Things you can do while nursing your baby OR how to stay mentally challenged while your baby chows

13 Jan

The Bug is a really good baby–super smiley, generally happy, sleeps pretty well. But for the first seven or eight months of her life, she would take FOREVER to eat. She’d often eat for 1 hour, every 2.5 to 3 hours. When you spend several months feeding your baby for about 1/3 of every day, you quickly discover how limited your multitasking options are. Specifically, you can only do things that you can do

  • while sitting down
  • with one hand/arm
  • that don’t involve anything hot, sharp, or otherwise potentially dangerous

My hobbies are:

  • running
  • sewing
  • playing mandolin
  • knitting
  • cooking/baking

Totally incompatible.

So, if you’re like me and are wondering how to put that time to good use, here are some suggestions.

1. Catch up on social media, shopping, email, etc. You already knew about this one. My recommendation is to limit it to once or twice a day. The internets can be an enormous time suck under normal circumstances, but when your brain is trying to function on very little sleep, it can be all too easy to go for the lowest-hanging fruit and check Facebook  or Zulily (again). RESIST THE URGE.

2. Plan your day/week. Nursing is when I go over my to-do list. I’ll often make phone calls I need to make, do simple online tasks I can do from my phone (like pay bills), and even figure out what I’ll make for dinner that week, researching recipes online, and then make a shopping list.  It’s not easy to do one-handed, but it is easy to do that stuff when the baby is occupied.

3. Read. You knew this one, too. But you may not know that now is the perfect time to switch to a digital reader–Nook, Kindle, even the iBooks app if you have an iPad or iPhone. Not only can you read ereaders one-handed, but if you download the book reading app to all your devices (e.g., tablet, computer, and phone), you have your book(s) everywhere you go–and already synced to the last page you read–so you are almost never without reading material. For example, I have a Paperwhite, but I have the Kindle app on my iPhone, iPad, and computer. Also, if your ereader is backlit, you can read with minimal light during those late-night feedings, keeping you occupied but keeping it nice and dark for your little one. I even converted some of my print subscriptions to digital so I could read the NY Times and Martha Stewart Living on my iPad.

4. Take a class. There are lots and lots of companies offering online classes these days–everything from college courses (available through iTunes UCoursera, and Open Courseware), to guided programming classes through Codecademy, to crafting and cooking classes through Craftsy. Many of the college courses are free, although you only get the lectures and you have to track down the materials on your own. I am going through a literature class, but I downloaded almost all the books and stories to my Kindle. Craftsy’s classes are paid, but the one I took (Sewing with Knits) was incredibly comprehensive and, considering that, extremely fairly priced. Also, if you “like” them on Facebook, you can get discount codes. Craftsy’s platform is also really handy — you can watch the classes on your phone, tablet, or computer, and take notes right in the app. Also, for the sewing classes, the patterns for all the items you sew are included. Craftsy recently began offering photography classes, if you want to take better baby pictures. Obviously, you can’t sew or take photos one-handed while nursing, but you can watch the videos and then spring into action when the baby is done feeding.

5. Pick up a new skill. You don’t need to go through a formal class to learn something new. You can pretty much learn anything from YouTube, such as how to refinish furniture, cover the back of a bookcase with wallpaper, attach a binding to a quilt, make marshmallows. In fact, I learned those things from YouTube. Watch the videos while you nurse, and then you can do the actual work during precious nap time. If you want to learn a language, the Pimsleur series is all audio-based, and although it is expensive, most well-stocked libraries have several languages available for borrowing.

6. Teach your dog to play fetch — politely. This is a random one, but your dog, like my dog, may be feeling a bit ignored since the baby came around. If you’ve ever played fetch with him, leave a ball out. We keep all his toys in a doggy toy box in our living room. He’ll often bring me the ball while I’m feeding the Bug, but I can only throw it for him if he basically places it in my hand. I toss it gently to the other side of the room, it bounces off the walls and furniture, which makes the game more challenging for him, he brings it back, and we repeat the whole thing. If your dog isn’t ball-oriented, but likes to play tug (and isn’t too aggressive about it), you might be able to play tug when he brings you a toy, too. Whether this is a wise thing to do depends on you and your dog. I was always taught that you shouldn’t let your dog win at tug, and it’s harder to keep a grip on the stuffed hedgehog when you only have one arm free.

7. Learn songs. I play bluegrass, and there’s a lot of singing involved: you need to learn lyrics, lead parts, harmony parts, etc. I use some of my nursing time to learn new songs and polish up old ones. But I also use it to learn songs to sing to my baby. Since I started doing this the first week, we have an ever-growing repertoire of songs that, when I start singing them, immediately calm her down. It’s really amazing, especially when she gets fussy when we’re in the car or someplace else where I can’t immediately take care of her. If the song isn’t on your phone, play it through an app like Spotify and look up the lyrics online.

8. Listen to podcasts. I admit, I’m not a huge podcast listener. Sometimes, after having a baby cry and fuss at me during the day, I really treasure any moment of quiet I can find. But there are a few podcasts that I listen to semi-regularly. Download an app like Downcast, Doggcatcher or Stitcher to search for and play podcasts.

There are other kind of boring things I do (such as knee exercises — zzzzz), but those are the main things that have kept me sane and helped prevent my brain from turning to mush.

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