I recently became a stay-at-home mom to two children 14 months apart. Needless to say, life just got a little more hectic. I had a few weeks at home with my husband so we could adjust to life being parents of two, but now that I’m on my own, I needed to develop my own ways to manage my day.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve gotten into more of a routine and am learning how to manage my time and space better to make life a little easier. Even though it’s getting easier every day, I know that babies are unpredictable and ever changing, so my current routine will have to be changed soon.
My kids are now 10 weeks old and 16 months old and I want to share my tips for surviving those first few months at home with your newborn and 1 year old.
Be flexible with your schedule/routine
I had my 1 year old on a really good schedule before the baby was born and it all got shaken up once we brought him home.
I tried to be strict with a schedule for both of them at first, but I kept getting thrown off my time frames. It just ended up making my head spin. You should definitely have a general flow of the day, but don’t think you need to stick to specific times or it will drive you crazy.
Clean as you go
Mealtimes tend to be the time where most of the mess is made. I used to be able to leave things out and clean up throughout the day, but now I don’t have that extra time to do it. Tidy things up as the messes are made (and while your toddler is strapped in her highchair!)
Toddler proof your home
Your 1 year old will be into EVERYTHING. Toddler proof your home to the best of your abilities in order to eliminate any potential messes before they happen. This means locking all cabinets, garbage cans, & toilets, keeping doors closed to rooms and closets, and not leaving anything out within a toddler’s reach. It will save you so much time if you’re not cleaning up after him/her all day. Read my post on Toddler Proofing Your Home for more ideas.
Synchronize nap times
Your 1 year old may still be on two naps or have switched to one. To the best of your abilities, sync up their nap times together so you get one block of time where both kids are asleep. I try to feed the newborn and put him down for a nap right before I put the toddler down. Since the toddler has a more predictable nap schedule, I want to make sure that the newborn is sleeping before she starts her nap. This can usually guarantee me at least an hour and a half of ‘me time.’
Plan out your day and have things ready the night before
This is a must if you’re planning on leaving the house the next day. Have everything ready that you can and put it by the door or in the car to limit the amount of steps before leaving the house. Pack the diaper bag completely, a bag of any refrigerated items needed (bottles, toddler meals) kept in the fridge, have clothes laid out, and jackets and shoes by the door. Also, have a time frame for leaving the house and know what you will need to do in order to get out on time. Read more about How to Pack a Diaper Bag for tips on everything you need to bring with you.
Give yourself A LOT more time that you think you need to leave the house
Even if you’re all prepared the night before, you’ll always need more time! Factor in extra time for last minute diaper changes and spit ups, getting the babies coats and shoes on, and putting them in the car seats. It seriously takes a lot longer than you think!
Have people come visit you
When you first bring your baby home, it may be overwhelming to have company. However, as the weeks go on, it may be more helpful to have visitors coming to you. You won’t be able to get out of the house much during the first few months, especially if it’s in cold weather months. I’m the type of person who needs a social outlet for my own mental health, so I like to have people come over since it’s too stressful to go out. Forget about going to a house that’s not baby proofed. It’s hard enough to chase around a toddler, but when your crying newborn needs to eat, it can be a mess.
Use delivery to your advantage
Don’t give yourself too many jobs to do. Grocery shopping being one of them. I LOVE having a weeks worth of groceries showing up at my doorstep with the click of a button. I also do meal delivery services and Amazon Prime everything! I’ve realized certain things that are not worth my time and that I’d rather use that time to spend with my family. Read my Time Saving Hacks for Busy Moms for more tips including this and others.
Don’t overextend yourself
Don’t take on too much too soon. If you tell yourself you need to have the house cleaned, laundry done, dinner made, work started, and shopping done, you’re going to be very discouraged when you realize there’s no way you can do it all. Give yourself just one thing a day and if you accomplish that, do another. If you need to hire a house cleaner or get take out, that is okay and better for your own sanity!
Put the newborn down for naps
Newborns are unpredictable nappers so it’s hard to get on a schedule with them off the bat. The best thing you can do to help their sleep associations is to not hold them during nap times. When you notice they’re getting drowsy, don’t let them fall asleep in your arms every time, but put them down in their swing, bassinet, bouncer, etc.
You can’t get much done around the house or catering to a toddler with a baby in your arms at all times. So get your baby used to being put down often, so they don’t need you to fall asleep every time. Maybe your first child got away with taking naps in your arms all day, but it’s just not practical when you’re chasing, feeding, dressing, and playing with a toddler.
Use a baby carrier or wrap
If your baby won’t let you put them down, these will be lifesaving. Do you know how long it takes to unload a dishwasher while holding a newborn in one hand and trying to feed your toddler a snack? It’s multitasking at it’s finest, but won’t get you anywhere fast. When your newborn just needs to be held and you have a million things to do, these are a must. I use the Baby K’Tan Wrap around the house and it allows me to carry the newborn hands-free so I can cater to my toddler’s constant needs. It works great!
Wake up early
This is something that’s still hard for me to do, but when I do it, I feel so great! It’s difficult to set an alarm to be up before 7am when you’re awake multiple times during the night with a newborn. However, if you do get into a routine of waking up before BOTH children, you will be able to get so much accomplished, even if it’s just your early morning social media scroll and cup of coffee.
Get the toddler to help you
If they’re in the early 1 year old range, they won’t be able to do as much, but you can keep training them to understand your needs better. My daughter has learned to get things for me while I’m nursing (burp cloth, socks, bib), clean up her spills and messes, put the pacifiar in the baby’s mouth when he’s crying, etc. Have these items easily accessible so he/she can help out. Your toddler will also be so excited to be able to help. See my post on Ways to Give Your Toddler Attention with a New Baby for more ideas on this.
Independent play for your toddler
Nap time can fly by and as much as you try to sync up naps, it doesn’t always work out that way. You may need more time to yourself even after naps. Dedicate a time and space where your toddler can go that you can keep him/her to play independently without you by their side or roaming the house, creating a mess. I use an open play room that has a baby gate which I can shut. You can also use a play pen or even their own room if there are things in there to occupy them. Set aside a time that they will stay in there for at least 20 minutes so you can continue to get things done.
Keep newborn out of toddler’s reach
Your 1 year old may not know how to be gentle enough with a newborn yet. It’s best to keep your newborn up high so the toddler can’t reach him, or block him off with a gate or other items so you’re not constantly worried if he/she is getting to him. My daughter loves to find the baby, but just doesn’t know her own strength yet. For my own peace of mind, I try to keep her away from the baby so I’m not yelling at her all day.
Try to turn the mental block off
Sometimes we can tell ourselves that something is going to be too hard or stressful before we even do it, and then we talk ourselves out of it. I know I do this to myself with just running errands or going out for a walk. Try to think more positively about an outing and just do it! If you think too much about it, you may not want to.
Promote more independence of your toddler
Get them started on being more independent, as much as possible. This may take time, but it will make your life easier in the near future. Start potty training early, teach them to dress themselves or help with dressing, brush their teeth, put shoes on, etc. If they are on the younger side of 1, they won’t be able to do that much, but you’ll be setting them up for positive experiences in the long run.
Have a cleaning schedule
Not for kids, but for yourself. It can be helpful to have reminders of the tasks you need to complete when you’re home since many of these things will slip your mind when you’re constantly thinking about the kids. I do much better when I write things down and can see what it is I need to do. Nothing is better than crossing off items on a to-do list to make you feel accomplished.
Early bedtime for the kids
Hopefully by now you have a successful bedtime routine with your toddler and he/she should be going to bed around 7pm. This is helpful because once your 1 year old is down for the night, you will have more time to yourself, with your newborn, and with your partner. Read more about How I Sleep Trained my 5 Month Old.
Seriously. Some days I am just so busy and forget to eat. Then it’s 4:00 and I need to start making dinner. Try and eat when your kids eat so you’ve got energy for the day.
Have confidence that you are doing the best you can mama! There’s no one better at raising your children than you. The days are looooong, but the years are short. Even though this can be a stressful time, you will look back and be so proud of how great you did.