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Life with a Baby and Toddler: How to Make Time for Both

By September 13, 2017 , , , ,

Ever since baby Arjun’s arrival, our home has come alive with new sounds - the sweet sounds of a baby cooing, the playful shouts of a toddler, the gentle jingling of a rattle, the screeching of toy cars. Moments of peace and quiet are found only when Krishnav is at school and the baby is sleeping, two things which don’t always coincide. Indeed, life is just a little bit crazier and there is always something or someone demanding my attention.

Almost three months into my new role as a mother of two, I’m finding that the biggest challenge for me has been balancing time between both my boys. Given their age gap, the demands of each child are different. My 2.5 month old baby mostly requires my physical presence at this stage in the form of breast-feeding and other aspects of baby care. Meanwhile, my 4-year old is a mini-adult with a completely different set of demands, those that require a lot more of my physical, emotional, and mental energy. He enjoys conversations and likes storytelling. One minute he’s happy and active, and the next he’s whining and making unreasonable demands to seek attention. He is curious and asks thought-provoking questions which require thoughtful responses back. In other words, he’s a formidable presence in the house which cannot be ignored. But when the baby is hungry and crying, he cannot be ignored either. What is one to do? It’s a juggling act for sure. And when you’re tired and sleep-deprived, it’s a big challenge to maintain your patience through it all.

Over the last two months, I’ve figured out a few ways to balance the needs of a newborn and a toddler. Here are a few practical approaches which have worked for me:

1. Do activities with the toddler while feeding the baby: I realized early on that Krishnav likes sitting and chatting with me while I’m nursing the baby. Instead of sending him away, I started seeing that as a way to spend time with him while bonding with the baby over breast-feeding. We talk about his day in school, I tell him stories, read to him, etc. Sometimes, my presence is enough as he quietly plays with his toys next to me while I nurse the baby.

2. Find ways to spend one-on-one time with the older child: I found that this exclusive “Krishnav & Mummy” time was something that Krishnav really enjoyed and reassured him feel that he’s still loved, no matter what. Times when the baby is napping or when someone can watch the baby for a little while are great opportunities to do this. It could be something really simple, like reading him books or taking him out to the park.

3. Do things that can involve both the baby and the older one: Sounds tricky but it’s possible. Book reading, singing songs together, and an outing with both kids to a playground are simple things you can do. For example, while reading a book to Krishnav, I place the baby on my lap so he can listen too. While it is of course too early for him to understand the story, he is listening to the familiar sound of his mother’s voice, seeing bright colors and pictures and getting introduced to the world of books. Win-win situation!

4. Give the older one a greater sense of responsibility: This can be related to helping out with the baby, like fetching a diaper, or doing simple chores around the house, like helping to set the table. I was surprised how up to the task and eager Krishnav was to help in these matters! It made him feel included, indeed an important, contributing member of the house! It is also an opportunity to spend time with him.

5. Encourage independent play for the older child: While it has been important to spend time with Krishnav to prevent him from feeling isolated, I also think it is necessary to encourage independent play. This is both good for his development and my sanity! The ways I have tried to encourage independent play:
- Avoiding interruptions and letting Krishnav be when I see him playing by himself
- Giving him a little activity or min-project to do so that he can focus on something at hand (Eg. Can you draw me a picture about so-and-so? Can you line up all your superhero action figures and count them?)
- Occupying him with a combination of open-ended and close-ended toys. Open-ended toys, such as Legos and play dough, encourage creative thinking while close-ended toys, such as puzzles, help with focusing on task completion. With my 4-year old, I've observed that having a combination of such toys, rather than just one kind, fosters longer periods of self-play.

The early days of managing and making time for two kids are tough but I’m sure it gets easier over time. For those of you who have been in the same situation, what are things that you did to get through this challenging phase?

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