Entertaining your toddler whilst breastfeeding a newborn is totally achievable and with some creativity and patience it can be relatively stress free. This article shares some tips I have found helpful and also provides details about other useful websites. All these ideas are also great for whichever approach you choose to take to feed your baby. It’s really just about finding ways to keep your toddler out of trouble whilst you are trying to get the all important task of feeding completed!
One of the biggest things I worried about before I had my second was just how I would entertain a toddler through the hours of breastfeeding a newborn. I prepared myself ahead of the birth to make sure I had lots of ideas to keep him entertained. Because I was so prepared (right!) I had this idyllic scene playing out in my head, I would be feeding and my toddler would be playing happily on the carpet or in the park. Beautiful isn’t it? But as with all our thoughts of parenting you haven’t really got a clue until you are in the thick of it.
Early on in our journey my toddler took a pooh on my cream carpet whilst I was trying to feed the baby. Then there was the time he drew on the wall at the Hairdressers (the embarrassment!). Oh and then on another occasion I was shot in the face with milk as I jumped up to stop my toddler from doing something. As I wiped it off and rescued my toddler, I realised the reality of feeding my newborn and looking after my toddler didn’t quite make for picture perfect viewing from the outset!
But over time as my confidence grew, so did my breastfeeding buddy, developing into a a fantastic little companion capable of entertaining himself for short periods of time or sitting next to me whilst I fed. I am always grateful for those moments together.
The KellyMom website provided a great point of reference with some great tips, lots of which we used. I have highlighted some of the things that were really useful for us, but there are lots more ideas out there.
If you can, get yourself sorted before you start feeding. Make sure you have everything to hand – phone, wipes, muslin, drink, snacks (plenty of it – no, not the alcoholic type..). If you do sit down and have forgotten something, rest assured you will figure out how to run around the house with a baby attached very quickly. If that fails you will be amazed at just how helpful your toddler can be at getting you things.
Patience…what patience? I was tired, I was trying to feed a newborn, work on the latch and all the delights that come with breastfeeding and on top of it I had a child clambering all over me trying to look, asking for cuddles and just wanting some of that one on one attention they are so used to. My initial reactions wanted to just say please stop. But I had to sympathise with the poor boy. He’d gone from having undivided attention to suddenly needing to sit back and watch whilst I looked after another little thing… another little thing that he kept asking and pleading with me to return to the rightful parents. So however hard it is, you will thank yourself after if you can try to keep as patient as possible.
Toddlers are incredibly inquisitive, especially when you are feeding. In the early days I had four beady eyes peering at me whilst I was feeding. My toddler was fascinated by what was going on. From the outset I explained to him what I was doing and he soon went back to his toys and never seemed that bothered again! Being that close was special, all of us sandwiched together for a while. Soon the novelty wore off and he retreated off me and onto the sofa, I used this time to teach my toddler to be gentle, rather than poke the baby in the eye.
In the early days we spent a lot of time reading stories whilst I fed the baby. I must have read some of the same books over 50 times. I would simply sit next to a pile of books and just keep going. It definitely helped to keep my toddler entertained and reduced movement and chaos for a little bit. He also loved the attention and I think it really helped him feel involved.
Playing I Spy
Playing I Spy has become one of our favourite games. It is handy wherever we are. I printed out some I Spy worksheets (ahead of time and in anticipation!). They have been great. They provide a good prompt for smaller toddlers. If you have plenty of time before hand, laminate them and use a dry wipe pen, makes it a bit more fun for the older toddlers. Check out my board on pinterest where there are lots of free I Spy worksheets you can download and print.
Create a box of fun
If you are at home, have a box ready that you bring out when you are feeding. This helps keep the novelty alive! We had a huge box with pens, paper and sticker books. The box doesn’t need to be restricted to the above, you can fill it with lots of different things that they play with when you are feeding. Once you are done, pop it away until next time.
Don’t forget to carry a sticker/colouring books in your change bag, if you do end up somewhere where there is little distractions or its not safe to be running around, these work well!
My toddler loves pretending to cook food or make coffee. Asking him to make me meal or pour me a hot drink kept him entertained for a little bit. Sadly, it wasn’t done in our real kitchen, but rather in a pretend one! You will have to do that, “humm, this is delicious” as you slirp down air, but they will love it. On a few occasions we got out the doctors kit and if your baby doesn’t get too distracted this might be the moment you don’t mind them clambering so much over you, to check your temperate and of course the baby’s!.
There is no denying that an episode of Thomas the Tank Engine or Peppa Pig saved me from providing some form of distraction! I tried to save it for when I really needed it for maximum effect…
Find great places to feed when you are out & about
Once my husband went back to work we were often out and about without someone to distract my toddler. So I always chose to go to areas that were suitable (and also enclosed!!). This meant my toddler had the freedom to run around and play, but I didn’t have to worry about where he was going to go.
One of my favourite places to go in Gibraltar was the park by the Cathedral. This is a great place, as there is plenty of places to sit and lots to distract the toddlers.
Other favourites of mine included the Library, which is breastfeeding friendly. My toddler had a wonderful time looking at all the books whilst I fed the baby. The Health Centre also provided a place to go. The room at the back of the Weigh In area and the little play section at the front were both great places to provide some distraction for my toddler, yet a small enough environment that I could just relax for a while to feed the baby and not worry about chasing after him.
These are just a handful of the things you can do to keep your toddlers entertained, I hope you find them helpful. For more ideas you can also visit this website, I just came across it the other day and I think its absolutely fantastic!