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Pregnant While Caring for a Toddler

When you saw those two happy lines on the pregnancy test, your heart leaped with joy. You’re growing your family! And after having gone through pregnancy, birth, recovery, and infancy, you knew what to expect this time.

Yes, life with two little ones would be busier, but you had time to plan and prepare. You had months to get ready.

Or did you?

Being pregnant while caring for a toddler, as it turns out, isn’t for the faint of heart. With your first pregnancy, you didn’t have to drag yourself out of bed in the morning. (Except to pee.) You didn’t have to prep mac-and-cheese even though the mere sight of the box made you queasy.

And naps. Those glorious, undisturbed, hours-long naps.

Yes, being pregnant with a toddler presents unique challenges. But with some careful strategizing — and maybe enlisting some help — you can make it through to the finish line.

Take stock of what’s going on in your life

A new baby is thrilling. But it also means evaluating how your life is about to change. What will pregnancy look like? What are your plans for after having your baby? What does it mean for finances? Work? Living arrangements? Family relationships?

If you have an older child, a new baby also means figuring out how to care for them might change. Some parents mourn the idea that their relationship with other children will change, but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing! Whether you have another child or not, your older child is growing up. Your relationship will evolve into a new phase.

However, it will be helpful to take this time to prepare your soon-to-be big brother or sister for their new role:

  • Teach them how to interact with babies safely — stuffed animals and dolls are a great place to start.
  • Your older child might want to use a bottle or pacifier, sleep in a crib, have potty accidents, or simply want to be held constantly. The key here is to let them explore these feelings.
  • While it can be frustrating that they don’t share your same excitement, show compassion to their feelings, whatever they might be. Finally, prepare yourself for some regressions.

What does this mean for breastfeeding parents?

If you’re breastfeeding your first-born child, there’s no need to stop during pregnancy. Many parents successfully breastfeed throughout their entire pregnancies. Other parents take a break during pregnancy but resume breastfeeding their oldest after their baby is born.

While the idea of breastfeeding more than one child might seem daunting, it has benefits, shares Nest Collaborative IBCLC, Robin Williams. “Nursing two children at once can be a way to have a unique bond with both of your children together,” she explains. “Even when your hands are busy!”

Not sure if tandem feeding is right for you? We explore the topic here.

Figure out a self-care plan

Taking care of your toddler is top of your priority list, but that doesn’t mean you need to be at the bottom of the list. You’re growing a whole human being right now.

While a prenatal massage or foot rub might sound enticing right now, the most basic form of self-care should be meeting your basic needs: eat well, get plenty of sleep, exercise, and hydrate.

Yes, we know that this sounds overly simplistic, but it’s far too easy to let them slide. And, let’s face it, no matter how good a facial is, it can’t compete with 8 hours of sleep and a healthy meal.

What does this mean for breastfeeding parents?

When you’re pregnant and breastfeeding, you’ve got two considerable calorie demands: growing your baby and producing breast milk. So make sure you’re taking in enough calories. Struggling with nausea? Talk with your healthcare provider about ways you can up your intake of high-quality calories.

Identify what’s important right now

What do you need to focus on right now?

  1. Caring for your toddler
  2. Staying healthy for your growing baby
  3. Caring for your own well-being
  4. Work and family obligations

Everything else, unless it brings you joy, you can happily shuffle vacuuming and laundry to the bottom of your to-do list. Five years from now, you won’t remember how quickly you did (or didn’t) do it. If your budget allows for it, feel free to hire out services like laundry, cleaning, dog walking, and the like. If not — or if you’d rather spend your money on preparing for your baby — then tackle them as you have energy.

What does this mean for breastfeeding parents?

We encourage parents to breastfeed for as long as it works for them and their children. That being said, some parents find breastfeeding while pregnant to be more challenging. Nipple sensitivity increases, energy is quickly depleted, and some parents may find themselves struggling with aversion.

If you would like to continue breastfeeding but are having difficulty, working with an IBCLC can help you explore your options.

Find help – and plenty of it

Help is essential as a parent, whether you’re expecting it or not. Too often, we slog through the rough spots when we don’t have to.

But when managing a pregnancy plus your toddler, don’t be shy about calling in reinforcements.

To start, have a frank discussion with your partner about what help you need. Is it with meal prep? Cleaning? Caring for your toddler? Make a list of everything that would be helpful and then everyone who might pitch in.

You might ask a fellow parent friend for help with childcare. Or consider hiring a teenage neighbor to come by a few afternoons a week to assist. It’s also important to make sure your partner is fully engaged in household responsibilities.

Depending on your toddler’s age, you may be able to enlist their help with small chores: putting away laundry, picking up toys, setting the table. Small responsibilities can be helpful to you, and they can also build confidence in your little one.

What does this mean for breastfeeding parents?

Are you feeling overwhelmed by meeting your breastfeeding child’s needs? It’s common for little ones to become clingier or act out when their family is growing. Continuing to breastfeed can be a way to help them feel secure during this time.

On the other hand, if you’re feeling touched out or experiencing aversion, there are other options. You can offer snuggles, storytime, and additional bonding time. If your little one is still primarily breastfeeding for their nutrition, you can substitute pumping for a session to give yourself a break – even a little break can be a big help.

Your journey, our support

Feeling overwhelmed with the upcoming changes in your life — and your breastfeeding journey? We’re here to answer your questions and help you find solutions. Book a convenient online video appointment with a Nest Collaborative IBCLC today.

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