Breastfeeding while keeping your older child busy

Breastfeeding is not an easy task to take on. Sure, it’s perfectly natural, and women have been doing it for thousands of years before you. But for some new mothers, it’s a challenge that can seem insurmountable. Add in an older child wanting your attention at the same time, and it can be even more stressful. If you have breastfed before, that’s one obstacle out of the way. There’s no need to struggle to figure out if the baby’s eaten enough, or if you’ve got the baby latched on properly, and there’s no need to struggle with which position is best because you’ve learned that with previous children. If however, the current baby is also your first attempt at breastfeeding, have faith that in time breastfeeding and keeping your other children occupied will not seem to difficult.

Speaking of those children, when it comes time to feed the newest addition to your family, they can be quite interested in what’s going on. Before the birth of your second (or third, or sixth) child, take time to sit down with the older ones and look at a few magazines and books and answer any questions they have. Taking care of the basics before the baby arrives not only helps you, because you’re answering questions when you’re not so stressed, but helps make the transition smoother for the other children in the house as well. When children know what to expect, and know what’s going to happen, they gain confidence and feel proud that they know. Depending on the age of your child, you may be able to get quite in depth in your explanations, or you may have to keep it simple, explaining that mommies make milk and that’s what babies need to grow strong and healthy.

Once the baby arrives, you’ll find yourself multitasking like a pro in no time. In the beginning however, it may take some trial and error to figure out what works best for you. With any luck, your baby will nurse on at least a rough schedule, and you can plan your older kids activities around the feedings. Your biggest asset is daddy. Fathers may feel left out when only mom can feed the baby, so when it’s possible let it become his duty to entertain the other children while you nurse. The children will love having dad’s undivided attention and won’t mind sharing mom with the new baby quite so much.

When the father isn’t around, make your nursing spot a location where the older children can climb up and sit with you if they like. Small rockers are cute, but when you’ve got one baby latched on and another grabbing anything he can to help him climb into your lap, you realize that the small chair wasn’t such a good idea. Save yourself the headache and leave them room to sit with you if they like. Make sure that whatever room you’re in is childproofed well and thoroughly, because it’s not as easy to jump up and run to the rescue when you’ve got a baby attached to you, so plan ahead.

For things to keep them busy, a box of crayons and a jumbo size coloring book goes a long way. Have a special bag or box set aside to use just when you’re feeding the baby, and the older kids can sit at your feet and color, even if coloring’ means just swirling the crayon around and around and around. For older children, connect the dots, color by numbers, or any age-appropriate game will help keep their attention a little longer.

Make use of feeding times to read to your child. Pick a longer book and read a few pages each time, and give the kids a reason to look forward to the baby demanding all of mommy’s attention. For older children, let them read to you. It will be an excellent opportunity for your child to gain confidence in their reading skills and to ask for help if there are words they don’t know.

Nap time rules. If your older kids nap, try to gradually work the baby’s feeding schedule around so that he nurses then. This may only help one or two times a day, depending on how many naps your children take, but it may be your one chance to sit still for an extended period, so try to make use of it! Don’t worry about the dishes or the laundry or whether the bathroom needs scrubbed, take these precious few minutes for yourself and relax.

Let your child help you feed the baby. Encourage independence and let your child hold the receiving blanket, fetch the burp cloth, or even entertain another child. When mom is busy is an excellent time to promote sibling relationships, and the older kids will love the responsibility of keeping little ones occupied while mommy feeds the baby, all within mom’s sight of course. Praise often and remember to say thank you for the help.

There is always television, but you will probably want to use this sparingly if at all. It rarely holds their attention long, and moving around and playing or reading or coloring is always better than sitting and staring at the TV.

In time, you will learn what works best for your children, and you’ll be shocked at how easy it all seems after a few months. Have patience, and remind yourself often that your children won’t be babies forever, and try to cherish each moment. And when all else fails, dig out that sling that you received as a gift with your first child and never used so you can feed the baby and move around at the same time.