Managing Sleep & Life with 2 Littles

I have had the very unique situation that my second child was born during a global pandemic. So all of the worries I harbored during my pregnancy about how I would manage my newborn and my toddlers different schedules never actually came true.

My little boy has mostly napped from his birth in his crib. Why? Because my husband was working from home and I was able to then kill two birds with one stone: 1.  Let my little guy nap during the appropriate times without interruptions and 2. Have one-on-one play time with my daughter.

While my baby napped, I would always take my daughter out to play. She was thrilled to have alone time with me, and I was happy to be honoring both of their needs.

But what would I have done if I didn’t have help and what did I do on the days my husband couldn’t help out?

  1. I’d keep my newborns’ first nap at home. The first nap is the best in quality. During that time id do some activity with my toddler at home. Have you checked out busy toddler? She has awesome ideas and some of them are so simple. I purchased her preschool course in advance and the activities definitely helped us through some rainy days with a newborn.
  2. Next nap would be in the stroller bassinet or carrier on the go. My toddler LOVED to go exploring or on walks around the neighborhood and it was the perfect opportunity to get her out and make sure little man got his rest.
  3. Make it home for lunch, plop baby down in a lounger/chair that he likes, and have your toddler help you cook a simple meal. For you it’s a chore, for them it is a special activity with mom.
  4. After lunch, If you have 2 under 2 this is your golden hour. Your toddler naps, and hopefully fingers crossed part of that nap overlaps with the baby’s next nap. This is your cue mama to SIT DOWN/ LAY DOWN/ REST!!! Nope. Don’t do the laundry. Nope. Don’t pick up the toys. Leave it. While your kids are awake set up little areas for them to play while you take care of household things, but when they are both sleeping: sit.down.

If naps don’t coincide yet  and you have your baby awake during the toddlers nap, then find something restorative to do with the baby. Go on a walk to your nearest park and just sit on a bench. Set up a little picnic mat and lay down with him. Listen to good music or a podcast while you have him in the carrier. Whatever it is, find something that brings you joy that you can’t really do with a toddler.

When you have two or more kids, you start to really see the benefits of different age groups, as well as the things that become harder.

For example, my 3 year old is now really nice to take out to lunch. She will sit and color, she will have a conversation with me, and will happily eat her food. Besides a trip to the potty, she doesn’t really need my help. Going out to eat with her has now become a joy, where as now we are struggling with my 1 year old being in a phase of not wanting to sit in a highchair for very long. Lean into the easy and enjoyable things of each age group. Especially when you can have them one on one. 

But how do I manage them NOT WAKING EACH OTHER UP?

GIRL, I feel you. This was a HUGE worry of mine. Especially over Christmas when we were all going to share a room for the first time (2 year old, 6 month old, hubby and I).

First of all don’t stress. We always make it worse than it really ends up being. Make sure you have a sound machine for both of them, and then really just let it go. Why? Because they will most likely NOT wake each other up.

There we were sharing a room the 4 of us. My baby would go to sleep an hour before my toddler and my toddler just would not understand being quiet when walking into the room. We did pj’s and bedtime routine in a different room and only brought her in when she was ready for bed. We put the cribs on different ends of the room and prayed for the best.

Our daughter still made all the noise in the world, but because the first part of the night is usually the deepest stage of sleep, our little man never stirred.

Then by some miracle, when our little guy would wake up during the night, or early in the morning, sometimes screaming, our toddler wouldn’t even stir. Ya’ll kids adapt. Put those sound machines on, say a little pray, then let it go.

If they do wake each other up find out what else you can do to minimize the noise and then move forward. For example, we recently purchased the Hatch sound machine for my toddler and taught her that she could come out of the room when it turned green. This has allowed my son to sleep in more because now she isn’t yelling for us to come get her and isn’t waking him up with those yells. So say a little prayer, problem solve, and done.

What are some things that make 2 under 2 easier?

Splitting and assigning one child per parent in the mornings and evenings with your partner. 

I feel like this was just a natural survival tactic for us that developed while I breastfed and tended to our newborn in the early days. One year later and we are still keeping this up. My husband is mostly in charge of our toddler, and I am mostly in charge of our baby. What does that mean? If our toddler cries out in the middle of the night, he is on duty. If the baby wakes up at 5am ready to rock and roll, I’m on call. I put baby boy to sleep and then I am done for the day while he gets our daughter ready for bed.

There always seems to be something going on with one kid or the other, and this has really helped us to not both be burned out at any given moment. Sure, sometimes our baby is going through an easier phase and I am getting to sleep all night and be done with the day earlier, but it’s only a matter of time before the tables turn and our baby boy needs more support through whatever growth phase he is in, and our toddler is on her best sleep behavior.

Independent sleep skills ASAP 

I’m a sleep consultant. OBVIOUSLY this was at the top of my list. But the families I see that struggle the most are the ones that have never taught independent sleep skills to their first child, and now have the same situation happening with the second. It is exhausting to try to deal with one child having night wakings and poor sleep skills, if you add a second like this things will quickly escalate. All I can say is investing in sleep coaching early on is the #1 thing you can do for surviving 2 under 2.

Things will happen as your children grow that may throw off sleep every now and then, but knowing exactly how to face each situation as it comes (i.e. your perfectly sleeping baby turning into a demanding bedtime toddler), will prevent things from going on a downward spiral for the whole family.

Finally, part of the reason I felt so much more energized when my baby boy was born, Is becomes I didn’t have ANY anxiety of wondering when I would sleep again. I knew the newborn days would come to an end in a few weeks, and my bed and I would once again continue our 8 hour love affair every night. I also knew exactly when that would happen and how. Anxiety is exhausting ya’ll. It completely robs us of any energy we have and leaves us feeling depleted. Face your worries and then put a plan in place to create the support you need.

In the early days, tend to your older child first. Always. 

The truth is their world has been totally changed. One day they were the light of your life and had your full attention, the next day suddenly mommy is spending all of this time with this new little being attached to her boob.

Listen, your baby is not going to know any different if you put him/her down to tend to your toddler. If your older child needs a snack, help in the bathroom, help getting dressed etc. Even if you are feeding the baby, just put the baby down and help your toddler. It is ok if the baby cries while you do it. As long as they are in a safe spot they are perfectly fine.  You can even tell the baby “Im sorry sweetheart I’ll be right there, your big brother needs me right now”.

This is going to help so much with any jealousy or acting out from your older child. Try to set your older child up with an activity to keep them entertained while you feed. A great idea is to have special toys tucked away that only come out while you nurse. Need to pop on the TV? Girl- you are in survival. Your kid will be fine (and most importantly, safe.)

Create time for you

This was a recent “ah ha” moment. Honestly, even though I was sleeping the whole night, I was still feeling overwhelmed and agitated because my 12 hour days were full throttle tending to endless needs. None of which were my own. You have got to put time in your calendar for yourself. I know it has been harder this year with a pandemic going on but that is where my miracle morning had made a huge difference.

Some ideas:

-A miracle morning: Wake up before the kids and take time to do something you enjoy. Drink coffee, read a book, journal, workout. Even if it is just 30 minutes earlier. It makes all the difference.

– Take turns on the weekends: Maybe Saturday morning is for you and Sunday morning is for your husband? Take turns helping each other out and creating space. If you have family nearby to help OBVIOUSLY take their help. Even going out with just the baby feels like a break if someone can watch the toddler but alone time without any kids is ideal.

-After the kid’s early bedtime (because remember you invested in sleep help?) go do something you enjoy. Target run, quick drink with a girlfriend, a nice run or walk with good music or a podcast.

-Make a monthly date with friends: In Northern Mexico, every Wednesday girlfriends get together and call it “miercolitos” It is so set on the calendar that it always happens. Of course in Mexico families have a ton more support with their kids but even if you can make it a monthly thing like the first Thursday of every month, then you will have something to look forward to as well!

In Summary:

Having two small children is definitely hard, but I have to say, It was not as hard as I had scared myself into thinking it was going to be. Honestly, becoming a mother was harder for me and a bigger shock to the system.

Once you are already a mom, trust that you know just what to do. You are a pro, you will just need to test a few things along the way to make sure you are taking care of yourself.

Once you identify where you are getting stuck (maybe it’s the morning breakfast, or that witching hour before bed), take some time to figure out what steps you can take to lighten the burden during those moments.

I swear there are ALWAYS solutions. I am always tweaking things around to keep our sleep strong, and our days happy. You aren’t the first mama going through this so ask for help, ask your friends who have more than one little what their hacks are, definitely don’t keep your struggle to yourself and take it one day at a time.

You got this mama!