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Making It Work

Reconnecting at the End of the Work Day

From New Beginnings, Vol. 25 No. 5, 2008, pp. 28-29

"Making It Work" is a regular feature of the magazine New Beginnings, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of New Beginnings to help mothers who wish to combine breastfeeding and working. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's lifestyle. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.

Mother's Situation

I've just had my second baby and, although I was able to work and breastfeed with my first baby, this situation is different and challenging. When I get home, my four-month-old really needs to reconnect with me and she breastfeeds almost constantly. The problem is that my three-year-old son is feeling left out. I can't seem to find the time to give him much needed attention and he is acting sullen and angry. My husband does help, but both children want me, and there just isn't enough of me to go around. What can I do?

Mother's Response

Three-year-olds seem so grown-up, especially next to a baby sibling, that it's sometimes easy to forget how much attention and babying they may need. Also, most toddlers and young children behave well with their caregivers, but this is very stressful all day. So when they come home, they want to be vulnerable and "let it all out," because they know their parents will love them even if they act grumpy.

If you can, it may help to have a special activity that the two of you can look forward to, where you can breastfeed the baby at the same time. Perhaps a trip to the park, a board game, reading books, or coloring would work for your family. If you don't carry your baby in a sling, this might also be worth a try. Babies can nurse securely in the sling while mother moves around in the home -- it's not just for outings!

When my youngest was a few months old, I wore him in the sling almost all day in the summer and fall while I took my older children to swimming lessons, the park, made them snacks and meals, helped with homework, and so forth. It was especially useful during "meltdown time" between 3:30 pm and 5:30 pm, when my four-year-old would come home from school exhausted, there was homework for my seven-year-old, plus supper to prepare, and it was my baby son's fussy time! The sling let him nurse or be carried as needed in the bustle of the afternoon rush.

If your husband can take care of household necessities, such as supper and cleaning up, this will allow you to relax and enjoy the children without worrying about pacifying them long enough for you to take care of these chores. Minimize the extra tasks you may want to do until your children are a bit older, and stick to the basics for now. They are little for such a short time!

Julie Larose
Prescott ON Canada

Mother's Response

I have recently been dealing with this same situation. Here are a few things that have worked for me. When I get home from work, everyone is hungry -- myself, my two-year-old, my nursling, and my husband. I quickly get my two-year-old settled in with a healthy snack and a drink. I also try to find one of his favorite cartoons on TV or pop in a video for him to watch while he snacks. This gives the baby and me some time to nurse and reconnect after a busy day. It's a nice winding down time for my two-year-old, too.

Second, I have a special plastic shoe box that I bring out when the baby needs to nurse and my two-year-old needs attention as well. In the box I keep things that he truly loves to play with, and he can play with them while being on the couch next to me or at the living room table while the baby and I nurse. These items (clay, puzzles, markers, stickers) are things that he can only play with while I nurse, so they are a treat. I try to keep the box fresh and exciting for him by periodically changing the items inside. I buy inexpensive little toys at the dollar store, stash away free stickers from junk mail, and reroute the toys from children's meals. This box of special items makes him feel like nursing time is special for him as well. He can be near me playing with much loved toys, and I can nurse the baby, too.

Denise Ellnor
Clarksville IN USA

Mother's Response

Here are some ideas that helped me when I was in a similar situation.

Sometimes put your three-year-old son's needs first and vocalize that you are doing this. For example, when the baby is becoming vocal but is still content, you can tell him, "I am sorry, baby, but you are going to have to wait five minutes while I play with cars with your brother. Then I will nurse you."

Just narrating what your son is doing while you are nursing can help him feel like you are paying attention to him. For example, "I like the way you are playing with your fire truck. You are driving that truck really fast." You can say to the baby, "Your brother is playing with his fire trucks."

Often, I have my son sit with me while I nurse the baby, so that he doesn't feel excluded. We have a big recliner that we all sit in and we can either watch a show together, tell stories, or just talk. You could sit on a sofa or bed if you don't have a chair that is big enough.

Finally, my son loves to wrestle and you could promise a short wrestling session (or some other physical activity) once your baby is finished nursing. Hope that helps. It does get better.

Tricia Wickliffe
Nottingham NH USA

Mother's Response

I wonder if it might be possible for you to find a good position on the floor, to nurse baby and be near your three-year-old? When I went back to school last year, my three-year-old was so excited to see me that he began physically attacking me when I got home at the end of the day. I found it easiest to lie down on the floor with him for half an hour before trying to do anything else. The proximity seemed to reassure him that I wasn't going anywhere. Maybe some comfortable pillows on the floor, with baby in arms, and an appropriate game to reconnect with the three-year-old, would help.

Kristin Marshall
Nanoose Bay BC Canada

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