As I was expecting my third baby I often wondered how I would manage my other two children with a newborn. I wanted to make sure they all got enough love and attention and that all of their needs were met. I was afraid my middle child would be too rough with the baby, since he was only 17 months older. And I was pretty sure I would never conquer leaving the house with all of them on my own ever again.
In all honesty, having two under two was way harder for me than having three kids total. With my oldest being 3 1/2 years older than my middle, I hadn’t yet faced the challenges and struggles of having two so close in age. I definitely found that to be the hardest part. And probably the biggest challenge for me was something that never occurred to me until I had the new baby and was facing the issue head on — how the heck do I breastfeed the newborn while managing my toddler at the same time!?
Not easily was the answer for a while. My 17 month old was into EVERYTHING, climbing everywhere, and could not be trusted to roam about during my newborn marathon nursing sessions. And I had no one else at home to help me. So I developed a few strategies to help me manage having a toddler on my watch while nursing a newborn, and still nursing a one year old while my toddler is now 2 1/2.
- Nurse on demand but also at the family’s convenience. What I mean by this is, if it is almost time for a feeding and your toddler is napping or in their high chair eating lunch, go ahead and nurse your baby so they aren’t demanding it at a less convenient time in 30 minutes when your toddler is awake or unoccupied.
- Give in to the good old electronic babysitter. Until you get your footing, it is totally ok to turn on a cartoon or show for your toddler. My 17 month old didn’t even like watching anything at first, but after trying a few different show options I found a few that he grew to love (maybe a little too much but it helped get me through at the time.) A few of our favorites: Daniel Tiger, Thomas the Train, Baby Bum Nursery Rhymes, and Blippi. The first three are available on Netflix, or Daniel Tiger and Thomas are on the PBS Kids app, and Baby Bum and Blippi are available on YouTube Kids.
- Create a safe zone for your toddler. Whether you use a baby gate, playard, or some other method of confining your toddler to a safe space during your nursing sessions, creating a safe zone where he is free to play within a confined space gives you peace of mind but doesn’t make them feel as if they are being limited. I used my 4Moms Breeze, which is a big playard that kept my toddler confined but had enough open space to freely play with toys and keep him occupied for a while. It was a lifesaver. Seriously worth every penny.
- Nurse while baby wearing. This one isn’t the easiest during the newborn days (I’ve found nursing while baby wearing doesn’t work as well until baby is old enough to support his own head and has a good latch established.) But from about 3-4 months and beyond, nursing while baby wearing is the biggest lifesaver for a mom of multiple children. You can find more on how to breastfeed while baby wearing here.
Some other tips for managing the needs of two kids under two, often at the same time:
- It is ok if one of them cries: there is only so much you can do. You can’t be all things to all kids all at once. If you are managing the blowout of one while the other is crying and hungry or needs put down for a nap, just manage the more major crisis first (for me, poo always takes precedent!) and the other next. Sing, bring the other child into the room with you, put on some music or a show to distract them — whatever it takes — while you address the other issue first. Worst case scenario, they cry for a few minutes. It sucks, but everyone will survive. In fact, they are learning important life lessons like how to share and take turns.
- Use a playard: I don’t know how I would have survived having 2 kids under 2 without my 4Moms Breeze playard. It has been hanging out in my living room for 2 years now and until recently I utilized it every day. Luckily it isn’t one of those ugly pack-n-plays, so it didn’t bother me to keep it out because it wasn’t an eyesore (some people probably don’t mind, and that’s great, but it does bother me). I put Calvin in it when I needed to nurse Quincy or put him down for a nap and he was too little to be trusted alone. I put Quincy in it with some toys for a safe place to have tummy time and to roll around without big bro Calvin trying to wrestle him. It was seriously a freaking lifesaver. And it is bigger than the traditional pack-n-play so there is more space to actually play, but it also folds and sets up easily with one hand (hence, its name!). Worth every penny.
- Utilize your high chair: both of my kids are content to have a snack or watch a quick show on the iPad in their high chair if I need to help the other one with something (bath, diaper change, nap) or if I need to secure both so I can shower or use the bathroom myself. I don’t give snacks if I am leaving the room for long (and if I am leaving for a minute they still only get cheerios or puffs, nothing that is a real choking hazard). I’ve found YouTube kids to be such a big help here. Throw on Blippi or Little Baby Bum or Tayo and they are happy for 10-15 minutes without me.)
- Get a double stroller: I know a new stroller isn’t always an option for everyone, but if you can get a double DO IT. I’m lucky that I chose a stroller from the beginning that can grow with our family (the UPPAbaby vista with the rumbleseat and piggyback board add ons) but we also have the UPPAbaby G-Link, which I keep in the minivan for errands, outings, and school drop-off and pick-up for my oldest. It has been such a big big help and has the ease of an umbrella stroller.
- Get a minivan: Speaking of minivans above, holy crap is our minivan a lifesaver! I never thought I would want one and figured I’d just go the larger SUV route. But in the end the minivan was more affordable and practical for our needs and now I will never go back. Seriously, when you have two under two and are often juggling both in your arms at once, the sliding doors alone will save you every time. I highly recommend joining the minivan club. No shame 🙂
- Babywearing: Using my solly wrap and wildbird sling with my baby around the house helped keep him close and secure and also let me have free hands to play with and help my toddler. The same applies for when we would leave the house, although I preferred my Ergobaby because I felt like baby was more secure in it if I needed to pick up my toddler or chase him down. You might think you don’t need three types of baby wearing devices, but I did. They were all well-loved and frequently used.
- Set up easily accessible diaper changing stations around your home: If you have a home with more than one story, set up a diaper changing station so you don’t have to constantly climb stairs to change a diaper. Make a little basket with a few diapers in each kid’s size, a pack of wipes, and some diaper balm so you have it handy and don’t have to disrupt play or take two kids to another room each time you need to change a diaper.
- Put your sleeping baby down for a nap in a separate room: I know that when I only had one kid, the baby napped in the living room or wherever else he happened to be when he fell asleep. But if you carry him to another room where you can close the door, you can spend some solo time with your toddler and also not worry about the older one waking the baby.
- Ask for help: If you have a friend, neighbor, family member, etc. that can come by sometimes, accept or ask for their help. Maybe they can watch the kids so you can shower, or entertain your toddler so you can nurse the baby in peace
- Keep your expectations low: Don’t worry about accomplishing major tasks (or any tasks) for a while. Don’t feel bad if you don’t leave the house. Don’t feel bad saying ‘no’ to anything that feels overwhelming to you. Focus on getting through each hour, then half the day, then the whole day — whatever feels easiest. There will be hard days and super fun days, but very rarely easy days. If you keep your expectations low, you’ve got nowhere to go but up 🙂
- Do not compare yourself to other mothers. Let me repeat that. DO NOT COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHER MOTHERS. You have no idea how easy or hard they really have it, how much help they have, how many tears they shed in a day, what medications are assisting them in coping (no judgement! they have definitely helped me!), etc. Rather than feeling bad that you don’t have something they do, try to feel grateful for things you have that many other mothers don’t. That helps me keep things in perspective when days get really hard.
At the end of the day just remember that this phase will pass and you’ll get the hang of it. It may feel overwhelming — I know it did for me — but we all figured out a new normal within a few weeks and did just fine. And remember, it’s all about survival for a while so just do the best you can. As hard as it was to have two under 2 in the beginning, now that they are 1 and 2 1/2 it is actually easier. They play together and keep each other occupied and watching their relationship bloom is just the best 🙂
My Product Recommendations for Making Life with Two Under 2 Easier:
- Baby Carrier, Sling, and/or wrap (This carrier, this sling and this wrap are my favorites)
- Double Stroller or double travel system – both need to work starting with a newborn, which both of those do)
- Two highchairs (so both can be sure and strapped in) This is my favorite highchair but having two safe and dependable ones is the most important thing)
- iPad and streaming shows (YouTube kids, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Disney Jr. App, PBS Kids app, and Hulu are all good options)
- This playmat for a large play space in the floor that both can enjoy (you can read more about it here as well)
- Binxy baby shopping cart hammock for those dreaded shopping trips with both in tow (you can use it to secure your infant seat to the cart as well, because you should never put baby in the infant seat on top of the shopping cart)
- A good diaper bag (I love this one and this one for their backpack options and stylish designs) for big excursions but a simple travel changing station for little trips outside or even in other parts of your home.
- This, for easily putting baby down for a nap for the first few months (I used the same one for all three of my boys!)
- A two camera video monitor if your littles sleep in separate rooms
What are your biggest tips for managing two under 2? Or what are the toughest challenges you’ve faced? If you have kids with a bigger age gap as well, which did you find to be easier?
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