Here are my tips for managing closely spaced babies. Things I’ve learnt over the past 18 months with “irish twins” and lessons I’ve learnt over the past few weeks with 3 under 2 and a half. Currently we have a 5 week old. 17 month old and a 28 month old, and this is what’s helped so far:
Tip #1: Babyproof the baby
My two girls love their new baby brother. So much that it poses a potential hazard to his health. So the first essential thing to do in preparing to have the children all to myself is to make our living spaces safe for baby. As we aren’t gifted with more than two hands, it is rather difficult to juggle children. I need to be able to put baby somewhere safe to deal with other things and to let him sleep. I’ve dealt with this by having a tall and sturdy bassinet that the girls can’t look (or climb) into or pull over, using the capsule/carseat on the table to put him in when I need free hands for the kitchen or something else quickly, and the change table (not unattended) when we are in the lounge. I’ve been wearing him in a sling a lot, although this can be impractical when I also need to frequently pick up a 17 month old and a 2 year old.
Also, essential things need to be available quickly as it is too hard to move from room to room with three small children attached (literally in some cases).
Tip #2: Have a plan for food
If children (and parents) are fed and watered they are happy. If not, they turn into wild animals/hunter and gatherers. And its so easy as busy mums to neglect ourselves and forget to eat. Food is one of the first things I plan out in the morning. Its important to know what will be eaten for breakfast that is quick and filling (my little ones are very grumpy in the morning until they have eaten), what snacks will be healthy and easily accessed (as bribery or distraction while busy with another child perhaps), what can be given for lunch that can be self managed in case I am needed for something and then what will please the whole family for dinner. Slow cookers that you can prepare in the morning and cooking double and putting some in the freezer for a tired/busy day help too.
Tip #3: Have some kind of organisation
I don’t mean a perfectly ordered house, I mean something like a list, so that if all else is chaos at least it looks good on paper. I’ve lost my brain lately. Its filled with information that I couldn’t survive without, like who is due the next nappy change/sleep/story/cuddle. Information thats useless to anyone else and doesn’t help much when someone shows up to do something I’ve forgotton about etc.
I also have several times a day when I hit a total blank. About really basic things. So I’ve been using a whiteboard and have on it about 5 lists that I can glance at. Lists of dinner and lunch options that are quick and I have ingredients on hand for, activities that I can do with the toddlers, things that need doing around the house and things I need to buy/do to keep the household running. So I can add to it as I think of things before they disappear from my brain, and I can look at it quickly to get some idea of what should happen next.
Tip #4: Keep them busy
By this I mean keep activities close at hand to keep toddlers busy or offer distractions when needed. Particularly applicable at the moment I guess while I have to occupy toddlers while breastfeeding a baby and unable to move. So they have things they can easily access that I can set them up with or they can get themselves. This can also be helpful in distracting them from fighting or doing something they shouldn’t when I can’t get to them to help instantly, that way I can get them on to something else or deal with it verbally.
Tip #5: Plan ahead
An essential part of the extremes of multitasking is always being at least one step ahead. Be prepared for everything that could inevitably happen. A perhaps bad example off the top of my head say is if one child will need potentially need handwashing in 5 minutes get the cloth before you start as you don’t know how tied up you will be in 5 minutes time. Do what you can at certain times of the day to make things easier for later. First thing in the morning is a chaotic time with all of them getting up at the same time so I should do what I can the night before to take the pressure off when they all need nappy changes, dressing and feeding simultaneously at 6.30am. I’ve found things happen in waves – for me first thing in the morning, then around 10.30, then around lunchtime and then from 3pm until bedtime are the busiest times of day. In between things are quite settled. At those times everyone needs me all at once. So preparing during the lulls for the busy times are the easiest ways to manage.
Tip #6: Keep it manageable
I’ve found the times that I’ve taken the kids out to something totally out of routine all hell has broken loose and I’ve left feeling totally discouraged and wondering why I do this. For us structure and regularity are the things that keep everyone happy and things moving in a good way. Make sure you have a plan for getting out and about. We have a phil and teds pram and a buggypod, which means we now have a triple pram. Although its still early days for us venturing out, it makes me much more confident in getting out and about as it is them running away and only having one me and three of them is a rather daunting thought.
Tip #7: Don’t sweat the small stuff
I think you have to be relaxed. You can’t be in all places at once.
Tip #8: Don’t stress about cleaning. You do what you can.
I try to have a big cleanup and then do little bits each day of housework. Doing one big toy cleanup at night before bed helps. Not procrastinating has also made a massive difference to my life and sanity. If you are leaving the room take something that belongs in another room with you, put clothes away as you fold them, while you are waiting for the microwave do the dishes etc. Spending a few minutes here and there on little things prevents spending a long time and a lot of energy (that you realistically don’t have) on having to do everything at once. Thats part of the reason I keep lists. My housework to do list covers a fortnight, say giving me a fortnight to do a few bigger housework things like mop the floors, and as I cross things off it gives a great sense of accomplishment.
Tip #9: Love, love, love.
Get used to having a full lap. Having multiple little ones following you wherever you go. Love each one as you can and enjoy each moment you get with them one on one. Enjoy watching their relationships with each other blossom, and them helping each other grow in patience, love and learning. As is constantly told to me, they are only so small for a short time. This too shall pass.
Tip #10: Refill
Take time for yourself. Rest when you get the opportunity. Take offers of help when you can.
Pray. God offers the best help and reflection for all that we go through. He gave us these children for a purpose.
Get out of the house on your own when you can. Talk to friends. Invite people over if you can’t make it out.
Overall though, in my experience having close together babies has meant they are confident and independent at a young age. They have to figure things out for themselves, teach the younger ones and do things on their own since I can’t be all places at once. They have close relationships with each other, always having a best friend from birth, and teaching each other so much. I love the challenge and the dynamics of our family and I wouldn’t have it any other way.