When I was due with my second child, I felt confident that I had every item I needed to successfully conquer the ups and downs of having another baby. It took less than a few days to realize that while I had the necessities—clothes, diapers, a crib—life with two looked quite a bit different than expected. Turns out there are a few items out there that can make navigating the wonderful but chaotic transition from one to two more manageable for parents.
Here are my top 10 must-haves for life with a baby and a toddler.
Before having my first, several veteran moms told me that if I had plans to have more than one child, it was worthwhile investing in a monitor with a split screen and the ability to have multiple cameras. I am so thankful that I followed their advice, as I didn’t have to buy a second monitor when my second came along. I can see both kids at the same time, plus I was able to add a third camera to the playroom to watch my toddler when baby poop explosions, among other things, have me in the baby’s room for longer than expected.
Many people recommended that we get a stroller that has the option to add a second seat. And while we took this advice, shortly after the baby could sit in the second stroller seat, my toddler started viewing stroller seats as “baby seats” and no longer wanted to sit in one. Thankfully, we were able to get our hands on a universal glider board and my toddler now happily jumps onto his “skateboard,” making jetting around from A to B a lot easier.
My firstborn never enjoyed being in a baby carrier, so I naively sold both that I had so thoughtfully researched and picked out. Not surprisingly, my second baby was entirely different and only enjoyed being in the carrier, so I went and found the same carriers secondhand. Being able to wear him in the carrier allows me to be hands-free and take care of my toddler, while also checking many to-dos off my list. From helping my toddler get dressed and ready for daycare to dishes and meal prep, the baby carrier has been a lifesaver.
As my baby reached 4 to 5 months old, along with the baby carrier, activity centres and baby seats became essential. When he wasn't napping in the carrier, the baby very much enjoyed playing and chewing on toys in his activity centre. We also found an activity centre that was small and lightweight, making it easy to move from room to room. As long as the baby was in the centre of the action (often the kitchen or my toddler’s room), he was content, and it's really nice to have a moment where someone isn't attached to you.
A new baby can be tough on the older sibling and it can help to make them feel part of as many things as you can. My eldest enjoyed sitting next to me while I nursed the baby, but the rocking chair I had so carefully selected before he was born was way too small for the three of us. We sold the rocker and bought a “cuddle couch” (aka, a chair wide enough for two adults to cuddle, or one adult and two kids), and it’s been one of our best purchases by far. I can also already envision many bedtime stories being read in this chair when we're well past the nursing stage.
My firstborn was always physically with me; however, with my second, I have realized that it’s OK and important to prioritize taking care of myself too. And yes, that means I deserve to have a shower when I want to have a shower! I purchased a crib toy (specifically, the Baby Einstein Sea Dreams Soother Crib Toy) that my baby has loved since he was born. After a nap and good feed, he will happily watch this toy while I grab a shower. It’s great to be able to watch him on the monitor knowing he is safe in his crib while I grab a few moments for myself.
We used a baby bath, which became a sit-up bath, with my first for almost a year. We didn’t see the need to use the regular-size bath. However, with two kids, using a baby bath meant having to bathe them separately, which took twice the time. Once the baby was old enough to sit up, we found a baby seat that secures into the bath, making bathing two kids at once quick and easy.
(Never rely solely on a bath seat to keep your baby safe. The use of infant bath seats and bath rings has been linked to the drowning death of infants in Canada. Drowning has occurred when babies were out of their caregiver's sight and reach for only seconds, when they climbed out of the bath seat, when they slipped through the leg openings, or when the suction cups on the bath seat came loose and the bath seat tipped over.)
While we try to be mindful of screen time, when the new baby came along, we temporarily let go of any expectations or rules. Whether it was needing an extra moment to clean a giant poop explosion in the car seat or nursing a fussy baby, keeping the toddler busy with an episode (or two… or three) of Wild Kratts was a lifesaver. I’d also recommend getting a toddler-proof case for when they inevitably drop the tablet.
Before baby No. 2 came along, we kept the house free of any noise, even going as far as avoiding specific creaky floorboards when our son was sleeping. Fast forward a few years and our toddler doesn’t seem to care that the baby is sleeping when he gets really into belting out the Batman theme song for the 27th time. Having white noise playing in the baby’s room helps immensely to dull out the chaos that is often occurring and keeps him sleeping through it all.
While the new baby is cute and exciting, life mostly continues to revolve around the eldest and their needs and activities and, at least for now, the baby is mostly just along for the ride. The infant bucket seat is great for carrying the baby around, especially when the baby is sleeping, but when you’re taking it in and out of the car up to 10 times a day and walking around with it, it can get pretty freaking exhausting. Keeping a compact stroller in the car that has car seat compatibility, such as the Mountain Buggy Nano, has saved me from constantly having to carry the bucket seat, especially as the baby has grown and given that toddlers aren’t exactly known for their speed in getting from A to B.