We all have this vision of what our family will look like and the picture is often prettier than reality. As a pregnant mom about to give birth to their second baby, you might be asking yourself how to handle a newborn and toddler at the same time?
It is by no means an easy feat and life will be challenging before it gets easier. Mom guilt kicks in as you split your time between newborn and toddler making you second guess everything. The newborn might be breastfeeding and generally needs a lot more constant attention than your toddler. This can cause a lot of jealousy and increase neediness from your oldest as they adjust to this new reality.
With that being said, it’s more important than ever that you take care of yourself too, because a mom close to burn out will be irritable, short fused and unhappy. You might end up yelling at your toddler and then feeling even worse. (I know- self care is harder said than done).
Related: 7 FREE Self Care Ideas for a Bad Day
23 Tips for Surviving a Newborn and Toddler
1. Line up nap time for a break
If your toddler in still napping, try to line up one of your newborns nap with theirs. That way you can get a small break to unwind in a silent (yay!) home. Curl up to a yummy drink or indulgent snack, you deserve it!
Alternatively, this is a perfect time to SLEEP. If you practice bed sharing you might lay down with both newborn and toddler on a floor mattress so all of your can snooze for a bit. (Make sure you are between toddler and newborn for safety).
==>Check out The Reason You Need These 5 Bed Sharing Products<==
2. Set up independent corner for toddler to play
Get that Montessori vibe going in your home by setting up your toddler’s activities at their height. Make sure they can be as independent as possible by having a small table and chair and shelves where toddler can reach everything.
They might not want to always play independently (my toddler asks for help all the time even though I know he can do it), but you are setting them up for success that will come with time and patience.
3. Sign up toddler for part-time preschool
You might consider having your toddler start preschool even before baby arrives as it takes a few weeks to adjust. If you wait to enroll them once baby is here, your toddler will be agitated by all the change that preschool might have the opposite desired effect.
Preschool can be very rewarding for a toddler during this time of their life. It is a place just for them and a retreat with their friends that distracts them for a while.
Also, when they return home you can feel good about that they got a lot of stimulation and play time for the day.
4. Have toddler help with baby
Toddlers LOVE to help. I think my kiddo’s favorite activity (besides playing make-believe with his Paw Patrol cars) is helping me with chores. It makes them feel independent and needed. Having your toddler participate in the care of their new sibling is a great way to connect with them as well while including your newborn.
A few things you can have your toddler help with is grabbing items for you like diapers, lotions or paci. Ask you toddler to get you healthy snacks or bring you burp cloths or other breastfeeding accessories you might need.
- Healthy Snacks for Breastfeeding – 13 CrateJoy Options you will LOVE
- Supplies Needed for Breastfeeding – Don’t Overcomplicate it
5. Tell stories
I’ll be honest here, I am awful at making up stories so this is a perfect exercise (for me) to practice. Telling stories is a way you can verbally engage and connect with your toddler without having to physically play with them. This way you can sit and nurse their sibling or tend to any of their many newborn needs.
For the perfectionist: the story does not have to be perfect. Just make it up as you go. Your toddler enjoys the interaction and cares less of the actual story line. If they are verbal you can have them interact by asking, “what do you think should happen next?”
7. Use a time timer
Toddlers don’t understand time quite yet. It can be frustrating for them to be told “wait 2 minutes” or “we are leaving in 30min” as the concept is too abstract. With the time timer, they have a visual of what the amount of time looks like. This will give them confidence that whatever they are asking for will happen making it easier to wait.
It will also keep you accountable as a parent because when it beeps, you need to follow through with what you promised.
8. Wear baby in a Sling
Wearing baby is a great way to free your hands when both siblings are itching for some mama attention. There are many types of carriers however if you are breastfeeding, check out the sling models. These can actually hold the baby in such a way that they can breastfeed while in the sling.
Whether breastfeeding in a sling works for you or not is dependent on your general proportions, however there are many tutorials online on how to set the baby and sling up for success.
9. Ask for help
Once a younger sibling enters the home, the second parents tends to have to step up as a mama gets outnumbered with 2 little humans. Routines start getting divided such as bed time, bath and looking after one kid while the other does something else.
Asking for additional help is so important, yet can be difficult. We feel pressure to be super mom thinking we should be able to “handle it”, especially if the norm at home has been that you do most of the child care. Changing routines to incorporate a partner or other relatives will mostly be met with resistance from your children (and your partner) but if you push through they will all adjust.
10. Talk to your toddler before baby arrives
Setting up expectations is so important. It’s common to talk about all the positives that having a sibling brings, a playmate, fun outings, someone little to help take care of. We want them to get along so badly that the idea of a second child might end up romanticized.
Make sure that you help your toddler build tools to express himself in moments less than pretty. Share with him that he will probably feel jealous when baby needs so much attention. Go over what he can do if this or other negative feelings arise.
I highly recommend the book Siblings Without Rivalry to help prepare for this exciting (and challenging) time in your family’s life.
11. Expose your toddler to breastfeeding
If you are planning on breastfeeding your newborn (read about benefits), talk to your toddler about what that may look like. If they were breastfed themselves, this activity will seem quite normal. However, if they were weaned early or maybe not breastfed at all, it can be good to show them pictures of breastfeeding to normalize the process.
Some mothers say that their toddler has asked if they can also taste. Mothers who have said yes share that their toddler just kisses the nipple, giggles and then moves on. You can absolutely say no and say that it is only for their sibling. Maybe give them a special cup to drink their milk in to feel special too. (That is what it’s all about anyways).
12. Use a Boppy Pillow to free up a hand
Your probably already have this awesome pillow from your first baby. If so, pull it out from wherever it’s hiding and give it a nice dust off. The Boppy pillow is super useful to make feeding baby more comfortable. This way you can also free up a hand to help your toddler wipe their face or peel a sticker off the sheet.
I love the Boppy Pillow so much I wrote a Product Review. It details how to use it in 4 different ways, making it useful from newborn to toddler-hood. (My 2.5 year old uses the Boppy Pillow inside his tent as a seat).
==>Read my Review What is a Boppy Pillow for? – The 4 in 1 product you will LOVE<==
13. Play games and sing songs
There are a ton of verbal games to occupy your toddler as their sibling’s being taken care of. I spy is a great one if your toddler is quite verbal. Simon says can be fun too. Singing songs is easy as you have them memorized at this point and can sing them in your sleep.
Games are really specific to your child’s temperament. My toddler is very physically active, so he will respond more to challenges, “let me see you roll around on the floor” or “how many times can you jump in row? lets try it!”
14. Set toddler up with coloring, craft and books.
There might be times in the day when having your toddler play independently helps. Certain types of crafts and coloring are activities they can do on their own. The easiest is to have a predesignated space where the majority of the supplies are already out, that way set up is a minimum.
To give your toddler a little extra treat, you can order a monthly toddler subscription box. There are plenty on CrateJoy to choose from and most are affordable. ($30 or less).
Every month they will receive a box catered to a specific topic of your choosing. Inside will be activities to explore and play with. Think of it like a little something to get them excited and feel special while lessening that ever constant mom-guilt.
==>Here is my recommendation on the 17 best subscription boxes for toddlers that won’t break the bank.<==
15. Allow toddler to access snacks and drink independently.
Independence is the key here. Yes I know, just because they can do things doesn’t mean they will. How many times has your toddler asked for help over minute things that has you biting your tongue.
It’s all about practice and soon when your toddler realized that you just can’t come at the moment, they will start to explore some of that independence. Having snacks and drinks accessible for them is one of those activities that can lessen your load. This will mean they can eat whenever, but sometimes we need to pick our battles.
16. Make the day as predictable as possible to lessen toddler tantrums.
Trying to figure out what is next is very energy consuming. Add the stress of a new sibling and this will leave any well-meaning toddler on the ground sobbing tantrum style.
Help your kiddo keep their energy tank full by following a routine. This way they know what to expect which will leave more energy to listen and be nice to their little sibling.
17. Turn on the TV. (You might feel guilty but we all do it!)
We give our toddler the iPad with YouTube Kids. An account has been made where we control the content and our toddler feels empowered by picking what he watches.
YouTube Kids has an integrated timer as well. We consistently keep it so that he gets a 10min warning when timer gets turned on. There is a fun little animation and music that turns on once the timer hits which has really helped transition away from the iPad when it’s time.
Also, you can block the screen so that they can move around in the app but not exit it. On all Apple products it’s under Settings–> Accessibilty–> Guided Access.
18. Pick your battles
This goes for both children’s wants and the home. Let your toddler get away with things that might not matter as much as cleaning their play space or eating grapes (only) for dinner.
Let those dishes stay in the sink and close an eye to the dust bunnies rolling around in the crevices of your home. It can wait for another day. Your sanity is more important.
19. Get at your toddlers level
We have all heard how important 1:1 time is with your toddler, especially when a new sibling arrives in the home. This is not always possible, however getting down on their level with your baby in arm is a great way to make your toddler feel seen.
20. Get out of the house
YES! It might take 30min or longer to get out, but it will be wildly worth it because change of scenery cleanses the mind. Head to the playground, bring a picnic to the park or just take a long walk with the stroller. This way you can get a kick of endorphins and your 2 kids enjoy the fresh air.
If its winter time, bundle up or enjoy a fun filled car ride with a stop at the coffee shop! (YES if you are breastfeeding you can still drink coffee)
==>Worried about having to breastfeed in public? Read here for 5 Easy Strategies.<==
21. Set realistic expectations of your toddler (they are still really young)
This one is for you mama (and dad) because setting yourself up for success will be based on how success is measured. Remember that toddlers are still so young. Their brain is very underdeveloped and it is absolutely NORMAL for them to act irrationally.
It can be challenging for sure, but remember your toddler is struggling to. Learning some basic concepts of Gentle Parenting can make your life easier.
22. Get toddler a baby doll to mimic what you do with baby.
Perfect for both boys and girls, get your toddler a doll to care for. They will love mimicking what you do, even to the point of breastfeeding (which will give you all the butterflies). This is an opportunity to let toddler feel engaged in baby’s care while practicing for the real thing.
Dolls are also great for teaching body part names.
23. Take a break
Delegating child care is critical for well being, I always tell myself that I am modeling self-care and self-worth to my children long term, even if they are upset about mama stepping out at the moment.
I have not fully mastered self care but it’s a work in progress every day. Make it a work in progress for you too!
REALTED: 7 FREE Self Care Ideas for a Bad Day
Parenting is Hard for Everyone
For every passing year it becomes more evident that children all have their own distinct personality. My toddler’s friends all respond DIFFERENTLY to the same things making it hard to find a one size fits all when it comes to parenting.
The tips above are such that I believe there is something for every flavor of child, whether they end up wanting to sing songs with you or sit and craft at their table.
Because all children have their own unique preferences, it means that you will have to be mindful of what will make YOUR little one content.
One thing ALL children have in common is that introducing a sibling into home is HARD. Meltdowns will happen, hitting will happen, yelling will happen. Remember you are not alone and even the picture perfect family next door has their own type of mayhem behind closed doors. No one really know how to handle a newborn and toddler without hiccups, a sprinkle of chaos is inevitable.
==>Recommended Next Read: 17 Best CrateJoy Subscription Boxes for Toddlers in 2021<==
What are you most worried about when having a toddler and newborn at home?
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