I’ve been thinking a lot about breastfeeding recently. Not just because it’s World Breastfeeding Week but also thinking about how the pandemic will have impacted on support for mums. With both of my boys, I have found support in different forms – but always essential to my mental and physical wellbeing.
One of the tricky elements I’ve found with having two children is breastfeeding. Looking back it seems much easier to only have one child to worry about (and I would have killed anyone who said that to me at the time) but now I have this busy, mad, gorgeous toddler running around. It’s just hard when your older child is tearing around or needing your help or comfort and you can’t get to them as quickly as you would like to. Each mother will have their own unique issues to try to navigate but I thought it would be beneficial for those starting out on their journey with two to have a few tips from my experience and from others mums that I’ve spoken to.
For a little bit of background, I exclusively breastfed my first little boy till he was 1, when he just decided one day he preferred cows milk and pushed by breast away and so far I am 7 months in to breastfeeding my newest little one. My breast feeding journeys haven’t been an easy ride – I’ve had thrush, milk blisters, mastitis and good old nibbling on the nipple when my sons have been teething but with help and support I have persevered and found it a really rewarding experience.
My eldest, Rishi has shown a fair amount of interest in breast feeding. He was 19 months when my second baby, Jamie was born and his interest in to what I was “doing” with Jamie has changed over time. As i have got more into a routine with Jamie, Rishi has started to wonder why Jamie doesn’t eat and drink like he does and he’s frequently offered to share his food with Jamie. I’d encourage you to be open with your eldest and depending on their age this might work differently. I explained that Jamie was eating special food that came from mummy and it was milk. I even squeezed a little so that Rishi could see what came out. He was shocked at first to see this “stuff” coming out of Mummy but after doing this a few times, he’s started to say “Jamie food, mummy milk” and he seems happier with that. Rishi has tried to muscle-in whilst I am breastfeeding on occasion but I don’t react and instead give him a cuddle with my free arm which seems to settle him.
Support is essential
I think having a support framework is crucial in those early months but clearly that’s not been possible in lockdown. I had to rely on my husband (my biggest cheerleader) significantly during this time, because at the beginning you’re getting over the birth, you’re shattered and you are probably breastfeeding all the time, and have no time to eat, shower or sleep (you remember sleep, right?) So it’s really important to have support to help you have time with your baby but also that you have time with your eldest, so if you have 30mins when you’re not needed, get up and take them on the swing or for a walk. It will do you the world of good. It also means you can feel like you are there and present for both your children.
Bag of tricks
Do you remember when people said you should have a feeding station set up for you when you sit down to breastfeed – a drink, your phone, a magazine, something to eat… well now this has expanded. When I sit down to breastfeed my youngest I also I make sure I have treats at the ready for my eldest – some of his favourite books/toys/puzzles and his water and snack (if it’s time) so that I can multi-task and look after both. I am often breastfeeding and cuddling and reading at the same time. If it works, it’s brilliant and it means they are both getting what they need from me.
Think about where you’re doing it
If there’s another person around then don’t feel bad about going off to another room and breastfeeding. It’s nice to have that one on one time with your youngest and your toddler will get treated to some special time with dad or a friend that is providing help that day.
Alternatively, when that’s not possible and for most of the week that isn’t an option for me think about where you are going to feed. Does your toddler have access to toys, food, water, potty or whatever they might need? Is the area safe? Can they access you and toys? You basically need to find a spot that is comfortable and suitable for you to breastfeed and also in a position where you can parent your toddler at the same time!
Learn that you might need to adapt
By the time the little one turned up, my eldest was in a set routine for sleep and I am still pretty adamant that I don’t want to change it that much as it works but also, I don’t want to miss out on time with them both. A friend has said that they are thinking of changing bedtimes so they go to bed at different times so she can be there for both of them. This is a great way to ensure they both get time with mum.
I’ve decided that I would like them to have similar routines but we have adapted the routine so I can be involved in both. I now give them both a massage (lucky boys), read and sing songs to Rishi and get him ready for bed, while my husband gets the littlest ready and then we swap. It’s finding what works for you and your family and ensuring that you are still happy with how things work.
Make sure you look after yourself
This is always forgotten but with the demands of having multiple children it’s even more important that you look after yourself. Make sure you’re drinking enough water, having a good, varied diet, having your vitamins and using nipple creams. I use the mama mio range, and it’s so good. I’d also recommend stocking up on breastfeeding essential like epsom salts and hot and cold therapy pads in, just in case. These were super helpful when I developed mastitis.
Accept that it won’t be perfect
Accept that as always when you breastfeed, someone will knock at the door and there will be a delivery… and accept that sometimes you’ll be doing two or three things at the same time (feeding the baby, you and your eldest child) and accept that sometimes your older child might get upset because they want time with you or accept that the feed might be delayed a little because your older child needs you more.
Before I became a mum, breastfeeding wasn’t important to me, but when I had my first child I had this overwhelming desire to breastfeed. I wasn’t put under any pressure, it was just me wanting to do it. When I had my second son, Jamie I really wanted to breastfeed him as I didn’t want him to miss out on things which Rishi had but it has been hard. I’ve struggled through illness with suspected corona, struggled through mastitis (and boy, I had no idea how awful that would be, so my heart goes out to anyone that’s suffered, I felt bloody terrible) and I’ve struggled to juggle the days of feeding with having a toddler there all the time and without support because of lockdown but Jamie is a thriving, smiley baby boy and we are doing well – so I am going to keep at it while it works for us.
Well done to anyone who breastfeeds, whether it’s one feed or 2 years. Well done.