How to cope with two children with a small age gap

I became pregnant with my second child when my baby was only 8 weeks old which was a huge shock, I was breastfeeding and on the mini pill.

How would I cope? How could I love another child? How will I manage the home with two small children? Will I ever sleep again?

These were just a few questions going through my head, the next few months flew by and before I knew it I was a mom of two children under the age of 1 or ‘Irish twins’.

Irish twins is a term used to describe two children born in succession of one another in the space of one year.

If you are pregnant with another child soon after your first you may be worried about what will happen and how you will cope.

I will share my experiences of how I coped raising two babies under 1. Raising two children under 1 can be challenging but it is also a wonderful experience.

My first two babies definitely count as Irish twins as they were born only eleven months apart. I must have got pregnant as soon as I left the hospital!

We have the same running joke in our house every year that the boys are the same age for a few weeks every year.

I had two kids that couldn’t walk, two kids that kept me up all night, two children that couldn’t feed themselves and two children in diapers.

When asked by onlookers how I was coping I just sort of was, I literally had no time to even think let alone feel sorry for myself. I just had to get on with it.

Now that I’m on the other side and in hindsight can tell you what worked and what didn’t. I often get asked ‘how did you cope with two children with such a small age gap?’.

So, after having 2 children under the age of one here are my top tips on how to cope with two children with a very small age gap.

2 under 2, small age gap with baby, children close in age, how to cope

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How will I leave my toddler to birth my new baby?

I was concerned about how I would leave my 10-month-old baby when I went into hospital to deliver my new born baby.

He was so tiny and I hadn’t even spent a night away from him. I was getting stressed out about this so I started to leave him for short amounts of time with family members, an hour here and there and something we felt would be manageable for both my toddler and us.

We slowly increased the time he spent away from me to a few hours at a time and he loved going to his aunts.

I would pack food that I had cooked, and his favorite snacks and my sister would just feed him, although we never actually got around to leaving him overnight anywhere.

On the day my baby was born it was an absolute blessing as I went in at 7am and was home by 5pm the same day so the toddler didn’t need to stay over with anyone which was a huge relief for me.

How will I Handle more than one thing at a time?

I was worried about how I was going to cope with managing two kids needs at one time I remember one day sitting on the couch breastfeeding my baby and feeding my toddler his lunch while he watched TV.

I literally became the queen of multitasking. When I would breastfeed my baby, I would have a stack of toys nearby for my toddler. The TV also became a very good friend of mine in the early days as did baby gates and a baby walker.

I also used to keep the baby in the high chair up if I had to rush to the loo so my toddler couldn’t poke the baby’s eyes out as he had a very inquisitive nature.  

I tried to train them both to sleep at the same time during the day so we could all have a nap. Even half an hour of sleep would give me the energy boost that I so desperately needed.

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    3. How will I stop feeling guilty?

    I’m not going to lie this is one thing I still struggle with. Sometimes I feel like all I was doing was running around like a headless chicken that I didn’t get to enjoy the kids like I should have. I wish I had spent more of my time enjoying my first born but it was so hard due to a difficult pregnancy, I was suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum had SPD and sciatica so I couldn’t even carry him as much as I would have liked to.  

    I was worried that the shine had been taken off my toddler with my new pregnancy and the new baby was in the limelight. I felt as though all of my energy was taken up by my pregnancy that I didn’t have anything to offer him and that I was wishing his childhood away because I desperately wanted to hurry up and give birth.  

    But what I did do was after the baby was born I would try and spend as much time as I could with him, playing games, reading books and just singing songs. The baby didn’t need the kind of interaction that he did at 11 months old, so I tried my absolute best to spend some 1:1 time with him. As the children get older it is easier to spend time with them this really helps to overcome some of the initial guilt you may have been feeling when they were very little.

    4. How will I overcome this Exhaustion?

    Exhaustion is something you will inevitably feel with two children with a very small age gap. I hadn’t fully recovered from my first birth by the time my second baby was born. I was so shattered during my second pregnancy and then having a new born baby made it even worse. Something about breastfeeding really takes a lot out of you and I felt so tired and sleepy all the time.

    I made sure however that I continued to take my prenatal, fish oil, made sure I was eating adequate amounts of food and kept hydrated. This along with taking a nap with the children did make it much easier for me to cope with the daily struggle. If you are always feeling tired, I would encourage you to go to your doctor and get your blood checked as this is a sign that you may be suffering from anaemia.

    After a few years of sleep deprivation, it will no longer surprise you that the sugar is in the fridge and the yoghurt is in the cupboard. I just told my husband the sugar was now a type of granita and the milk was a yoghurt.

    5. leaving the house with two small children.

    Its easy to stay indoors when you have two small children and taking them, both out can be daunting, but once you master the way to do it, it does become easier. If you have no commitments such as school runs or work you can easily become used to being at home, but do try and get out if you can as you will feel so much better and the more practice you get the easier it will become.

    Leaving the house with two small children is particularly difficult. I had a baby gate by the front door and would take my toddler out first as he was the most likely to run out into the street. I would lock him in the car seat and then go back and get the baby who was already in his car seat. If you don’t have a drive you can get a baby harness and take them out at the same time.

    I invested in a double buggy where one child sat under the other. This made it easier to get into shops and walk around without it being too wide.  As my toddler got a big bigger, I bought a stroller and added a buggy board onto the back which was awesome and sold my double buggy for a very good price indeed.

    The only problem is that having two kids so close in age means that your bladder is shot and no toilet was ever big enough for the double buggy. I would have to leave the door wide open so I could keep an eye on my babies. I may have frightened a few people in the process but its better to have a few old ladies see me on the loo then walking around in a puddle of pee.

    I also used a backpack rather than a baby bag which would have obstructed the baby’s view in the double buggy. It was also easier to carry when I was holding the car seat in one hand and the toddler’s hand with the other.

    We also opted to go to supermarkets that offered a baby seat alongside a normal child seat in the trolleys. This made life so much easier then trying to take the buggy and carry a basket. They used to love going to the supermarket and I would actively try to take them as much as I could.

    6. Being organised

    This is a big one in my opinion. Getting organised is a huge factor in not feeling overwhelmed. Make up a list of all the things that need to be done during the week and have a day for each task. This made it far more manageable.

    I would also try and keep the kitchen as tidy as possible, loading the dishwasher as I went along. I would also batch cook our dinners on the weekend as my new born was extremely fussy in the evenings and would cluster feed. Lunches were normally something quick and easy but we would always have a hearty dinner.

    I would get my toddler to help put the toys away (not that he ever did). I would do it once before lunchtime and once before bedtime. A quick 10-minute tidy up can make all the difference.

    There will be days when you are unwell or too tired that cereal will just have to do for dinner, and that is absolutely fine!

    7. Setting routines

    I deliberately kept the toddler’s routine the same through pregnancy and after the baby was born. This was my saving grace in the early days. Knowing he would be asleep at 7 meant that I could feed the baby and even go to sleep.

    One thing I will mention is you may find that a child who previously slept 12 hours without any problems may start to wake. This regression is normal and happens when things change in a child’s life. I know as I have seen it happen with 4 of my own children. I Just kept putting him back into his bed and told him I loved him, I didn’t want him to get used to sleeping in my bed as I know this would be another habit I would have to break.  this only lasted a week with my eldest and once he got used to the baby the sleep improved significantly.

    8. Your love will multiply but your time wont.

    A common worry amongst mothers who have children close in age is how they will love another child; the truth is you will and that your love will multiply. The fact that you are worrying about this means that you care so much already that you will be able to make adjustments accordingly.

    10. Take all the help you can

    Seriously, if someone offers take all the help you can. Even if its to watch the kids for an hour do it and enjoy a bath and a candle! I wish I had taken more help with my first child, people who offer genuinely want to help you.

    If someone is kind enough to offer to make dinner take them up  on it, second time around I actually asked people to bring food over which they didn’t mind doing at all.

    11. What will I do if both babies cry at the same time?

    This one is crazy. Brace yourself because when one cries it will set the other off. The baby can just latch on for another feed but for the toddler this is where the art of distraction comes in (or an iPad!).

    The first time I experienced this crying frenzy I just didn’t know what to do and was nearly in tears myself, I believe that me being stressed made the kids more stressed leading to even more screaming! I eventually had to calm the toddler down first and put the baby down. I took him out of the room and tried to reassure him that everything was ok. Miraculously when I returned the baby had also managed to calm down.

    12. How will I keep both children safe?

    My toddler at 11 months learnt how to climb the baby gates so we had to start locking the rooms just to keep him safe. The baby would either be in the pushchair, baby swing or in the high chair as I couldn’t hold him all the time.

    My older son was also quite inquisitive with the baby wanting to poke his eyes or sit on top of him, so I couldn’t leave them both alone even for a second. I would recommend putting the baby in a high chair if you have to run to the toilet or answer the front door. The toddler won’t be able to reach the baby and he will be safe.

    The thing that helped me the most however when I had other children was a baby carrier which I used with my 4th baby to breastfeed and to be hands free. I just wished id known about it with my second baby.

    14. Do I need 2 cribs for two children close in age?

    My toddler was only 11 months old so we kept him in his cot for as long as possible but we bought one that could be converted into a bed at a later date. I kept both children in my bedroom as we lived in a small apartment at that time. My older son on one side and the baby on the other, it was extremely tight in my bedroom but we managed for a short time before we moved.

    however,if I did have space then I would have given my toddler his own room. If the gap between your children is closer to 24months apart then you may even consider moving the child into a bed.

    15. The most important thing

    You need me time. For me this is the most important thing in coping with having two kids so close in age. I would have me time after the children are in bed where I would just spend an hour or two (or when baby would cry) in front of the TV just as a way of escaping.

    Trust me when you have little kids you will never be able to watch TV during the day for at least a few years!

    Having such a small gap is not always a bad thing

    You will find that some people love to make rude and unwelcome comments like ‘were they planned?’, ‘do you tandem feed’, ‘don’t you have a TV?’ ‘are you nuts?’ and the best one I got lately in the supermarket was ‘you’re a glutton for punishment!’

    These are normally the type of comments I get from people when they find out how close in age my kids are. I smile and tell them its totally worth the hard work which I genuinely believe it is.

    There are also so many positives of having 2 babies under 1 year old.

    No need to potty train until the older one is well over 2.

    You can stay in your PJs all day and not go out for days

    They grow up together

    They can do similar activities

    They have a special bond

    You will take the one size fits all for the foreseeable future be it clothes or diapers.  

    They sleep and wake up at the same time.

    There is no risk of an older child leaving the gates open for the baby to get into dangerous areas.

    Looking back now it was a mad few years having two little children so close in age but ultimately, I wouldn’t change it for anything. If I’m completely honest it was actually easier having them close together, yes it was a few really tough years but as they get older it does become much easier and I can totally understand why some parents would plan to have their children so close in age.

    As the children grow and your family work out a routine you will find that you are able to manage, being organised and setting routines is what got me through alongside having some me time every day away from the kids. You’ve got this mama!

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