As mothers of two under two or three under three, we need to strategize when it comes to juggling our cluster babies.
Cluster babies (kluhs-ter bey-bee) noun – Siblings born within two years of each other. Synonyms: Irish twins, baby bunching, two under two, three under three, three under four, four under four, etc.
So often we find platitudes like “take care of yourself” or “take it one day at a time.”
But we moms need tangible things we can do to make our days go smoothly.
I strongly believe that as moms we shouldn’t just be surviving motherhood. We should be thriving and really enjoying it!
Using practical systems and strategies can be such tools to help us with our job.
Below I have included nineteen specific strategies to help you manage your days with your little ones.
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19 Actual strategies to help you manage your days with your cluster babies
1. Keep a daily routine.
Use a routine rather than a schedule.
Meaning, keep a flexible order of things.
For example, our general routine is: breakfast, play, snack, play, lunch, nap, play, dinner, bed.
The only two times I try to adhere to, is 12:00pm lunch, and 5:00pm dinner.
This keeps me on track and helps get the kids to bed before they are overtired.
2. Get dressed, first thing.
Get dressed first thing in the morning.
I know I’m not going to work, and often, not even in public.
But everyday, I put on jeans and put in my contacts first thing.
This alone makes me feel awake and ready to work.
Find what it is that does this for you.
3. Keep a kid “out of play.”
Try to have one kid “out of play” at a time.
By this, I mean a kid is either sleeping, or is awake, but fed and playing independently.
After my third was born, I found this strategy to be incredibly helpful.
Each morning, I make sure a baby, two toddlers, a dog, myself, and occasionally a husband is fed, dressed, diapers done for the kids, and the dog is taken out.
If you have cluster babies, you realize that these mini tasks can take quite a while.
And those tiny people are not quiet about it when they are waiting on you.
But I found that if I was able to stagger it, the process was a lot more manageable.
For example, I wake up, feed the baby, feed the dog and take her out, then put the baby up for a nap.
Then I can focus on breakfast and getting ready for the day with the older two while my dog and baby are “out of play.”
This is a much better situation than the dog whining and one or more babies crying because they are in need of food or sleep!
4. Use a special seat.
Have a special seat that your oldest can go to for a little space from her siblings.
We play mostly in our living room and dining room, and I want to be able to see all my kids.
With all of this togetherness, they sometimes need a breather from each other.
To accommodate this, I allow my oldest to bring toys to her spot at the table, so she’s elevated and away from her younger brothers.
5. Set up a little activity,
Set up a little activity for your oldest, away from siblings.
Each morning, I have what I call a “counter game” set up for my oldest at our counter.
She looks forward to these games, and it gives her a little space from her brothers.
I usually do games to help her learn letters and numbers, but even just some paper and crayons or play-doh would be engaging!
Periodically allowing for some individual time gives way to better times playing together.
6. Secure seats for all the kids.
Have seats that you can trust your kids to stay in, if you need to be away from them for a minute.
I know that if my toddler is clipped into his high chair, my daughter is in her booster seat, and the baby is in the swing, that they are safe if I have to go and take the dog out for a minute.
I could probably do away with my oldest’s booster seat, but I intentionally keep it for this reason.
Obviously, you have to be smart with this. I never step away when they’re eating.
I make sure there’s nothing near them that would be a problem (i.e. no crayons for my son, because he will put them in his mouth occasionally).
Even through I rarely do this, but it’s reassuring to know that if there’s an emergency that I need to tend to,
I know the kids will be safe in their spots.
7. Make a plan.
7. Make a plan before you start the day. Have some goals for yourself and maybe an activity or two for the kids planned out.
This doesn’t have to take much time at all.
For example, I plan to fold laundry and clean out my silverware drawer tomorrow.
I set out a sensory bin for my kids and a counter game for my daughter.
It’s going to be a rainy day, so I’m planning to read our books before nap on the front porch.
This gives us some direction for the day.
It helps me to get things accomplished and gives the kids some variety to the day.
8. Make baby feeding choices that work for you.
Having babies so close together is unique, and sometimes our feeding choices may be different because of that challenge.
And that’s ok!
With my third, I knew I would begin supplementing nursing with a little bit of formula and that I would most likely switch to formula full-time at some point.
I understand that I have three under four and that sometimes certain things have to give.
My youngest is at the age where he can start trying out solids.
One of the reasons I didn’t start right at four months is because my toddler was in a phase where he was constantly throwing food from his high chair.
I knew if I worked on this with him and waited a couple months to introduce solids to the youngest, things would go a lot more smoothly.
And it has!
9. Simplify meals and snacks.
Try to keep food the same among your cluster babies, as much as makes sense.
For example, if it’s snack time, I would prepare the same food differently for each of my kids, because of their age.
My older two would get slices of cheese. My baby might get diced cheese.
The oldest would get diced strawberries, and my toddler would get strawberries cut up, but in smaller pieces. The baby would get tiny strawberry pieces or strawberry puree.
While they’re prepared differently, my brain only needs to think about cheese and strawberries.
I only need to gather two things from the fridge.
Obviously different kids have different needs and preferences, but I do this where I can when it comes to meals and snacks.
10. Eat by yourself.
All the baby food experts say to eat with your kids, and there is 100% validity to that.
But I just always picture the mom from “A Christmas Story” who tries to enjoy a nice meal she made for the family.
She is constantly getting up to fetch things for them, and she never gets to eat the warm meal she spent all that time making.
I think I’ve lived in fear of becoming that mom.
And I tried eating with my kids, but I always ended up frustrated.
Someone wants to eat my food, or I’m getting up a hundred times.
So, I just decided not to.
At least not during this season of life.
I eat a quick breakfast before I get the kids from their rooms, as I’m making their breakfast.
I eat lunch during nap.
My husband and I eat dinner after all the kids have gone to bed.
Periodically we will all have dinner together.
And I will certainly have a snack while my kids are eating.
But I like being available to grab them more milk or help my son use his fork properly, while still getting to peacefully eat my meals.
11. Sync up naps.
Have everyone nap at the same time.
This can be tricky to do, but well worth it!
I can consistently count on my older two napping at the same time.
The baby will usually have a nap overlap at least for an hour of naptime.
Having that time to yourself is essential!
12. Try out quiet time.
If your oldest isn’t napping, try out quiet time.
You can find more about how to implement quiet time here.
13. Have strollers ready to go.
Different occasions call for different needs.
If we’re going for a stroller ride on a walking trail, the older two go in the stroller and I wear the baby on me.
When we’re walking around a store, then the younger two might be in the stroller, and the oldest may be walking with us.
If we’re at a playground, then the baby would be in the single stroller, and the older two are playing.
Having different options available is really a must-have when it comes to three under four, or really any set of cluster babies!
I absolutely love our strollers. We can have the three kids in any combination.
We use this adapter so we can put our Britax car seat-carrier into the double stroller.
14. Get outside!
When the kids are getting a little loud or a fussy, throw on the shoes and just get outside.
One of the best pieces of advice I got as a new mom is to take the baby outside if she won’t stop crying.
I follow that now as they are getting older.
My kids get to play freely outside, which gives me sort of a break.
Fresh air can totally help with our own stress levels, as well as our children’s.
15. Plan for housework.
Develop a plan for getting housework done.
Do what works for you.
Maybe it’s a Monday through Friday schedule.
Maybe you get something done each day during nap.
There’s plenty of cleaning schedules on Pinterest if you need some ideas.
16. Order your groceries online.
Like something sent from heaven, online ordering groceries really took off when I was pregnant with my second.
I actually don’t know how moms of cluster babies ever did it.
My kids would fill up the cart, and I’d barely have room for food.
Love online grocery pickup!
17. Find systems that work for you.
It’s also good to figure out a laundry system, too!
If you’re home by yourself with your little ones, podcasts can be really great.
It’s entertainment for you while being able to be present with the kids.
If you’re unfamiliar, they’re basically a radio talk show that you can listen to for free on your phone.
There’s podcasts on literally every subject: news, politics, comedy, tv show recaps, and the list goes on.
19. Encourage independent play.
It’s important for children’s development to be able to play independently and to really get lost in their imaginative play.
It’s also important for us, logistically.
If we are feeding a baby, we probably can’t play that great with our toddler at the same time.
You’re not ignoring your child by letting them play by themselves.
This is such an important skill for them!
In fact, I purposely avoid talking to my kids when I see they are immersed in their play!
Mothering cluster babies of course can be trying at times.
But implementing systems and finding what works for you is really the key to lessen your stress so you can thrive in motherhood!