baby or keep the baby in the bassinet. Don’t be surprised if your toddler gets upset when they have to leave. They’ll wonder why you’re not coming home with them and may cry or throw a temper tantrum. This is a normal reaction to a separation from mom. If possible, try to have your partner or another family member take your toddler home. That way, they are with another person they feel comfortable with.
 

DESIGNATING SPECIAL TIME WITH YOUR TODDLER

Once you get home, you may find it a little chaotic juggling two kids at once. If you are still breastfeeding your toddler, it can be difficult to nurse your baby when your toddler is around. In the early weeks, it may be useful to have an extra set of hands such as from a grandparent or babysitter who can keep your toddler occupied while you nurse your new baby.
 
Try to create some special time with your toddler so they know they are still just as important to you as your newborn. This can be anything from play time, taking them for a walk in the stroller, or designating some quiet time when they can nurse. Toddlers often like the comfort of nursing, so it can help to nurse them right before they go to bed or at other times when they are craving some extra attention.
 

MANAGING TANDEM NURSING

It can take some time to figure out a new routine when managing breastfeeding two children at once. You may find that your toddler wants to nurse every time your newborn nurses. Your first priority when it comes to feeding is nursing your newborn, so it can help to set some boundaries with your toddler. La Leche League International has a few tips:
  • Request that your toddler wait until the baby is done nursing before he/she breastfeeds
  • Tell your toddler you’d like to really be able to pay attention to them while nursing
  • Offer a gentle “no” if you are truly not up for nursing your toddler at a particular point in time
  • Be aware if you feel your breastfeeding relationship is coming under strain

DO WHAT'S BEST FOR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY

Some mothers find the task of nursing two children at once to be too much and may decide to wean their toddler during their pregnancy or shortly after their newborn arrives. Weaning takes time and often includes some trial and error. Whatever you decide, know you have options and don’t ever feel that you don’t have a choice when it comes to nursing your toddler. Over time, you will be able to establish clear boundaries so your toddler knows when it’s their special time to nurse.

Picture of Allison, RN, IBCLC

Allison, RN, IBCLC

Allison is a registered nurse, lactation consultant, and adjunct nursing instructor living in New Jersey with her husband and two fur babies, Tasha and Shelby. She enjoys helping new moms on their breastfeeding journey and supporting new families as they navigate the joys and challenges of parenthood.

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