Navigating Life With a Toddler and a Newborn

Updated on July 9, 2019
J Schatzel profile image

J. Schatzel works in healthcare administration in rural upstate NY, and has a master's degree in history.

Preparing for Baby #2

While everyone’s experiences are different, and every baby is unique, there is something all new parents have in common: adjustment! We all find ourselves looking for routines or parenting hacks to make the transition easier. While this is by no means a comprehensive list of how to live with a toddler and a newborn, it will hopefully help you in those first few weeks as you find your groove!

While some of these tips apply to any babies, not just babies with older siblings, they are all things I learned from experience over time—and things that I wish someone had told me sooner (or reminded me about when I was too tired and hungry to remember)!

Shopping for Baby Gear

Getting a Diaper Caddy to Keep the Toddler Out of the Baby's Things

With my first baby, for nighttime feedings I would sit in the living room with the lights dim and change/feed my son. With our second baby, I still do this, but I can no longer leave the changing/feeding station items out during the day or my two-year-old would hide them all over the house!

I use a Thirty-One brand Double Duty Caddy to hold feeding and changing supplies so I can hide it in the child-locked end table during the day and get it out at night. I keep diapers/wipes/ointment in one side and burp cloths/lanolin and a battery powered tap-light in the other side.

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Buying a Bounce Seat

When shopping for baby gear like a bounce seat, be sure to choose one with a higher weight capacity if you have a toddler at home, as they inevitably will try to sit in it!

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The baby can ride directly in the hammock, or by hooking the carseat into the hammock. This allows for more room in the cart for both kids, as well as groceries!Binxy Baby Shopping Cart Hammock
The baby can ride directly in the hammock, or by hooking the carseat into the hammock. This allows for more room in the cart for both kids, as well as groceries!
The baby can ride directly in the hammock, or by hooking the carseat into the hammock. This allows for more room in the cart for both kids, as well as groceries!
Binxy Baby Shopping Cart Hammock
Binxy Baby Shopping Cart Hammock

Preparing for Travel and Errands

With my first baby, I used a convertible car seat, not an infant car seat that detaches to be easily carried. I used a Binxy Baby shopping cart hammock for grocery trips, and it worked great for us.

This time around, I wanted to be able to carry the baby in and out of stores/school/doctor's appointments/etc. without having to single-handedly wrangle a toddler as well. I opted for an infant car seat this time around so that I can carry the baby seat with one hand and hold the toddler’s hand with the other for daycare dropoff/pickup. I can click in the baby car seat to the double stroller and take both kids for walks or into doctors visits, etc.

I put the infant car seat in the car a month before my due date, and I would mention that “soon that is where baby brother will ride in the car next to you” when putting my toddler in his seat. Now that his car seat is front-facing, next to his baby brother’s rear-facing car seat, my two-year-old says “Hi! I see you!” and talks to his brother for the whole car ride. It melts my heart to hear some of the “conversations” he has!

When shopping for a double stroller, be sure to focus on a stroller that best fits what you intend to use the stroller for. A narrow stroller fits through doorways, but might not handle as well on gravel parking lots, etc.
When shopping for a double stroller, be sure to focus on a stroller that best fits what you intend to use the stroller for. A narrow stroller fits through doorways, but might not handle as well on gravel parking lots, etc.
While the front/back seater double stroller is great for running errands, the side-by-side jogger stroller is better for more rugged adventures, like a walk with Grandma at the lavendar farm!
While the front/back seater double stroller is great for running errands, the side-by-side jogger stroller is better for more rugged adventures, like a walk with Grandma at the lavendar farm!

Choosing a Double Stroller

When shopping for a double stroller, be sure to focus on a stroller that best fits what you intend to use the stroller for. A side-by side jogging double stroller is great for walks, parks, zoos, and anyplace you’re doing a lot of walking on gravel/grass. However, those strollers don’t fit through doorways, elevators, etc. as they’re wider than standard wheelchair access.

Double strollers where one child sits in the front and one child sits in the back are great for attending doctors’ appointments, voting, standing in line at the post office, and running other such errands. However, their smaller wheels and longer frame make them harder to maneuver and difficult to push on an unpaved surface.

I keep the Baby Trend Expedition Swivel Double Jogging Stroller in the garage, for our daily walks from home.

I keep the Baby Trend Sit N Stand Deluxe Tandem Stroller in the car trunk for when we’re out and about. I love this stroller because I can still strap in my two-year-old to the bench seat if needed. He usually likes to walk with me, but if he gets tired and wants to ride, or if we’re someplace that I’d feel safer having him strapped in, I can still make sure he’s secured. I can clip the infant carseat into the front for now, then when baby outgrows it, he can ride in the stroller seat.

Choosing Children's Books

We had a few books that we loved reading throughout my pregnancy to prepare our toddler for a new baby in the house. The closer we came to baby’s due date, the more we read those books, rather than the regular rotation of our son’s preferred books at story time.

One night he brought me the whole pile of baby books, and wanted to snuggle and read them all with me before bed. The next day, I had the baby, 2 weeks before my due date. When we came home from the hospital, there was the pile of books about babies, still on the couch! Once we brought the baby home, those were still the books my two year old wanted to read over and over for the first few weeks before rotating some others back into the mix!

Below are some the books we enjoyed and why, although there are a TON of books out there to suit your child’s age/interests/family!

  • Mercer Mayer’s The New Baby (an adorable book from the Little Critter series)
  • Rachel Fuller’s My New Baby (Introduces the idea that babies might be breastfed, and included wonderful illustrations to compare the toddler and baby’s daily activities)
  • Abigail Tabby’s Welcome Home Baby (adorably illustrated book about bringing home a baby)
  • Lola Schaefer’s One Special Day (introduces the idea that babies need big siblings to be quiet, gentle, and patient)
  • Lisa Tawn Bergen’s God Gave Us Two (reaffirms parents’ unchanging love for their toddler after new baby comes home)
  • Lauren Child’s The New Small Person (explores coping with a new baby from the toddler’s perspective, and adorably illustrated!)

Bringing Home Baby

The best advice I received about bringing home a newborn and introducing them to a toddler, was to let the toddler help “pick out” the baby. It was recommended to me for when our two year old came to the hospital to meet our newborn, that I send the baby to the nurses station, for the visiting toddler to come help mommy and daddy to bring back to the room to hold. This way the older child wouldn’t be overwhelmed upon coming in to see a new baby in Mommy or Daddy’s arms.

When my parents brought my son to the hospital to meet our new baby before we came home, we didn’t send the baby to the nurses station, but instead had him sleeping in the bassinet, not in anyone’s arms when our two year old arrived. After some much needed hugs and kisses, and “I missed you Mommy!” snuggles, we asked the two year old if he wanted to help us pick out a baby to bring home. “How about this one?” we asked.

My two year old’s face lit up, he was delighted. My husband picked him up and held him so he could see into the Bassinet and say hello. My husband held the baby and sat on the couch, and our toddler sat next to him to “help” hold our newborn. “Good job! You picked a wonderful little brother!”

Eight weeks out and the two year old is still doing well with the transition, I think he is just young enough to not remember that life “before baby” was any different!

Goldbug Animal 2-In-1 Toddler Child Safety Security Harness
Goldbug Animal 2-In-1 Toddler Child Safety Security Harness

Making It Work

Rather than assuming “I can’t take kids to <insert place/activity here>”, I ask myself “What would I need to do/take in order to go there with the kids,” then decide whether it’s worth it. My husband works out of town 6 days per week. For most outings, it is just me and the kids, and I have found that sometimes there can be creative solutions to enable you to attend things you might otherwise have thought would be impossible.

You can take a baby and a 2 year old to a museum on free admission day. That museum might have lots of stairs and no elevators (so definitely no double stroller access), but by holding the baby in the wearable carrier, and putting the two year old in his Goldbug Animal 2-In-1 Toddler Child Safety Security Harness so he could still walk without escaping, we made it work. What seemed impossible at first mention, turned out to be totally doable

Big brother "helping" me when baby brother started crying. I have taught him to say "No more tears, don't cry" when baby brother starts crying, rather than touching or imitating him.
Big brother "helping" me when baby brother started crying. I have taught him to say "No more tears, don't cry" when baby brother starts crying, rather than touching or imitating him.

Adjusting to Life With a Toddler and a Newborn

Redirection

Rather than telling my toddler “Don’t do that around the baby” on an endless loop, I say things like “Show the baby how to <insert desired activity here>” to redirect him. I try not to make it seem like he can’t do anything fun because he has a baby brother now.

Individual Diaper Bags

Rather than one large diaper bag for both kids, I have two smaller bags so each has their own. It is easier to fit two smaller bags side by side in the bottom of the stroller, or on the floor of the car in front of their carseats, rather than trying to cram one big bag into the stroller (or taking up my front seat).

The "Share It Later" and "Next Time" Lists

When my two year old son wants something that his baby brother is using, such as a baby blanket, rather than always saying “You can’t have that, baby is using it,” I say things like “You can use it when baby’s done using it, we need to share with baby.” If the asking to take the item persists, I ask the two year old to help me take a picture of the item, so we can “remember to share it later.” I hold up my phone and he pushes the camera button. It has 99% of the time averted further whining, and he rarely remembers later that he wanted to use the item.

I was already using this strategy in the grocery store to avert meltdowns, offering to take a picture of an item “so we remember it next time” if he wants to put something we don’t need in the cart. I am sure that someday soon he’ll start remembering mommy’s imaginary “next time” grocery list of absurd items (We don’t even have a dog, we don’t need a 15 pound bag of dog food just because it has a picture of a puppy on it!), but for now it is working like a charm.

Essential Oils

I put a few drops of lavender and peppermint essential oil in the sponge filter of my bagless vacuum, after emptying it. When I vacuum, it smells amazing throughout the house. I don’t have to worry about a toddler knocking over an oils diffuser, or spraying anything with a bunch of chemicals. Young Living makes a blend called Panaway, which smells amazing for this as well.

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That magical moment when you realize both kids are napping at the same time!That magical moment when you realize both kids are napping at the same time!
That magical moment when you realize both kids are napping at the same time!
That magical moment when you realize both kids are napping at the same time!
That magical moment when you realize both kids are napping at the same time!
That magical moment when you realize both kids are napping at the same time!

Making Time for Self Care

I know it sometimes feels impossible, but you CAN schedule time for self care. Not necessarily by scheduling a specific time, but by setting guidelines like “next time both kids nap at the same time, I want to…” etc.

I keep a list ready, or else when that “found” time happens unexpectedly, the only thing I’d remember to do is laundry, dishes, or cooking dinner. You might otherwise forget that you wanted to take a bath in that lavender infused Epsom salt soak someone gave you 2 years ago, or that you wanted to try out that yoga session you found on youtube and bookmarked for “later this week” months ago. Or that you wanted to sit down with a coffee and a book, and enjoy the quiet!.

I like the Tasks app, in which I can keep a grocery list, a To-Do list, a self care list, long term goals list, a work list, etc.

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Getting Outside!

We are a household living happily without television, and spend as much time as possible outside. Although we live in a place that gets snow (and more snow, and MORE SNOW) in the winter, thankfully my second baby was born in May, so we had nice weather in those early weeks for lots of outside play time for my two year old. He would draw with sidewalk chalk, or try to make baskets in the hoop, or go down his little slide, while I could watch from the chair feeding my newborn. He could go “fishing” for bath toys in his kiddie pool with a net, drive his cozy coupe in circles, etc. Being outside to play always helps him eat a better meal after, be more willing to take a bath before bedtime, and sleep better!

I take my two year old swimming every week, and have since he was about 4 months old. When we go to the pool at the local gym, I wear a robe instead of wrapping in a towel, so that I can stay warm in the locker room when dressing the baby after swimming. Now that my two year old is big enough to walk into the locker room with me on his own, he also wears a robe to stay warm/dry while I change the baby first. We probably look ridiculous, but it’s been a total game changer!

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My dad was happy to take the toddler to the playground, while I took the baby to an appointment.My mother in law was happy to come with us for a walk around the lavender farmMy mom was happy to come sit with the kids, while I took a shower and sat down to eat!
My dad was happy to take the toddler to the playground, while I took the baby to an appointment.
My dad was happy to take the toddler to the playground, while I took the baby to an appointment.
My mother in law was happy to come with us for a walk around the lavender farm
My mother in law was happy to come with us for a walk around the lavender farm
My mom was happy to come sit with the kids, while I took a shower and sat down to eat!
My mom was happy to come sit with the kids, while I took a shower and sat down to eat!

Remembering to Ask for Help!

When overtired, overworked, or otherwise overwhelmed, ASK FOR HELP!

Ask a friend with kids to come over for a play date, so you can entertain your toddler without having to pack up and travel anywhere.

Ask a parent, partner, neighbor, or friend to accompany you to the store, doctors' office, or wherever you're concerned about juggling 2 kids.

Ask someone to come sit with your kids, so you can take a shower, eat, or take a nap!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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