I’ve been planning on writing this post for a while, even though I’m no longer a mum to two under two (although will be mum to three under 3.5 soon!), but with the Prince and Duchess of Cambridge announcing that they are expecting their second baby next year, it seemed relevant!
There is just sixteen months in between Harrison and Alex. I went back to work from maternity leave on the Monday and found out I was pregnant again on the Thursday, when Harrison was just nine months old. The news was met with surprise from all of us, but once the initial shock wore off, we were over the moon! However, we knew that having two children with such a small age gap would definitely bring challenges. Looking back, it was generally a lot easier than we thought it would be, but at times it was hard. We’ve been asked if we wished we had waited before having another baby, but the answer will always be no. The incredibly strong bond between Harrison and Alex makes every tough moment worth it! I will never forget the moment Harrison toddled over to his new baby brother and gave him a kiss. He took on the role of big brother and protector very seriously, and I know they will both do a fantastic job of being ‘big brothers’ when Benjamin is born later this year.
However, when you’re trying to deal with a toddler who demands constant attention, and a newborn who demands constant feeds and cuddles, it is practical tips and advice you need.
Dealing with two sets of needs at once
You could guarantee that just as I sat down to feed Alex, Harrison would need a nappy change. Or a drink. Or a snack. Or a story. Or something else that just can’t wait. If I carried on feeding Alex, Harrison would have a tantrum. If I put Alex down to sort Harrison out, he would start screaming. Both scenarios would end up with me getting stressed and that was no good for anyone! After a while, I realised that I only had one pair of hands, and that it wouldn’t hurt either of them to wait for a few minutes. I learnt to recognise which was the greater need – nappy changes, drinks and feeds were the priority, and once they were sorted, everything else could be dealt with. I made sure I always had nappies and baby wipes to hand, the TV remote (yes, I had to forget about the whole TV being bad for kids thing, sometimes it was a necessity!) and tried to make sure Harrison always had a beaker of milk or juice somewhere. It also taught them both, especially Harrison, an important life lesson – that sometimes they just have to wait their turn.
I’m not a particularly organised person usually, preferring to deal with things as and when they arise, but with a newborn and a toddler this approach is near enough impossible. To begin with, I felt like I needed all morning just to get us all fed and dressed, but after getting organised, I could be out of the house and at playgroup with the two kids by 9.30am. I’m going to have to get back into this extremely organised routine soon, as I will have three kids to get ready and be out the door by 8.15am in a couple of months! I made sure I had all the clothes laid out for the next day the night before, the changing bag packed and coats by the door.
Stay one step ahead
Again, something that doesn’t come naturally to me, but when I worked it out, it made life easier. When the kids were both asleep, I would use that time to start dinner – buying a slow cooker was the best thing we did – put a load of washing out, do the ironing, or have a shower. It did mean I didn’t get much of a chance to relax sometimes, but to me, knowing things were under control was more important at that time.
Use a sling
We bought a cheap second hand double buggy – and used it about five times. Instead we bought a baby sling, which was one of our best purchases. Harrison was at the age where he wanted to walk, but was not quite old enough to go for long walks without the pushchair. What we would do was take the single out and put the baby sling in the basket underneath. If Harrison got tired and needed to go in the buggy, we would pop Alex in the sling. It was much easier in terms of getting around the shops and on and off buses. It also became a lifesaver when Alex hit a really fussy, clingy stage around three months old. I literally couldn’t put him down without him screaming, so took to ‘wearing’ him around the house. It meant I had my hands free to get on with everything else, and once I got the hang of breastfeeding him in it, life became so much easier!
We don’t do routine, but the one concession to routine we did have was bathtime every evening, and bathing two little people on my own whilst Graham was at work was a huge worry, which was daft because when I figured it out, it was easy. I used to take the bouncer chair and Alex’s clothes into the bathroom, and pop both of them in the bath together. Alex would be washed first, and then I would get him out and dressed. I would then lie in him in the bouncy chair (and quite often he would doze off) whilst I bathed Harrison.
Sometimes, you just can’t do it all. The house will sometimes look like a tornado has hit. Sometimes you will be drowning in a sea of washing. Sometimes both kids (and you) will be in grumpy moods and you will all want to cry. Some days will be horrendous! Believe me, it does get easier. One day they learn to amuse themselves and each other. One day you will be able to go the loo in peace, or drink a coffee whilst it is still hot. One day you will realise that those first few months actually weren’t all that bad!
What are your top tips for coping with two under two (and any tips for three under four?!)