Parenting a 1-year-old and a newborn presents certain challenges.
When a second baby comes along with the first only a year old, parenting becomes an endurance test. Baby parenting involves frequent feeding and diaper changes, no set bedtimes, and struggling with crying spells. Your toddler is learning to run around and explore the world and needs constant watching. All this, when you’re still recovering from the pregnancy and birth. How can you cope with this baby and toddler coalition?
In other words, don’t try to be a superhero. Managing a baby and toddler combination is arduous, and it goes on day after day. And you’re doing it just after going through pregnancy and birth.
Don’t try to do it all yourself. Recruit your partner for some tasks, including taking care of the older one’s meals. If your younger one is formula-fed, your partner can help by sterilizing the feeders, preparing the formula, and giving the baby some feeds.
Take up all other offers of help, too. Friends and family are often willing to drop off a home-cooked meal, do your shopping, or even manage your kids for an hour while you catch a much-needed nap. Accept all help that is offered at this difficult time of baby and toddler parenting.
Relax your housekeeping standards
You may find this difficult, having always kept a tidy house. Parenting two small children will drain your energy and leave you short of time to look after your home. Steel yourself to accept a little mess and delayed chores.
At this time, your baby and toddler need your attention the most. Keep your meals simple, outsource your laundry, and perhaps get temporary housekeeping help. Baby parenting is hard enough without physical exhaustion.
Involve the big brother or sister
Most older children respond well to being told they’re big brothers or sisters. They look forward to their new responsibilities. Your 1-year-old child may not be able to help you much with tasks but will like being the older one.
Give your toddler the sense that looking after the baby is a joint responsibility. Have them hold a napkin while you change or feed the baby, and congratulate him for an excellent job of watching over the little one while you attended to some task. This approach gives an older child a sense of pride instead of jealousy and rivalry.
Take advantage of sleeping baby
Your baby sleeps for 16 to 17 hours a day. Assuming you’re getting rest during the night, you can take advantage of your baby’s daytime naps to give exclusive attention to your toddler. This gives them security and prevents sibling rivalry.
Cook their favorite meal, or play a game together while keeping an eye on your baby in the bassinet. The nap may be only an hour or two long, but your older child will appreciate the exclusive time with you. It will also encourage them to be quiet so that the baby can sleep.
Prevent sibling rivalry
The arrival of a second child can disturb the older one. Used to receiving all the attention, they now have to share it with a small, demanding brother or sister. The transition from only child to one among siblings can be associated with anxiety, sadness, distress, and jealousy.
Unlike some sudden transitions (accidents, sickness, etc.), the birth of a second child is both expected and common. You will have enough time to prepare your first child for the coming change. Be positive about the change, and make an effort to convince your firstborn about the joyful time coming soon. With the right preparation, your baby and toddler will not develop sibling rivalry. Parenting your baby and toddler combination may be less of an ordeal than you feared.
Not all children have negative reactions to a new baby. Anticipating jealousy and tantrums may harm family dynamics. Many children have no change in their behavior, some have increased undesirable behavior, and some become more affectionate toward their mother.
Cancel the guilt trips
There will be times when you just can’t cope. The demands of parenting two young children can be overwhelming.
Remember that this is normal. Tiredness is normal, and not being able to manage everything just right is to be expected. Parenting is not simple at the best of times, and having a newborn baby and a 1-year-old together is sure to be arduous.
Don’t judge yourself harshly, and avoid guilt feelings. Guilt can often lead to anxiety and depression. Postpartum depression is a serious disorder with unpleasant results for your children and you. If you’re not able to get rid of persistent feelings of sadness, guilt, isolation, and anxiety, you should seek professional help.
Combine outdoor activities
Your toddler needs to be outdoors to learn social skills and get some exercise. With a newborn baby, you may find it difficult to schedule time for outdoor activities with your toddler.
Combining activities is the secret of baby and toddler parenting. Take your toddler along when going to the store or on other errands. And when it’s appropriate, your toddler can run beside your baby’s stroller as all of you go out together.
Take care of yourself
A critical baby and toddler parenting skill is synchronizing naps. Try to put your baby and older one to sleep simultaneously at least once or twice a day. This gives you a chance for some self-care. Other opportunities are when your partner or another adult watches over your baby and toddler.
Use this time to have a nap yourself. You could also relax with a cup of tea, listen to your favorite music, or meditate and relax. Your happiness and good mental health is vital for your children’s health and mental development.
Parenting is challenging, and parenting a baby and a toddler together is hugely testing. Use all these strategies to cope, be open to recruiting help, and remember to take care of yourself. With some wise scheduling and compromises, this can be a happy, fulfilling time for your family and you.
Medically Reviewed on 7/1/2022
The American Academy of Pediatrics: “Sleep,” “Tips for Coping with a New Baby.”
Archives of Women’s Mental Health: “Prevalence of suicidality during pregnancy and the postpartum.”
Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine: “Perinatal depression: A review.”
Psychological Bulletin: “Family Transitions Following the Birth of a Sibling: An Empirical Review of Changes in the Firstborn’s Adjustment.”