Balancing Baby’s Needs With Family’s Needs

Get a step-by-step process for how to balance the needs of your baby with the needs of the older kids. The baby needs consistency and solid sleep while older kids need to be able to leave the house sometimes. Get tips for how to balance this all out.

Parents and preschooler at home with a new baby

One of the hardest things about bringing home your second, third, fourth, etc. baby is figuring out how to balance attending to the needs of the baby and the needs of the rest of your family.

People range from hunkering down and shutting down all family activities to expecting the baby to hit the ground running. Some mammals can walk shortly after birth and some can run the same day they are born–but this is done for them to literally be able to survive. They need to keep up with the herd.

As humans, we are lucky I guess. Our babies don’t need to be able to keep up in order to survive–and we shouldn’t expect them to.

But other members of the family want to get out and continue life. Just as we aren’t made to walk from birth, we aren’t made to hibernate (though some winters it sounds nice!).

So how do we balance these needs of EVERYONE from baby to toddler to parents? It is important to make things work for the whole family (see Baby Joins a Family {AND} Family Adds a Baby).

Here are some steps to take.

1-Write Down Baby’s Needs

I think it is wise to take a step back and first look at this situation logically. Start with a list. What are the real needs of baby? What does baby need to survive day in and day out?

Let me give you some ideas. Baby needs to eat. Baby needs to sleep. Baby needs shelter. 

Take a step further–what are things that you believe a baby needs in life? What do you consider a need that isn’t necessarily a literal need?

Something I believe a baby needs is to have most naps in her crib–that is a belief I have. That belief stems from me wanting my child to develop good sleep habits. 

2-Write Down Needs of Family Members

Next, consider the needs of the other members of the family.

First, I want you to evaluate real needs. Don’t confuse needs with wants. I think we often let ourselves think things are needs when really they are just wants. What does each family member need?

I believe social interaction can go in a “need” category. But I also don’t think there must be social interaction every day. That pushes things into “want” in my mind.

Make a list of the needs of each family member.

Newborn baby Brinley

3-Write Down Wants of Family Members

Once you have a list of real needs, make a list of the wants of each family member. Johnny NEEDS to get out twice a week to play with friends. Now, what does he WANT? Does he want daily? Just three times a week? Get it all down.

I have a policy that a baby’s needs always come before anyone else’s wants.

4-Write Down Goals for Baby

Have a list of goals you want for your baby. I touched on this with number one. What are your short term goals and long term goals?

What needs to happen for these goals to be met?

It is important for you to acknowledge what you are hoping to have happen for your baby AND what it takes to get there. Many second time parents want their second baby to sleep as well as the first baby did, but do not take the time necessary to get baby on a solid routine at home.

Then they are confused and frustrated about why the baby still isn’t sleeping through the night at 4 months old.

Ignoring reality will not change it. It will only frustrate you. Look at what you want to happen and what it would take to get there.

Are you willing to make those necessary sacrifices? If not, change your goals and expectations to line up with what you are willing to do. If yes, arrange your days to meet those goals while still trying to meet the needs of everyone else.

5-Write Down Goals for Family Members

What are some things the members of the family want to be able to accomplish in the next three months? What about six months? What about a year?

Just as with your baby, what will it take to get there?

6-Combine All Lists and Compromise

Now look at all lists at the same time. What can go? What needs to stay? Where can each person compromise?

As you look at these lists, be creative. When I had Brinley (my fourth baby), I didn’t want us to have to give up our activities but I also wanted her to be able to sleep in her own bed. Solid sleep habits were important to me.

I did lots of carpooling. I did my best to get lessons at times that wouldn’t interfere with naps. I got help. For more on what we did, see Managing Baby Plus Older Kids’ Activities

7-Keep Timeline in Perspective

As people are making sacrifices, keep the timeline in perspective. As the baby gets older, the baby is a lot more flexible. I find that once baby hits around 9 months, things get a lot easier and just continue to do so.

It sounds like a long time, but it goes by in a flash. Soon, your baby will be old enough to “keep up with the herd.” But for now, she needs protecting and needs to be given her time to build her strength. There will be plenty of time for running around later.

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1 thought on “Balancing Baby’s Needs With Family’s Needs”

  1. Just a note to say you do a great job with your blog. It's so nice to have all the Babywise info organized and enhanced with personal experience. I used Babywise and your blog with my first and as I prepare for baby #2 I am re-reading your blog and the book. Absolutely invaluable – and it works. Thank you!


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