Tips to make life easier with a toddler and a newborn
You did it and you are pregnant with your second baby… just shortly before or after your firstborns first birthday! Congratulations! You are up for an adventurous, baby-filled couple of years ahead. Having two under two is not easy and will take a lot of you mommy. But you will be rewarded and there are lots of benefits of having two siblings close in age. It does get easier over time. Even though you might be struggling through parts of the first couple years, I am sure you will also find lots of joy and beautiful moments with your two kids under two.
Two under two might mean double effort and care. It means you not only have a baby, but also a toddler that needs you. In reward it also means happiness and life in a double pack. I know lots of mommies who tell me they would do it all over again for sure.
How to prepare for having two under two
Prepare yourself and your firstborn
As soon-to-be parents of two under two you need to realistically see that you are about to face a demanding, challenging season. Ideally, don’t plan to do too many other activities than taking care of your babies after the second child is born. Once you have the two, you will slowly see how it goes. You are always able to add more to your schedule later if you feel comfortable and would like to.
For the older child, your growing belly might have a threatening component which is often a bit underestimated. Educate your toddler already during the pregnancy about what’s happening. You could do that e.g. through a suitable story book. There are very sweet ones out there, easily explaining and illustrating things for one-year olds to understand. Or you could try to show your toddler pictures of the first pregnancy. Share how it was for you to carry him or her in your womb.
Do not announce the baby to your older child as a future playmate. Otherwise your toddler might feel irritated or even lied to after the birth. For a “long” time the little sibling will primarily just be a baby in need of care of mommy. Only after a while the newborn will slowly turn into a close friend and playmate for your firstborn.
When the time comes for number two
For the time of the birth itself, make sure to have organized a good place to stay for your toddler. Maybe he or she feels most comfortable with grandma at home or with friends by the neighbor. That way hopefully there is no hectic situation coming up when you must leave to have your baby.
Also think about how to organize the first meeting of the two siblings. Naturally, you as mommy will mainly take care of the newborn during that time. And ideally the father or the grandparents are responsible to be there for the firstborn. That way your firstborn doesn’t have to fully compete with the baby in terms of attention and care. And it won’t be too overwhelming for you as a new second-time mommy.
You could give your toddler a little gift when meeting their sibling for the first time. That might help with attention and make him or her feel cared for as well. To initiate the first step for a positive relationship, some parents even decide to tell their firstborn, that the little baby has brought the gift.
First season at home with two under two
Once you bring the newborn baby home, be aware that your firstborn experiences the situation as a violation of his “throne”, no matter how lovingly you take care of him or her. Suddenly there is another little being who is so loved and cared for by mommy and daddy.
Allow and help your toddler to reflect on feelings of anger and aggression towards the newborn. Tell your firstborn that you understand and make him or her feel seen and taken seriously in his feelings. Of course, you must protect the newborn from any aggressive actions that might come out of such situations. But you can help your toddler to learn to manage those feelings in good ways. Maybe you and your child will hit a pillow together to learn to get rid of aggression.
If your toddler suddenly wants to be a small baby again (e.g. wants a bottle, wants to wear diapers again or requires you to carry him or her around a lot) – allow these regressions when necessary. But at the same time encourage the strengths of your firstborn (e.g. by telling your toddler: “You can walk well, the baby can’t yet.”).
A good idea to show love and care for your firstborn during that intense initial time can be exclusive quality time. Try to have at least one fixed hour per week together. Let the grandparents take care of the newborn and you can be there only for your older child. Leave your phone on mute and give your toddler full attention. You will see how times like that can fill up a little one’s love tank.
And always remember, that getting a sibling means an “intensive course” in social competence 😊. From that your toddler will benefit a whole life long!
Practical tips for classic everyday situations with two under two
Following I have summarized some tips and ideas for classic situations. Of course, a lot varies with the exact age difference between the two siblings as well as the character and sleep needs of the newborn baby. The latter one obviously not foreseeable beforehand… So, take a look and get inspired. Once your baby is here, I am sure either way you will be able to apply a thing or two.
At times it will be difficult to breastfeed in peace. Chances of your firstborn wanting to play or needing the toilet right after you sit down with your newborn are high. With two under two the ideal of relaxing hours for just you and your baby on the couch is far less often possible to have than with the firstborn. Naturally you can still enjoy breastfeeding and give your little one all the cuddles needed whilst having a toddler around.
For example, you can try to establish breastfeeding as reading time. This works well with small books. Have your newborn laying on one arm and hold the book with your other arm around the toddler.
If your toddler likes listening to radio plays, that might be a next option to try out. It would be a bit easier for you to focus on your baby when you don’t have to read and tell the story yourself.
A next tip to try out is to offer your toddler a certain toy box that is only opened when the baby is breastfeeding. That way the toys in there stay special and interesting for the firstborn and he or she is occupied whilst you can give your full attention to the newborn.
It can also be a nice idea to use breastfeeding times as snack times. Have some chopped fruit or other easy finger food snacks ready and let your toddler feed you whilst you breastfeed the baby. When breastfeeding in general, you need a few small snacks during your day anyway and kids usually enjoy feeding others (besides snacking for themselves too obviously 😉).
In my opinion, a good baby carrier is an incredible practical help in a mommy’s everyday life. Especially when you have two under two. Oftentimes it is tricky for us mommies to meet all the needs of our little ones, ourselves, household and whatever else is requiring something from us. With a carrier, your baby gets the warmth, closeness and physical contact needed while you still have your hands free to play with and take care of your toddler.
If you have never used a baby carrier before, try it out. You will see the investment is worth it, your everyday life will be relieved immediately.
Changing diapers and bath times
Many toddlers like to watch their little sibling being changed and want to help by handing diapers or wet wipes. If you can involve your firstborn in that sense you have a win-win situation. Maybe you can install a small step next to the changing table, so your toddler has his or her designated place and feels involved. Or you could simply change the baby on the floor.
Bathing the kids may be a little bit of a challenge the first couple months when your newborn is still very small. Soon after that though, it is best to bath the two siblings together. In the best case that results in a fun splash around for both kids. Then whilst the younger one is taken out first, the older one can continue to play in the water for a bit.
If you already have a nighttime routine with your toddler, try to continue it as much as possible. Generally said, this applies to all areas of life of your firstborn: wherever possible, try to do and let continue things as before.
The daddy can play an important role in this task. He can look after the baby whilst mommy and toddler are doing their nighttime routine. Or he can take over the routine with the toddler. Another option is the mom laying down with the firstborn to fall asleep while she breastfeeds the baby. If you all can enjoy that, then this snuggle-up-in-bed time can be wonderful for the whole family.
If your toddler had already slept in his or her own bed in a separate room, it is a normal reaction that he or she might want to sleep in your bed again. This is due to the fact that the baby is allowed to sleep with the parents as well. In that case, don’t be afraid to allow your firstborn to join you at night. Most likely when the need for closeness and security is satisfied and your toddler has learned, that he or she is still “welcome”, things turn back to normal. Your toddler might realize very quickly that it is easier to sleep alone.
Accept help and ask for it when needed
The most important advice on this new journey of having two under two is to GET HELP. Yes, you can do this momma, yes, you will grow into it more and more. But listen, you don’t have to do everything on your own. Maybe you are the kind of person who finds it hard to ask others for help or even to accept offered help. But I tell you, it will be so worth it to step out and do it.
Maybe you have your dear mom, a friend or neighbor who would be willing to help you especially during those first few weeks after birth. Someone who will bring you some food, who will visit the playground with your toddler to give you some baby-only time, who will help you with some household chores or who does some shopping for you. These little things can make a big difference in your new two under two everyday life!
Also remember to try to take some time just for yourself. If you enjoy reading check out these tips on how to find time to read when having a baby.
“It takes an entire village to raise a child”
This African proverb also applies to us. The first season with a second child can be a bit of a mess in different ways. But hold on, you will get through and after a few weeks or months everyone will have found their new place and role in the family again. Things will become the new normal and some routine and structure will be established again.
Give yourself, your partner and your toddler time. Nobody and nothing must be perfect from day one and you will all grow day after day. After a while you might actually look back and smile. Suddenly you will realize that you yourself have grown well into your new role as a mommy of two under two 😊
Btw meal planning can be a great help for that intense season as well!
Read more about bringing your newborn baby home here.