Bringing home a newborn is tough enough, but having a toddler at home as well may be one of the most challenging experiences of your life. Juggling a newborn and a toddler can be particularly hard when schedules collide and meltdowns occur. But never fear, it can be done!
Today we’re discussing some tips of juggling a newborn and a toddler to avoid some of the hardships that this exciting and challenging time may bring.
Prepare your Toddler for the Arrival of your Baby
Your toddler may be very excited about the prospect of a new baby, but does she really know what that will mean for her life? Prepare your toddler by talking about how newborns act and the attention your baby will need, including lots of sleeping, some crying, being held often and breastfeeding. Read books about babies so your child has some idea of what to expect during these early months with a new sibling. Discuss ways she can help out with the baby, such as rocking and singing to the baby or being mommy’s special helper. Talk about how sweet, adorable and fun your older child was when she was a baby and how the new baby will be equally as charming.
Foster Independence and Some Degree of Separation Before Baby Arrives
The more independent your older child is, the easier it will be for you to tend to your baby’s needs. You certainly don’t want to abandon your toddler or give her the impression that the baby always comes first. However, when a baby needs to be fed or changed, it’s nice to know that your toddler will be safe and occupied for some period of time.
First, be sure your house is child-proofed for the safety of your toddler. Knowing she won’t get hurt when you look away for a few minutes will be a big relief to you. Teach your toddler to do some things on her own, like walk up and down stairs (or crawl up and scoot down), feed herself and independent play. If dad or another caregiver will be stepping in to help, strengthen this relationship before the baby arrives so your toddler won’t be clinging to you when you’re trying to focus on your newborn. This also invites a wonderful bonding opportunity for other family members.
Keep your Routine as Normal as Possible
When the baby arrives, try to keep your toddler’s schedule very routine. If school and playgroups are part of her normal life, continue that schedule. If possible, have someone stay at your house with your child while you are at the hospital so as not to disrupt her daily life. Some times of the day will be more challenging than others, such as meal times, nap times, bath times and bedtimes. Discuss the challenge with your partner and decide if having an extra pair of hands around at some of those times might be helpful. Baby-wearing is a terrific way to keep your baby close and happy while tending to the needs of your toddler and other familial responsibilities.
Breastfeeding your Baby while Managing a Toddler
If your toddler has not been exposed to breastfeeding, she may be particularly curious about this most nourishing practice. Never feel ashamed to breastfeed in front of your children. It’s a wonderful experience you can share as a family. While you may be less mobile while breastfeeding, you can still spend quality time with your toddler during feedings.
After a few weeks, you’ll probably get the hang of one-handed feedings, which will free up a hand to play with your older child. Sitting on the floor building with blocks or doing a puzzle are great sedentary activities you can do together. Reading is a great way to spend your breastfeeding sessions with your baby and toddler. Your older child can enjoy her favorite books and turn the pages for you, and your baby will benefit from hearing constant words and chatter. Also allow your toddler to do some independent play while you are breastfeeding, such as coloring, stickering, play-doh, putting on a concert or play for you and the baby or playing with toys in the same room. Don’t feel it is necessary to separate yourself while breastfeeding, but rather embrace this time for togetherness.
Spend Time with your Toddler Individually
As exciting as a new baby may be, your toddler may feel sad or frustrated by this attention-grabbing addition to your family. Ensure you spend one-on-one time with your toddler and don’t completely abandon some special activities you did together before the baby was born. Also, make your toddler feel important as an older sibling and special helper in your family. Encourage her to embrace this crucial role so she feels integrated in your family’s wonderful new joy.
When things get tough, remember that the next phase will relieve some of your current issues and bring on new joys and challenges. And even when things are easy, remember that the next stage is not far behind. Count your blessings and enjoy the moment.