Our lives turned into a chaotic mess the moment baby #2 entered the picture. The toddler had just turned 18 months a few days before, we were all sick when the baby came home from the hospital, breastfeeding issues left me frazzled and in pain, and I just wasn’t ready to care for two small kids. I could barely take care of myself.
© famveldman / Dollar Photo Club
I’m not sure why I didn’t think to set a routine or at least have some sort of rhythm for us. We all needed it. Especially my girls.
Oh, how I wish I had stopped for 10 minutes to set our days straight.
Children need some monotony on a daily basis to feel safe. This expectation of one thing follows another is crucial to avoiding major meltdowns, for both mom and kids.
Just like you probably don’t do things exactly the same way each day, though, you can’t expect a routine for your child to work out the same way every day either. Diaper blowouts will happen. One or both kids will get sick. Naptime may have to be foregone in favor of grocery shopping.
But if you have a routine or rhythm established, life will definitely be less stressful for both you and your child. That is the whole point.
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Bringing Home a Second Child
Before you bring Baby #2 home from the hospital, you need to establish a simple routine for your older child. This will make your life much less chaotic and help your child with the transition from being an only child to a big brother or sister.
At the time our second child came home, we already had mealtimes and nap time (for the toddler) set in stone, because we had established those well before the baby came home. But other parts of our day were just go-with-the-flow.
Had I written out a plan for our entire day before I brought the baby home, I know it would have helped me, as well as my daughters, to get through this difficult period a whole lot more comfortably. Instead, I really couldn’t enjoy my baby until she was 2 months old. Before that time, I was literally just rolling with the punches and reacting, and it was tough.
If only I would have had some guidance to help me set a routine for our days, I think that that time of my life would have been much more easy going. The demands of both a baby and a toddler were just too much for me.
Establish a Routine for Baby and Toddler
I have 3 words for you if you are feeling overwhelmed with your baby, toddler, or multiple children of these ages: Establish a routine. The thought alone sounds like it will take years to accomplish, but probably just a few minutes can help you get your routine written down, and then a week or so to actually implement it and get your kids used to it.
I recently read a wonderful book called Rhythms, Routines, & Schedules* by Rachel Norman and Lauren Tamm. This book is full of practical advice that is so valuable when raising young children. I wish I could have had it before I had my second baby. It would have saved my sanity.
Rhythms, Routines, & Schedules* just barely came out this week! There are sample schedules in the back of the book, as well as printables that you can follow as strictly or as loosely as you’d like. If you buy the book before the end of this week, you can get a free printable chart to discover how much sleep your child needs at each age. You can also just download a free chapter to see if this book is for you. Click here to view more details.*
In the book, the schedules are basically formed around the eat, wake, sleep rhythm. If you follow a schedule like this, your child will wake up in the morning or from a nap and eat right away. Then they will have time to play and do other things until it will be time to go back to sleep again. Sounds really basic, but when you have two or more kids who are different ages, trying to get used to two different schedules for each one is difficult.
Tips for Establishing a Routine for Baby and Toddler
From Rhythms, Routines, & Schedules,* I learned several ways to get a routine established with more than one child.
- Have all the children wake up at the same time.
- Try to keep meals (including snack times) and sleep times the same for all the kids (a baby probably would be the only exception)
- Let the children play together or independently about the same time each day. This will allow you to have a little bit of time to get things done.
- If you let your older child watch TV, make sure your younger child or baby has an activity they can do during that time.
Do you know what you can do with your toddler while you’re breastfeeding your baby? The one tip that would have made a huge difference in our days from the beginning is corralling. When you corral a child, you basically just put them somewhere that they cannot run freely throughout the house. For a baby, this would be a crib or a playpen, and for an older child this would be their room.
When I first brought home my baby, I knew that breastfeeding would take a lot of my time, but I didn’t have a plan for what my toddler would do. Even when my baby was nearing a year old, I still didn’t plan what my toddler would do while I breastfed. At first, this meant that my toddler was doing whatever she pleased. She sometimes would come over to me and start pulling on the baby or leaning into my legs. It got annoying, to be honest. So I started finding YouTube shows she could watch while I breastfed. It was nice to have her occupied, but I wish I would have used this time to corral her into her room. She could have taken books and a few toys and played while I fed the baby.
If you think you may struggle with caring for both a baby and a toddler, I urge you to sit down and make a plan right now. Your life will go a lot smoother and be more relaxing if you take the time now to be ready for such a transition. Establishing a routine for two or more kids is a lifesaver, a sanity saver. And if you want more help getting a routine for your family, I would definitely recommend reading Rhythms, Routines, & Schedules.*
What kind of routine works well for your family?