On one hand, you probably feel a lot more prepared for your next baby than you were your first. You know the ropes and trust your knowledge and motherly instincts. At the same time, adding a newborn to a house with a toddler can come with a whole new set of fears and challenges.
Adding another sibling to your family is an exciting and beautiful time, but having a toddler and a newborn in the house can be difficult, tiring, and downright overwhelming. We’re dedicating our post today to some helpful tips on managing a household with a newborn and a toddler.
How to Survive a Newborn and Toddler
Right now you’re probably thinking back to your first go at newborn life. You’re thinking of changing diapers every hour, attempting to transfer for naps, and constantly feeding your baby—On top of all of that, you’re thinking about your toddler’s routine! How do those two things go together?
Here are eleven tips to make the transition for your family as easy as possible! At Safe in the Seat, we know all about this turbulent time.
Share the Idea of Baby with Your Toddler
Though the transition to caring for a toddler and a baby is difficult for you, it’s also tough and confusing for your toddler. Sharing the idea of the new baby with your toddler can help guide them into this new normal with as few headaches and tantrums as possible!
Here are a few ways to share what life will be like after baby. These ideas will help your toddler adjust and look forward to the notion of a sibling.
Get a Baby Doll
Get a baby doll like this one. They can give your child a way to grow accustomed to the idea of a sibling. Roleplay with the doll everything from getting the baby in the car to putting it to bed at night. This will help your toddler understand the routine switch after baby in a fun way that will also develop their capacity for empathy once baby arrives.
If you’re on our Instagram, you know we LOVE using books to break down big concepts for your kiddo. There are a ton of books out there aimed at educating young children on the concept of being a sibling and having a baby around. This is another great way of preparing your toddler for the new baby in a totally fun way! Here are a few book options we love!
- André the Best Big Brother by Mikaela Wilson
- Noelle the Best Big Sister by Mikaela Wilson
- My New Baby by Rachel Fuller
- Waiting for Baby by Rachel Fuller
- Big Sisters are the Best by Fran Manushkin
- Big Brothers are the Best by Fran Manushkin
Pick Out Gifts
It’s no secret that toddlers love gifts. To help your kiddo develop a bond with your baby-to-be, we recommend taking your toddler shopping for their new sibling! Allow them to pick out a gift to give to the baby once he or she is born. This will develop positive emotions and anticipation around the idea of the birth.
Additionally, pick out a gift that can be given to your toddler from the baby once they meet for the first time. This is a great relationship icebreaker!
Allow Toddler to Help with Baby Prep
You’ve got a lot to get ready for the new baby. Whether you’re doing laundry, assembling the crib, or stocking the diaper bag, allow your toddler to help. It will take a little longer, yes, but this will give them a sense of control and develop excitement about their new sibling!
They can even help you pick out a car seat with our car seat buying kits! After all, your toddler spends more time in a car seat than you do, so consider their opinion that of an expert! (Just kidding.)
Roleplay What Happens When Baby Comes
Now with this one, we don’t mean to explain what happens to the baby when that big moment comes, but what happens to your toddler! If all of a sudden mommy is headed to the place of birth and your toddler doesn’t know what to expect, that can create a lot of unnecessary worries.
Roleplay or storyboard with your toddler to explain to them where they will be going, who they will be staying with, how long they will be there, and every other detail that pertains to them! Also, assure your toddler that you’re safe and thinking about them while away and that you can’t wait to see them soon.
Establish Deliberate One-on-One Time with Your Toddler
Even before baby is born, find time every day to spend one on one with your toddler. We are not talking an hour and a super organized activity that you plan a week in advance; we mean 5-10 minutes of undivided attention.
Allow your toddler to lead this time, doing whatever they want (well, within reason!)! Make sure you will have no distractions. No baby. No phone. Spend time with just them at a specific time each day, so they know to expect it and look forward to it. We recommend using a visual timer like this one since you won’t have your cell!
Be Intentional About Toddler and Baby’s First Meeting
Have you thought about how and where you want your toddler to meet your baby? There is no right or wrong location, but we believe the best way to make this introduction is on a neutral playing field.
If you’re in the hospital, allow your older child to enter when there is no one else around aside from your birthing partner. Have the nurses take the baby for a minute, and let your toddler greet you and get used to the environment. If you’re still hooked up to IVs and monitors, your toddler needs time to ask questions and get comfortable.
If you’re at home, the same is true. Have the baby leave for a moment and let your toddler say hello to you. Then, have the newborn enter to meet the toddler instead of the other way around. This takes into account your toddler’s feelings over your new baby, who probably won’t have much of a preference.
Create a Safe Space for Both Baby and Toddler
When it comes to having a newborn and toddler, prioritize creating environments/systems to make your life easier. One thing you don’t want to be doing is chasing around your toddler all day telling them they can’t touch something or can’t go somewhere.
Create a safe space for your toddler and your baby to be, so when you are tending to one, you know the other is safe! For your toddler, it could be a room that’s totally childproof, or it could be a large playpen with toys suited for them! For your baby, it could be as simple as placing them in a bassinet without loose blankets. These safe spaces will give you peace of mind as you care for the other child.
Keep Your Toddler Entertained in Easy Ways
You might be setting up camp with your newborn in one room as you did with your firstborn, but toddlers can grow bored of the same scenery and toys. Before you know it, they’re pulling on your leg or whining to you while you feed the baby.
When this happens, try to provide your toddler with something stimulating and fresh! You could verbally tell them a story or simply move to another room with different furniture to climb on and different toys to play with!
Another great idea is to assemble a couple dozen “busy bags.” These are simple ziplock bags that you can keep in a drawer or in a basket somewhere easily accessible, and inside they have inexpensive, but stimulating activities to keep toddlers busy. Only give them the busy bags when you do need to accomplish something or feed the baby; they will look forward to it!
Color sorting games, building kits, coloring pages, counting activities, and more can be done with materials like felt and popsicle sticks! Here is a book with over 50 great ideas, but Pinterest has lots for free too! Assemble these bags before baby is born and have them armed and ready to keep your on-the-go toddler occupied for even a few minutes.
Free Your Hands as Much as Possible
With baby number one, they had your full attention. Though you might have wanted to get up and do some laundry, nothing was really keeping you from holding that newborn for colicky outbursts or contact naps. Now, with a toddler in the midst, you’re going to need those hands.
Get a baby carrier or wrap to keep your baby held tight while you prepare lunch for your toddler or assist with a potty break. Also, consider getting a headset or wireless headphones for taking phone calls without having to use your hands. More items that will help your hands stay free include a hands free breast pump or automatic formula mixer.
Allow Toddler to Help and Feel Involved
Engage your toddler in the day-to-day of your new routine. Allow them to fetch you a diaper or sing a lullaby while you rock the baby to sleep. Even give them time to practice holding your newborn and learning to play gently with their new sibling.
The goal is to prevent your child from feeling isolated with a newborn in the house. Involving them in baby care will make them feel included, loved, and entertained! This will also help create lasting bonds between your toddler and new baby.
Coordinate Naps and Routine
This one might be a long shot, but give it a try! If possible, try to get your toddler and newborn to nap at the same time. Either put your toddler to sleep first, since they’ll likely nap longer, and then put the baby down, or get your baby to their napping spot and then lie down with your toddler. This will give you much-needed rest and your toddler their much-needed cuddles.
For the rest of your routine, just spend some time in trial-and-error figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Who does it make sense to get ready first? When is the best time for your toddler’s meals? Does the bedtime routine work? Breathe and adjust each day until you find a routine that is stress-free and works for everyone!
Lower Your Expectations
“Stress-free” may be a long shot, but we’re rooting for you, momma! Understand that this is a BIG transition and don’t expect yourself to have it all figured out in the first week or even the first month. Give yourself some grace as the house gets messy or you order fast food more often. You are doing the best for your family every day, even if it doesn’t look the same as before the new baby.
Don’t get bogged down with how clean the house is or how much you’re working out. Care for your children and take care of yourself! We know the newborn stage can be overwhelming, and self-care can seem impossible, but it’s important for your health to do things for yourself—even if it’s just going to the grocery store without kids!
The thought of managing a house with both a newborn and a toddler can be overwhelming, but with a little preparation, you can smoothly transition and develop lasting bonds between your two children.
With a little work before the baby is born and some grace during the transition, your new life with a newborn and a toddler can be more peaceful than expected. Take time to plan out your steps and get your older child used to the idea of a new sibling. Once the baby is here, be mindful of your toddler’s feelings and have steps in place to make them feel prioritized and comfortable. You’ve got this, momma!
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