Nursing On the Go with Older Siblings in Tow

When my second son was born, a wise mama friend told me I’d soon become an expert at nursing while standing. She was right.

I had no idea how challenging it could be to take multiple kids out in public at the same time. This challenge is magnified when one of the kids has an intense need to breastfeed…

The thing about having multiple kids is that the older ones don’t stop being energetic just because Mama needs/wants to snuggle down with a newborn for nursing marathons. Once I had two kids, I learned I had two choices: hunker down at my house while my older kid drove me nuts or learn some¬†tricks¬†to go out and about and let my older kid run free.

Because my eldest is very spirited, I long ago learned there are very specific types of places we can go together if I want to have a pleasant outing. I know which places have good sight lines, which places are too loud/distracting, and I know what time of day the campers show up and make it tough for me to spot my kid, regardless of shirt color. These parameters became even more important once I knew I’d have to be nursing and therefore less able to leap up and chase him down if he took off at a run (or got physical with another kid…or dropped his trousers and started peeing off the sliding board).

Here are some strategies that worked for us:

Nurse standing up. As my friend predicted, nursing standing up just became part of my life. While I couldn’t imagine such a thing the first time around, between my enormous breasts and the awkwardness of learning to breastfeed, I very quickly got good at this skill, which freed up at least one hand and kept me on my feet, ready to run if necessary. I use a baby carrier to nurse on my toes, and I use the same arm as the breast where baby is nursing to hold things in place while I’m chasing or lifting my older kiddo(s).

Scout for fences. We only go places where there is a fence or other fully-restrained construction. Even indoor places, we only visit if there are secure/walled off smaller areas. If a friend invites us for a front-yard, fence-free playdate, we decline. My children will run away into the street while I am changing a diaper or latching a baby. I know this will happen, and so I avoid such scenarios. Are my kids sick of the small selection of playgrounds with complete fences? Maybe! But it’s better than sitting at home all the time.

Bribe with food. Maybe another way to say this is to ration out snacks. If one of my older kids tells me he is hungry, I will ask him to wait until baby needs to nurse, and then we can all sit together on a bench to snack while everyone is within arm’s reach. Of course, the older kids gobble down their raisins faster than the baby finishes nursing, which is why I dole out chocolate chips one at a time to get them to stay by my side until I’m ready for action again.

Speak up. The first time I took multiple kids to the park, I very quickly realized the *I* had to use the bathroom, which was a port-o-potty. It only takes one experience wearing a baby in the port-o-potty while trying to keep a toddler from touching anything–from now on, I ask other parents to help me out in such situations. Learn this phrase: “Could you hold my baby for me while I use the bathroom?” Planning outings with other friends helps make this feel safer, but I’m on my third kid and I’ve been known to tap a friendly-looking stranger for help when everyone starts messing up diapers simultaneously. There’s almost always someone with slightly older kids who can lift a two-year-old into a swing while I dislodge a foot from a climbing structure (while also nursing standing up).

What strategies have you used to make outings easier with multiple kids in tow? Leave us a comment to share your experiences!

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