Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Serena Morris, Steubenville, Ohio, USA
Photo: Suzie Blake
A mother’s six tips for balancing breastfeeding with parenting.
My journey into breastfeeding was filled with worries and struggles, just like so much else connected with parenting can be. I breastfed my first child for only one month: I was a young college student and went back to school two weeks postpartum. That separation damaged our breastfeeding relationship so badly, I stopped nursing and switched to formula.
When I became pregnant with my second child, I was determined to breastfeed throughout any difficulties I might face. Even though my first child seemed perfectly healthy drinking formula, I had a mother’s guilt because I had wanted badly to breastfeed her. The birth of my second child was marvelous, and our breastfeeding relationship lasted until he was 20 months old.
My third child is now eight months old, and our breastfeeding relationship is going strong.
From the start, I have encountered several common troubles. My second child had a tongue-tie, but we learned how to adapt. It wasn’t easy. For the first several weeks I had cracked and bleeding nipples. We had to learn a new way to latch and work to correct our positioning.
The hardest thing has been learning how to juggle breastfeeding with parenting my other children. The beginning weeks of a newborn’s life may be filled with sleepless nights and struggles.
Here are my six tips to help you survive, when you have other children who need attention.
Babywear. My children have spent hours in their baby carriers, so I can prepare sandwiches or make it through the grocery store. Baby carriers come in a variety of styles; you have to find the one you like the best. I love ring slings for the newborn stage. They are easy to use, and you can breastfeed discreetly and with ease. Wearing your baby leaves your hands free to pour drinks or find crackers for your other children. I think a baby carrier is essential when you have more than one child, especially when you are out and about.
- Prepare your freezer. If you have freezer space, I highly suggest you spend the last few weeks of your pregnancy batch cooking. It is the best time to fill your freezer with delicious dinners for the slow cooker or to place into the oven frozen. Freezer cooking is beneficial for everyone, but it is extremely helpful after the birth of your child. Don’t just prepare dinners. It is a splendid idea to freeze as much as possible. Pancakes and French toast sticks are easy to freeze, and they heat up easily in a toaster. Homemade pizza bagels, muffins, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and other delicious items can fill your freezer. By thinking ahead, it makes life easier. When your baby is cluster feeding, you can heat up some ham and cheese pockets for your older children for lunch.
Snack box. Children are notoriously hungry when parents are busy. My kids typically are ready for a snack just as I sit down to nurse the baby. You don’t want your children snacking all day long on cookies. Instead, pick one drawer or basket to keep appropriately portioned snacks. Granola bars, trail mix, pretzels, peanut butter crackers, fruit cups, and applesauce cups are great ideas. When you are breastfeeding and your child is hungry, you can direct them to the snack box until you can make them a meal from the freezer.
Recruit help. When you receive an offer of help, take the offer seriously. You just had a baby, and there is no reason for you to expect to handle things by yourself entirely. If your partner can stay home from work and help, then the first few weeks will be easier. If not, you may want to recruit help. There is no rule that helpers need to clean your house and make meals, although those tasks are always appreciated. I always found it helpful when my helpers took my older children places. Ask a grandparent or uncle to take them to the park for a few hours or to get ice cream. During a hard transition, the attention is necessary, and it gives you some time to relax with your new baby.
Involve the children. Before birth, let your children know that the baby needs a lot of attention. It is unwise not to allow your children to help. You may not want your three-year-old to carry the newborn, but she can contribute by getting diapers, changing diapers, and helping dress the baby. Many children experience times of jealousy and struggle to adapt, but they eventually get used to their new sibling. Asking them to help here and there is an excellent way to have them involved and ease your burden.
Cuddle time for everyone. Breastfeeding creates a loving bond between mother and baby. Breastfeeding is a time that can be used to bond with older children as well. Try to involve the older children. Since breastfeeding can take 30 minutes or more, it is a great time to have your older child sit in your lap and read a story. If you have school-aged children, you can sit on the couch and help them with their homework. My second child was very attached to me when I had my third, and we spent many hours cuddling on the recliner while the baby nursed. Children love to talk and hold their younger sibling’s hand while they breastfeed. You are creating cherished memories.
Breastfeeding may be hard, whether it is your first or third child, when you are often stuck in the same position and you may struggle to meet the other children’s needs. With a bit of creativity, you can find time for everyone.
Serena Morris found that being a mother brought a lot of changes with it.
She blogs at kittymoms.com to make available her knowledge and experience to help parents who are struggling.