This week’s guest post for Managing the Chaos comes from Jaimie of Little Bear Lactation. As a mother of two boys only 13 months apart I can completely relate to this post and wish I had been able to read it when I gave birth to my second son.
Breastfeeding my first son took a little time to get comfortable with but soon I had it down to a science and could do it with my eyes closed. Little did I know it’d be a whole other ball game once his little brother came into the picture.
So without further ado, Jaimie’s post on Juggling Baby, Breastfeeding, and an Emotional Toddler.
Two children. Two years apart. Two parents. Exhausted. Tired. Overwhelmed.
I’m sure that paints a picture many of you are familiar with. In May, we welcomed a new little bear to our cave just as we were packing up to move 5 states away to another new town with no friends or family for hours.
I was terrified for the transition to becoming a mommy of two, especially in the midst of a full DITY PCS (for those of you who are affiliated with the military — you are probably calling us crazy like everyone we know did! For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about — we had the option to either move ourselves, let movers come do it all for us on the government’s dime, or combine the two methods… we chose to do it 100% on our own about 7 weeks after I had a freakin’ baby. Yes. We were insane – thank God for my dad and brother!)
Annnyywhooo… one of the biggest concerns I had about having a new baby was about breastfeeding. My first experience was an unpleasant one for many weeks in the beginning until we finally found a provider to help us solve our problems. I was terrified I was going to struggle again and not have the stamina to fight through because this time I had to also juggle coordinating a move with helping a toddler manage his emotions and the adjustment to big brotherhood, not to mention basic toddlerness.
Thankfully I didn’t have nearly as many nursing struggles as I had anticipated, and the transition to two was surprisingly easier than I had imagined (read: I expected to feel like I was being run over by a Mack truck each day, but it only felt like I was being plowed down by a smart car — so I consider that a relief). I was, however, completely lost on how to handle the “tied to the couch 24/7 nursing and bonding with this baby” when I had a toddler competing for my attention, needing help feeding, bathing, dressing, and everything else.
Although it was only a couple of months ago (the baby bear is 5 months old already!) I hardly remember some of those early weeks to be honest. They weren’t easy. But they weren’t as terrifying as they are painted to be either.
So the question often becomes: How do you manage to breastfeed a baby and chasing a toddler, and not compromising your parenting style?
The simple answer is, “I don’t”.
I don’t chase my toddler.
How can you prepare your toddler for Mama’s long hours on the couch nursing the baby?
Snacks on snacks on snacks. I keep plenty of quick and easy snacks around. Pre-cut fruit, crackers, cheese sticks, hard boiled eggs (already peeled), and other similar healthy but easy snacks are a life saver. They’re toddler AND nursing mom friendly!
2. His own space
In the old house, my toddler had his own little table that he sat at to eat and color and sometimes watch TV. He loved his table and would happily spend lots of time sitting at it doing various toddler things. He was able to keep busy while I focused on the littlest bear.
3. Story Time
With the use of some pillows, you can totally turn feeding time into story time! The toddler would bring me his favorite books and snuggle up next to me and the baby and we would read. This was wonderful bonding time and still, one of our favorite ways to all connect.
4. TV Time
We’re not big screen time people. I mean we’re modern day millennials and our toddler is already able to find any picture or video in our phones that he wants to look at — but we don’t have the TV on a lot, we don’t use tablet or smartphone games for distractions, and we rarely rely on videos to distract the Little Bear out in public (though it has helped a few times). That being said — a couple hours a day are definitely dedicated to what the little guy wants to watch. If I’m lucky he will be less needy when he’s watching Mickey, and I can relax and feed the baby.
I’m not big on “schedules”. I don’t schedule naps or feedings. We do, however, like routines and my kids respond so much better to follow a familiar routine. I had two important parts to my routine that could *not* be altered.
1. Get out of the house at least once a day
Getting out of the house helped me from going insane (and I think it did the same for my boys). Sometimes it was as elaborate as grocery shopping, other times it was as simple as going for a drive to (drive-thru) Starbucks, then driving a scenic route around town before returning home. This stimulation kept both me and toddler from driving each other crazy – and was important for making me feel productive as well (even if I totally wasn’t).
2. Nurse the baby to sleep just before the toddler’s bedtime
This gave me an opportunity to spend one on one time with the toddler each day, which is so important when a new baby comes. It also gave me the ability to deal with his bedtime shenanigans which were always 10x harder if the baby was awake. We’d all snuggle in my bed while I nursed the baby, and once he was asleep we’d move to the toddler’s room. My Little Bear became really good at understanding baby’s needs too, and if the baby bear woke up, my toddler would sometimes tell me to go check on him and end up falling asleep on his own.
Now all of these things are easier said than done. Finding your groove is hard, and just when you think you figured it out something changes. But you can absolutely figure out how to balance breastfeeding a baby with wrangling a toddler. And if you’re lucky and have family and friends nearby do not be afraid to enlist their help!
One bonus tip: babywearing! Babywearing tends to keep baby calm and relaxed longer, and if you learn how to feed in the carrier, then you can multitask so that everyone is getting their needs met at the same time!
A Stay At Home Mama Bear of two Little Bears, a military wife, and Certified Breastfeeding Specialist who enjoys spending my free time with a camera in hand! I have a deep passion for supporting mothers and capturing beautiful, special moments, and hope to one day combine the two passions somehow. In the meantime, I’m just working to spread information and support, while trying to find the perfect balance between coffee and wine. Follow Jaimie on her blog, Little Bear Lactation, and Instagram.
Getting to know Jaimie:
When did you become a mother?
I became a mother in June 2015 and was blessed with the honor again in May 2017
What’s the most rewarding part of motherhood for you?
I literally get high off my kids’ laughs and silliness. I love these little moments of love and purity.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced since becoming a mother?
The biggest challenges I faced were right after my oldest son was born. I had severe postpartum depression and anxiety, I experienced a traumatic birth, and breastfeeding was very difficult. Overcoming all the negative emotions surrounding my son’s birth to be able to embrace the blessings and joy was so hard. But these challenges are what sparked my passion for supporting other families
If you would like to share your story or advice on how you manage the day to day chaos of motherhood please contact me at ChaosinMommyhood@gmail.com and don’t forget to check out the last two weeks of the series.