Surviving Pregnancy with a Toddler Part 1 – Initial Concerns, Coping with Fatigue, Morning Sickness and Nursing While Pregnant

October 25th, 2011

So you’re Pregnant… Again?

pregnant again

Maya at 7 months and me - pregnant but I didn't know it yet!

Congratulations! It can be a shock to find out you’re expecting another baby when your older child is still a toddler or a baby themselves. Even if the pregnancy was planned, it’s normal to feel some anxiety about how you’re going to cope with looking after two children and the affect a new baby will have on your toddler.

When I found out I was pregnant again, Maya was only about 8 months old and I had a million questions and concerns – how would we find the time and money to look after two small children? How would I deal with the strain of being pregnant while looking after an active toddler? How would I manage juggling a toddler and a newborn?

Of course after a month or so to get used to the idea I started getting really excited about having another baby in the house and while I’m sure it will be hard at first, I know Maya is going to love her new brother. There are many advantages to small age groups such as the children being able to play together and getting over the difficult baby stage quickly without feeling like you’re starting all over again. I asked a few friends who have two toddlers or children close together and the overwhelming consensus was that while the first few months pass by in a blur, it is definitely worth it.

Coping with Being Pregnant While Raising a Toddler

Anyone who’s been pregnant before will probably agree that it is not easy. Morning sickness, fatigue, back pain and a whole range of pregnancy ailments are likely to be the norm for at least a portion of your pregnancy. With your first child there was of course more time to rest, get a good night’s sleep, do your daily exercise and eat well. Throw a toddler into the mix and things get a little more challenging.

I have been lucky enough not to suffer from morning sickness in either of my pregnancies but I can imagine it being a miserable situation if you’re alone looking after a toddler with the urge to throw up every ten minutes. The best plan of action is to always have somewhere safe you can put your toddler for 5 minutes if you need to rush to the bathroom. A play pen with some interesting toys or a baby dvd ready to play can be life savers. Never leave your baby or toddler unattended in the bath or eating, no matter how much you need to leave the room.

Tiredness can also be a problem and this is something I can definitely identify with.  Both looking after a young toddler and being pregnant can wear a person out so combining the two can drain you to the point of exhaustion. If your baby or toddler is still waking multiple times a night, this can really be a problem after months of broken sleep with a pregnant body to deal with.

Take advantage of any help you can – if your partner or a family member can watch your child for a couple of hours, use the opportunity to catch up on sleep. Don’t worry about being a perfect parent when you’re dealing with pregnancy fatigue. It’s perfectly acceptable to put your toddler down in front of the tv for half an hour if this will give you some time to doze and recuperate a little and I have done this many times!  For older babies and toddlers, this could be ideal time to start night weaning if they are still waking for milk in the night. Maya is waking just once a night at the moment and going back to sleep quickly, which I can cope with.

Try to get out of the house and have some time to yourself and with your partner which will give you a much needed break and help to keep you sane. I try to meet a friend for lunch once a week or fortnight and an afternoon off from childcare can make all the difference in the world. Even just going out for a 15 minute walk to get some exercise and fresh air is worth it.

Nursing While Pregnant

Maya drinking milk from sippy cup at 10 months

Maya drinking her milk from a sippy cup at 10 months

If you are still nursing your older baby or toddler, this can also be a consideration. As Maya was only 8 months or so when I realized I was pregnant again, she wasn’t anywhere near to being weaned from breastfeeding although she was eating a lot of solid foods. There is no medical reason to stop breastfeeding during pregnancy unless you have a history of miscarriage, pregnancy complications or preterm labor in which case it may be recommended as a precaution – check with your own doctor. Many people do prefer to stop just in case there could be an adverse affect on the pregnancy, because they find their supply has decreased significantly or because it becomes painful.

Personally I was happy to continue nursing Maya despite the belief from my husband’s family that my milk was no good for her now that I’m pregnant – from my research I’ve found that this isn’t true. I have however been reducing feeds over the last few months partly because my doctor advised that my milk supply was likely to decrease and partly because I don’t want to be tandem feeding two children at once.

If you do decide to continue nursing your older child, it would be wise to read up about tandem nursing and extended breastfeeding to decide if it is for you and get some techniques for how to get through the early days when your newborn is nursing every 10 minutes and your toddler wants milk too. There are some good links to helpful advice at Kellymom.

I haven’t found stopping breastfeeding to be too difficult as I have done it so gradually. The main problem was finding an alternative for getting Maya to sleep as she was used to nursing to sleep at night and for naps. She was only feeding twice during the day and then at bedtime and a few times in the night and early morning when I started cutting down – you may find it more difficult if your baby is a more frequent nurser.

I started by cutting out her afternoon feed before her nap and replacing it with a bottle of formula. This was challenging at first as she wasn’t used to drinking formula and spat it out. After a bit of experimentation I got her to drink it cold from her sippy cup but she still wasn’t keen and even now will rarely drink a full cup in one go.  To get her to sleep we took her for a walk in her pushchair instead, which worked well. After a couple of weeks I also cut out the morning feed. This gradual transition meant I had no problems with engorgement or feeling uncomfortable after cutting out the feeds.

The night feeds were more of a challenge. I decided to start by trying to night wean based on Dr Jay Gordon’s gentle night weaning method for co-sleeping  Maya is a fairly independent sleeper anyway, although we co-sleep and does generally not like being picked up when she wakes in the night. I’ve had varied success with shushing her back to sleep instead of nursing her but she’s gradually down to just one feed now that she’s one year old which I’m hoping to cut out entirely within the next month.

Surprisingly her bedtime feed was easier to switch when at about 11 months she suddenly decided she wanted a night time bottle. She will now happily guzzle down a bottle and go to sleep in the evening without much intervention from me.

It is important to make sure you have good nutrition in pregnancy and this is doubly important when nursing while pregnant. Remember that your body is burning up more energy both to make milk and to grow a baby so you will need to eat more. I found I was so hungry the last month or so that I was eating three breakfasts every day! As well as getting enough calories, try to get the right balance of nutrients by eating fresh healthy food – cooking healthy meals that you can share with your toddler will help a lot. Although it’s very easy to skip meals and live off quick snacks and junk food when you’re running after a toddler, this isn’t advisable when you’re pregnant.  If you’re finding it difficult to find the time to cook or eat proper meals, try making smoothies with fresh fruit and yogurt and keeping some healthy pre-prepared snacks in the fridge. Choosing one day a week to cook meals that can be frozen for the week ahead can be a lifesaver for many busy parents. It can also be a good idea to take a good pregnancy multivitamin just to make sure you’re not running short of any essential vitamins.

After surviving the pregnancy, there is of course the new baby part to get through next! Read part 2 for a guide to preparing your toddler for the new arrival and getting through the first few weeks with a toddler and newborn.

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