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Your question:

I’m pregnant and so worried about looking after my 2 other children while breastfeeding

Expert’s answer:

This is a common worry for Mums but it’s a great idea to plan for the challenges ahead and explore how you will manage both breastfeeding and your other children. For many Mums managing a new baby and caring for a toddler or older children can be a little scary.  Juggling being mum, partner, cook, cleaner, taxi, event organiser and more can be challenging however you choose to feed your baby.  Mums often find that the flexibility of breastfeeding really suits their family.  Here are some tips to help.

Before the new baby arrives

  • Have several little chats with your toddler or older children about when the new baby arrives.  It is usual for everyone to be excited and it's normal to feel a little worried or concerned also about what the new addition to the family will mean for them.  Reassure them that while you will be spending time with the new baby, you will also have time for them.
  • Finding a book with lovely illustrations of breastfeeding mums to help explain the changes can be helpful, particularly for toddlers or older children who may not have seen other mums breastfeed.
  • Using a doll or teddy to show a younger child how babies need to be cared for can be helpful also.
  • Talk to your partner, family and friends about arrangements to care for your toddler or older children when you are in labour and during birth.  Ask for their help with everyday chores and caring for older children during the first few days and weeks.
  • Plan ahead.  When cooking family meals make extra and freeze it so you don't have to worry about cooking during the first week or so.

When the new baby arrives 

  • In the early days support from your partner, family and friends will help you concentrate on getting breastfeeding off to a good start with your new baby and spend some time with your toddler or older children.  Housework, washing, shopping, cooking, changing nappies, bathing and winding baby are all good examples of the little jobs that can be shared out. 
  • Having a little chore list on the fridge each day will ensure everyone knows exactly what needs to be done without having to ask. Accept all offers of help and meals - people are usually only delighted to help and remember you would do the same if it were your friend, sister or daughter!
  • Have a little activity box ready with a favourite book, colours and soft toy.  When you're sitting down to feed baby, ask your toddler or older child to join you and have a cuddle.  They can sing to the new baby and when bored can use the activity box.
  • Getting your toddler or older children to bed on time will give you and your partner some time to spend together.
  • With a toddler and a new baby, a double buggy may be a good investment for you.  Alternatively, a good baby sling will help you to manage the trips for grocery shopping more easily, and you may even be able to breastfeed baby whilst in the sling. For more information on slings and how to use them safely go to http://www.babywearingireland.ie/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5&Itemid=6

As your baby grows

  • You might like to try setting your alarm one hour earlier so you can feed and change your baby before you get out of bed in the morning, and get yourself dressed. Once baby is fed and content you can concentrate on helping the other children get ready for the day.
  • Plan to leave about 10 minutes earlier for school or appointments, as kids and babies can be unpredictable especially when combined.
  • Make meals that will suit everyone’s needs, and all ages. One pot meals, such as stews and casseroles, are a great time saver. You can add a little salt or spice to your food once the children’s portions are dished out!
  • Remember, you can breastfeed your baby anywhere you like, beside a football pitch, the shopping centre, in the swimming pool changing area, or in a parked car whilst watching the football, wherever you have to be with the other children feel free to feed baby. 
  • Get out and about - breastfed babies are easy to travel with, just pop a few nappies and wipes in your handbag and you’re set. If you have other small children, bring a little packed lunch for them to nibble on whilst you are feeding baby. Bring some entertaining toys and nursery CDs to play in the car to keep other kids entertained.  Visiting family and friends or going to your local breastfeeding support group will give you a little time to relax and enjoy a cuppa and some adult conversation. https://www.breastfeeding.ie/Ask-our-expert/Questions/How-do-I-breastfeed-a-new-baby-and-care-for-my-toddler.html
  • Your older children may tend to hover nearby during nursing sessions or even try to climb into your lap. Include them if you can by talking about how you used to breastfeed them (if you did), giving them a little hug with your free arm, telling them a story, watching while they draw you a picture, work in a workbook or play with a toy.
  • Some mothers find that nursing sessions are wonderful times to listen to music or children’s stories with their babies’ siblings. In this way, nursing time can be used to draw closer to all the children, not just the new one. Older children may also want to help by getting you a glass of water, holding the baby while you prepare to nurse, or otherwise contributing to their family’s care.

Support Groups

You might also like to get in touch with your local breastfeeding support group if you have not done so already.  They are a wonderful place to meet other mums of toddlers and to discuss breastfeeding and all aspects of parenting. Breastfeeding Support groups are run by Lactation Consultants, public health nurses, La Leche League Leaders or Cuidiu Breastfeeding Counsellors who provide lots of support and information.

Friends of Breastfeeding provide social support at their Mum2Mum groups. You can also phone La Leche League leaders or Cuidiu Breastfeeding Counsellors if you would like to talk to somebody about any breastfeeding issues.  Here is a link to Breastfeeding Support Groups: https://www.breastfeeding.ie/Support-search/

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