Breastfeeding when you only have the one newborn in the home was a challenge. But having a toddler with a breastfeeding infant can take that challenge to a whole new level.
Toddlers are naturally curious, and they are still young, so they need their hugs and snuggles with mama. So it makes sense that every time you try to settle down with your newest addition to breastfeed, your toddler starts asking for snacks. Or asking you to play. Or they may wander into a different room and becomes alarmingly silent.
You can’t take the curiosity out of a toddler. But you can actually support their curiosity while keeping them happy and busy in a variety of ways as you nurse your newborn. Here are a few of our favorite ideas:
The Busy Box or Toddler Basket
Fill boxes (like shoe boxes) or baskets with entertaining and educational toys which they don’t have access to on a regular basis. The toys should also be able to keep your child busy long enough for you to feed your baby.
One busy box idea is to create boxes based on occupations. A handyman box, for example, may include a plastic hammer, a plastic screwdriver, nails, and screws. Or try filling a medical box with toys like a doll, a stethoscope, bandages, and a toy thermometer.
Another easy one is blocks or larger-sized Lego pieces. You can incorporate other toys as well, like cars and pint-sized people to encourage their creativity.
Breastfeeding is usually a quiet time, making it ideal for you to get in some cuddles with both your newborn and toddler while reading a book. Most toddlers will even be able to retrieve books for you upon request, so be sure to have some books accessible to them.
“Magic” Coloring Books
If you are brave enough to trust your toddler with actual markers and crayons while you feed a newborn, props to you. For those of us who are sure that our toddlers will take that time to try and put fresh graffiti on our walls, there are always “magic” coloring books.
Crayola has its own line of markers and books called “Color Wonder” that are 100% mess-free. Melissa and Doug have “Water Wow” books that are reusable, and there are similar books of other brands which you can even find for cheap at dollar stores.
If your toddler enjoys puzzles, keep a stash hidden away “for special occasions”. That way, when it comes time to nurse, these “special treat” puzzles are sure to hold their attention long enough for you to feed your newborn.
As long as you aren’t trying to get your newborn to nap, singing songs is a great way to pass the time with a toddler. Incorporate hand motions (if you know some sign language, even better!), change the tempo and make funny faces to keep them interested and engaged. Encourage your toddler to use a musical instrument as you both sing or make some at home (an empty coffee can makes a great drum!).
Children learn best when they are able to engage their senses. Sensory bags give your little one an opportunity to explore brand new colors, textures, and sounds.
There are a lot of different sensory bags ideas out there, but almost all of them are easy to make, and they’re entirely mess-free. They can also be extremely educational and help toddlers become familiar with numbers, the alphabet, the four seasons and more.