One of the things I spent a lot of time googling, when pregnant with our second baby, was ‘how to look after a baby with a toddler in the house’ or ‘2 children under two – how does this work’ or, at some bleaker moments in the early hours ‘mother’s help uk immediate start’.
Anyway I really was quite confused about how this would work, the newborn and toddler combination, because having a newborn seemed pretty all consuming the first time around. Specifically, how would I have a hot chocolate and carrot cake in a coffee shop with my NCT friends with a toddler tearing the place up?
I’ll give it to you straight: you are not going to be having that hot chocolate. However, it really was less of a leap than I thought to go from 1 to 2 young children and there are a few things that made life a lot easier…
1. Don’t panic. You know the score this time! You don’t have to learn how to breastfeed again, how to change a nappy, how to walk the streets after a night of being woken every 40minutes when you are in the midst of teething. In short, you are already a step ahead of your previous newborn starting point. That said – don’t do what I did and feel so confident about breastfeeding that you don’t make sure you are establishing a good latch with baby2. I could have saved myself a lot of tears.
2. Make sure you have an excellent sling option. I rate the stretchy slings like this very highly for the first few months. They are easy to learn how to tie – watch these kind of videos. Rather than undo and re-tie every time you take your baby out, leave it tied (took me 2 years to realise this was an option). Having free hands really helps being able to continue with the strict park-toddlergroup routine your toddler has imposed.
3. Don’t worry too much about your toddler feeling too usurped – and don’t worry about your baby not getting enough time lying in a bed next to you instead of being carted around to satisfy your toddler’s every whim. I often feel like I haven’t got the balance quite right and adjust accordingly (extra time with the toddler doing something they like, or roping in someone to play with the toddler so that you can have a nap with your baby and just, you know, stare at them for a while). Whenever I feel like I’ve really done a bad job of the balancing act I remind myself that having siblings is far more important than the rest of it.
4. Enjoy the moments when you see your toddler gently stroking your baby’s head, or reading them a story.
5. Forget the moments when you see your toddler ‘cuddling’ the baby in a vice like grip.
6. Being out is often easier than being at home, even if it doesn’t feel like it when you are trying to get your toddlers shoes on and then your baby needs a nappy change and while you are changing the nappy your toddler takes their shoes off again and you feel like you will never again leave the house.
7. The house: Lower your standards a little but keep on top of the basics – I.e., as long as everything is clean don’t worry if you have a basket of clothes that need sorting. Baskets everywhere are a good idea – I have a number of these and these and keep them empty as often as I can. Then if there is clutter in a room and I don’t have time to sort it out properly I can just throw everything in there and at least the room doesn’t look like a disaster. If you can manage a couple of hours a week for a cleaner to come and zip around bathrooms/kitchens, this was a huge help to me in feeling like the place was not a disaster. I also don’t worry if my baby clothes drawer is a huge pile of unfolded clothes, as long as they are clean and in easy reach. Prepare meals whenever you get chance – if my husband is able to take the baby for a bath at 5pm then I quickly chop veg / get a soup started – just to start the process of supper in case I am nursing the baby for an hour later. Don’t feel bad if you end up eating the same easy meal / pre prepared food for a while. This is a stage! There are plenty of years ahead when you can showcase your culinary talents.
Don’t try to make this apple pie while your baby is teething. It will end in tears. (And no pie)
If you are frantically googling “how to look after a baby and TWO toddlers then I’m afraid I can’t help you. Only kidding! Fear not, I have just the guide for you! Coming soon.