Having a toddler and newborn can be a lot to handle. We learned a ton in the first year of our second baby’s life about adapting to life with two kids, and what life is really like with two under two.
We also found that there are a few items and outlets that really helped us manage better everyday, so here are my top eight tips for coping with a toddler and newborn.
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1. Set Up a Bassinet or Pack ‘n Play
We moved from a tiny apartment into a two story home when my daughter was just 5 weeks old. I quickly found that I really needed a place to put her while we were downstairs, which is where we spent most of our time. She needed a safe space to either lie awake, or maybe even sleep.
I was lucky enough to have a friend loan us an “Arm’s Reach” bassinet, and it was a lifesaver. It was easy to move, didn’t take up a ton of room, and was simple to get her in and out of.
The exact version I had is no longer available, but this is a very similar, updated (and better) version, because the side can be lowered and raised.
Another great option is to set up a pack ‘n play. Pack ‘n Plays are a really useful purchase, because you can use for a much longer time than bassinets (we still use ours for our 3 year old), but they tend to be much larger, and a bit harder to move.
I loved this pack n play, because it had a changer and napper built into one, space to lay baby down, and a little spot to store diapers and wipes. We used this one for quite awhile with both babies (and still use it to travel now).
This one is also a great option, because it comes with a removable newborn rocker, removable changer, and allows you place the main pad on an upper or lower height setting.
If you’re looking for the most affordable option, this pack n play is simple, super cheap, and definitely does the job! (Just note that this one does not have a higher setting for the mat, so this can be tough on your back, and especially harder for c-section moms.)
2. Get a Multi-Child, Adaptable High Chair
If you’re planning to have two close in age from early on, this Graco high chair is a really great investment. It can be converted into several different seats/configurations, which means you can use it for both a newborn and a toddler at the same time, or two toddlers later on.
We love this high chair — it’s held up super well and has saved us a lot of money since we’ve never had to buy a second high chair.
3. Carry Your Newborn In a Wrap or Carrier
Our carrier (we also had a this wrap, which is awesome for the newborn stage) was one of our best purchases we made, and was essential to helping us cope with a toddler and a newborn. We used it constantly with our firstborn, because we lived in a large city and took public transportation almost every day.
Our current home is definitely not in a large metropolis, but I still used the carrier on a regular basis.
It is so much easier to have your infant in a carrier when you’re taking your toddler to the park or for a walk. Pushing a stroller and running after a toddler is rough, so the carrier really helped on those days where I was flying solo with both kids. These are also a really cozy place for newborns, which means they usually love napping in them.
After a lot of research, we opted for a Lillebaby carrier, and we liked it so much that we ended up purchasing two more – one for my husband, and one with a lighter fabric for hotter temperatures.
There are a ton of great features with these carriers, including a pad that supports your back, a hood for baby, neck support for newborns, and the ability to carry your child inward facing, forward facing, on your back, or on your side.
The other main bonus for me, is that these carriers don’t require any sort of infant inserts or extra pieces to fit your baby — you’re able to carry a newborn and an older infant all in the same carrier, just with small adjustments.
4. Diaper Backpack
To go along with a carrier, having a diaper bag that’s a backpack has been a lifesaver. I still use mine everyday in place of a purse.
I initially had a Skip Hop messenger style shoulder bag, and realized I actually needed a backpack style bag in order to keep my hands as free as possible. Skip Hop has great quality products and offers a backpack style bag, but I wanted something a little more compact.
After a lot of research, I ended up going with the Jujube B.F.F. diaper bag.
There’s a lot to love about this bag. It is really high quality – I’ve banged this thing around for the last three years and it has held up incredibly well – it can also be thrown in the washer, it’s roomy without appearing huge on your back, and there are a ton of pockets and zippered compartments, which makes the organizer/type A in me really happy.
The one downside is the price, but considering the quality and the smart features, I would still recommend it!
5. Invest in a Double Stroller
When we were pregnant with our first, we decided to just go ahead and invest in a stroller that was adaptable and easy to convert into a double stroller, and I am so glad we did.
The one we chose is by Uppababy, and it is definitely a splurge. I’ll be honest – I balked a bit at the price, and wasn’t quite sure if we should spend so much on a stroller. However, if you are planning to use it for several years – as we have already – it’s definitely worth the investment.
Money Saving Tip: You can usually find deals on earlier models – which still have a ton of great features similar to the newer models. Also, certain colors are sometimes cheaper, so it’s a good idea to do some shopping around to make sure you’re finding the best price.
The Uppababy stroller has a TON of mom and kid friendly features that really set it apart. I couldn’t find anything that was really comparable.
First off, it has a ton of different configurations, allowing you to carry a newborn in a bassinet, in their carseat (if you opt for the same carseat brand), or in a “toddler chair.” The stroller can then be configured to fit any of these along with a second chair, and each chair can be turned forward or backward facing.
Second, there’s a bunch of other thoughtful features that have been so helpful to me – like a huge basket (really useful if you live in an urban area and can walk to a grocery store), a massive canopy that actually covers and protects your child almost fully from the sun, and a design that allows the stroller to stand solo when you fold it. If you’ve ever had a stroller that falls as soon as you fold it, you understand why that feature makes life so much easier! When you’re juggling kids, bags, and trying to open a car door all at the same time, not having to worry about your stroller falling all over the place is a relief.
Lastly, one of the main reasons we chose the Uppababy stroller is because the seats stack on top of each other, rather than sitting side by side. Side by side seats make a stroller huge, and I did not want to deal with trying to squeeze through doors or other small spaces. So in the end, spending a little more on this double stroller was definitely worth it for us.
6. Set Up a Safe Space for Your Toddler
If your toddler is young enough to still be contained – or even if they’re not – make sure you have a safe space carved out for them where you know you don’t have to worry and watch their every move. This becomes really important when you’re trying to feed your infant, and can’t run over quickly to protect your toddler’s missteps.
We used pieces of our baby playspace gates to cordon off certain areas of our house, and also to create safe play areas. We also made sure to babyproof as much as we possibly could throughout the house. I go in depth about our favorite babyproofing gear in this post.
7. Take a Break
Kids are amazing. Kids are wonderful. Kids are exhausting.
Try to find some time each week to carve out some “me-time.” Whether that means sending them to Grandma’s house for the morning, daycare, preschool, or even just going to a weekly playgroup, where they can play and be distracted by other kids.
One note and a huge bonus about preschool: when we started our son in our local preschool he was still struggling with his speech development. After we enrolled him, we very quickly noticed an improvement in his speech. The daily socialization and structure of school made a monumental difference. You can read all about what we did to help him overcome his speech delay, here.
So, if you can afford preschool or daycare, it’s a great way to give yourself a break, and offer your child an outlet – and a jump start on social skills – as well.
8. Try to Overlap Nap Schedules As Much As Possible
We had a lot of flexibility when it came to when we wanted to move our first baby to two naps, and then to one.
Basically, we took our time.
With baby #2 though, I tried to wiggle in as many overlapping naps as possible. At 12 months, we decided to push her to see if she could do one nap instead of two, allowing her to nap at the same time as her brother, and giving me some much needed solo time.
Eliminating the second nap also allowed us more freedom during the day. We didn’t have to worry about rushing home for naps, or spend time hoping she would fall asleep in the stroller (she almost never did).
I have posts sharing a sample newborn schedule, 2-4 month old schedule, and a 6-12 month schedule to offer you a starting block for how you can structure your day and their naps. None of these are one size fits all, so it’s always a good idea to tweak it for your child, and figure out what works best. Don’t be afraid to try new things!