The Anxieties of Balancing Newborn and Toddler Needs

Here’s the cruel thing about pregnancy: for however difficult these nine months can be, the next few months after giving birth are worse.

The Anxieties of Balancing Newborn and Toddler NeedsTired from peeing five times at night and having no stamina to do anything productive? You’ll be even more tired with nighttime wakings and even less energy. No time to cook a decent family dinner?

Expect to rely on donated, frozen or take-out food once the baby is here. And if you’re worn down from meeting the needs of an older child, trying adding another kid to the mix, and you can get a glimpse of the thoughts running through my head.

Can I take care of a three-year-old and two newborns, all the while healing myself on nothing but sleep deprivation?

My anxieties of balancing newborn and toddler needs:

You see, despite this blog’s moniker, sleep has been pretty easy for us as of late. Every night, our three-year-old goes down to bed and sleeps 12 hours straight.

Every night, I love that my husband and I can read, cook, watch a movie and not take care of any kids. Except now I know that this leisure will be gone the second those babies are born.

In addition to sleeping less, I’m anxious about how my three-year-old will adjust to sharing his parents’ attention. Like most first borns, he only knows a life where he is the center of attention. And while he gets plenty of independent play, all he has ever known is being our only concern. With the babies’ arrival, not only will he share our attention, he’ll also most likely have much less of it compared to his brothers.

I’m especially in a bind because my son is more attached to me than anyone else. The boy has a difficult time letting me go instead spending time with other people. I imagine it’ll be difficult for him to understand when other people say “Mama has to take a nap; why don’t we play in the living room?”

And that’s just one side of the equation: I still have the newborns to contend with. For instance, as much as I’m trying to drill the idea of twins in my head, I still think of the babies as one unit. After all, I’m only dealing with one pregnancy, and their needs in utero remain the same.

But once they’re born, they will have separate needs. Maybe one baby has jaundice while the other isn’t gaining weight, or one baby can’t latch on while the other doesn’t sleep well.

Plus they probably won’t wake up, burp, feed, sleep, poop or do everything synchronized right down to the second. Rather than one baby, I have two, and that scares the world out of me.

I understand this birth order isn’t unusual, by all sorts of moms in perhaps even worse scenarios than myself. Yet I still try to imagine life with a preschooler and two newborns and am left with wondering, How?

  • Is it just a matter of resorting to the bare bones with minimum sleep, improper hygiene and poor nutrition, aka survival mode?
  • Do older kids just tough it out and have less attention from their parents?
  • And I’ve read and heard many times that twins will never know the same attention a singleton baby would have. There’s just not enough time. What of their needs?

I’m scared of having a toddler and a newborn. Still, my husband and I are doing our best to help our preschooler transition to perhaps the most drastic change in his life.

  • We try to glorify his new role as the big brother. We praise the times when he takes good care of me or the babies, such as when he “puts me to sleep” or lotions my belly. I’m hoping this new role will be one he’ll embrace with pride. He sees how much he can do that the babies can’t yet do for themselves.
  • We also don’t blame the babies for changes in his life he may not appreciate. We moved him to a new bed not because the babies need a place to sleep, but because he’s growing bigger and needs more space. When we tell him that I can no longer rough house or even walk around the block with him, it was because I felt tired, not because I was pregnant.
  • And we’re acclimating him to spending more time with others and having a life apart from the babies. Attending preschool and visiting family are some examples.

I know in the long run we’ll survive, just as we did with our first born when we thought the madness would never end. Managing newborn and toddler needs is possible, as proof of the many other families who have done it. Maybe human instincts just power through. We somehow get things done without completely depleting our resources.

For now, I savor the quiet time after putting the little guy to sleep. The time when I can choose to do whatever I want, where no one depends on me, at least for another few months. And when I start questioning my predicament, I tell myself life will work out, as it always has.

One-year update: It absolutely has worked out. I’m alone with all three in the afternoons and they’ve all adjusted really well with each other. They’re patient, and my older son can entertain himself or play with his brothers. The first few weeks and months were tough, but now they get along so well.

How did you transition from one to two (or more)? For those who are expecting like I am, what concerns do you have regarding adding to the family? Let us know in the comments below!

Nina

Nina is a working mom to three boys—a five-year-old and toddler twins. She blogs about parenting at Sleeping Should Be Easy, where she writes everything she's learning about being mom and all its joys and challenges. She also covers topics like how kids learn and play, family life, being a working mom and life with twins. Download her free ebook, "Time Management Strategies for the Overwhelmed Mom" for more tips.

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  1. says

    Sounds like you are doing a great job getting your son prepared. I imagine, when able, you can spend one-on-one time with him while the twins are napping (so long as you’re not napping too!) Wisdom and experience has shown that it takes three months for the an older child to adjust to newborn(s), so I would expect that. I’m quite confident that after a period of difficult adjustment for all involved, he will totally love his little siblings, and it will do your heart good to see him enjoy playing with them. I, personally, think that having siblings to play with, once they are old enough to play with, far outweighs the discomfort of no longer being the center of attention. Plus, it lasts much longer. He will have friends for a lifetime now. It will be so good for him to learn to share. It will be good for you because your children will be able to entertain each other. No doubt, this is all a part of God’s plan, and, though it will be difficult at first, in the long run you will see what an awesome blessing it all has been.
    My two cents!

  2. Steph says

    Yeah, I’m kind of freaking out about this too – and I’m only having one more kiddo. We’re doing the same kinds of things as you with our three-year old and I’m also hoping to start stocking up on freezer meals to make things easier when the baby is born. I’ve had several people tell me the second one is easier because you don’t have to adjust to the entire mind-boggling shift of being a mother. Just a mother to two – or in your case three!
    Steph recently posted..Want, Need, Wear, Read: How we do Christmas PresentsMy Profile

  3. Kerry says

    YES, YOU CAN do this!
    For me, life got easier in many, many ways with more kids. They have built in playmates (those twins will be ready to play with big brother sooner than you think)! But I remember thinking “How will I love another one like I love my one and only {first child}??” I would sob over this thought. And then once my son was born, I knew how I’d love him. And like you said – I worried about my oldest feeling left out. She got showered with so much attention from g-ma and gramps, and people were sweet to bring her a gift when they came to see her baby brother, she loved it. It did take her a good six months to realize her new bro was staying for good! But then they quickly became buddies and she loved having him around. Not that it was a cake walk in the beginning – but it DID get easier. And I have to say that numbers 3 & 4 were a breeze compared with adjusting to my first two.

    Stay relaxed as possible. I know that’s easier said than done. Looking back, I wish I had been as laid back with my first two as I was with the second set. I put so much unneeded pressure on myself, and worry – none of that helped a bit. You’ll do great. And on those days you want to scream and lock your your bedroom door, just do it!! Remember, we’ll all be here for you for moral support. Use us, vent to us. We’ll rejoice with you on those good days, too… There will be good days. : D
    Kerry recently posted..Sip This (Tuesdays Unwrapped)My Profile

  4. says

    I can relate to this anxiety! For now I’m coping with my fear of exhaustion by reminding myself of how quickly those early newborn days pass (as long as they seem at the time). I’m taking advantage of as many opportunities to treat myself to “me” time before the baby comes, with full knowledge that I’m just going to have to give up that freedom for a while.

    As for prepping my 2-year-old son for being a big brother… we talk about how cool it will be! We talk about his friends who are big brothers or sisters. We look at pictures of him as a baby. I point out very small babies and explain why they cry, what they can/can’t do. I’ve been encouraging his independence and praising the helpful tasks he does, from getting undressed to helping feed the dog. I’m sure there will be plenty of rocky, stressful days in our future, but I’m trying not to stress about it too much!

    From what I can tell, you’re going to do a great job with all three, and it will seem like no time at all before you’re able to talk report these quiet evenings again!
    Lynn (@wanderlynn) recently posted..Being Jewish in DecemberMy Profile

  5. Karen says

    I’m much exactly where you are with this issue right now, except that I’m just expecting a singleton! One thing that helps when I get into worry mode is reminding myself how much Eli needs a sibling. He is often begging to play with other kids, but they are usually all in school when he does. I think it will be a difficult adjustment, but in the long run I know his life will be all the fuller for it. But oh how I dread the adjustment period!
    Karen recently posted..Leather-Backed Hand-Drawn Fabric OrnamentsMy Profile

  6. Teresa Cleveland Wendel says

    You will rise! You are Wonder Woman!
    But even Wonder Woman has her moments of doubt.
    And she gets tired…….
    very tired.
    Teresa Cleveland Wendel recently posted..If He Loved MeMy Profile

  7. says

    If anyone can do this, you certainly can! I think when something is new and daunting it’s normal to feel anxious. Yes, you are having twins and needing to juggle that with a preschooler but hopefully your experience with your first born will help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or accept help as that will give you sanity on those bad days. We are awesome on our own but need help occasionally as it used to take a village to raise a child!
    Sass recently posted..LOTD – Casual Friday navy and pinkMy Profile

    • says

      I think this is how humanity survived all these thousands of years—with people helping to raise our kiddos! Because honestly I think it’s near impossible for even two parents to care for a newborn, so I’m guessing back in the days, our aunts and grandmas all pitched in somehow.

      Thanks for the reminder that I’ll be a second-time mom and so will have some sort of experience under my belt. If anything, at least I’ll know that the madness is temporary :)
      Nina recently posted..Can I really do this? The anxieties of balancing newborn needs with an older childMy Profile