Imagine coming down the stairs in the morning to make breakfast after a long sleepless night, your newborn carefully tucked in one arm and holding your toddler’s hand in the other. Your toddler is already on the verge of tears listing off the items she needs for breakfast, and you hear the distinct sound coming from your newborn, which can only indicate one thing, a diaper change. You quickly change the diaper, but not before your toddler reaches her breaking point and is now crying, asking you to hold her. As soon as you set your newborn down to comfort your toddler, he begins crying. And so began one of my first days with a toddler and a newborn.
Here are 5 tips for how to manage a toddler and a newborn.
1. Spend One-on-One Time
This may have made the single greatest impact on my toddler when we transitioned to being a family of four. When her brother arrived, I made it a point to find time during one of his naps to spend alone time with my daughter. We would do an activity she enjoyed, which normally ended in a tickle fight. During this time, you may include some of these ways to prepare your toddler for a new baby. As a parent, if you can spend a sliver of time filling up your child’s love tank, it will make a world of difference throughout the rest of the day when your attention is split between your toddler and newborn.
2. Create a New Normal
When the baby arrives, it’s very common for there to be many schedule changes for a toddler, which can be very unsettling, This is due to a number of factors, including the baby needing constant feeding, changing, holding, etc. Many children find comfort in knowing what to predict, especially when it comes to a schedule. I recommend taking a moment to think of what things can be consistent each day for the toddler. Whether it’s meal times or play times, try to provide some kind of structured schedule for your toddler so they can adjust to their new normal.
Many children find comfort in knowing what to predict, especially when it comes to a schedule.
3. Special Activities
One of the most time-consuming parts of having a newborn is feeding him or her. This can be frustrating for a toddler because they will not have your attention. To help make this time less stressful, you can save special activities specifically for now. Some ideas for special activities might include: spending time doing something fun with dad, watching a television show, playing with a special toy that the toddler can only have access to during this time, playing with play dough or art in a high chair, eating a special snack, or playing with a technology device. This can even become part of the daily routine. Maybe during the newborn’s first feeding the toddler gets to play with a special set of toys, during the second feeding the toddler gets to watch a show, during the third feeding the toddler gets to spend time with dad, and so on.
4. Accept Help
If friends or family offer to help during this time, take it. Great ways others can lend a helping hand during this busy time is with cooking a meal, going to the store, or watching one or both of the children. In addition, your spouse could plan outings for your toddler and him to do together so that you have some time to get something done. Also, even if you breastfeed, consider giving your newborn a bottle a day (it can be breast milk or formula) so that others can feed your newborn too.
Keep dinners simple. Create a list of 7-10 simple dinners so that you don’t have to spend much time cooking and preparing a meal. Some simple meals might include spaghetti, rotisserie chicken with veggies, hamburgers, or soup. I also used paper plates and plastic utensils during the first few months to cut down on the time we had to spend cleaning. Another simple time-saving tip is to freeze leftovers. You may want to alternate nights cooking between you and your husband. Any extra time you gain will make it that much easier to manage your toddler and newborn.
If you are looking for more tips, specifically for getting through the first few weeks with a newborn, you may enjoy this.
What is one thing you have found helpful to manage a toddler and a newborn?
Amy Lu is a Midwest mama from Michigan who enjoys sharing parenting and pregnancy resources with parents of young children on the blog, Making Motherhood Matter.