Inside: These life-changing tips will help you learn to manage your baby and toddler as a stay-at-home mom. Feeling overwhelmed? We’re about to turn things around, mama!
My phone buzzed at 5:45 AM with a text that read: “I knew having a baby and toddler would be hard, but I didn’t know it would be impossible!!”
In that moment, my heart felt heavy for my good friend, because I knew *exactly* what she was going through.
I was the first one in my friend group to have kids, and at the time, was also the only one in my stay-at-home mom circle to have a baby and toddler – so the whole experience was a trial by fire, to be certain.
Not only do I wish I could have known some of these things back when, but I also wish I had a friend who could have passed on this wisdom to me.
So if you’re wondering: “is it normal to feel overwhelmed with a baby and toddler?” – the answer is YES.
While I am not a doctor or a midwife, from my own experiences with my 3 kids, what I’ve learned is that this constant feeling of overwhelm is a distinct combination of:
- Postpartum hormones
- Lack of sleep
- Information overload (yet lack of quality information)
- Going it alone (no friends or family nearby, no one in your friend group with two kids, etc.)
- Not feeling confident in your ability to manage the two
Despite these factors, today I’m going to be that friend who shares some life-changing tips with you. We’re going to take things from very overwhelmed to I’ve got this.
Hi! I’m Marla. I’m a full-time SAHM to 3 little girls + a dog. I teach a course called the Ultimate Stay at Home Mom Course that will help you take your stay at home mom life from absolute chaos to total control.
Once enrolled you can request to join our private Facebook group where you can ask questions, participate in challenges and learn from other like-minded moms.
How do I juggle a baby and a toddler?
If you follow me on Instagram, then you’ve probably heard me chat about balancing baby & toddler a lot (I even have everything saved to a highlight bubble for you!) Because let’s be honest, this is one of the toughest stages of motherhood.
You spend roughly two years figuring out your first baby, then you’re hit with the toddler stage and almost simultaneously with that, a new baby 🙃
It can be very hard to have a 2 year old plus a new baby, especially if you’re experiencing postpartum hormone shifts, lack of sleep, and parenting solo (while your partner is at work, or if you’re far from family). When taking on a majority of the responsibilities, all the little things become magnified.
It’s no wonder it’s hard to find “balance” right?
And whether you’re a stay-at-home mom or on maternity leave, you often find yourself trying to manage everything alone (for the most part) – doing all the heavy lifting (doctor’s appointments, putting both down for a nap, cooking, cleaning, etc.), which exacerbates just how hard it is to have two under two, or similar.
Related: Daily Routine with a Baby & Toddler
Hindsight is 20/20
Before we dive in, I believe it’s important to remember that as moms, we do the best we can with the information we have at the time.
It’s hard to look back (even a month or two), and think, “wow, I could have done so many things differently.” But dwelling on the past will not fix the future.
So instead of feeling frustrated with how things have been, remember this: tomorrow is a new day to try again. Today might have been a *really* hard day with your baby and toddler, or maybe even a really hard couple of months, however, tomorrow is a new day to try again.
As the mom, you are the constant. You have to decide what you want your home and family to look like. Think: big picture. You are setting the tone with these two little ones who will grow up together.
Looking back, all the little things I worried about ultimately didn’t matter (what I made for dinner, if my toddler napped, what activities we did, etc.) The big picture of who I was as a mom, who I am now, plus establishing their relationship, that’s what mattered.
- Consider all the factors at play (shifting hormones, lack of sleep, majority of responsibility)
- Learning to juggle both
- Hindsight is 20/20
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How to Make Life Easier with a Baby & Toddler
Today we’re going to chat about what to do with a baby & toddler, how to manage sleep, feeding, going out, and all the things in between.
1. Your toddler is still a baby + a mindset shift
The minute you realize that your toddler is still a baby in many ways, is the minute you realize you have to stop expecting so much from them (this may also bring you some relief!)
Infancy actually lasts the first 3 years of life. While your toddler may look so big and seem so much “older” in comparison to the new baby, they are actually still like a baby themselves. They need your reassurance, comfort, closeness, and patience just as much as your baby.
Although we say “baby and toddler” – in many ways, it’s more like having two babies.
This mindset shift can actually help prevent a lot of frustration and help you re-frame how you manage your toddler, their behaviors, and what you expect of them.
2. Make Time for Special Time
10 short minutes of one-on-one time with your toddler goes a long way. This doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, in fact, it’s better to keep it simple.
Consider what they enjoy doing and sit for 10 minutes to play with them or observe them play. No matter how busy your day is, there is always time for 10 minutes of uninterrupted play.
You can plan a daily special time during one of the baby’s naps or right before your toddler’s nap. Whatever works.
Here are some ideas for special time:
- Color a picture together
- Build blocks or magnet tiles
- Read books
- Play with cars and trucks
This short time playing together without distractions, preferably when the baby is napping, can really fill your toddler’s cup and in turn, improve their behavior and willingness to cooperate 🙂
Another form of special time that will be incredibly helpful with your baby and toddler is floor time.
Sit on the floor while the baby does tummy time and toddler plays. Narrate what each child is doing.
- “Baby sister is looking at her shapes.”
- “Penelope is building a tall tower.”
Floor time together will teach your toddler how to be gentle and play with the baby. This takes practice every single day. We have to model how to play together, as this often doesn’t happen naturally.
3. How to Manage Sleep Schedules
Sleep is one of the most important things and yet as moms we often get so little of it. Add on to that, a baby or a toddler (or both!) who may have difficulty sleeping, and now you’ve got, well you’ve got a lot of overtired people 😉
My first child struggled with sleep a lot. She never really slept through the night, often woke up before 5 AM, and fought naps every single day.
When her baby sister was about 4 months old, I started to feel how tricky it was to get them down for naps at the same time. They each required my undivided attention at what felt like the same exact moment. It often felt impossible to “get it right” – especially with a toddler who was difficult at naptime.
If I could pass on any tips to a new mom of two it would be:
- While 2 kids napping in their cribs is the ultimate goal, this will not always happen, and that’s okay. Tomorrow is a new day to try again.
- In these moments, when you start to get frazzled, hot and sweaty, it can easily feel like an emergency. Like if you don’t get these kids to nap, it’s the end of the world (and as a stay at home mom, yes, it can feel that way). However, if you’re able to: stop, take a deep breath, and remind yourself, this is not an emergency.
- Teach your toddler to play with a quiet bin while they wait for you to get the baby down. This routine takes time but can work with practice.
- If possible, lay down with both of them for a nap.
- If neither will nap, put them in a double stroller and go for a walk. If that won’t work, put them in the car and go to the Starbucks drive-thru.
4. Self-fulfilling prophecy
This sounds very dramatic, but don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be!
When I was a teacher, we had a saying called a “self-fulfilling prophecy.” This was common with students who were seen as “bad” – all the teachers knew they were bad, and each class they were in, they had the reputation of being a disruptive student, almost before walking in the door.
Part of the reason for this vicious cycle was the student essentially living up to their reputation. They were “fulfilling the prophecy.” So what’s the trick?
Treating that classically “bad” student as you would the best student in the class. Instead of talking poorly about them or setting a low bar, treat them as you would any high-achieving student.
How does this translate to life with a toddler?
Your toddler is who you say they are.
Once the baby starts to crawl and gets into your toddler’s things, they may push the baby or bop their head or do other things that make you see red.
Of course It’s normal to have that big, mama bear reaction – but we can end up saying things like: “you’re so mean, why would you do that?” or, we end up talking about our toddlers in their presence (like venting to a friend or your partner).
If this becomes a cycle, your toddler will start to assume the role you have cast them in (fulfilling the prophecy).
If you constantly call your toddler mean or difficult, or complain (in front of them), don’t be surprised if their behavior reflects that.
That being said, the opposite is also true!
All kids like to feel special and to know that they are helpful. Try to “catch” your toddler doing good things.
- “Thank you for bringing that toy to your baby brother. He’s so happy!”
- “I love how you listened today at the grocery store, you were such a big helper.”
Let them “overhear” you talking to a friend or your partner about how helpful they are, or how kind they are to the baby.
This is, once again, a sort of mindset shift in the way you think about your toddler.
Do toddlers do crazy things that make us question everything? Yes.
Can we re-frame things to be positive? Also yes.
5. New Baby = New Routines
A common mistake after having a new baby is waiting to fall back into your old routine.
We often think it will get better once we get back into our usual routine. The “aha” moment comes when you realize you’re not going to fall back into your old routine.
You have to develop a new rhythm.
You’ve just added a new human being into your family. It’s not going to be the same and that’s okay.
If your toddler is showing difficult behaviors and you think “oh she’s just got to get back to her old routine” that’s usually not the case. There often is no “getting back” to what it was. You most likely need to develop a new routine for the way things are now. It will take time to find your rhythm, but your toddler will adjust.
- My 2 Year Old’s Daily Routine
- Daily Routine for a 3 Year Old
- What to do with a Baby All Day (0-3 Months)
6. Keep Dinner Simple
This is one tip I could have used when I was in the baby and toddler stage. Dinner can be such a tough time of day, especially if your toddler didn’t nap that day or doesn’t nap anymore.
Instead of trying to make a regular dinner every single night, I wish I would have taken it easier on myself!
- If anything, this is the time to rely on store-bought options and freezer favorites. Dinner doesn’t need to be homemade or even take longer than 15-20 minutes.
- Another good option is to feed the baby (once they hit 6 months) and your toddler earlier, and then eat later after their bedtime.
- Sometimes in the dinnertime rush it’s hard to get everyone seated, fed, cleaned up, and feed yourself at the same time. Dare I say it’s self-care to feed yourself in peace after everyone is asleep?
- In my Time-Saving Toddler Meals ebook I share all of my go-to meal ideas using mostly store-bought ingredients plus quick “throw together” ideas for every meal.
7. Coach Mom
This is a quick tip you may have heard me share on Instagram before.
As a stay at home mom, I’ve learned that mindset really is everything (I’ve definitely used the word mindset in this post once or twice 🙂 )
One helpful trick I’ve learned over the years is to think of myself as the coach, and my kids as the team. Especially during those really tough moments.
Think about it: your toddler is melting down, the baby is crying, and you’re trying to do something simple like get yourself dressed. How are you going to coach your team through this tough spot?
In moments such as this, I remind myself that (like a team) they have skills they need to learn, so how can I help them be successful and learn those skills?
This simple mindset shift can transform how you interact with your kids.
- Your toddler is still a baby
- Work in special time when possible
- Naptime can be hard (some days will work and others not so much)
- Self-fulfilling prophecy (your toddler is who you say they are)
- New baby = new routines
- Keep dinner simple
- Coach mom
What to Read Next:
- My 6 Month Old’s Daily Routine
- 7 Ways to Make Being a Stay at Home Mom Easier
- 2 Year Old Meal Ideas & Feeding Schedule
- The Laundry Routine that Changed My Life