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How to Parent a Toddler and a Newborn (Best Coping Tips)

how to parent a toddler and a newborn Middle Class Dad a toddler boy and a new baby laying side by side on a carpet

My 2 oldest daughters are only 15 months apart, so my wife and I had a lot of challenges figuring out how to parent a toddler and a newborn at the same time.

Here’s what we learned while doing it:

Parenting a toddler & newborn together means compromise. It’s hard to watch both when they have different needs. Finding shared activities, coordinating nap times & encouraging play between them is key to parenting both at the same time. A mother’s day out program for the older one can also get weary moms a break.

So in this post, we’re diving deep into the world of parenting 2 young kids at once.

We’ll answer all the top questions and explore some proven solutions that worked in our house. That way you can learn how to parent a toddler and a newborn without driving yourself crazy.

How do you cope with a toddler and a newborn?

Let’s face it. Parenting even one child is tough.

But 2 only adds to the challenge. If those 2 kids are close in age like my 2 oldest daughters (born in 2007 and 2008), it really created some unique challenges my mom never faced. After all, my brother and I are 5 years apart.

It goes without saying too that for most families, this burden often falls to the mom.

Of course, there are working moms, same-sex couples, and stay-at-home dads, but let’s be real. The majority of the time, it’s still the mom taking care of the kids.

So it’s easy for the dad to be off at work not knowing what’s going on. Then he comes home and wonders why the house is trashed and his wife looks like she has PTSD.

If that sounds familiar, it’s crucial for you to find some healthy coping mechanisms.

Here are some of the best things you can do to help get a needed break every once in a while:

1. Sign up your older child for a mother’s day out program

A mother’s day out program is more like a pre-k than it is daycare. Often, but not always, these are run by nearby churches. But you don’t typically have to be a member of the church to sign up. They also aren’t usually overly religious in nature.

It also doesn’t have to be 5 days a week. When our oldest daughter Astrid was about 2, we signed her up for 3 days a week. That allowed my wife to focus on her younger sister Jolie instead of trying to constantly wrestle both of them at the same time all week.

2. Get tools to help you manage them

Whether it’s a baby sling to help you carry your baby or a double stroller, there are tools out there that can help. Ask other moms what they use. Join Facebook mom groups. See what solutions are out there you may not have thought of.

3. Coordinate nap times

It can be tough getting two kids to nap together. But that’s the easiest way to get you a needed break and to catch your breath.  Here’s how to do it:

  • Start the nap routine a little early as it will take time to get both asleep
  • The baby is probably napping 2 or 3 times whereas your toddler may be down to 1. So pick the time closest to both’s usual nap times for the coordinated nap
  • Start with your baby and get your toddler involved as a helper
  • Lay the baby down, dim the lights, and quietly play with them for a few minutes. The key is calm and gentle energy so we aren’t amping them up
  • If, however, the baby isn’t asleep after 30 minutes, get them up and active. Then try again in 30 minutes
  • Once baby is asleep, let your toddler know it’s nap time. 
  • Read your toddler a book, or let them look at their own book. Avoid having the TV on (but soft music is OK)
  • Avoid putting both down for a nap in the same room. They can easily distract each other.
  • If your toddler normally sleeps in a crib in the same room, for a nap, just have them lay on your bed surrounded by pillows
  • Let your toddler know what activities are planned for the afternoon and why they need a nap to be ready for that

4. Create a kid’s room or area in your house 

Have 1 area in your house that is all about the kids.

It can be their bedroom(s), but if that’s upstairs, that won’t help you during the day when you’re more likely to be downstairs. My wife and I used an open area next to our dining room as our play area.

We got a fun rug for it, some IKEA kid’s storage units to hold it all and some fun art for the walls (plus plenty of their own art). It both contained the mess to one area, but also they knew that was where to go to have fun.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

My wife often felt alone and isolated when our 2 oldest daughters were young.

I was well-meaning and felt like I was doing a lot. But I wasn’t really understanding her or her needs. But, at the same time, my wife wasn’t asking for help either. She was communicating her needs (to me or anyone). It’s easy for both moms and dads to simply accept that this is our job and that we have to just tough it out.

We don’t.

Having a supportive husband is crucial for wives who are trying to care for a toddler and a newborn at the same time. So, moms, you need to ASK for help. Communicate your needs. We husbands who are off at work are kind of clueless as to what your day looks like.

I can also attest I was pretty clueless when my wife gave birth to our 1st daughter, so if your husband is struggling to relate to how hard your job is, it’s worth encouraging him to read my Advice for Husbands of Stay at Home Moms (click to read on my site).

6. Go out with friends (childless) once a week

One of the best ways for tired moms to recharge their batteries is to go out with friends.

No kids, no husband. They are just themselves, not a wife and not a mom. Now being tired and worn out doesn’t mean you have to go hit the clubs or kick it late-night.

But just a little time each week where you are just you. Whether’s that’s at a local wine bar, coffee shop, or at a friend’s house playing games, it’s crucial to find some “you time”.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s also crucial that once the baby is old enough you and your husband have regular date nights too.

But you have to find ways to recharge your batteries so you aren’t burning out. Your husband can watch the kids 1 night a week. It (probably) won’t kill him.

Can a toddler and newborn share a room?

My wife and I co-slept with all 3 of our daughters. So we don’t really have experience with them sleeping on their own elsewhere at a really young age.

But even if you don’t co-sleep, it’s always recommended that babies sleep in the same room as you for the first 6 months.

But the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends having the baby’s sleep area close to yours, but separate from it. That way you can reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related issues leading to infant death.

We didn’t have an issue co-sleeping. But we also had a kingsized bed and were hyper-aware of where our baby was and to not cover with a lot of blankets or have bedding that was too soft.

Once a baby is past the 6-month mark, it’s OK to have them sleep in their own room with your toddler. But they should not share a crib or a bed.

Get each one their own bed.

You may find, however, that getting both to go to sleep without distracting one another is a challenge. Or if one wakes up a lot, you may find they wake up the other. That, of course, disrupts your own sleep too.

How can I help my toddler adjust to a newborn?

Having a new baby in the house is a HUGE adjustment for everyone.

A toddler may love the idea of a new baby before it gets here. But don’t be surprised if, after the baby is born and mom and dad are focused heavily on the new baby, that excitement turns to jealousy.

This isn’t the time to punish the negative behavior.

Instead, try saying something like:

“Being a big sister (in our case) is tough. You may feel sad, or mad when I am not able to give you all my attention and it’s OK to feel that way.

Having a new baby in the house will be hard on all of us, but the baby also needs our help and our love since she can’t do much for herself yet.”

As your toddler tries to adjust to these new feelings you may see moments of love and joy, but others of acting out. You might also see setbacks in poddy training.

Try to be as understanding and patient as possible. After all, you are going to be more tired and stressed than normal too, so don’t allow these things to cause you to be overly critical of your toddler.

Of course, helping your toddler learn how to play independently (click to read my article on how) can be hugely beneficial. So make sure and check out all the tips in that post.

Do toddlers get jealous of a new baby?

how to parent a toddler and a newborn Middle Class Dad crying toddler laying on a pillow in front of mom's pregnant belly

The short answer is yes. Most likely your toddler will be jealous of your new baby.

They may also be excited too. After all, toddlers are only just starting to understand their feelings, much less learning to regulate them. So make sure to acknowledge your child’s feelings.

While it may be frustrating to see them react with jealousy, those are their feelings and you don’t want them to think they don’t matter.

Understand that your toddler may act out or say negative things. As I mentioned above, try and help guide them and don’t punish them or make them feel bad about their feelings. Certainly, they need to know there are appropriate and inappropriate ways of expressing those feelings.

But as parents, we sure don’t want to teach our kids to fear to be honest with us about what they are feeling. That could be a recipe for disaster as they head closer to their teen years.

Of course, none of us are born knowing how to parent, so if you’re still adjusting, or having a hard time being a parent, it can be vital to really come to terms with the Role of Parents in a Child’s Life (click to read my article).

So why not take a brief moment and review some of those key points?

How do I stop my toddler from hitting my baby?

Your toddler is used to having you at their beck and call 24/7.

When a new baby comes along, all of a sudden, at a young age, they are expected to somehow master the art of sharing and compromise? Not likely.

But when we have 2 kids close together like my wife and I did, that is what we are expecting.

In short, we’re setting ourselves and them up for disaster. Toddlers just aren’t emotionally equipped to want to share mom (or dad for that matter). Even in my house now, our 2 older girls are tweens, but our 3rd daughter is a toddler (born in 2017).

She loves her big sisters. But guess what happens if my wife or I dote on or hugs our older two daughters? That’s right! She throws a tantrum calling out “my mommy!” or “my daddy”.

Now if you’re seeing your toddler hitting the baby, that’s probably a learned behavior. It’s normal for kids to get upset, but that doesn’t typically turn physical unless they see someone else communicating that way.

For that reason, it’s vital to make sure you curb any physical expression of anger in your family. Also, avoid watching violent TV shows or movies in front of them. My wife and I often used (and still use) the phrase “we use our words not our hands”.

Make sure to not use your hands when disciplining them either as that only creates confusion. Be calm, clear, and consistent with your messaging. Have set consequences for hitting, and stick to that no matter what kind of tantrum your toddler throws.

How can I be a good toddler mom?

A toddler is “technically” a child 12 to 36 months old.  Toddlers are unique.

At this age, they are mobile and talkative.  While their language skills are really blossoming between 18 months and 3 years, it can still be challenging to understand them on the younger end of the spectrum.

Toddlers get frustrated easily, especially when you can’t understand what they’re saying.

So it really helps to repeat phrases back as simply as possible. It also helps if, for instance, you are offering them a choice between fresh blueberries or a pouch, to clearly state what each is and what the correct response from them is.

I like to say to my toddler “Layla do you want blueberries or a pouch?” Then I point to each and say “yes, please” or “no, thank you” and I give her a chance to repeat back to me what her choice is.

Sometimes I have to repeat that process a few times.

Do be patient, know there will be some tantrums and meltdowns, and strive to help them understand and regulate their feelings.

Since you’ll be trying to master how to parent a toddler and a newborn at the same time, patience and finding a few moments of downtime for yourself are essential.

Luckily, most parenting challenges have been tackled before by the millions of parents that have come before us. Thus, learning from those Common Parenting Issues (click to read on my site) and solutions can be hugely beneficial!

Will the baby get colostrum if you are nursing an older child?

how to parent a toddler and a newborn nursing mom in the background of a nursery with a star mobile in the foreground Middle Class Dad

Colostrum is what female bodies produce during pregnancy and it’s like a superfood high in antibodies.

According to the National Institutes of Health,

Colostrum is rich in immunologic components such as secretory IgA, lactoferrin, leukocytes, as well as developmental factors such as epidermal growth factor. Colostrum also contains relatively low concentrations of lactose,. . .  Levels of sodium, chloride, and magnesium are higher and levels of potassium and calcium are lower in colostrum than later milk.”

Women who are breastfeeding one child while pregnant with another will expel a mix of colostrum and milk (what they call “transitional milk” to the nursing baby.

Colostrum is so high in nutrients that some doctors believe it is essential for newborns.

If a woman wasn’t nursing an older child, right after the birth of the newborn, she would expel only colostrum for anywhere from 2-5 days. However, for women nursing a toddler who also needs to nurse a newborn, fear not.

The hormones released during pregnancy will automatically increase the amount of colostrum for your new baby.

Best Outings with a toddler and a newborn

When babies are brand new, the challenges of learning how to parent a toddler and a newborn aren’t that bad.

Thus, when trying to run errands or have playdates with both your newborn and your toddler, they actually can go fairly smoothly. After all, the baby sleeps a lot and is often pretty content in their car seat (which hopefully is easily moved out of the car and into a stroller.

However, once your baby starts teething and begins to adjust to life, they can get a whole lot fussier. Of course, your toddler is only slightly ahead of them in that regard too.

If you’re lucky, you can get both to nap in the car (that often worked for us, and Coldplay on the car stereo went a long way in helping).

Here are some of the best ideas for activities to do when figuring out how to parent a toddler and a newborn:

  • Playdates with other toddler moms – Having another toddler around will naturally captivate your toddler, giving you a little break. Getting to connect with other moms that are going through parenting stress can also be very therapeutic
  • Zoos and Museums – My wife’s favorite quick outings when my oldest daughters were in that newborn and toddler phase were the Dallas Zoo and the (now closed) Museum of Natural Science Children’s Museum. We would buy annual passes to make it easy for her to pop over anytime and not break the bank.
  • Paint parties – My wife was the paint party master (and will be again with our toddler). She used an old sheet, would go outside when the weather was nice, and used non-toxic easy to wash off paints. Our girls would have a blast painting themselves and the clean up was simple.

As parents, one of the things we rely on the most is recommendations from other trusted sources. That’s the reason I created a page on my website for Top Parenting Resources (click to see my page).

I have compiled what I believe to be the absolute best parenting resources out there on a wide variety of needs. So no matter what your parenting challenge, I bet you’ll find a solution there.

How to survive a toddler and a newborn

When you have 2 young kids, you’re naturally outnumbered.

Thus, wearing your baby on your body can make life significantly easier.  In fact, it’s almost a must when learning how to parent a toddler and a newborn.

A newborn baby naturally craves mom. Thus these baby wraps that have been all the rage for the last few years help with that greatly, while keeping your arms free.

But not only does it free you up, but it can also make your baby SIGNIFICANTLY less fussy.

A recent study by the National Institutes of Health found that “infants who received supplemental carrying cried and fussed 43% less”. I don’t know about you, but I would LOVE a 43% reduction in fussiness in my house!

Wearing your newborn allows you to chase your toddler all over the place, whether you’re at the grocery store or the playground.

Not all baby carriers are exactly the same, and, of course, some babies respond differently to carriers than others. Thus it’s a great idea to check with friends or online mommy groups. Try out a few if friends have some. Find one that’s not quite right, try out a few more. Chances are, one of them will be right for you and your baby and could be a real lifesaver!

Check out all the Best Selling Soft Baby Carriers (click to check prices on Amazon).

How long does it take to adjust to a new baby?

  • Exhausted
  • Unsure you’re doing the right things
  • Losing your temper easily
  • Moody & Irritable

But also remember that it’s not just you that’s going through an adjustment period. In your case, you’ll be trying to help a toddler adjust also, so expect delays.

One of the best things you can do to help your family is to remember to take care of yourself as much as possible.

So don’t try and return to work too quickly, and don’t feel guilty about getting less done than you used to. Do ask for help and support when you need it.

My wife SWORE by an all-natural tincture called Wish Garden Herbs’ Baby Blues Mood Support (click to check current price on Amazon).  She took it when she was pregnant with all 3 of our girls.

Baby Blues is an “Organic Herbal Postnatal Supplement, Emotional & Hormonal Support for New Mothers and is for when new moms experience the blues post-partum. This powerful but gentle combination of herbs provides nourishing nervines, liver tonics, and herbal balancers to support healthy hormone levels.”

It’s also an Amazon’s Choice product on Amazon Prime and rates almost 5 stars.

Final Thoughts

In this post, we took an in-depth look into the realities some parents face of trying to parent a newborn and a toddler at the same time.

We explored what works, what doesn’t work, and tips and strategies to make it flow more smoothly.

Specifically, we looked at the best ways of learning how to parent a toddler and a newborn at the same time so you don’t lose yourself in the process of raising great kids.

How old are your kids?

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Jeff Campbell