There has been some discussion on the CNML yahoo group about how to nurse a baby or toddler on demand while taking care of several other children and a home. I am still working on this, myself, but I would like to share some of the ideas that have worked for my family of seven and also some of the wisdom from the mothers on the CNMLchat yahoo group.
1. First, be gentle on yourself! If you have a newborn, take lots of time for rest and for recovery from childbirth. Do not feel like you you need to keep your house in the same state as before the baby was born. Do not be afraid to ask a friend or your husband to do specific tasks like throw a load of laundry into the washing machine or empty the dishwasher.
2. In today's society, many mothers and families do not live near extended family such as grandparents and aunts and uncles. Because of this change in dynamic, mothers need to find creative ways to get things done. Some mothers hire a teen babysitter to play with their children or to hold the new baby, while they do a little bit of cleaning or cooking. Teens will work for lower pay than an adult and will really enjoy entertaining younger children because they are kids themselves :) If you have the funds, consider hiring someone to clean your house even once a month. A lot of moms like the FlyLady website. Even if you do not follow her program to a tee, she is great at encouraging you to make baby step type changes. Her philosophy is that even a household task done imperfectly still blesses your family! Her book, Sink Reflections is very encouraging and a great one to have on hand.
3. You might consider having your house toddler proofed in such a way that when your baby needs to nurse, you do not need to worry about him or her getting into something dangerous. For example, have locks on the back yard gates and keep doors closed with door knob covers to keep toddlers out of older children's' rooms. Also, keep a basket full of special toys, books and CDs for your toddler for use solely during baby's nursing time. A lot of moms have a quiet time during the afternoon when the baby takes a nursing nap (Fifth Standard of Ecological Breastfeeding) and the toddler also takes a nap. Older children play quietly or read during that time.
4. Many moms find slings or baby carriers useful for attending to baby's need for closeness to mom and sometimes to help them fall asleep. This way you can more easily hold your baby and still attend to an older child or a household task. My favorite sling is the Maya Wrap, but there are literally dozens and dozens of different baby carriers and sling types out there. Here is an article that discusses the many benefits of carrying your baby in a sling, wrap or baby carrier.
5. Sleep with your baby at night (Fourth Standard of Ecological Breastfeeding) using safe cosleeping habits. In many cases, cosleeping at night makes for more sleep for mom.
6. At the beginning of each day, pray and think about what the most important tasks are that need to get accomplished. Take care of those at the first opportunity. Also, give your older children age appropriate chores to complete around the house. Some moms find a morning chore time works well, especially if everyone takes part - that way the children see you doing chores too. Some moms have a more structured approach and assign certain chores to certain days. The book, Large Family Logistics, has helped some moms cope with the challenges of a big family; I have not personally read this book but I have heard that it is a good read.
7. I have also found the "minimalist" type philosophy helpful in helping me declutter my house. The idea is not to get rid of all your possessions, but to simply keep only what you love. I would have to say that in terms of kids' clothing, I do not follow this approach. I store all my children's outgrown clothes in bins labeled with the size and now that we have a little girl - by gender. When I do come up with a bag of items we no longer need or love, I put them directly into my car and stop at the second hand store within a few days. Actually, one advantage of breastfeeding your baby (as opposed to formula feeding) is that there is less likelihood of permanent stains left on clothes from him spitting up, so you can pass more clothes down to your later children. This saves you money and is better for the environment. Also, when considering buying a new item, think if you really need it or will it be useful or enjoyable in the long term. If you think about it, this approach is a very Catholic. We are called to be good stewards of our possessions and to share with the needy. Here is a book I really enjoyed on this topic: Clutter-Free with Kids.
8. Remember that the baby and toddler times are short-lived. Take time to cuddle your baby and play with your toddler. Sometimes the vacuuming just needs to wait :)