If you already have a toddler, preparing for a newborn can be totally overwhelming and completely exciting.
Adding a new baby to your family will always be thrilling, but this new excitement can also be, well, scary AF.
Twice the children mean two times everything and as a first-time - second-time mom, there are some things you need to do before having a second baby.
I empathize with your mindset, momma (and with two kids 21 months apart I’ve been there!). And I did the whole two under two thing and survived. (You can too!)
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Listen, I don’t fuck around here with cutesy language and make you feel like it’s all gonna work out (it will) but at first while you’re figuring out this new normal, it’s gonna SUCK ASS.
You’re gonna hate so many things about this new transition.
(Most of this hate will come from the lack of sleep, but we’ll get to that.)
But, you’ll likely find some of the most beautiful moments of your entire life in between the sleepless, overwhelmed-ness of it.
And in the process become a bit of a badass multitasking boss bitch momma...trust me).
But in the meantime, you’re going to need some survival tips from the trenches to get you through some of that initial chaos of having a newborn with a toddler close in age.
Getting Your Mindset Right for a Newborn with a Toddler
Because you now have two children, a newborn and a toddler, you’re going to need to adjust everything you already learned and know about parenting.
You’ve got two kids who need you in entirely different ways.
Your toddler may not be listening or cooperating because he’s going through some of the fastest and most intense brain development he will experience in his life.
Your newborn will be completely reliant on you for every single thing: feeding, diaper changes, bathing, and the comforting and adjustment of that famed fourth trimester living outside of your body.
As their parent, you will feel this push and pull of being able to meet everyone’s expectations and needs all of the time. (Sorry momma, you can’t).
The toddler will become jealous of the newborn; the newborn is not sleeping, the toddler needs mommy and suddenly is acting like a baby, the newborn is having trouble breastfeeding or, maybe is a rock star and requires hours of free time at the breast to be full.
There are so many unknowns.
Get your mind right, momma. You’re in the big game now, and what worked when you were parenting just one child may not work the same way again.
Tips to Survive Having a Toddler and a Newborn
As the saying goes, “every child is different” and this is going to be one of those annoying motherhood moments where I say, YAS! LISTEN TO THIS!
What worked for your oldest may not work for your second born.
The only way to deal with the unknown is to prepare for anything and perhaps even more than that, be open minded to other options for dealing with these new toddler behaviors or newborn quirks.
While you’re already going to be a bit of a pro at many things, some things that came so easily for your firstborn may be a legitimate struggle for your second and also the opposite is true.
My first had horrible acid reflux the entire first year of his life (to the point where he wore a constant stream of bibs from all the spit up all day every day). I was fully expecting my second to have this as well. But to my delightful surprise, he did not!
The healing that came from not having to juggle acid reflux medicines and special formula was replaced, however, with a very strong willed baby who had his own ideas of when he wanted to do everything from trying solid food for the first time, to how he would later respond to discipline and positive reinforcement techniques.
Keep Your Toddler on a Familiar Schedule
If there’s anything that you take away from this blog post let it be this: Keep your toddler on her familiar schedule as much as you can.
If you’re a working mom, and your toddler is in daycare, and you can afford it, keep them in daycare.
The fastest way to create more frustration, sleeplessness, and all around chaos is by removing your toddler from their familiar routine of daycare when you’re on maternity leave and/or when the new baby arrives.
I get the temptation to do this.
As a working mom, you may not get to spend lazy day quality time with your toddler, and it’s tempting to feel as if this maternity leave can be time for you both to bond again and for you to live your stay at home mom dreams (If that’s your thing).
However, it may backfire on you in the form of having to navigate the potential of behavioral regressions, jealousy, and added to that, your attention needs to be focused on the new baby (which no toddler loves at all and) and on your recovery from your delivery.
By choosing to keep your oldest on their routine, you will provide comfort in the form of a familiar schedule.
Toddlers CRAVE routine, and the daily ins and outs of daycare provide this in spades.
Disrupting their regularly scheduled programming can make them feel completely out of control, and the only way they can re-direct that feeling is at you and your new baby.
If you’re a stay at home mom, it’s essential that you try to maintain your daily or weekly routine as much as you can.
This includes naps, lunch times, going to the library story time, the days when you do crafts or park visits, whatever it is.
This is challenging (no shit, Beth), especially if you’re concerned about exposure to germs for your new baby or worried about feeding in public.
Which leads me to…
You Need To Suck It Up And Get Ready to Ask For Help
This country likes to martyrize motherhood.
I said it.
By this country, I mean, society loves to put pressure that is real or perceived on women to be capable of doing things that are beyond possible.
We put unnecessary and often passive-aggressive pressure on moms to “do it all “and “have it all” when the conditions to be able to have it all and do it all don’t actually exist in real life.
Because we don’t have the tools, the financial freedom, or in many cases the support both emotionally and physically to do all the things that it requires to be a mom, it means you need to suck up your fears of asking for help and do so.
Ask for help from your family, from your colleagues, from your friends.
Are you scared about coming off as too needy?
About feeling like you might be an imposition?
Hopefully you may soon learn how much people WANT to help new moms.
When I was pregnant with my second, I worried about who would watch my toddler when we went to the hospital for labor and delivery. We don’t have family who live close and are able to help.
I turned to a village of mom friends and asked.
In return, I had no less than ten mom friends who stepped up and volunteered to be part of a coalition of “moms” to come over in the middle of the night depending on what was going on with their own families.
It was a massive group text and they all knew what was at stake.
It’s hard for us as women, as mothers, to ask for help but as a second-time mom, you’re going to have to make peace with this discomfort and find a way (and a person) to ask from time to time.
Start small if you must, with someone like a trusted neighbor, or a close mom friend.
If someone offers to bring you dinner, say thank you. Don’t brush them off.
If someone offers to visit and watch the baby so you can take a nap, say omg you’re the best, thank you.
Do not feel like you must entertain guests with a newborn and a toddler.
Your only job is to be a mom and to recover from your delivery.
Your real friends and family members who “get it” will know this.
Setting firm boundaries with guests is essential. And it’s good practice for you for your parenting future of setting boundaries with your toddlers too.
You could say something like, “I’m still having a hard time recovering from delivery, so I’m not ready to accept visitors, yet.”
Prepare by Getting the Right Stroller for a Newborn and a Toddler
I’m more of a minimalist mom when it comes to gear (only what we need, nothing more, nothing less).
And to jump right in on things you need to buy seems...idk, tacky?
But the truth is having a good stroller was essential to my sanity those first few months of being a mom of two under two.
We splurged on this Baby Jogger City Select since it was something I used nearly every single day both after my first was born and after baby #2 came as well. (We knew we wanted more kids so we bought a stroller that could expand and bought the second seat once I was fully in my second trimester).
As you’ll soon learn…this was the most expensive thing we bought for our baby - the crib, which can be very expensive for some parents, was purchased at Ikea for about $130.
My boys are now almost five and three and we STILL use the stroller so it’s definitely been worth every single penny.
Since my oldest was still in daycare, I could use it to take long leisurely walks with his baby brother in the stroller (kind of like I had done with his brother when he was a baby). It was an excellent way to help loose the baby weight, and start to feel a bit of normalcy after my life and responsibilities doubled in size.
If you’re having a second baby, and you don’t already have a double stroller, you likely will need one.
Depending on where you live, you’ll want to take into consideration door width and ease of pulling your stroller in and out of your car for outings away from the house.
These are some other double strollers that my mom friends love:
Get Ready to Wear Your Baby
Even if babywearing wasn’t on your radar, you'll want to consider it because having two free hands to cook dinner, help your potty training toddler, or generally be free of the weight of carrying a baby will feel like a giant relief.
Plus they make so many cute baby wearing wraps and contraptions that it’s kind of fun to wear your baby these days (and stylish too!).
I used this wrap when my baby was still a newborn and it was pretty great.
This wrap was perfect as he got a bit older and could be carried without my needing to support his neck.
Once my boys got old enough (around three months or so) I transitioned to this baby carrier which was super supportive to my back, and also fit my 6’3” husband comfortably.
I’m going to be honest and say that the only thing I regretted was that the above carrier didn’t have a cover for their little heads when we were out at a park or walking around in broad Southern California sunshine.
It did, however, allow me ample practice to teach them how to feel comfortable in a hat.
I’d also usually wrap one of these little Aden and Anais blankets around my waist to cover any exposed legs before they were old enough to wear sunscreen.
Other Gear To Consider for Two Babies Under Two (Or Close In Age)
Depending on the size of your house, we found that having multiple places to put baby was essential.
We had this seat upstairs in our bedroom when it was time to take showers. I loved it because it didn’t restrict any movement for their little chubby thighs (which I’ve read can happen in some other baby sitting devices and thus, aren’t recommended).
This was my view when I was getting ready for work one day:
it was light enough to cary around the house too but I eventually got another one second hand and plopped it firmly in the kitchen. Little man would watch me cook and shove teething toys in his mouth at the same time.
The same chair also allowed me to position my baby away from the TV while his brother watched TV (because it’s not recommended for babies to watch too many screens before they’re a year old).
The exersaucer we had actually isn’t for sale anymore (Unless you wanna go and drop $230 on a toy that we spent $69 on whatever). This is super similar though and was awesome for both my kids.
It was perfect for when big brother was playing and baby wanted something to do too. It was a great activity set for him, and they often interacted together with it.
I used to recommend the Rock N Play bouncer/swing, but recently a recall was issued that indicates it may lead to Sids (wtf!?).
I'm now on the prowl for a replacement that addresses these issues of being able to keep your baby calm and relaxed, give them a little nap (especially when they’re newborns) and also serve as a place to put baby when you need your full body and all your arms and hands.
Stock Up the Freezer and the Fridge
Before the baby is born, stock the freezer.
If you’re lucky to have friends and family nearby there’s a chance you will have some very sweet and thoughtful dinner deliveries.
Ordering take out, and delivery is an option too, but I found after a few days I was tired of it and needed home cooked comfort.
Prep some freezer-friendly meals that you can store and throw together in a pinch (and with one hand if possible!) We are lucky that we have a second fridge/freezer in our garage.
I know not many families have that so if space is an issue, be conservative with what you buy.
If you’ve already had your baby and are, well, frankly - girl you gotta do it. Get it done so you have some meals to eat and make that don’t take a lot of time and can be thrown together in your crock pot or instant pot quickly.
Here are a few recipes to get you started:
You’ll also want to check out my post on easy dinner ideas to make when you don’t want to give any fucks about cooking.
We also invested in our favorite frozen foods, so things like the organic bean and cheese burritos from Costco, the frozen lasagna from Trader Joes (which is surprisingly delicious and super cheap), and Costco deli meat and cheeses that keep for a while in the fridge.
Do All Of Your Shopping On-Line, or Use Grocery Pick Up
You can read my full review of Instacart here, but suffice it to say with a 3 and almost 5-year old I still use it at least once a month when things get too crazy to go to the store.
Target, Walmart, and many other large shopping chains are also utilizing grocery pick up so you can place an order, take a drive to get both babies to sleep, and also get your groceries (and make sure to let your delivery person know that you’re got sleeping babies in the car!)
I love not having to think about if/when we’ll get a new shipment too, and adding more items to your delivery reduces the price as well.
I’ve also found that this is about the cheapest I can buy diapers almost anywhere except for the generic versions (or Costco).
Meal Plan the DGAF Way
You can read more about my meal planner here.
The truth is you’re gonna need a system that’s easy (and actually kind of fun) to track and plan what you and your family are going to eat each week.
Something that can save you time and money and help you stick to your diet goals of losing the baby weight.
A meal planner that isn’t merely a printout that you lose at some point in all the paper clutter in the house but something that is digital and can seamlessly syncs between your phone and your laptop computer (and where you can store all of your favorite recipes too!)
(Spoiler: my meal planner does exactly that.)
Now that you’ve got many of the logistics in order, let’s switch gears to some of the unique challenges of becoming a second-time mom.
Get Real DGAF About Your Time and Your Life
Recently I was talking to a friend of ours who has an eight-month-old, and she was lamenting about how she prefers to keep a tidy house and likes when things are nice and clean.
Since having her baby, and going back to work, the house and how it looks has taken a back seat (how many of us can relate to this, though!)
The truth is she was in the process of adjusting to her new normal. Her new reality, for now. Soon, someday, re-prioritizing the cleaning and the dishes and the house “looking good” will be possible but right now at this particular moment her priority is spending the precious time she has with her baby, and her work.
You will have a clean house again.
You will have time to organize and tidy.
And shit, if it’s making you so crazy that you MUST DO it and cleaning the house brings you joy then perhaps prioritizing it is the right choice for you.
What I’m saying is, my whole thing of this entire blog is that when it comes to being a parent, you need to pick and choose the fucks you absolutely need to give.
These are the fucks that you cannot live without and the rest...FUCK it.
For me, as a working mom, my focus after returning to work was on getting healthy again and trying to lose the baby weight. This took priority over a clean and tidy house. (Spoiler alert, I gained it all back because of stress for a myriad of other things).
When it comes to navigating life with a toddler and a newborn, it’s time to get choosy AF about your time and how you want to spend it.
It’s also important to set some boundaries for yourself and expectations with your partner.
If your partner is back at work all day and you’ve been hunkered down in the groundhogs day of snacks, feedings, naps, tv time, activities, walks, snacks, more tv time, meals, and finally bath/bedtime -- setting aside a few minutes each day to do whatever you want (meditate, nap, zone out on Instagram, or drink an extra large glass of wine) might be the best way to unwind from the unending chaos of your day.
If you’re able to take a drive to Target and wander, or get your nails done or a massage, or even head to the gym when your partner gets home, even better!
Don’t Forget to Breathe
You are a human and to survive, you need to breathe, yes, but to SURVIVE this new normal, you’re gonna need to practice some deep breathing.
Some intentional breathing.
I’m a big fan of the meditation ap and book, Headspace that has meditations ranging from one minute to 20 (Or more) and entire series of guided meditations to take you through all of the emotions.
If you have an Alexa, good news! Headspace has a partnership with Amazon (and you can enable it by clicking here!) You do require an account though and a membership is about $13 a month (but WORTH IT).
But the truth is you don’t need an app to get centered and breathe (although it can help!)
You need your own body, your comfortable place to sit or stand, and a few deep breaths.
Try this simple but effective visualization:
Breathe in the good energy, breathe out the negative energy. Repeat.
Remembering to breathe is going to help you be more present in your day to day chaos.
And being more present means, you’re going to look back on these days of insanity with wonder and delight and positive memories (mixed in with the how-the-fuck-did-I-even-do-it memories).
Congrats on Getting Prepared for Mom Life 2.0
Hopefully, soon, you’ll start to reap the benefits of all this preparation and feel some relief in knowing you took active steps to anticipate and prepare for the beautiful chaos of having a newborn and a toddler close in age.