The new norm: Juggling a toddler and a newborn

Blogger Beth MacDonald from BabyMac, and her sister Lucy talk about the challenges of parenting both a new born baby and a toddler.

Ask any new mother who came home from the hospital to a cranky toddler, who was  wondering when this new “thing” would be returned to the hospital, how that time was and it’s likely they just won’t remember. 

I have vague recollections through my blog, and an eye twitch that I believe developed somewhere around that time, but other than that? Nothing! Much like labour, I think we just push it aside as it can be full ON; a true game of survival.

It’s hard to get your head around the sheer practicality of getting into a routine once you’re home from the hospital, the newborn adrenaline hormones wear off and your partner has gone back to work. You can be left alone, feeling completely overwhelmed and outnumbered. And it can be HARD. 

Here are some of my tips and thoughts on this crazy time when you are dealing with both ends of the first thousand days parenting journey: a newborn and a toddler.

1. Try and prep for what’s coming

Before my new baby even arrived, I tried to let my toddler know about babies. We got books from the library about being a big sister, we tried to spend time with babies, especially new born ones that don’t make much noise but spend a LOT of time of their mummies. We tried to get her little head around change, and what that meant for her. Even though they probably won’t truly ‘get it’ until that new sibling arrives, it helps to talk about it. We also got a present from the baby that softened the blow a little. Toddlers truly can be manipulative little creatures; if bribing and gifts are what works for your family… go for it!

2. Try and get some help in the week before you’re due

Toddlers are exhausting and relentless. You will probably mock your previous pregnant self, who said she was tired before she gave birth, when you’re dealing with a toddler and a newborn... Try and get as much help as you can in that last week, so that you really truly CAN try and relax. Or you know, finish a cup of tea. You are about to give birth, you need to get your head into that space. Some time apart from toddler really won’t hurt either of you if you can get it.

3. Your baby will instantly grow up

From the moment they walk in and see their baby brother or sister for the first time, they will seem to magically age and grow ten fold. Your baby suddenly looks gargantuan. Their legs, hair, nappies, everything seems BIG. Even their tantrums! You probably won’t ever look at them in the same way.

4. Don’t rush into a routine

One of my favourite memories in the hospital when my second daughter was born, and she was losing her mind and wouldn’t settle, was me saying to her “use your words” then realising, she had no words! Talk about being conditioned by the two year old in my life! Because you might have a good routine with the toddler, you may be in a panic and rush to get that newborn into one too. But the thing with newborns, is that they have their own plans. Those first few weeks and months are topsy turvy so try to go with the flow. Easier said than done, but the fewer expectations the better. 

5. Set time aside for Number One

That toddler was the sole attention getter for you and your partner for some time, so be prepared for an adjustment period once the new baby is home. Given that you’ll probably be exhausted, your patience levels may be thin. But if you can try and allocate some time in the day just for you and your toddler, or your partner and them, do it. 

6. Distraction 

I’ve found that there’s often no one better to calm a baby than their sibling. Truly! Once they are past the newborn phase you can get them to distract that baby with singing or talking; it works every time! When the baby is breastfeeding (which takes SO MUCH TIME at the beginning) it’s a good idea to have some special toys for your toddler to pull out at feeding time to keep them distracted. 

7. Take pride in your victories, no matter how small

Ask any new mum (of two or more kids) about their greatest victory, and they’ll probably tell you it is getting out the door, and into the car for day care drop off, or a trip to the shops. 

I’ll never forget how proud I was getting my baby to hockey practice with her older sisters, without missing even a mouth guard! You deserve a ticker tape parade at these times, don’t forget it. Each time will get easier, but make sure you pat yourself on the back when you do it. 

Most of all, go easy. On you. On the toddler. On the baby. Drop those expectations and try and cocoon yourself for a few weeks as you all adjust to this new family realignment. It’s a big deal, and you need to be kind to all of you, big and small. Try and enjoy the ride. 

And try and record these days if you can: write a story, take a photo, somehow capture these precious moments, because if you’re anything like me or pretty much every single Mum I know, you will forget.

A button which you can click on to take you to a hub filled with information on the first thousand days.

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