Babies, breastfeeding and toddlers, not an easy combination to deal with, but not a mutually exclusive one either!
Before your second baby is born, it is a good idea to try and prepare your toddler for what life will be like when the new family member arrives. The kind of things you can include could be, what the new baby will look like, how small they will be compared to them and how often they will need to feed.
Start by explaining to your toddler, what they were like as a baby and the kind of things you needed to do for them. Children always love to hear about what they were like when they were younger, so you should be able to keep their attention! Let them know how the baby will need to be held and fed and have their nappy changed. You could ask them if they would like to be your important helper when the baby is born and get things for you like, baby wipes or nappies, when you might not be able to get them yourself.
If you are planning to bottle feed your baby it will obviously be easier to involve your toddler at feeding time, then if you are planning to breastfeed. But don’t let this put you off breastfeeding, as you can still involve your toddler in the process.
Involving your toddler with breastfeeding
Explain to them how mummy is able to make special milk for the baby, full of all the important vitamins and nutrients, he or she needs in order to grow and to be healthy. Tell them this is how babies “eat” at this stage, as they are not old enough to eat the same food as their big brother or sister. Let them know, when mummy feeds the baby in this special way, the baby will be happier, as his or her tummy will be full again. The baby’s crying is their way of letting mummy know they are hungry or thirsty, as they cannot talk yet.
Ways of coping with your toddler whilst breastfeeding
Once your baby has arrived and it’s time to breastfeed, try and encourage your toddler to sit quietly with you.
Here are some ideas on how you can do this: Read a story book to your toddler. If you haven’t quite mastered the art of having a free hand whilst nursing, don’t worry, you can ask your toddler to hold the book for you and turn the pages whilst you read. Or maybe they can “read” to you and the baby, by telling you what’s in the pictures.
Tip! Using a pillow or a sling can help get baby into position for feeding and makes having a free hand easier to manage.
If your toddler doesn’t want to read, try playing simple games like “I spy” or sing some of their favourite songs. Some toddlers like to feed their own “baby” at the same time as mummy. Maybe buy a dolls milk bottle and some dolls nappies for them to be able to do this. Don’t worry if your toddler mimics your breastfeeding, it is perfectly natural and normal for them to do this. Once you get to know your baby’s feeding patterns, you can pre plan activities for your toddler to do, to keep them occupied, such as drawing, puzzles etc. They could even “ make” you some food, such as a play sandwich from play dough.
Have these ideas been helpful to you? Have you any tips for combining breastfeeding with looking after a toddler? If so, please share them as we would love to hear from you!