Tears streamed down my face as I sat in the recliner nursing my one week old son, holding my 18 month old daughter and watching my mom drive away. Though breastfeeding was much easier the second time around, I was unsure how I was going to manage with a toddler and a newborn. I had visions of my busy toddler coloring on the walls or playing in the toilet while I was sitting every 2-3 hours (or more often) nursing my son. How I wish I knew then what I know now!
"Breastfeeding the second time around was SO much easier. Probably because I had the confidence. I breastfed my first for 2 years, so I 'knew' I could do it again. I just felt way more comfortable, and I knew the early pain was normal and would get better in a few days. It's been tough because my toddler still needs attention, but the baby needs to eat! So we're working on it and figuring it out together. But overall, it has been way easier and more comfortable the second time around." Beth, pictured above
- Prepare them. Depending on your toddler's age, consider taking her to a sibling preparation class. Classes vary but usually include watching a video about becoming a big brother or big sister, diaper changing and swaddling practice on dolls, a craft project and sometimes a visit from a real newborn. Read more about preparing your child for baby's arrival here. This is a great list of books geared toward sibling prep, and click here for children's books about breastfeeding.
- Feed them. Have healthy finger foods available for your toddler to snack on during some of your nursing sessions. Put together little baggies of their favorites that are easy to grab and go.
- Surprise them. How many times have you remarked your toddler has too many toys? Pack some of them away in plastic tubs for awhile then pull them back out during the times you are caring for the baby. Designate those as the breastfeeding toys.
- Contain them. As I remarked above, I was concerned what my toddler would get into while I was nursing. Create a nursing nest in a safe space where you can keep an eye on your toddler. Installing a gate is an easy way to create a boundary.
- Include them. Encourage visitors ahead of time to make sure and pay special attention to your toddler as the baby is a magnet! I even suggest in my sibling class that visitors bring a treat to big brother or sister.
- Involve them. Making the baby off-limits to big brother or sister will only cause them to resent the newborn. Show them how to be gentle while staying close to prevent any accidental head bops or eye pokes. Let them "help" with diaper changes, baths, retrieving clothes or your nursing pillow.
- Spend quality time with them. Your time will be divided but your love is not. Steal lots of moments to hug and kiss on your toddler. When your partner gets home, hand over the baby and take big brother or sister aside to read a book with them, play a game, take a walk around the block or start their bedtime routine. Plan toddler "dates," such as a trips to the park or library, where the whole family can get out and brother or sister understands that the baby can be fun, too.
- Pack for them. Take a trip to the dollar store, and pick up a few items like stickers, notepads, colors, pens, etc, and a little bag or basket to pack them in. Make it the special bag that only comes out at nursing times.
- Expect regression from them. For reasons they don't even really understand, your toddler may regress to more baby-like behavior after the new baby comes. If they are potty-trained, they may even regress in that area. Refrain from disciplining this behavior and understand it is temporary and perhaps the toddler's way of expressing "I need an extra, extra hug so I can feel like I am still important."
- Embrace flexibility. Learning to be flexible is a requirement for motherhood as our kids don't always fit into the neat little boxes our culture creates for them. Anticipate the diaper blow-outs right before you walk out the door. Be ready for the toddler melt-down in the store. Carry an extra shirt to change into after the unexpected spit up. And most of all, look forward to the intangible rewards being a mom brings, whether you have one, two, or five!
What other tips can you share for moms going from one to two?