How I Survived 2 Under 2...
Today I wanted to write a quick requested blog post on the topic of handling two babies under two years old. When Troy was first born, Bodie was only 11 months old. We started with two children under ONE! Many other mums are in this situation, and now having only one week left with two babies under two, I thought it was time to share.
Super close age gaps can be challenging with children because both babies are extremely dependent on mum and dad for feedings, diaper changes, nap support, and being carried around. Two cribs, two high chairs, two infant car seats... it's A LOT. Troy is such a handful and keeps me so busy, it's shocking to realize that I did all of what I do for Troy for Bodie, WHILE PREGNANT!
So anyhow, I thought I'd give my best advice for how we've survived this year intact.
Firstly, it may be wise to plan for the worst case birth-scenario.
This may sound morbid, but I promise you, it's not. It's just pragmatic. I don't mean to plan on having a bad outcome, but just make provisions IN CASE you end up with an outcome that is different than expected, specifically, an outcome that means you will need extra help at home while you recover.
If you are at all familiar with my birth story, you know that my second delivery was a planned cesarean, which has the longest recovery time out of most birth options. It meant that I would not be able to carry my older baby for at least 6 weeks as he was over the weight limit, which was a challenge because Bodie couldn't walk yet! He needed us to carry him in order to get around LOL!
Because of this, we planned on having my cousin come live with us for a month following the birth of Troy. She came and stayed with us to care for Bodie so Grant could help me with the newborn, especially in the early weeks when I was barely able to get around. She got up with Bodie in the morning so that Grant and I could make it through the newborn nights, and she took care of lifting Bodie up to do diaper changes, put him in his crib, and bring him outside.
It was beyond helpful for me as well because I ended up getting double mastitis AND Covid when I was three weeks postpartum. We were completely locked down in the house, but my immune system was so lowered from the surgery and pregnancy deficits that I became extremely vulnerable to illnesses. It took me over a week to recover from the sicknesses on antibiotics, and that was when my husband and cousin really had to step in to help me with the babies. It was incredible.
Even though you probably won't end up with a c-section incision sight, covid, and double mastitis, maybe just have a backup plan in case the worst-case scenario happens. Sometimes we plan for the best natural births, but we can end up with unexpected interventions, or even an emergency C-Section. Maybe don't have someone come stay with you for sure, but have a plan on standby.
It's really hard to make decisions after you have a baby when you're sleep-deprived, in pain, and dealing with a newborn, so don't force your poor postpartum self to make an entire survival plan AFTER birth. Try to have some ideas before you go into birth as to who can help you. If you don't have family or sisters or anyone to help, consider hiring help for every other afternoon or so, just to give yourself a break. It's extremely hard to deal with two under two, and the beginning transition is the most intense, so have friends or even hired people to help you.
Next, plan for a tough baby!
We didn't do this with Bodie because we didn't know much about babies at the time, but I think it's important to plan your first newborn weeks with the idea that you will have the fussiest, most alert, and most reflux-y baby in the world. Bodie ended up being an incredibly difficult sleeper, alert, energetic, and almost impossible to soothe. It made the postpartum time incredibly difficult, and we had to scramble for reinforcements and internet advice. Getting through those first twelve weeks felt like a miracle, so when I found out I was pregnant again so soon, I was a little nervous.
When it came time to plan for Troy, we decided to batten down the hatches.
That's partly why we had my cousin come up, but Grant and I also planned out our shifts, figured out our formula plan, and set up a nursery with an adult-sleeping space as well. We had multiple baby swings and baby stations, as well as soothies, baby slings, and just tons of baby soothing options.
The funniest thing is that all these preparations ended up being unnecessary because Troy was the easiest newborn I've ever met in my LIFE lol! He slept 20/24 hours a day and never had a hard time feeding, sleeping, being soothed, or with reflux. I don't regret planning for the worst because it made everything so much simpler, but it ended up being a relief to meet Troy, rather than a scramble because we were so prepared.
The reason it's good to plan so much is because you are going to have a massive mental load postpartum with your oldest child still having needs. If you can plan before your newborn is here, you won't be scrambling to buy nipple shields on Amazon, fixing the radiator in the spare bedroom, or begging your sister to come stay with you to give you relief. Too many couples plan for a perfect newborn and a perfect scenario, leaving them in a lurch when things don't go according to plan. Having an older baby or a toddler needing you while you deal with a hard postpartum can just make it all so much worse.
Next, set up stations all around the house
Diaper changing stations hidden in baskets, newborn swings and bassinets sprinkled around the house, toy baskets available beside the chairs where you will be feeding your newborn... you get the idea.
The point is that you want to have your necessary supplies accessible in all the major "hangout" spots so you don't have to cart two children to the toy room or the diaper room or whatever whenever you need to get something done. For us, that is the living room, basement, sunroom, and both nurseries. I kept a toy basket beside all of the best feeding chairs in the house so that Bodie could come and play while I fed Troy, and we hid wipes and diapers in cute baskets nearby too so that we wouldn't have to leave one baby behind to go change the other or try to carry them both.
It's also so helpful to have a portable bassinet or bouncy chair that you can bring around to set baby down safely in. Especially if your baby does not like the carrier, having a bouncy chair to observe the family activities can be a godsend. I still have books next to most hang out chairs in the house, just so I can entertain both kids at the same time.
Next, it's okay to have rigid routines if you need that for your family.
For my mental health, it was good to have a "cut-off" at the end of the day when they would both be in bed and not need further attention, soothing, or anything from me. Troy wasn't officially sleeping through the night until about six months, but as soon as he was, it was such a mental relief to put the babies down at seven-thirty and then get some time for myself. Two babies really exhaust you, so it's important to have a strong routine that you can depend on. Sometimes the needs of one child will throw your entire day off-kilter, and it can be difficult to get things back on track. I've found it helpful to have a surefire routine that for both kids that I follow loosely each day, so I don't feel like I'm going crazy when they start acting up.
It's also a great framework for our daily lives, trying to get the boys to take a nap at the same time in the afternoon, having a specific time I wake them up in the morning... the routines are helpful for me as a mom managing two babies, but also helpful for the boys because then they kind of know the general flow to each day and know what to expect. Routines can be a saving grace when you're frazzled and running on empty, so don't turn your nose up at them, even if you're more go-with-the-flow. I follow my routines loosely, but I don't mess around with bedtime. It ensures my sanity and allows our household to have a time every evening when I can reset and get ready for the next day.
Next, try to get a good double stroller and get into walking.
I cannot recommend walks enough. Getting your kids used to being in the stroller for a minimum of thirty minutes at a time can be helpful, especially if you live in a neighborhood with accessible playgrounds like mine. Your younger baby can nap in the stroller while your older baby is entertained by the sights and playgrounds, and you can get a safe thirty minutes to an hour where you're not having to hold anyone, carry anyone, or soothe anyone, all while getting precious exercise.
I find that kids seem to chill out a lot more when they have access to fresh air, and they can relax and enjoy eating snacks and looking around in the stroller, just enjoying a break from being in the house. And it's so good for you as a mom as well to get some Vitamin D. You will not regret splurging on a great double stroller as long as you commit to actually using it, and I really recommend considering a double stroller with rubber wheels, as well as a style that is tandem side-by-side versus a stacked stroller because it's a lot more "fair" to the kids. They have the same type of seat, the same view, and one of them isn't ridiculously close to the ground. Not to mention, they're way easier to navigate. Just make sure it's narrow enough to fit on your sidewalks!
Next, try to foster independence in your older child.
A walking baby means so much less work on mom for carrying, and I found that it helped Bodie have more fun with his playtime because he could access way more things. He took his first steps after his first birthday, and I now realize how helpful that was, especially because Troy is over a year now and not walking. Kinactive_Kids on Instagram has incredible tips when it comes to getting a cruising baby to walking!
There will be about a six to eight-month period where you can't really just put your younger baby down on the ground by themselves, and it's still a lot to carry a toddler, even if you can baby-wear your younger child. Kids are heavy and our arms get sore, so having your younger baby walking is always a great idea. I will say however, that I found weightlifting to be indispensable this past year in the way that I was able to gain strength so I could actually carry both of them around, even when they are a collective 55lbs lol.
Furthermore, getting your eldest used to having some quiet time in the crib, fifteen to twenty minutes in their own nursery with toys and music... nothing crazy. This is a fantastic hack because sometimes with Troy, I'd have to give him an emergency bath for a blowout or soothe him to sleep, or do other things that I simply could not have Bodie interfering with. So getting him to enjoy his time in his crib was vital. He happily goes in there for about twenty minutes every day to just destimulate and chill out. I always leave the baby monitor on and put him in with books, his blankie, a sippy cup, and some smaller toys and a pillow to lean against, as well as our german shepherd to keep him company lol. He's come to really depend on this time as part of his routine, and it makes life a lot easier for me as a mum.
Finally, consider spacing out your next pregnancy.
I'm not here to tell you how to live your life or how to build your family, but I absolutely encourage you to take as much time to heal from back-to-back pregnancies as possible.
It's not ideal to have children spaced so closely due to the nutritional deficits of the mother, not to mention the wear and tear on the pelvic floor, just from pregnancy let alone birth. Even the physical toll of caring for two extremely dependent babies at the same time can be exhausting, so it can be good and healing to take more time before your next baby. Taking time to heal, to really properly get into a good routine as a family, get your body back for awhile, and enjoy your family can be really great.
I decided I want a bigger gap between Troy and any future children because I wanted to drop weight, strengthen my pelvic floor, heal my diastasis recti, and allow my cesarean incision time to really heal. I feel like myself, and that's a wonderful blessing. I feel like I'm gathering strength again, learning how to be a mom of multiple children, making social connections in town, and just adjusting more before even considering another child.
That being said, there is a lot of fear-mongering online about closely-spaced pregnancies, so much so that it can feel like a death sentence to get pregnant with another baby within six months of your last pregnancy. I really think people need to relax and work toward positive outcomes for their families while keeping the bigger picture in mind. Is it tough to have two babies in one year? Absolutely! But that doesn't mean it's not worth it.
A very disheartening statistic I've come to learn is that the majority of women seeking abortions are already mothers. I've even anecdotally seen many posts on forums and in comment sections online warning women of the dangers of close pregnancies, and many people who decide to abort a child conceived shortly after the delivery of another child. This is really saddening to me as a person who has gone through having two babies back-to-back, and seeing how much joy we've been able to experience, even through the exhaustion and sometimes back-breaking work it takes to care for both of them. I can say that it was one hundred percent worth it.
I really encourage you to not be fearful if you are in my situation, with closely spaced pregnancies. Nonideal situations are almost guaranteed to happen during our time on earth. The key is not, how can we undo this horrible situation, but rather, how can we find joy and do our best admist the chaos.
Many women struggling with infertility would love to be in the position to be struggling and juggling two children, and I really try to keep that in mind on my hard days with the boys. My arms are quite literally flowing over with blessings, and I don't say that to undermine the very valid frustrations and hurdles that come with closely spaced children, but I do think it's important to always try to have perspective in our lives. 2 under 2 is difficult, but it is also a wonderful blessing.
I hope this post was helpful! I have a lot more I could add, but I'll end it here for today.
Thank you loves.