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Juggling a Preschooler and a Nursing Babe

I remember when our second daughter was born, our older one was just over 3 years old. Just when I'd settle in to nurse baby Tati, I'd hear: "Mammmmaaa!" from the other room. "CAN YOU DRAW WITH ME?!?!?" I came to look forward to evening nurse sessions, after I had tucked in older Philly to bed. But, even then, it'd be: "Maammmmmaaaa!" she'd holler, waking baby Tati from her nam-nam slumber. "I GOTTA GO POTTY/NEED WATER/WANT A KISS!!!!" It's tough, juggling the two. How did you do? Sarah is feeling challenged:

I'm due to have my second child any day now, and I already have a 3 1/2 year old daughter. Does anyone have recommendations for a special activity or ways to occupy a preschooler while nursing a baby? When my daughter was nursing, it regularly lasted 30-45 minutes, and I want to be prepared in case this baby is a slow eater too. Any tips?

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I've had some good luck with keeping some 'special' toys where I feed the baby. We only get them out when I'm nursing, and they get put away after we're done (within reason.) Some things that we've used: Colorforms, play doh, rice (the pouring back and forth keeps her engaged for quite a while, and the clean-up is easier than you would think), a short video. Hope that helps!

I too had some luck with "special toys" & "special books". The jugling process will work it's self out and after a few weeks she won't even notice.

I agree that the trickiest part of juggling the breastfeeding babe/toddler is in the beginning. I've got a 3.5 year-old and a 3-month-old, and I've done everything from breastfeed my daughter while reading stories for nap time to my toddler (all of us lying down in his bed) to setting him up with a distraction while I'm nursing in the other room. I also think clay, sticker books, etc. are good diversions when you know you'll be tethered to a nurser for a while. But the biggest thing that helped in our situation is that I just talked a lot to my son about what a great helper he was, explained that I had to feed his sister, etc. and then made sure I spent some one-on-one time with him while the baby slept. There's something to be said for trying to really build the older child up and give her/him jobs, a sense of importance around the new baby, etc. My son has actually adapted pretty well and seems well adjusted. I think sometimes we underestimate how much we can reason with a little person and it's surprised me how cool my son has been about everything. Great luck to you -- the idea of a 3 year old and a baby was pretty intimidating to me in the beginning, but it was easier to adapt than I thought it would be and I'm really enjoying these 2 now.

Mine are the same age spacing, and the one thing that NEVER works is to say, "I'm nursing your sister to sleep right now, so please be quiet/don't tickle her feet/don't sing in her ear." It's almost as if she edits out the word "don't"! But I like to use that time to be her audience and give her eye contact while she dances, or tell stories with her, or don a fake persona (she loves these) and ask her all sorts of questions about her life. That way she's getting all the attention. I often let her know that as soon as her sister gets to sleep, we can go do something fun together, so she shares in my goal.
All in all, I love having my 2 kids almost 4 years apart.

My second was born when my son was 2.5yrs. I anticipated a lot of problems but I never really had any. I would read to him as I nursed the baby or talk about trains, etc. He seemed to realize that this is something that Mommy had to do. And honestly, he really didn't even look twice at his brother for a few months, but it all worked out fine.

Another trick is to ask if they need anything before you sit down and then explain that you will be busy for a few minutes.

One thing I learned with my second is to not worry about problems arising until they do. You may be stressing for nothing.

My daughter was 2 when my second baby was born. She is generally very accomodating when I need to take time to feed the baby. But like others have suggested I try to make sure she is getting some attention while I nurse. One thing I try to do (if the timing works out!) is nurse the baby when my 2 year old is eating -- either a full-on meal in her high chair or a snack at her special snack table. Either way she is busy with the food and I can talk to her about how both of my girls are eating breakfast/lunch/snack, etc. We talk about how the baby only drinks milk because she's little and doesn't have any teeth. We talk about how the baby will eat one day from the high chair and how grown up my 2 year old is since she eats what mommy and daddy eat, can use a spoon and fork, etc. I've been so impressed at what my two year old "understands" -- she seems to really get it!

Good luck!

Shannon

My daughter was 2 when her sister came around and I do remember feeling a bit stressed at times during feedings and pumpings. One thing I found was to read to her (she would hold the book) and also to let her be involved as much as possible. She liked to hold a had or stroke her sister's leg. I have to admit, this did make nursings longer, but it did make it much more enjoyable in the long run.

Ahh, I remember that struggle! I found that my older was happy as could be if he was the center of attention while I nursed. He brought his toys out and played while I talked with him about everything he was doing. That's also when he discovered the kitchen pots and pans to play with and would cook all kinds of things for me while baby nursed.

One thing really struck me though in your question that no one prepared me for. The only base of comparison I had was my experience with my first and how wonderful it was to sit around and nurse for long periods of time. My second didn't have that luxury, once dad went back to work. I really had to get past the loss involved with not being able to give everything I wanted to give when I wanted to give it. We had to find bonding other ways, the sling, nighttime co-sleeping, etc. If you get a slow eater, definitely get a sling and figure out feeding on the go!

I'm in the same boat as you - I have a 3.5 year old daughter and another due in 9 weeks. Your question has me thinking... thanks for asking it! I wonder, will it help to talk with her now (before the baby comes) about how you fed her when she was a newborn and that when her sister comes, you will do the same? If you have pictures or video to show her, that may also help. Maybe even take one of her dolls and show her. This will at least get her thinking of the process before it starts. It may also be neat for her to have her own baby doll to nurse while you are nursing/burping/changing your baby. What do I know though... I haven't been through it yet. Good luck!

I have an 18-month old daughter and a 3-week old son so I am figuring this out right now. I stressed about it a lot while I was pregnant, but it's not as bad as I feared. You have to get used to the idea that nursing is not going to be the same uninterrupted, still and quiet activity that it was with your first child. Also, while I try to focus my attention on my daughter while I am nursing--sitting close to her, talking to her and giving her regular eye contact--I don't feel it is my responsibility to keep her entertained the whole time. When I am nursing she has to play independently, and she has come to understand that I am not going to jump at her every request during these periods. This doesn't always make her happy, but this isn't a bad thing. It does help to have the baby in a sling so that you can move quickly in case your older child is getting into something unsafe. Good babyproofing is a must. Also, in general, I agree that finding ways that the big sibling can be helpful (bringing you things that you need for the baby) makes them feel included. Also, it was helpful to have someone around to help during the first couple of weeks while the newborn was getting the hang of the nursing thing. Now I can relax knowing that he is getting enough to eat despite the somewhat more erratic nursing routine.

We just received an email from another urbanMama, who would love your thoughts:

I am a mother to a 16 month old girl and am expecting another baby in a month, delivery via repeat c-section. I am wondering if any of y'all have any words of wisdom regarding preparing for another baby. I am not so much worried about the toddler's reaction to her baby brother, more like worried about preparing my home and life for another baby! What made your life easier when you were in the trenches with a newborn?

My boys are 20 months apart, and I had a repeat C as well. The one thing that someone told me, and I didn't realize how true it was until I was there, is that it is easier after the baby is born because you can put the baby down, which you can't do right now! It's true. I was lucky enough to have a husband who was able to take a month off. That was a life saver. If you have any options at all for having a second person around, do it! Once he went back to work, we spent alot of time just hunkered down at home. I napped when the older one did for a long time, which was tough for me because I couldn't get anything else done at that time, but I needed rest or I was cranky. My husband did alot of laundry at night, and I would fold it while I was parked in bed. During the day, Baby was put in a sling and I could still do everything for the older one. I made alot of cassaroles for dinner. I could prep during an easy/quiet time of the day and then when dinner came around it was all about popping it in the oven. Daily walks, to get the energy out of the older guy and some relief for me. And the indoor park was a life saver. The older child could play in a contained space while I could sit down or play, but didn't have to chase him far.

The best thing I can say is to give yourself some slack. It will be different for awhile, things won't get done, and you will be tired. But it gets better. Just be present for the kiddos, and let the rest go. Good luck to you!

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