25 Tips & Tricks for Transitioning to 2 Under 2 (Part 2): AFTER Baby Arrives
If you haven't read "Tips & Tricks for Transitioning to 2 Under 2 (Part 1): BEFORE Baby Arrives", take a moment and start there as it includes all the things you need to know and things to prepare for before baby arrives!
AFTER Little One Arrives:
1. INTRODUCTION: Before introducing baby, make sure he/she is well fed and happy before introducing the toddler to the baby so the baby isn't crying on their first meeting!
When baby arrives, if it's just you and your spouse, have your spouse meet your toddler to get them excited about meeting their baby brother/sister. If you have a 3rd person, have that person stay with the new baby while you and your spouse go and see your toddler. Spend a few minutes with just your toddler first and ask about their time, read a book, and love on them for a few last moments before they meet the newest addition.
Then in a very excited voice, ask your toddler if they are ready to meet their baby brother/sister?! Kids feed off of your tone, so keep it positive and uplifting. We had our toddler come outside to meet the new baby. Have a gift your toddler can give to the baby (such as this Polar Bear Jellycat) and have a gift for the toddler from the new baby (such as another stuffed animal or something more creative) so he/she instantly feels connected. (Wise words from a few friends!) They obviously won't know that the baby didn't actually pick it out. They may also be at an age where they attach the gift giver with the gift which is super cute too. We had baby brother give our toddler this Bunny Jellycat since I'm obsessed with Jellycats (and so is my toddler) as well as a Baby Doll Stroller which she LOVED. When we ask her who the bunny and stroller are from, she makes sure to tell us, "Baby Jack!"
Here is a pic of their first meeting and Evi giving the polar bear to her baby brother. We thought it was best to have them meet outside so she didn't feel like he was intruding on her space the first time they met. I'm not an expert though, just our approach. We also wanted to make sure that our toddler felt like it was the baby joining us and our family, and not the other way around, as the last thing you want to do is make the toddler feel like they are being replaced.
2. EXPECT TO BE EXHAUSTED: First of all, if you plan to be or are already in the trenches with 2 under 2, we are in the trenches with you! Know it's 100% normal to be completely and utterly exhausted. I am writing this as baby is 8 weeks, and we've only had one 4-hour stretch of sleep in the last 3 weeks. Baby has a bad case of GERD, lately hasn't been sleeping more than 1.5 to 2 hours at a time, requires mama to be on a MSPI diet (more on that in another post), and only naps in 30-40 minute stretches. This mama is TIRED! Many days (and late nights) I just have to tell myself, "Keep on going!" I remind myself daily that this is only a phase and soon it will be over, so try to enjoy and embrace each day, even as much of a circus as it may be as we will never be at this exact moment again, and before we know it, they will be off to college.
3. REMIND YOURSELF OF A PERSPECTIVE SHIFT: Sometimes I have to take a step back and just look at their tiny little faces, take in their sweet little snuggles as I hold them, feel their squishy little cheeks as I kiss them, and then think about the faces of my friends' older kids and tell myself, soon my kids will be there, and I'll long for this baby stage again! I also say a continued prayer to help me live in the present and soak in all the moments and joys that this innocent stage brings. I just love this inspirational sign as it is helpful for a renewed perspective during the tougher days as well. Find it on Amazon!
4. GRACE, GRACE, & MORE GRACE: Take time to fully wrap you head around and embrace the mindset that extra grace will be needed - for yourself, for your spouse, and for your kids. There will be days you feel like SuperMom with all you accomplished in a day... and then there are days when mere survival was the only thing accomplished. It's OK and perfectly normal!
Speaking of grace and a perspective shift, I haven't done much in this current stage of life, but one of the few things I try to do every morning and/or night is read this Jesus Calling devotional. (Ignore my scribbles, I usually read it while nursing so handwriting isn't the best.) I have found that each devotional speaks to me in unique ways and offers a source of daily encouragement, especially during crazy pandemic times where we all feel like we have little control in our lives. If you need a little pick me up or some encouragement, I couldn't recommend it more highly.
5. NOT SO PRETTY: Keep in mind, the first few weeks probably won't look so pretty, and even sometimes downright ugly with toddler tantrums and figuring out new routines with sleep deprivation and little time to shower regularly. Few moms talk about it, but postpartum can be rough, and especially tough with a toddler and newborn. Add in fluctuating hormones and extreme sleep deprivation, and it's one giant roller coaster of ups and downs. Did I mention my toddler also started her 2 year sleep regression early, right at the perfect time I was getting 2-3 hours total of sleep per night with our baby who had a bad case of GERD and who wouldn't sleep longer than 1-2 hour stretches? It was rough to say the least and took a major toll on my mama body and heart. If you get so lucky to go through this too, know you are not alone, but you WILL get through this!
Figuring out new routines and a new rhythm takes time so allow extra grace and patience. Just as I would settle my toddler into a book or quiet activity to try and get my newborn nursed or asleep, no fail, our toddler would pounce on the baby, start talking loudly to the baby, start "singing", or the dog would start barking...and baby would be awakened and the process would repeat... It's a special challenge when you have a toddler and newborn as the toddler isn't quite old enough to sit and be safe in a room while I would go upstairs and put baby down. You definitely have to be creative. Try independent play time with a large Portable Play Yard or area that is completely toddler proofed (including safe toys and books and an area they can't escape) so you know your little one is safe and sound if you have to leave the room temporarily. If you do have to leave the room for a short while, have an extra baby camera in the room and watch your child on the monitor to ensure they are staying safe.
6. MAKE TIME FOR YOU: I know it is SO HARD to even find 5 free minutes in the day, but remember, happy mom = happy kids, so do what you can to start with even 5-20 min to yourself. Sit and drink that cup of coffee or tea, take a bath or nice long shower, listen to music, sit outside for a few peaceful quiet moments, or go for a short walk. Have a friend or your spouse watch the kids for an hour and run a solo errand. Do what brings you some joy and relaxation! I remember early on, I asked my husband for 60 seconds of uninterrupted me time, and I would go downstairs and eat some dark chocolate on the sofa and just veg out for that delightful minute. It was small, but I needed it to take on the rest of the night or day. Soon it grew to 5 minutes and now I try to take 15-20 if possible.
Also get out of the house and get some fresh air when possible. I know it's more challenging than in the past, but even try to go for a walk outside, drive through to get a coffee, go to the park, or meet a friend for a playdate!
7. LET IT GO / KEEP "THE BIG PICTURE" IN MIND. Let go of many of the expectations you have early on and learn to just embrace what each day brings! This can be so hard for the go-getter / over achiever / planner types out there, but the more you realize how little is actually in your control, the happier you will be. Then when things don't go as planned, you are much more able to be flexible and go with the flow than getting upset.
Things may look completely different for your next child and that's OK! You may not have the same time, energy, or attention you had with your first, but now your baby has extra siblings to love on him/her! My friend always told me, the greatest gift you can give to your child is a sibling as they will have a lifelong friend that will love and cherish them for the rest of their lives. Again, BIG PICTURE.
It's also OK if your newborn doesn't take all their naps in the crib/bassinet and isn't on a strict schedule! Naps can happen while holding baby, baby wearing, or in the car. With our first baby, we did a modified sleep training approach with her and took the time and steps to get her to master falling asleep on her own by putting her down "sleepy but awake". But when our second child arrived, not only did he have a bad case of GERD and had a hard time sleeping (especially on his back), but he also had a very loud older sister.
We let go of our original plans and let a lot of things slide, such as taking many naps in the swing since he slept the best there, and it was in a separate room away from big sister who loved to wake him up right as he would fall asleep! (I kept the monitor on him of course.) I didn't want him to get dependent on the swing, but also needed him to sleep so he wasn't overtired. I also couldn't spend 30-45 minutes every nap time trying to get him to sleep on his own while managing a toddler. We aim for 1-2 naps in the bassinet and the other naps wherever it's easiest for mama! Don't stress! In the end, you have to keep the big picture in mind and remember, those many naps all merge into one nap (and then the dreaded no nap eventually! Ahhh, don't say it!) Do what you need to do to survive and what makes the most sense for the current state of your family, and keep the big picture in mind.
8. SAME SCHEDULE: Try to get the kiddos on the same schedule for at least 1 nap a day. Getting the baby and toddler down to sleep in the afternoon for their nap has made a huge difference so that I can have even 15 min of me time while still getting dinner ready or doing laundry, or cleaning up from lunch. If I'm super lucky and baby takes a long nap, I can even lay down for a nap (or at least a little rest period) while they both are napping.
9. SUPPORT SYSTEM: Have a support system and don't be afraid to ask for help! People want to help! Whether it's a meal train, grandparents helping, friends coming over for support, or another mom friend picking up your toddler for a play date or taking them to the park for an hour so you can sleep, make sure to let people help you! When grandparents are visiting, make a list of things that they can help with such as help feed the toddler, help make meals, help do laundry, help with nap time, grocery shop, etc. After all, it really does take a village! Ask your mom friends, church friends, and mom's groups for recommendations for babysitters as well as "mother's helpers". This could be a high school or college student that comes over even a couple hours during the week so you can meal prep, do laundry, go on a jog, or run that solo errand!
And if you're the praying type, pray early and often! There are many mornings I would say, "God, just give me the energy, grace, and patience to get through today." Even simple prayers like, "God help me to be grateful, even in the trenches," "God, help me to be the example my kids need," "Help me to live in the present and not take any moment for granted," really make a difference in my perspective, attitude, and daily living.
10. WEAR BABY: Wear baby with a baby carrier to be hands free so you can still play with your toddler, prepare dinner, or do laundry! Find a baby carrier you love such as this Tula Explore baby carrier or a wearable wrap similar to the Solly Baby Wrap for getting started. Reasons I love the Tula Explore baby carrier:
How easy it is to put on and take off as well.
I didn't need to buy a newborn insert for it.
You can wear it 3 ways (facing in, forward facing out, and back carry).
It works from infant to toddlerhood.
When baby arrived from the hospital, he was right at 7lbs so even though the TULA weight range is from 7-45lbs, he was a little peanut so I used a Solly baby wrap similar to this wearable wrap for the first few weeks until he grew a little more to fit comfortably in the TULA. Bonus, I have a smaller baby wrap (it's actually a newborn photography wrap) that my daughter likes to wear with her baby dolls so she can be like mommy.
11. TODDLER TALK: Toddler's hear so often all the things you have to do for baby ("Mama has to feed baby brother," "Mama needs to change baby brother's diaper," "Mama needs to put baby brother down for nap"), so also let them hear when you are spending focused time on them. For example, even though the baby won't understand this, it will make the toddler feel special when you look at the baby and say, "Mama needs to get lunch ready for your big sister," "Mama needs to help big sis with going potty," "Mama needs to play with big sister now," etc.
12. INVOLVE THEM: When baby does arrive, let your toddler help and be involved as much as possible. My daughter gets so excited to help change the baby's diaper, she will literally stop whatever she is doing and race to me to help get the supplies ready, open and close his diaper tabs, and throw the diaper away. I also have her help diaper her doll or stuffed animal next to me which she loves to do too.
13. BIG SIBLING BOOKS: Keep reading your big sibling books and point out who is who in the books. Include their name and baby's name as you read and point out activities they help with now that baby has arrived (Ex. There you are helping change baby brother's diaper!).
14. NAP/NURSING ACTIVITIES: Have a special box of toys your toddler gets to play with only when you're nursing or when you're putting baby down for a nap. Then they will still feel special and excited even when you have to focus your time and attention on the new baby. Make sure the activities can't cause any harm to the toddler or to your house (such as choking hazards or markers or even colors if your toddler is anything like mine and the moment you leave the room, the kitchen has been crayola'd...)
15. PLAN FOR EXTRA TIME: Just know that getting out the door takes not 2x, but 10x longer with 2 under 2. It is inevitable that by the time you are ready to load up the car, one or both will need a diaper change or the toddler will throw a tantrum because the sky won't actually rain cats and dogs... or whatever reason. Just plan on getting everything ready long before you plan to leave with the car packed, then right before you plan to leave, try to nurse/feed the newborn so hopefully they can take a nap in the car, and feeding will be one less thing you have to worry about right away.
16. EMBRACE "CLUNKY": My friend told me that my new word for 2 under 2 would be "clunky" and she was right! Getting out the door feels extra clunky with 2 kiddos and diaper bags, snacks, milk/water, toys, and a larger double stroller, etc. Embrace it and know this stage is only temporary and soon they will be in kindergarten (and then college - yikes!) not needing all your help to get from point A to point B.
17. EXPECT MELTDOWNS: Bringing home a new baby rocks everyone's world and routines and requires sacrifices from all, but this is especially true for your toddler. My toddler started throwing tantrums right around the time baby was here, so expect it and know it's completely normal, so take extra deep breaths and know, this too shall pass!