When I was pregnant with my second baby I really worried. The normal pregnancy worries such as, will my child be healthy, and getting nervous before every check up and scan of course listening for a heartbeat.
But, another thing I worried about was how on earth I would juggle a newborn and a toddler. I also wondered if it would be possible to love my second baby as much as the first (it is).
I also had concerns about how my daughter would adjust, and how I would handle it.
I prepared for the new baby by trying to help my daughter be a bit more independent. I still rocked her to sleep for naps and bedtime. I am a big believer in rocking, nursing, or doing whatever you have to until it doesn’t work anymore.
I have never sleep trained her but she was a great sleeper. One thing I did to prepare was hand some of this rocking and putting to sleep over to my husband. I knew there would be some serious cluster feeding in the evening with my newborn so he pretty much took over her bedtime routine. We started doing this about halfway through my pregnancy so it would not be a shock when the new baby came.
This worked out well and I still got to rock her for naps, and spend all my remaining time with her so it was not a bad adjustment at all. While I was kind of sad about not putting her to bed any longer, I had to remind myself that I spent over a year plus doing it, and this was a great time for her to bond with her dad.
I also helped her learn to use the stairs on her own, and just be more independent in general. She was still very young though. Only 18 months when I was halfway through my pregnancy.
We also showed her books about being a big sister and talked about the baby coming plenty. I am sure some of this works better on a child a little older though because she did not seem to really get it!
I definitely would not make any huge changes in routine at any point right before your baby is born. If you must move your toddler out of a crib, room, or any other big change, start working on it when you are about halfway through your pregnancy. Having a new baby in the house is going to be a big enough adjustment on its own.
After the birth
I had my mom stay with my daughter at our home while I was in the hospital. This kept her routine and everything pretty normal. I think my husband also went home to help put her to bed.
I prepared a bag with a few gifts for my daughter to have at the hospital too. So, when she came to meet her brother for the first time she also got a gift.
Since she was so young she really barely acknowledged him. She seriously just wanted to look at, and play with her new gifts.
First weeks at home
To tell you the truth it wasn’t bad at all. Newborns sleep a ton so I was still able to give my daughter plenty of attention. She seemed to adjust just fine and really did not give the baby much attention in any way.
I think it’s important to keep your toddler’s routines and care as close to normal as possible. I tried to keep things consistent for her so she did not feel the baby was taking anything away.
The absolute hardest part for me was juggling nap times and bedtimes. As a SAHM (well I did work part time but was on maternity leave) all naps and juggling during the day are on me alone. Luckily, I had a very helpful husband at bedtime though.
My biggest anxiety inducer at the time was putting them both down for naps. I still wanted to rock my daughter (who was now 21 months) and I did not want to leave the baby crying at all if possible. Their schedules definitely were not lining up at all in those early weeks.
My biggest tips for dealing with nap times and bedtime:
Obviously the easiest solution is put your infant in a swing and take care of your toddler. This works out sometimes but..
Occasionally someone is going to scream and it’s okay.
It seemed like as soon as I left my sleeping baby to attend to my daughter he woke up and started screaming. And his scream was a painful sounding wail for the first three months. I am definitely not an advocate of cry it out, or letting a baby cry for any reason really, but sometimes I had to let him scream a bit while I tended to my daughter.
And he was okay, we were all okay, but it sucked to hear it while I was trying to get her to sleep!
Now if your toddler just goes to sleep on their own this won’t even be a problem for you. We still had a little nap routine and I did not want to take it away from her. Sure, I could leave her on her own in her room but she wouldn’t sleep at all if I did not wind her down first.
Try getting them ready for naps/bedtime together.
Sometimes I had to do bedtime on my own when my husband was working. I brought the baby into my daughter’s room and told her he had to be there with us. She accepted it. So I had my newborn in the rock N play, my daughter on my lap, and I read to them both, then put her in her crib and pulled the rock N play out of the room.
Other tips outside of bedtime for juggling:
Wear your baby.
This is huge!! This is the only way to get things done around the house with both a newborn and toddler. I wore my baby ALL THE TIME and was able to play with my daughter, prepare food, clean and basically do anything I needed.
Babies sleep much better and are happier when worn, than they are stuck in a swing or rock N play (though I did utilize those when needed).
When you are nursing, have your toddler sit on the other side of you and read to them. This worked well with my daughter and we could all snuggle.
Use the TV if needed.
I was a big ‘no tv till two’ person. Well that went out the window once my newborn was here. If I needed to deal with my baby, the TV worked to keep my toddler entertained and occupied for a few minutes here or there. If you have more than one child you are probably going to need the TV occasionally, don’t feel guilty about it.
Baby proof your house as much as possible.
There were times I had to leave my toddler alone and I knew she was safe so that helped. I have my family room pretty much locked down and completely baby proofed, it’s a huge help.
Ask your toddler to help you.
Many toddlers love to be helpful to mommy. Also, sometimes speak to your baby and tell them they will need to wait while you tend to your toddler. It helps your toddler hear you put them first.
Leaving the house
I started leaving the house with both kids alone after a few weeks. I was so nervous and it is challenging, but once you start doing it, it gets much easier.
I also have an awesome double stroller. I used it mainly for long walks in the neighborhood, the mall, and longer errands.
Besides errands, I made sure to do lots of fun things out of the house with my kids while my baby was young. I took my daughter to indoor playground type places, and once spring came along we went to many parks.
While my baby was still immobile this was very easy. Now once you have two running toddlers it’s a whole new ball game (and blog post!).