How to Keep an Older Sibling amused when you have a new baby

One of the most common concerns when you have a second child is – How will I keep my toddler amused whilst I’m breastfeeding? Bottle feeding also takes time, and Mums often worry how they’ll cope with a busy toddler when a newborn comes along. I have some tips of my own having had three children, but I’ve also gathered some from my parenting colleagues. 

Preparation

Talk to your older child, prepare them with role play, how it’s going to be when the baby arrives. Get them to do little jobs like bringing you the wipes, putting rubbish in the bin, holding the muslin, getting the nappy. They’ll be more than happy to do their little jobs, and if they know what’s coming, they’ll take it in their stride. Involve family, friends, and other mothers to help you and arrange play dates, coffee mornings, frequent get-togethers to relieve boredom!

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Go with the flow

Firstly, the baby doesn’t care where they are, as long as they’re fed, changed and warm. Invest in a baby carrier of some sort so you have your hands free, you can even breastfeed with most of them once you’ve got the knack. Carry on going to your mother and toddler groups, nursery and play dates, and the baby will fall into step. For mums with older children, the school run will just have to be nap time. They will learn by taking in everything from their environment. Natalie from Plutonium Sox agrees, she says “Be out and about all the time. Playgroup, ballet lessons, soft play etc. The toddler is entertained and you can legally feed anywhere – so I did!” Lauren (Belle du Brighton) sings the praises of slings too, saying “As soon as I could I learnt to feed hands free in slings and then we were back to normal!” 

Have activities reserved just for feeding time

Keep certain things so they’re special and just for feeding time, the older sibling will look forward to sitting down with them and it will reduce resentment of the baby. Have them brush your hair, collect things for a treasure hunt (that you know you have scattered around), talk to them about when they were babies, reading stories and playing a special game. Sticker books, colouring books, simple puzzles and favourite toys are good too. Laura from Dear Bear and Beany did a bag for her older child, Alice, which contained stickers, books and toys to do together. She knew it was her bag of tricks that we only got out at feeding time. She loved it! Alice had only just turned 2 at the time and it was a way for her to feel included. For an older child, Mandi from Hexmumblog used that time to read a book/do homework, that way they don’t feel it’s time with the baby, it’s time with them too. Create a ‘breastfeeding box,’ says Kate from My Family Fever, full of stuff your toddler is only allowed to play with when you are feeding – new toys, books, colouring, stickers, little sweet treats etc. It makes feeding an exciting time for them and lessens any chance of jealousy. Choose books where they have to concentrate and that last, Maria from Suburban-mum says, “I bought my eldest some puzzle type books and one was where’s wally type one with dinosaurs where you had to find different things in a set scene. He would sit next to me and we’d do that together whilst I fed his baby brother.”

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TV and Snack Time

Use feeding time as TV/ DVD/ screen time. Let them watch their favourite programme or film, or play on the phone or tablet (if you normally allow them). I used to like putting on Show me Show me, or In the Night Garden, because they lasted 20-30 minutes! Give them a snack like raisins, fruit flakes, crisps, anything in small pieces that lasts a while. Karen from Monkey Feet agrees, she says, “Realise TV isn’t evil! If it’s a big feed Cbeebies will help. Also a selection of activities that need no help. Hide happy land toys around the room before feeds and play hide and seek. Read a book, sing songs, ask them to do a crazy dance to music, snacks are also good.” Nyomi from Nomipalony says, “I do a snack station that he can help himself to and set up a toy station and let him have his iPad access only then. He usually potters on the iPad and has some snacks.”

Tandem Feeding

Don’t stop breastfeeding the older child! If you’re still breastfeeding when the newborn comes along, you can just add one in at feeding time and no-one’s left out. They can help with engorgement too.

Create a safe environment

Make sure the room you’re in is safe, and has toys/ activities for the older child and then you can feed away and relax while they play.

And some things NOT to do!

“I can tell you what NOT to do, don’t tell them to go shopping as in play with their toy food etc, as you will be mid feed and then look out the window to see your 20 month old in just a nappy and t shirt with a toy basket on his way down to the local spar shop….. ;)”  – Stephanie from A Cornish Mum.
“Don’t feed your newborn baby in your bedroom with their sister snuggling watching TV with you as they will get bored and look for a weapon to get your full attention. Cue a trip to A & E with an 11 week old who’s sister has dropped a paper weight on his head!” – Clare from Emmy’s Mummy.
And this is just to make us all jealous –  “I was all prepared with some of these things when I had my second, but he arrived in the world as the fastest breastfeeder ever and I had no need/couldn’t use anything! He also was a lay in the cot and go to sleep by himself baby so I didn’t even get to rest while he slept on me! Horrific!!” – Helena, Babyfoote.
I hope you’ve gathered some useful ideas, let me know if you can add to the list!

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