If you’ve ever wondered how to split your attention between a toddler and newborn, guest author Krystal Rogers-Nelson has a few ideas to keep that special connection with your oldest child.
When I had my son, it was pure bliss—I was able to give all of my attention to only him. We spent our days playing baby games together, singing songs, and reading books. You know, all the magical things first-time parents and their babies enjoy!
Now that my son is a toddler and I’m considering having another baby, I worry about having to split my time and energy between two children. How can I make sure my son’s toddler jealousy doesn’t start stirring up when I’m taking care of a newborn?
Here are five strategies that I plan to use based on research and the advice of other moms who have experienced this difficult transition. I hope they will help you too!
1. Create a Feeding-Time Activity Bag
Right after my best friend had her second baby, she received the best gift: a bag activity bag that her toddler could play during the newborn’s feeding time. The bag included sticker books, coloring books, fun puzzles, a button art game (this is awesome), finger puppets, and more (these are affiliate links).
That special toy bag for feeding time was perfect because she let her toddler play with it only when she was feeding the baby. Rather than toddler jealousy taking over when she was feeding the baby, her little girl considered feeding time a special time for her too. She even started asking when it was time to feed the baby so she could play with her “special toys.”
What you put in your feeding-time activity bag will depend on what your child likes, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. You can either purchase cheap, fun toys or make homemade games. What is important is that you let your toddler play with the special toys ONLY during feeding times.
2. Invest in a Baby Carrier
One of the things that saved my sanity as a new mother was a baby carrier. With baby strapped to my body, I could still do things like cook dinner or clean up around the house. I plan to use a carrier with my second child too so I can still take my toddler on walks, play games with him, and do all the fun things that we do together now.
I personally like the Ergo baby carrier (affiliate link). It’s easy to strap on and put your baby in, and you don’t have to do any fancy tricks to make sure you tie it right. Also, the carrier has an insert for newborns to keep them nice and snug that you can remove as soon as they grow out of it. You can also wear your baby on your front, hip, or back, and it’s great for hiking.
If you are looking for a cheaper option, the Moby Wrap (affiliate link) is also great. In fact, many parents prefer a Moby to an Ergo because of its comfortable, lightweight material and ability to secure your baby in several different positions. If you like to sew, you can save even more money by making a similar baby wrap for yourself.
3. Use a Security Camera or Video Baby Monitor
When you have both a toddler and newborn, two things are certain: your baby needs a lot of sleep and your toddler needs a lot of time to run around, play, scream, and do all the wonderfully loud things toddlers need to do.
It can be difficult for a toddler if you constantly tell them to be quiet because the baby is sleeping, and this may lead to resentment… and more toddler jealousy. It’s best to put your baby down to rest in their quiet room and take your toddler to play in another room. And you can still keep your eyes on baby with a security camera or video baby monitor (affiliate links).
Find some quiet time activities for your toddler or preschooler.
I used to think that video monitors were overboard, but after using one, I can’t go back. Being able to see our baby (or toddler) from the other room makes such a big difference in terms of creating less stress and getting more sleep (I’m a worrier!). Plus, we use ours to check in with the babysitter if we need to.
4. Schedule Naps at Different Times
Most moms desperately want both kids to nap at the same time, so they can have a moment of quiet or get other things done. But (and I know this sounds crazy…), you might want to consider scheduling naps at different times if you notice your toddler is getting jealous.
With baby asleep, you can focus all of your energy on giving your toddler the time and attention they need. Then when your toddler is asleep, you can play with your baby and get those uninterrupted newborn snuggles that every parent craves.
5. Involve Your Toddler in Taking Care of the Baby
The absolute best thing I’ve learned about soothing my son’s toddler jealousy doesn’t cost any money at all. Spend time before your baby is born to prepare your toddler to be your special little helper. Let them know that new babies take a lot of time and attention and that you will need their help.
I think my son will love being a little helper; he’ll be excited to be in charge of certain tasks that he finds fun. Some things I plan to try: taking out the diaper caddy for diaper changes, getting the towel ready for bath time, or picking out special books for us to read to the baby together.
Here are more ideas to help your child learn responsibility.
Let your child know how important it is to be a big brother or sister and that they will have a special mission to take extra care of the baby. Rather than feeling jealous, they will feel like some ownership in helping with the new baby.
Toddler jealousy is real, and if your toddler is going through it, remember that it’s completely normal. Hopefully, these tips will help your child adjust to sharing their parent with a newborn baby, and help you avoid unnecessary stress keeping your toddler happy while taking care of your new little one.
What tips that have worked for your family? I would love to hear about them in the comments!
Krystal is a freelance writer, artist, and mother of a rambunctious three-year-old. With 14 years of experience coordinating non-profit youth programs for children of all ages, she is passionate about hands-on youth education. You can find her work featured on KSL, ASecureLife, and BorderlessTravels.