Two Under Two

Handling Two Sets of Needs at Once

"My 15-month-old had diaper blowout just as the baby was howling. I didn't know which problem to solve first. I was almost in tears myself!" --Andrea Canning; New York City

How to deal: Keep this mantra in mind: There's only so much I can do, so just handle the greater need first, recommends Joanna Cormier, of Quincy, Massachusetts. That's the right approach, say the experts. Try to prepare for those "everyone needs me" moments: Set up baby-changing stations around the house and keep healthy snacks handy so you can quickly soothe your toddler. And if one kid has to wail for a minute while you tend to the other, remember: "This is where kids learn life lessons like how to share and wait their turn," says psychotherapist Yael Sank, of Soho Parenting, a family counseling center in New York City.

"Nursing my firstborn was great, but with Ava it was like, "When can I be done?' because I always had a 23-month-old pulling at me." --Lisa Brewer; Presque Isle, Maine

How to deal: Even a toddler who likes her new sibling is apt to get jealous. "Remember, 18 months is the start of a tough stage. A child is experiencing the emergence of will, but she doesn't have the words to tell you what she wants," says Dr. Berman. Throw a new baby into the mix and of course she's going to act out. In fact, one of the biggest mistakes parents make is not allowing their firstborn to have negative feelings toward her new sibling. "If your toddler tries to hit the baby, or says, 'I don't like her,' the worst thing you can do is say, 'Yes you do. Be nice,'" Dr. Berman explains. Instead, validate her feelings by saying, 'I know it's hard to share Mommy,' and then sit down together to cuddle. "One-on-one time is the best inoculation against acting out," says Dr. Berman. Another way to guard against jealousy is to encourage your child to be involved with the baby. "When I'm giving the baby a bath, I let Anna gently rub her legs with a washcloth," says Canning. "She loves being Mommy's helper!"

Of course, none of this helps much mid-feeding, so you just might have to grin and bear your toddler attempting to get your attention. Your best bet is to try to distract him by keeping a basket of special toys and books that only come out when your boobs do. If all else fails, you may need to call on Dora, like Brewer did. "I accepted that if an episode gave me 30 minutes to calmly feed the baby, so be it."

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