Tips for Surviving and Thriving With a Toddler and a Newborn
Congratulations! You’re pregnant! You’re passing through the first year of life with an infant, and you’re finding yourself planning to do it all again. Caring for a toddler while pregnant can be a beautiful and challenging experience – all at the same time. There are so many big emotions that can arise during this time, and in this blog post I will address some of the most common concerns I hear from families.
Even when a pregnancy is very much planned and the whole family is excited, it’s not unusual for moms to experience feelings of guilt. You’re watching your baby growing up, yet you’re growing another baby as well. You might be wondering, how am I going to give my toddler the attention he/she needs? How can I spend my time bonding with my new baby while caring for my toddler?
You might feel guilty for having to share your time and your heart. These are all very normal feelings, and I’d really love to give you a hug right now. It is 100% okay to feel overjoyed and yet scared, nervous, or overwhelmed. I have gone through the two under two phase twice now, and I have experienced the whole spectrum of these emotions throughout the duration of my pregnancies and the postpartum time. You may be wondering how you can share so much love, and give so much of yourself and your heart to another child. A funny thing happens when you have another baby. Your heart suddenly expands and will grow to encircle another new person. Every time.
This is what is so amazingly profound and beautiful about the postpartum time. No matter how many babies you have, whether you are having your first or your fifth, every time your heart grows to encircle another you become changed person in the process. There may be growing pains, but think of it as a beautiful expansion rather than an ending point.
Tips for the Newborn and Toddler Transition
- Spend one on one time with your toddler every day. This may seem hard or nearly impossible, but it doesn’t have to be a big deal. For example, you could have someone hold your newborn for a few minutes and do bath time with your toddler. Read them their favorite story while your baby naps. Sing them a song that is theirs alone every morning. Simple moments in the day can make a really big difference.
- Create a basket of special items that your toddler can use only when you are feeding your new baby. When you’re feeding your baby, your toddler can get their super cool basket and play, draw, read, etc. I find that the dollar stores have a lot of really attractive items to use for these baskets.
- Keep a basket of your toddler’s favorite books near wherever you sit with your baby. Let’s face it, if you’re breastfeeding, you’re doing a lot of sitting in bed, on the couch, or in a chair and nursing nursing nursing. If you keep some favorite books near you, you can nurse your baby while snuggling up with a good book with your toddler.
- Learn baby wearing! If you haven’t already learned about baby wearing, you absolutely need to. Wearing your new baby in a sling or soft wrap will help you to be mobile and hands free to help your toddler. If you can learn to nurse your baby in a sling, that makes it even easier to work with your toddler. It’s really tiring and difficult to follow a toddler around the home and yard with a baby in your arms.
- Plan some special snacks for your toddler for the first few weeks postpartum. Use the snack-sized storage bags and fill them with their favorites. Some good ideas are granola, trail mix, cereal, etc. Healthy snacks are best but you want to plan something that they will enjoy. After all, this is kind of about survival at this stage. I promise, your kiddo will be fine with some goldfish and teddy grahams if that’s what it takes. Another benefit of this snack prep is that anyone can simply just give them a snack. Store them in a cupboard or storage bin on the counter. Anyone helping you around your home, or even an older child, simply needs to just give them a snack bag and they’re set.
- Find meaningful ways for your toddler to help with the new baby. This is very age dependent, but I find most toddlers love to take on simple tasks like “warming wipes” for the baby by holding the cool wipes in their hands while you get the dirty diaper off. Let them pick out the baby’s clothes. Ask them to get diapers or wipes for you. They will enjoy helping and it helps bring everyone together in caretaking.
- Read books about birth, babies, and becoming a big brother/sister. There are so many amazing books out there. Find ones that resonate with your family and your parenting style. Talk to your toddler about what it might be like to feed the baby, change baby’s diapers, and why the baby might cry. Talk to them about how important they are as a big brother or big sister. You can talk about how they might want to help with the baby, and involve them in family decisions when appropriate. Your toddler can even help your doctor or midwife at prenatal appointments and they’re usually so accommodating and love to let the little ones help. Some of our favorites are What Baby Needs by William and Martha Sears and I’m a Big Sister/Brother by Joanna Cole.
- Watch the language you use when you talk about your new baby. Avoid using phrases like “the baby” or “my baby” and instead try to say “our baby.” The difference sounds miniscule, but it means a lot in terms of including everyone in the family.
- Plan opportunities for family bonding. This doesn’t have to be anything that is hugely structured, but little routines can go a long way with toddlers. One idea is to ask your toddler if they want to sing a song to the new baby before they go to bed at night. Involving everyone together instead of isolating each kid to individual routines helps bring the family together.
- Give yourself a break. You might find that you need to let go of some things that you used to be very strict about. You have to pick your battles. Does it really matter if your toddler has matching socks every day? No. Does it matter if they stay in their pajamas in the morning? Probably not. The Cheerios aren’t going anywhere, so it’s okay to let them stay on the floor for a bit if need be. You get my point. Sometimes you need to let go a little and think about what really matters and your priorities will change. It is 100% okay to LET THINGS GO and just live in the moment with your babies.
I hope you found this helpful in your journey, whether you are deep into two under two survival or just considering taking the plunge.