Caring for a newborn and a toddler – two under twos or under threes as the case may be – is a terrific task, even for anyone.
Earlier this year, as a guest on the Wake-Up show on TVC, I was brought on to speak on the subject “how to manage and care for a toddler and a newborn simultaneously.” Here’s what I had to say:
Interviewer: Having two or three young children as in your case, is a daunting task. Is there step-by-step advice you have for young mums on how they should handle the situation?
“A good place to begin would be not waiting till you have the baby.
So, while you’re still expectant, while still pregnant, you need to begin to prepare your toddler psychologically for a newborn because before now, your toddler was the baby of the house and now there’s someone else who’s going to overthrow him or her.
When going on your baby shopping trips, take your toddler with you, and begin to converse with him or her.
They might not really understand what is happening, but you can’t discountenance the fact that he or she actually knows that something is going on, something is going to happen.
So, as you’re shopping for those overalls and little socks, make comments like “this is for your little baby brother/sister.
It might sound silly to someone like a random shopper seeing you do this but what you’re trying to do is prepare your child so that he or she does not just come to the hospital and meets a newborn and be like “who is this one?
It should all start from when you’re still pregnant and awaiting. Don’t wait till the baby arrives first.”
INTERVIEWER: So, now the baby has arrived. The whole house is having a party, the long-awaited is now home. What happens now? What next?
“At this phase, what you have to do is to ask for, and accept help because rosy and cheerful as everything might seem, it’s actually a lot of work.
As you said, it’s a daunting task. Obviously, the attention would shift to baby, but it’s in your best interest, and in fact, a responsibility, to try to balance it.
This is where your partner also comes in because sometimes if you’re really overwhelmed with maybe breastfeeding, taking care of the baby, changing diapers, bathing him/her, your partner can actually, take your toddler out for a walk, you know, daddy and baby (toddler) time.
Just so that you can have a breather, a little time for yourself.
And then what else do you need to do? You also need to praise your toddler, a whole lot.
You know how you bring a newborn baby to the house and the toddler wants to carry him/her and you’re like “stop stop stop stop, don’t let my child fall.
In such harsh tone, such a response can actually send the child into withdrawal mode.
Instead of such a reaction, when your toddler attempts to carry the baby, an adult should be there to say “carry him this way, hold her that way” and be close enough to avoid any accidents.
Not that you are already agitated before they even attempt to lift the baby up. You have to be cool and loving and your tone has to communicate this.
Because the truth is: there’s a newborn baby in the house who has now caused an attention shift from the ex-baby who’s a toddler. Everyone is excited, everyone’s dotting over the newborn.
Interviewer: I heard somewhere about creating responsibilities for the toddler. How would you advise?
Let’s say you’re bottle-feeding, you can have the toddler assist to make them feel inclusive, and create that balance. You could say to him/her: “Oh, pass me baby’s bib. Pass me baby’s toy.
Do you want to come, burp baby?” He/she may not do it so perfectly but you know how children love responsibilities. So that’s a fine way to co-opt your toddler into the whole process.
You also need to depend on how overwhelming the new phase is for you, and if maybe you don’t have help or your mum, mum-in-law, sisters, etc. there for you, enroll your toddler in a creche/daily care facility.
Just so that 4, 5, or 6 hours that your toddler is away from the home, you can have some time to really take care of your baby, and maybe catch a quick nap or short rest because you also have to find time within that crazy schedule to catch some rest; else you face the risk of breaking down.
Interviewer: I was going to actually mention nap time because toddlers need naptime and obviously babies are napping most of the day. But then that probably means between the toddler’s nap and the baby’s nap, you’re not sleeping. So, what would you advise?
“Before your baby actually arrives, I want to believe you’ve already begun sleep training/creating a sleep routine for your toddler. It makes so much sense so that over time your child’s body clock is already used to let’s say napping at 12 pm.
So that on days when you might forget to prep your toddler for sleep, his/her body is already winding down because they are used to that routine.
So, if you don’t already have a sleep routine for your toddler, try to get them one because it’ll come in handy when you eventually have your baby, then you can sort of try synchronizing the naps.
It’s hard, I know, but try to make sure that they sleep at almost the same time. It will take a lot of guessing, and trial and error but you will eventually get a hang of it.
It’s not easy, really, taking care of two, three, or just one child, even. Take it one day at a time, you’ll figure it out as you go. You’ll do just great!
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