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In this post I will give you my 12 best tips for surviving with 2 under 2.
Our first 2 kids are 17 months apart, and the first few months with our second baby were SO hard.
I basically felt like, “WHAT DO YOU TINY PEOPLE NEED FROM ME AND WHY DO YOU NEED IT ALL THE TIME?”
Update: 23 months later, number 3 came along… and 20 months later, baby number 4 came! So we’ve had 2 kids under 2, three times! Photo evidence below. LOL
Toddlers under 2 still lack a lot of ability to express themselves. (But they have so many opinions and need help with so many things!)
It’s like having a giant baby and a tiny baby.
The Hug & Encouragement
If you’re desperate for the 2 under 2 survival tips, go ahead and scroll down about halfway. You’ll see 12 practical tips for surviving life with 2 under 2. But, if you need a little love, encouragement, and hope from someone who has been there, read this first part too 🙂
Take some pictures
Honestly, I have almost no recollection of those first few months after our second daughter was born, except for the pictures I took.
So, ya know, take a few pictures. Jot down a thing or two you want to remember because it will be a big giant blur.
I barely remember this, but according to my pictures, we spent basically the whole month of June outside in a $5 kiddie pool from Aldi and this AMAZING portable infant bassinet/ basket thing.
Side note: There’s a deluxe version, but we had this cheaper one and it was great! It folds up for travel, and is very sturdy. Not wobbly at all. Our kids always startled themselves awake in the bassinet that came with the pack n play…I think because they were so wobbly!
True story: We’ve used it on a table, the floor, in bed (a safe co sleeping option), in a closet, and an empty bathtub in a hotel room. And on the patio!
Try to Relax
My house and children were a hot mess all the time. You gotta let go of expectations! No child needs to be dressed in an Instagram worth outfit. Your house doesn’t need to be spotless. It’s okay. (Might I suggest an Instagram break if you are struggling with comparison stealing all your joy… I take breaks from Instagram frequently.)
A year later, it got so much easier.
Not “easy…” (Is parenting small children ever “easy?”) but easiER.
I know that’s almost impossible to understand or hear right now. But, it truly did.
Having two babies under 2 is physically exhausting on a whole new level.
By ages 1 and 2.5, your kids will likely start playing together a little more, or entertaining each other sometimes. The older one might be close to potty trained, and will know how to wait a hot minute for something.
There are wrestling matches and pillow fights. They play in the back yard and try to push each other on swings. The girls run races up and down the hallway and watch shows together.
They know how to push each others buttons, make each other laugh (and cry). It’s not always rainbows and sunshine, but compared to that first summer, it is a freaking picnic. It’s all relative.
Can I just say something to you, you amazing heroes of parenting who have a baby and a toddler at home? (aka: a giant baby and a tiny baby…)
It’s going to get a little bit easier in a lot of ways, really really soon.
- One day, there will be more sleep, fewer diaper blowouts, less exhaustion. (We used an amazing sleep training/ baby scheduling method that you start with your newborn… it works amazingly!! All 4 of our kids were sleeping 12 hours overnight between 12-16 weeks old… and 8 hour stretches way sooner than that. I wrote it all down in a short digital guide which you can grab here!)
- They will take naps at the same time (a bonus of our sleep training method!)
- You will stop worrying about your older baby accidentally feeding the younger baby a giant grape.
- You will shower. (Dry shampoo it for now. Here’s my fave!)
- You will be able to successfully get out the door in less than 45 minutes.
- The grocery store run will eventually happen without tears. In the meantime, might I suggest Walmart Pickup. It’s free & my go-to now ever since we had 4 kids five and under! [Here’s my full review – we LOVE Walmart Pickup and haven’t looked back!]
- Eventually, your toddler will stop digging his elbows into your chest while you’re nursing. (Ouch!)
You can do it.
You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.
Find your strength in the joy of the Lord. Spend your quiet moments resting or with Jesus. Redeem the many mundane minutes a day spent making bottles or nursing, scrubbing the bananas off the floor, changing poopy diapers… in prayer! Pray without ceasing, Paul wrote.
Do nothing else. Allow NO outside pressure on yourself; just enjoy your free time. If your kids’ nap times can be at the same time, praise Jesus, and do something refreshing. For me, it was painting furniture or writing here on this blog!
Maybe for you it’s binge watching Netflix or reading a book or a manicure. Don’t spend minutes/ hours mindlessly scrolling the seemingly perfect snapshots of other people’s lives. (I’m looking at you Instagram & Pinterest.)
Ask someone to take your older kid for a morning or a day.
Give yourself grace. You do not need to feel guilt or pressure for what you are or aren’t doing right now. Accept as much help as you can & notice the little things that do go well.
The Practical Stuff: Surviving the First Few Months of Life with 2 Under 2
#1 – Everything Will Be Slow: Do Less
You thought life was slow with your first baby? It was. But, it is exponentially slower with 2. Accept it for the season that it is. Don’t fight it or try to hurry around. Just do less.
I wish I had spent less energy being frustrated with the slowness of it all. I was frustrated with not being productive enough, when in hindsight, I wish I’d just sort of embraced it and given myself grace.
Since this is the second time you’re having a baby, you sort of know what it’s like to add a new family member. There are some things that are easier than when you became a first-time mom, but going to a family of 4 is still a big change. Give yourself and the older sibling time to adjust and find new rhythms.
Update: with the 3rd and 4th child, we definitely more fully embraced the slow pace that having a newborn + toddler ushers in… I’ve grown to love slow! This book inspired me to not just deal with slow, but”chase slow.”
#2 – Your Toddler Will Learn to Talk
Pretty soon your giant baby (toddler) will learn to form sentences to communicate what he wants. This will be amazing. You will celebrate with singing and dancing on the rooftops!
The big sister or big brother being able to speak instead of just point & whine is a game changer. One good idea is to include the older children (or child) in helping the new little brother or little sister. Instead of saying “mom needs help,” emphasize the older kid’s ability.
“Little brother can’t go get his own pajamas because he doesn’t know how to walk. Since it’s easy for you to walk, why don’t you help him by getting his pajamas for him. Pick out your favorites.” Or something like that.
#3 – How to Shower/ Get a Few Minutes of Silence
What worked for me was to shower during the newborn’s first morning nap and put a show on for the other little one. I think Addie (18 months at the time) tried to go into the newborn’s room to see her once or twice, and I just explained that was a “no.” (Here’s how we teach “that’s a no” to a 1 year old!)
An alternate to screen time is to bring one or two special toys in the bathroom and lock the door to keep them in if they’re too young or you don’t trust them on their own. Or you can lock the baby’s door.
My 3rd child (20 months when the 4th newborn baby was born) was not NEARLY trustworthy enough to be unsupervised while I showered… Ha! Who knows what he would have gotten into! For that baby, I just showered during afternoon naptime and put the immobile baby in a swing or bassinet near the bathroom.
As soon as the 4th baby was sleeping through the night (here’s how we make that happen by 12-16 weeks old with each baby), I started waking up before my kids to shower!
#4 – How to Feed All The Tiny People
- Double & Freeze – Any time you make something that can be doubled and frozen, do it. Just put the second one in your freezer. It’s usually almost no extra time & it’s awesome to have freezer meals on hand.
- Make enough for leftovers so you only have to figure out dinner every other night.
- If it’s affordable, budget for extra nights of take out.
- Ask a close friend for help – maybe she can double one meal a week or something for you! Or maybe she can set up a “meal train” and post it on your facebook wall.
- Buy stuff that’s pre made – Frozen veggies, pre cut fruit, pre sliced deli meat and cheese, frozen chicken breasts trimmed and ready, Stauffer’s lasagna. Costco has some tasty options too!
- Ask your husband to help if his work schedule allows.
Here’s a 5 day meal plan for you: hot dogs, frozen pizza, mac and cheese, cereal, spaghetti. Side of frozen veggies and apples every night. BAM! Done! Repeat it and add some takeout in for the first 6 weeks.
If your whole family eats hot dogs and cereal for a few months, they’ll be fine. Do not put pressure yourself when it comes to meals!!
I meal plan dinners for one month at a time… Here is my detailed blog post on meal planning (with TONS and TONS of recipes you can steal.)
I usually enter the groceries in Walmart pickup app – bonus points if you do this while nursing 🙂 #2birds1Stone
Load your barefoot children in the car, and say thank you to the nice people who put your groceries in the trunk for you!! #winning
#5 – Consider NOT Folding Kid Laundry
Full disclosure – I used to fold my kids’ laundry. The first time I had 2 under 2. I loved that adorable laundry. It was so tiny & cute.
At some point, I just decided… who cares? Why am I spending 30 minutes folding laundry?
Here’s our current system (going strong for 4+ years):
- Each kid has 7-10 days of clothes in their cube baskets
- Clothes are sorted by type but not folded – short sleeve, long sleeve, pants, shorts, jammies, undies
- They each have their own laundry basket in their rooms RIGHT next to their dresser or cube shelves.
- When the basket is full, the child brings it to the laundry room & I help them do a load that’s just theirs.
- Then when it’s done, they bring it back to their room & sort it on the floor in less than a minute. (I do the baby’s pictured below…)
Then I toss it in the drawers, which are separated by: tops, bottoms, jammies, socks & undies. The top drawers in this baby’s dresser have diapering supplies, extra sheets & blankets. The older kids all have cubes.
Here’s my entire tutorial on our laundry system, but I just want EVERYONE TO EXPERIENCE THE FREEDOM THAT IS NO MORE FOLDING KIDS’ CLOTHES. IT’S THE BEST WAY EVER TO DO LAUNDRY. (Sorry for shouting. Haha!)
#6 – Become a Naptime Drill Sergeant!!!
Let’s talk about all the sleep tips related to having 2 under 2. It might feel like you are always waking someone up or putting someone to bed for a short season – depending on what each child needs, how much daytime sleep baby gets, etc.
If you’re reading this post, you’re likely not in the “brand new parents” category, so you know that the early days of newborn baby sleep change a lot. Same with toddlers. If possible, it’s easier to get everyone sleeping in separate rooms. But, we’ve also had baby brother share with big kids. Keeping it pretty dark & turning on a loud fan or sound machine seemed to be the key for us.
TODDLER SLEEP WITH 2 UNDER
Typically when you have 2 kids under 2, the older one is down to taking only one afternoon nap. (If not, here are some tips for the toddler’s nap transition from 2 to 1 naps.)
I tried to preserve the toddler’s previous naptime routines which were to go potty, change into a diaper or pull-up, choose a toy to bring to naptime, and choose a book to read with me.
All of that took about 10-15 minutes. I tried to set the baby down especially during the reading & tucking in portion of putting the toddler down for a nap so that it was some sweet 1-on-1 time for the older child.
GET THEM ON THE SAME NAP TIME
My goal was always to align the baby & toddler nap schedule ASAP. That usually took a couple months of our eating/ feeding newborn routine training but it worked! (That’s all in my infant sleep guide.)
Sometimes I had to have baby brother nap later, or do the second nap in the double stroller. Of course the whole schedule would shift slightly when the baby was ready to drop naps and have more awake time, or if the baby hit a sleep regression. (Ay ay ay that baby sleep changes so much the first couple of years!)
But, once the newborn stopped sleeping all day long, I worked pretty hard to get them to nap at the same time, or at least overlap for an hour or so. By about 6-8 months old, the baby was typically on a one morning nap, one afternoon nap schedule.
Our basic method for training the newborn’s schedule is to help them establish a pattern of EAT, WAKE, SLEEP. Once it was established, I would just try to time the feedings so that one nap had at least some overlap with the older toddler’s nap. Sleep training the baby is a great way to get nap times line dup!
WHAT IF YOUR TODDLER DOESN’T NAP ANYMORE?
If your toddler is showing signs they are ready to drop a nap, or if they already have, then teach your little one to have some quiet play time in their rooms. Insisting on quiet time was something we sort of did accidentally, but it ended up being the BEST THING EVER. (I now full time homeschool all 4 kids ages 4-9 and we still do an afternoon reading/ quiet time many days… we all just need it.)
Depending on your child’s age & personality, it may be somewhat of a struggle or require a lot of work. But it can be trained! You guys are the parents. Set the expectations and enforce them. Start small – one toy & 15 minutes. Gradually increase the time the child is expected to play independently. This will work wonders for your sanity.
#7 – Teach Your Toddler the Patient Song
People talk about how it’s hard for young toddlers to wait on you to take care of baby. It’s an adjustment for them, and between the nursing and changing and napping and rocking and spitting and cleaning, there’s a lot of waiting.
Our toddlers have loved songs. So I made up a song called “the patient song” to sing to our first little one while she had to wait on me to take care of the baby.
It helped her pass the time while she was waiting and reminded her I hadn’t forgotten about her, nor was I ignoring her. It’s super dorky but it really did seem to help.
I sang the patient song to the tune of “are you sleeping, are you sleeping brother john?”
We are patient, we are patient
While we wait for what we want
With a good attitude, with a good attitude
We are patient, we are patient.
It is so dorky, but it worked. Young kids can learn anything by song & it’ll actually sink in. I caught my toddler singing it on video in her room by herself, the night before a vacation at bedtime, if you want a listen!
#8 – Coffee.
Need I say more?
#9 – Don’t Give Up on Boundaries and Discipline
While having a sibling is a big adjustment for the older one, don’t use it as an excuse for excessive tantrums and disobedience. Your giant baby/ toddler is at such an important age for defining boundaries.
They might need more snuggles and mommy-play-time because of the baby being around. After all, toddlers’ long-term, abstract understanding is non-existent at best, which often leads to extra meltdowns over things like waiting for you to nurse or getting dressed.
But, if your toddler knew how to pick up her toys before the baby came, she knows now. And if you say, “Time to help mom pick up the toys,” and she screams ‘no’ back at you, don’t chalk that up to a new baby.
Define boundaries, follow through on necessary discipline, and give them lots of snuggles and grace.
#10 – Prepare Some Special Activities for Your Toddler
That post has everything from songs, books, & games you can play while nursing to my favorite ideas for a special toy basket for your toddler to have while you feed the baby. Plus behavior & discipline tips for what to do (and what not to do) with your toddler when you have a newborn to care for.
#11 – Remember – It Won’t Always Look Like This
Survival mode will end soon. Then you can learn how to thrive in your new normal and feel like a boss. Hang in there, momma! This too shall pass.
#12 – Try to find a Little Quality Time for Your Toddler
It doesn’t have to be much time… don’t burden yourself with crazy expectations. But, often, I’ve found that if I put in a little quality one-on-one time with the toddler towards the beginning or end of a baby’s nap, that really fills the toddler’s little love bucket.
The new sibling is way more likely to go off and engage in independent play if I have given them some attention.
The good news is that this season is really short & the whole family will find a beautiful new rhythm soon.