J and I wanted to have kids close together in age. We knew that it might be crazy at first, but loved the thought of them being buddies from the start. Besides, we were already in the trenches and taking care of an infant was fresh in our minds. A was at such an easy and fun age and we were so in love with him we couldn’t wait! We were so excited to get pregnant right away, and I immediately started asking other moms who have two kids under two years of age for advice. I received such helpful information, and that coupled with my own research and ideas made the transition from 1 to 2 a lot easier on everyone, especially A. Here is what has worked for me (and by “worked” I mean like 70% of the time. The other 30% I am in tears!):
- Prepare your toddler by talking about the baby when pregnant, and reading stories about becoming a big sibling (I love the Rachel Fuller series!). Involve toddler in as much as you can! We took A to an ultrasound, we touched my belly, we brought baby items in the house in advance like the swing, etc.
- Make special basket of toys for older child that he/she gets to play with when you are feeding newborn. A now runs to get this basket when he sees me whip out my boob. A isn’t into TV at all and I prefer it that way, but let me say the exception to that is he loves the movie “Frozen” and it has been played more times than I care to admit because #survival.
- Don’t always choose the baby first – the older child is the one who is going to remember all of this, so if both are crying and you can tend to the toddler first and baby is safe, baby is going to be fine crying for a few minutes but older child will appreciate that the baby doesn’t always come first. For example, if baby wakes up and cries when I am putting A down for a nap, I do not rush through the process. That is A’s special time, it takes me 5 minutes so it isn’t forever, and I pick up baby and feed him as soon as I get downstairs. Everyone survives. If baby starts crying while A and I are reading our 10th story, storytime is over and baby wins. I just take it case by case.
- Try not to blame the baby. Instead of saying “I can’t play with you now because I have to feed the baby” say “I want to read you a story, and then later we can play with your toys together – what story do you want to read?” Side note – I love reading stories to A while nursing C. He brings me the books and I can read with one hand while he turns the pages for me.
- Set aside special one-on-one time with your older child, whether that involves hiring a sitter to watch the baby, or trading off with your husband to take older child on play dates, make sure he/she still gets that individualized attention when possible. Also, newborns nap all the time so that leaves lots of time for you to play with your toddler alone. Every Friday my mother-in-law comes over to watch C and I take A out, usually to the park or somewhere else he can play. It is just the two of us and I look forward to it each week.
- Let older child help when possible (bringing you a diaper, etc.) So for the first 3 weeks, I was scared to let A near C. A kind of had a cold, and he doesn’t realize his strength at all. But then I could tell that A felt sad to be separated from the baby. After asking a stranger at the park for advice (because I literally ask everyone for advice, I have no shame) who told me that babies are much stronger than we think and to let them be around each other, I let A play with the baby (supervised) and it made a huge difference. Now he wakes up each day and says “baby!” and just wants to be around him, snuggling him, bringing him his pacifier, etc. Basically everything I could have ever hoped for and my heart already melts seeing them together.
- Have a safe and contained space for the toddler. With 2 under 2, your older child is not old enough to run around the house unsupervised (at least my ninja isn’t!). We have a playroom that is gated off from the rest of the house and completely baby proofed. (Even a pack and play will work). We hang out in there together, but if I need to use the restroom, or get baby in his carseat, or start cooking or whatever I know that A is SAFE. And contained haha.
- Stick with your discipline/parenting style for your toddler, but show him/her some grace as well. A is pretty well behaved but he is at the boundaries age. That, plus less attention, equals some limit testing behavior. Most of the time he will touch the baby nicely and say “nice nice” like we taught him, and then out of nowhere he will slap C’s face or pinch his toes and say “Ow!”. As much as I want to freak out (and I accidentally have for sure), I try my best to remain calm, not take it personally, and show A how to touch the baby properly and move on.