How to Survive a Toddler and Newborn: The Survival Guide

After bringing home a second baby, many parents find themselves wondering how to survive a toddler and newborn life. Can it be done?

How to Survive a Toddler and Newborn: The Survival GuideWe’ve been there. Rachel’s done the newborn/toddler thing TWICE. So believe us when we say we know what we’re talking about. 

We’re going to give you multiple strategies for exactly how to master this seemingly impossible task. You’ve got this! 

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Essential Tips for How to Survive a Toddler and Newborn:

Establish A Toddler And Newborn Routine

A new baby totally disturbs your toddler’s whole world. Finding a solid routine as soon as possible can help reinforce stability after this huge change.

It can be helpful to try to keep your toddler’s daily schedule as close as possible to what it was pre-baby. Unfortunately, this can be really difficult since newborns are unpredictable and require so much care. Try to incorporate baby into your previous routines when possible.

Some changes are inevitable so establish these changes into your new routine.

A particularly tricky time of day for routines in bedtime. Since it can be so challenging we have an entire article to help you find the best bedtime routine for your toddler and baby.

safe sapace is essential for how to survive with a toddler and baby

Make A Safe Area For Each Child

Create a safe zone for both your toddler and your newborn. You’ll want a place where you can put your child for a minute and they will be safe. These areas need to be meticulously toddler/baby proofed and they need to be separate.

With two little ones, things can be crazy and distractions will happen. Like while you’re wrangling a squirmy newborn with a diaper blow out and poop is everywhere that is when your toddler finds the permanent markers or empties the trash can all over the kitchen floor or falls down the stairs. Ask me how I know.

Having a safe zone for each will help save your sanity, your house, and possibly your kid. 

You may even already have spots in your home that meet this criteria. The thing is lots of distractions happen fast, so you don’t want to wait until you need a safe to make sure it’s really hazard free. You want to identify these areas and ensure they are safe before you need them.

For toddlers, a play room or gated area can work well. For newborns, their bassinet or a pack n’ play is ideal. 

Will they like it? Probably not. Will they cry? Almost definitely. But they’ll also be safe. 

Your safe zone is a necessity because distractions are inevitable plus you need to be able to at least go to the bathroom. It should also go without saying that while a safe area meets a momentary need it isn’t a substitute for supervision.

toddler playing instruments in fort

Keep Your Toddler Busy During Newborn Feedings

One of the hardest aspects of caring for a toddler and newborn is figuring out how to occupy your toddler while feeding your newborn. 

This is especially difficult because your hands are full and toddlers recognizing that you’re indisposed will take this opportunity to act out, be extra clingy, or just be generally disruptive. Then there’s also the fact that you’ll have to deal with this every 2 to 3 hours. 

Having a strategy (a several) for keeping your toddler busy during these feedings can be a total life saver and a little bit of preparation can make this so much easier.

Keep in mind that given the frequency of feedings, you probably cannot rely on just one method of distracting your toddler. You’ll want to have a few of these up your sleeve to use as needed.

Here are some ways to occupy your toddler during feedings:

Tell Stories

It can be a challenge to juggle a book with your newborn, though if your toddler is willing to hold it and turn the pages, you might be able to manage. BUT a book isn’t necessary to tell a great story. 

From remembering classic fairy tales to paraphrasing your favorite movies to making up your own original stories, you may be amazed at what you can come up with and your toddler’s reactions. Get them involved too by taking turns telling stories or creating them together.

Special Toys For Feeding Time 

Make a container of toys that only comes out when baby is feeding. These toys should be totally toddler safe, can be used completely independently, and ideally are relatively quiet . Toddler busy toys (like the ones used for travel here) are perfect for this, but you can use anything your child will like such as Duplos, cars, puzzles, etc.

The key to this is that the toys stay special because they can only be used while the baby is feeding and then they must be put away. This keeps them “new” and fun for longer, though you may still need to occasionally rotate toys in and out to make sure they stay. 

Also, they don’t necessarily have to be toys per se, my toddlers favorite things in the bin were post-it notes and an old calculator.

Coloring (But Only With Special Markers) 

Usually I would not suggest letting your child color while you’re busy feeding the baby. Even washable crayons and markers can make huge messes, which is why I love the Color Wonder Markers

These only write on the special paper so you won’t be cleaning marks off your walls, furniture, or child. There are tons of fun coloring pages so you’re sure to find a character your toddler loves.

Snacks

Kids live for snacks, so letting your toddler eat while feeding your baby can be efficient and keep them busy.

You can sit with your toddler while they eat and can make it interactive by talking about what they’re eating or counting pieces of food.

The trick is in the timing. You want snacks that your toddler won’t wolf down too quickly to give you enough time to feed baby. I find small items (like cheerios or goldfish) in a bowl like this to slow them down a little.

dad struggling with how to survive with a toddler and newborn

Lower Your Expectations

Going from 1 child to 2 is a whole new ballgame. If you felt like you had things under control with one, that might change. Don’t hold yourself to old standards that don’t work for you anymore.

Caring for two kids is new and hard and it’s ok to lower your expectations for yourself. 

So if the house isn’t clean enough or you’ve traded cooking for take out or you live in sweatpants now, give yourself some grace. Do not beat yourself up over perceived failings at standards you set under different circumstances.

A newborn rocks the whole household and it can take some time to find a new groove that works for everyone. The new normal will probably look very different.

Toddler helping by rocking baby

Let Your Toddler “Help”

Enlist your toddler in helping out with the new baby. While not all toddlers will go for this, many love the opportunity to be a “Big Helper” and will jump at the chance.

Admittedly, the help may not actually be all that helpful, but try to find ways to get them involved. Let them bring you the diapers, hold the wipes container, toss the baby’s dirty clothes in the hamper, or sing to the baby.

One of kids’ favorite ways to help was by doing tummy time with the baby. They would lay on the floor and make silly faces and show off baby toys which actually is a huge help if it keeps baby from crying the whole time.

We actually have several more tips for tummy time here.

Mom taking care of a toddler and baby

Ask For Help

Caring for two is not easy. If you’re struggling, ask for help.

Perhaps you need your partner to take over more responsibilities around the house or for your toddler. Maybe you just need someone who can hold your colicky newborn so you can get a shower. 

There is no shame in needing some help. Talk to your partner, your family, and your friends. You might find that many people care and would be happy to lend a hand.

Unfortunately, not everyone has people they can count on for help. That doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no way to take some of the burden off your shoulders, but you might have to be more creative. Consider a mother’s helper or babysitter so you can get a little child-free or one child time. A house cleaner could relieve you from some tasks that you don’t have time for anyway.

You do not have to do everything yourself and with a toddler and newborn you may not even be able to, so ask for help.

Mother babywearing newborn

Babywear

Babywearing is ESSENTIAL for how to survive a toddler and newborn. It lets you give attention and meet the needs of both your children simultaneously. 

Your newborn feels warm, cozy, and secure. You can even breastfeed hands-free while wearing a carrier like a moby wrap

Your toddler benefits from getting your full eye contact and attention. They’ll love that you can use your hands to tickle, read, and help them play. 

Pssst… We’ve got the dish on the best babycarriers

Toddler with baby sibling

Take Lots of Pictures 

Between the chaos of trying to establish a new routine and the lack of sleep, your brain is going to be foggy and your memory will suffer. 

Take pictures of the little moments throughout the day. It will help keep you focused on what’s important and remind you to be appreciative of your family. 

You’ll have fun looking through the pictures during the evenings, sending them to your partner and family, and will enjoy looking back on them years later! 

Toddler in button up shirt holding baby sister

Toddler and Newborn FAQs

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding how to survive a toddler and newborn. 

Do Toddlers Get Jealous of a New Baby?

Of course! They’ve been the center of your world for months, even years!

Now you’re bringing a new being into the house. And even though you say you don’t love your first child any less, you’ll have to divide your time between your children now. Your toddler is forced to share the space, your attention, and their toys. Even though you say they’ll learn to love the new baby, it’s almost impossible for them to comprehend that in the beginning. 

To ease feelings of jealousy, make sure to give your toddler lots of attention. Be careful to always acknowledge and repeat their feelings rather than trying to convince them they’ll learn to love the new baby. 

Graph saying when life with a toddler and newborn gets easier

When Does Life with a Newborn and Toddler Get Easier?

Around 5 months.

According to parents, the biggest factors that help things fall into place is when baby gets into more of a routine (around 3-4 months) and when your baby and toddler can entertain each other (around 6 months).

To figure exactly when life with a newborn and toddler got easier, we polled parents on Facebook. We’re constantly getting questions (and advice!) about how to survive a toddler and newborn there.

Luckily parents came to the rescue and confirmed that, yes, life eventually does get easier when you have two kids. Parents answers ranged from 2 to 8 months, but the average response was when the baby reaches 5 months of age.

Can a Toddler Hurt a Newborn?

Unfortunately yes, a toddler can hurt a newborn. 

Sometimes it can be relatively innocent and accidental. They might be trying to “help” pick up, soothe, or change the baby and aren’t as gentle as they intended. 

Sometimes, however, it can be intentional.This doesn’t necessarily mean they had a malicious intent, remember at this age they don’t truly understand their actions and consequences. They act more from feelings and instinct.  

Above all, always model calm and gentle behavior yourself. Don’t leave your toddler alone with your newborn even for short amounts of time. And make sure your toddler has plenty of time and space by themselves throughout the day. 


Wrapping Up Toddlers and Newborns

Do you have 2 kids under 3? Or maybe even 2 kids under 2?

Got any tips to stay sane throughout the day when dealing with both of them? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below! 

How to Survive a Toddler and Newborn: The Survival Guide

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About Author

Jo & Rachel

Jo and Rachel first had the idea for 'The Moms At Odds' in 2016 when our babies were turning 2 and we realized that we were very different parents.

As a mom, Rachel immediately felt this strong connection to her son and instantly decided she wanted to become a stay-at-home mom. Though Jo obviously loved her son as well, she counted the days until she could go back to work and interact with other adults.

They both struggled over getting their babies to sleep and while Jo believed in sleep training, Rachel looked for alternatives like dream feeding and no cry methods. As time passed and their children grew older the differences started to really add up – pacifier use, drinking during breastfeeding, organic foods, screen time, diaper brands, and on and on.

During this day and age, it’s so easy to look at our parenting differences as a bad thing. After all, we’ve all seen jokes and articles about “Mommy Wars” over one subject or another. Instead, we choose to embrace our differences and show you that in many areas there is no wrong answer. What works for one family may not work for another, and that’s perfectly fine. We can still all get along and raise perfectly healthy, beautiful children.

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