Toddlers are not exactly renowned for their patience nor sharing anything, least alone their favourite thing – mummy. So when it comes to breastfeeding a newborn and satisfying the whims of a toddler it can be a bit of a tricky balancing act. Newborns, as you know, like to feed to their own schedule and what may have been months of blissed-out sofa time with your first baby, wrapped in your little cocoon of boxsets and Netflix during nursing marathons, can become a testing time when there is more than one little person to think about.
But there are ways through these seemingly endless days of simultaneously nursing and trying to entertain a toddler, one who is already questioning his new role in the family and trying to find his feet. So here are our top ten tips for nursing a baby with a toddler in tow.
Before baby is born source some new (new to you, you can get them a thrift shop) and exciting toys for your toddler and create a “nursing box.” A box of special toys and activities that are exclusively for use when you are nursing. Hopefully this will make your toddler associate baby’s feeding time with something fun and interesting for him. It obviously depends what stage your child is at and what their interests are, but we have had success with Lego Duplo, threading cotton reels, sticker books and magnetic blocks.
Make nursing time snuggle time. I bought a fancy nursing chair when I was expecting my third baby, I thought that I would sit in the playroom and rock my baby whilst the older two played at my feet. And they did, for a bit. But what they really wanted was to be near mummy and so the nursing chair sat empty whilst we all snuggled up on the sofa under blankets, reading books together whilst all three got their fill of mummy time.
Ensure everyone is hydrated and fed. I know when my children are hungry and thirsty they are crankier than usual. Unfortunately you know that the days when you are trapped under a cluster-feeding baby, are the exact days that your older child chose to reject their breakfast. Make sure that you have an emergency basket of snacks and juice cartons in easy reach, ones that won’t give them a sugar crash. Don’t forget to put some in for yourself too, you may not get that hot cup of coffee, but you can ensure you don’t go hungry.
Find a baby-friendly toddler group. The best toddler groups are often run by other parents and can be a huge source of support. If you can hunt out a good one, you will find that the mothers are all looking out for all the children and that whilst some are nursing others are keeping an eye out for the older children. Great things happen when women come together like this and a kind of synchronicity sets in. In the early days of having two young children I stumbled upon a small group which became my lifeline. It was held early on Monday mornings and it was often a struggle to get out of the house, but it was always worth it. My toddler loved it and it actually felt like “me-time” for me, as I knew he was happily entertained, I got to chat with actual adults for a couple of hours and had people to pass the baby to, in order to spend some baby-free time with my older one. And I always got a cup of tea made for me, which was priceless.
Lean on other people. You may feel you need to do it all yourself, but there are always people who are willing to help when a baby is born. Ask them to spend some time with your toddler, taking them to the park or doing some crafting with them. The relationships your toddler builds with his grandparents, aunts, uncles and others are important ones and this is a great time to strengthen those bonds.
Get outside. Even if just for a short amount of time, it will make everyone feel refreshed. A short walk, or sitting on a garden hair with your baby while your toddle hunts for bugs is a enough to give everyone a change of scenery.
Sleep when your baby sleeps, is often advice given to new parents and it may be a little harder with a toddler, but it can be wonderful if your toddler still naps. I used to take my two oldest up to bed and feed the baby to sleep, with the older one snuggled right in next to me. If we were lucky we’d all get a couple of hours sleep in the family bed and there is nothing like waking up between to snoozing little people, all tousled and flush from sleep.
Create games which help your toddler to exercise independent play whilst you stay sitting. Colour treasure hunts are good, ask your toddler to bring you red things and then green things…Or play musical statues with them, you control the music whilst they dance about, Simon Says is a good one too.
Let your toddler play at being mummy. Dolls are a wonderful tool for helping a toddler adjust to a new baby. It gives them a chance to learn through mimicry, which is so important and gives them a focus. When you are feeding, you will often see your toddler lift his shirt to feed his baby, give them a couple of tiny nappies too and perhaps some damp cotton wool and a couple of changes of clothes, so they look after dolly as you look after baby.
Don’t feel guilty. There are some days where the only way through is to let your child watch two films back-to-back, twice. These days aren’t forever and if your child will happily sit in front of a film don’t beat yourself up over it. As long as everyone is fed, watered and safe that is enough some days.