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No matter how easy or hard your first child was, adding a second child can seem daunting. Before you had one, you didn’t really know what you were in for (for most people). You may have thought you knew, but in all reality, you were pretty much clueless.
|Brayden and Kaitlyn|
Well, that first child filled you in fast.
So the idea of adding number two can seem scary because you know exactly what you are in for. You know the work. You know the time. Except you know you will have to put that work and time in while also continuing to care for that first child.
Some might think that baby two will be easy. You are wiser and more experienced and now know what you are doing. The wise among us will realize that while we might think we know what we are in for, we really don’t know. Every child is different, so while we figured things out with our first, who knows what our second child will bring.
First, let me assure you that the success you have with your first child is no fluke. Yes, different children have different temperaments and different little quirks, but you didn’t just get “lucky” to have a good child. You worked for it, and you can work for it again.
I had a reader ask very specific questions about adding baby two, so I will answer those.
How Hard is it Really?
My guess is this is very different for everyone.
In my personal experience, going from 0 to 1 was the hardest transition by far.
Going from 1 to 2 was not a huge shock to my system. A lot of that probably had to do with the fact that Brayden was only 22 months old when Kaitlyn was born, so essentially still a “baby.” I was still living the baby life. (for anyone wondering, going from 2-3 was super simple for me)
There is a bit of shock to your system when the freedom you have slowly gained back over the course of your oldest’s life is suddenly ripped out from under you.
There is also shock to your system as you try to figure out how to balance two different schedules.
But it all comes back rather quickly and you can get in the groove.
When Does it Get Better?
The first couple of weeks were a bit of chaos in my head. I remember when Kaitlyn was about a week old, sitting with paper and pen trying to figure out how to work the two schedules together.
You should remember that Kaitlyn was my first child to do Babywise from day one with. The first 8 weeks were all new to me. I had to learn what I was doing with brand new baby and figure out how to make that work with a 2 year old running around me.
For me in general, 6 weeks is a huge turning point, as well as three months. I think at three months I felt a little more breathing room.
How Do you Nurse With a Toddler Running Around?
Most first-borns are not really used to entertaining themselves. They get full attention as soon as they want/need it. So the times you are tied up with the new baby are the hardest for everyone. I know I stressed about Brayden needing me when I was unable to really respond with Kaitlyn without upsetting her (like during a feeding).
I would imagine this would be less of worry for moms whose first is a bit older than two when the new baby is born. Brayden was two weeks younger than McKenna is today when Kaitlyn was born–and McKenna is very much my baby in my eyes 🙂 So I understand why I was stressed.
I found the best thing to do was to have the older child completely taken care of when the younger baby needed to eat. So older child can be napping, in independent play, watching a show, playing with Daddy, sleeping, etc.
You can also have probably one nursing session where you play cars, ponies, or read stories with the older child while nursing the baby; however, nursing a newborn takes A LOT of work and effort at first and usually your full attention, so my advice would be to look for solutions that do not involve you.
I do have a full post on this topic: Nursing Schedule with Older Child(ren)
A word of warning, the trickiest thing overall is during growth spurts. This is when baby wakes more often and keeps you on your toes 🙂 Try to think through back-up plans for when baby suddenly is eating every two hours instead of 3.
I recommend having a target schedule written out before your baby is born.
I also recommend having your older child in that schedule for at least 2-4 weeks before your baby comes.
When Kaitlyn was born, I had no plan. I made the plan between 1-2 weeks old. With McKenna, I had a plan from before she was born. In fact, I had two plans.
I had two different plans written out. I had a plan in case she was a naturally early waker like Brayden and one incase she was a naturally later waker like Kaitlyn. That way I could go with her personality. I wanted to be prepared with a plan, especially since I would be juggling three.
It was really nice doing it that way because in the hospital, I was able to start feeding her at the times I planned on feeding her. This worked because she was one of those sleepy babies you have to wake up for every feeding.
Now, it needs to be said that you must go into this flexibly. One, you need to be prepared to adjust your schedule if your baby doesn’t naturally fit with that schedule. Don’t kick against the pricks. You also need to be ready to adjust like crazy when a growth spurt happens. You can tell growth spurts were probably the hardest thing for me–they were the times of unpredictability. They were the times I need to improvise big time. You do get better at it–it was not an issue for me when McKenna was a baby because I was adept at it at that point, but it is hard to juggle two young children on a whim when your plans don’t work out. Just push through and you will get used to it.
How Do You Sleep Train When You Need to Attend to Your Toddler?
This is definitely one of the more difficult aspects of having more than one child in the house. It is harder to pay attention to the cries and monitor them, it is hard to be setting a baby down only to have a noisy toddler burst into the room and bring the baby to full alertness. It is hard to be stressed over sleep-training while focusing on your other child.
Since a newborn is typically awake for only 30-45 minutes at a time, I solved this by continuing my “distraction” of my toddler through the entire waketime. So I made the schedule such that for the short 30-45 minutes baby was awake, she had my full attention. The older child would be in independent play for 60-90 minutes–very easy to fit a newborn in that slot. Also during the toddler’s nap–again, easy time slot.
Keeping logs is very crucial. It helps you keep things straight.
I also bought a monitor with good enough range that Brayden and I could go outside and I could monitor Kaitlyn. Then he could play and be busy with that and I could more easily monitor both children.
How Do You Nap?
When going from 1-2, this is a lot easier than you might think IF your oldest is young enough to be taking a good 2-4 hour nap each day. When going from 2-3, it is pretty hard to work that in–at least at the age Brayden was when McKenna was born. It might be easier if number three came along today than two years ago.
Brayden napped from 1-4 or 4:30. I got Kaitlyn up at 1:00 right after I put Brayden in bed. By 1:30-1:45, she was back in bed and asleep. I then did a sitz bath for 20-30 minutes, then took a nap. Kaitlyn ate again at 4, so that usually gave me close to two hours to get a nap in.
Let me add that getting a nap in is really, really important at first. It is one thing to try to push through in a tired state with just a baby. Quite another with an older child. Lack of sleep=lack of patience. So really make it a priority to get that nap in. I set a rule that for the first month, I had to lay down and try to sleep. After that, I had to if I got less than 7 hours of sleep the night before.
What if My Older Child Gets Jealous?
My kids both had an easy time with me handling the baby. They seemed to understand and fully accept that mom needed to take care of the baby.
With dad, however, they did get a bit jealous. I still remember my husband picking Kaitlyn up one day and Brayden saying, “No, put her down! Give her to Mama!”
When McKenna was born, Brayden didn’t have jealousy issues with dad touching her. I can’t really remember Kaitlyn every being upset–she was just thrilled to have a baby in the house. I do remember Brayden got a bit insecure. He was a little stressed, though he couldn’t verbalize to or even put his finger on why he was upset.
My recommendation is to do three things. One is work special time in each day with your older child when it is just you and older child–mommy/child. Two is work special time in with older child and daddy each day. Three is to have dad take older child out for a special daddy/child date. Maybe a movie, maybe as simple as a walk, but a time that is set aside as a special date.
Another tip is to not blame things on “the baby.” Don’t say you can’t do something because of the baby. I am not saying to lie about it, but see if you can attribute things to another equally correct reason.
You can also enlist the older child’s help–but keep it as the child helping you take care of the baby, not the child taking care of the baby. The older child will have a natural desire to boss the younger child around and think of himself as the third parent in the house. Don’t give him reason to think he is even more so.
The children quickly adjust within the first 2-4 weeks to having a new baby in the house. I know I need to adjust to a new baby, so why shouldn’t the kids?
What If I Can Never Leave the House?
I am always straight up about things, and I must say that of all the things that are difficult about adding a baby to the family when you have older children, this is the hardest.
If you thought it was hard to have one baby and feel house-trapped, it will be even harder with an older child in the equation. It is suddenly no longer about you vs. baby needs. It is you vs. baby vs. toddler needs. It is harder because you can’t just cater to any one person. You also will have a harder time juggling when you can go out. With just one, you can wait until it is most convenient with baby. With two, you can’t always do that.
For more on that concept, see Welcoming Baby to the Family
I will say this. In the beginning, I try to cater more to baby than anyone else while creatively keeping my older child sane. And sometimes that means my husband takes the older kids while I stay home, which can be sad for me. But you have to remember that it is a short time in the grand scheme of things. I know newborn months seem to be at least squared (as in a lot longer than they actually are), but it is a short period of time.
With all of my kids, there were those ages that made things just a bit easier. It seems almost every 3 months was a significant improvement. Just hang in there and do the best with your situation. It really does get better and the baby really does get more flexible.
Here are some of my basic tips to make the whole transition easier:
- Send the older child to grandma’s (or somewhere you trust): When my girls were born, the older kids split time between both grandma’s so that my husband was able to be with me at the hospital and so that we had the first day or two home without any other children–just us and the baby. It helped give us time to get everything in order and get to know the baby a little. It also gave me a couple of days to only have a baby to worry about. We were always very anxious for our kids to come home by the end, but it was great to have the peace and the lack of mess that kid make :).
- Nap: Really work it in to your day daily for at least the first month. You will heal faster and you will be nicer.
- Work Schedule Right: Work out the schedule so you can devote full attention to the baby and full attention to the toddler–at least for the first 4-8 weeks. You will have a feeling of urgency to incorporate baby into the activity of the family, but at first, baby needs quiet, food, and sleep. Baby will wake up more and be able to handle craziness. Before you know it, your two little darlings will be making larger messes together than you ever dreamed capable
- Keep Life Simple: This is one of those moments in life when you are experiencing turbulance. Accept the help people offer. Accept the offer from people to pick up your slack, whether in church, work, or home. I remember after Kaitlyn was born, I wanted so much to jump into life full speed ahead. I wanted to demonstrate that I was capable of handling two children just fine. At the time, I had a very demanding calling (responsibility) for church. The president of the organization I was in the presidency with was fabulous. She really encouraged me to just take time off. She took over all of my duties and told me to just enjoy those moments.
I really wasn’t great about this with Kaitlyn, but after McKenna was born, I really took things slowly. I now tell people to just wait. You don’t need to jump back into the full swing of things right away–no one in their right mind expects you to. But as soon as you start taking back all of your responsibilities, you can’t give them back. So let yourself get in the new groove of life before jumping back in the deep end.
- Have Another Adult: This is advice I give but have never been able to enjoy myself. My husband always went right back to work and my kids were all born during “foaling season” so my mom is pretty much unavailable from March-June sometime. But I have a friend whose husband stays home the first…is it one week or two? I want to say two…after a new baby was born. I think that is completely fabulous. That way mom can do as I recommend in number four easier. She can also more fully get to know the baby and slowly get used to managing the house and kids on her own.
But I will say, most babies are highly sleepy the first two weeks of life, so you might find it a bit more advantageous to have dad take that time off around 3-4 weeks old instead.
- All Other Newborn Tips Apply: All newborn tips still apply because you still have a newborn. Honestly, it is harder to take care of yourself if you have more than one child. You have less time in the day available to you. Most of it is taken by baby and older child. Definitely more of a challenge. But not an impossible task! It can seem daunting, but you can do it!
Please share your own stories about going from 1-2. Was it easy? Hard? What helped? What would you recommend?
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