One to Two Children Transition: How to have success

Congrats on your second baby! Now to walk you through how to add your second baby and maintain a schedule with both as well as care for you and let your family have a life!

2 year old Brayden and newborn Kaitlyn

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.

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 Adding a Second Child Really?

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.

How Do You Do a Schedule for Two?

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.

>>>Read: How To Go Out With Your Babywise Baby

Basic Tips

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!

>>>Read: My Sleep Hierarchy For Newborns

Please share your own stories about going from 1-2. Was it easy? Hard? What helped? What would you recommend?

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32 thoughts on “One to Two Children Transition: How to have success”

  1. i only have one loveable little 9-month-old boy and no immediate plans for a second baby, but i find myself wondering about this all.the.time. as we deal with schedule disruptions, figuring out waketimes, etc i think, "how on earth could i do this with two of them?!" i know it's what i want someday, but i can't wrap my head around how other moms do it. anyway, i'm starring this post for future reference – thanks for the tips!

  2. (For context, I have 3 kids and one on the way…6, almost 5, and 2.5 yrs old. I love having them close together and would recommend it to everyone who wants that for their life.) I think you always think, "How on earth could I do this with another kid?" but you always manage when the time comes. I agree that 0-1 was the hardest, and I thought 1-2 was the easiest. 2-3 was hard for the first two weeks because my specific situation. My husband's family (6 people!) had already had a trip booked from another country and so our house was very full and my two older kids got a serious fever of 104 right when we came home from the hospital. We always only had one extra person at the house after a baby came, if that. About nursing, I bought a sling that I could nurse with and have my hands free anticipating a problem. However, I only did this two times I think. I was able to nurse and hold her with one hand and do minor things for my first born if needed. I did not plan their schedules opposite because my second LOVED to lay on the floor during her wake time and watch sister. This never overstimulated her. She was a great sleeper. Also, I did jump back into things, but that is just the way I am and helps me to feel more normal and better. I do not like isolation AT ALL. I need people and to get out of the house.I have the same basic conclusions of this post, just a little different approach for anyone who is interested. I am a very type A personality as well, but with each child I seem to mellow a bit and have gotten a little more flexible. My husband played a big role in that too.

  3. This post couldn't have come at a better time for me! Thank you! Our little girl will be 23 months when our new baby comes. We did Babywise with our girl but not so much in the beginning. So, I've been reading through the BW book and have been taking notes for how to do things BW right from the start. Our toddler is on a very consistent schedule right now and we made her crib to bed transition a couple of weeks ago and she is doing great-all thanks to doing BW…I know it! It's hard work but it's SO worth it! Do you have a sample schedule that you are willing to share that you used with your newborn those first few weeks? I also nursed our first until she was 18 months and plan to nurse our second one as well. I like the idea of doing feedings while our toddler is doing other things. (IP, video time, etc) Thanks so much again for this blog!

  4. I would agree with your tips. Scheduling for the older one is key. I would also add to be working on things such as blanket time and/or room time, FTO, etc before baby comes. Staying home again is really tough once you've experienced the "freedom" of one nap. Good tips!

  5. For me the transition from 0-1 child was so easy. I had time to prepare and my son was a pretty textbook baby. I remember maybe two times in the early days calling my DH home early from work because I was so tired I couldn't stand up straight, but aside from that it was fine. With both my kids my husband also made a point to take 1 week completely off and a 2nd week as a half-week where he transitioned back into work slowly, able to come home early in the afternoons so I could catch a nap and he could bond with the baby.But the 1-2 transition went terribly! Mostly because my second had reflux and just screamed from the moment he was born. He was up in 1 hour intervals day and night, then spent one night crying 8 of the 12 hours! Once we got his medications figured out and a few modifications to our routine things settled down. By 6 weeks we could see a happy baby hiding in there, and by 12 weeks he was sleeping 11 hours a night and taking 3 good naps, and usually happy in between. Now at 4 months I can say I enjoy Peter and I have time to give attention to my older son, Tobias, again and work on some FTO with him. I completely agree that the key is to not jump right into things! I had Peter right before Thanksgiving and Christmas and had constant guests because they insisted on staying with us for the holidays. I was literally doing laundry within an hour of being home from the birth center (which was 12 hours from the time I gave birth). If I could do it again I would have said absolutely no to the out of town guests for both holidays and I would have written up a chore list for my husband to help with since he doesn't do any cleaning without explicit details.

  6. Excellent post that is worth bookmarking for sure! I wish I had read this stuff ahead for my transition from 1 to 2 last year. Now I will save it and share it with friends. Great work!

  7. For me, the transition from 0-1 was pretty difficult in the beginning because of a hard recovery after delivering a 9 1/2 pound baby. Once I felt better, it was easy to get the textbook babywise baby 🙂 Going from 1-2 turned out easier than I had anticipated. I had my goal schedule written out weeks before I had my second so I could see that it was really possible to fit everything into a day. Have had my meltdown momments when trying to occupy my toddler while nursing or laying the baby down, but for the most part it has been great. I thank babywise and your blog for making the transition way easier than expected!Btw, we invested in a swingset for our backyard and new movies for our toddler before the birth of our second, which really seemed to help!Our son will be 2 this month and our daughter is now 7 weeks old…looking forward to having more freedom for sure, but things are wonderful 🙂

  8. Val,I can't say thanks enough for creating a post on my questions. I think I've memorized this whole post already with just one reading. Your tips were perfect. I don't think I would have written a sample schedule for practice so I'm so glad you shared that tip. And I already thought about purchasing an outside gym for my toddler to occupy him so it was funny to read that from another reader. After reading this post I feel more confident and now I have tools to prepare for the transition. Thank you so much Val and everyone.

  9. I 100% agree with pretty much every word. This will be such a helpful post for people. My older son was 3 years old when my younger one was born, so I didn't have the toddler challenges, but otherwise I would say all the exact same things!

  10. Wow, I think it's so interesting how everyone's experience is different. For me 0-1 was MUCH easier than 1-2. I have heard people say that "One is like none, and two is like ten" and that saying is very true for my experience! But I see several moms on here say the opposite. Just goes to show that every child and situation is different. It's nice to know you think 2-3 was like nothing though… I would be interested in reading a post of your experience from 2-3 also.

  11. liz22– I'd like to hear about why it was harder for you than 0-1. There's another saying that says “With one, you can move. With more than one, you’re a sitting duck.” Wow, that scares me! I know when I have 2 I'll be fine because I'm a hard worker but I also love my Sat. yoga class and swimming on Sunday and I know I won't have those times for myself anymore. That is scary! Plus my husband thinks we should only have one but I can't imagine just one at the same time. Anyway, I'd love to hear why 2 is hard.

  12. This is such a blessing to me. I am 32 weeks pregnant, and I will have a 22 month old when the baby arrives. I would very much like to see a sample schedule (or more!) that is used for both a newborn and a child this age. I have a pretty consistent schedule for my son, but I do not have the luxury of 1-4 nap. Its usually 1-2:30, then a poop every afternoon that is a nap disrupter, but sleeping from 7-7 for nights. I feel this is enough sleep for him, but I don't know how to structure his daytime to be compatible with the new child. I do not want to cancel all morning activities out of the house or later afternoon activities and be homebound totally. So I would like to know my best "windows" of times to take both children out, whether to a park or etc. I do plan on babywearing or having a stroller for the second child to nap if we are at the library or park.Can anyone share schedule? Or a document they made online?? [email protected]

  13. I really appreciated this post because I have been thinking about this a LOT lately although I just have 1. My son is 10 months old and SOOO easy! But I often feel like I just "got lucky." Just today one of my friends said, "If I could be guaranteed a baby as happy and easy as yours, I would get pregnant tomorrow!" Last week my parents took care of him for a couple of days while I had surgery and they said, "He is the best baby ever!" I completely agree, but I must admit that I wonder how much is nurture and how much is just the way he came. I want to have a second baby sometime in the next year or two, but this transition does scare me and I feel kind of like my friend – wishing I could be guaranteed another just like him. I do need reminders like this though that, although every child is different and life throws different curve balls, nurture is a HUGE part of how happy and well-adjusted our children are. This is definitely a post I will re-read closer to this transition!

  14. Mrs. Haid-"I do not want to cancel all morning activities out of the house or later afternoon activities and be homebound totally." I hear you! I will be sad knowing that my son will miss Tues. mall, Wed. swimming, Th library…we have such a great routine going on. I guess there will just have to be new routines that are fun. "Can anyone share schedule? Or a document they made online??" That is a great question and I'd love to see other's schedules. Val has a perfect post here with a tandem schedule:

  15. My daughters are 21 months apart and I knew we had to get out of the house for DD1's sanity. DD2 slept really well in the car seat, so for a few months, her second nap was always in the car seat while we went to the park, ran errands, etc. Then we got home in time for DD1 to nap and DD2's third feeding. I didn't feel like it messed with sleep training since all other naps were in her crib and it sure kept DD1 and I happier!

  16. I am so fortunite! My husband took four weeks off after my second was born. The hardest part for me was the time lost from my oldest, but now it's much better. I think all these tips are wonderful and I'm so thankful that Val articulates them so well. My baby is 8 months now and someytimes I still get that nap in. But really, I have to remember to keep being flexible. That is rule #1 for me. I recently relized I was pushing my oldest's nap back further and keeping the baby's nap to early, all so I could feed them both at 12:00. I moved oldest's lunch up to 11:30 and put her down at 1, instead of 2, annd fed baby's lunch at 1, and put her down at 1:45 and everybody is happier. It just takes playing with their schedules.

  17. Kelle, good point about the holding baby with one hand while nursing! That brought to my memory times of holding a girl with one arm, nursing her, and attending to the needy toddler 🙂

  18. Jessica,I basically did a three hour schedule–starting around 7:30 or 8. I did some at 2.5 hour intervals to make it easier on myself–for example, I fed at 7:30, then 10:30, then at 1:00 right after I put Brayden down for his nap. That way, I had a longer break for myself while the two kids slept.

  19. Amanda, I think an important thing for people to take from your story is to realize every baby is different. Each baby has unique needs and requirements, which is a tricky thing to realize when number two enters the home.And I was totally doing laundry right away, too! My mom and grandma were lecturing me about it, but I argued that I could sit and fold laundry just fine 🙂

  20. Good ideas, Kelly W–new toys and new movies. My mom got Brayden the Leap Frog Letter Factory right after Kaitlyn was born. Now that movie just reminds me of being stressed out 🙂 lol

  21. I agree Aubrey Jane, nurture is a huge component. Take Amanda's example. She had it rough with number two for a while, but through nurture, he was sleeping 11 hours from a young age.

  22. Mrs. Haid and Ellyn,Re: the going out thing–I do have a post on "welcoming baby to the family" that can give you some ideas on that concept.But in summary, there will be times you disrupt baby to go out for yourself, older child, or someone else. But there will also be times you stay home to be respectful of the baby's need to nap.Just remember the newborn phase seems like forever at the moment, but it really is fast. The new baby will grow up just like your first did and get more flexible.

  23. Thank you, Val! We are getting closer and closer to our baby arriving and I find myself really getting nervous about the transition from 1-2. But, since I know what to somewhat expect (with the exception of every child being different) I feel at least a little more at ease! So, I know you recommend trying to feed at the hospital the same times you would when bringing baby home but how does that work say if the baby is born not around the times you will be feeding? Do you just adjust? I know it says not to look at the clock the first week but what does that even mean?Thanks,Jessica

  24. I'm expecting my fourth in less than 2 weeks and my youngest (a 2-year-old) has been behaving differently over the past few weeks. He has been going around the house with arms crossed saying, “Don’t want a brother.” He insists on needing a bottle (but doesn't use one), is crawling around the house, and pretends to cry. Yet, other times he kisses my huge belly and says, “I love you baby." My daughters showed similar behaviors when I was expecting, so I'm not too worried. The tactics that have proved to work best for my family to help the older siblings adjust to the newborn are having them help you prepare for the arrival of the baby (e.g. visit friends who have infants) and with certain tasks once the baby arrives (e.g. diapering, feeding, dressing the baby), keeping the same routines in the weeks around the baby's arrival (e.g. play dates, bedtime, activities), and setting aside one-on-one time for each child. My girls love to go on "dates" to the movies and brunch with my husband, so we try to make it a regular occurrence as much as possible.It just so happens I wrote a post about the same topic! If you'd like to read more about my tactics, please visit my website below: you!

  25. Jessica,Yes, I would just adjust. For me, when the baby is born, I do the initial nursing. Then things are all a bit wacky with baths and all of that (at least at my hospital), so then just adjust the times of feeding a bit until you are where you want to be.So if you need to feed two hours later, do it. 2.5, great. 3.5 can even be okay for the first one. Or you can fudge by 15 minute increments. Every hospital is a bit different on how often they recommend you feed, and even the same hospital can change over the years (mine has). So how much you fight the nurses on it is up to you. Some might say every two hours. Some might say every four. I am the type that people don't really question or fight with–I am fully confident in myself and what I am doing and I think they can tell that. My hospital recommended 3-4 when McKenna was born and I just did 3. You likely won't be "checked" as much because this is not your first baby. I noticed they were a lot more hands off with my third than my first. I loved the hands on for my first, and appreciated the hands off for my third. Good luck!

  26. Can you please tell me how you handle your schedule with two toddlers? I have a 21 month old and almost 3 1/2 year old. I'd love suggestions on time with each of them, together, independently. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!


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