This entry is a repost of an article I wrote for Mommy Stella for her Tea Time series in her blog, From Stilettos to Ballet Flats. She's a lawyer juggling her time being a loving wife and caring hands-on mommy. Like me, she is a super busy working mom with a 2 year old and a new baby. We've got a lot on our hands but we just love love love being moms! :)
|2 year old Audrey holding 2 week old Natalie|
Having a toddler and a newborn is quite a juggling act for moms. When I had my second baby, the demand for mommy’s attention was pretty overwhelming. But don’t worry, there are ways to make things work for you and your kids if you are a mom expecting a new baby while caring for a toddler.
Here are some tips that I got from family and friends, and ones that I figured out for myself along the way that were truly helpful. Will be using ‘her’ to refer to a toddler most of the time since I am a mom of two girls but this definitely applies to boys as well :)
- Be sensitive to your toddler’s needs. When your toddler is asking for much needed attention - give it. Since she understands her needs more, it is wise to give her what she needs at that moment so as to make her feel that she is still important and very much a part of the family despite the presence of a new baby. Of course you should also let her know that when baby needs something, you will also have to attend to her little sister but this will reassure her that mommy still very much loves her.
- When you bring them to family gatherings, newborns normally get the attention first – cue your family and relatives (and friends too) to say hi and acknowledge your toddler first so she doesn’t feel left out or forgotten.
- Make sure you guard their sleep (a tip from my sis in law). If your newborn cries a lot and your toddler is a light sleeper, consider having them sleep in different rooms (we were lucky because Audrey was a heavy sleeper like her dad and Natalie didn’t cry a lot – easy to soothe as a newborn – just feed/burp or change dirty diaper). Sleep is essential for a baby’s growth and development so it is important that he or she gets enough of it.
- Encourage Dad to be more hands on with toddler since mom, especially if breastfeeding, is still recovering from childbirth and is the food source for the baby (more energy used up as she feeds the baby). Nowadays, I have noticed there are more hands on dads :) So I hope this trend continues on because it is so much better for mom, baby and the whole family!
- Expect your toddler to want the same things that your newborn is getting – attention, diaper change, drinking milk (not necessarily breastfeeding but this might be a possibility), being carried…amongst other things. What I did was tell Audrey that she and Natalie can ‘take turns’, so she will have a concept of sharing mommy with the baby and willingly let go when it’s the baby’s turn (you can sort of make it appear like a game too hehe).
- Kiss and hold your toddler as much as your newborn. While breastfeeding Natalie, I would sometimes ask Audrey to sit beside me so I can hug her while holding the baby too. She actually finds it quite fun :)
- Always acknowledge your toddler when she tries to show you something like a toy, book, or her artwork. Toddlers don’t just love attention, they want you to participate! So when it’s time to have a picnic, I pretend to eat those fake fruits and sandwiches! When she wants me to read a book to her, I don’t decline. And when she shows me her artwork, I encourage her to talk about it so we can have a little discussion :) Anyway, all these things can be done while baby is asleep or breastfeeding (imagine one arm holding your baby and the other holding a plastic watermelon hehe!), and reading isn’t so hard either. It’s all a matter of timing!
- Encourage your toddler to be loving and gentle with your baby – teach them the difference between a soft touch and a strong one. Remind her that baby sis is still very small and fragile so big sis needs to be careful and not play rough.
- Explain to your toddler that she’s a big sister now and that it is important for her to take care and protect her little sibling. Encourage your toddler to ‘watch over baby’. Giving her a task such as this teaches her to be more responsible and helps her to understand her new role. What I did with Audrey before was ask her to ‘check on Natalie’ while she was sleeping in the room and we were out in the dining room having lunch. She enjoyed getting out of her small dining chair, and even running to our room to sneak in and take a look at how the baby was doing. She would then go back out and announce that ‘Natalie is ok’ or ‘Natalie is asleep’ and give me a satisfied smile :)
- Encourage sharing (very tricky!). Kids naturally want to have everything for themselves, be it material things or attention – but teaching how to share is never too early. And when there’s a newborn baby, toddlers will find it more difficult to share more than ever. And this is why, as parents, we need to keep encouraging them and explaining that we are a family and we need to show love towards each other. And sharing is one of the ways to express our love. This will definitely take time and energy to let it sink in, but it will eventually. My baby is now almost ten months old and I am still continually encouraging Audrey to learn how to share. Sometimes she does willingly, other times she finds it difficult. But I am hopeful that one day, sharing will just come naturally for her and for Natalie too :)
I hope these tips will help you as it has helped me. Having two kids a few years apart isn’t easy since both are in very demanding stages of their lives. But nothing is impossible, and there are ways to make it all work :)