Whether you’re a first-time mom or you’ve been around the nursery a few times, one thing is for sure: raising children is no easy task. All parenting stages have unique challenges, but parents often debate which is harder: the newborn stage vs. the toddler phase. Is it even fair to compare newborns and toddlers? After all, they are entirely different stages of development and often feel like two different worlds. And while it’s only natural to compare the two, remember that each child is their own person with their own unique journey.
Let’s take a closer look at the differences between a newborn vs. a toddler and see which parents have a rougher time.
Why Parents Think Babies are Harder
1. The Lack of Sleep
Any parent of a newborn will tell you one of the most challenging parts of the first year is the lack of sleep. Whether it’s the baby’s constant crying or the need to get up for feedings, there’s always something keeping parents awake. This is especially true for breastfeeding moms.
Studies have shown that lack of sleep can affect your health and is linked to postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety.1 When you’re sleep-deprived and in the thick of it, the newborn phase seems like it will never end. However, don’t be afraid to ask for help; remember that you will sleep again.
2. The Never-Ending Diaper Changes
Babies have a way of relieving themselves at the exact moment when you’re making the diaper switch, often drenching themselves—and you—with urine. Not to mention the constant blowouts that breastfed and formula-fed babies tend to have. It feels like you’re changing their clothes just as often as changing their diapers.
Perhaps the worst part of babies in diapers is the cost. Diapers are expensive. The APA estimates that most parents spend nearly $1,000 on diapers in the first year alone!2
3. The Around-the-Clock Feedings
Feeding a newborn vs. a toddler is a 24/7 job, which can be overwhelming for many parents. If you choose to breastfeed, you probably feel like your baby is attached to you all day and all night. You must deal with latching issues and cracked nipples and also keep a close watch on your diet. Not to mention the exhaustion from the middle-of-the-night cluster feeding sessions.
If you choose formula, you have a different set of issues. First is making sure you can find the formula you need, which has been a struggle for many parents this past year. Next, you must make the bottles, feed your baby, wash and sterilize the bottles and the zillion parts, and start the process again. It’s no wonder feeding a newborn feels like a full-time job.
4. The Lack of Communication
One of the most frustrating parts of parenting is when your child needs something, but you aren’t sure what it is. That’s pretty much what dealing with a baby is like 24/7. While you eventually learn to recognize what “type” of cry is coming from your little one, in the beginning, it’s pretty much a guessing game. Is he hungry? Tired? Does something hurt? Maybe he wants to be held?
You are learning what your child needs; this improves as they get older and learn to talk. As for newborns, you go with your gut and hope for the best.
5. The Constant Care
Having a newborn is like having a brand-new puppy (times 10) who needs constant care and attention. On top of the around-the-clock feedings and never-ending diaper changes, babies also love to be held and cuddled. As many parents of newborns will attest, it often seems like an impossible task to put the baby down long enough to even go to the bathroom. On top of this, babies must be taken to the doctor a lot in their first year. It feels like practically every month; they need a checkup or a screening. With all the care newborns require, it’s no wonder parents often feel like this is the most challenging stage.
At times, all the struggles with a newborn seem to vanish when that beautiful baby is in your arms. There is a reason people so often get “baby fever.” Babies are so small and fragile, yet so full of life. Their life is a blank slate with so much possibility in front of them, and they have a way of reminding us the world is a beautiful place. Babies are soft, coo, giggle, and smile; you’re their entire world. Plus, many would agree there is nothing like the sweet smell of a baby. What’s not to love?
Why Parents Think Toddlers are Harder
1. The Constant Meltdowns
Toddlers seem to be constantly testing boundaries. When things don’t go their way, the tantrums begin. One of the most challenging aspects of toddlerhood is dealing with temper tantrums. Whether it’s due to frustration, exhaustion, or simply the fact they haven’t yet learned how to express themselves effectively, tantrums can be a trying experience for parents and children.
They can strike without warning, in the worst places, and can last for what seems like hours. As a result, parents often feel frustrated, exhausted, and at wit’s end. While temper tantrums may never be fun, understanding how to handle them can make the experience easier for everyone involved.
2. The Bedtime Struggles
No person has ever been thirstier than a toddler who is being put to bed. Once a baby exits the crib, many parents experience bedtime issues with their toddlers. First, there’s the never-ending cycle of needing to go to the bathroom, getting a drink of water, and having one more hug or bedtime story. It can be enough to drive even the most patient parent insane. Then there’s the issue of getting them to stay in bed. When you think you’ve finally settled them down, they pop up and start running around the house for the 20th time. This often leaves parents wondering if they will ever get a good night’s sleep again.
3. They Get into Everything
As kids grow up, they become more independent, which at first, you might think, frees up a little of the 24/7 care you gave them as babies. However, you’ll soon realize that toddlers require just as much, if not more, attention. Unlike babies, toddlers are mobile, which means they can and will get into EVERYTHING. It seems like the second you turn your back on your toddler, they’ve managed to get past the childproof locks, destroy something, or fall and hurt themselves. While this newfound sense of independence should be encouraged and fostered, you’re now chasing a toddler around all day.
4. They Never Stop Talking
Regarding talking in the newborn vs. toddler stage battle, toddlers are like the Energizer Bunny—they keep going and going and going. It’s hard to get a word or even a thought in, let alone try to have a conversation with another adult. And don’t even think about trying to take a phone call.
Toddlers seem to have an endless supply of words and are dying to use them all. They’re still jabbering away even when they’re not saying anything that makes sense. On the plus side, most people would agree that listening to a toddler talk is cute and often hilarious, as long as they’re not spilling the family secrets!
5. You Always Need to Know Where the Bathroom Is
The thought of potty training a toddler can send even the most prepared parent into a tailspin of anxiety. Once you’ve officially traded in the diapers and wipes for big kid undies, you assume all your bathroom problems are solved, right? Think again.
Having kids who are potty-training brings an entirely new slew of issues. You can’t go anywhere without first scoping out where the nearest restroom is. Don’t even think about a road trip unless you want to stop every 20 minutes for a potty break, and always have an extra set of clothes because accidents are bound to happen (usually at the worst times).
While saving money is nice, many parents prefer the ease of babies in diapers to the struggle of potty-training toddlers.
Raising a toddler is highly challenging, but there is something undeniably unique about this stage of development. Toddlers are full of energy and enthusiasm and have a contagious zest for life. They have a way of lifting your spirits and bringing joy to those around them. They are hilariously honest and often unfiltered, saying exactly what is on their minds. And don’t forget their boundless sense of imagination. Whether they’re pretending to be a princess or a dinosaur, toddlers have a way of making the ordinary a little more extraordinary. It’s no wonder so many parents are team toddler.
When comparing a newborn vs. a toddler, it comes down to a few things, like preference. Some parents love the newborn stage and wish their kids would stay babies forever, while other moms prefer the fun and energetic toddler stage.
It also has a lot to do with your child and their personality. This usually varies greatly between kids in the same family. One may be “easier” as a newborn, while the other might seem more manageable at the toddler stage. All kids are different.
No matter which parenting stage you feel is more complex, it’s all worth it. Watching your little one grow before your eyes is a fantastic feeling, and your love for your child surpasses even the toughest times.