Tackling Two: Tips on Handling Baby and Toddler Alone

It wasn’t until I was in my third-trimester of my second pregnancy that I was struck with a new found fear: how will I handle my newborn and needy 2-year-old while my husband is at work? I had no other family around to help me.

Advice from my sister-in-law and other moms online really helped me figure everything out and not stress!

Of course it will be tricky at first. (It still can be for me!) Your whole family dynamic will change. But with time and patience, it will get easier.

Pinterest pin of toddler climbing on crib with baby in crib

Prepare your toddler for baby

Gaining a sibling is a huge life-changer for your toddler. Especially if this is her first! You can help prepare your toddler by trying some of these suggestions:

  • Read books about being a big sister or brother.
  • Get a baby doll for your toddler and show her how to change it, feed it (even breastfeed!), and hold it gently.
  • Involve your toddler in the decision process such as picking out baby clothes.
  • Make some nursery decorations with your toddler.
  • Before you’re close to the end of your pregnancy, help your toddler become a bit more independent (wean your toddler off the breast if you don’t want to tandem feed, move the toddler into to their own room, teach how and where to put away toys, and potty train).
Putting Baby to Bed with a Noisy Toddler

Ah, this was my number one struggle. Your newborn will need A LOT of sleep. Even at the age of one, your baby will be taking two naps a day. I struggled immensely getting my toddler to quiet down. It was frustrating and left my toddler in tears. I was overwhelmed and my newborn was overtired.

My sister-in-law suggested giving my toddler “time in.” So whenever it’s nap-time for my newborn, I say to my daughter, “baby needs to go night night,” and I put her in her room with the a baby gate up (ensuring she doesn’t escape and get up to mischief), set up a movie and give her some cereal.

At first it didn’t work. My daughter would yell at the gate for me. But I stuck with it, always reminding her that baby needs to go to sleep and she can watch her movie.

Now she loves her time in! Whenever baby has to take a nap, she eagerly goes to her room and plops on her bed for a movie and snack.

Sometimes your fussy baby will take quite a bit of time to settle down for a nap. I have a baby monitor in my toddler’s room and whenever my baby is taking longer than normal to put to sleep, I speak into the hand-held device to assure my daughter I will be just a few more minutes.

If your toddler has separation anxiety and can’t be alone, keep a stash of quiet toys in the closet that you only pull out when your baby has to nap. Turning on soft music in the background or singing softly might get the message across to your toddler that it’s quiet time.

If Toddler and Baby Have to Nap at the Same Time

This is bound to happen. Especially if your toddler is under the age of three. Once a day their naps aligned and I had to figure out how to handle it. I didn’t want to leave my newborn or toddler overtired and crying, while I put the other down to nap.

What worked for me turned out to be somewhat straightforward, but I understand your situation may be different. My routine simply involved getting them both ready for their naps at the same time. I turned down the lights, rocked them both for a bit in my arms and sang. Once I could tell they were both nearing sleep, I walked my toddler to her bed, told her night night, and then finished putting baby to bed.

Toddler funny face with baby in crib

Breastfeeding baby with an impatient toddler

My toddler did not understand at first why baby was held close to me and I couldn’t move! She would get impatient and try to shove herself on me to be close to baby.

I bought a breastfeeding book to explain to my toddler how mama’s milk is feeding baby. I even squirted some out in my toddler’s hand to show her! She thought that was pretty neat.

Or, give your toddler a baby doll or stuffy and have her pretend to breastfeed right along with you. Toddlers really love to copy and she might get a kick out of feeding her own baby doll!

Taking baby and toddler out on errands

The first time I went shopping with my newborn and toddler, I thought I was going to explode from stress. It was impossible! I had to stop a couple times to feed my newborn and while I did, my daughter became impatient and cranky.

Before you go to the store, take the time to prepare. I didn’t, which is why the outing was so miserable.

  • Make a list of items you need before you go.
  • Get everything ready an hour before you need leave. (It always takes an hour or more to get out the door in our family!)
  • Stick to a schedule. (If you know your toddler or baby will need a nap, note the time so you aren’t out too long at the store.)
  • Give baby an extra feeding to top him off before going.
  • Bring some toys a long with you to distract your toddler.
  • If all else fails, buy your toddler a little treat. Don’t be above bribing! Especially if it saves your sanity!
  • Try a baby carrier or sling and a little umbrella stroller for your toddler so you don’t have to lug your huge stroller around. Baby slings/carriers are also a great way to breastfeed your baby in public without having to stop.

If going out is too hard and not worth the hassle:

  • Take the time to plan out meals, make a list of exactly what you need, and have your significant other do all the shopping.
  • Order online! Some stores even have online shopping for groceries.
  • Plan to go out when your significant other has a day off and can watch the kids. I do this a couple times a week when I want to have alone time.
Getting Stuff Done Around the House

When you’re caught between tending to your needy toddler and caring for your new baby, it’s hard to get housework done. Even preparing meals is difficult. Here are some things that really worked for me:

  • Use a baby carrier or sling for tasks like washing dishes and preparing meals.
  • Purchase a couple baby bouncers to keep in the living room, kitchen, and play room.
  • Make easy-to-prepare meals (sandwiches, pasta, frozen pizza).
  • Clean for 30 minutes a day so housework doesn’t build up and become overwhelming.
  • Have your toddler do some small chores to help out!

Baby and toddler black and white

Toddler Handling Baby

To your toddler, having a baby around the house is like a shiny new toy! All my daughter wanted to do was pick up the baby and squeeze him like a stuffy. The first time my daughter saw her brother in the hospital, she ran up to him and squeezed his head. Ouch!

Every time my toddler wanted to be near him, I took her hand and showed her how to gently stroke his hand or head. Reinforce it by saying “good job” every time your toddler is gentle. Be persistent and patient.

It can take a week or more but eventually your toddler will know how to treat and love on baby without hurting him!

Let your toddler help take care of baby

While my toddler never verbally lashed out or showed any physically signs of jealousy (like hitting), I could tell by looking into her eyes that sometimes she felt left out. This was entirely my fault too! I was always so busy trying to perfect my newborn’s routine that I didn’t slow down to include my toddler. It wasn’t until one night when I was falling asleep that I was burdened with guilt for not letting my toddler help out. After that I tried my best to include her. You and your toddler might benefit from doing some of these things:

  • Have your toddler help by getting a fresh diaper for your baby or throwing the used one away in the trash.
  • Let your toddler help clean your baby at bath time or when he spits up.
  • Involve your toddler in settling baby down to sleep by picking out a book and baby’s pajamas.
  • When your baby can eat solids, let your toddler help pick out what your baby will eat and even help during feeding (while you watch carefully).

Even if simple activities like changing your baby or feeding him takes twice as long with your toddler’s help, it’s worth it! The joy on your toddler’s face when they help out will warm your heart.

Set aside alone time with toddler

With your hectic new routine, catching up on sleep, and maintaining the house, you might forget to spend one-on-one time with your toddler. I know I did! Skip doing the dishes or folding the laundry to play with your tot. The house will be a wreck but spending nice quality time together is worth it! Your toddler will appreciate the personal attention.


Thanks for reading and congratulations on another baby! I hope these tips will help lessen your stress and help you enjoy every day with your toddler and new baby. 🙂

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2 Responses

  1. Melissa says:

    How did you deal with your baby crying when you put them down for nap at the same time as your toddler?

    • Elizabeth says:

      Great question! I don’t know how much help I can be with that. My baby rarely cried when it was nap time. I think it really helped that he took to a pacifier. My toddler usually was the one that would talk as I was putting them both to sleep…which of course always disturbed him. The only way I could keep her quiet was by singing, because she wouldn’t talk while she heard my voice. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help. Hang in there 🙂

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