Breastfeeding can be tough in the early days even if you only have one child to look after. But if you have toddlers as well the difficulty level can rise exponentially.
These are my top tips for breastfeeding when you have a toddler (or in my case two toddlers) in tow.
Note this isn't an article on how to breastfeed a newborn and a toddler, ie this is not a tandem breastfeeding post. I take my hat off to those ladies!
Below is a pic of my 3 kiddos when my littlest arrived on the scene. 3 babies in 2.5 years, craziness!
1. Ditch on demand breastfeeding for some sort of routine
I quickly realised that feeding 100% on demand is actually a luxury afforded to those who only have one little persons needs to meet.
Many munchkins equals, many demands at many different times. My solution. Offer your newborn feeds at sensible and practical times, and yes this may mean waking a sleeping baby to offer these feeds. Examples include:
- A morning feed before your husband/partner leaves for work, so that you can start the day with a good relaxed feed without a toddler hanging off you.
- A feed before you head out to a toddler activity, or alternatively a feed at your toddler activity when there are plenty of things, and other adults to distract and entertain your toddler.
- A feed when your toddler is sitting up at the table eating a meal or snack. This is particularly successful if your toddler is still strapped into a highchair.
You will quickly work out times that are sensible/practical for your life and toddler routine.
Choosing practical times makes breastfeeding much less stressful. Obviously, there will be times when this does not work, and your baby will demand a feed at other times. That's ok, you will obviously feed your baby, but if all feeds don't sneak up on you as a surprise it can definitely take the pressure off.
At night you would feed on demand unless there were any medical reasons for waking your baby for feeds.
2. Switch on the TV if needed
Before having toddlers and a newborn I was anti-screen time. I have since loosened the reins as far as screen time and breastfeeding goes.
Needs must, switch on the TV if you need to, and don't beat yourself up about it. Yes, in the beginning as your newborn feeds quite frequently your toddler may be getting a bit more screen time than what is advised, but your baby will quickly start to drop feeds and become a more efficient feeder, so in a few weeks/months the amount of screen time will have decreased significantly.
In between feeds lavish attention on your toddlers, play active games and run about. I am sure this will balance out the screen time they get in the short term.
3. Sort out your toddler's needs first
Before you sit down to feed your baby, make sure your toddler is:
- Fed and watered
Trust me a few minutes of your baby crying while you sort out your toddler is a lot more pleasant than 30 minutes of your toddler nagging/crying/whinging as they desperately need something right now.
It is a huge adjustment for your first child to become a sibling, do everything you can to make the adjustment for your number one as easy as possible.
Patience is a virtue but also not something I think you can expect of a toddler at all times.
4. Locate and use all the fenced playgrounds in your area
Feeding where your toddler is unable to run away helps immensely with your anxiety levels, and more often than not another parent at the playground will be more than willing to help out.
Don't be ashamed to use businesses free playgrounds. I frequent Bunnings, Mitre 10 Mega, and even McDonalds purely for their free fenced play areas. Cheeky I know, as I typically make absolutely no purchases and take my own nice cafe coffee.
Whoops, perhaps I have just admitted too much, I hope I don't get banned.
A quick note to my local council (Tauranga City Council), If you are listening. You do not have enough fenced playgrounds.
Many of your playgrounds back on to water, or are close to busy roads and car parks. I didn't notice so much when I only had one kid to manage, but with three I can tell you unfenced playgrounds are fraught with danger.
5. Attend playgroup type activities
Go to activities where there will be other parents with kids. Play centre, Play groups, Mums Coffee Groups, Library Toddler Sessions, Mainly Music etc. Feed your baby while you are there.
Your toddler will be safe and entertained, and you may even have time to sneak in some adult conversation and a coffee. Bliss.
6. Invite friends with kids for playdates
Feed your baby while your visitors entertain your toddler. Again you may even get the opportunity for some adult conversation!
7. Become a Yes person
Say yes to any and all help that you are offered.
8. A special box of breastfeeding toys
By all means, try a special box of toys only brought out for breastfeeding. Or try reading books to your toddler while feeding.
Sticker books worked quite well on some occasions for me, and popping some kid-friendly music on can help.
I also feeding while sitting down on the floor can help your toddler feel like you are still part of their game. But, if it doesn't work and stress levels are rising, refer back to tip 2. Switch on the TV.
9. Get Outside
I found feeding my baby outside so that my toddler could run around worked quite well. I had a bean bag that I would drag outside for me to sit on.
On a sunny day, my toddler could spend a very very long time with the hose, a watering can or just about any type of water play.
Fresh air does wonders for everyone, even the newborn bub will benefit from a breeze and a touch of sunshine. Unfortunately, this tip is not nearly as successful when you have a June/Winter baby.
10. Enjoy the night feeds
When you have two or more munchkins night feeds, become almost a pleasant experience. (I say almost, as sleep deprivation remains hard). But do try to enjoy some beautiful quiet time with your new baby when your toddler is not clambering all over you.
Breastfeeding a newborn can be tricky at the best of times but with a toddler to look after as well it can be a juggling act.
These are 10 practical tips from a mum of 3 children under 3 years of age
If you are currently feeding a newborn and have a toddler or few to manage I am sending you loads and loads of luck! You will survive, but it will be hard, so take the pressure off for a bit.