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Coping With Two

A second baby doubles your pleasure  -- another cutie to cuddle, and soon, a built-in playmate for your eldest. But it isn't always an easy road with two. "Feeding, dressing, bathing, and responding to an infant and a 3- or 4-year-old can be exhausting, because the work increase seems almost exponential," says Frances Glascoe, Ph.D., a developmental specialist and professor of pediatrics at Vanderbilt University, in Nashville. Here, how to juggle the everyday tasks of taking care of two:

  • Build in extra time.
    Allow at least 15 more minutes to run errands. Newborns may travel easily, but transitions can be rough on preschoolers, says Glascoe. If going to the supermarket, the dry cleaner, the drugstore, and then to Grandma's seems like too much, take a breather at the playground or park.

  • Plan ahead.
    Getting out the door in the morning with two can seem like a Herculean task. To ease the morning rush, pack the stroller the night before with a pacifier, extra diapers and wipes for the baby, and a simple snack, like Cheerios or crackers, for your older child. If your eldest is in preschool, include any papers or extra clothes she might need for the next day.

  • Role-play at mealtime.
    When nursing or bottle-feeding, keep your older child busy by encouraging her to "feed" a doll or stuffed animal. Or if your new tot is on solids, let your big kid try spooning in some cereal. To save time, prepare and freeze individual kids' meals, such as chili, macaroni and cheese, or lasagna, so you can just defrost or reheat at mealtime.

  • Take advantage of naps.
    Build card houses, paint pictures, or read with your eldest while the baby is sleeping. These quiet activities will give you both a chance to slow down a little and enjoy some peaceful, baby-free time together.

  • Tub for one, please.
    Bathing two slippery kids may be asking for trouble. Instead, let your preschooler help you wash the baby, and later, your older child can have a special bubble bath and playtime in the water with you.

  • Baby your older child.
    If your 3-year-old wants to try using a bottle, taste baby food, or play with the baby's toys, you may want to indulge her  -- some degree of regression is a normal response to becoming an older sibling. She's probably curious or just wants to be coddled the same way your newborn is, says Glascoe. With your help, she'll soon discover that getting to eat big kids' food, playing with her own things, and being the older sibling is much more fun.
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