Nursing a newborn with a toddler in the family

by Melanie Gray

What a daunting thought to some moms with toddlers! It’s something that may cross your mind a time or two as your near the end of your pregnancy and rest assured, it can be done. The first thing you can do is to talk about what your older child can expect with the new sibling. Talk about what babies look like, that they cry, what their cries mean, how they eat, and how the new big brother or sister can help out. You can take their favorite doll or special animal and show them the different ways on how to take care of it. Modeling these behaviors is a great way to prepare your toddler for handling the new baby.  Also looking at pictures of other babies nursing and how animals feed their young is a nice way to help youngsters understand what is to come.

If you are planning on tandem nursing, talking about sharing with the new baby and how the new baby will be nursing a lot more is a nice way to get the wheels turning in the toddler’s mind on how things will change. Explain that the baby will only eat breast milk, so the baby will have to nurse a lot more than the toddler who is also eating various foods. This can help so that your toddler doesn’t feel like they need to nurse every time your newborn is nursing. A huge bonus to tandem nursing is that when your milk comes in, you can use your toddler to reduce any discomforts of engorgement!

Once the new baby is here, involving your older child as much as you can is the best way to keep them occupied and avoid any chances of a dreaded temper tantrum or lashing out. Having them fetch you blankets, wipes, a book, the remote, etc will help them be involved-and it helps you a ton too! Putting together a basket of their favorite healthy special treats that only comes down while you are nursing will help them to look forward to nursing time as well. Small snack-sized boxes of raisins, little packages of fruit snacks (okay, they’re not that healthy, but they definitely are well received!), goldfish or Annie’s Bunny Crackers, are all nice to have on hand. Also having a special toy, puzzle, or book that only comes down when you are nursing can keep them entertained. A magnadoodle, the leap-frog handheld computer, special legos, the special tea set, paperdolls, etc. are some ideas that have worked in the past. “Simon Says” and “I Spy” are easy to please games, reading a book on the couch, helping with a puzzle with your free hand, counting cheerios, are also some ideas to try when all else fails. Putting on the special movie or TV episode may be the last resort at the end of the day when you need those few minutes to sit down with baby.

In those first few weeks after baby arrives, be sure to have a plan for your toddler so that he or she is getting plenty of attention. With your partner home from work, make sure they have a special outing, just the two of them, so that your toddler can get some one-on-one time. Sending your toddlers to other favorite and familiar houses (grandma’s, a neighbors, a friend’s or relative’s) for play dates or an overnight can help your toddler feel like the baby isn’t getting all the attention all the time. It can also give you a break for an extra bath or nap in those first couple weeks postpartum when that can make a huge difference in your day.

When you are feeling more proficient with nursing, using a sling is a great way to keep both of your hands free while you nurse. Also taking advantage of heading outside when you can, can help break up the day. Setting out dish tubs of water (maybe soapy for some bubbles?) and cups, spoons, measuring cups, and various cooking utensils keep little ones busy for quite a while. Using sidewalk chalk or blowing bubbles are things to try while sitting and nursing and keeping the older sibling occupied.

Above all else, just go with the flow. It usually turns out to be so much easier than originally expected and this time will go so quickly. It is only the first few initial weeks that you will be nursing quite this frequently, so take a deep breath and enjoy this fleeting time while you can!

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