Welcoming a new baby into the family can be a joyful experience for parents, as well as for the little siblings. However, caring for two (or more) young children can be exhausting, stressful, and challenging. Siblings of your newborn may act out of jealousy, displacement, or loneliness caused by these feelings. Parents may require some time to adjust from one-on-one parenting to zone parenting.
Here are ways to cope and manage your toddler while caring for your infant.
Considering a preschool for your toddler
Bringing a new sibling home can be the perfect time to enroll your toddler in a preschool program, even if it is only part-time. Besides giving the parents one-on-one time with their new baby, it will also provide your toddler with something special reserved only for big kids, such as a sports club for toddlers, cooking classes etc., that will keep them engaged and entertained.
Consider starting your toddler at preschool a few months before your due date so that your toddler has time to adjust. Further, you may want to look into having your toddler’s first day of school take place a few weeks after you deliver your newborn so your toddler won’t have to start their preschool soon after your delivery, which may seem overwhelming to you and your toddler.
Create a play area
Set up areas where the toddler can play alone when you care for an infant and a toddler. Include child-sized shelves or bins that make cleaning up easy and allow your toddler to choose toys independently.
Consider play food, blocks, and other art supplies to be a part of their play. You may also want to have a toddler-sized table, chair, and child-safe items.
Further, make sure you create a separate safe space for your baby, such as a swing, playpen, or crib layered with soft crib sheets, so that you can put your baby down when your toddler needs your full attention.
Picking up a book or playing a game with a toddler may not be realistic if you have a newborn in your arms. In this case, you may want to tell a story rather than read one. When you have no stories at the moment, make up a story about whatever your toddler is into at the time-animals, fairy tales, superheroes, kittens, etc. Also, you may tell them stories about their or your early years, like when they (you) were babies. Your toddler would love listening to stories and enjoy them as they usually get a kick about hearing even the simplest of details about their babyhood.
Try to coordinate naps
Though this may sound challenging, it can be extremely useful if you coordinate nap times so that your infant and toddler are asleep at the same time during the day. It’s more likely that your toddler’s naps will be stable and predictable, so try to time your infant’s nap to coincide with that of your toddler.
Further, take advantage of your toddler’s nap time to spend quality time with your infant and vice versa. By spending some time alone with each child, you can feel more connected and grounded. Furthermore, it can help you stay connected and be more present with each other.
Take help from your Toddler
By involving your toddler as your special helper, you can help them feel engaged in caring for their new sibling while receiving some actual help from them. Although your toddler can’t handle complicated or direct baby care tasks unsupervised, they are capable of many other smaller tasks.
For example, you may ask your toddler to bring you a diaper, pacifier or baby overalls for your baby—or to get you a fruit or a protein bar. You may have your toddler sing a song or perform a dance to entertain the baby. You may include them in picking the next baby pajamas or gently patting them dry after bath time.
By doing so, your toddler will feel helpful and competent. Further, they will learn new skills while remaining close to you.
Sometimes admitting you need help may sound tough, but it’s crucial when looking after an infant and a toddler. You may want to consider taking up the offer from a friend, parent, or family member to watch your toddler. Or you may also hire a babysitter to watch your newborn while you spend time with your toddler.
You may also find someone to watch both of your kids so that you have time to take care of yourself, do your household chores, work from home, etc… Making sure you have plenty of alone time with yourself, time with your partner and each of your children is essential to a happy family as you can’t fully care for your children and family if you’re not taking care of yourself.