How can I cope with a fussy new baby when my toddler seems to be out of control?
I am going to say something controversial, but, I hope, freeing. . . It is not your job to make your children (either of them) happy.
You have a fussy baby. You need to meet his needs, but making him not fussy cannot be your goal – it will consume you. You have a toddler who also needs you and cannot wait until the fussy baby isn’t fussy. If he is going to cry whether you are holding and rocking or whether you lay him down to bathe your daughter, lay him next to you in a bouncy chair, sing to him, and bathe your daughter.
I understand that you are overwhelmed. You have endured so much from the birth to the breastfeeding to the . . . everything! This period of adjustment is hard under the best of circumstances!
And yet. you can’t expect your little girl to suddenly adjust to all of this chaos any more than you have been able to. You will need to take charge here. It will help if you can pray about a very simple routine. Is there a time of day that the baby is less fussy? Blitz through throwing something in the crock pot for dinner! Start your day, every day, by taking two minutes to put actual clothes on and brush your teeth and hair. You will feel, and act, better. Make a commitment to read one book to your daughter, or play for five minutes. Do you have a swing? Let the swing give the baby his motion during the few minutes that you stop to correct your daughter.
Little baby steps of change will help you. Don’t think in terms of the overwhelming day; think of this minute and what you need to do. You may need to set your son down to enforce your words to your daughter. Do it. It will be worth it, and you won’t be spending the next year trying to undo bad habits and anger issues.
You may also need to explore if you are suffering from Postpartum Depression. I know that many moms (especially breastfeeding and naturally minded moms) resist going on medication for PPD. Having suffered through PPD (I didn’t know until after the fact that it was PPD), I would strongly encourage you to get some help. There are natural things that can help. There are things your doctor can prescribe that will help. You don’t have to feel so overwhelmed, even in such an overwhelming situation.
It’s hard when you’re making this adjustment to think clearly; at least it always has been for me. The goal is to meet everyone’s needs. Not one or the other, or just this one or just that one. Sometimes that involves learning what a need is, and what it isn’t. I would never advocate “leaving a baby to cry it out.” At the same time, you can’t have your child peeing on the table. The TV can be an occasional tool. But you can’t leave your daughter unsupervised until the few moments a day that you get the baby calmed down and asleep. You have to find balance.
Looking for ways to do something that will benefit everyone is a great goal. If you are dressed, then put the baby in a sling (even a fussy one) and the toddler in a stroller, and you can get out and walk around the block in some fresh air! When you can coordinate it, group naps are my favorite.
Being a mother of more than one requires the skill of multi-tasking! The more creatively you can think about things, the better! I love bits in movies where they do crazy things, and I think, “Hmmm, that just might work.” I can imagine having a fussy baby in the sling and strapping sponges to my older kids hands and having them mop the floor while we play some crazy game. I’ve never done that, but that kind of stuff gets me thinking.
The thing is, both of your babies need you to be their mother and meet their needs. There is just no getting around that. A baby that requires more from you is simply not going to be balanced out by a toddler who suddenly doesn’t need you at all. Neither, though, does a child crying out for attention and boundaries mean that you set the baby aside completely to give that.
But life must go on! Your daughter still needs a mommy. You still need to meet your basic needs. This is not the same as some of the parenting “experts” saying your life shouldn’t change just because you have a baby. But a nursing mother needs to eat. A toddler needs to not be allowed to pee on the table. And balance must be struck. It might not happen overnight, but you can slowly work towards order and being rid of the chaos.