Toddler Care When You’re Expecting

Being pregnant with a toddler running around can be challenging, to say the least. You may not always have the energy to keep up with your little one, and getting ready for a new baby can rob you of precious together time. But it is possible to bond with your older child, tackle your new baby to-do list, and even reserve a few hours for yourself during these months. Check out these tips for making pregnancy with a toddler in tow as smooth as possible.

Take advantage of naps. Your new best friend: the afternoon nap. Life with a toddler while pregnant leaves little downtime, so use his naptime to catch some shut-eye yourself. Pre-nap, wind down together with a calming activity such as reading a book or listening to music, which will help prepare him for sleep. He will love the extra cuddling with you and you’ll appreciate the peace and quiet. Afterwards, head to bed for much needed rest.

Bring in a babysitter. Consider hiring a mother’s helper for a couple of afternoons a week. Your child will enjoy the additional attention during this phase when so much focus is on the new baby, and you can use the afternoon to catch up on your rest or do a few things outside of the house. Schools and places of worship are great places to get referrals for local mother’s helpers. If you’re not comfortable leaving your child alone at first, you can always stay at home in a separate room.

Involve your toddler in baby preparations. Toddlers will delight in helping you get ready for your new addition, and you’ll simultaneously be able to check tasks off your new baby to-do list while hanging out with your older child. It’s a great opportunity to bond and talk about what to expect after your new baby arrives. Your tot can help fold baby clothes, place clean diapers in baskets, or arrange baby books on a shelf.

Prioritize your time. Accept that you may not be able to do everything you'd like to when you’re pregnant, with a toddler in tow. Let a few things slide in order to fit in special bonding time. Mopping the floors or updating your blog can wait. Spending those extra hours with your child before the new baby comes will help your toddler feel secure during the transition.

Remember to give yourself a break if things don’t go exactly as planned. This is a big change for your household! Before you know it, you'll be watching your firstborn become a proud big brother or sister to your new baby.

Photo by Colin Maynard on Unsplash

New Baby Take Two: How We Told our First

When we found out we were expecting our second child, I began to think of ways we could share the news with our first. Seeking hints on how to break the news to our only child, I decided to read a book about sibling rivalry. It began with an anecdote about a husband who announced to his wife one day that he thought it was time to have a second wife. Being married to you has been so great that having two wives could only be better, right? Just think, he continued, the two of you can go shopping together and share clothes. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? Needless to say, wife number one wasn’t overjoyed with such a prospect.

The author’s message should have been obvious, but the pregnancy hormones had already started doing things to my brain, so I just ignored it. Instead, like many parents, my husband and I assumed our child would simply share our incredible enthusiasm about her impending big sisterhood. That evening at dinner, I said, “Sweetheart, your father and I have some really exciting news. We are going to have a second baby, and that means you are going to be a big sister!”

Imagine our surprise when she responded with a quizzical look and a one word response: “Why?” she asked. As we both scrambled to fill the silence, I had to admit she (and the book) had a point, and I wondered how we were ever going to make this all right.

“You know,” I said, “when the baby arrives, you’ll get to do all kinds of things that he or she won’t be able to do.” “Like what?” she inquired warily. “Like staying up until 8 o’clock and learning to ride a two-wheeler,” I replied, grasping at straws. “And you get to help pick the new baby’s name,” I added for good measure. That last one solicited a big grin, but I never imagined what problems my seemingly brilliant suggestion was going to cause.

Two days later our daughter announced with great pride that she’d picked a name for the baby. “Favorite Towel,” she said about the moniker she used for her treasured Turkish towel, a gift from an eccentric aunt. On the one hand, I was thrilled that she thought enough of the new baby to name it after an item that accompanied her morning, noon, and night.  On the other hand, I was grateful to have seven months to do damage control on that one.

Photo by Jakub Kriz on Unsplash

Toddler Sleep Solutions: Comfort Companion

Toddler comfort companions come in all shapes and sizes: Some are raggedy blankets, others much-loved teddies, and some may be as unusual as one of mommy’s T-shirts. These baby and toddler sleep companions don’t just have a place in the crib; they’re often used as a security object during all hours of the day. Read on for everything new moms should know, as well as some ideas on what bedtime toys to present your tot with to help him sleep.

The lowdown
Carrying around a security, or transitional, object is a completely normal part of your baby’s development, and many kids will pick out their companion between 8 and 12 months of age. Often a soft object like a blanket or pillow does the trick, your little one will use his companion to comfort and reassure himself when you’re not around. Many children can become attached to their transitional objects, which is also normal: Don’t view this as a sign your new baby is clingy or shy.

Safety first
While it’s fine to let your older baby take her teddy to bed, it’s important to insist that children under 7 months leave soft toys and blankets out of the crib. They can pose a suffocation hazard, increasing your child’s risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Also, as your new baby may chew on his security object, it’s crucial to check it for choking hazards, such as buttons or other small pieces that could detach.

Quite the collection
You may be surprised if your tot chooses a non-cuddly companion to latch onto, but that’s normal, too. Some kids may form an attachment with their favorite board book, and insist on sleeping with it every night while others may find a toy train or car soothing. As long as you don’t think your new baby could hurt himself in his sleep, it’s fine to allow these more unusual transitional objects into bed.

Smart new moms know that keeping a replacement transitional object on hand is a must. Once your new baby chooses his security object, try to find an identical one and keep it tucked away. If your new baby ever loses it (or you decide that Teddy needs to be thrown in the washing machine), you’ll be able to whip out the new security toy before the tears start.

Photo by Juan Encalada on Unsplash

Cooking Fun with Your Little One

Toddlers love to be mommy’s helpers in the kitchen. And while that extra set of hands might slow things down (and, yes, likely up the mess factor), introducing your child to cooking can be a fun way to bond and makes for a great rainy day activity for your toddler. And (bonus!) being involved with meal preparation may even help encourage your tot to establish healthy eating habits. Here’s how to make the most of your time with your junior chef.

Make it simple.
Keep your toddler’s development in mind when picking a dish, and avoid complicated or time-consuming recipes. Choose something with only a few ingredients and simple steps, like a fruit-and-yogurt parfait. Because toddlers like to stick their fingers in their mouths, avoid anything that could expose them to dangerous uncooked ingredients like cookie dough made with raw eggs.

Shop together.
Grocery shopping with a toddler in tow may make for a longer outing, but it can be fun to find the ingredients needed to make a dish together. Boost your toddler’s development by making it a learning experience. As you pull items from the shelves, talk about how they add to the dish’s flavor (“These blueberries will help make our muffins sweet!”), ask him whether he wants a red, yellow, or green pepper in your salad, or give him an introductory spelling lesson by pointing to letters on packaging (“Sugar starts with the letter ‘s’”).

Find simple tasks.
Kitchen activities for toddlers can include rinsing fruit, pouring in sugar or other ingredients, stirring, mashing, and patting. A fun toddler game is to drop blueberries onto cooked pancakes to create smiley faces or the first initial of his name.

Supervise everything.
Safety lessons and supervision in the kitchen are key. Let your child know what is okay for him to touch and what is always off limits, such as the whirring beaters of a mixer, handling sharp utensils, and touching anything on the stove.

Praise your child’s cooking prowess as you sample your dishes together, and try your best to ignore the flour on the floor or that cup of spilled milk. The important thing is that you’re boosting your child’s confidence by encouraging him to master new skills and even sample new foods. Bon appétit!

Photo by Karly Gomez on Unsplash

Parenting Advice: Helping Your Tots Get Along

Sibling rivalry is as old as time. And while it’s normal and expected between kids who are close in age, living with the constant bickering can be tiresome. Preventing fights and disagreements between siblings isn’t always possible, but creating a loving family dynamic is. The following parenting tips will help you achieve sibling peace (and quiet!) among your tots.

Why it happens
Individual temperaments may play a role (for example, the brash older brother loves to poke his demure younger sister, and it escalates from there). Kids also pick up on the ways their parents handle friction, so if you and your spouse tend to stomp around when the garbage doesn’t get taken out on time, expect the same from your children. But the biggest reason for sibling rivalry may be the competition kids wage in order to gain Mom and Dad’s attention -- and the moments of jealousy that tend to follow.

What to do
Try to stay out of your kids’ fights at the start, as some children are able to resolve their differences on their own with minimal noise. If you do need to step in, separate the warring parties and let them calm down. Remind your tots that it takes two to fight, and there’s not just one sibling in the wrong. If they’re old enough, get them both to talk about the issue. For example, ask each child why he is mad and then have them both come up with ideas to solve the problem.

How to minimize it
Reduce tension between siblings by setting a good example with your spouse. Demonstrating how to cooperate and compromise may help to lessen sibling rivalry. It’s also important to spend some time with each child individually when you can, and make sure your kids have a bit of time and space to be alone, too. On the other hand, planning family events (biking, camping, or special dinners) is a lovely way for everyone to relax and bond together. Tots who share quality time like this may be less likely to fight.

It can be upsetting -- as well as headache-provoking -- to hear your tots argue over who gets the bigger slice of cake or whose turn it is to feed the dog. But take heart: One day, they’ll grow up, learn to get along, and just might become best friends for life.