The first time you get pregnant, there is so much information to process. There are books to be read, appointments to be kept, and nesting to do. So.Much.Nesting. But the second pregnancy?
Well, let’s just say that making the tranisition to two kids easier should take top priority. So, let me help. I’m going to tell you how to prepare for baby number 2 in a few easy steps.
You’ll hear mixed things about that second baby. Some will tell you that it is SO much easier than the first round. Compared to the ignorance they felt in the first round, that second baby will seem like a piece of cake. Particularly if the first baby was difficult- say, not a good sleeper, or had a bout of colic- you’ll hear that adding a second baby was a seamless transition.
And then you’ll hear from other moms in the trenches. Maybe they got a newborn who instantly slept through the night, or maybe they just have a high-needs toddler already. Those moms? Well, they’ve likely told you what you were dreading in the first place- transition to two kids can be a very tricky business.
But before you get swept up in the anxiety of adding a second child to your family, take a moment to remind yourself-you might get lucky with an easy baby, or you might not. The point is, that you don’t know yet how it’ll turn out. And if you’re anything like me? That’ll drive you nuts.
So while you’re waiting and wondering how to make the transition to two kids easier, take a deep breath and then start working your way down this list of ways to help make life with two kids a little less stressful.
This is a guest post from The Salty Mamas! Jaymi & Christine are real-life besties who look to find the humor in the chaos of motherhood. We are in the trenches of parenting young children, and are constantly looking for ways to make parenting easier. And if we can’t make it easier? Well, at least we can laugh about it.
You should definitely check them out!
How to Prepare for Baby Number 2 as Much as Baby Number 1
Look, with Baby #1, you were all about your home. Getting it spotless, getting it organized, and decorating the nursery. You likely stocked your freezer full of food and, if you’re a crazy person like me, oiled all the hinges of your doors so they wouldn’t wake up the baby with their squeaking.
Sorry, not sorry.
But when you’re pregnant with Baby #2, you might find that your nesting takes another direction- and it’s targeted more at Baby #1 than at your house these days. All that last minute nesting can be CRAZY useful if you do your best to direct that energy towards making the transition to two kids easier.
Yes, you should probably put some meals in the freezer for yourself (or, if you’re lucky, you’ll help coordinate a meal train). But your meal prep should go beyond dinners, and extend to what you’re going to feed your older child during the day as well.
Luckily, there are tons of kid-friendly breakfast and lunch ideas that are easy to make ahead and that freeze very well (find a list of our favorites here – Healthy, Easy Freezer Meals for Toddlers). You can also portion out dry snacks, like pretzels or goldfish, ahead of time so that hungry toddlers can grab them on their own.
Not into meal prep? No problem! Grab a box of Uncrustables and some applesauce pouches for last minute meals for your older kiddo.
As a former teacher, my “only child” was used to having lots of educational, engaging activities available throughout the day. But when the time came for me to have her little brother, I wasn’t so sure I’d be able to keep up with the expectations I’d set up.
So to prepare both of us, I created a bunch of Busy Bags for her to play with (Entertain On the Go with Easy Busy Bags), as well as pre-prepped several crafts and art projects. Think paper crafts like ladybugs and rainbows, as well as printable Do-A-Dot Art activities and letter searches.
To keep things organized, I put the materials for each project into a sheet protector and stored them inside a binder. Once my son was born, I was able to slip out a sheet protector and provide my daughter with a quiet activity to do (without scouring Pinterest or hunting down supplies around the house).
Of all the things I prepped ahead of time, this was by FAR my best hack to make the transition to two kids easier.
Related: Easy, Indoor Toddler Activities
Keep Kid #1s Expectations Low
People would often ask my daughter, “are you excited to play with your little brother?” And it drove me bonkers every time. Because no, she wouldn’t be playing with the newborn anytime soon, and it was just setting me up for a power struggle were she to get her baby brother to play dress up with her (spoiler alert: she did that).
Instead, talk to your child about things they CAN do with their baby. I love these books (I’m a Big Sister or I’m a Big Brother) for some great examples, and we read it often before Abram arrived. Maybe your child can “read” to the baby, or maybe there are some songs they can sing them (think “Itsy Bitsy Spider” or “Twinkle Twinkle.”) They can draw pictures for the baby to look at, or can shake rattles for them.
Make sure to teach them some safe ways to interact with the baby. Odds are, they are going to love their new brother and sister and will want to spend time with them. Teach them now how to do so safely, and avoid potential catastrophes later.
Teach Kid #1 Some Independence
Car Seat Buckling/Unbuckling
Now this one very much depends on the age and abilities of your child, but think of how much easier your life would be if you only had to fuss with one set of buckles instead of two. Teaching your child to strap themselves in or to get themselves out of their car seat will save you a ton of time and make errands SO much easier.
Just make sure to do a quality control check before pulling out of the driveway!
Getting Diapers/Throwing Away
You can spend some time making a big fuss about how Big Brother or Sister is SO big and responsible now, and what a great helper they’ll be once the baby comes. Teach them to do simple tasks like getting a diaper or throwing things away before your little one arrives. It’s a great chance to heap on lots of praise and attention, as well as teaching skills that’ll be crazy helpful once you have a newborn.
Putting on Shoes
First things first- throw away any shoes with laces.
Okay, okay, I’m kidding. But only kind of.
Once you have a second child, shoes suddenly become a THING. They need to be taken on and off a million times a day, and now that you’re working with FOUR tiny feet instead of two, it’s bound to get a little harder.
Spend some time during your pregnancy to teach your first child how to get their shoes on and off on their own. Bonus points if you store them somewhere your kiddo can reach them on their own. That way, you’ll only need to focus on getting shoes on yourself and the baby while the older one takes care of themselves.
If your child is not potty trained yet, do NOT attempt to potty train them during the final months of your pregnancy. It’s hard, it’s messy, and it’s a regression waiting to happen. While you might think it’ll make your life easier, the early phases of potty training are a heck of a lot harder than changes another set of diapers.
If you do plan to potty train (Potty Training Humor & Tips for Mamas in the Trenches), make sure you give yourself several months to get potty training well established before Baby #2 arrives. You never know if your child will be one of those easy kids to potty train- or if they won’t be.
Kid-Friendly Snack Area
Your kids are going to be looking for lots of creative ways to get your attention when the new baby comes, and nothing is an easier go-to than asking for a snack. Set up those pre-portioned snacks you prepped in an easy-to-reach location so your toddler can access them on their own.
If your fridge has a water dispenser, you can also store cups within reach and show your child how to fill their cup on their own.
Make sure to set this station up before you have the second baby so that you can work out any growing pains (like constant grazing or trouble opening certain containers) sooner than later.
Keeping Baby #2 Safe
Get a HIGH High Chair
Your priority is to keep everyone safe, and one of the easiest ways to do that is to find a place that baby can rest out of the reach of their older brother or sister.
When Abram was born, I loved this fully adjustable high chair (Graco DuoDiner). It kept him far enough away from his big sister’s curious hands, and had various inclines that kept up with his growth. For bonus points, it was also on wheels, so I could easily move it from the dining room to the kitchen when it was time to prep meals.
ErgoBaby or other Carrier
Even if you didn’t use a carrier with your first child, you’re likely going to be using one a LOT this go-round. I love the Ergo360 for it’s flexibility, but any wrap, sling, or soft-structured carrier will do.
It doesn’t matter which carrier you choose, so long as it works for you. You’re going to want a way to keep baby snuggled in close- even when chasing after their older sibling.
Entertaining Baby #1 While Baby #2 Eats
This is the time to break out those busy bags and activities you’ve prepped. Hide books and toys in the closet now, so that you’ll have something “special” to pull out when the new baby comes. And when all else fails, there is no shame in turning to screen time for a little break.
After all, a little Paw Patrol never hurt anyone, but a baby crying for milk? Yep, that’ll hurt your ears for sure.
Learn to Let Things Go
Lower Your Expectations (For Yourself, For Now)
You can still be supermom if your house is a mess. You can still be the fun activities mom if your kid watches way more TV than you’d like. And you can still be a “baby person” even if your focus isn’t constantly on your newborn.
Things in transition are messy- both literally and figuratively- and you need to be kind when making expectations for yourself. You can only do what you can do, and that’s enough.
Give Yourself Grace
You are going to mess up. Like, a lot of times. You’ll have to choose between your kids sometimes, and it’s going to feel icky. But it’s also going to be okay.
This is a season of near-misses and barely-controlled chaos for many of us, but that doesn’t mean it’ll always be this way. Try to take a deep breath- or ten- and remember that you are a great mom, and that you are doing the very best you can for your kids, your family, and yourself.
Remember- You Only Have One Job. Everything Else is Icing on the Cake.
There is only one requirement you must meet during this phase- keeping everyone safe to the best of your ability. That’s it. That’s the job. So whether you feed them pre-prepped nutritious meals or whether they had skittles for breakfast, remind yourself that you are still meeting the big objective.
If you’ve made it to the end of the day and everyone is still in one piece, pat yourself on the back, mama. That’s all they really NEED. Everything else will fall into place eventually. And you don’t have to be in a big rush to get there.