As a mom of five (5!) myself, there's one question I get asked more than any other: "How do you DO it?" Indeed, how does a breastfeeding parent sit down to nurse a cluster-feeding newborn when there is a toddler climbing furniture and a preschooler spilling snacks all over the floor?
Give Yourself Grace
For starters, cut yourself some slack. The adjustment of adding a new person to the household- a person who is helpless and needs a lot of care- is going to require a period of transition. Enlisting the help of loved ones and hiring a postpartum & infant care doula can ease this transition for the whole family and maintain some normalcy. It will still take time to adjust to the new normal.
If an older sibling has recently begun potty training, be prepared for some regression. It's good to stick with an older child's usual routine, but if conquering a new skill is causing more stress for all in involved, it's okay to take a break and revisit it in a few weeks.
Get a Basket of Special Items + Snacks
Newborn babies need to be fed very often due to their tiny tummies. Naturally, when this is occupying much of your time and attention, an older sibling may take the opportunity to scale the back of the couch, dump cereal all over the kitchen floor, or sneak into an older brother's teeny-tiny Legos (ask me how I know.)
Think of some ways to interest the older sibling in frequent snuggle time. Get a basket or tote and fill it with new, special toys and books that you bring out just for feeding times. You can find a selection of suggested books and toys to put in this basket on our Preparing Siblings board.
Nourish yourself and your children with healthy snacks while you feed baby. Some great options include:
Keep bottles of water nearby too. Whether you are breastfeeding or not, your body needs to stay hydrated to function well and recover from the hard work of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum healing.
Involve Them In Baby Care
Little children love to be helpers- yes, even the child who is seemingly always into something they shouldn't be! Redirection and positive affirmations of appropriate behavior are a good start. Invite your little one to help you care for the new baby as a way to show their love.
"Sophia likes to feel safe and snuggly when she sleeps, just like you! Can you help me wrap her in the sleep sack and read a story to her before bed?"
"James is crying and I think I smell a dirty diaper. What do we need to change him? Yes, a clean diaper and some wipes! Would you like to help me?"
Spend Quality Time Together
Even if it looks like watching their favorite movie again while the baby naps, spending some one-to-one time with the older child(ren) is much needed for you both. You don't have to be a Pinterest-worthy mom who does messy crafts. (Seriously: Play Doh, glitter, and sand are basically banned from my house and my kids are well-adjusted individuals.)
Go to the park or library. Have a mini dance party. Bake or cook something together.
Let Go of the Guilt
Sure, this is pretty much repeating my first point, but it bears repeating.
It isn't the end of the world if you're having a rough day (or days) and Disney Jr has been on non-stop. Your children will be okay.
Some days it may feel like the only thing you accomplish is making sure everyone is clean and fed. And that is enough.
You are enough.