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?”
While our 17 month old could communicate decently with 2 word phrases and hand gestures, she still lacked a lot of ability to express herself. And she still needed everything done for her. It was like having a giant baby and a tiny baby.
Update: 23 months later, number 3 came along… and 20 months later, number 4 came! So we’ve had 2 kids under 2, three times!
If you’re desperate for the 2 under 2 survival tips, go ahead and scroll down about halfway. You’ll see 10 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! (Unless of course you can find it secondhand on Facebook marketplace!)
My house and children were a hot mess all the time. You gotta let it go! No one needs to be dressed. Your house doesn’t need to be cleaned. 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. Age ages 1 and 2.5, they started playing together more. As much as they can at that age, anyway.
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.
- There will be more sleep, 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 free ebook which you can grab here!)
- They will nap 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 for the first months with 2 under 2. [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.
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. If your kids nap at the same time, praise Jesus, and do something refreshing. For me, it was painting furniture or writing. 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 (ahem: instagram).
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.
If someone offers to watch a child, here is your response: “What’s that, you want to take my kids for a couple hours?
I’ll miss them. How about a whole day or a week?”
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 one child? 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. This is something I specifically talk about in my free Rhythms & Grace email course.
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 older baby will learn to form sentences to communicate what he wants. This will be amazing. You will celebrate with singing and dancing on the rooftops!
#3 – How to Shower/ Get a Few Minutes of Silence
What worked for me was to shower during the newborn’s very first nap of the day and put a show on for the toddler. I think Addie (18 months) 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!)
You could always let the toddler watch the show or play a game on your phone 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.
My 3rd child was not NEARLY trustworthy enough to let him sit in front of a show while I showered, or to be let free in the bathroom unsupervised. 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), 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 work.
- 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 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… my basic process is to:
- Brain dump ALL the easiest meals your family likes and put them on a sheet of paper. This is your meals cheat sheet.
- Print a blank meal planning calendar for the month and jot down any plans you have that affect dinner. Like if someone is bringing you a meal, or you have plans to go out. Hopefully your schedule is pretty darn empty the first couple months after you have your second baby!
- Use the cheat sheet to fill in an entire month’s worth of dinners. Don’t forget “leftovers” and “eat whatever you can find/ empty out the fridge” night 🙂
- Then, come up with 2-3 ideas for only ONE WEEK’S breakfast & lunch.
- Make a grocery list of what you need for this week’s meals only – don’t forget awesome mommy nursing snacks, fun beverages, and fridge staples that might not have made your ingredients list (in our house that’s bread, milk, eggs, coffee, cream.)
- 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
Now you don’t have to think about dinners for a whole month!!
Related – Make Sure You Do These 7 Things When Preparing for Baby
#5 – Stop Folding Kid Laundry
Full disclosure – I used to fold my kids’ laundry. The first time I had 2 under 2. I loved it. It was so tiny and cute.
By the 3rd and 4th time I had 2 kids under 2, I was DONE-ZO with that!! My oldest kids would dress themselves – digging through my beautifully folded clothes to find the one shirt they wanted to wear.
And I just realized – who cares!? Why am I spending 30-40 minutes per day folding laundry!? Somehow, kids clothes don’t wrinkle anyway- try it, you’ll see!
All my kids now have only 7-10 days of clothes in their drawers – current size & season only. (Everything else is stored in tubs in each kid’s closet.)
They each have a laundry basket in their rooms right next to their dressers or cube shelves. When the child is out of clothes, I wash the whole load at once (no sorting and no one else’s clothes in at the same time), then bring it back to their bedroom and sort into piles on the floor. This takes me 45 seconds.
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 other kids each only have 3 or 4 drawers.
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. (Sorry for shouting. HA.)
#6 – Become a Naptime Drill Sergeant!!!
By the time our second was born, our first was down to one nap around 12 or 1. After the first month or so, when 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.
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.
I give all the details about how to get your newborn on a daily routine in my free baby sleep ebook!
We personally did NOT move our toddler out of the crib when the baby came along. Here’s why.
#7 – Teach Your Toddler the Patient Song
People talk about how it’s hard for the toddler 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 toddler while she had to wait on me to take care of Emma.
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.
The patient song at our house is sung 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. 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!
More tips about teaching patience with this song over in this 2 year old discipline strategies post!
#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.
If you’re having a BOAT LOAD of toddler behavior problems you are not alone. It’s normal! Here is my complete toddler behavior guide full of practical solutions for toddler discipline, time out, teaching “no,” and appropriate consequences.
#10 – Prepare Some Special Activities for Your Toddler
Here are my top 31 ideas for entertaining your toddler while you care for your newborn.
#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 – Embrace Rhythms & Grace & Seasons
Understanding how those 3 words affect motherhood has changed my mom life for the better. Times 100. I’d love to share more with you in my free 5-day e-course for overwhelmed moms of littles!