Caring For Your Family While Breastfeeding
Are you concerned about breastfeeding your newborn and potentially upsetting your other children? You might also be worried about how you’ll keep your older kids occupied during those frequent early breastfeeding sessions.
Here is some advice on how to keep everyone happy and keep the whole family going.
Breastfeeding is amazing once you get started, but it’s normal for it to take a couple of weeks to become established. So throw a lively toddler or two into the mix, and things might become a bit challenging.
With some preparation and understanding, it is absolutely possible to successfully breastfeed your newborn while also caring for your other children.
Before Your New Baby’s Birth
Prepare your children. Your first-born child/children are used to being the main focus, and now they have to compete for your attention with a new sibling. Explain to your child that the newborn will need help from all the family so they can grow and develop.
Breastfeeding.ie from the HSE recommends that mums-to-be try to have lots of little talks with their other kids about what will happen when the new baby arrives. Reassure your child that while you will be spending time with the new baby, you will also have time for them and love them just as much, if not more than you already do.
One good idea is to show your kids a book with pictures of breastfeeding mums. Try this book, Best Milk, by Kate Carothers. Using a doll or teddy to show a younger child how babies need to be cared for can also be helpful.
Organise childcare and help in advance. Make arrangements for your toddler or older children’s care for when you are in labour and during birth. Ask your partner/family/friends for their help with everyday chores and caring for older children during the first few days and weeks.
Batch cook a few dinners. Do yourself a favour and do some batch cooking (casseroles, Bolognese sauces, curries) so you can freeze portions in advance – this way you won’t have to worry about cooking meals during your newborn’s first couple of weeks. Check out our food section for lots of recipes!
Your diet following the birth of your baby should be nourishing and well balanced: You will need lots of protein, which has an important role in the production of breast milk.
Tried And Tested Advice From A Mum
“Breastfeeding a newborn when you have a toddler can sometimes be a challenge. At the beginning, they can be jealous. Let’s face it, this new tiny baby is now getting all of mummy’s attention, and her milk! For me, especially if your toddler has just recently weaned, allow them to be part of this experience. Let them see baby’s feet or hands. Or perhaps let them help wind the baby.
My little one loves to cuddle in under my opposite arm while I am nursing her sister. I also like to have a few bits at the ready to keep the toddler entertained, while mummy is busy breastfeeding the baby. Books you can read to them while breastfeeding, colouring books or small puzzles are all great tools to give your toddler lots of attention while nursing.
My greatest advice would be to invest in a wrap. Babywearing with a toddler in tow was a must in my house. It means you can get down onto the floor and play with your toddler while baby is still getting skin-to-skin and/or feeding!” Mum-of-four Laura Doyle
After Your Baby Is Born
Create a breastfeeding zone for you and the kids. Organise your breastfeeding zone keeping your own needs and your children’s needs in mind: Keep a stock of books and toys nearby, make it nice and comfortable – so your child can snuggle into you with a book or a colouring book and crayons while you breastfeed.
Make sure your toddler is in the same room as you while you breastfeed – it’s important to keep the other kids safe while you’re busy nursing.
Ask for help. Get breastfeeding off to a good start, by getting your partner, family and friends to help out with housework, laundry, shopping, cooking, nappy changes, bathing and winding baby. Accept all offers of support and meals – people are always happy to help out.
Consider a sling. A sling will keep your baby close to you, while also keeping your hands free for caring for your toddler. You might even be able to breastfeed your baby while she's in the sling.
Get out and about. One major advantage of breastfeeding is that you can feed your baby wherever and whenever. And all you need to bring for baby is their changing bag. So if you need to drop your kids to crèche or to a play date – you can still be with your children while you feed your baby.
Get support and advice. There is lots of help available and don’t hesitate to seek it out. Many new mums find it very helpful to visit a local breastfeeding support group where you can relax with a cuppa and chat to other mums about all things parenting. Visit www.breastfeeding.ie to find your local HSE breastfeeding support group.
Some of these groups are organised by Public Health Nurses, while others are organised by trained breastfeeding support volunteers all who are, or have been, breastfeeding mums. They are a great source of information, support and friendships.
Every Breastfeed Makes a Difference
This article has been sponsored by the HSE. Go to the HSE website www.breastfeeding.ie for more information on breastfeeding support groups. There is also an opportunity for you to send a question to a Lactation Consultant through the Ask our Expert facility or to chat online using the web chat facility.