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How to Survive Caring for a Baby With Colic… With Toddlers at Home

My toddler loved caring for her baby sister. She fully embraced her new role.

Welcoming a new baby to the family is a wonderful joy that brings with it lots of change. For all family members.

For parents with toddlers and other children, they are “starting over” with the newborn phase again

  • Changing diapers

  • Feedings

  • Sleep schedules (or lack thereof)

  • Postpartum healing

Not to mention balancing the needs of a toddler, multiple toddlers, and older children. All siblings are different and will have unique reactions to adding a new baby into the house.

Plus, if your newborn develops colic, this phase can be extremely challenging. As a mom who’s been there and welcomed two babies home – & both had colic – I’m here to tell you: YOU CAN DO THIS! It’s definitely not a walk in the park, but I’ve rounded up some tips for surviving life with a toddler and a newborn.

How to Survive the First Week Home With a Newborn + Toddler(s)

Here I am with both of my girls, slowly adjusting to life with a colicky newborn and a toddler.

I’m not gonna lie… there will be hard moments.

No matter what type of birthing experience you had, you just brought a new human to the world AND you’re caring for other small humans, too. Give yourself some grace. Let the tears flow. Expect frustration and overwhelming feelings.

And know that this is a phase and there are a few things that can help ease the first-week transition home with a newborn and toddler.

  • Lean on your partner. Whether you’ve already had a colic diagnosis and are navigating love in the time of colic or are adjusting to normal newborn needs, allow your partner to help you while you heal.

  • Outsource, if possible. Send out your laundry. Get food delivered. Hire a cleaning service. Whatever makes your life a bit easier and fits into your budget – now’s the time to do it! (If it’s not in your budget, DO NOT worry. I RARELY did any of the above, and I still survived. You will, too.)

  • Ask for help. When you need something, reach out to a trusted friend or family member and let them know. Be honest about your needs and feelings. Your support system is there to help you.

How to Care for a Baby With Colic While Caring for a Toddler

My oldest cuddled her sister, even when she was having colicky fits.

There’s no magic formula, but raising two girls with colic taught me A LOT. Especially when it came to bringing another baby home to our toddler. Here’s my best advice for parents with a colicky baby:

1. Take turns with your partner. It can help to start developing a schedule with your partner, especially to give the mom a break. This will take time and might not happen naturally right away. But start working on a way that you can “tap each other out.” Now, with 2 (or more) kids, it may feel like you never get a break. This is a normal feeling, so remember you’re not alone.

2. Play to your strengths. On the topic of taking turns, one of you might have more patience for holding the crying baby. The other might be in a better space to play with toys on the floor with your toddler. Try to balance your strengths and needs.

3. Use your resources. If it feels like neither of you is having a break, it might be time to tap into your resources. At home, use the ByeByeCry Sound Machine to help during colic outbursts and periods of fussiness and cries. Ask friends or family for help. Hire a babysitter, nanny, or doula to support you with balancing it all.

4. Lower your expectations. Don’t expect everything to look like a perfect Instagram post. I’ll tell you a few secrets that you probably know and need to be reminded of…

  • Most people aren’t posting their misery online.

  • There’s no such thing as perfect when it comes to parenthood.

  • If you feel like each day’s a total S%&$show, chances are you are crushing life!

  • The kitchen may be messy.

  • There might be laundry piled high.

  • Just remember, you’re doing your best for your kids.

  • You’re the best mom for them.

5. Schedule 1:1 time with your toddler(s). This one was really important for us. Plan for special “dates” with your older child(ren). Go out for ice cream, a movie, or to the zoo. The focused, individual time that they get with you will help create memories and remind them that a new baby isn’t a replacement for their time with you.

Ways to Help Siblings Bond With New Baby

Here’s my Princess Belle:) She had special jobs, like holding her hand or rubbing her arm, to help soothe the baby when she was crying.

If your newborn has colic, finding a time or way to help older siblings bond with the new baby can be hard. Some things that worked for us include:

  • During non-fussy times, encourage the sibling to take a special role in caring for the baby (help wash baby, hold the bottle, show them a soft toy).

  • Have the toddler “show off” a new skill to the baby (a new dance move, painting, etc.).

  • Go for walks/strolls together as a family

Teaching Toddlers About Empathy Through Sibling Care

When there’s a new baby in the family, especially one with colic, there’s an opportunity to show older siblings how to care for a baby. The silver lining during a challenging time: It’s a great teachable moment to help toddlers learn what empathy is.

I remember always having my oldest daughter help me by singing or rubbing the baby’s arm. I’d be able to assess the level of colicky fussiness and know what would or wouldn’t work. Sometimes my toddler would help by waving a plush toy above the baby.

These moments melted my heart. I’d encourage her to sing, which actually helped soothe me, too.

When modeling and teaching empathy, it’s important to also explain the WHY to toddlers. We taught our oldest that:

  1. Babies cry. And as their big sis (or big bro), you’re here to help them and wait it out until they’re done crying. Assure the toddler that there’s nothing wrong, but explain that some babies cry more than others. It’s “our” job to be here to love her/him. Be here to comfort them until they decide to stop crying.

  2. Family helps family. While the colicky cries could last a long time, we are here for the baby because that’s what family does.

  3. Prepare with play. It was helpful to prepare a box of toys or activities for our toddler to have on hand when colic struck. It also depends on how old your other toddlers are, but you can have the toddler use a baby doll to mimic you as you soothe the baby. This helps them be a part of it – my toddler was so excited to fill that big sister role.

How to Survive in a House With a Colicky Baby and Toddlers

Our family of 5 during my first week home postpartum. With one colicky baby, it was hard to get out of the house. With a second one plus a toddler, it felt nearly impossible.

Sadly, leaving the house can be a real struggle and hardship for families going through colic.

Getting out of the house with one child felt like an eternity. When there’s a screaming, colicky baby into the mix, many families won’t leave the house because they don’t feel like they can manage it.

I never left home.

The thought was paralyzing.

There’s so much to pack in the car or stroller, and when the baby is screaming, it’s overwhelming, to say the least. You need every item under the sun because it may only work to soothe the baby for 5-10 minutes at a time.

Being a colic mom is like being an octopus – you need 8 arms to reach and grab as many things as you can to try and soothe the baby. So leaving the house to stroll through Target or Home Goods to sniff candles and browse while my baby is screaming at the top of her lungs… just sounded like a nightmare to me.

Here are a couple of things I’d recommend that helped us keep our sanity at home.

1. Invest in a safe playpen. If you have a toddler or a young baby crawling around, it’s worth investing in a playpen, like this Foldable Kids Safety Gate, to make it easier to track them. This helps contain them while they’re running around and you’re simultaneously trying to console the infant.

We have a playroom, and I put the playpen in the playroom because I felt like I could really control what was happening in there. I knew my toddler was okay while I was focused on soothing our colicky baby.

2. Find simple, consistent activities. When you’ve just introduced a baby to the family, colic can really rule the household when the baby is screaming for hours on end. So a routine might not be feasible right away.

Start to work on repeated activities at home that involve the whole crew. This can be as simple as the toddler enjoying breakfast on a special plate each morning or bathtime at night. These consistent activities don’t have to happen every day, but they can be a good starting point.

Once you start venturing out of the house, adjusting will also take time. My best advice for planning anything fun is to divide and conquer. Have dad take the toddler while you take the baby or take turns. If you have grandparents nearby, have them take charge of one sibling to help ease the load.

Reminders for Parents Who Are Taking Care of a Colicky Baby and a Toddler

Even with the colicky cries, we made sure that birthdays were joyful and we celebrated together as a family.

As I’ve mentioned, YOU CAN DO THIS! You’re not alone. Know that many families are going through exactly what you’re going through as you transition a new baby home to their siblings.

Here are a few reminders that are worth mentioning as a reminder wrap-up to give you the confidence and strength to keep doing the amazing work you’re doing. You’ve got this!

1. Take breaks.

  • Use the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Technique:

    • Make sure the baby’s needs are met (dry, fed, safe)

    • Set a 10-minute timer & choose a task to do alone. (fold laundry, have a snack, shower, etc.) If your partner or family member can be with your toddler, that will help prioritize alone time. If you aren’t able to do this, find a quiet place in the house to color a coloring page with your toddler/other children.

    • While you do the task, do the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Technique. In your head or aloud, name:

    • 5 things you can see.

    • 4 things you can hear.

    • 3 things you can touch.

    • 2 things you can smell.

    • 1 thing you can taste.

    • Pick the baby up with a refreshed mood and a different state of mind.

  • Do something with your toddler when you set that 10-minute timer. Color a coloring page, do a puzzle, play their favorite princess or superhero song & dance together.

2. Colic is hard, but it does end.

3. Know that you’re doing the best you can.

4. You’re not alone. The ByeByeCry Club is here to support you every step of the way!

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