How to Balance a Newborn and a Toddler

Introducing a new baby to an older child is challenging enough. Now I needed to care for all three kids… at the same time.

As a firstborn, your child has been the center of attention. And while she may get plenty of independent play, all she has ever known is being her parents’ only concern.

Now, not only will she share your attention, she’ll also have less of it compared to her baby sibling.

You may even be in an extra bind if your child is more attached to you than anyone else. She may have a difficult letting you go, and would rather not spend time with other people.

Balancing toddler and newborn needs

The easy part, though? Second-time moms are more seasoned and know what to expect when caring for a new baby.

Now for the hard part: there’s still the older child to contend with. Because no matter how much you’ve learned since having a baby the first time, you still have the older one that needs you as well.

If the thought of handling a newborn and a toddler has you worried, read on. Following a few best practices makes balancing toddler and newborn needs doable. Here’s how:

1. Spend time with the baby while your toddler plays independently

Is your older child still not used to playing alone? Encourage independent play now so she learns to entertain herself while you’re with the baby.

Your toddler knowing how to play independently can buy you more time than if she needs you all the time.

One of the best ways to encourage independent play is to set up an area just for your toddler. This might be an art table with plenty of open-ended crafts and materials, or a play tent with her stuffed animals. You can also set up a library of children’s board books she can flip through.

And don’t interrupt your toddler while she’s playing alone. Let her get used to focusing for long periods of time without frequent comments or interruptions.

2. Spend one-on-one time with your toddler

Your toddler will want one-on-one time with you, as she should. As demanding as a newborn can be, you can still find pockets of time to spend with your older one.

These moments can be simple, so long as they focus on her. You can:

  • Play a simple game while the baby naps
  • Read a book after the baby has already gone down to bed
  • Walk to school while the baby is home with dad
  • Invite her to accompany you to run an errand
  • Ask her to help you do simple chores at home

These simple moments reassure her you still love her, no matter what. And however chaotic a new baby may be, you’ll always try to find ways to spend time with her.

3. Give your toddler responsibilities

You might be surprised at how helpful your toddler can be with simple tasks that can make a huge difference. Kids can come in pretty handy when you need someone to fetch a burp cloth or put a onesie in the hamper.

Your toddler will also feel responsible for being entrusted with bigger responsibilities than she’s been used to. Don’t be afraid to give her tasks a notch above what you’d normally give her—kids will meet our expectations, so might as well set them high.

Not only is she being helpful and responsible, she’ll also feel like a contributing member of the family.

And including her in tasks means more opportunities for her to spend time with you. After all, this is truly what she craves. So even though you can do a task much faster, asking for her “help” is yet another chance to bond and be together.

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