I remember the 1st year of my youngest child’s life so vividly. When he was born I had an almost 2-year-old toddling around hungry for attention and not quite sure about this new little screamer invading her space. In a sleep-deprived coma, I would be nursing him while she is asking to play with me, get a snack, or read a book. She didn’t really understand why I couldn’t accommodate her at that EXACT minute. On top of that, she wasn’t potty trained yet and all that training was put on hold until I had the time and stamina to get it going again. That year was crazy. And also amazing! I learned really quickly what worked well to give quality attention to each child without neglecting the other, which especially worked well when my partner was out of town on a business trip. Here are my top tips for spending quality time with your kids when you have a newborn at home.
1. Anticipate and Plan
I knew a was working within a 2-3 hour cycle of feedings, diaper changes and naps with my little guy. Working within this cycle, I would have books, play-doh, snacks and other little activities readily available for her when I needed to nurse the baby. Typically, having a variety of activities available would keep her busy for at least 10-20 minutes.
2. Involve them
Sometimes she would get bored with all that really quickly. She would ask me to read to her and I suggested we take turns. Her eyes got really big and a light bulb went off. She had already memorized many of the books and was so happy and proud to sit right next to me with her favorites and start reading to us. Another way I loved to get her involved was when she was curious about him. She would ask about nursing or diaper changes or swaddling. I would explain what I was doing and say she could get her doll and take care of it like I am taking care of her brother. Boy, that was a huge hit. She would mimic everything I was doing and even started taking doll on walks with us in her doll stroller. She loved feeling older and having her own baby to take care of.
3. Take advantage of nap time.
Most newborns sleep a lot. Take advantage of this! Even if you’re tired (which you will be), you can cuddle and read with your older child, nap together (or separate – ha!), eat lunch together over some fun music and much more. I found that even having a good 20-minutes of high-quality hang out time would leave her satisfied and she’d be ready to go play with her toys for a bit.
4. When all else fails, wear your baby!
Sometimes newborns are really fussy and just have trouble sleeping or are gassy or just plain uncomfortable. Make sure you invest in a good sling or baby-wearing device and let him or her get cozy and snuggle up with you. You then have both hands free to do something with your toddler like go on a walk, do the dishes, paint fingernails, or color a picture.
As you get used to your new normal you’ll find what works well for you and what doesn’t. Just remember to take a deep breath and figure out what they are really needing from you at that moment and experiment. You’ll probably come up with many more fantastic ideas. I hope you’ve found this helpful!
Feel free to check out more in-home newborn sessions here!