Postpartum recovery is never easy but it’s particularly tough when you have a toddler to care for as well as your newborn baby.
If you’re worried about how you’re going to cope with a baby and a toddler in the immediate days and weeks after giving birth, then the key thing to remember is don’t panic.
There are many things you can do to cope with your toddler while your postpartum body is recovering. One of the main things to do is plan ahead to help your toddler adapt to the new situation, and distract them from giving you too much trouble.
Many toddlers will go through behavioural changes after the arrival of a baby brother or sister because they feel jealous and unsettled by the new arrival.
This is totally normal, and will settle down in time. However it’s tough on you, because you’re exhausted from dealing with a new baby!
If you’ve had a C-section it can be especially difficult to look after a toddler who wants picking up, cuddles and to play rough just like they’ve always done before the baby arrived.
So these tips are intended to help you care for both your baby and toddler, while also helping yourself heal after giving birth.
At the end of the day, children adapt quickly so remember if your toddler is being particularly difficult to cope with, it will all get easier with time.
Find your comfy spot
In the first few days and early weeks you won’t be venturing out that much as you recover from giving birth.
While your baby is fine to just sleep and eat all day, your toddler will be wanting to play, play and play some more!
You need to find a spot in the house where you can sit comfortably for breastfeeding, your baby’s naps and maybe even nodding off yourself, where your toddler can also play and be surrounded by things they love to distract them.
This could be the living room, or maybe you could move a comfy chair into your child’s playroom.
Find the right spot and organise it so that your toddler has plenty of their favourite toys around them, and they can access them all. For example, if they love LEGO try to make sure the LEGO is in a box your toddler can open or access themselves without any help from you.
Have toy boxes at your child’s level with open access so that they can find the toys they will be most likely to want to play with.
It’s also a good idea to have a television within range of this area because this will be a huge help at distracting your toddler when you need some quiet time.
Sit down for cuddles
This is particularly important if you have had a C-section. Bending down to pick up your toddler could do damage to your body at this crucial healing time.
Lifting your toddler up can also do damage if you have abdominal separation (diastatis recti). This is where the muscles of the abdomen have separated during pregnancy, leaving a gap in the middle. It’s important to follow the exercises your doctor or physical therapist will advise you to do. One of the key things they will tell you to do is not pick up your toddler. I had abdominal separation with my second baby so I understand how impossible it seems to not be able to pick up your toddler!
So how do you avoid it? Well, sometimes you can’t. If your toddler is hurt, or needs lifting out of a cot, and there’s no one else around to help, sometimes you just can’t avoid it. The key is to do it very carefully and slowly. Try holding onto something with one arm to give you support as your lift your child up and try bending at the knees to lift rather than at the waist.
However you want to avoid lifting your toddler as much as you can, so the answer is to sit on the floor or on a chair and have them climb into your lap for cuddles. When it comes to their meals, feed them finger foods they can eat on a wipe-clean mat on the floor so you don’t have to lift them in and out of a high chair.
Have a secret stash of sticker books
Sticker books are my secret weapon when it comes to toddler distraction!
Have five or six in the cupboard and get one out when your toddler is becoming bored or seems to be on the verge of a tantrum.
These can buy you an hour of time to breastfeed or have a rest.
Encourage them to play independently
Independent play is a really important thing for a toddler to learn anyway, so this is a good time to start.
It went against my instincts to allow my toddler to get bored but actually this is what sparks their imagination. It’s good for them to be bored.
Encourage independent play by laying out a few different toys and sets for them to choose from. Let them pick what they want to do and let them develop how their play session goes. Try setting up everything they need to do a teddy bear’s picnic, or get out their LEGO and encourage them to build a house.
You don’t have to be playing with your toddler all of the time. It’s perfectly fine, and good for them, to play on their own.
Explain what is happening
Whatever level language your toddler is at, it’s good to explain what’s happening and why. Tell them you can’t pick them up because mummy has a sore tummy.
Explain they can’t be too rough with mummy and give them lots of verbal praise when they are gentle.
Even a child who doesn’t say many words yet can understand a lot of what you are saying, so speak up as much as possible to tell them what they can and cannot do.
Get some new books
Reading is a great way to get your toddler to sit quietly for a while. Toddlers love to clamber, wrestle and jump on you, so if you want to get them to sit still and give your body less of a battering, you need to distract them!
New books can really help to get them focused on something other than rough and tumble. Try some books about new siblings as it can help to teach them about adjusting to a new baby.
Have a breastfeeding distraction kit
Breastfeeding a new baby while a toddler is demanding your attention is a tricky balance. Once you’ve got the hand of breastfeeding with just one arm, have a box with toys and books in right next to you at every feed.
If your toddler wants attention, you can encourage them to pick things out of the box and chat about them, or read a book.
Fill the box with small dolls, toys, action figures, blocks, dress-up toys such as glasses and headbands, and a magic drawing board.
Try a C-section belt
Protect your C-section scar while it heals with a band to provide it with a cushion against overenthusiastic toddlers.
You could also try higher waisted underwear just to give it an extra layer of protection.
Remind your toddler to be gentle around your scar.
Give them jobs to help out
Toddlers love that they are the “big” sibling, so feed their ego as much as you can. Give them jobs to do for the baby, such as getting a clean nappy or passing the wipes.
Make a big deal out of them when they do little things to help, as it will make them feel great about themselves and it will combat feelings of jealousy.
Make time for them
Having a baby and a toddler to deal with is so tough on you. It’s more than double the trouble compared to when you just had your first baby to deal with.
However it’s important to make time for your toddler so that they feel secure amid the big changes.
You need to pick activities that are going to be gentle on you and your recovering body. Choose activities such as building a tower with blocks, watching a film together and doing a puzzle.
Self care is important
Remember to take care of your postpartum body, because you need to allow yourself the best chance to heal as quickly as possible.
If you have been given a regime of exercises to follow, then stick to them religiously. If you need to get a friend or a relative round to help you out so that you can make time to do this, then do it.
It’s tempting when you’re tired to eat quick, convenient food, but you really need to try to keep fruit and vegetables prominent in your diet. This will help keep things like your bowel movements regular. It can be easy to put off going to the toilet when you feel like you have no time, but one of the worst things you can do postpartum is delay going for a poo. Drink lots of water, and let it happen.
If your toddler has to follow you into the toilet then maybe have some books in there that they can read while you are on the toilet. It’s weird I know, but we have to find ways to work around our kids!
I hope these tips have been useful! If you are looking for more hacks for coping with two under two, check out these posts:
Don’t forget to check out this post for more tips of postpartum recovery: