Wahooo you’re pregnant. Exciting isn’t it?
Then you glance up from peeing on a stick to see the cheery face of your toddler smiling back at you. How on earth are you going to cope with a newborn AND a toddler? It’s always going to be a bit of a juggle but there are practical steps you can take to make life a little easier.
As this is your second time around you know what you need (and what was a useless pile of rubbish). Stock up on the essentials and leave the fancy outfits for people who want to buy you gifts.
Now is the time to start big changes, moving to a big bed or potty training. Don’t leave it until you're 8 months pregnant and the size of a house.
Prepare your toddler for what’s about to happen. Get them involved as much as possible, take them to scans, explain what’s happening and their important role in being a big brother or sister. Sometimes we forget toddlers have feelings so reassure them of their place in the family and that your love for them won’t change.
The first few weeks
Stop adding pressure. Don’t expect too much of yourself (or your toddler) for the first few weeks. It’s a period of adjustment just like after your first baby and if you have visions of perfect parenting then you’ll end up disappointed. Forget any significant changes during this time, leave potty training or any major toddler transitions until after the 3 month mark.
If someone offers to help, take it. It could be the perfect chance to grab some time with your toddler or get out for a few hours without juggling.
With a brand new baby it’s easy to take your eye off your toddler but they’re still a baby. And although they’ve ever known is you. Don’t be surprised if they’re extra clingy or don’t want anything to do with you - the physical changes you go through plus a new person in the house can be a real struggle. Patience and reassurance are your keywords now (and deep breathing in the cupboard when it all gets too much).
Feeding and changing
Get your toddler involved. They can bring you a nappy or hand you a muslin. If they haven’t seen you breastfeed then explain what you’re doing. You can nurse two children at the same time (it’s called tandem feeding) and it takes a bit of practice.
Remember that guidelines for sleeping and feeding change all the time so spend 10 minutes updating yourself.
Keeping your toddler amused
Create safe spaces where you know you can leave your toddler alone for a few minutes if you need to do a nappy change.
If you see negative behaviour towards the new baby then redirect using positive language ‘I can see you want to hold your brother’ rather than “Stop trying to pick up the baby’.
It’s normal for your toddler’s behaviour to go backwards a bit when a new baby arrives, it usually sorts itself out in a few weeks.
No one wants to stick their toddler in front of the iPad or tele but figure out what keeps them occupied for the longest and if needed use it!
It can feel like a marathon just getting to the front door so try and avoid any fixed times or early starts for the first few weeks until you get into more of a routine.
Explore your options for getting out and about with two little ones - there are pram and buggy options but you could also consider a sling or buggy board.
If you’re having an awful day bundle everyone up and go for a walk, the fresh air instantly makes everyone feel a bit better and burns off some of that toddler energy.
Bath and bed
And finally it’s the end of the day but how do you bath a tiny baby and a slippery toddler? Most kids respond well to routine and if possible keep up the same bath and bedtime set up you had before the new baby came along.
Accept that everyone might be a bit cranky and have an arsenal of tools at hand - a baby swing can keep your baby occupied while you sort your toddler, dual bathtimes with your baby in a seat leaves your hands free and 10 minutes of television can be just what your toddler needs to calm down while you sort the baba. And the world won’t end if your kids don’t get a bath every night, a wash down is fine.
The most important thing is to keep you all safe and sane so if you have to chuck all the rules out the window for a while then do that. Lean on friends and family if you can and your health visitor and GP can be a source of helpful information and advice.
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