Saturday, March 24, 2012

Things to do with your Toddler while Nursing

I have heard of moms successfully creating a "nursing bin" filled with special toys for the toddler during nursing time. Rylyn is learning to share "mommy" and sometimes does not want to play on her own while I have to nurse Addisyn. I like the nursing bin idea, however, we already cycle Rylyn's toys, so I am not convinced the toys would stay special (every three hours...every day). Instead, I have decided to compose a list, a virtual bin so to speak, of activities. As Rylyn will be a late walker, she also is still developing the independence to play for sustained periods of time on her own. Activities that allow for interaction with her while nursing are important for when she won't play on her own.

My teacher hat has come in handy here. In what meaningful activities can I engage my toddler while I am nursing? The teacher question would be, in what meaningful activities can I engage the rest of my class while I am working with small groups of students? I do this everyday with almost 30 middle school students. It should be a piece of cake with one toddler...(insert sarcastic comment of your choice here). I am no expert as I have only been at this for a couple of weeks, with a husband home to help. Hopefully sharing my experience will give someone out there an idea or at least a laugh.

Feel free to add any ideas of your own in the comment section below. Remember to get any materials you need before you sit down. Here is our list:

1. Read. You can read to your toddler and have him or her read to you. 3 or 4 books will do. We like to reread books several times. The first time through we may just look at the pictures, the next time reading the words, the time after that identifying animals or get the gist.

2. Sing. I like body part songs: we can point out Addisyn's body parts together too. Head and Shoulders, Toe Knee Chest Nut, Round and Round the Garden, Three Little Piggies...etc.

3. Share a snack. Finger foods like cheese and crackers or fruit are some of our choices. We keep it simple like Goldfish crackers or a banana. An empty bowl and spoon are fun practice for Rylyn too. We like to sing, "Making a Purple Stew."

4. Get down and play. No one said you have to nurse on the sofa or bed. Blocks or Lego-like blocks are a choice we like.

5. A novel object. Permission to play with something that is a treat rather than a part of the everyday routine.   Rylyn likes the following: measuring tape, nail clippers, Addisyn's bottle of D-Drops, a cell phone or camera.

6. Watch your favourite show together. Well, not Grey's Anatomy. So not yours, your toddler's. We are fans of Netflix and PVR. No commercials, which decreases your TV time and you can watch what you want, when you want to. In moderation, we find TV helps both a tired toddler and mom rather than harms. Discussion and questions turn "tube" time in to quality time. We like Elmo's World and The Wiggles.

Most of the activities above help Rylyn transition to independent play. The last activity is our "when nothing else works" strategy.

7. Time out. We have already had some nursing tantrums. Rylyn is jealous because she does not want to share mommy. Overall, Rylyn has transitioned to big sister well...she loves Addisyn. She is still learning to share mommy.

Rylyn helping mommy upload blog photos
Our Time Out Plan
Ignore whining as long as possible (ignoring the behaviour asking for attention sometimes stops it). If the whining escalates say "stop." If whining continues or screaming starts, nursing gets put on a brief hold while I follow a time out routine, unless daddy is home, he does the "time out."

I take Rylyn to her room, sit her on her chair and say "Stop or Time out" and point to the crib for "Time out." If she deescalates, no time out and a big hug for reward. If she escalates again when I put her down to start nursing, I say "Stop or Time out" and put her in the crib if a tantrum persists. The time out is no more than 5 minutes. Short and with the light on, so as not to have negative impact on the place where she sleeps so well.

I wipe her tears with a warm face cloth after 5 minutes and hug her whether she has stopped crying or not. The warm cloth usually stops her crying. The hug is the reinforcement for any movement toward deescalating the tantrum as well as to help her feel secure with those strong emotions with which she does not know how to deal. Our goal is to reinforce the behaviors we want to see not the whining or tantrums.

I find Addisyn has received enough milk before the tantrum starts to be satisfied and easily finishes during a time out if necessary. Placing Rylyn on a time out only takes a minute...just longer to describe. Chris and I are using this strategy for other tantrums too. When out and about our plan is to use a playpen or sit with her in the car. The plans may evolve, but having them keeps us cool in the heat of the is no help if we  throw a tantrum too.

We are trying to parent with clear boundaries, but also with the balance of observing our children's cues (since they are not adept communicators). When I am frustrated I sing Rolling Stones when I hug Rylyn after a time out, "You can't always get what you want...but if you try sometimes well you might find, you get what you need."

Bible Reflections:
But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience. John 8:15

-Lord, help me to bear my fruit with patience and may the teaching and discipline we provide as parents fall on good ground.

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