A Balancing Act: As Families Grow

Anna Kolander with her children

If there’s one pattern that emerges as the days, weeks, months, and years of parenting progress, it’s this: nothing stays the same. Just as you establish a routine, something changes. It may be a developmental milestone such as learning to crawl or saying the first word. Perhaps the first tooth appears, leaving your little one uncomfortable and out or sorts. It could be a change of seasons and the later sunsets or earlier sunrises affecting sleep patterns.

Or, as many parents discover, the addition of a sibling can uproot life as you know it, causing you to throw those routines out the window. Now you are not just meeting the needs of one child but two, three, or even more.

One parent, Mandy G., recently reached out to La Leche League, explaining: “I’m having trouble balancing the needs of my 2.5 year old and my 2 month old. I’m feeling so overwhelmed. Tell me it gets better!” Readers of the La Leche League USA Facebook page were only too happy to share their experiences and offer their suggestions based on what worked for their families. Read on!

Anna Kolander: “Set reasonable expectations for yourself. You may not be able to get everything done in the same amount of time you could when you had just one kid. Some days your only accomplishment will be that everyone got fed, and that is okay!”

Rosanna Simonson: “Try babywearing with the little one. It’ll free up your hands so you can take care of the toddler, and the baby will get all the great benefits of being held close to you (plus easy access to nursing).”

Anna Faulkner: “It gets easier. I have a 2.5 year old and a 4 month old, and once you get a routine going it gets so much better. Plus, I gave my 2.5 year old chores – sort the silverware (no knives) when unloading the dishwasher, feeding the dogs/turtles – silly things like that to keep her busy with me.”

Beth Lynch: “It’s no simple task! My kids are exactly two years apart; baby is now 4 months. One thing that we do is sit on the couch together when baby is nursing and read books. He also likes to show baby his toys while she does tummy time and she loves it, too! My rule is toys stay outside her blanket or mat so he’s not ramming a car into her face.”

Gwenn Wright: “Avoid the ‘perfect’ mamas on social media. No one needs that kind of pressure. While you’re nursing you can snuggle next to and read stories with your 2.5 year old. Your older child becomes your Big Helper and can help fetch diapers and fold washcloths, etc. This gives an older child a great sense of pride and purpose and solidarity with mommy. Be patient with yourself. It takes a while to get the hang of it, and they’re constantly changing as you’re learning. I have five sons (ages two years to 19 years) and I’m still learning!”

Sarah Komorek: “Kids love to help. My kids are 3, 2, and 1. When I had my second, my first was 13 months old. He loved to get diapers (he even diapered his brother’s head many times while I was working on the baby’s bottom). When you’re nursing baby you can have older kids sitting beside you watching a special cartoon or doing a special project or playing with a special toy that they are only allowed to use while you’re nursing. There are plenty of activities you can do with both kids. Sing songs. Read stories. Older child can lie on the floor and ‘teach’ baby animal sounds/names during tummy time. Just find as many ways as possible to help your older child help and interact with the baby.”

Jess Barr: “In my experience, it gets easier, then harder, and then easier; repeat. You will figure it out, and with a two month old I am betting you are not taking care of you. It is definitely easier with more sleep! Also, try giving your 2.5 year old helpful jobs that help the baby. I found that explaining that babies have lots of needs and we all need to help but that it won’t always be this way made the older children feel accomplished in their helping and was great for cooperation and self esteem. Try to dedicate a set thing that you do with your (older) child every day. I picked creative story time because I could do it without a book, and it did not need to be locked into a specific time of day.”

More suggestions are available at the following links:

Please send your story ideas to Amy at [email protected].

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