Coping with a toddler and pregnancy discomforts

Pregnancy nausea and tiredness are tricky when there’s a toddler too. Here’s how to navigate the discomforts and avoid lifting and rough and tumble play…

Pregnancy discomforts come in a myriad of forms. There’s the swollen ankles, the achy back, and the difficulty getting anywhere close to comfortable when you go to bed…

But when you already have a child and can’t be quite so kind to yourself as you were first time round, those discomforts can be even harder to manage. Ahh, remember the naps?

Here are some tips for looking after yourself through it all.

1. Make the birth or pregnancy ball an everyday sight

It’s great to get your pregnancy or birth ball out to do some exercises on the odd occasion when your child’s awake. The bonus is that they’ll think it’s the funniest toy they’ve ever seen. They’ll also want to bounce on it/kick it/paint a picture of The Gruffalo on it.

If you make your ball a part of the furniture from early on in your pregnancy, it’ll become commonplace for them. That way you can sit on it whenever it’ll help you feel more comfortable while they chill out with CBeebies.

A number of studies have shown that birth balls can significantly reduce pain after using it for 20 to 90 minutes during labour (Delgado et al, 2019). This could be very helpful in early labour if your child is with you.

2.  Take your pregnancy pillow wherever you go

If you need to get in bed with your toddler at 3am after they have a bad dream, take your pregnancy pillow. If the two of you are chilling with a book before naptime, take your pregnancy pillow.

Your comfort still matters, and there is nothing like a giant pregnancy pillow to give your back and bump some rest. A pregnancy pillow between your legs is also good for PGP (pelvic girdle pain), which is more likely to occur in a second pregnancy if you have had it before (POGPH, 2015).

3. Use your legs when you lift

Heaving a toddler around can put a strain on your stomach muscles that are already stretched with your pregnancy (Aguilera, 2018). So instead when you lift, try to bend and use your legs and thighs to support you. Also applies to cars, prams you’re folding up, bikes you’re schlepping home from nursery and any of the other million things you will carry. Listen to your body and stop if you are feeling tired or you feel your muscles strain (UK Chief Medical Officers, 2017)

4. Rest with them

You definitely won’t have as much time to rest this time round. So when your child wants to snuggle on the sofa with some books or has headed off for a nap, join them.

Just make sure you get in good positions to avoid those annoying pregnancy symptoms of heartburn and breathlessness. You could prop yourself up with some pillows (NHS, 2017).

5. Avoid injuries

Your pregnancy hormones mean looser ligaments that can make you super prone to injuries. So try to put practices in place to help (Aguilera, 2018).

Instead of leaning over the bath repeatedly to wash a toddler, you could get a chair to sit on next to them. Get them to climb in and out of the pram and car seat too. That way, you’re not always lifting.

You could also put little stools around the house for anything that’s too high for them, like your bed or the sink. The stools will let them climb up to by themself.

6. Ask for help

You are not superwoman and no-one should expect you to be. Being pregnant is a grueling physical task – especially towards the end. So with your other child in the picture it can be hard going.

You could get your partner, family or friends to take on the physically demanding stuff that your child loves to do. Otherwise, book them in for an extra morning at nursery. That way, your child will still get to be as physical as they love to be without you having to take your six months pregnant bump to the skate park or trampoline.

7. Swimming and walking

Some activities like walking or swimming are great in pregnancy, so make the most of these ones. Head off for a family swim session with your partner and your child so you can sneak off for a few laps yourself, and take the pressure off swollen feet and legs.

You could also get walking with your toddler so that they burn off some energy and you move your body too. Swimming and walking are quite low impact and easy to build up. They’re usually safe exercises to start even if you didn’t do much before your pregnancy (Nascimento et al, 2012).

8. Slings and carriers

If you were using a carrier or sling for your toddler before pregnancy you may find you or your child want this to continue. It is recommended to get good advice and information to make sure you do this safely (Knowles, 2019). If you feel you are unable to carry your toddler yourself, they might find it fun for to be carried by other members of the family.

8. Be creative in how you have fun with them

Sure, you’re no longer the one that can pretend to be a swing or let them climb all over you with limbs everywhere. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still be their fun mum.

Just think of the things you can do. Maybe it’s blowing raspberries on their face until they giggle, timing their runs around the kitchen or reading that book they love in a silly voice. For more inspiration on games to play with your toddler, see our articles about play at 12-18 months and at 18-24 months.

Whatever it is you do, don’t worry about dropping the old habits. Children are resilient when they have good support and they might not notice what’s changed. They’ll just know that they’re still having laughs with their mum.

This page was last reviewed in May 2019

Further information

Our support line offers practical and emotional support in all areas of the antenatal experience, birth and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700. We also provide Refresher antenatal courses for those parents who have already had at least one baby. They offer a chance to reflect and build on past birth experiences and prepare yourself for looking after your new baby.

Aguilera PA. (2018) Pregnancy, round ligament pain. eMedicinehealth. www.emedicinehealth.com [Accessed 1st May 2019]

Delgado A, Maia T, Melo RS, Lemos A. (2019) Birth ball use for women in labor: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 35:92-101. Available online: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2019.01.015 [Accessed 1st May 2019]

Knowles R. (2019) Carrying while pregnant. Available at: https://www.carryingmatters.co.uk/carrying-while-pregnant/. [Accessed 1st May 2019].

NHS. (2017) Indigestion, heartburn and acid reflux in pregnancy. nhs.uk. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/indigestion-heartburn-… [Accessed 1st May 2019].

POGPH. (2015) Pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain. Pelvic Obstetric & Gynaecological Physiotherapy, Guidance for health professionals. Available at: https://pogp.csp.org.uk/system/files/pogp-pgppros_1.pdf [Accessed 1st May 2019]

Nascimento SL, Surita FG, Cecatti JG. (2012) Physical exercise during pregnancy: a systematic review. Current Opinion in Obstetrics and Gynecology. 24(6):387-394. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23014142 [Accessed 1st May 2019]

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