Pregnancy self-care with older children at home

Being pregnant when you have another child, or children, to look after is a completely different experience. It’s vital to look after yourself and your growing baby. Here is how.

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Being pregnant with a young child or children at home is a challenge, to say the least! As your pregnancy progresses, the amount of high-energy activities you’ll be able to do with your toddler will be less and less. This is your body’s wisdom signaling you to slow down and rest. As frustrating as it is when you can’t keep up with your old life, be kind to yourself and let this pregnancy be different to your first. Fortunately, there’s a simple trick you can employ to continue to meet your needs, your growing baby’s needs, as well as your toddler’s.

According to Chinese medicine, human development follows the five elemental phases; water, wood, fire, earth, and metal. First, we are born into the water phase. The wood phase begins with toddlerhood and transitions into fire just before the early teenage years. The earth phase spans the majority of our adult life, and then we enter into the metal phase as we grow into old age and prepare for death.

During pregnancy, you are in the earth phase of your life, which is all about nurturing, grounding, nesting, forming a community, preparing and eating nourishing food. Your growing baby is in the water phase, floating around in its amniotic fluid, while your young child is in the wood phase, concerned with growing, exploring their immediate surroundings, and forming their own ideas and identity.

The important thing to note is that your toddler has not yet reached the fire phase, where he or she would primarily be interested in socializing with their peers and interacting with the world beyond their comfort zone. This is great news! Because it means that you are not required to over-do it with outings to the zoo, the children’s museum or multiple playdates, which leave you and your child frazzled, exhausted, and over-stimulated.

When you feel too lethargic to move, try “following the laughter” instead of packing up the diaper bag. Hand-in-Hand Parenting teaches this simple but effective technique where you observe what makes your child laugh and keep doing more of that. The best part is, you can practice this technique while resting.

For example, one afternoon when I was home alone with my toddler and I had just given birth to her baby sister, I must have said something and made a funny face. My toddler laughed at me. I noticed that she thought I was funny, so I made the funny face again, and she laughed harder. We went back and forth like that for about ten minutes. Eventually, she was satisfied and turned her attention to something else.

To my surprise and gratitude, she then contentedly played by herself for a long stretch of time, without any stimulation or interaction from me. She felt secure and tuned in with me, I had met her needs. Offering connection to your child or children instead of high energy activities will fill their emotional cup, leaving them feeling more peaceful, cooperative, and content.

Today, I’m giving you permission to not have to match your toddler’s energy level. The truth is, your toddler needs your presence and focused attention, not your energy. You can give presence and attention while resting, and later, while nursing or bottle-feeding.

The body has its own intelligence that we constantly override with our minds and actions. Whether it’s ignoring the urge to go to the bathroom so you can do just one more thing on your to-do list, deciding not to cancel even though you feel a cold coming on, or thinking you have to pack your schedule with outings, activities and social engagements for your active toddler. One of pregnancy’s greatest lessons is to slow down, tune in and listen. Turns out, that’s exactly what your toddler needs, too.