Phew - we've survived the first month with a toddler (1.5 yrs) + a newborn! When we first found out we were pregnant again and our first son was only 10 months old, I was terrified. I never thought we would have 2 kids under 2. Nothing can truly prepare you for the first month with a toddler and a newborn, but I wanted to share with you what we've learned so far.
*Edit: Our "newborn" is now 9 months old and our toddler is 2 years old. We have a solid routine, both are eating and sleeping great, and it is SO. MUCH. FUN. to watch them interact together. -xoxo you'll get there mama
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Lesson #1: I’ve never been so tired in my life.
The sleep deprivation struggle is real, and even harder than the first time. We now have a toddler we have to be up for at 8:00am no matter what. We have to be functioning enough to feed him and play with him until his nap at 1pm. However, the good news is you know how this goes. You know that the sleep deprivation is so temporary and you may even know some tricks to help soothe them that worked on your first. I love using the 5 S’s from “Happiest Baby on the Block” – swaddle, side/stomach position (not for sleeping), shush, swing, and suck. Bottom line is the sleeping part is not fun, but you will survive on less sleep than you ever thought possible and make it through. Take turns with your partner to get sleep when each of you needs it most. This leads me to my next point…
Lesson #2: This is not a spectator sport.
Don’t be afraid to get your husband involved as much as possible. In fact, studies have proven that there is a correlation between dad's early involvement and future learning. In the newborn stage, the key to survival is to find your routine with split duties. The first 2 weeks with a newborn are such a blur. The goal was to come up with a routine that worked for us so we can handle the feedings every 2-3 hours, pumping, and get enough sleep to function. Since my husband can sleep anytime/anywhere and I am the worst napper ever, this basically meant him napping during the day so he could stay up later at night and take the 1st “shift” with the newborn (around 9:30-2:30). Then once I had some sleep in the earlier part of the night (just waking up to nurse or pump), I would take the 2nd “shift” with the newborn (around 2:30-8:30am) while he slept. Of course we slept when the baby slept in his bassinet so this didn’t mean we had to stay up the entire “shift”, but with a newborn it’s always pretty broken sleep.
For the next few weeks, our little guy was still trying to pack on the pounds so we continued feeding every 2-3 hours. We decided my husband didn’t need to be nocturnal anymore and we would all try to go to bed together, but trade off feedings. I took the 9pm feeding/burping/diaper change before bed, my husband took the 12ish am feeding, I took the 3ish am feeding, husband took the 6ish am feeding, I got up with the toddler at 8/8:30am and fed him breakfast, husband got up at 9am with the newborn and one of us fed him his morning bottle. We mostly made it through the day without napping, but if we needed to nap, 1-3pm during our toddler’s nap was the best time for one of us to squeeze in a nap.
Involving your husband early on will give him confidence and help make him a great father. Your marriage will be better for it!
Lesson #3: Day 3 is a breaking point.
This happened to me with both kids so far. There is the excitement of the labor/delivery, meeting him, and the first few days with a sweet, sleepy newborn…and then day 3 hit me like a ton of bricks. Day 3 is when we came home from the hospital. It's when my postpartum hormones went crazy at the same time that my newborn found his “voice”. Day 3 is when my milk hadn’t quite come in yet, but he was hungry & clusterfeeding. It's when my nipples felt like were about to fall off, and I kind of wanted them to so I wouldn’t have to deal with the searing pain. Day 3 was when I hit peak sleep deprivation and was so overtired that I couldn’t even nap when I had the chance. I was functioning on adrenaline (“fight or flight” mode) and overwhelmed by anxiety. My whole body was sore from labor and my tear obviously wasn’t healed yet. I don’t want to scare you…it is just A LOT. My only advice is to take it 1 day or even 1 hour at a time. Ask for help. Cry when you need to. Take a deep breath. Read your devotional. Get some sleep. Spend some time with your kids…they are the best kind of therapy. Remember that this phase & this feeling is TEMPORARY. In fact, you will feel different every day so just ride it out until tomorrow.
Lesson #4: Ohhh the mom guilt.
I was so excited to give my toddler a sibling, but I didn’t expect to feel so much mom guilt initially. I just blew his world up and I felt like I took his mom & dad away from him. I missed him, even though he was right there with me most of the day – I was just too sleep deprived and distracted by the newborn to keep up with his little toddler antics like I used to. I also didn’t want him to feel like he had to grow up too fast because he was no longer the baby in the family. Of course, this was blown way out of proportion in my head and postpartum hormones played a big part in this. My mom and husband were much more logical and reassured me that he was perfectly happy. In fact, he loved seeing his little brother and he got just as much attention as before We kept him in his same routine. He didn’t have a sleep regression or really act out that we noticed (at least not yet). And the mom guilt gets better every day…I still believe he will thank us for his little brother later!
Lesson #5: The days go by fast
Eat, Play, Sleep…Eat, Play, Sleep…a few rounds of this and before you know it, it’s dinnertime. Some days I’m still in my pajamas. Most days I haven’t had a chance to shower. Hopefully I remembered to eat at some point. I’ve literally been taking care of someone else’s needs all day long. The days go much smoother when we have a routine for the toddler and newborn.
Lesson #6: Accept ALL the help.
Seriously, this is not a time to be a mom martyr. While you could do it on your own, it will be way more enjoyable and less overwhelming for you AND the kids if you take help where you can get it. Some are comfortable helping with the baby, while others are comfortable bringing food, picking up stuff at the store, or helping to clean up the house. They are happy to help…just be gracious and repay the favor to a new mom when you can.
Lesson #7: Breastfeeding is *hard* with a toddler and a newborn.
Breastfeeding is hard in general, but even harder when you are juggling your toddler’s needs, your newborn’s needs, pumping, and your own needs (so that you can produce enough milk!). A couple things I’ve learned so far…
- Distracting your toddler with a new toy is key while you’re breastfeeding. And by new I mean an old one they’ve forgotten about.
- Try to nurse directly on the breast when you are home alone if possible, instead of having to pump & bottle feed which is double the work/time for you at each feeding.
- Start pumping early! At this point, the baby is eating just a couple ounces, but you can build up your supply pretty quickly. Within the first few weeks I was pumping between 7-10oz each session, but he was only eating 2.5-3oz at each feeding…so I started storing those extra ounces in the freezer for later. My freezer stash was much better with baby #2.
- Supplement with formula if you want. Or switch to formula altogether if it’s working better for you! As we all know, fed is best. And having a happy, well-balanced mom & household is much healthier for them than anything else, so I truly encourage you do to what works best for your family.
Lesson #8: Have “stations” for your newborn
Whether it’s a swing, bouncy chair, dockatot, floor mat, or a baby wrap, the goal is just have different safe and comfortable places to put your newborn down for a few minutes here and there throughout the day. It’s a change of scenery for them, and allows you to get a couple things done or spend some time with your toddler. While I love snuggling with my newborn, I can’t hold him every minute of the day and still take care of my toddler.
Lesson #9: I’m over the fear-based marketing.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. By the 2nd baby, I was so over the fear-based marketing! They are feeding on emotional moms and their biggest fears and insecurities. I’ve found myself seeing through this a lot more this time around and being able to better judge what we truly need and should be concerned about. While I believe new research over the years is very helpful in some areas, I’ve also determined that I like some old school parenting methodologies that have been around for years. Every parent will have different opinions on this, but the key is to be able to judge for yourself and recognize when fear-based marketing is being used on you.
There you have it – fresh from a sleep-deprived, new mom of 2 under 2. I’ll keep everyone posted as I’m sure I’ll have totally different views in a couple months as things progress. Anyone want to share your experiences & tips for surviving a toddler & a newborn?