You know there’s no time as precious as the time you’re spending with your new baby, but sometimes, other demands (such as an active toddler) mean that you need to be two places at once. In a perfect world, every mom would get to snuggle and breastfeed her baby without interruption in those first weeks, but that’s not reality for most moms. If you’re wondering how to occupy and care for a toddler while still spending time bonding with your baby, here are some tips and tricks to try.
The Art of Distraction
After childproofing your home, consider activities that your toddler can safely enjoy, if they’re more self-sufficient or like to play by themselves. Some toddlers respond well to having a special toy box or bag of toys that only comes out when baby needs to be fed. If a particular toy or game is off-limits at other times, your child might even begin to look forward to when baby needs to eat because it means special privileges.
With a little preparation, you could also make your toddler feel like a special helper by bringing you a snack or getting items that are out of reach for you but accessible to your child. Create a small scavenger hunt by asking your toddler to bring baby their favorite stuffed animal, a toy that is red, or their favorite book, for example.
Sometimes, it helps to explain to your toddler what you’re doing when you breastfeed and how nice it is that they can give you some time with baby. Try saying:
- “Mommy is feeding baby special milk, just like how I fed you! It helps him/her grow big and strong.”
- “You’re such a good helper while mommy feeds baby. Baby is lucky to have a big brother/sister like you!”
Babywearing is a great way to free up your hands while still keeping baby close to you (or even skin-to-skin). A sling, wrap or baby carrier can also allow you to breastfeed on demand and pick up on baby’s feeding cues more easily – both important factors in enhancing and establishing a strong breastfeeding relationship.
Another way to multitask is to engage with your toddler at the same time you’re breastfeeding or pumping. If you’re able to hold their attention, try playing a game or reading a story while you cuddle as a family. Breastfeeding can be a special time for everyone.
Learning to Let Go
Every day will be different, and not every day will be picture-perfect. Be gentle with yourself and give yourself permission to take breaks from your toddler and ask for help when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Remember that there are lots of ways for your partner and other family members to help – you’re not alone! Ask a friend or family member to take your toddler to the park or to the zoo for a couple hours.
Do you have experience caring for a toddler and a new baby? Share your tips with us in the comments below.