Breastfeeding is different for every mother. But what mothers share when they find themselves breastfeeding while also raising a toddler is the struggle to keep said child entertained so baby sibling can get fed. Turning on the tube might seem like the natural choice, but sometimes a toddler’s attention for TV can become exhausted. That’s when you need these 15 ways to keep toddlers occupied while breastfeeding.
Given the average feeding session can take from 10 to 45 minutes, the key is to find activities that keep a child’s attention for longer than five seconds. The age range of your toddler is important here. If you have a relatively new toddler, around 1 year old, something as simple as letting them build a pillow fort might do the trick. A three year old, on the other hand, might need a puzzle to provide greater (read: longer) entertainment, giving you enough time to not just feed your baby, but clean them and yourself up afterward.
Another thing to note is that sometimes the introduction of the activity itself can make or break the experience. A little enthusiasm goes a long way, and if you demonstrate how exciting their new activity is and provide some additional verbal encouragement while you nurse, chances are your toddler will stay engaged longer.
Break Out the Building Blocks
Building blocks are a classic toddler toy, but they can also be a great helper when you need to grab some nursing time with your infant. A mom might even consider making building blocks a special toy a toddler gets to play with when baby is getting fed; that way they can look forward to the activity like a treat rather than just another toy.
Distract With Coloring
Here’s a cool tip for less stress coloring: tape a piece of paper to a table so that your toddler can focus on manipulating the crayons without your help while you feed the baby. In turn, the freedom to color while you’re out of the picture will encourage independence and agency.
Invest In Or Build A Sensory Bin
Toddlers love to explore and discover and a sensory bin can provide both. Whether you build your own, which can be as simple as a small plastic bin filled with sand and tools to play with it, or purchase one, your toddler will almost certainly find it completely fascinating.
Set Up A Playdough Station
With a little bit of planning you can let your toddler have all kinds of fun with playdough and not destroy your home. To make it easier, tape a large sheet of butcher paper or use a place mat or two to create a work space, then give your toddler a limited number of tubes of dough to get creative with. Too many and, well, prepare for chaos.
Blow Up Some Balloons
Never underestimate the entertainment power of a balloon. Simple blow one up (or you could really blow their mind by blowing up a plastic glove) and let them go to town tossing, throwing, and playing with the harmless item.
Open A New Bottle Of Bubbles
The key to grabbing some uninterrupted feeding time is in giving a toddler a task they can handle on their own. Bubbles fall into this category perfectly. With a large wand and a spill-less bottle, they can go to town blowing their own bubbles while baby gets nourished.
Build A Cardboard Fort
Don’t throw away all of your Amazon packaging. Those cardboard boxes can come in handy when you need to distract your 2-year-old. Tell them to make a spaceship or a fort or play peek-a-boo in it for a nursing break.
Play Some Music
Sometimes all you need to entertain a toddler is a little music. So turn up Alexa (to a level your baby can handle, of course) and let them show off their dance skills while you breastfeed.
Grab A Water Paint Book
When a toddler is just beginning to explore artistic activities at home, it can be stressful for parents what with the fear or spills. But luckily the kid toy industry has figured out a solution: paint with water books. Complete with a brush and the colors built in, all you need to give your toddler is a cup of water for them to create.
Give A Toddler A Job to Do
A classic Montessori move, there’s no reason you can’t ask your toddler to help fold laundry while you nurse. Give them a small pile of hand towels and tell them to fold and stack them. Working on their motor skills will keep them engaged while they enjoy the feeling of helping out.
Hand Out A Saucepan Drum Kit
Ok, so it’s a bit loud and crazy, but as any parent will tell you, letting your child play with a saucepan drum kit is a great way to grab some much needed time away.
Distribute A Snack
A hungry toddler is an unhappy toddler and you don’t want to face the wrath of their stomach when your baby has just latched. So fix a snack in advance so everyone gets fed at the same time.
Let Them Get Creative With Tape
Playing with items typically off limits is a fun prospect for a toddler. That’s why handing out tape and some strips of paper will likely get their attention. Give them the freedom to do whatever they want with it and enjoy the ensuing quiet.
Encourage Dress Up
Have some old shoes your child loves? Find a beat up sun hat they can play with. Let your toddler explore the game of dress up and then do a fashion show for you while you nurse.
Try Egg Carton Sorting
Sorting shapes and colors is a great activity for toddlers and it doesn’t require you buy anything. Simply take an old egg carton and some decorative craft balls or blocks or even small toys and have your child organize them.
Get Silly With Stickers
A fresh pack of stickers can feel like the ultimate prize to a toddler. So crack open a pack and let them go to town decorating a piece of paper or cardboard box.
Most importantly, mix it up. Feeding a baby is a busy schedule. To keep your toddler from crawling all over you while you turn your attention to your infant, change up their activities from day to day to prevent boredom and give you optimal nursing time.