The first few weeks with newborn are challenging.
The sleepless nights, utter exhaustion, abdominal pain, engorged breasts, vaginal bleeding, sore nipples, emotional upheaval, and the list goes on and on…
Throw into the mix an energetic, possibly needy and confused toddler (or two!) and you are on your way to what I like to call “extreme parenting”. Whatever you thought you knew about being a mother takes on a whole new level! The knowledge you gained from your experiences with your firstborn remains invaluable.
But having to share yourself with a newborn and toddler is something you can’t really prepare for.
During this new stage of your life as a mother of two, you may find you are forced to extend yourself more than you thought possible. You may find your days blur into one long cycle of feeds, naptimes, tantrums, bath times, and feeds again. You may find yourself refining your ability to multitask with great precision. For example, you may master the ability to read bedtime stories and nurse simultaneously, you may be able to settle a windy baby and wipe your toddler’s bottom at once. You will be able to cook, eat and entertain both children at the same time!
You may find yourself saying more often, “that will just have to do!”. And some days you won’t have a spare minute to look at yourself in the mirror!
But not to worry, those who have ventured down this path before you have gotten through it and so will you! It is hard and exhausting but at the same time exhilarating and rewarding. And yes … it does get easier!
10 tips for life with a baby and a toddler …
1. Make the most of your time at hospital
Hospital time is an opportunity for you to rest and recuperate. You may be wanting to rush home to your budding toddler. But there’s no need to urgently rush home if you have someone reliable taking care of your them. While at hospital you get fed three nutritious meals, you don’t have housework, washing or cooking to factor in. Also, you have nurses there to support you. Remaining in hospital until “Day 4” passes will assist you with transitioning into home life with both a newborn and toddler.
2. Am I in labour again?!
Be prepared for the intense after birth pains that may come during the first week while you are breastfeeding your second child. You may have experienced these following the birth of you first child, but they are more commonly stronger and more intense with the birth of each subsequent child. The pain can be so extreme that they have been likened to labour pains and sometimes pain relief is needed!
3. Ask as many questions as possible when you can
Just because you have already had a baby does not mean you know it all. Every child is different and you should ask any questions that come to mind. You will be surprised by how much new knowledge may surface, or even by how much you have forgotten! Ask the midwives, lactation consultants’ doctors about anything that’s concerning you. And above all trust and follow your motherly instincts.
4. Use all the support you can get!
Parenthood is, at the least, a partnership. Some even say it “takes a whole village to raise a child“. Unfortunately modern society tells us something different. The nature of modern parenting puts a great deal of pressure and responsibility on individual parents. To primarily raise your children without the support of extended family and/or friends requires superhuman strength and patience. So when baby number two comes along don’t be too proud, or shy to seek support wherever you can find it. As independent as you are, it would be highly beneficial if you seek out the help of trustworthy family members such as grandparents, uncles, aunties, cousins.
If you don’t have a reliable family network nearby, rely on close friends as a source of comfort and support.
5. Make the most of the time with husband/partner at home
Life with two children gives dad plenty of opportunity to get involved. Daddy can take full responsibility for the toddler. Bathing, feeding and of course entertaining. Dad can also assist with the household duties of cooking, washing and cleaning. Take advantage of this time and ensure you rest and recuperate, before your husband/partner returns to work.
6. Try your best to remain calm and relaxed
As you have already discovered with your firstborn, life with children is unpredictable and chaotic! It is no different when number two is added to the family. Understandably, structure and routine is important to children, especially toddlers who have had their little world’s turned upside down. Routine provides a sense of security and comfort.
However, sometimes you have to relax and not get so caught up in a rigid routine. If your toddler needs extra cuddles to get to bed at night, or comes out while you are nursing at 3am, just let them be and try to remain relaxed. Everything will sort itself out eventually. Just focus on being a relaxed and calm mummy as this is invaluable to your family. Your calm and relaxed mindset positively impacts your newborn, toddler and husband/partner. So don’t stress over small stuff! Realise and accept that things will be chaotic, messy and crazy for now, and that things will settle eventually.
7. Get your toddler involved in caring for baby!
Nothing pleases a toddler more than receiving praise for something positive they have done. For example, getting nappies, helping at baby’s bath time or singing lullabies to baby. Teach your toddler to be gentle and calm around baby, especially around baby’s head. Encourage your toddler to care for baby. This will assist in setting a positive foundation for their sibling relationship.
Another strategy that some experts suggest can enhance a positive sibling relationship is to exchange gifts during the first meeting between newborn and toddler. It is suggested that you encourage your toddler to give baby a gift that he/she has chosen, and also give your toddler a gift from his new baby brother or sister. This may set a positive tone for the beginning of their lifelong relationship.
8. Ensure you spend some one-on-one time with your toddler!
As exhausted as you may be, it’s important that your toddler feels loved and cared for by mummy and daddy. After all he/she was your only baby for so long! They don’t need too much, just some close attention. You can read stories to them, or just cuddle if you are too exhausted. Some have suggested, lying down and getting your toddler to drive toy cars on your back! It combines entertaining your toddler and massage all in one! (As hilarious as that sounds, there actually exists a “car-shirt” that has been made precisely for this!)
9. Get out as soon as you can!
Getting out and about will help boost your mood and overall wellbeing. Understandably, it is hard to do because you have to factor in baby’s feeds, toddler’s daytime naps and now you have to get two children ready (as well as yourself!) But getting out for a little while every day or second day will drastically improve your mood and mental wellbeing. Invest in a double stroller, and/or even a baby capsule so that baby’s sleep is not interrupted too much by your outings.
10. Take advantage of the miracle alignment!
If your newborn and toddler are sleeping simultaneously, then you need to rest! Take this miraculous opportunity to take some time out for yourself. And that doesn’t mean cleaning nor tidying up! Have a shower, have a nap, whatever it is that will help you feel rested… use that time for yourself. Don’t feel guilty! You will be better for it and it will certainly help you get through those taxing night shifts!