Practical Tips For Adjusting To 2 Under 2
Having 2 kids under 2 can be a difficult thing to adjust to as a mom. The routine that was established with one child is shaken and the demands on a mom’s time suddenly have no limit. Both children may be in diapers and at home – and, on top of it all, bringing a new baby home with a toddler can cause a toddler’s behavior to become even more difficult to manage.
Coping with baby and toddler needs can be exhausting to say the least. However, if you’re about to jump into life with toddler and baby craziness (or if you’re already in it) there are a few practical things you can prepare and do to make the transition smoother for everyone.
I can’t say I ever thought I’d be one to have 2 kids under 2, but when I originally drafted this post my 22 month old was chatting away in her crib and my almost one month old was being rocked by her daddy on the couch beside me.
I didn’t read much before the birth of our second daughter about managing two kids under two but I did chat with a few other moms about what the transition was like for them. The addition of a second child with our toddler at home was rougher than I expected in the early days and I benefited from much of the wisdom that I received. As with most things when it comes to children, I also learned a lot from trial and error as I adjusted to being a mother of two.
In this post I’m going to pass along my primary tips for preparing for and bringing a new baby home with a young toddler. These are things that saved my sanity as we walked through the very early days of adjusting to life as a family of 4!
Every parent, toddler, and baby have their own personality and each family their own dynamic, so these tips may not apply to or work for everyone. However, I hope in some small way that they help you to prepare for the chaotic but rich season of expanding your home to include two under two!
6 Practical Tips For Adjusting To Two Kids Under Two
1. Keep a changing table downstairs with diaper bins for both children.
This is a small practical way to prepare your home for the adjustment to 2 under 2, but it is one that made diaper changes much easier to manage. (And there were A LOT of diaper changes!) If your home decor doesn’t allow for it this may not be a helpful tip for you, but our house is lived in and our living room doubled as a play room – so adding a changing table to our decor was not a big deal.
I bought a white used changing table that had two basic open shelves beneath it and painted it dark brown to place in our living room. I then purchased six clear plastic bins (that snapped shut!) at Walmart to store clothing and diapers underneath. (We started with cloth bins underneath but as our toddler got older the contents of the bins were strewn across the floor every day. Bins with lids that lock when the handles are pulled over them are a win for keeping things away from tiny toddler hands!) The storage bins were a very decent size. We filled one bin with newborn diapers and one with toddler diapers. We also filled one with clothing for each child for quick access when a diaper blew out or was wet through while we were downstairs.
2. Start early on some sleep training basics with baby #2.
Implementing some basic foundations for sleep training with our youngest daughter saved us many tears and a lot of stress! There are many differing opinions on when to introduce sleep training for a baby and what methods to use. We didn’t implement a rigid strategy for sleep training with our newborn daughter, but we did start to implement a basic sleep schedule for her from the day we arrived home from the hospital. When she turned two weeks old we then started to train her to take naps and sleep at night in her crib. (You can read the details of the schedule that we used with her here.)
This training did involve periods of tears (from mommy and baby). However, it relieved a lot of stress when it came to managing my day at home with two children so young. Because we worked to get our youngest daughter to sleep in her crib in her room I was able to devote more time and attention to our toddler throughout the day. I didn’t have a baby constantly on my body in a sling. Therefore, there were periods of 1-2 hours each feeding cycle that I was able to hold my toddler on my lap and read her books or get her lunch without losing my mind.
In the early months our youngest daughter did have fussy evenings where she often wouldn’t nap in her crib. These periods were more difficult to manage since I typically tried to rock her to sleep in my arms so she wouldn’t get overtired. However, for most of the day it was much easier to manage two under two when the youngest could get the sleep that she needed in an undisturbed environment in her crib. It allowed me to be free to devote attention to our oldest daughter. (Having our youngest sleep in her crib also prevented our toddler from hitting or disturbing her sleep since our toddler was a quite active – and sometimes destructive – 22 month old who couldn’t resist touching the sleeping baby!)
3. Arrange your day so that your toddler and baby have offsetting schedules.
When we first ventured into the crazy world of two under two, I thought I would want to structure our days so that both children’s schedules would line up as much as possible. I thought that it would be easier to have both girls wake at the same time in the morning, eat “lunch” at the same time, nap as close together as possible, and go to bed for the night at the same time. However, I quickly discovered that for us everything went MUCH smoother if I kept their schedules offset from each other.
(Yes, I did keep my newborn on a loose schedule – even from day 1! I kept it very flexible for adjustments needed to her feeding times, but I am a big believer in establishing routine for babies. I have seen first hand the benefit of putting our oldest daughter onto a routine early. She slept through the night for 11 hours straight at 4 months old and by 22 months old took a good 3 hour afternoon nap each day and slept 12 hours through the night consistently. You can read about the schedule we implemented with our second daughter in her first few weeks of life here and if you are curious about our toddler’s routine you can read more details about that here.)
Instead of keeping our girls’ schedules aligned, I made a few adjustments to our youngest daughter’s schedule so that I was able to devote more individual attention to each child.
- I began to start her morning one hour before our oldest daughter typically woke up. This allowed me to nurse the baby and get her down for her first nap before our toddler even woke for the day. I then had two hours to devote to our toddler before the baby would typically wake to nurse again.
- Because I shifted our baby’s first feeding of the day to be an hour before our toddler woke in the morning, the baby then also nursed one hour before our toddler’s lunchtime. This meant that I could nurse the baby and get her back down for her second nap before it was time for me to prepare lunch for our toddler.
- Our toddler napped about an hour after her lunch time so I then had an hour to myself to eat lunch before the baby typically woke to be nursed again.
- While our toddler was still napping for the afternoon I was able to nurse the baby and get her back down for her next nap.
- At bedtime I nursed the baby again one hour before our toddler’s bedtime, so I was freed up to get our toddler down for the night and then proceed to nurse the baby again after she was down.
I built the schedules of our new baby and toddler to offset each other so that I was able to have individual time for each of them (and also avoid needing to carry them both up and down the stairs at once!). My stress level was helped immensely by this since I did not feel as though I was constantly juggling competing priorities for each girl. It also served our toddler emotionally to be able to have some one on one time with mommy each day instead of sharing every moment with the new baby.
After the first several months things shifted and it became easier to keep both girls on more similar schedules but, in the early months with frequent nursing, having offsetting naps for the girls relieved a lot of stress.
4. Offer your toddler a special activity that is only allowed when you are nursing the baby.
This tip was given to me by multiple different people soon after we made the transition to two under two. I tried to implement it, but I have to admit that I wasn’t very consistent with it. When I did do it this helped to keep our toddler from clawing at my knees and whining through a nursing session.
Though I wasn’t great at making it a special activity for every feeding, I tried to reserve our toddler’s favorite Netflix show to let her watch exclusively while I was nursing the baby. This gave her a new distraction to enjoy so she didn’t feel the neglect of my attention as strongly. It also gave her something to focus on other than how much mischief she could make while mommy was unable to get up and stop her.
5. Stock up on freezer meals before the baby arrives!
This is a tip I would give to any expecting mother, whether they have a toddler at home or not. Having freezer meals ready before bringing home a newborn saves a lot of meal planning stress! My favorite way to freeze meals is to prep several recipes in bulk, fully cook them, and then freeze them in individual serving containers. I made about a month and a half worth of freezer meals this way before we brought home our second baby and it made it super easy to pull out whichever meals my husband and I were craving each day and simply thaw and microwave them to eat! The evenings were much more manageable with a “hangry” toddler and typically restless baby in the first couple of months because I didn’t have to think about prepping dinner.
You can read about some of the freezer meal recipes and strategies I used in more detail here if you’re interested.
6. Do your best to devote some one on one attention to your toddler in your baby’s early weeks.
Our toddler had a REALLY rough time with the transition when we brought our new baby home. Our once sweet, obedient, and sleeping well little girl suddenly started to throw terrible tantrums, yell “no!” at every turn, and take hours to settle for sleep at night. She was harder to manage than our newborn (a dynamic that I did not expect in the transition to two under two)!
Managing our toddler was very difficult during the first couple of weeks at home after our second baby was born. My husband showered her with attention while he was off work for that period, but it still didn’t seem to impact her behavior. A friend encouraged me to try to give her one on one attention myself – which I hadn’t been doing since daddy had been giving her so much. It turned out that having attention from ME was key for her.
When my husband went back to work, our toddler started to behave more like herself again. I think a big reason for the adjustment was that she had more of MY attention again. Even though her baby sister was still home with her all day, being home alone with the kids forced me to pay more attention to our toddler again. I think our toddler had been vying for the attention I was not only giving to the new baby, but to my husband while he was home from work those first couple of weeks . If I had been more diligent to give her more exclusive attention right away her behavior may have adjusted more quickly and the transition may have been easier on the whole family.
It’s hard to try to focus devoted attention toward a toddler when you have a newborn screaming for attention that only mom can give, but I learned the hard way that it’s critically important to do so for the well-being of the toddler and their ability to process the shake-up in their world.
If you are thinking about or are about to become a family with 2 kids under 2, then I hope that these tips are helpful to you! It is a chaotic and exhausting season with two little ones at home, but it is a rich one and it melts your heart in unique ways to watch young siblings close in age form a bond and grow together.