It is not easy to care for a newborn, but what if you have to care for both your newborn and your toddler? There are various possible issues such as confusion faced by your toddler, having to care for the physical needs of both your newborn and your toddler (including breastfeeding, feeding, naps and diaper change) and to find time for yourself to rest. For your sanity, let’s explore some of the possible issues and how to handle them!
#1 No extra hand
When your newborn comes along and you have an older child at toddler age, you may find yourself literally without enough hands! Let’s imagine when you’re bringing your toddler out with your newborn – you would have to hold the hand of your older child, yet your newborn needs carrying. It can be difficult when you have a stroller as well, since at some point, you may need both hands to maneuver the stroller.
Tip #1.1 – Wear your newborn
A sling or baby carrier can be really useful – apart from freeing your hands, it helps to calm your newborn when he is nested close to you.
Tip #1.2 – Get extra hands
You may have to plan your outing such that you have another adult to help you. At home, you can continue to wear your baby, and at other times, get help to look after your toddler or to help with some chores around the house (since all chores requires hands as well!)
Tip #1.3 – Your toddler can be your helper
If you like, you can pretend play with your toddler on the chores that he can help you with – for instance, fetching diaper, baby wipes and milk bottles. Also he can start fetching his own stuff so you won’t have to fetch his when you’re busy with your newborn.
#2 Mission impossible to 24/7 care for your newborn
You know that a newborn is totally dependent on you – feeding, diaper change, shower and getting to nap/ sleep. Caring for your newborn is a huge task and you also need to rest in order for your body to recover after delivery. Enough rest, nutrition and fluids will also help with your breast milk supply. It can seem to be mission impossible to do so and to care for another young child.
Tip #2.1 – Plan a preschool for your toddler
Six months before the delivery of your newborn, it would be a good planning to search for a preschool for your toddler. Preschool can offer many benefits, including an environment for your toddler to build his social skills. Ask for recommendations for a quality preschool – one that offers a safe and secure environment, with an emphasis on all-rounded development for your toddler. Placing your toddler in a preschool is a win-win – your child gets to explore, learn and have fun safely, while you get to focus on your newborn during the time your toddler is at preschool.
Tip #2.2 – Plan for your toddler’s involvement
You can’t possibly ship your toddler somewhere and you shouldn’t be having such thoughts! Instead accept that once your newborn arrives, your family dynamics will change. From a family of three, you will be a family of four. Embrace it before your newborn even arrives. Let your toddler know how the daily routine will change, and how your toddler can help. Start giving your toddler some simple responsibilities like carrying his own backpack, or helping to put cups or milk bottles in the washing area. More importantly, let the toddler know his space at home, and that his sibling will also have his/her own space. This space, for instance the nursery is out of bounds when the door is closed so that your toddler will not wake your newborn up when the newborn is (finally) asleep!
#3 Breastfeeding and Feeding
Breastmilk is the ideal nutrition for your newborn; on the other hand, your toddler would have started on solids and may have weaned off breastfeeding. However, your toddler may either still be breastfeeding, or decide he wants to breastfeed if he sees you nursing his sibling. Even if your toddler is not interested in breastfeeding, he may ask for food when you are breastfeeding your newborn. It can be a real struggle, especially if both your newborn and toddler are crying for food at the same time!
Tip #3.1 – Decide ahead if you want to wean your toddler off breastmilk before your newborn arrives
There is no guilt if you stop breastfeeding your toddler, and conversely, it is also your decision if you want to continue with breastfeeding. What is important is to be honest with yourself on what you can cope.
Tip #3.2 – Practice with your toddler on what to expect when you’re breastfeeding
It is not necessary nor recommended to hide breastfeeding from your toddler, instead it can be helpful if you explain to your toddler before your newborn arrives that mommy has to breastfeed his younger sibling. He can help by sitting beside you quietly, or choosing that time to engage in a special activity that he can do on his own.
Tip #3.3 – Separate meal times
You can try separating the meal times and have your toddler’s meal with him, while breastfeeding your newborn at another time. That way your toddler gets to have you and your attention in his own way.
#4 Resting and Sleeping
This can be difficult or easy to manage depending on your current bedtime routine with your toddler. If you’re co-sleeping, you may find it difficult to co-sleep and nurse your newborn. It may also be difficult to find time to sleep or rest. Your toddler will not be quiet at all times, and you will have to find ways to ensure that your newborn gets uninterrupted sleep.
Tip #4.1 – Consider setting up your toddler to sleep on his own
If you’re co-sleeping, you may have to get your toddler to sleep on his own before your newborn comes. Do not make it as though he has to sleep on his own because you have to sleep with his sibling. Instead sleeping on his own is part of growing up and having his own room, and a grown-up kid bed can help him to look forward to his ‘sleep independence’!
Tip #4.2 – Engage your spouse to help
Your spouse can help to carry out the bedtime routine with your toddler so that you can help your newborn to feed and sleep. Start changing the routine before your newborn arrives – that way, you’d get a few months of extra minutes of me-time in the evening and your toddler will be less likely to associate sleeping on his own as being a result of his sibling’s arrival.
Tip #4.3 – Set up quiet nap zones
Having a space such as a separate room will be easier for you to set up quiet nap zones. If this is not possible, you may want to set up some barrier so that your toddler will be less likely to interrupt baby’s nap times.
Tip #4.4 – All sleep together
On the other hand, you may want to arrange the routine such that there is an afternoon nap when both your children are napping, and hopefully you can nap as well! It may be difficult to plan this ahead, but perhaps for a start, getting a bigger bed will be helpful if you intend on doing so!
Trying to plan ahead when you have a child has its challenges, and much more when you have two young children. Seek help if you cannot manage, and do not feel bad or guilty if you have to ask for help or reduce some chores or responsibilities – it’s probably a good time to reduce the current to-do list since it would get longer when your newborn is home!