When baby number two arrives the expansion of your family tends to spark mixed emotions.
On the one hand, you’ve done this before and you are not nearly as thrown by life with a newborn as you were the first time around.
On the other hand, you now have two little ones to deal with! And one of them is mobile!
Coping with a newborn baby and a toddler may feel daunting, but actually it’s just another phase of motherhood that eventually feels like normal.
The early weeks of having two under two are a steep learning curve, but you can totally handle this!
How to cope with a newborn and toddler
The most important thing to remember to survive a baby and toddler is to lower your expectations. And by your expectations, I mean your expectations of yourself. Lower them right down.
The only thing you need to focus on right now is whether everyone is safe, warm, fed and has access to cuddles on tap.
Stop expecting your home to be clean all of the time, or even most of the time.
Stop expecting to be in anything other than pyjamas.
Stop expecting to be back to “normal” (whatever normal means) right away.
Stop expecting to cook from scratch every night.
Once you accept that life is just going to be different as you adjust to your new arrival, then you take a lot of the pressure off your shoulders.
It tends to be that pressure to get it all done that makes motherhood toughest in the early weeks.
So accept it’s going to be a bit chaotic as you adjust to being a family of four, and try these top tips for surviving a baby and toddler.
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Child-proof before the new baby arrives
Double check that your home is toddler-proof before your baby arrives.
Bear in mind that when it’s just you and your toddler, you can reach them in seconds, but when there’s a baby attached to your breast it will be much trickier to leap across the room.
Make your life less stressful by eliminating all possible danger zones in your home.
This may mean that you need to add extra stair gates to block off certain rooms such as the kitchen.
Be sure that any chemical cleaning products are up high in cupboards your toddler cannot reach and place child-safe covers on taps so they cannot scald themselves with hot water.
There are lots of toddler-proofing tips here.
Fill your freezer
Cooking is time consuming and creates a mess that takes more time to tidy up after you’re done. So wherever you can, avoid cooking meals from scratch.
If you can batch cook when pregnant with baby number two, then do it.
If baby number two is already here, then double up on portions that you cook whenever you can, then you have extra to freeze and that gives you at least one day where you don’t have to cook.
It’s easy to do this with meals such as casseroles, bolognaise sauce, shepherd’s pie, and soup.
Develop cooking shortcuts
Embrace cooking shortcuts that help you get things done quicker.
For example, instead of making your own mash, have some pre-made frozen potato mash in the freezer (it tastes pretty great actually, I’ve tried the frozen potato mash from Waitrose and it’s amazing).
There are some great quick cooking hacks over on this RD post.
Switch off the guilt
You cannot be all things to everyone, so stop feeling guilty about giving time to one child while the other is fussing.
There will be times when you feel like you cannot adequately cater to everyone’s needs at exactly the same time.
Instead of looking at this as you being unable to be there for both kids, turn it around and see it as a good thing for them.
Solo play has been proven to be really important for toddler development. Playing independently helps them to develop their imaginative skills.
And I recall one day that I was dealing with my toddler as she used the toilet, while my baby was wailing from her cot as she tried to get to sleep. I was so stressed and hurrying as much as I could to get to the baby to comfort her. But guess what? Within minutes the baby had fallen asleep.
Now normally I wouldn’t leave her to cry it out, but this was over within minutes. So while it’s true I hadn’t been right there to comfort her, in the end she was able to get herself to sleep so she clearly wasn’t in too great a state of distress.
The point I’m trying to make is, don’t feel bad if every now and then one or both kids have to cry for a few minutes because your hands are full. Everyone will be just fine.
Get them napping at the same time
This is really crucial for your own mental wellbeing and fatigue-levels.
Getting both kids on the same nap schedule means that you get at least an hour or two per day where you get time to yourself.
To get your two children in a similar nap schedule try this:
- Most toddlers switch down to one nap per day by around 18 months. So the nap you want to try to time together for your baby and toddler is the post-lunch snooze.
- Pick a time that you can work with and stick to it. Make it after both children have fed and make it a time that fits in with your baby’s average awake time. Newborns may happily stay awake for just 30 minutes. After a few weeks this time increases to around 90 minutes.
- Settle your toddler into bed first, leaving them to fall asleep in their room.
- Next settle your baby down.
The next thing to say is once you manage to get both kids on the same nap schedule, you need to use that time to sleep yourself. This is especially important if your baby is waking frequently at night.
There’s a complete newborn baby and toddler routine over on this post.
Work around your toddler’s schedule
Your baby’s daily schedule should fit around your toddler. This consistency will help them to cope with the big change that comes with having a newborn baby sibling in the house.
To make this work you may need to encourage your baby to nap while you’re on the move a lot. Many babies actually find falling asleep in the buggy or car seat easier as the motion rocks them to sleep.
I recommend using the morning as the ideal time for an outing. That way your afternoon plans won’t interfere with both children’s longer stretch of sleep, which gives you a little time to yourself.
Stop going to the supermarket
Cut out unnecessary chores like the weekly trip to the supermarket. Start getting grocery deliveries to your door to save you precious time, and the stress of taking two small children to the shop.
Sit down every week and plan out your meals around your grocery list so that you don’t forget to order anything.
You can also start up a nappy subscription with Amazon so that you never run low on nappies or wipes.
If this makes you feel bad, then I’ll refer you back up to one of the earlier tips to switch off the mum guilt.
There is nothing wrong with letting your toddler watch a little TV. I think we’re programmed to assume television is bad from years ago when we were told “TV will rot your brain”.
In fact pre-schooler television is full of really educational programming that will help, not hinder your toddler. It’s something that gives you a little time to get other things done, or even rest.
It really will do your toddler no harm to have some extra TV at this time.
If you don’t believe me, check out this CNN article.
Download simple games to your phone
I cannot tell you how many times games on my mobile phone has saved me from dealing with a total toddler meltdown.
Of course you don’t want them sat in front of a screen all day, and that’s not what using games on the phone is about.
It’s best used as a 10 to 15 minute distraction when you need to do things such as settle baby down for a nap or when you’re feeding your baby.
There are tons of free games in app stores for both iPhone and Android. I recommend the Peppa Pig game and there’s also a great free Baby Shark app featuring games and videos of the song.
Have toddler busy bags and boxes of toys
When feeding your baby, whether you’re breast or bottle feeding, you may struggle to play with your toddler.
Make this easier on yourself by having bags or boxes or toys within arm’s reach so that your toddler can sit next to you and play with things while you feed.
In the box you could put board books (these are easier for holding and turning pages with one hand), small toys they can hold easily in their hands and puzzles such as this little puzzle in a tin.
Get a good double pushchair
While your toddler may love you carrying them everywhere, this isn’t really practical when it comes to getting out and about for you!
You can adapt your existing pushchair by attaching a buggy board to the back for your toddler to sit or stand on.
But a double buggy really is the best investment if you have a small age gap between your two children.
We loved the Baby Jogger City Select. It allowed both kids to see out due to the configuration of the seats (some tandem doubles leave one child unable to see forwards).
It was also easy to collapse and fit into the boot of the car.
There are tons of options out there, from the tandem pushchairs which are easier to get around narrow shop aisles to the side-by-side options which tend to be easier to steer than the tandem.
Research the market thoroughly, including how the pushchair will fit when you need to get in and out of doors, before making a choice.
Try using a sling for the baby
A sling enables your baby to nap on you (and most babies go through a phase of only wanting to nap on their mama) while you have your hands free to play with your toddler.
There’s a variety of slings you can get, which one you choose is really up to you.
The cloth slings are cheaper but they can be tricky getting used to tying them. I never managed to figure out my cloth sling and eventually returned it.
The soft structured carriers are good as once you have the straps adjusted for your body, it’s easy to get baby in and out. They’re also comfier on the back and shoulders in my experience.
There’s a whole article over on the NCT website with tips for picking the best sling for you.
Get a baby bath seat
Of all the essential baby products for a second baby, this is the number one item you need to get!
It means that you can bathe both kids at the same time, while keeping your hands free.
You will always need to supervise your kids in the bath, but the baby seat means you’re not juggling a slippery newborn with trying to wash your toddler’s hair.
There are newborn baby seats where baby sits in a reclined position. I love this Angelcare one.
You can also get seats for older babies who are able to support their head with their neck.
Enrol your toddler in a pre-school
Give yourself a little break by finding a pre-school for your toddler.
Your toddler will benefit from mixing with other children their own age, and you can feel reassured that they are getting some fun playtime while you rest.
In the UK, there is funding available for children aged 3 and over amounting to 15 hours per week. This is available to some parents of two-year-olds who are eligible for certain benefits.
Prices for childcare vary from provider to provider, so shop around to find something that works for you if you do not get any government help in paying for childcare.
Find out more about help available for paying for childcare on the government website.
Get some extra help
If you cannot afford childcare or would prefer not to use it right now, be sure to ask friends and family for help.
Sit down with your partner and figure out a plan that means you get a little relief now and then.
It’s so important to find ways to take a break, even if it is only for an hour or two.
Develop a bedtime routine strategy
The first time you do solo bedtime with a baby and a toddler is unlikely to be something you ever forget.
But do not worry, it doesn’t have to be stressful. It just requires a little forward planning.
For example, when getting them out of the bath, extract them one at a time starting with the baby. Dress the baby on a changing mat in the bathroom, so that your toddler is not left alone in the tub.
Then feed your baby while you’re sat on the toilet watching your toddler play in the bath. This will help to keep your baby calm.
I have an entire post on the best bedtime routine for a baby and toddler, including timings for how to juggle both of their needs.
Have a strategy for getting out of the house
This tends to be a real flashpoint in our house. It always causes tears and stress for some reason. The second I say “shoes on”, everyone starts to go into meltdown!
With a baby, leaving the house often coincides with your baby filling their nappy or suddenly deciding they’re starving hungry.
To make leaving the house with a baby and a toddler easier, try these things:
- Start preparing to leave early – give yourself at least 10 minutes to get your toddler’s shoes and coat on.
- Time your leaving with baby’s nap time. They can then nap in the buggy or in the car.
- Time leaving the house for after your baby has fed, but not too soon after so they don’t vomit in the car. Leave it around 20 minutes after feeding time.
- Have the bag ready the night before. Remember to pack snacks and a drink for your toddler plus changes of clothes for both kids.
- Take a deep breath.
Plan fun things for your toddler to do
Work with your partner to plan something fun for your toddler to do with them while you care for the baby at home in the early weeks. It could be a trip to a local farm park or their first cinema visit (sometimes you get cinema releases hour-long specials for shows such as Paw Patrol or Peppa Pig).
Once you are feeling strong enough after the birth, and you’ve given your baby a few weeks to settle in, then you can make plans for things to do with your toddler.
Keep it very simple, especially if you will be doing it solo with the baby and toddler. Many soft play centres are small enough that you can sit and watch with the baby while your toddler climbs around the play equipment.
Try to have things your toddler can look forward to in the pipeline so that they know they are still very special to you.
Final thoughts on handling a baby and toddler
These tips will give you everything you need to know about handling the transition from one to two kids.
Remember to take it easy on yourself, try not to plan too much and accept help whenever it is offered!
You may also like:
40 things to do with a baby at home
How to entertain your toddler while feeding a baby