How to Keep Your Toddler Busy While Nursing Your Infant
Ok, if you have followed this blog for any time, you know I can be pretty Type-A. I love to plan ahead and always be prepared. Sometimes it works out in my favor, other times it doesn’t.
As I prepared for Bambino’s arrival, Chulengo was catching on that something was up and started to become quite clingy. Anytime I turned around, there he was following me… to the bathroom, to the laundry room, around the kitchen, everywhere. Always asking is his sweet voice, “What are you doing, mommy?”
I realized that nursing Bambino was going to be challenging, with Chulengo always wanting to be by my side. I wasn’t going to have the private, quiet nursing sessions with Bambino that I had when Chulengo was little, and I needed to find a solution.
So, I started making a list of ideas to keep Chulengo pre-occupied during nursing sessions with Bambino. I knew these activities had to be new to stimulate Chulengo’s curiosity, versatile enough to do anywhere in our home, and easy for Chulengo to do safely and independently.
So, I present to you Chulengo’s Nursing Basket. I keep the basket on a high shelf in Bambino’s closet and only bring it out when I nurse Bambino. I’ve been lucky that this basket keeps Chulengo entertained for a good chunk of time. I regularly swap different activities in and out of the basket to keep it exciting.
After successfully using our nursing basket for a few months, I have come up with a few tips to ensure success.
- Pick a container or basket that is fun and unique. I chose a pink basket because I like pink, it was cheap, and it was different than any other basket in our home. When I say, “The Pink Basket,” Chulengo knows exactly what I am referring to.
- To keep the basket special, store it out of sight until it is needed for a nursing session. I keep our nursing basket in the closet in the nursery. It’s easily accessible but also out of sight for the majority of the day.
- Choose to fill the basket with activities that are new to your toddler. This will keep their interest a little bit longer and make nursing sessions just as special for your toddler as they are for you and your infant. Because I might not always be able to hop up and help Chulengo out, I avoid activities that have the potential to be messy, like playdough, paint, stamps.
- Introduce the nursing basket at a time when you can sort through the activities with your toddler. Because you may have put novel activities in the basket, your toddler may need a little instruction or encouragement to play with these new toys independently.
- Focus on choosing activities that are quiet. Nursing a baby when there is a bit of noise can be quite challenging, so quiet activities seem to make nursing sessions successful for everyone.
- Be patient with your toddler as they learn that nursing sessions require less time with you. Initially, you might have to prompt or guide your toddler with activities. Give yourself and your toddler grace during this chapter of life.
I discovered these earlier this year when a friend recommended them, and they are AMAZING! I can let Chulengo color with markers and not freak out that he is going to make a giant mess by coloring on the floor, walls, or himself. These markers are lifechanging.
Something about coloring in this book with a water brush and letting it dry and then coloring it again is very entertaining for Chulengo. Aside from occasionally reminding him not to suck the water out of the brush, he can sit and play with this for over 20 minutes.
Chulengo loves toys that he can pull and drag around the house. Any toy attached to a rope or a string does the trick, but the dancing alligator is a big hit with Chulengo. He loves the clapping sound the alligator makes as he pulls it along. To spice it up, sometimes I encourage Chulengo to make the alligator go as fast as possible to the other end of the house, or I will tape down a path with painters tape for him to pull the toy along.
I have a couple of different types of dominoes for Chulengo. I chose classic dominoes and picture dominoes. With the classic dominoes, he practices counting, stacking, lining them up. With the picture dominoes, he matches the pictures, tells a story, stacks piles, and lines them up.
What toddler doesn’t love tearing tape and sticking it on things? This tape is easy enough for Chulengo to pull and tear. The fun patterns also grab his attention. Sometimes I give him something to cover in tape, like a ball. Other times I draw a pattern on paper and have him try to tear pieces of tape and put each piece of tape on the line of the pattern.
I wanted to create something for Chulengo to practice his fine motor skills and incorporate building, which he has liked lately. I decided to put velcro dots on the ends of these large tongue depressors so he can attach them and build whatever his heart desires.
Chulengo loves unscrewing lids off of bottles, so this was a safe alternative for him to do on his own. I found this set and was drawn to the bright colors and different shapes. I am always looking for ways for Chulengo to practice fine motor skills, and this is a perfect activity.
Another fine motor skill activity here. When it comes to buttons, Chulengo is helpless. We try to work on buttoning shirts and pants, but he quickly gets frustrated. The Daniel Tiger phrase “peek-a-boo pull it through” is often said in our home. I found these large buttons and attached them to strips of felt and then created a hole for him to practice looping the buttons through.
I like that this puzzle comes in a small box and is the right size for Chulengo to practice putting pieces together. Initially, I had to work one on one with Chulengo to complete this puzzle. But once he gained confidence, he has been doing it independently.
These are perfect for Chulengo’s little hands and little imagination. I love the stories he creates when he plays with these boards. I never used felt boards before and I love that it is easy for him to handle the pieces and move them around the board.
If I were to say Chulengo has been OBSESSED with iSpy books lately, that would be an understatement. We read seek and find books at nap time, bedtime, while out to eat, and while cuddling on the couch…all the time! While this one is tougher for him to do independently, he can sit next to me quietly, and we can look for the objects together.
I am convinced that stickers are a toddler mom’s most convenient entertainment tool. Dot stickers and sticker books have been my recent favorites because there are a lot of stickers that are easy for Chulengo to remove from the backing on his own. Sometimes I have Chulengo free play with the stickers, other times I have him trace his name or a pattern on paper.
I was surprised at what a hit these lacing beads have been for Chulengo. I like this particular set because it is easy for Chulengo to handle the string. The different colors and shapes also allow for more activities like sorting, stacking, and pattern recognition. Sometimes I will hide the beads around the nursery and Chulengo has to find them and then put them on the string.
Window clings have always been a favorite in our home. Chulengo likes peeling them off the backing and sticking on the window, then rearranging them over and over. I do have to make sure I keep tabs on the clings to make sure he doesn’t put them in his mouth. But that has become less of an issue as he has gotten older.
We received this book as a gift and it has been a godsend. There are enough activities to keep Chulengo interested for a bit of time. With a large focus on practicing fine motor skills, Chulengo stays quite occupied. If you can’t tell by now, I am a huge fan of activities that require fine motor skills practice. Lol.
I love the doodle board because it is mess-free and Chulengo can draw and erase over and over. Usually, he just goes to town, drawing whatever he wants, but sometimes I will prompt him on drawing objects if he needs a little encouragement.
Learning to balance nursing a new baby and entertaining a toddler can be quite challenging. It’s great when there’s another adult to help you out, but that isn’t always a realistic expectation. So, remember, there will be days when everything flows, and the moment feels magical. Your baby is nursing with ease, and your toddler is across the room, quietly playing independently. There will also be days when all of you will be crying. At the same time. For different reasons. And there won’t be any peace.
Just know that tomorrow is a new day. Figure out what adjustments you can make to create a more positive experience for you and the babes. You have got this mama. How lucky is your toddler to experience a moment alongside you as you nurse the baby?