Bringing home a newborn baby with a toddler at home is tricky, and you’ll feel as if you’ve abandoned your toddler to the wolves when it comes to attention.
Finding that balance with a newborn and a toddler is tricky and not for the weak of heart.
Your firstborn is used to being the center of attention. Sure, she plays independently, but she knows her parents are there to read her that book she wants.
They’re ready to cuddle whenever she needs a hug, and they tuck her in bed each night together.
Now, all of that attention is shared. At first, the baby is new and exciting, but then your toddler would like things to go back to the way they were before.
Who can blame them? Being the center of attention is fun! We all know that we can’t put the baby back where it came from, so that means a balancing act must be found.
I know this balance very well. As the mom of four kids, I’ve had toddlers for three of my newborns, so only my lucky first daughter had the opportunity to be an only child.
Learning how to juggle two kids can be challenging, but it’s not an impossible feat!
Here are some of my tricks for juggling a newborn and a toddler.
First, Remember Every Child Responds Differently
Before you cry buckets at the idea of your toddler hating his new sibling, realize that every child will respond differently.
All 4 of my kids have different personalities, and they’ve responded differently to having a new baby in the house.
Likewise, your newborn has a personality as well. He might be a chilled, relaxed baby, or he could be high-needs and never want to be put down.
I’ve had both.
So, the strategies you use will be different for each child. Just relax. Every child does and will adjust to having a newborn!
Encourage Your Toddler to be Involved with the Baby
The most important goal here is to prevent your toddler from feeling replaced by the baby.
You want your child to feel excited about having a new sibling, so encouraging ownership of the role as a big sibling is important.
It’s very easy for parents to be too nervous about toddlers helping with baby care, but all of my kids have been exceptionally well with the care of their new baby. See, ownership?
Ask your toddler to help at diaper changing, clothes changing, feedings, and cuddle time.
While your toddler won’t be able to change a diaper, he can hand you the diaper and get the rash cream. He can hold his new sister’s hand and sing her a song.
Make sure you talk to him about how big and important he is. He is needed by you and his new sibling!
Plus, you have the opportunity to work on teaching your toddler how to touch and handle a newborn properly!
Handle Misbehaviors Gently
This time of huge changes can make a child feel insecure, and many children act out during this time. Expect misbehaviors often. Their entire lives and the foundation of their lives just changed. Be patient.
Yes, it’s very hard to be patient when you’re exhausted, and you might want your toddler to behave and act like he isn’t feral. I get it!
Your child is acting out to get attention, and it’s natural. It’ll be exhausting, but it doesn’t mean you failed as a parent. Here are a few suggestions.
- Remind yourself that your toddler is having a hard time, he isn’t giving you a hard time. Changing your focus can be huge. When you’re focused on the idea that your child is purposefully being bad to upset you, it’s hard to be gentle. Instead, focus on the fact that your child is having a very hard time right now.
- Try to avoid timeouts and separation. Doing these things separate your child further from you, which is his fear. Instead, try time-ins with you. Yes, it can be hard to be loving when your toddler bopped the baby on the head, but those are some big feelings! Offer snuggles and hugs.
- Give names to his feelings. Naming those big feelings is helpful for toddlers with a limited vocabulary. “Oh, you’re feeling lonely because mama had to feed the baby. You wanted to play. I’m sorry you felt lonely.” “You’re mad because Daddy was playing with the baby, and you wanted to play with Daddy too. It made you feel angry.”
Use Nap Times for Your Toddler
Newborns inevitably sleep a lot, even though it's in small chunks so adults never feel rested. Use a few of those several naptimes to spend time on your toddler.
Read books, play games, snuggle or talk together. I know it’s frustrating because you want to use that time to clean, but those dishes will be there in a while.
When the baby wakes up, babywear and wash the dishes, so you can save the naptime for your toddler.
Naptime becomes tricky when your newborn only wants to sleep in your arms. I’ve had two of those babies, and I made it out alive. You will too.
If baby always wants to be held, you have to do those activities with your toddler while the baby is in arms. I highly suggest that you use a baby carrier.
You can play barbies or read a book easier when your newborn is strapped to your chest.
Babywear Your Toddler
Speaking of babywearing, believe it or not, you can babywear a toddler. I spent half of my day babywearing a sick toddler; it’s one of my favorite tools to keep.
Make sure the baby carrier you use can handle the weight of a toddler.
I find babywearing a toddler a great way to get in extra snuggles when I have a busy day. If I’m particularly busy or my toddler is acting up, I put the toddler in the baby carrier and snuggle.
I might do this while cooking dinner or walking through the grocery store. There are lots of kisses involved as well!
Let Dad Take the Baby
Your toddler is used to one on one time with you and providing that for your child is important. Wait until your partner is home and have him take the baby for a while, even if its 20 minutes during playtime or naptime.
Spend time with your toddler. Play dolls, color in a coloring book, or read her favorite books. She wants and needs to feel special!
See if grandma or an aunt will come over to help with the baby. Most family and friends love the opportunity to snuggle with a baby, and you have the chance to spend time with your toddler.
Involve Your Toddler in Chores
Babies can’t help with chores, but toddlers can. They love the opportunity to help, and you can use that time to talk and praise your child!
Folding clothes can be a chance to talk about colors and how smart he is. Washing dishes can be fun and practical at the same time.
Play is healing for children, and it’s a way for them to process what’s happening in their lives. Utilize play to your advantage and try to engage your child in meaningful play.
Do Bath or Bedtime Solo
My husband and I decided once we had baby number 2 that we were going to do bath and bedtime solo. He took bath duty and has been the bath man for years now.
It works out great because he has alone time with the little toddlers who can’t bathe themselves and they have fun!
I typically take bedtime for my toddler. We cuddle, read books, and I give him a back massage. Each routine is different with each child.
Of course, I also nurse the baby to sleep, but I either put the baby to bed before or after the toddler. I can spare 20 minutes to enjoy solo, and little babies aren’t included in our special time.
Don’t Rush to The Baby First
My last piece of advice is a hard one, so I saved it for the end. When your baby and toddler are both crying at the same exact time, your instincts are going to tell you to meet whatever need your newborn has.
It’s normal to feel that way! Newborns are helpless and your toddler can wait a few minutes.
Your toddler is used to being the first, and always rushing to the baby will create animosity. Pay attention to the messages you send your toddler.
Gauge why each one is crying and make a decision that way. If your toddler has an injury and the baby needs a diaper change, the toddler comes first. If the baby is scared, get the baby first and toddler next.
Now, before you question this and think I’m encouraging crying it out, I’m not. In fact, I’m very anti-CIO and never use that approach.
However, I know that babies can cry for five seconds more so that you can get that toddler a drink to help avoid hard feelings. It’s okay!
Figuring Out the Juggling Act
When you have your second child, figuring out the juggling act is, without a doubt, one of the hardest things you’ll have to do. Your toddler is going to act out and be upset. That’s normal.
Focus on spending several, small, quality chunks of time with him. He needs to be reminded that he is loved and special.
Most of all, don’t punish curiosity and let your toddler help with the baby. A toddler that feels involved and loved as much as the baby won’t misbehave as much!