How to Ease into Life with a Toddler and a Newborn
I was one of those moms that thought being a mom was easy. Then I had a second kid. Life got a whole lot harder once I was trying to juggle life with a toddler and newborn. The newborn days are behind us now, and there are a few things I learned along the way that can help you ease into life with a newborn and a toddler. If you’re expecting baby number two, I hope these tips help you make the transition just a little bit easier!
Prepare your Toddler for a New Baby
One of my biggest worries about having a second baby was how it was going to affect my first one. I knew it was going to be a big adjustment for Weston, so I wanted to do everything I could to prepare for what was about to happen. In the weeks leading up to delivery, we did a lot of talking about the baby, feeling my belly, looking at the baby’s clothes, reading books about becoming a big brother, and looking at pictures of when he was a baby. I let him “help me” organize the baby’s room and get all of the baby gear out of storage. Obviously, you can never really explain a change of this magnitude, but anything you can do to set the stage ahead of time will help.
Introduce the New Baby
After I had Elliott, my doctor was talking to us about how we were going to introduce Weston to the new baby. She suggested that we take Elliott to the nursery as Weston was arriving at the hospital so that we could all walk down together and bring him back to the room. This way, Weston wasn’t going to walk in and see his mommy holding a brand-new baby and it gave us a little bit of one on one time before he got to meet Elliott. It worked beautifully and I’m so glad that we did it that way. He was so excited as we walked down to the nursery and helped us push the bassinet back to the room. This way of easing into the big introduction was perfect for our family.
Accept the Regressions
Soon after you get home with the new baby, you’ll find that your older baby is suddenly… a baby again. Because of all the attention a newborn receives, it’s totally normal for your toddler to regress. You’ll probably find that they want to play with the baby’s toys, pretend to be a baby, and be very curious about how the baby eats. I found that it was better to accept the regressions and let Weston ease into life with another baby in the house. When he wanted to be held more often, we held him more often. When he was fussier than usual, we tried to accept that it was all part of the process. As a way to combat the regressions, we slowly started giving him more responsibilities and making a huge deal out of things that “only big boys can do”. He started putting his own dishes in the sink, putting toys away, and we even potty trained him shortly after Elliott was born. He still has moments where he wants to act like a baby, but more often than not, he revels in the fact that there are so many things he can do that Elliott can’t.
Baby wearing is probably my best piece of advice for someone who has a toddler and a newborn. I hardly ever wore Weston when he was a baby, but Elliott has pretty much been strapped to the front of me for the last nine months. When he was a colicky newborn, I wore him. When I needed him to take an extra long nap, I wore him. When I was chasing Weston around the park, I wore him. Even now, I find it so much easier to strap on a Boba wrap or a baby carrier when we’re out and about. It makes it so that I can follow Weston around with ease and know that Elliott is safe and sound. It’s also been a lifesaver for nursing in public. I finally mastered this skill and I can’t explain how much it has simplified my life.
Stick to the Routine
Getting into a routine is hard when you have a new baby. Let’s face it, newborns kind of turn your whole life upside down. However, if you can keep your toddler on their normal routine as much as possible, you’re going to be ahead of the game. If possible, try to keep your toddler’s meal times and sleep times exactly as they were before the baby was born. Children and babies love routine, so keeping the day to day activities as normal as possible will give your toddler a sense of calm and comfort. Then, as time goes on, and the baby starts to become a little more predictable, you can work on finding a solid routine that works for both kids.
Get a Shopping Cart Hammock
Grocery shopping (or even strolls through Target) change a lot when you have two kids. If you’ve ever had a newborn before, you know that putting the car seat in the cart takes up almost all the space. Throw a toddler in the front of the cart and you officially have no room for groceries. I got this shopping cart hammock just before Elliott was born and it was one of the only new things I purchased (almost everything else was just a hand me down from big brother). It’s was so easy to use, Elliott loved it, and I could take both kids to the store and still have room in the cart for whatever I needed to buy.
Over Pack the Diaper Bag
Before Elliott was born, I had gotten to the point where I didn’t really need a diaper bag anymore. Most of the time, I’d throw a diaper and a pack of wipes into a gallon sized Ziplock bag, shove it my purse, and call it a day. Let me tell you, getting ready to leave the house with a newborn again was a bit of a shock. I had totally forgotten how hard it was to get the baby ready, pack up all the necessities, and get out the door in a reasonable amount of time. And, even when we did get out the door, I was almost always forgetting something. A few weeks after Elliott was born, I invested in a new diaper bag and I packed it as if we were going to have to live out of it. When you’re toting around two unpredictable humans, you have to be prepared for anything. (You can see my full diaper bag list here!)
Use Sound machines (Lots of Sound Machines)
Sound machines have truly been a life saver in our home since Elliott was born. You see, when you have one baby, you can control the noise level in the house when they’re asleep. When you have two babies, you never know what’s going to happen. Because of this, both boys have a sound machine in their room to help block out the noise coming from the rest of the house. And, I’ll admit, sometimes I even put our portable sound machine in the hallway during nap time as a buffer for when one wakes up before the other. Our house is on the smaller side (let’s just call it cozy), so I firmly believe that sound machines are the only reason my kids aren’t constantly waking each other up.
Simplify the Household Chores
Those first few weeks with a newborn are tough (even if you don’t have a toddler). Try to think of ways that you can cut down on the household chores so that you can spend the majority of your time on the couch, loving on your babies. Try doing a grocery pickup service rather than spending an hour at the store (or better yet, get them delivered). Try making some freezer meals ahead of time. Utilize your crock-pot more. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by a mess, set a timer for five minutes and give yourself that time to clean (you’ll be shocked at how much you can accomplish). In those early days postpartum, don’t be afraid to accept help or have your partner pick up the slack.
Stock up on Toddler Activities
It was the dead of winter when I had a toddler and a newborn, but chances are you’ll be spending some extra time indoors no matter when your baby is born. Try to stock up on some toddler activity ideas that are easy to set up and don’t require a whole lot of help. I’ve found some great accounts on Instagram that have awesome toddler activities and I even purchased an eBook full of preschool lessons and activities for Weston. Some of my favorite Instagram accounts are @busytoddler, @early_childhood_fun101 and @sweetmommyhood. (A little screen time never hurt either).
Remember that this isn’t Permanent
The transition from one to two kids has been tough. I won’t sugar coat it for you. Every day is a balancing act, but every day gets just a little bit easier. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned as a mother of two is that time is fleeting. It seems like every time I bring a new human into the world, time speeds up a little more. The early days are all about survival. They’re about learning what works and what doesn’t. They’re about giving yourself grace and realizing that you truly can’t do it all. But, no matter how hard it is to take two kids out of the house, or to get two kids to take a simultaneous nap, or to just get through the day with two kids, it’s important to remember that this isn’t permanent. Your life won’t always be an endless cycle of feeding sessions and diaper changes. You will learn as you go and before you know it, you’ll realize that you actually have the hang of this whole “two kid thing”.