How to Give Toddler Attention With A New Baby

I am now a mom of 2, including a newborn and a 14 month old. The craziness has officially begun and I can definitely understand how 2 under 2 can be a nightmare.  While it is manageable when my husband is home because we are not outnumbered, being by myself with them has definitely brought it’s challenges. One of those challenges has been making enough time for my toddler so she doesn’t feel like someone else came in and took over her family.

Up until a month ago, Brielle was our only baby.  She got our undivided attention and she didn’t have to share mom and dad.   Now a new baby has come along and stole half of our time.   I want to still make her feel special when I can even though having a newborn at home makes that a little bit harder.

Since we’ve brought the new baby home, my daughter has seemed to acclimate well.  She loves running over to the baby in the swing and pushing it, giving him kisses, stroking his feet and ‘doing nice’, so you wouldn’t even think she was affected by it.  However, we have noticed a slight change in her sleep and eating patterns ever since the baby has come home.  Is it related? I guess we won’t really know, but the timing makes it seem like it must be.

Even though, it may not appear to be a big change for them, you’ve really just rocked their whole world.  Therefore, don’t be worried if your toddler starts acting differently.  It’s totally normal when they’re going through a big change.  On ap positive note, think of how close they will be soon enough!

I have been brainstorming ways that I can give her more attention, even while multitasking the many more tasks of the day. Here are a list of ideas that will hopefully work for you guys too.

Schedule time to sit and play and set a timer

Most of our playtime ends up being me sitting on the couch holding or nursing the baby, while my toddler brings me her toys and books to ‘play’ with her.  She definitely doesn’t have my full attention so I like to dedicate time where I put the newborn down and just sit and focus on her.  You can also set a timer to go off at, say 11am for 20 minutes of play time.  This way you don’t keep putting it off.  Read a story, do a puzzle, play with their tea cups, just let them choose the activity. Check out these simple activities you can do with your toddler.

Have them help

Toddlers love to feel needed and always want to help out.  Depending on the age of your toddler, use this to your advantage! I ask my daughter to bring me things while I’m nursing, give the pacifier or the blanket to the baby, and hand me diapers and wipes when I’m changing the baby.  I can also give her little chores to help me clean up, make dinner, and sweep the floor.  She loves doing what mommy is doing and has a blast helping out.  My daughter loves this Melissa & Doug cleaning tools set so she can follow what mom & dad do all day! Also be sure to acknowledge how much better it is to be the older sibling.  For example, say “You’re so lucky that you are old enough to help me make dinner, your baby brother can’t do that yet because he’s too small.” Be sure to read The Good Habits You Should Be Teaching Your Toddler Early On

Respond to them first when upset

If both kids need attention at the same time, whether they’re upset, hungry, or throwing a tantrum, try to tend to the toddler first.  I know it seems like the tiny, innocent newborn baby needs you more at those vulnerable moments, but your older child is the one who will really understand and remember that you chose the other baby over him.  You can also make it known to them that you are choosing them over the baby. For example, say “The baby has to wait a minute while I come to you first,” so he is aware that you are putting him first.

Give her a doll and let her imitate what you’re doing

Get your daughter a doll (a boy may be less inclined to do this) and have her imitate what you do with the baby on her doll.  I have my daughter sit next to me while I’m nursing and she gives her baby a bottle, attempts to change his diaper and feed the doll with a little spoon.  It’s so adorable to see her be so motherly and it makes her feel special to spend that time with mom.  My daughter loves her Baby Alive doll that comes with utensils and bottles so she can feed it and even ‘poops’ in it’s diaper for the baby to change!

Take him/her out for a mommy & me date

If you can work it into your schedule to make time with just you and your toddler once a week, take them out for their favorite activity. You could go get ice cream, a carnival/amusement park, zoo, play place, lunch, etc.  There are so many options of things the 2 of you can do together to keep that bond going strong.

Have Special Time with Dad or Grandparents

They can also have a daddy & me date or time at grandparent’s or other relative’s house.  They might enjoy this special one-on-one time with another family member that they didn’t use to get.  This will also give you a break and some more time to yourself.

Set times where you give them your undivided attention

Aside from play time, you can use meal times and bath times to just focus on your toddler.  Your newborn can stay in the swing or bassinet during these times and you can really give one on one attention to your toddler.  It’s hard during unstructured time throughout the day to focus on them, but these are times where your toddler is sitting still and can understand that you’re taking time to only be with them.

Get out of the house

I know from experience that it can be a struggle to get out of the house with 2 little ones, but you will find that it’s better for all of you to get out.  Your toddler may be going stir crazy by being inside with the same toys all day and still not getting enough attention.  Take them out for a walk at the least where you can talk to him or her without distractions.  Describe the scenery- cars, trees, houses, and ask him/her what she sees.

Have them spend time with the baby

Make sure your toddler is getting acclimated to having the baby around.  Have them give the baby kisses, be gentle while stroking the baby’s hands or feet, and give the baby hugs. Hopefully they will enjoy giving and getting affection from the baby.

Don’t make any other big changes

Now is not a good time to start potty training or taking their pacifier away, let alone moving to a new house.  The new baby in the house will be a big enough change that you shouldn’t try to add anything else on to it.  Wait a couple months to slowly transition them into any other big changes you’d like to make.

Make sure to read How to Survive the First Few Months with a Newborn & a Toddler for tips on getting through those tough days.

Do you have any other good ideas to keep your toddler happy with a new baby in the house?

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  1. I just had baby nine, and my twenty month old is definitely feeling a bit dethroned. You have a great collection of tips!

    I’d add schedule time for your toddler to spend special time with Grandma or Daddy. My toddler loves the one on one attention from others people he loves and you can just see the joy on his face when he comes home. I also like having him pick a book for me to read aloud while nursing. It’s an easy way to spend time together.

    And remember if does get easier! They adapt so well to new siblings, and it won’t be long at all before they’re both running around playing together.

  2. This is great! I have 3 and all are about 20 months apart. The oldest two are the best of friends now. The youngest at 18 months is still trying to fight his way in but he’ll get there!

  3. I have four little kids so I have had to go through this three times. All my children are about 2 years apart. This post is spot on! Great advice.

  4. Can I just say that I read a LOT of mom blogs and I haven’t really seen this topic tackled before. And it should be because it can be a huge struggle! Good work, Momma! I’m going to send this to a friend who is currently going through this and has a husband who travels quite often

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