Let me just start off on the record:
Breastfeeding with toddlers is the ghetto. 0 stars, do not recommend.
However, here I am, and if this blog was of any interest to you, I'm guessing you're here too, or may be on the way. So lets try to get through this together.
At the time of this post, we are in day 3,456 of #theRona quarantine. I was set to return to work at 8 weeks postpartum before the pandemic hit, and was making a case to do telework from home with the occasional home visit until maybe 10 or 12 weeks postpartum. The Rona got me my telework wish, but I'm also stuck with my very high needs three year old and now a one year old. Yup, its been a year since Maryland went into lockdown and started enforcing social distancing guidelines.
So how did I make it a year+? A lot of prayer, and getting creative with managing the needs of myself and the household. It's not always pretty, but at the end of the day I think we're doing pretty okay. So here are 5 things I DO recommend.
Set up stations in your home.
Whether you're a SAHP, WFHP, outside the home or somewhere in between like me- make your life easier where you can. I often recommend to my clients to set up stations in their high traffic areas- like your bedroom, the family room(s), the nursery, and office- if you have/ use one. Keep the essentials near you at all time to cut down the time between one activity to the next. I recommend using a diaper caddy like the Parker Baby Diaper Caddy - it has a ton of pockets on the outside for small stuff like nail clippers and breast pads; plus fits plenty of diapers, wipes, burp cloths, and snacks at hand. With the carrying handles you technically *could* move it from room to room. If you have an older kid or really adept toddler, they can help keep the caddy stocked, or bring the items you need as everything will be neatly together. Even at 2.5/ 3 years old my oldest is completely capable of bringing me the items needed for a booty tune-up or a sleeve of Oreos. Whatever floats your boat.
Pumping parents: make sure your station also includes your pump, a spare collection kit, and a towel. Don't ask about the towel, just know toddlers be toddlering.
Make the bigger kid feel useful.
Continuing from tip #1, kids, especially toddlers love to help, and they get a huge sense of accomplishment when they master a given task. Incorporate them in the baby and breastfeeding care with age appropriate tasks. Letting them grab the diapers, or your nursing pillow, cookies for you both- can help them see caring for the new baby as a whole family experience.
Breastfeeding as family bonding.
I love the Dollar Store. Ever since I was little. Go to Dollar Tree, get some coloring/ activity books, puzzles, or simple crafts that they can do with minimal help. Break them out when you sit down to nurse/pump so you can focus on your milk, but also keep your other child(ren) engaged.
Another thing we loved was reading short storybooks. I enrolled my kids in Dolly Parton's Imagination Library (check with your local library if they participate), so "book day" was always fun in our home. Can't join Dolly's program? Here's some of our other favorite reads (affiliate links):
Get on their level. Or raise yours.
I'm not an overly thrilled pumper- its necessary for me, but not something I'm ever pressed for. I often found it hard to have the motivation to pump even when I knew I needed to- and I often blamed the kids. My good friend Nichelle Clark, IBCLC, at Sonshine and Rainbows Lactation, gave me the tip to get on the floor with them and pump. Never occurred to me before she said it. So yeah, grab a pillow for your booty, and while you watch Bluey for the 1,000th time and the baby gets some tummy time in, get your pump on. Or nurse. On the flip side, if you have to work or have a meeting and its time to pump/ feed- just do it. I invested in a laptop stand to raise my camera height, but a stack of books, or a shoebox works well too. It doesn't have to be in a special chair in a certain room. Get in where you fit in boo.
I'm currently split 80/20 teleworking and going to work in person. Obviously when I'm home, the kiddos are too. It can make for a fraught day more often than not- I'm home so they think I'm available for their every need. The baby wants to nurse, the toddler wants to play, the husband wants attention... it can be a bit much, and a huge distraction. What has been helping is using an old school dial timer. While my little one doesn't grasp the concept yet, my toddler can- she knows that when the timer is red, mommy is unavailable. Telling her I need 5 minutes is abstract- but she can tell me if there is a lot of red left, or a little. Its still a work in progress, but we're getting there.
(I also fully plan to use that sucker when I start weaning, but that's another conversation for another day.) You can find one online similar to mine.
This isn't a remotely exhaustive list of things to do/ try, but I hope it helps you develop the framework to make breast/ chestfeeding with multiple littles work for you. Anything worth doing never seems to be easy, but once you find your groove you'll be aight.