Monday, February 17, 2014

Breastfeeding in Front of Older Siblings

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Many expectant moms wonder about what to do about breastfeeding in front of their other children. Is it okay to breastfeed in front of older children? What about really older children? Is there an age where you will want to cover up?

The short answer here is that you do what you are comfortable with for your family.

My opinion here is that no matter the age or gender of your child, it is absolutely okay to breastfeed your baby in front of your other children without covering up. Here is why.

For one thing, breastfeeding a baby is a natural thing and not something that needs to be hidden nor treated as shameful. Let me add here, I am a very modest person. I believe our bodies are sacred and should be treated with respect. I am not a proponent of women baring all in public. I think you can breastfeed in public without showing everyone around your bare breast. Women are talented at it (some more than others--even after spending over four years of my life breastfeeding, it is not really a strong talent of mine--or a weak talent). I think you can feed your baby and still have consideration for others around you.

Among your own children, however, I don't even think you need to worry about not showing your bare breast as you breastfeed. I have never had issue breastfeeding in front of my kids. Remember how I said I wasn't talented at being discrete? My kids saw all when I was breastfeeding. 

Initially, the children will be very cognitively aware of what is going on and naturally very curious. Initially, reactions will vary from concerned to fascinated. Your reaction is key to how your children will take it. Don't be embarrassed. Answer their questions. Explain what is happening. If you see your child feels uncomfortable, talk to your child at a time when you aren't breastfeeding. Talk to your child about his/her feelings, validate those feelings, and explain what you are doing. Let's be real here, our children routinely interact with us while we are going to the bathroom (whether we like it or not). If they can do that without physiological damage, I think the risk is low for problems coming from feeding a sibling in the manner that our bodies were designed to feed a baby. 

Your children will quickly get used to you feeding the baby and it will be of not interest to them. They won't take more notice of it than they do their pair of shoes sitting in the middle of the entry way. 

Another reason to breastfeed in front of your children is that you are breastfeeding a baby all day long and yet still need to be a parent to the other children. Logistically as a mom, you can't be alone in a room at every feeding. You have to be able to take care of your children--even if it is just "couch parenting." Hey, I had to do a lot of couch parenting during Brinley's first year--especially in mornings as my kids were getting ready for school.

Some might argue to cover up with a blanket or nursing cover. I will use those around anyone not in my immediate family (because again, I am not talented at nursing without baring all), but at home I don't. I have never had a baby who liked being under those--even at church in the mother's lounge I always end up stopping using that thing despite my lack of talent. I don't use covers long.

Now, I am a big fan of trying to have children occupied during nursing sessions--especially little children. I never worried about my older kids' schedules in conjunction with my feeding baby schedule, but any two year old I had, I wanted occupied. This is just because a two year old is smart enough to realize you are tied down and not obedient enough to consistently listen to voice commands. 

I also enjoy having quiet nursing sessions with my babies. It is rare to have time alone with a baby when you have older children. Because of this, I would sometimes go in a room and tell my children to not come in while I was feeding the baby. I find the first month to typically need all of my focus so I can keep baby awake to eat. Then you have a few months of "baby will eat anywhere." Then you start to enter, "baby is far more interested in watching siblings goof around than eat" age range (which continues on until the baby is weaned). The good news is that by the time baby reaches that stage, there are fewer feedings in a day so you have fewer times to worry about it.

I will also want to be alone if it is the last feeding of the day because I need baby to be eating in a quiet, calm environment and my children are not quiet nor calming at the end of the day while they are getting ready for bed. I always nursed Brinley in her room and just me and her for her last feeding of the day.

To sum up, I have no problem nursing in front of my children for modesty reasons. I will try to have them occupied so I can have peaceful bonding time with the baby or be able to focus on the baby. I also will have them occupied if the child can't handle the freedom of mom being "tied down." I will also want to nurse without older kids around if the baby won't eat with them in the room or if I need it to be a quiet environment. 

Ultimately, it is up to you to decide. Let me assure you that children quickly lose interest in the novelty of it and don't think twice about it. I will say...pumping was a whole different experience for me. I didn't do it in front of them often enough for it to lose novelty and I didn't enjoy them gathering around and watching me like I was some museum exhibit (an interesting one). 

What is your practice? Do you breastfeed in front of your children?

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6 comments:

kellilayne said...

I finished nursing/pumping my second baby before my oldest turned 2 and NOW he decides to find pumping parts lift his shirt and inform me that he's getting milk, for his sister! he also now refers to my (fully clothed!) Breasts as "bottles."
On short, if it's not obvious, i did breastfeed in front of him and until i quit, he didn't think anything of it. Now, he's rather fascinated though. :p

Valerie Plowman said...

That is funny :)

Emily said...

LOVE LOVE LOVE this!!!! I 100% agree and am the SAME way! I don't use covers either...and I actually never have nursed in public. I think it's great for women who are comfortable, but I get milk everywhere and all over everything so I prefer to strip down and nurse! When in public I bring a pumped bottle :) My son will be 5 when our new baby is born and I fully intend to still nurse in front of him and am not the least bit concerned about it! Awesome post!

Mandy Nester said...

This is great! My son will be 2 1/2 when our second baby is born and this really helped.

Valerie Plowman said...

So glad to be helpful!

And Emily I am glad I am not the only one who can't nurse in public :)

Rachel Hockey said...

Thanks for this post, Val! I am now pregnant with number 4 and am becoming more of an advocate to normalize breastfeeding in our culture, and I believe that starts in the home. If our sons and daughters are raised with the thought that breastfeeding is natural, they will have a head start against a sometimes 'anti-breastfeeding' culture that we live in. So good to read your thoughts on this, thank you for sharing!

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