Thursday, June 30, 2016

20 ways to manage being pregnant with a toddler:

Toddlerhood is no cake walk, specially with the terrible twos kicking in or "threenagers" running around. Adding a pregnancy to the mix just makes it all that much harder for you, mom. While my first baby was not planned, my second one was as I wanted my kids to be close together in age and grow up together, even know I knew that it would not be easy to be pregnant with a two year old and I am expecting a battle for attention up ahead. However, it does help to keep the bigger picture in mind - your little one may soon be the elder one but when you step out of the house, they will never be alone or want for company again.

I'm not going to pretend it's easy. This week, I found bruises on my belly that I know have nothing to do with the kicks and tumbles of the little one inside me but are from the kicks and tumbles of the little boy on the outside, who no longer allows me to enter the restroom unaccompanied. And yet, my maternal intuition confirms that everything is eventually going to be totally fine (after an adjustment period of course).

While deciding to expand your family is a personal decision and one that should accompany a lot of thought (though I know from experience that accidents do happen!), there are ways to make your life easier if you do find yourself pregnant with approximately 30 lbs already sitting on your hip.

For tons of tips and tricks on toddlerhood and on toddler behavior click here, and for more on pregnancy or on coping with  trimester one, or trimester two click here.

20 ways to make your life easier when you are pregnant with a toddler:

1. Put your toddler to work:
Toddlers love to help (almost as much as they like to test their limits) so involve them in small chores that make your life easier like throwing things in the trash, bending to pick up something from the floor that's been dropped, fetching you medicines and shoes,  or helping clean up (though this works better with cleaning mom's things than their own, it all reduces the number of times you have to get off the couch, floor or bed).

2. Lie down and play:
The first few times I lay down on the floor or couch while doing something with my toddler, he was not having it. Kept pulling on my arms and telling me to wake up. However, if you remain interactive and show them that you're still awake and paying attention, they will eventually get used to your more horizontal state (and you will be able to keep your feet up or get a break while playing).

3. Quiet activity time:
Having your child learn to play quietly, this will not give you some peace now but will also come in handy when you are around a sleeping baby, nursing or even holding your new little one while your energetic toddler is in the same room, wide awake and ready to play. Give them an activity they can do on their own (you will have to set it up of course) like coloring, stickers, blocks or some puzzles, and then tell them to do it on their own and slowly step back (may have to be a step or two further back every day if your toddler is very used to having you around). Start with 5 minutes and slowly increase the time.
This will also help you get time to nest and do things around the house, while your toddler keeps him or herself busy.
Quiet time with his 4 legged pals
4. Enlist help:
It used to take a village to raise a baby, and while you may have managed with limited help so far, it's still not too late to ask for all the help you can get (for your toddler). Enlist your parents, husband, and friends as often as possible so that you can get away for doctors appointments without having to lug around a little toddler who may get cranky in the waiting room, and definitely so that you can get in those much needed naps. It will also help your elder one settle into their new role as an elder sibling faster if he or she is used to stretches of time without mom watching over them.

5. Plan play dates:
that you don't have to go for yourself (at least not every time), so that your little one gets used to being out and about with you (it's sad, I agree) and learns that mommy cannot be a part of absolutely everything. Rely on your friends and relatives - specially those that also have children. Take this time to get some rest!

6. Toilet train (if they are old enough):
In some countries, toilet training is not usually started until 3 years of age (specially for boys), while in others there are playschools that insist on the children being "diaper free" around 2 and a half years old. Whichever side of the spectrum you fall on, if your baby is old enough to tell you when they want to go - feel free to start. Whichever methodology you choose to use, the less pressure you put on yourself and your tot, the easier it will be to handle.
Changes at home often sets toilet training back, which is why it will help you later if this process is completed before the baby comes (also, it's one less set of diapers to worry about!)

7. Travel:
"Baby moons" are all the rage nowadays, to get some time alone with your husband before the little one comes. But if you already have a little one, don't hesitate to take them along. Not only are you enriching his or her experiences, you are giving them alone time with both parents, increasing their sense of security (which will only help you later) and creating memories that will last a lifetime.
(Of course, feel free to put hubby on all duty that involves carrying, chasing or bending.)

Babymoon in my happy spot: Paris 

8. Take time outs:
Whether you believe in time outs for your children or not, they are a must for you to take mom. I have definitely closed the bathroom door (with me behind it) and stood there for a minute or two when I felt I was about to explode (it really does help calm you down, and can sometime work as a discipline tactic if your son is as attached at the hip as mine is). However, time outs when you get to do something just for yourself is even more effective at helping you recharge and mentally prepare for the sleepless nights ahead.

7. Nap when they nap (or as often as you can):
As a working mom, this is usually not possible for me, though I do make it a point to use my previous gym time as nap time when I can. However, if you are home with your child when they go down for their nap, try and get some rest too (laundry and the dishes can wait - I have found it easier to do house chores at night then in the day when the nap provides a great break from the exhaustion - specially in trimesters 1 and 3).
Need more pillows..!

8. One-on-one time with your husband:
Whether you are feeling super romantic,  just can't get far enough away, or are some where between these two when it comes to your affection levels while pregnant, you are going to miss your time with your husband when the baby comes (even more than you did the first time around). So try and get some one on one time with him even if it's at a movie where you can keep your legs up, or at a quick lunch or dinner spot where you can both discuss anything but babies!

9. Keep work informed:
I've been working part time since my son was born as I like to spend the afternoons with him. However. make sure your superiors at work know that you are pregnant so that you are able to get some relief for doctors appointments, and even to get some time with your toddler who is going to have to share your attention soon.

10. Pass on the feeding (and diapers) when possible:
I love sitting with my son while he eats his meals, and even feeding him by spoon or hand myself. However, I had to avoid this for the first half of my pregnancy, because most smells - even ones that are probably not foul at all, would have me heaving and sprinting to the bathroom. It's not always avoidable, specially when you're the only one home with your baby, but if you can take that space to make sure you keep your own food in - do it. (and definitely pass it along, for diapers)

11. Sleep train if you haven't already:
Waking up with one child is exhausting, but two? Unimaginable.
I'm not a believer in cry it out (yes, I have tried it and while I understand the merits, it's not for me), but my son was sleeping through the night at some point and then regressions hit, and night terrors and my husband eventually brought him to our bed. While he still sleeps in his own bed he does come to cuddle at some point at night which is now an acceptable 6am on most nights. However, if your (almost) elder one's sleep schedule is not acceptable to you - this is the time to fix it, in a whatever way that is most acceptable to you (for information on different ways to sleep train, click here). Have your husband step in and help since you really do need your sleep now even more than before and remember that there will be ups and downs, and even more so when they are more unsettled and insecure with another baby in the house.

12. Allow yourself to nest:
Whether you have the space to do up an entire nursery, or you are squeezing your little one into yours or your (almost) elder child's room, take time to do things up the way you want to and ready yourself for your little one. Not only will you get used to dedicating wee bits of time to the new baby, but it will help prepare you, your toddler and your home! So take time to nest and do it sooner rather than later to help your toddler conceptualize that the baby in your tummy is going to be on the outside soon.

13. Exercise:
Chasing a toddler is exercise enough but it may be exercise your body has gotten accustomed to. While you cant make drastic exercise routine changes, when you do have those rare but sudden bursts of energy, make the most of it. You can build up your stamina slowly by walking a bit a day and increasing the time, or if you were heavy lifting all along - go right ahead, as long as you have checked with your practitioner before hand. Not only will it help you lose weight and get into shape after the baby is born (yes, working out during pregnancy helps the weight come off faster after delivery as well), but the muscle strength will help you juggle and bounce your two (or more) babies together later.

14. Pass the buck,  not the bugs:
It's sad but true - kids get germs - they pick them up off the floor, put them in their mouth, and either get them from or give them to other kids. And while they build their immunity or get sick (and then build up their immunity), your immunity while pregnant is suppressed (so that your body does not treat your fetus like a foreign body and reject it), which makes you a lot more likely to fall sick when exposed to germs that your children carry but that may not even make them sick at all.
Baby wipes: handy for everything!

15. Dealing with the crankies (and clingies):
Whether or not your child fully comprehends that there is going to be a new sibling. they will notice the changes in you, and can react strongly to them. My son became even more insistent (lying down on the floor, flailing his arms and shrieking insistent) that I "stand up"and carry him, when he noticed that I was carrying him and sitting down instead of walking around like I usually would. Give in on the small things and when you can even if that means you walk for a few seconds before sitting down, and when they are in a rational mood reason with them and explain the situation - say that your back is hurting or that you are tired (don't mention that it is because of the baby as that can make them more insecure). Give in on the small things where you can and the calm will eventually return (my son now drops me to the car when I want to go to work and to the gym in the mornings, and he follows me to the bathroom to wash my hands - but will let me go to work and workout, and lets me take a shower alone - so I count that as a win).

16. Make the most of safe play spaces:
Safe indoor play spaces where you can sit out and sip something (booze free ofcourse), read a book (or my blog), chat with your friends or put your feet up while your tot runs around inside with their friends or even on their own are really a blessing. Trampoline parks are great if the space is for children-only, but any kind of supervised indoor space will tire out your toddler with fun and have them ready for an early bed-time, while you get a few moments to unwind.
Trampoline park (I sat outside the net)

17. Cuddle up for movie time:
I've never been a fan of screen time - not even educational screen time. But as you near the end of your pregnancy, you will feel the need to have more down time and watching short movies or videos a couple times a week will give you a short respite (I limit it to 30 minutes of nursery rhymes twice a week the old fashioned way - on the television and not the iPad or phone). This is best though if your baby is over 2 years old as television in any form is not recommended for children under 2.

18. Move playtime to the coffee table or the couch:
If it's no longer easy for you to sit on the floor for all your activities with your tot, choose ones that you can do while seated around the coffee table or couch. While I do still sit on the floor in my sons room in the afternoons and do activities with him, we sit on the couch and have story time, do memory games on the coffee table, and he gives me foot massages while I lie down (at his own insistence, I promise). This just makes it a lot easier for me to be as involved with a little less stress on my back and belly.

19. Celebrate your baby:
Your little one is soon going to be the elder one, so do not miss out on opportunities to show them how special, unique and loved they are. Because even though you are going to be a mom again, they are going to have a special new position that they need to be ready for, and security that they are loved by you no matter what, will go a long long way. We have been celebrating quarter birthdays and going out for meals to get one on one time and recently went for a short goldilocks play. Try pick things that you can continue after the baby - like cutting little pastries, so that your doesn't feel resentful that they lost something.

20. Prepare your tot to be an elder sibling:
There's an endless number of ways to do this (much more on this to come), but the most important one is talking to your toddler. Whether they seem reasonable to you or not, preparing them by telling them what to expect will help make a calmer transition when the time comes. Talk about your hospital stay (particularly if your child, like mine, is not accustomed to being without you), the fact that babies cry a lot and need a lot of attention, tell them that the little baby will be sensitive and cannot be  rough housed with and that they also will not be able to talk - things that seem intuitive to us are not so much for our little ones who probably have not been around too many babies.

practicing putting baby to sleep..

While being pregnant with a toddler is difficult for us, sharing our attention is going to be even more difficult for our toddlers. We may be too busy to realize what we are missing, but they will miss their time as an only child - at least for a short while, until they embrace their new roles and siblings. So make sure you rest, and do not strain yourself, but also indulge your little ones as they will not be your littlest ones for too much longer.

Much more to come - with tips on preparing your tot to be an elder sibling.

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