A close age gap between children can be hard but it also brings plenty of joy too. We discuss ways to help you adjust to family life with two under two.
Growing your family is exciting, but it can be exhausting, especially if you have two little ones close together. Having a newborn baby and toddler to care for at the same time can be overwhelming at first. But with support from your friends and family and our top tips, you’ll soon be taking it in your stride and have plenty of great times.
Top ten tips for family life with two children under two:
1. Remember your toddler is still a baby
In the early days of parenting two under two, juggling the priorities and needs of your children can be tricky. It’s good to keep in mind that your toddler is still little too and may need help adjusting to life in a bigger family.
Up until now your toddler has been the baby of the family and used to having your full attention. They will need to get to know their new brother or sister and learn how to share you with them.
It’s useful to think about how you would like to introduce your toddler to your new baby.
Some parents wait until they bring their baby home because it means their toddler is in a familiar environment when they first meet. While others prefer to introduce them at the hospital or birthing centre.
Some parents like to help their toddler choose a gift for the new baby and might also have a gift waiting for them from their new brother or sister. This can make her feel connected and special (KidsHealth, 2016).
2. Make a fuss of your older child
Your toddler might feel left out in the early days when there is naturally so much focus on the new baby. Often you may need to attend to your newborn first, for example if they need feeding or a nappy change. Make sure you talk to your older child about their new exciting role as big brother or big sister and what a great job they’re doing (KidsHealth, 2016; Today’s Parent, 2016).
When family and friends visit you can ask them to spend time playing with your older child or giving them lots of attention (Today’s Parent, 2016). You will probably find grandparents, aunties and uncles, or close friends enjoy making a fuss of your older child. They might enjoy taking them out for a while to give you a breather.
3. Involve your toddler where you can
Try to involve your toddler in caring for your baby if you can (Parents, 2018). They might be able to help you out with nappy changes by passing you the wet wipes or a new nappy. Or they may enjoy role-playing by changing a nappy on their favourite teddy or doll, at the same time as you change the baby.
You can also encourage your toddler to take on new responsibilities and roles like greeting the baby when they wake up or helping to choose what the baby will wear. Some parents use storybooks to help prepare their toddler for having a new baby brother or sister. You could encourage them to get involved with any preparations for the new arrival like getting the nursery ready.
4. Be prepared with snacks and stories
In the early days, you might need to pre-prepare snacks and activities to help keep your toddler occupied while you feed your baby. This is especially true if you are breastfeeding your new baby for long periods.
Some mums tandem-breastfeed their babies (if both children are breastfed), which means breastfeeding both little ones at the same time. Sometimes a toddler who has previously stopped breastfeeding might be curious to try again.
Some toddlers might like to cuddle up to mum or a favourite teddy while you feed the baby. Others may be happy to play independently.
Having an activity or a storybook handy can also be useful. That way your older child can sit next to you while you read stories to them or do a puzzle or other activity nearby.
5. Meeting the needs of two
Sometimes both of your little ones need you at the same time. You can’t do everything or be everywhere at once, so deal with the greatest need first (Parents, 2018). Just do what you can at the time.
Depending on the situation, you might be able to go to your toddler first and encourage them to help you. That way the two of you can care for the baby together (Today’s Parent, 2016).
Alternatively, you can ask your toddler to wait while you attend to the baby’s needs (Huffpost, 2015). If your toddler falls you might need to attend to them first.
If you’re able to organise some childcare for your baby, it can help to spend some one-on-one time with your older child (Huffpost, 2015). This means you can focus on your older child and help them feel secure and loved. It’s good to encourage your partner to do the same.
6. Never hesitate to ask for help
Ask for help if you need it and take up any offers of support (Whole Parenting Family, 2013). Whether it’s your partner, mum, friends or neighbour, there is usually someone who you can talk to and ask to help you out.
If you’re finding it really tough in the early days, talking to someone about how you feel is the first step. If you’re struggling or think you might be depressed, seek professional help.
Organising childcare for your toddler could help you to spend some time with your new baby and give you a chance to relax (Whole Parenting Family, 2013). Some parents prefer to invite a close friend or family member to spend time with their toddler after their baby is born, for physical and emotional support (KidsHealth, 2016).
7. Going out and about with two
If you have an active toddler, then it can be fun to get out and about to toddler groups and activities. Going to their usual groups and socialising will help give them the sense that not everything in their world has changed.
Family and friends might help too by taking your toddler to their regular playgroup to give you time alone with your new baby. Or they might help by going with you to a playgroup while you gain confidence going out with two little ones.
Depending on how old your toddler is, you might want to consider a double buggy, or a single one with a buggy board attached. Another option some parents go for is carrying your baby in a sling, which can be good as your hands will be free to take care of your toddler (Whole Parenting Family, 2013). Try stocking a bag with all of the necessary extras for going out so you won’t have to prepare it every time you go out (KidsHealth, 2016).
You could start by visiting child friendly places like your local park or story-time at the library. Or you could invite other mums with toddlers over to yours for a playdate (Parents, 2018).
8. Dealing with exhaustion
With a super active toddler on the go and a little baby in your arms, you are bound to feel exhausted. It might be especially hard to adjust to the lack of sleep if your newborn wakes frequently at night and your toddler is an early riser who’s active all day.
Try to make time for just you and your partner if you can (Huffpost, 2015). You could get a babysitter and go out or have a date night at home to reconnect (Parents, 2018).
Try to get some rest during the day when you can. Whether that’s by having a sit down and a cuppa at a toddler group or having a lie down when your toddler naps. If your toddler goes to a nursery or childminder, you might be able to rest with your baby for a while (Today Parenting team, 2015; Parents, 2018).
Ask for help from your partner, friends or family, so you can rest or have a nap. You could also try taking your little ones for a drive in the afternoon. They might take a nap giving you the chance to recharge.
9. Expectations versus reality
It’s probably not a good time to introduce big changes at this point in your toddler’s life – having a new sibling is a lot to adjust to (KidsHealth, 2016). Some parents consider potty training around two years old but with a new baby, this could put too much pressure on everyone. Take your time and don’t feel you have to rush into any new baby milestones.
Your goal is to survive the first few months by focusing on the essentials and taking care of your children’s needs (Huffpost, 2015; Today’s Parent, 2016). It doesn’t matter if your house is more chaotic and not as clean as it once was.
Try to be as flexible as you can about each day and what really matters (Today’s Parent, 2016). It’s also really important to take time out and take care of yourself.
10. Don’t forget to enjoy it
When you wonder why you ever had your children so close together, don’t forget to step back and focus on the positives of a small age gap. Seeing them get to know each other and learn how to take care of each other can be wonderful.
For some parents, it can be a relief to get those challenging baby and toddler years out of the way over a relatively short period of time. Having children close together can also offer practical benefits. They're more likely to share activities and be at the same schools, which can make the organisation of family life easier.
So even if you’re having a tough day, don’t forget to enjoy all the little things that make you smile.
This page was last reviewed in June 2018.
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You might find attending one of NCT's Early Days groups helpful as they explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and allow you to meet other new parents in your area.
Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.
Huffpost. (2015) 13 solid pieces of advice for parents going from one kid to two. Available at: https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/advice-for-parents-from-one-kid-to-two-_n_7183306?guccounter=1 (Accessed 24th June 2018).
KidsHealth. (2016) Birth of a second child. Available at: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/second-child.html (Accessed 24th June 2018).
Parents. (2018) Two under two: smart advice from mom’s who’ve been there. Available at: https://www.parents.com/parenting/better-parenting/advice/two-kids-under-two/ (Accessed 24th June 2018).
Today Parenting team. (2015) Surviving the early days of two under two! Available at: http://community.today.com/parentingteam/post/surviving-the-early-days-of-two-under-two (Accessed 24th June 2018).
Today’s Parent. (2016) How to deal with two kids under two. Available at: https://www.todaysparent.com/toddler/how-to-deal-with-two-kids-under-two/ (Accessed 24th June 2018).
Whole Parenting Family. (2013) 12 survival tips: 2 kids under 2. Available at: http://www.wholeparentingfamily.com/2013/03/07/12-survival-tips/ (Accessed 24th June 2018).