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Activities for Toddlers While Mom Is Breastfeeding the Baby

by Kathryn Walsh

Your toddler might adore her new little sibling, but if she's like most toddlers, she still probably sees him as an attention-sucking little blob during breastfeeding. How dare that noisy little creature get all of your focus! She might react by throwing a fit or making some other semi-irritating attempt to get your attention back. Setting her up with some activity before you start breastfeeding heads off the problem before it begins.

1. Snuggle Up

To a toddler, breastfeeding looks like the ultimate snugglefest between you and the baby. This will likely strike your tot as deeply unfair. Even things out by encouraging him to snuggle up on your other side with a book. Let him choose a few of his favorite board books, or hand him a photo album from when he was a baby. While you nurse, ask your toddler to hold the book and turn the pages. You can read the story or ask him to tell you what he thinks is happening on each page, or you might narrate the photo album as he flips through it. Tell him stories about when he was born and what he was like when he was the same age as your new baby is now.

2. Take in a Show

If your older toddler has a flair for the dramatic -- and most of them do -- putting on a show for you is a chance for her to soak up all the attention and praise that she's craving. Set a box of dress-up clothes and props like bags, wooden spoons, baby dolls and magic wands near the spot where you breastfeed. Ask her to entertain you while you feed the baby, but before each session, remind her she needs to be quiet for the baby's sake. Ask her to dance or put on a one-girl parade. If your baby's a fairly low-key feeder, you might even ask your toddler to sing some songs. Outlaw any instruments, though, or you and your infant will have matching headaches.

3. Put Him to Work

Truthfully, there's not much your toddler can really do to "help" with breastfeeding; it's pretty much a one-woman operation. Still, making your bigger kid feel like he's important to the care of the little one will make him feel appreciated rather than pushed aside. While you breastfeed, let him rub the baby's back -- as long as it seems to soothe rather than irritate the baby -- or give him a basket full of clean baby clothes and towels and ask him to fold them. Chances are, when he's done with them they'll probably look about as folded as they did at the start, but he'll feel like quite the baby-care rock star.

4. Let Her Go Solo

If you can manage it, breastfeeding might be the perfect time to encourage your toddler to play solo. You can spend some quiet time with your new little peanut, and your toddler can gain some independence; according to Askdrsears.com, once she's 18 months old she's probably ready to start playing alone. Let her play on her own with her stuffed animals, suggest she serve a pretend meal to her dolls or let her come up with her own ideas. She's too young for completely unsupervised play, though. Wherever she's playing, you should be close enough to see her but far enough away that she's not constantly trying to serve you imaginary pancakes.

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