The best advice I ever got for preparing for baby #2 from moms that have been there and lived to tell about it. For more thoughts on motherhood, click here.
Anticipating Kaitlyn’s arrival, despite only being 2 years ago, seems like such a distant memory. However, some of the sentiments I felt leading up to her May debut are easy to recall. I remember feeling a little sad that I was revoking Hailey’s only child status. Would she resent me? Then there was the worry no mother likes to admit to- will I be able to love this next child as deeply and completely as my first?
Well, this post isn’t about those things, because though I can emphatically say that giving Hailey a sister was the best gift we ever could have given her (by her own admission) and that the human heart is incredible because falling head over heels in love with Kaitlyn was effortless (remember our first day in the hospital together?), I know someone telling you those things won’t ease your worries that it may not work out that way for you. (It will though)
Instead, I want to pass on the real advice for preparing for baby #2, the nitty gritty given to me from friends (both online and IRL alike) that had been through it and decided they liked me enough to pass on the tips for surviving those early days while adjusting to having more than one child in my solo care. So while I’d like to take full credit for the following, it’s actually way more valuable than my words alone because it’s been tested and proven by multiple moms over several years— so please pin it for later or share it with those that may need it, as these tips really helped me!
1. The baby doesn’t know what you are saying- use this to make the older child feel important. Huh? Let me explain. A newborn demands a lot of attention. Suddenly your older child will seem and look like an adult (when did they get so big?!) and it’s easy to prioritize the baby’s needs because they are so immediate and come so often. Kids are so perceptive though and too many times of choosing the baby’s need to eat, be bounced, etc over admiring the older child’s seemingly less important scribbling can lead quickly to negative feelings.
So I took my friend’s advice and referenced everything around the older child by talking directly to the baby. For example, if Hailey wanted to show me a tower she built, but Kaitlyn needed a new diaper, I’d say “OK, Kaitlyn, a quick diaper change but then we are going to see the masterpiece that Hailey built before we play.” If Kaitlyn was getting close to needing to nurse, I’d say “No, baby Kaitlyn, Hailey gets her snack first this time, then I will feed you.”
I know to anyone that could have been listening I must have sounded like a crazy person, but verbally expressing that Hailey came first sometimes or at least making her feel included helped keep us from battling any feelings of jealousy. Kaitlyn obviously never knew or cared what I was saying anyway!
2. Enlist the older child’s help with specific requests. I’m not sure if it’s because my older child was a girl, but Hailey was eager to help with the new baby. However, newborns are so fragile and my mommy instinct wanted to constantly squeal “be careful! don’t touch!” To redirect her loving intentions, I’d ask for help in more specific ways then over exaggerated my gratitude.
I’d ask Hailey to grab a diaper for me and she’d run off. When she returned, I’d factor in a little bit of tip #1 and say “Oh wow, Kaitlyn, did you see how fast Hailey was in getting your diaper? What a great big sister!” I’d tell Hailey how grateful I was for her help taking care of “our” new baby and would actually refer to Kaitlyn as “our (family’s) baby” because I found it helped Hailey feel more included and take ownership in helping with her care.
3. Invest in some good solo toys. And if you are visiting a friend that just had a baby and want to bring a gift, it’s much more helpful to bring a project for the older sibling rather than a gift for the baby. Good options will definitely vary by age, but at the time Hailey was 2 1/2 and a couple life savers for us were: this bear dress-up puzzle (still a household favorite), any of these deluxe sticker books, reusable sticker books and magnatiles, which yes I know are pricey but worth every cent as we still use them daily and their possibilities are endless. Whatever you choose, make sure it is something that the child can do 100% on their own.
4. Remember that for the first few weeks/months is survival time. Whatever you do during this period of time is OK. Really. I worried that whatever I did those first few weeks would become Hailey’s new normal. I was wrong. Snacking all day instead of making her meals? Letting her eat on the couch? Letting her wear her pajamas for a quick Target run? All a-ok; it’s all about survival.
A friend of mine brought over a couple new kid movies even though I insisted I wouldn’t need them. Well I remember the day that I popped two of those suckers in the DVD player back to back then cried to my friend that I’d failed as a mom (postpartum-hormone-induced-drama perhaps?). She assured me she had felt the same way. So let me pass along this grace to you that if your child watches 3 movies in a row on rough day, you did not ruin them. Drop the guilt; you’re doing a great job.
5. Laugh. Even if it’s through your exhausted tears. My first week alone with the girls was filled with ups and downs. Nothing humbles you like trying to wipe a toddler’s bottom while simultaneously nursing a newborn and looking up to see your own disheveled reflection in the mirror. It’s not glamorous, and some days are downright hard, but I look back fondly now on those crazy memories that bonded us as a family of four.
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Miscellaneous. Of course there are some great common sense tips too when preparing for baby #2, like always say yes if someone asks if they can help. Some great assistance can come in the form of them taking your older child to the park, pool or anywhere to ease your guilt of having them housebound. I can also be nice, once you’re ready, to have someone come watch the baby so you can have some one on one time with your older child. Keep lots of easy to grab snacks around (like these or these) for both you and your older child instead of just freezer meals. And take a lot of pictures because during the crazy whirlwind– they grow so fast!
Expectant moms of two- what are you most worried about or excited for?
Veteran moms- please weigh in! What are your best tips for handling the early days of more than one child?