Inside: 8 easy ways to keep a toddler busy while breastfeeding a newborn
My nerves were on edge, I didn’t want to be touched, I was irritated I couldn’t just relax for a few minutes while I nursed my baby…I was burned out.
Every single time it was time to nurse my son, my older daughter, (who was 22 months old) would crawl onto my lap, grab my face, hang on me, or something along those lines demanding attention.
I couldn’t handle the constant touching, grabbing, and whining or crying if I told her she couldn’t get on my lap.
Plus it sucked at times because I felt like I wasn’t getting the one-on-one time with my son while he was nursing that I had with my daughter when I nursed her as a baby.
I love my daughter fiercely, but I knew if I didn’t get a handle on this, I would end up feeling angry, irritated, or resentful.
Hearing the constant whining or tantrums from your toddler every time your baby needs to eat can be maddening!
You’re probably already sleep deprived and running on fumes, so that mild irritation you feel the first time your toddler cries or whines when you have to nurse your baby, quickly becomes anger the fourth time they do it that day!
When a new baby joins the family, often times you can forget that your toddler is still a toddler.
You may feel like they should know better, or they’re older so they shouldn’t be behaving this way, or you’re questioning why they’re behaving a certain way when they usually don’t.
It’s a weird feeling because before you have your baby, your toddler seems so little. But once that newborn is here, they seem like they’re so much older.
There were many times I caught myself expecting more from my daughter than was developmentally appropriate.
It’s frustrating for you, but your toddler isn’t acting this way for fun or to purposely make you mad.
They have very little control over their emotions and how they express them. They also have big feelings about the very big change in your family.
They may feel jealousy, anger, or sadness that they have to share their favorite person in the whole world with a new, (very needy) baby.
Even knowing that doesn’t make the constant crying, grabbing, touching, whining, or other attention seeking behaviors any better though.
I knew I didn’t want to feel anger, irritation, or any negative feelings towards my daughter and I realized that most of the attention seeking behaviors from her, (and negative feelings from me) stemmed from when I was nursing.
In an effort to reduce the stress surrounding breastfeeding, I came up with special activities she could do while I nursed my son.
8 Easy Ideas To Keep A Toddler Busy While Breastfeeding A Newborn
1) Read them stories
Have them pick out their very favorite stories or have special books for toddlers that they only get to hear when you are nursing. This is great to stay engaged with your toddler to lessen any jealousy they may have about your new baby getting all your attention.
2) Give them a special project
This depends on the age of your toddler but you could have play doh, a special coloring book that they only get when you’re nursing, or you could have a basket of special toys they only get when you’re nursing.
The idea is giving them something that’ll keep them occupied without needing you and without getting messy, because you won’t be able to help them much.
Related: The Best Toys For Toddlers
3) Introduce independent play
If you haven’t tried getting your toddler to do independent play time, this is a great time to start.
Nursing sessions aren’t always long so you can start with 15 minutes and work up.
You can introduce independent play by setting up a timer and have them either go in their room, a playroom, or in the room with you.
Set the timer for a specific amount of minutes and let them know they need to play alone until the timer goes off.
Be sure once the timer goes off that you engage with them, so they correlate the timer going off with you being actively involved with them.
This helps your toddler trust that you’re coming when you say you will and reduces the amount of times they’ll come to you asking if independent play time is done.
If you’re still nursing when independent play time is over, you can use another activity on this list.
4) Play games
Some games my daughter enjoyed while I was nursing was I Spy and scavenger hunts.
You can modify these games to be as easy or as hard as you want, (“find something red”, “find a triangle”, “find a green square”, “find a stuffed animal”, etc.).
Another great game is asking your child can you walk/run like a (and name an animal). For example, can you walk/run like a cheetah/monkey/bear/penguin/worm, etc.
5) Freeze dance
This probably won’t be the best option if you’re trying to get your baby to sleep or if your baby startles easily, but again not every nursing session is the same. So this may be a good option in the afternoon versus the evening, or if your baby sleeps really well with noise.
6) Cuddle with them
Tell your toddler it’s cuddle time and that they can snuggle next to you while you nurse the baby. You can give them a pacifier, special blanket, stuffed animal, and have them lay next to you.
It’s a great way for your toddler to feel included and for the three of you to bond. I did this a lot with my daughter and it allowed me to get a few minutes of much needed rest.
Set some boundaries so your toddler understands that quiet time means everyone is quiet, or resting, (or however you want cuddle time to be). These boundaries eliminate your toddler thinking they can jump on you, jump near you, grab on you, or in general being too hyper.
Set limits and let your toddler know if they’re getting too rambunctious that cuddle time will end. If cuddle time has to end early, tell them you guys can try again later and do another activity on this list.
Sometimes toddlers just have too much energy to sit quietly, (as I’m sure you know!) so giving them something active to do can reduce frustration that cuddle time didn’t work out.
7) Share stories about them
Tell your toddler what it was like the day they were born, what it was like when you nursed them, your favorite memories of them when they were little, etc.
Kids love hearing stories, especially about themselves. Plus reminiscing those special memories of your toddler as a baby brings out positive vibes, and loving, compassionate feelings towards them. It’ll help reduce any stress or irritation you may be feeling with them.
8) Look at pictures with them
This can be a great time to show your kids pictures of their family, pictures of you or their dad when you guys were little, or pictures of them.
Just be sure to pull out the photo albums ahead of time so you don’t have to search for them while your newborn is screaming to be fed.
You can also create albums on your phone so no searching has to be done!
It’s a huge transition for everyone when a new baby joins your family. It’s especially hard on your toddler when they have to, (very suddenly) get used to everything they’ve known being different.
One of the new challenges you’ll face as a mom of two, is meeting the needs of your toddler while you’re feeding your newborn.
While some needs can wait, it’s always nice to have some tricks up your sleeve to lessen the tears or meltdowns your toddler has, and less meltdowns means a MUCH happier mommy!
Nursing doesn’t come easy for everyone and it’s really stressful when you’re trying to make sure you’re doing it right, figuring out if your baby is eating enough, wondering if the latch is correct, seeing white when the latch isn’t correct, frantically trying to unlatch your baby, and so on…
Then you’re adding a rambunctious, demanding toddler to the mix? It’s enough to make even the most patient mom turn into a frustrated and irritable one. (Coming from a mom who’s been there!)
While these activities don’t take away all the stress from life with a toddler and newborn, they can reduce the stress during this particularly demanding part of your day.
Once I implemented these activities, my daughter’s attention seeking behaviors drastically reduced. Our house was much more peaceful during nursing sessions!
These simple activities will help keep your toddler busy while you’re breastfeeding a newborn, so you can actually enjoy this short stage of life with your kids instead of becoming angry, resentful, touched out, or burned out.