It is only natural to wonder and worry about how to cope with or entertain young singletons while nursing or bottlefeeding newborn multiples. It is difficult to imagine how that scenario might work and, in fact, you might tend to be leaning towards anticipating some chaos and upheaval as you try to figure out how to spread yourself around. If this resonates with you, your feelings are normal.
Feeding times may run more smoothly depending upon the age(s) of your singleton(s). The younger they are, the more likely they will require some type of attention from you, especially while you are least able to provide it. Things may run more smoothly if there are at least two older siblings as they will have each other to connect with and play. While an older child may take the opportunity to act up when you are tied up feeding the babies, there are some families who will have no issues at all during feeding times.
Simultaneous feeding of the babies, and depending upon how premature they were, may take anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes at each feeding session. If you are feeding the multiples back to back (i.e. one after another), it may take closer to the 30 minutes per session. This is an approximation of how long a period an active, older sibling(s) may need some entertaining.
Here are some of those ideas for you to consider regarding entertaining your older child. Mixing up the activity from time to time can help your singleton avoid getting bored with any set activity.
1. use one of the larger twin-nursing pillows which are wide enough to safely accommodate two babies so they can nurse or bottle feed while you have two arms free to engage with your singleton if you need to.
2. choose a location to feed the babies that will allow him/her access to you or be near you. You might choose the couch, or the living room floor, with you leaning back against the couch for back support. A child-size table and chair can be located near you for his/her special activity. Some parents like their large bed. Keep in mind that beds tend to be soft and may not have enough back support for you to nurse the babies without your back going into spasm.
3. set aside a special toy(s) or activity (colouring, crayons, building blocks, plasticine/play doh, [paints are potentially too messy], etc.) which only appears while you are feeding. Having items already stored in plastic containers makes for easy accessibility as you get ready to nurse hungry babies.4. have an closed drink box or sippy cup handy so there is a drink available. Consider some small snacks (cheese cubes, apple slices, crackers).
5. if s/he is not toilet trained, have a pull-up diaper nearby in case you need to do a quick change.
6. you can read together or put a story on a recorder that s/he could listen to beside you. You might discuss the story after it is completed should the babies have not finished feeding.
7. when you are done nursing, give him positive feedback, even if his behaviour is not quite perfect with helping you feed his babies. Any negative behaviour should disappear as he learns the routine, notes the special attention focused on him even while you are feeding the babies, and the re-enforced positive feedback afterwards.
8. for an older child with more advanced hand-eye coordination, consider offering them “sewing” cards, paint by numbers sets or working on a puzzle as a creative activity. Maybe a child-focused iPad or tablet, which only comes out at feeding times. You know your child best if these more advanced activities would be appropriate or of interest to them.
Does all this sound scary and seem over whelming? No doubt, but give yourself and all your children a little time to get the routine in place. Be patient, keep your child in the loop by explaining what is going to happen and make this time fun, upbeat, special and something to look forward to. Things will generally move forward in no time at all as you all learn what to expect. Making your older child(ren) part of the solution rather than part of the problem is helpful and letting him/her know that his/her co-operation is a huge help to the family can quickly bring him/her on board.
Reviewed by Bonnie Schultz