How to deal with your baby and toddler…together!

You had the mum routine down to a fine art with your firstborn, but now your second baby’s arrived your toddler is less than impressed. Here’s how to cope…

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  • It’s brilliant having a new baby to enjoy. But it can also feel stressful and overwhelming. So imagine how it feels for your firstborn. He may be curious, jealous and even angry at having to share your attentions. Here’s how to blend your life as a new mum and a toddler mum throughout the day so everyone’s happy.

  • Feeding time

    You think: “Time for some relaxing bonding time with my baby.” Your toddler thinks: “Hold on, who’s that sitting on my lap?!” His solution to the problem is to try to change the dynamic. “Your toddler may resort to all sorts – weeing, pooing, screaming, or clambering all over you – to disrupt the peaceful scene,” warns Ann Herreboudt, family therapist.

    What to do:

    • Don’t leave your toddler out; sit on a chair big enough for all three of you to cuddle in.
    • Have a bag of cheap but safe toys on hand (try pound shops) so you can bring out a new farm animal or box of crayons while you feed, to make him feel indulged.
    • “It’s fine to use this time to cuddle up and watch 10 minutes of television or a DVD together too,” adds Ann.
  • Changing time

    You need to concentrate on the poo while your toddler wants to bug you to help out.

    What to do:

    • Your toddler could ‘pretend clean’ your baby’s arm while you do the messy stuff.
    • The more you push him away, the more he’ll want to get involved and the more difficult he’ll become. Let him be in charge of carrying wipes or handing you nappies.
    • Talk to your baby through your toddler as you go along, saying, “Look, isn’t your brother marvellous at cleaning you up?” so you’re still getting interaction with your baby while letting your toddler know he’s terrific too.
  • At the supermarket

    Even with online grocery shopping, you can’t avoid the shops 100% of the time. The trick is to try to ignore anyone around you and focus on your little ones. “Involve your toddler with helping you shop as much as you can reasonably manage,” says Sue Beever, author of Happy Kids, Happy You.

    What to do:

    • Get him to help find the things you need, like fruit and veg, or breakfast cereal.
    • Or ask him to point out any red packets he sees, all the time letting him know how marvellous he is and that the baby needs his help to learn all about the supermarket.
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  • Bathtime

    Bathtime’s one of your toddler’s favourite moments of the day. But suddenly he’s taken a back seat to a new water baby.

    What to do:

    • “It’s great to get your toddler involved, so perhaps he can help you dip cotton wool balls into the warm water to wash the baby gently,” suggests Sue Beever.
    • Give your toddler ‘splash time’ while you’re drying and dressing your baby in the bathroom.
    • Let him mirror what you’re doing by ‘washing’ his bath toys like you’re washing the baby so he feels grown up.
  • In the car

    Getting two tots bundled into the car calmly can feel like herding sheep! Especially when the neighbours/shoppers/other mums are watching.

    What to do:

    • Ask if your toddler would like to ‘show’ his new sibling how grown up he is by clipping on his own car seat buckle.
    • Get him thinking beyond the boring ‘car seat’ task by asking what music he’d like on when you’ve got going.
    • Focus on them one at a time and have toys and books on hand to amuse your toddler while you sort out your baby.
  • Playtime

    “Help! There’s an imposter near the toybox!” thinks your little one, who’s used to plenty of solo playtime with mummy. But it is possible to keep both a baby and a toddler amused at the same time.

    What to do:

    • Toddlers love an audience and babies find toddlers endlessly fascinating, so try teaching your toddler the alphabet by getting him to make her letter shapes using his body,” says Tanith Carey, author of How To Be An Amazing Mum When You Just Don’t Have The Time.
    • Sing to your baby – and at the same time encourage your toddler to perform the actions to the song – this way, they’ll both be learning.
    • “For quieter times, books are a great way to entertain both at the same time. Most toddlers are really in no rush to move beyond baby books –  and as they get older they learn new things from them. While your baby is playing touch and feel with the textures in a board book, you can quiz your toddler on the colours and animals he can see,” says Tanith.
  • Bedtime

    Bedtime is notoriously the toughest time of the day, and your toddler may well try every trick in the book to get your attention. Take a deep breath… you can do this!

    What to do:

    • Who you put to bed first might depend on which of your children is ‘easier’ – so try out what works best for you. “Try saving a feed for your baby so you can read to your toddler while keeping the baby quiet,” says Tanith.
    • If your baby won’t settle, try reading your toddler a ‘hush-hush’ story in your baby’s room. In some cases, hearing your voice may be enough to soothe your baby.
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  • Mums’ stories

    “I was honest with our toddler”

    “A friend advised me to be honest about the baby, rather than saying he or she would be fun from the start. So I told my daughter that at first the baby would simply eat, sleep and cry. As a result she wasn’t disillusioned when her sister arrived and couldn’t play hide and seek! Now Jemima’s older, she and Merrily have great fun together.”

    Lisa Godkin, 35, from Stevenage, mum to Merrily, 3, and Jemima, 1

    “I gave him ‘special’ jobs to do”

    “I got Malachi involved with his brother from the word go – he came to the first scan, talked and told stories to my tummy and since Micah was born, Malachi has had special jobs like buying Micah his first rattle and washing his feet in the bath. So far they seem to have a special bond and Malachi hasn’t felt left out or jealous.”

    Diana Christie, 32, from Birmingham, mum to Malachi, 3, and Micah, 16 weeks

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