Managing an Infant and an Older Child

Archived Q&A and Reviews

How to manage a 2-month-old and a 4-year-old

May 2004

I'm a stay-at-home mom of a 4yo boy and a 2-month old girl. My son is in preschool in the mornings only and has the afternoons free. I originally thought it would be a good idea for my son to have short school days so that we could spend the afternoons together, but since having my baby I have been at a loss as to how to deal with my son when he's not in school. It seems that I am always occupied with my daughter (i.e., nursing, burping, carrying, etc.)and can't seem to find time to play with my son. My son is an active boy and comes home from school with a lot of pent-up energy, so suggestions like reading to him or working on a workbook or puzzle with him while nursing the baby don't work with him. When he gets home from school, he wants to run around outside or in the house or have someone get down on the floor and play trucks with him. If he's not kept occupied, he tends to act out and climb all over the baby and me while I'm nursing. We don't have a suitable yard for him to play in at home and the baby doesn't like the sling or carrier, so I'm at a loss as to how to handle both of them alone. My husband works long hours and often travels, so I can't count on him to help with the kids. My solution so far has been to hire a babysitter to play with my son when he's not in school, but that option is becoming quite expensive, especially since I'm not earning an income. Also, I feel that I'm becoming estranged from my son since I'm always trying to keep him busy with the babysitter and away from me and the baby. I suppose one answer is to take both kids to the park, but what to do when the weather is bad or it's just too much effort to pack both kids in the car? I've looked into putting my son into a school program that has longer days, but that isn't an option for us. What do other folks do in my situation? Thanks for any replies. Not managing too well

Go easy on yourself. Your new baby is only two months old, things will get easier. Take advantage of this time when she isn't moving and put her down. It sounds to me like you are holding and carrying her a lot. Where is she when you aren't nursing or burping her? I literally set my 2nd baby down right away once he ate and burped and did something with my 2 year old son, who also demanded quite a bit of attention. The upside of this was that the baby was happy just to be in the same room as us and wasn't dependant upon me to hold him all the time. The downside was that the back of his head got really flat! So just be sure to put your daughter on her side or tummy sometimes. Its not going to rain for several months now, so I think you should get out to a park each day after school. Have your bag packed so when you pick him up from school, just go straight to the park. Once you're home, its hard to get motivated to get out again. La Loma is wonderful for managing two, as it is small and fenced in. Your son can run around and your daughter can get used to hanging out in her stroller in between feedings. Hang in there! My boys are now 3.5 and 1.5 and we have a blast together. Been there, Kim

I so know what you're going through because I was in your shoes last year. My son was 3 when my daughter was born. My son did a lot of the same things, like climb on my lap while I was feeding baby. He also would pretend to be a baby and want to be bundled up, etc. As much as I could I went along with it. But believe it or not, last year was actually easier because my daughter wasn't walking yet and she loved the Baby Bijorn. Now they take off in different directions! So we could go to parks and my son (who is also very active) could run around and I could keep an eye on him. So my first suggestion is to try to get #2 more comfortable in a sling or Bijorn. It will make your life a lot easier, especially now that the weather is going warmer. The best investment I made was a membership at Habitot. It was a great, safe, fun place for my son to play in and I could watch (and play with) him while I held the baby. The other thing that's key is try to schedule playdates with your son. It was (and still is) actually easier to watch the older one when he has a playmate to keep him occupied. Another thing we did was take advantage of free movies at the Emeryvile theatre, the older one, I can't remember the name of it. I don't know if they will do it again this year but last summer they had free movies at 10 am a couple of days a week. It wasn't first-run movies, but it was kid flicks like Spirit and Babe. I believe the web site was Good luck. It's a tough time with a new baby, and I'm sure being sleep-deprived isn't helping either, but things will get better. Bobbie

Congratulations on your baby. Managing 2 really does change the game and my only thoughts of advice are 1) remember that babies change so fast so what you need right now may only be very very temporary to get you through that little tiny infant stage (baby is sure to not mind sling or carrier soon). So if babysitting gets you over the hump know that it will be short. It is also so new for your toddler that his needs are much greater right now. I found it all seemed to stabalize a bit around 4 months. 2) Maybe use the babysitter sometimes for your baby and use the time to be with your toddler. It is hard to do I know, but in many ways the baby's needs are more physical and your toddler could probably use some deposits into his ''emotional bank account'' given the upheaval and stress of having a new baby at home. Good luck. Margaret

My now 4yo, E, is very demanding and active. From birth he has required a lot of interaction. I have him in nursery school half the day and it has presented challenges with my now 2yo, J.

The solution I have hated falling back on is the television, but I do. Otherwise E requires my attention non-stop. However, I also try to create situations where E can be interacting with others and the world around him. Playdates. Going to the park. The library. Even running errands and shopping. It seems like for most people shopping with 2 boys would seem more challenging than staying home, but for us it's a way to entertain!

When J was a baby I just carried him around with us in a baby bjorn and tended to his needs as we went. Now J, who can play on his own for long periods unlike his brother, still comes along and still enjoys our outings. Of course, it depends on the temperament of your baby! Good luck! This too will pass. kt

I have an almost-four-year-old and an almost-one-year-old, and I feel for you. Going from one kid to two is a huge adjustment for the whole family. As big a change as it is for you, it! just as big a whopper for your older child (perhaps bigger, since he hasn! been mulling it over for 10 months). While all kids are different, my instincts tell me your relationship with your older child and your children's relationship with each other are going to suffer if you keep putting off learning to deal with everyday life with two kids. Without you close by to help him, your older child will be left to figure out for himself what his new place is in this transformed family, what his new relationship with you is, and how to build a relationship with his new sibling. He may even get the message that he! suddenly spending so much time away from mom and home because he doesn! have a place there anymore.

I think one of the biggest factors in a smooth transition is consistency for your older child, which means doing as many of the things you! always done as you can. You say your baby doesn't like the sling. A two-month-old may hate the sling, while the same child at two months and a week loves it. I encourage you to keep trying---you can do all the same things you're used to doing with your older child while the little one hangs out, naps, and nurses. My older son is also quite physical and needs to do lots of running around. We go for walks (he rides his tricycle or a scooter) everywhere---the park, the coffee shop, the marina, the library, just around and around--- to help him work out some of that energy. I! sure you know what your son likes best. The baby rides in a stroller or the sling. Another thing that! helpful to me is hanging out with other moms and kids. Talking to other moms can help you feel less isolated and inept, and just seems to make the days go by more quickly and easily.

Something that I found really helpful to keep in mind when I was getting used to two: With you (and your breast), the baby has everything it needs and will be fine no matter what you! doing. Your older child, on the other hand, needs tons and tons of attention from you right now. Once he feels secure in his new place in this reconfigured family, he! be able to strike out on his own more and you won! have to devote so much concentrated attention to him. I think since two months have already passed, the sooner you dive in and get used to having two in tow, the easier things will go, and the happier you! all be, in the long run. And once you get going, it! be second nature before you know it. Best of luck to you. DL

I was in a similar position last year. The thing to remember is that the baby will grow so quickly that she may be willing to go in a sling or carrier soon or she might start napping on her own longer. My oldest was also in part time preschool and while it was difficult for me, I believe that the children have a closer relationship now because of all the time they spent (and continue to spend) together. Any time we could be at a park or somewhere with water and sand really helped. We also took long walks with the baby in a stroller and did a lot of pretending, scavenger hunted for nature objects, and played'' I Spy'' and ''20 questions'' as we went. I would also create obstacle courses for her to do while I watched - ''climb over the bench, walk backwards around the table, hop 10 times, on one foot, and come back to me.'' She also enjoyed pretending while I just participated verbally. Once the baby could sit up, things got much easier and more fun. Good Luck and Congratulations! anon

Everything will get easier!! First thing, your baby is only two months old, so you must be really tired and maybe even crankier than usual. One thing that will really help is to start easing your baby into a regular nap schedule as soon as she is ready. Try to put her down when she falls asleep, even if it is only for ten or fifteen minutes, and play with the 4 year old. I bet that his acting out has a lot to do with his perception that the baby gets all the attention. Every so often, if you are playing with the older one and the baby cries, tell the baby that she needs to wait a minute while you finish with the bigger one. They seem to love the idea that each child gets a turn. One thing that I learned in the sibling class was to have a box of fun stuff available for the older one to explore while I nursed. The same goes for snacks, have something at a level that the 4 year-old can help himself. The first few months are the hardest on everyone, but especially you since you are nursing and trying to take care of everyone. Talk to your child and let him know how you are feeling, in a simple way. Teach him about the baby, let him help you change diapers, etc. Put the baby on the floor next to you when you play so that you can keep one hand on the baby and still be involved. When you feel like it go to the park or just go for a walk around the block (with the baby in the stroller). Good luck. Joan