Imagine that your partner has just brought home a new lover and announced that you are all going to live together. It will be fun! You will be best friends! After hearing that your partner loves you and his new lover equally, you are asked to share all your things with this intruder. It also turns out that you won’t be getting as much attention as you used to because the new lover is a bit upset about something. Anyway, you are such a clever person, you can do lots of things by yourself now. Oh, and by the way, you must be gentle with the new lover! Wouldn’t go down too well, would it?
Consider, this could be just how your toddler might feel when you introduce him to a new sibling. Is it any wonder then, that he shows his feelings by becoming clingy or demanding, when you are spending so much time feeding and helping your new baby settle into life on the ‘outside’.
Managing feeding times can be especially difficult because it takes so much time in the early days, so here are some tips to make it easier:
Feeding station – set up a corner for feeding times, with special things to occupy your toddler: snacks, drinks, storybooks, a scrapbook and crayons or a big cardboard box and crayons – your child can hop in the box and colour the ‘walls’ (crayons are a better tactile experience for littlies than textas and they are far less messy (simply remove any crayon marks on walls by wiping with cooking oil or a ‘magic eraser’), a CD or MP3 player with your toddler’s favourite songs.
A Boobie Box – pack a box of special things to play with at feed times only (rotate toys/activities). The boobie box goes away when feeds are finished.
Little Packages or Busy Bags- make up some ‘busy bags’ (great ideas here) to bring out when you need time to care for your baby – put a small ‘surprise’ in paper lunch bags –stickers, a snack pak, matchbox car or simple activities. Do give these to your toddler before you have a ‘reaction’ so he feels included, not ‘rewarded’ for meltdowns.
Sit on the floor – sit with your toddler on the floor or big bed and draw in a large sketch pad or read stories while you feed. This can be a nice snuggly time for everyone.
Play ‘Simon Says’ – simple actions can keep that toddler amused and engaged if he’s an active little person
Prepare the night before – set up an activity for your toddler before you go to bed at night, so that when he gets up in the morning, he can start playing and you get a chance to begin your day more peacefully while he is busy – feed the baby, get dressed or make breakfast (however it works out for you). Then, after breakfast, head out for a morning walk. This way, your toddler will run off his energy, you will have spent some time focussing on him while, ideally, the baby snoozes in a sling or pram. Then, when you get home, get out a snack for your toddler and he will be much more content to play quietly and if you need to resort to a DVD, you won’t feel so bad about using the ‘electronic baby sitter’ while you attend to the baby. Or you could all snuggle together and watch a DVD while you feed your baby.
Feed outside – if the weather is warm enough, sit outside and feed while your toddler ‘paints’ the fence or verandah with a small bucket of water and a wide house paint bush. He will be occupied for a nice time. Or, if you have concrete let him draw with chalks. A sandpit is also a wonderful diversion as well as a healthy sensory activity.
While you’re feeding the baby, tell her (loudly enough to be overheard!) how great it is to have a big brother or sister. When the baby is settled remember that your “big” kid needs mummy time too and enjoy at least one predictable space every day as ‘our special time’ of activities without the baby.
Pinky McKay is an internationally certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) and best-selling author of Sleeping Like a Baby, Parenting By Heart and Toddler Tactics (Penguin Random House).