Six secrets to winning at life with a toddler and a baby
I remember sitting on the edge of the hospital bed, lump forming in my throat, frozen with fear. Within the hour we would be home with our toddler and new baby. I had lost all confidence in my ability as a parent and was terrified of the road ahead.
But we arrived home and we muddled through the chaos. Some days written off to never be spoken of again, and others full of love, laughter and happy memories.
If you are about to welcome baby number two, or you have already made the transition to a mum of two, these are the secrets that saved me. They have been the difference between losing myself in the chaos and enjoying the journey.
You still only have two hands
Why are we not blessed with another set of hands each time we have a child? How can one person be expected to do everything a mother needs to do for each child with just two hands?
If you weren’t into babywearing with your eldest, get acquainted with it now. When going out with the baby and toddler, a double pram is also a good option or if your eldest isn’t a fan of the pram, look into a footboard you can attach to the pram. The Joolz Geo was our saviour with two, as was the Joolz Footboard. Your eldest can ride on the footboard while you push the pram, keeping them safe within arms reach leaving you with both hands free to push the pram.
Make time for your first born
It was just you and your toddler, for however many years, doing your thing together. They made you a mum and taught you everything you know. Then along comes this beautifully squishy new person that demands so much of your time and attention. It’s not that you love your first born any less, but you just don’t have the time any more.
Whenever you can, make 1:1 time with your eldest to do the things you used to do toegther. Leave the baby at home with your partner and go to the park or go on a special date together to a concert or event. It is amazing how restorative that time can be for both you and your child.
And don’t worry, those fears you have about not being able to love another child as much as you love your first will all disappear as soon as you hold that new tiny human in your arms. Suddenly your heart has doubled in size and you have double the love to give, and receive.
Throw out the parenting rule book
Your mind will boggle at how two children, coming into the same family, can be so vastly different. One is sweet and sensitive, crying at the smallest “boo”. The other is a fire cracker, like a hurricane rolling through your house. The challenge is that, as a parent of two children with very different personalities and needs, both at different stages, your role for each of them will be different.
But as a parent, you are learning just as much as your kids are. You will soon learn what your second baby needs from you and somehow merge the needs of your two children together. Throw out the rule book and start rewriting it again.
Organise or perish
With one child you could muddle your way through, quickly packing a lunch box in the morning before you head out the door, or calling in at the supermarket on the way home at 6pm to pick up something for dinner. Add a baby into the mix and suddenly “quick” takes at least 30 minutes and there is no way you are going to be anywhere near a supermarket at 6pm with two kids!
Try and keep things simple for yourself and do what works for you. Pack lunches and stock your nappy bag before you go to bed and do a batch cook on Sunday to fill the fridge for the week. Write things down or you will forget them.
It’s also a really good idea to have a “busy box” for your toddler for while you are breastfeeding or putting the baby to sleep. Your older child may become jealous or bored, so if they have some special activities to keep them busy it will give you the time and peace to do what you need to do. In our 2017 baby issue, we have some fabulous ideas for an easy to create busy box for toddlers. Sign up below and you will receive the whole issue (with loads of other amazing baby related content) absolutely free.
Setup a system for buckling BOTH in to their car seats
Car seat buckled. Check. Pram in boot. Check. Seat belt on. Check. Ok, let’s go.
But wait! After all these years of buckling one car seat it can be so so easy to forget about the second one and you drive off with the baby safely buckled in but your toddler sitting unrestrained in their car seat, almost oblivious to their dangerous position.
If your toddler is old enough you can teach them to remind you to buckle them in, but no one wants to be solely reliant on a toddler for something so important. Whether you hang something off the steering wheel to remind you to check both car seats before you go or put your handbag at your toddlers feet as the last step before you get in the car, have something to jog your memory. You are likely more exhausted than you have ever been so don’t rely on your own memory either.
Allow the kids time to bond with each other
Of course you want to protect your baby from anything bad like picking up a cold or being dropped (eek!) but giving your older child the chance to bond with their younger sibling is vitally important. Get them involved with bath time or help at each nappy change by passing you nappies. Give them a safe place to play at tummy time and talk to them about what it means to be helpful. Not only will you be setting yourself up for success in the early days, but also setting them up for a beautiful relationship in the long term.
The sibling bond is what makes it all worth it. The baby smiles and giggles are adorable, but it is nothing compared to seeing your two children laughing together over something one of them has done. Or looking down to see them holding hands as you walk along the path. That is when you know that you are winning at life.
Sign up to our newsletter below to receive Issue 37 totally free. That’s 88 pages of amazing content to help you nail mum life.