Are you about to have your second child in less than two years and are freaking out at how on earth this is going to work out?
Fear not, you’re about to read all of the survival tips that you are going to need to know to get through the first year with a baby and a toddler.
I’ve just hit the one year anniversary of becoming a mum of two under two.
Sadly I didn’t get a prize for surviving but I am still standing, so that’s reward enough for me!
It’s been a tough year with very little sleep and a lot of adjustments having to be made, such as losing even more territory in our ever-shrinking home.
To read even more advice on dealing with two under two, check out my 21 tips for handling the first six months. This is a part two to that post.
Here are all the tips and hacks you need to make it through that first year:
1. Baby proof again
You may think that you baby-proofed enough for the first one. But what you’ll find is that second children have all new tricks for getting around stuff that’s supposed to protect them and they will be fascinated by things your first child cared nothing about.
Double check all of the baby-proofing that you did with your first, then have a think about whether you have definitely covered all bases. For me I found I needed a stair gate for the living room to kitchen door as both kids were constantly hassling me while I was cooking and a barrier would have taken a lot of stress out of things.
See my post on baby-proofing for more tips.
2. Forget peeing on your own
If you thought it was tough having a wee with your toddler around, forget it all together once your baby starts crawling.
You also won’t want to shut the toilet door as you’ll need to keep an eye and ear out for any sibling battles taking place during the two minutes you’re out of the room.
3. Streamline all housework
You need to cut corners, because once you have a toddler trying to jump off of everything and a baby trying to climb after them, you can’t spend much time doing chores.
Stop ironing, use baby wipes to quickly sort out counters, doors and other surfaces when you’re in the vicinity. Do 10 minutes here and there, which should mean your home is still relatively presentable.
Find more housework tips for mamas here.
4. Cut back on the word “no”
You’ll become like a broken record and the word loses all meaning. Chances are that throughout the day, at least one of your children is going to be doing something that they shouldn’t.
If they’re not in any immediate and terrible danger then try to just take a step back and let them work it out for themselves.
Sometimes you just have to pick your battles.
5. Sharing isn’t caring
Siblings do not share well. They will be squabbling over toys and always want what the other one has. Just stop trying to force it and let them sort it out between themselves as much as possible.
Of course you don’t want to see one of your kids bullying the other. This is a matter of sitting back and picking the right moments to intervene.
6. Do not favour one over the other
You love both of your kids equally, of course. But you may tell your eldest off that little bit more because you don’t like seeing a bigger child whacking a smaller one on the head.
On the flip side when your baby crawls over to your toddler and tries to bite them, you let them off because they’re so little.
The problem is if you’re constantly telling your eldest off, then letting your baby off the hook, your toddler is going to start resenting the situation.
Try to deal with them fairly and accept the sibling squabble are normal. You don’t have to tell them off all of the time for fighting. You just need to be firm but fair.
7. Give them each their own cutlery and bowls
Save on the fighting over whose is whose, make sure they each have their own from the start.
Some people say double up in the same colours and designs. I think this can work fine, but I’ve found my toddler is really particular about her stuff and she just knows the difference even when they’re the same colour (“that’s the one with my teeth marks on it!”).
Whatever works for you is great here, but figure out how you can cut back on drama at meal times.
8. Don’t rush into potty training
If your toddler is not showing the signs of being ready, or they’re borderline, then don’t do it just yet. There’s no harm is waiting for a bit.
You need to be quite on the ball in the first few days when your toddler is getting used to the change so also don’t pick a week when you’ve had a particularly bad run of sleep.
When your child is ready it will be relatively straightforward, albeit still a bit messy.
9. Try to get the naps in sync
If you can then this will give you a really good break after lunch to get things done or have a snooze yourself.
This can be tough, but most kids tend to be ready to have a nap after lunch once you’re out of the difficult newborn refusal to settle phase.
10. Freezer bags for clothes
You’ve got a big changing bag to take all of the stuff you need out with you, but everything just gets mixed together. Digging through it is frustration you don’t need.
Make your life easier by putting each child’s change of clothes and spare nappies in separate ziplock or freezer bags. That way they’re easier to keep separate and you’ll save time getting them out when needed.
11. Watch that potty
When you do decide to embark on potty training, keep an eye on where your baby is in relation to the potty. At some point they will try to climb in and it could be right after your toddler has made a deposit in there,
12. Plan activities they can both enjoy
Once your baby is crawling it opens up a few more options for entertaining them when out and about. Going to things like soft play and other indoor play places can allow your baby to crawl about and explore with your toddler.
13. But make time to do special things with your toddler
But your baby can be equally happy buckled up in the buggy for an afternoon. Do things that enable your toddler to run about, like visiting theme parks and zoos.
14. Create traditions
Traditions aren’t just for Christmas. It can really help to cement the sibling bond by creating these little things that your family always do.
It might be a Sunday roast followed by a family movie together. It might be a particular pub for lunch on a Saturday afternoon or a particular book you read together at bedtime with everyone doing their own bit of the story.
15. Kitchen nightmares
Try to feed your kids and you the same meals, as it saves you time.
Sometimes this just isn’t possible, and it’s really tough when you feel like you’re spending an hour and more in the kitchen every evening.
Keep the meals simple and plan as much as possible when making your weekly shopping list.
Once you’re a few months in and have decided you no longer need things like the bouncy chair as your baby is on the move now, it might be a good idea to declutter.
This will free up space in your children’s play area. It can be tricky doing this when the kids are around but either distract them with the TV or do it in the evening when they’re not around.
17. Make time for your relationship
Once you have two kids, your relationship moves way down to the bottom of the list of priorities.
Try to do something together whenever you can so that you stay connected as adults and not just parents.
18. Find a babysitter
If you don’t have family locally who can help out, find someone who you’re happy to leave your child with. There are lots of websites and apps that offer a list of registered childminders in your area.
This should take the pressure off of you a little if you know you have someone you trust to call on if you ever get the chance for a night out.
19. Get over any personal space issues
Someone will be climbing on you all day. Sometimes they will both be climbing on you at the same time. You need to accept this, as exhausting as it is, and just look forward to getting your body back at the end of the day.
20. Have a good cry
Sometimes there’s nothing else for it but to have a good old cry. This can be quite therapeutic.
I don’t mean wallowing in your anxieties and worries all day, every day, as this could be indicative of a deeper issue you might need a bit of extra support with.
But I mean just a few minutes crying in the shower or bathroom or over the phone with your mum. It might be because your toddler has been screaming mummy non-stop for the last three hours and you’ve finally cracked. Whatever the reason, it can feel quite nice to wallow in self-pity a bit.
21. Play together
Come up with some indoor games or activities you can all enjoy on a rainy afternoon. It can make the time pass quicker and distract the children from too much crying/demanding.
I’ve got a list of indoor activities for two under two to try here.
22. Don’t panic if you haven’t got out all day
Yes it’s great to get out and do stuff but if you need a pyjama day then don’t feel guilty. There’s no harm in chilling out at home for the day and trying to recover from a long night.
23. Stay positive
At the end of each day, try to think of two or three things that were really good or that you have achieved.
They don’t have to be massive things. Even getting your baby to eat more than three bites of food can be a huge deal.
Maybe the achievement is just that everyone went to sleep in the end, however long it took. Some days are just hard, but trying to list the positives should help you get to sleep on a brighter note.
24. You don’t have to enjoy every minute
Resist the urge to punch people in the face when they tell you to enjoy every minute while you’re standing there with mascara running down your face and hair like a haystack.
Grit your teeth and smile, then walk away. It’s very easy for people who aren’t living your life right now to judge and make assumptions. It’s totally unrealistic to expect to enjoy every minute when you’re running on very little sleep and coping with two very demanding children.
25. Embrace the chaos
You may well have been totally punctual to absolutely everything before having children. That could be a struggle now you’ve got to wrestle two children out of the door.
Try not to panic and just accept that life will be a little messy from now on.