Here we provide our top ten tips on managing life with two children under two.
Here we provide our top ten tips on managing life with two under two…
1. Don’t forget that your toddler is still a baby
When the baby arrives, it’s amazing how your toddler will seem so much bigger and older. Don’t forget though, they are still young, and being an older brother or sister doesn’t suddenly make them more mature or responsible. In fact, it’s very common for children to regress when a sibling arrives; they might start wanting bottles again, for instance, when they’ve been using cups. While frustrating, remember that this is just their way of adjusting to the new family situation and also maintaining their share of attention. Try not to let your expectations of them change because of the baby; they still need your help and patience too.
2. Make a fuss of your older child too
It can be easy for all the kisses and cuddles to be focused on the new bundle. But to help your older child still feel secure and loved, make sure they get lots of attention too. Encourage any visiting friends and family to lavish just as much attention on your older child as the new baby and make a point of praising them on being ‘such a great big brother or sister’. If friends ask what gift would be helpful, remember a small present for your toddler to unwrap can be very welcome.
3. Find ways for your toddler to help out with their new brother or sister
Toddlers often learn from copying and imitating their parents; it’s something they enjoy doing too. Get them involved with their new baby brother or sister by asking them to help with simple tasks or giving them a special job to do. They could help pick out the baby’s clothes or toys to play with, for instance.
Your toddler may be expecting a new playmate and could be distinctly unimpressed by the arrival of - from their point of view - a not very fun baby that mostly sleeps and feeds! Involving them with the baby in different ways will help them to get to know their new sibling but still feel important at the same time.
4. Deal with one child’s needs at a time…it will be a balancing act
With two young kids, there will be moments when you have the stressful situation of two crying children who want you at the same time. It’s not always easy but it can help to decide how to respond to each child based on who has the greater need at that moment in time. So, for instance, if your toddler is crying because they just fell down and hurt themselves, and the baby is crying because they want to be held, then it probably makes sense to help your toddler first. Of course, any parent will want to make sure both children are safe and happy, and you will find different ways to balance the needs of both. And there will be probably be times when you’ll just have to scoop them both up for a cuddle!
5. Try and keep some consistency in your toddler’s usual activities and routines
The arrival of a new baby will probably affect existing routines but it’s important, where possible, that your toddler’s usual routine is kept in place as best you can. It can help your toddler adjust to life with a new baby if they don’t feel everything they have always done has changed because of the baby. This is when help from family and friends can make a difference in taking your toddler to their regular playgroup or nursery, for instance, in the early days and weeks.
6. Consider your options for getting out and about with two
With a toddler in tow, you definitely need your hands free to play, clean or just keep hold of them! Having a sling you feel comfortable with can be really beneficial when you need to get on with jobs or play with your toddler but also keep your baby close, safe and happy. Remember, though, it can be difficult to give your older child a cuddle or pick them up with a baby in a sling.
With two under two, it can also make sense to consider a double buggy where both children can sit or lie down if they need to. Toddlers under two are not always able to walk long distances so it can help to invest in a double buggy and then move onto a single buggy with a clip-on buggy board later. There are lots of options so do some test runs first.
7. Don’t rush your toddler into any major milestones
It’s probably best not to attempt any big changes at this point in your toddler’s life; having a new sibling is probably enough to adjust to! For instance, many parents start thinking about potty training at the age of two or moving them from their cot to a toddler bed but – with a new baby too - this could put too much pressure on you and your toddler. Take your time and don’t feel you have to rush into any new milestones.
8. Try and enjoy special time with each child
It can feel like you’re not giving enough time and attention to each child; especially when patience is not necessarily a well-understood virtue among babies or toddlers! Some parents find that mum ends up spending more time with baby while dad often takes care of the older one. Think of ways you can both have special time with your children. Perhaps dad can bath baby while you do story time with your toddler. When the new baby naps, you could devote more attention to your eldest and play some of their favourite games.
9. Ask for help and support if you need it
Becoming a parent is a steep learning curve and having two under two can be particularly tiring. If friends and family offer to help, take them up on their offers. There are so many little ways they could make a difference, like doing a food shop, making a sandwich for you, or taking your older child out so you can rest while the baby naps. Think about how they might support you best.
10. Focus on the positives…especially when things go pear-shaped
On those inevitable days when it all feels overwhelming and you wonder why you ever had your children so close together, focus on the positives of a small age gap - it might just help you through it!
Siblings who are closer in age can have more in common, which can bring them closer together from an early age. For some parents, it can also be a relief to get all the challenging baby and toddler years done in a short period of time. And having children closely spaced can also offer practical benefits. They're probably more likely to share activities and spend more time at the same schools, which can make for easier planning.
Most importantly, enjoy your new family and never be too hard on yourself!
We run Refresher antenatal courses, which are a good way of concentrating on the second baby and this pregnancy - often overlooked when there are toddlers and other children to look after. They are also a great way of meeting other parents and making a friendship group for the new addition.
Having two children – whatever the age gap – can be expensive. With two children close in age, you might find that you need to have two of everything if your toddler is still using equipment that your baby needs like the high chair. Find out what benefits you’re entitled too and also save money by picking up second-hand bargains at a local NCT Nearly New Sale.
NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700.
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.