Tackling Two Kids Under Two: A Survival Guide

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Let’s get one thing straight. Life as a parent simultaneously raising two kids under two years old is all about surviving. You just have to do what you have to do. My girls were born 20 months apart, and my pregnancy with my youngest was riddled with anxiety at the thought of raising two babies under the age of two. The stress was not without reason.

There is very little sleep, the diaper changes seem never ending, and the tears are constant (yours, not theirs). The shroud of fatigue can be so disorienting, you’ll have trouble remembering your children’s names sometimes.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to know if there’s a cheat available for this type of situation, and while that would be a dream, I’m here to tell you that there isn’t one; so a guide on survival will have to do.

A survival guide for raising two kids under two

1. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize

You’re gonna have to decide who needs you more. We all know that a baby needs a lot of attention, and when it comes to the necessities (like breastfeeding, of course), they will be the obvious choice.

Most of the time, however, you will notice that the toddler will demand for attention, given the recent adjustment to a major life change. Keep the toddler involved. She may not like the new baby just yet, but there’s a sense of responsibility brewing in there. You may as well use it to your advantage.

If there’s a lot of crying happening with both parties, pick the one that is more likely to stop crying first. Try to keep your cool. Initiating a sense of calm will benefit everyone, but there will be times where you will find yourself in a struggle to carry both babies, I’m not gonna lie. If you all end up in tears, you can always try again. That’s okay too. 

2. When it comes to sleep, someone’s gotta give

I sleep-trained the toddler (with great difficulty & out of desperation) when she was 15 months old. Without hesitation, I sleep-trained the baby as soon as she turned 6 months old (partly due to the lesson I learned from waiting too late with her older sister). Here’s the thing with sleep… someone’s gotta give.

You either get some decent shuteye by gently coaching your kids to sleep on their own (there are ways that aren’t entirely cruel), or you brave the fog of sleep-deprived exhaustion and rock, carry, and cuddle the little ones until they’re old enough to understand bedtime. 

The choice is ultimately yours, but recognize that it’s a give-or-take kinda deal. In this case, knowing is only half the battle. Execution is entirely different. 

3. Routines are everything

Synchronise those nap times and prep for the next activity accordingly.

You get up at 6am, and nurse the baby before the toddler wakes up. Once everybody is awake, your day officially begins. You make some breakfast, prepare some coffee, and feed the family. As you stop to check the clock, and wonder if it’s time for the morning nap, you discover that it’s just been 45 minutes since you last checked (what??!) It won’t take long until you realize that counting the clock has become a thing. How much longer ’til bedtime, you ask? Since you’re so keen to keep time, you may as well make a routine to go with it.

Kids thrive on predictability. It gives them a sense of familiarity and safety (so i’ve been told), and it keeps things simple, especially when you have two under two. If you know that the newborn is due for another feeding, try to prepare an activity (or a babysitter) for the toddler. Something to keep them busy (hello, screen time) to avoid any interruptions that could potentially ruin everyone’s day. By knowing, more or less, how your day is going to play out, you can prepare for what’s expected, instead of scrambling to figure out what to do next. 

A general flow is all you really need but feel free to jump off the wagon every now and then. You don’t want to set yourself up for failure if following a schedule has never been your strong suit. Find your groove, and keep that momentum. 

4. Safety first!

You can baby-wear the baby, or strap her into a rocker while you get a few things done. The toddler can be left in a play pen, the crib, or a high chair. Anything that leaves you hands-free is given the thumbs up when you have two kids under two.

When all else fails, lock yourself up in the safest, baby proofed room in the house, and relax for a second while the little ones have a field day. Everyone will be happy.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

This is huge. We come into reading things like this with the expectation of getting it all done ourselves. That’s so “Mom” of you. Newsflash: you absolutely can ask for help, especially when you have two kids under two. It’s important to voice out frustrations and difficulties. Ask for help before you uncontrollably slip down the slippery end of your sanity slope. 

With the current pandemic, this becomes a little harder. But don’t underestimate your partner, or an older sibling if they’re physically able to lend a hand. More often than not, they’re willing to help. Parenting isn’t meant to be done all on your own. (Kudos to the single parents, because we all know how impossible it feels sometimes)

6. Cook in bulk

Keep it simple, and make a lot of it. Heating up leftovers is way easier than making a new batch several times a day, not to mention the fewer number of dishes that will need washing afterwards. Win-win.

If repetition isn’t your thing, then you’re gonna have problems, because this is survival, not a 5-star hotel.

7. Plan for early bedtimes

Did you know that it’s completely normal for a newborn baby to sleep between 10-12 hours, with only 2-3 feedings in between (sounds like a myth, right)? Also, that a toddler should get roughly 12 hours of sleep to be considered healthy? If you do the math just right, it means you could totally put them to bed around 6pm/7pm and still have time for yourself in the evening.

This, my friends, is the key to keeping your sanity in check when you have two kids under two. You’re welcome.

8. Leave the day behind

After the little angels have signed off for the evening (you have at least 2-4 hours until someone wakes up for something), use this time to breathe some life back into your soul. Take a long shower, sit in silence, have a drink (maybe?), browse socials in peace, or watch something on Netflix with swear words.

Whatever it is that you do to get yourself to drop those shoulders and unclench that jaw, do it. You’ve earned it. Even if all you end up doing is catching up on some much needed sleep. 

When things don’t go your way, or something happens that throws everyone off their zen, take a minute and allow yourself to recover. There will be days, some harder than others. Raising two kids under two is a lot of work, learn to give yourself some grace.

Live it up, and live it well, because babyhood is fleeting, and a newborn paired with a toddler is cake compared to two full blown, hyperactive toddlers. Good luck with that.