How to survive life with a baby and toddler

I thought life with a toddler was challenging…then I added a newborn to the mix. Now, I knew that it was going to be hard but just like having your first child nothing can quite prepare you for it.  A baby and toddler is a whole new level of parenting!

The best advice for surviving life with a baby and toddler

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The Problem

You will literally feel like you are being pulled in 3 directions at once. Your baby needs you, your toddler needs you and….wait for it…now you need to go to the bathroom.  Ain’t no momma got time for that!

The best way to handle this is to obviously have help.  There is no replacement for an extra set of hands in these situations.  I was extremely lucky to have my mom come and stay with me for the first 4 weeks after our second baby girl was born.  It was amazing to have that help.  But unfortunately my parents live about 600 miles away.  So while I was fortunate enough to have 24/7 help for 4 weeks, she did have to leave and go back home. 

So now we come back to the difficult situation of being alone with a baby and toddler.  Sometimes it will all be going perfectly and you may even feel like Mary Poppins for a second (but only a second).  Then the tornado will begin…crying, screaming, pooping, spitting up and other unmentionables.  

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The Solution

I have ONE major recommendation to handle the toddler/newborn tornado life…

FIND SOMETHING THAT YOUR TODDLER CAN AND WILL DO ALL BY THEMSELVES.

This may sound simple but having something as an automatic go to toddler activity can bring you back to a one on one status or “man to man” (mom to baby) coverage.  This activity needs to entertain said toddler for at least 15-20 min but longer would be even better (maybe you could even go to the bathroom!).

The trouble with this is that you may not know what will work until placed in this situation.  My toddler would very happily “read” books and color in her own room while I was in the kitchen before baby was here.  Now that there is a tiny human crying for my attention my toddler feels that she is missing out on something important and must be at my side.  And normally I don’t mind this at all but I have found that I have one breaking point.

When I am trying to put baby down for a nap and toddler needs to be in the room dancing and singing and poking the baby if she cries (or starts to shut her eyes).  It may be some of the hormones but I just can’t handle my toddler waking up my baby when I have just spent 10, 20, 30 minutes or more getting her to sleep. 

This is when I need my toddler to have something that she values more than poking the baby awake, which can be a tough sell.  

What works for us

I will share with you what works for us, just leave your judgement at the door cause I am not currently running for mother of the year! 

Right now my number one go to for my toddler is…..TV.  

Yup I said it. Screen time for the win.  This is the one thing that I know will keep my toddler occupied.  If she is attached to my hip all day the words “Daniel Tiger” can instantly pry her away for long enough for me to calmly get the baby to sleep.

I think she has watched more TV since the baby was born 10 weeks ago than she had the entire 2 years before baby.  I wanted to limit my precious child’s screen time as all the holistic websites recommend…and then I had a baby.  And right now, in this moment with a 10 week old baby and a 2 year old, I say have all the screen time you want.  I am still hoping that, as the saying goes, “this too shall pass” but we are currently living in Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and they are a pretty friendly bunch. 

Here are a few of my 2 year old’s current favorite shows.  I love them because they are all free on Amazon Prime! And I don’t find them unbearable to watch either, though every mom has her limit. 

What may work for you

Maybe TV doesn’t cut it with your kiddo.  Maybe there are toddlers out there immune to the hypnotizing effects of Daniel Tiger, or Thomas the Tank Engine or Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash.  There are countless other options you can try to find what works for you.

Maybe your toddler is really into art and will dive into an art project without looking for you for a while.  If this is the case I do recommend some mess free art supplies for the safety of your walls and furniture.  Because you want to feel safe to leave the room for a little while.

Water Wow

If you have a toddler and have not heard of the Melissa & Doug Water Wow products then prepare to be amazed.  When I found these and realized how much my kid loved them, I quickly ordered 6 more.  They are compact coloring pads with a water brush that magically reveals the colors when wet.  Then they dry and can be used again, and again, and again!  Nothing can beat a reusable and mess free activity that toddlers love!

Crayola Color Wonder

Another winner for mess free activity is Color Wonder.  Essentially special markers, paints and stamps that don’t leave a mark on anything except the special paper.  I love these because my toddler can still be creative and learn how to draw and color and paint…without the mess.  There are tons of options out there with these products, these are some of our favorites. 

Play Tent and Books

My toddler just loves books.  She is 2 so she obviously isn’t reading quite yet but she loves to sit and flip through the pages and look at the pictures.  And of course there are some that we have read so many times she can basically tell the story too!  She also loves to have a special spot to read, either her giant beanbag or this awesome play castle.  By far the best part of these play tents is that they can fold up back into a nice small package if you need the space back or if you want to bring them on a trip.

As for books my toddler loves anything Dr. Seuss and especially these bright and early board books that come in a carrying box.  Double the entertainment as she loves to put them back in the box, and then take them out again.  Also the Pigeon book series is a big hit with my little one and I had never heard of them until we got them as a gift. 

I hope you have been able to find some new ideas for keeping your toddler busy so you can tend to baby and hopefully regain some sanity.  I would love to know any suggestions that you may have too!  As we all know what works today is not guaranteed to work tomorrow with toddlers!  Please share your ideas below!

8 Comments

    1. mommybytheminute

      August 27, 2018 at 1:26 pm

      Thank you!

  1. Becky

    August 28, 2018 at 3:21 pm

    Thank you for the ideas. Putting the color wow and Crayola on my wishlist now and adding on to my Prime watch list. Can’t wait to add baby to the family, but oh watch the struggle begin.

    1. mommybytheminute

      August 29, 2018 at 2:16 pm

      Yes! Those can be lifesavers! It’s all worth it when you see your big kid make your baby smile and laugh for the first time! <3

  2. Tracy

    September 1, 2018 at 2:46 pm

    Awesome ideas for moms and dads alike. Although my kids were toddlers in the 90’s I saw myself in many of your ideas. And yes it’s true, TV can save your life!

    1. mommybytheminute

      September 1, 2018 at 3:16 pm

      Thanks! Some parts of parenting will never change 😊

  3. Brooke

    February 12, 2019 at 11:16 pm

    Thank you for not making me feel horrible about letting my toddler watch TV!! I am going through the same thing as I have a three week old and a two and a half year old. Put several items in my Amazon cart!! Thanks 🙂

    1. mommybytheminute

      February 17, 2019 at 8:14 pm

      Those early days are just about survival, the best option is whatever works! TV was the only thing that really kept my toddler independently occupied for me to breathe. It does get easier though! My baby is almost 9 months now and it feels so much more manageable! You will get through the tough times, good luck mama! 🙂

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