So, we have survived the last 10 months that have been 2 under 2!! Hooray. Does today feel any different now Isabella is 2? Easier? Not at all. However, as the months have rolled by, and boy has it gone quickly, each new phase has passed and things have become easier and challenging in different ways. I don’t think parenting at any point/stage is easy, but as I highlighted in my last blog “The Good, The Bad and The Sleep Deprived”, you just take it on as best you can. But, how did we 2 under 2? This post is mainly answering the questions I had when I found myself staring at a positive pregnancy test whilst my 6-month-old baby snoozed in her cot. I wouldn’t say this is by any means a “how to” or the right answers to the questions I had, but it’s what we did, and I’m still here to tell the tail at least.
Rarely a smooth ride! Issey’s routine has always been; bath, massage, story, bottle then into bed. I planned to stick to that with Sienna and just have her along side and then involved the same when the time was right. But it wasn’t that easy. In the early weeks, bedtime was when Sienna was at her most unsettled. Issey also was at a phase of refusing to sit down in the bath but was way too unstable at only 14 months to leave standing alone, even for a few minutes whilst I got Sienna ready for bed (in the bathroom). Nor could I leave a tiny Sienna in the water without being held even with a bath support (we loved the Angel Care Support until she was on the move). I ended up bathing them separately to be safe until Sienna was about 6 months old and could safely sit in a bath seat rather than just a support. I bring everything into the bathroom I need even now, including both bedtime milks (in case Sienna can’t/won’t wait) and back then I would get Sienna ready first. If I had an extra pair of hands with me they could always whisk Sienna off for a bottle whilst I sorted Issey. When I was on my own there was generally a lot of tears; from all of us occasionally, but we got by with dummies and singing. If Sienna couldn’t last and I was on my own Issey would roam around a bit upstairs whilst I settled Sienna into her crib.
When they were both in a position to be safe in the tub I put them in together (Issey finally happy to sit and play and Sienna secure in a bath seat). I still opted at this point to get Sienna out first and into her pj’s, pop her in a rocker and then get Issey ready. I taught Issey to hold her own bottle before Sienna arrived so we would then go into her bedroom, read a story and Issey would rest against me and have her bottle whilst I fed Sienna, both when I was breastfeeding and then bottle feeding. I moved to getting Issey out first as I really needed to start cleaning her teeth after her milk! Previously we were doing it whilst she was in the bath. So now I get Issey out and ready leaving Sienna splashing away (she far prefers the bath to Issey anyway), dressed into pj’s and then having her milk in the rocker, which handily turns into a toddler reclined seat, whilst I get Sienna out and ready. Then I pop Sienna into the rocker whilst I clean Issey teeth and finally we all go into Issey’s room for a story before taking Sienna off to ours for her bottle and never ending rocking to sleep. Issey has been happily going off to bed without being rocked since she was about 12 months so it’s nice and easy with her. At the moment I can’t imagine Sienna ever going off to bed happily, but I hope she will prove me wrong!! You have to hope eh?
Where bedtime in concerned I find being organised helps. Some days everything, apart from the bottles of milk, is ready to go in the bathroom before we have even got down the stairs in the morning. I also try to get all the bottles, including night feeds, prepped and brought up with us at bedtime so I have less to do once they are in bed.
As much as I absolutely hate sharing a bed with a baby it’s happened and it probably isn’t going to change all of a sudden now we’re 10 months in. With all Sienna’s issues around feeding, colic and (ongoing) reflux, it has been the only way any of us have had any sleep. We have used Sleepyheads in both sizes so she does spend half the night in her cot and we do get some evening together at least. Once we moved onto formula we used mini pre-mixed cartons of her milk and a bottle warmer for night feeds, but actually stopped warming her milk at 6 months as it seemed to come back up much quicker. Now I’m adding pre-measured powder formula to water already measured into the bottles. Anything to make things quick and easy. I only change Sienna’s bum if her nappy feels really full or if she won’t settle and that might possibly help.
Issey has slept through since about 16 months thankfully and that just sort of happened naturally, alongside only offering water rather than milk. I couldn’t respond so quickly to her if I was feeding Sienna etc. and Marcus wasn’t always home to help, so she started reaching out for her dummy herself and it wasn’t long before she didn’t wake at all. Obviously, she is still only little so if she is unwell or teething she will wake up in the night, but it has gone to being an occasional thing. You just sort of get by when they wake up at the same time. If ones crying for a bit whilst you sort the other so be it. They do eventually go back to sleep and you only have one pair of hands. Definitely, see to whoever is easier to get back to bed first. In my case, that is always Issey. Amazingly they have hardly woken at the same time. Long may that continue.
Continue to be a bit of a juggle. Issey goes down with no problems and has done since before Sienna arrived thanks to my putting in a ridiculous amount of effort to a tight routine. Not wanting to unsettle Issey’s routine I regret leaving Sienna in her swing downstairs in the early weeks whilst I put Issey down for her nap. Issey would have gone down for a nap even if Sienna had been upstairs with us crying in her rocker. Especially since Sienna cried the majority of the time she wasn’t asleep, feeding or being held in the early months. Saying that, I had read a lot of mums had also done that and it meant their second child self-settled really early. That has not been the case at all with Sienna!!
Sienna naps in the car when we are on route to clubs or play-dates or I wrap her to my back and get on with chores until she falls asleep. I try to then bring her to the front and chill on the sofa with her asleep on my lap if Issey is also asleep. It’s been fool proof for getting them to nap at the same time, but annoyingly it is the only way she will go off to sleep for a nap at home now. If I put her in her cot once she falls asleep she’s usually awake within 20mins. She also goes through days where she won’t even go to sleep like that and I have to bundle Issey in the car or take them both for a walk in the pushchair just for the purpose of getting her to go to sleep. Once Issey stops napping, which despite only just turning two, looks imminent, I’ll have to put Sienna down in her cot to nap so we’ll just cross that bridge then.
Getting out the door
Organisation is key! If we have something on in the morning then I prepare the change bag before bed. Or as a general rule, if something comes out it gets replaced pretty much straight away. I have a spare PacaPod in the boot of my car with extra nappies, wipes and a change of clothes for both girls, but I do have to remind myself to update it as they grow. I use a tandem pushchair; The Baby Jogger City Select, a Maxi Cozy Pebble car seat for Sienna and a Nuna Rebl swivel car seat for Issey. We did have a Nuna Ivvi pushchair for Issey as we love that brand and I absolutely loved it, but it didn’t convert to take two babies so we had to change it. The tandem works great for getting through doors and I can put the seats in loads of different ways including the bassinet and car seat. I definitely prefer it now I tend to just use the normal seats and not a car seat or bassinet as it just feels more balanced regardless of who sits nearest the handles or furthest away. I’m also about to invest in their toddler board as Issey is now pretty anti the pushchair. It’s great that the City Select works just as well for one baby when the other doesn’t need a seat anymore.
If we have to be out the house first thing then I grab a shower etc. whilst Issey has her breakfast upstairs to save time. I only ever shower when they are awake so Sienna sits in her rocker and Issey floats about upstairs thanks to the house being mega baby proofed. I also get them dressed as soon as they get up so they are ready. In the early weeks, there were usually tears as we left to go out, mainly because Sienna hates the car seat, and tears when we got home; someone waiting in the car whilst I bring the other in or Sienna whaling for milk. We have that less and less these days. I used to always put Issey in the car first after strapping Sienna in her car seat in the house, and then for coming back inside I’d take Sienna in her car seat inside first as she isn’t mobile. I always tell Issey what’s happening and soon she started saying “Sisi then me” as we pulled up outside the house. Recently Issey walks to and from the car so we all come and go together.
I now get my food shopping delivered and generally order everything I need in life online. Yay for the internet!
Entertaining the toddler
The older Issey gets the far easier it is as she will toddle off and do some independent play quite happily, such as with her kitchen, trolly, till and dolly bits and bobs. In the early weeks, I pulled out the occasional new toy to grab her attention for a bit and made up a few Treasure Baskets of random stuff to explore. They were all really good whilst I was nursing Sienna. She also loved playing with her own baby/dolly bits even before Sienna arrived so I set up a box full of it all and would just pull it out if she wanted it or I needed to keep her busy for a few minutes. She also loves water play so in order to cook I’d have Sienna wrapped to my back and Issey on a stool at the sink. I have to admit, however, Mr tumble has been my absolute saviour at times and we definitely watch way more children’s TV than before. I also discovered Toddler Tube which is handy on the move. I took the recommendation to include Issey is as much as possible with looking after her little sister, but occasionally it massively backfired as little babies are very wriggly! Issey has been booted in the face or had her hair pulled on far too many occasions whilst “helping mummy” so I think she much prefers copying mummy with her own babies. In fact, now she is 2 playing at being mummy is one of her favourite games.
Issey is quite shy and not very confident in busy environments so open play groups were not my friend and still aren’t really. I tried, but Issey wouldn’t want to run off and play on her own with the other kids or use equipment on her own, so I’d have to juggle helping her up a slide whilst carrying Sienna. We have found that structured classes are brilliant. They are interesting for Sienna and Issey likes knowing what is happening and dancing to the nursery rhymes etc. They are usually smaller groups too so going to those sort of classes has really helped her confidence.
Going to the loo and getting ready
Basically with an audience and as quickly as possible. Sienna generally is in her rocker or cot shouting at me and Issey is either watching telly on our bed or “helping me” by putting on my knickers and opening up all my products. One thing I have had to consider is not leaving it to being desperate when I need the loo. There is nothing more traumatic than painstakingly following your toddler up the stairs at a snail’s pace when you’re bursting for a wee! Rest assured plans are in motion for installing a downstairs toilet!
Living with reflux
I can honestly say that having a reflux baby has been the most challenging experience. The constant crying, no, screaming, and being generally unsettled I’m sure has made it so much harder to manage. As discussed in my previous post “the first weeks of 2 under 2” I was very lucky to have a fantastic doctor on board and quickly worked out some medication that helped. We’re still struggling with sleep and that is largely due to bad habits becoming necessary to get by. But it’s a drop in the ocean from those first 6 weeks. To anyone struggling with reflux, I recommend joining the ‘Living with Reflux UK’ Facebook site as it is a great support. At 10 months Sienna is still fully medicated on Ranitidine and Infant Gaviscon and has a really poor relationship with food. We are Baby Led Weaning (BLW) and it’s very slow and frustrating at times, but Issey was rubbish at BLW too and she is pretty good with food *that she likes* now. They all get there eventually.
My blog ‘The First Weeks of 2 Under 2’ goes into all the details of our nursing saga, but essentially it didn’t work out, and actually breast really wasn’t best for little Sienna. We battled on for 6 weeks with the boob juice and I can honestly say it was definitely easier when we moved to formula. Despite being heartbroken, it meant people could help more with Sienna and not just entertaining Issey and I could actually get some time back with Issey. When Issey was born I cried a lot in the first weeks just from the shock of becoming a mummy and all the hormones, but when Sienna arrived I cried for Issey. I felt like I had Sienna attached to me constantly and poor Issey was completely pushed out after having mummy all to herself. I would have loved to have been able to continue to breastfeed Sienna and have an awesome mum award story about it, but actually, it was the opposite and in many ways it’s worked out far better.
I’m ridiculously house proud and a complete neat freak. I’m pretty sure I’ve given poor Issey OCD as a result! So although it really shouldn’t be, keeping the house clean and tidy is one of my top priorities. Yes, a real shame I’m sure, but as my husband would tell you, I can not relax, AT ALL, unless the house is in order. I get through my weirdness by just doing bits little and often. For example, always having something to take with me when I go up or down the stairs. I make a little pile usually on the bottom step for anything that needs going up. Hilariously, Issey now understands the pile and passes it to me or carries stuff up that she can manage herself. I also have a cloth bag at the bottom of the bannister and one at the top so if I need free hands whilst juggling the girls up and down the stairs, there is a bag to throw over my shoulder. I always clean the kitchen surfaces when I wash up and the taps in the bathroom when I have a shower or use the sink. I also do the washing up and sweep/clean the floors whilst Sienna is wrapped to my back going off to sleep for her nap. It’s quite handy having wooden and tiled floors downstairs. I hoover upstairs at some point in the week usually with Sienna on my hip and Issey running around. I have the toys meticulously organised so I know exactly where things are; brick drawer, dolly box, book sling shelves etc. and as we have a small cottage if we are moving on to another activity we always put away the first before hand. At the end of every day, we have a tidy up song and I sing it whilst we put things away before bed. Issey is amazing at tidying up as a result; long may that continue. If we are having anyone to visit then I do a big clean up before they come. A bit of a cheat but hey ho the house looks great at those times!
And that’s how we survived general life and juggling the girls. We definitely had/have good and bad days or parts of any day but I think that is probably just parenting. I also think I was eager to find answers when I found out I’d be responsible for two babies, but you really have to just figure it out your own way. No babies are the same, no family is the same and there is no manual for any parenting dilemma. The main thing is to get by as best you can and do it with all the love you have for your children. A bad day does not make a bad parent. Saying that I am more than happy to answer any questions anyone has about what it’s like 🙂