It has been challenging being pregnant with a toddler. My body has reached new realms of tired over the past 7 months, particularly when I was in my first trimester. Fortunately, Genny is a pretty good little helper – she quickly learned to go get my water for me when I was hunched over the toilet. But no matter how great your kid is, when you’re sick and tired and all you want to do is sleep, you could use these tips on how to survive your first trimester with a toddler.
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Schedule (or, you know, don’t)
It may sound strange, but deciding whether or not you want your toddler to be on a schedule will relieve some of the stress on you. Even if you opt out of creating a consistent routine, knowing what to expect each day with your toddler can put your mind at ease. In our house, we have a partial daily schedule. That is, we do it when we can, and if stuff changes we survive. Genny has learned to be flexible in her day-to-day.
Partial Schedule –
If you want to put some routines into place, choose parts of the day that are hardest for you, and create a (flexible) routine that you can easily implement. Here is a sample of our day:
- Wake-up (whenever Mama decides it’s time to wake up)
- Get dressed/go potty
- Eat breakfast
- Do calendar
- Do Bible time or book time
- Morning box
- Blue box
- TV time
- Papa time
Rarely does our day actually hit all these points in this order, but for me the most helpful thing is to simply have something for Genny to do at a given part of the day. Oftentimes our day is interrupted by playdates, appointments, meetings, and general life, but we can always jump back into the schedule wherever we want. Not having our times for our schedule helps a lot with our ability to adapt to what we need or want to do in a given day. As a rule, bedtime is 8PM, but besides that our days are pretty flexible.
Full schedule –
Some people rest at ease when they’re lives are in a completely consistent schedule. I get this, too! Personally, I’m incapable of maintaining one, but if you are this type of person, then in your first trimester you will definitely benefit from having your toddler in a predictable routine. Just go through the motions, and you’ll get through!
Sleep in when you can
Sometimes we stay in bed until 10:30AM. I don’t even feel bad about this at all. While Genny sometimes wanders into our room at 7:00AM, proclaiming it to be “daytime”, I will send her right back to bed saying, “Mama’s not ready to get up yet.” She needs to get used to the concept of me sleeping whenever I can. Everybody knows with newborns comes sleep deprivation, and in your first trimester you will probably be more tired than you will be the entire pregnancy! There is a lot changing in your body and growing with your baby at this time, so grab those extra hours (or minutes) of shut-eye, and don’t feel bad about it! Your toddler can use the sleep as well.
Now that Genny’s in her floor bed, she can get up whenever she wants. I don’t even mind if she gets up and plays in her room until I’m ready to get up, but she’s still getting used to the concept of not sleeping in a crib and doesn’t feel comfortable getting up until I say she can. That’s actually really great for now, and as long as she stays in her room, I don’t really care what she does.
If you have a more adventurous-fearless toddler, as many do, you can employ the baby gate as well as some motion detection cameras to keep your little one contained and to let you rest at ease (for a little while longer). We have the Lollipop camera, which has a motion detection feature, and because it connects directly to my phone, I can lay in bed and be alerted only if Genny decides to move into the “detection zone”. We plan on using this feature a lot when the baby and Genny are sharing rooms.
Reinstate nap time or quiet time
Sadly, Genny decided she had outgrown her daily nap just before she hit two-years old. I was having her lay down, and she would eventually go to sleep, but then she struggled to go to sleep each night and oftentimes would wake up at an ungodly hour the next morning. It was easier for us to toss out nap-time. HOWEVER! Now that we’ll have a baby in the house, we’ll need to have a designated resting time every day.
I will be establishing quiet time for Genny before the baby comes. This is an hour for Genny to be in her room, playing or sleeping. She can choose what she wants to do, but she just needs to stay in her room. The couple of times we’ve done it, Genny has “chosen” to stand at the baby gate I set up and cry. Oh well. That’s probably just going to happen for awhile. But once she realizes the independence she has during that time, she will most likely enjoy it.
Make activity boxes
These are cheap, easy, and incredibly helpful! See my post here on 5 dollar store activity boxes. Basically, these are ready-to-use boxes of materials containing a structured task that hones a particular skill. They are not only useful time-fillers, they are educational and fun for your toddler! We have two types of activity boxes: Morning Boxes (consisting of a particular task) and Blue Boxes (consisting of materials for free play). Our rule is to work on it for at least 15 minutes before going onto something else.
It’s 2PM, your toddler is restless, you’re exhausted and feeling nauseous. What do you do? Creating work stations for your toddler, like the activity box, can be a lifesaver when it comes to entertaining (and educating) your little one when you’re feeling sick. In preschool and kindergarten, teachers employ these as part of every day activities. Like in school, you can have these as concrete work stations, ready to walk up and use at all times, or, if you don’t have the space (as I don’t), they can be storage containers that you can grab and let your toddler go.
Please note that each of these require instruction beforehand and consistent implementation of rules in how to use them responsibly.
Writing station – Pencils, paper, crayons, markers (you could also include a stapler for making “books”)
Drawing station – Markers, crayons, construction paper
Gluing station – Objects to glue (googley eyes, cut-outs, small pieces of paper, cut-outs of child’s drawings), construction paper, glue sticks
Tearing station – Construction paper to be torn, place to put pieces (they can then be used in the gluing station)
Sorting station – Like my activity box shown above, this can be as simple as cups and pompoms!
Sensory station – Great for the younger toddlers, these are simply for fun and sensory learning.
Some of these concepts I incorporate into Genny’s activity boxes, but having tubs of art materials to grab and let Genny use is a great time-user and energy-saver!
Set a designated TV time
No judgement if you have no limits on the TV during your first trimester! There were some days when we watched more tv than other days. But as soon as I could, I instated a “schedule” of sorts where Genny has to complete a Blue Box in the afternoon (after lunch), and then she is able to watch TV. This usually lines up with dinnertime, so it either frees me up to make dinner or to relax!
You don’t have to give your toddler free-reign with TV watching either. It’s okay to say “no” to what your kiddo wants to watch. We have a few shows and YouTube playlists that Genny can watch, and she can choose from those. Sometimes, I will require her to watch something educational before she can watch something else. Honestly, any of the shows we allow her to watch at home have redeeming qualities (teaching lessons in math, reading, art, social behavior, etc.), but I constructed the playlist Best Baby Videos on my channel to have something I can put on for her that has specific educational goals.
Put some “discipline” practices into place
I say “discipline” because this term is used loosely for consequences and disciplinary measures alike when it comes to parenting. No one ever tells you when to start disciplining your kid. We realized when Genny was almost 1 that it was actually time to start disciplining (we use timeout). This conclusion came from the realization that she knew better but was choosing to do her own thing. Not cool.
We also use the concept of offering choices as a way to create natural consequences for Genny. For instance, if she doesn’t want to clean up the puzzle she had strewn across the living room, I might say, “Okay, you can choose to clean up your puzzles, and then watch TV, or you can choose to not clean up your puzzles, and then you may not watch TV today.” This teaches natural consequences and decision making skills that a simple “go to time-out” cannot accomplish. Sometimes, the option is to go to time-out, but the key really is to follow through with whatever you say no matter what. Kids notice when you employ empty threats, and then you have lost control.
Have snacks on hand
It’s almost part of the job description: always have snacks. But at home, this can be equally important. Especially if you’re struggling with bad morning sickness, having healthy snacks to grab for your toddler is a great way to prevent the hangries. It’s really bad when I don’t eat, but if Genny and I don’t eat, it’s basically the end of the world. In the first trimester, I would forget to or just plain couldn’t plan meals a lot of the time, leaving my fridge and pantry bare. Snacks like yogurt, Larabars, Kind bars, cheese sticks, fruit, popsicles, crackers, lunchmeat, and peanut butter saved my butt many a time! This doesn’t only apply to Genny, either. Ryan falls prey to hangriness probably more often than the rest of us.
Go to places where they can get their energy out
Leaving the house itself can be a chore when you’re not feeling good. But some days, staying in the house with an energetic 2 year old is a far greater chore. Depending on your area, you can find public libraries, children’s museums, play gyms, indoor playgrounds, trampoline parks, or bouncey houses that charge a flat fee for all-day-play. You can pack some snacks (for mama and kiddo!) and “hit the gym” all afternoon if you need to.
If you live in an area that isn’t 102 degrees six months out of the year, outdoor parks, walking trails, and nature trails can be great. In the summertime, pools and splash pads are great, too. These outdoors places might require some walking around on your part, but if you feel up for it, these are all great ways to wear out your little one.
Start preparing your toddler to be a big sibling
Get some “big sister” or “big brother” books. These will really help make the connection between the words “You’re going to be a big sister” and what that really means. Find TV episodes where the characters get a sibling, like Daniel Tiger. Show your toddler the pregnancy app milestones, and talk about what stage the baby is in each week. Talking about the baby and what life is going to be like after the baby is born. There will be so many changes when you have a new baby in the house! Your youngest will no longer be the baby. When preparing your toddler for being a big sibling, the sooner the better to start!
People ask me all the time if Genny understands what’s going on, and I really think she does. We’ve been saying things like, “When baby Nora comes…” and “You’re going to need to do ______ when Baby Nora comes.” The hardest change for her to accept so far has been the transition from her crib to her new bed. It helps that Ryan built her an incredible “big girl bed”, but she still shed a few tears when saying goodbye to the only bed she can remember.
Make some decisions on dynamics
This is more for your own peace of mind in the future than anything, but deciding on where your little ones will sleep as early as possible can prevent you from having to rush into anything during the last trimester of pregnancy. We decided early on that Genny and our new baby would need to share a room, so we made plans to do a full remodel on the room in July or August. This left us about two months of wiggle-room for Genny to get used to the new arrangement so we didn’t have to deal with an adjusting toddler and a crying newborn at the same time!
Don’t overdo it
Simply put, don’t put too much on yourself. Don’t worry about doing all the right things, getting everything done, and being all-around “Super Mom”. This is a tough time for everyone to go through, so give yourself a break. Do what you can when you can, and take frequent breaks. If anyone gives you crap about it, tell them to try taking care of a toddler while experiencing extreme fatigue and nausea 24/7 and then get back to you.
Get some self care
I read somewhere that the twenties are your selfish years…and I laughed. Pregnancy should be your “selfish” time. You are literally giving up your body as a host for growing a new little human being. So take time for yourself! Yes, this sounds like an impossible task when you’re taking care of a toddler. Especially if you don’t often have help. But after your little one is asleep, don’t feel like you need to get everything done you couldn’t get to throughout the day. Find a good devotional, start reading through the Bible, do yoga (if you have the energy, I sure didn’t), do your nails, or get a babysitter and go out with friends.
A nail appointment, hair appointment, or massage are great ways to get away and destress! I always feel better after spending time reading my Bible and just talking to God. Sometimes it’s just to vent, but I know He’s listening no matter what. And sometimes that’s all I need.
Enjoy this sweet time with your toddler
Last but not least, enjoy this special time with your toddler. If it’s snuggling in bed watching TV or reading books before bed, cherish this time with your youngest – they will never be your youngest again! While there is a lot changing with you, there is a lot changing with your toddler as well, and spending quality time together, distraction free, can make all the difference in your relationship.
What has been/was the hardest part of your first trimester? Share with me by commenting below!
Love, Emily XOXO
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