How to Survive the First Weeks with a Newborn and Toddler

Barely coping with a newborn and toddler? Learn how to survive the first few weeks and adjust to life with two kids.

Newborn and ToddlerI joke with friends and family that bringing the twins home was hard not so much because I had two babies to care for, but because I had an older child to reckon with.

Like most toddlers adjusting to a new sibling, my son’s behavior took a turn for the worse. He’d whine, act out, and make unreasonable demands. I found myself yelling, then feeling horrible for doing so, especially since I never really yelled at him before.

At least as a second-time mom, I knew that the madness would end. But catering to their needs on 25-minute increments of sleep was no easy task.

It’s been years since those frantic first few weeks, and I can assure you that not only can you get through this, but you can be so much stronger for it.

I also wanted to share a few of the insights that, looking back, were the ones that truly helped me. Because yes, it does get better with time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it now, either. Take a look at these tips on caring for a newborn and a toddler:

How to Help Your Child Adjust to a New Baby

1. Encourage your toddler to be independent

So far, you’ve done a lot of things for your toddler, from getting his snack to putting on his clothes. And no wonder—all this time, he’s the only one you’ve had to care for.

But with a newborn in the picture, doing everything for him isn’t as easy as it used to be. Encouraging him to be independent can free up your time, especially when the baby needs you.

Start by giving him plenty of opportunities to play on his own. Stock up on simple toys to give him once in a while, or rotate toys to pique his interest once again. Provide art supplies he can work with on his own, buying you time to be with the baby.

Then, encourage self-sufficiency by teaching him how to do many of his daily tasks himself. Yes, it can take longer to have him sort his socks or brush his teeth, but imagine how much more time you can have once he masters these tasks.

Even better? Ask him to be your little helper with baby-related tasks. My toddler helped me on many occasions, from fetching a burp cloth to filling up my water bottle.

Free printables: Want to encourage autonomy in your toddler and introduce chores and responsibilities? Join my newsletter and get your copy of Toddler Tasks and Chores to encourage self-sufficiency and independence! Grab it below—at no cost to you:

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2. Don’t start feedings or sleep routines until your toddler is occupied

If there was any time that I felt panicked, it was when my toddler needed me right when I had just started feeding the twins or putting them to sleep. Sometimes I had to continue nursing and deal with my toddler’s behavior, while other times I had to restart the nap routine because he really did need me.

Either way, only one person benefited while the others felt frustrated, all while throwing off my schedule.

While you can’t always predict what your toddler will ask for, make sure she’s occupied and that her needs are met.

For instance, give her a new toy or project—one she can do alone—before starting a breastfeeding session. Make sure she has a small snack before you put the baby down for a nap. Or combine the two and read her a book while you nurse the baby.

Before every feeding or nap routine, ask yourself if your toddler has enough to do before you start. You can save yourself plenty of interruptions by doing so.

3. Get baby gear that frees up your hands

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You likely have baby gear from when your toddler was a newborn, and now is the time to use those once again.

A baby wrap or sling lets you do simple tasks at home and even encourages the little one to fall asleep. Strollers allow you to take both kids on an outing without worrying about chasing your toddler down with a newborn in your arms. A swing lets your baby take a nap so you can read with your toddler.

And if you have a few items, rotate through them. You just might find that your newborn likes the variety, or prefers an item that your eldest hadn’t.

Here are a few favorites that can be such a lifesaver:

4. Wake up earlier than both kids

Mornings with a newborn and toddler can be hectic, especially since any routine or consistency you may have had are now disrupted. There’s nothing worse than waking up groggy, only to realize that both kids need you right that minute.

To feel less overwhelmed, wake up earlier than them and use those early minutes of the morning to get yourself ready. Then, start preparing their morning things, such as your toddler’s meals, the baby’s bottles, or both kids’ clothes and diapers for the day.

Then, once you have everything ready, get your toddler up first. Once she starts getting dressed, wake the baby and get him changed and dressed as well. Next, seat your toddler at the table to have her breakfast, giving you a chance to feed the baby next to her.

By having everything ready, you can focus on guiding your toddler to her next task and tending to the baby. No need to fuss about preparing breakfast or finding clothes—you already did that while they were asleep.

5. Synchronize naps and quiet time

Try to synchronize one of the baby’s naps during your toddler’s midday nap. This gives you a few moments to be alone while both kids are asleep.

If your toddler has already outgrown her naps or doesn’t take them consistently, encourage quiet time while the baby naps when she can play quietly in her room. This can still allow you to be alone while both kids are in their rooms.

Then, for the baby’s next nap, spend one-on-one time with your toddler. You might read books together, work on a project, cook lunch, or otherwise hang out without the baby.

Spending time alone with your toddler every day—even if to read bedtime books or when the baby is napping—can ease her anxieties from all these changes.

And one-on-one time should also be with both parents. It’s tempting to assign toddler tasks to your partner while you take on all the baby’s needs (especially if you breastfeed). But your toddler should be able to spend time with both parents instead of feeling relegated to the same one all the time.

6. Stop telling yourself it’s hard

Most of the struggles we experience start inside our minds. One of the biggest shifts I’ve had to make wasn’t in a daily routine or a discipline strategy. It was to stop getting inside my head, including listening to all the stories I was telling myself.

You see, the more you tell yourself that caring for a newborn and a toddler is hard, the more your brain wants to find as much evidence to prove you right.

This doesn’t mean you sugarcoat sleep deprivation and temper tantrums or brush your emotions aside. But it does mean you don’t dwell on these unhelpful stories. So yes, admit that it’s hard… then find ways to make it not so hard. Better yet, think of things to be grateful for, even when it feels hard.

Maybe it’s that you got the baby to sleep a little longer in the crib by putting a pacifier in his mouth mid-nap, or that your toddler was able to button her shirt by herself. These are the simple wins that can make the challenges you face less defeating.


There’s no doubt about it: the transition to caring for a newborn and a toddler is a change that can surprise even the most seasoned parent. Still, you can do plenty even in these hectic moments to make newborn life easier and get your groove back.

Start by encouraging your toddler’s independence, whether it’s giving her more time to play alone or teaching her how to do tasks on her own. Make sure she’s occupied before you start feeding the baby or putting him to sleep.

Use baby gear to free up your arms and make you more mobile. Wake up earlier than both kids to get everything ready—that way you can focus on them instead of starting tasks you could’ve prepared in advance.

Synchronize their naps as much as possible, or use the baby’s naps to spend one-on-one time with your toddler. And finally, stop telling yourself over and over that this is hard—your brain will gladly find all the ways to prove you right.

Before my twins arrived, I never imagined that the biggest challenge to balancing all their needs would be my toddler’s behavior. Still, it was what I needed to be the patient and empathetic mom he needed me to be—even in 25-minute increments of sleep.

Get more tips:

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