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going from one to two…

June 7, 2011

A few weeks back, in a swollen ankle moment, I realized just how soon our second child would, Lord willing, be born.  I was sitting in bed with both feet propped up on pillows and a bag of frozen peas on each ankle, all in the hopes of helping my body look a little less Nutty Professor. Sadly, my efforts were in vain.

I am fortunate to have a number of friends who have more children than I do, and at one time or another, I can recall almost all of them telling me how different things are in preparing for your second child versus your first.  I didn’t fully understand what they meant until now.

With your first baby, it feels as though you have all the time in the world until your little one arrives (through birth or adoption), so you can easily fill up your days thinking, dreaming, praying, planning, registering, decorating, shopping, being showered, interviewing doulas, touring the hospital, and taking birthing classes.

However, with your second baby (and I’m assuming this is even more true with your third, fourth…), you are doing good if you remember to install the infant car seat and clean out a dresser drawer for the baby to sleep in.  Or is this just me?

Feeling my lack of preparedness and the clock ticking a little too fast, I decided to open up my computer (feet still propped up and all!) and write these more seasoned friends of mine to seek some advice for how to prepare myself and family for our second child.  I entitled my e-mail, “Going from one to two…” and I had four main questions in mind:

  1. What are some ways I can help my oldest child adjust to his new little sibling?
  2. What advice do you have for balancing two different schedules for two different kids?
  3. How did you manage getting out of the house and running errands with two little ones?
  4. What, if any, purchases should I plan to make to prepare for a second child?

I am beyond blessed (down right spoiled, honestly) when it comes to the wise and helpful friends God has placed in my life.  The feedback and encouragement they gave me was invaluable.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading all about the many different ways my friends have come up with balancing two children.  A common theme throughout each e-mail was, “Give yourself a lot of grace in the beginning, be brave, and work hard, it will get easier…. and more fun!” 

For those of you who are (or will be one day) adding more children to your family… I wanted to pass along some of the tips and advice my friends shared with me in hopes that you might be helped as well (and, of course, I’m sure this advice could also apply when adding your third, fourth, or fifth child…).

1.) What are some ways I can help my oldest child adjust to his new little sibling?

  • Set up pack & play or bassinet early and talk to your child about how their new baby brother/sister will be sleeping in this bed.
  • Have your child “help” you organize the baby’s clothes before they arrive.  Ask them to help you put away any new diapers, wipes, and toys.
  • Pray for and talk about the new baby often, perhaps buy a Big Brother or Big Sister book.
  • Have your child sing to, read books to, hug on, and kiss your pregnant belly.
  • As much as possible, make room for both children on your lap and try to include your oldest in caring for their little sibling.
  • Provide your oldest child with a doll or teddy bear to care for while Mommy is feeding the baby. Girls especially love this!
  • Have a special basket of toys or activities for your oldest child that you pull out only when Mommy is feeding the baby.
  • Teach your child that Mommy has two children to care for, so when your oldest becomes fussy or anxious over Mommy’s attention, you can gently ask (remind!) them…“How many babies does Mommy have?”
  • If possible, try and introduce “major” life changes to your oldest child before the baby is born (toddler bed, potty-training, no pacifier, etc.).  This way they won’t associate those changes with the baby’s arrival.
  • Let your child spend time around other newborn babies and talk to them about how “Mommy and Daddy will be bringing their new brother/sister home from the hospital with them.”
  • Schedule some uninterrupted one-on-one time with your oldest child every day.

2.) What advice do you have for balancing two different schedules for two different kids?

  • Prioritize keeping your oldest child’s schedule the same as possible.  Same bedtime, nap-time, and meal/snack/play routines.
  • Give the baby 4-6 weeks to learn how to eat/sleep well, not worrying about a schedule, just maintaining your oldest child’s routine.
  • Nap schedules won’t completely line-up until the youngest child drops his/her morning nap and they each have one afternoon nap.
  • If possible, nap your children in separate rooms since nap-time sleep can be more easily disturbed.
  • If possible, try and use your children’s nap-times to have one-on-one time with each child and some alone time with both children sleeping.  While Child #1 naps, Mommy can have one-on-one time with Child #2. Then put Child #2 down for a nap, so Mommy can have some alone time.  While child #2 is still napping, Mommy can then have one-on-one time with Child #1 when he wakes up.

3.) How did you manage getting out of the house and running errands with two little ones?

  • Prepare as much as you can the night before: pack diaper bags, lay out clothes, fill up snack/water cups and store in fridge.
  • Start with short errands (30 minutes) first and then work your way up to longer errands as time goes on.
  • To make trips quicker, have a detailed list with the items you need to pick up at the store.
  • Have a well-stocked diaper bag or tote that stays in your car at all times: diapers, wipes, extra clothes, snacks, water bottles, etc.
  • For bigger (grocery) trips, put toddler in the grocery cart seat and wear the infant in a baby carrier.  For smaller trips, put toddler in the grocery cart seat and the infant car seat in the main basket. When the infant is able to sit up on his/her own, put them in the large grocery carts that have double seats.
  • Allow yourself a 15-minute cushion before you have to be out of the house for church, etc.
  • Save baths for nighttime.
  • Wake up early and get yourself ready first, then get everything else organized and prepped before the kids wake up.
  • Have both kids clothed, fed, and dry before leaving the house.
  • Try and time errands to work well with naps and to coincide with snack-time, this way you can keep your kids happy and occupied with snacks while shopping.
  • Leave groceries in the trunk while you get both kids out of the car and settled inside. Put the infant in a bouncy seat or swing and strap the toddler into his highchair and feed him lunch while you are unloading the groceries.
  • If it is an errand that you truly need to have more focused attention, leave the kids at home with dad in the evenings.

4.) What, if any, purchases should I plan to make to prepare for a second child?

  • Double stroller.
  • Try and move your toddler from any infant equipment into toddler equipment as soon as possible so that you don’t have to buy the same thing twice (car seat, crib, highchair, stroller, etc.).
  • Video monitor, if you are worried about your toddler “caring” for the baby when you aren’t looking.

One of the most helpful bits of advice that I received was from my friend, Mandy.  I’m going to quote her here and maybe her words will encourage you as well, I loved this…

“One of the biggest lessons I keep re-learning as a parent is that I set the tone for my children.  If I am exhausted, frazzled, stressed, etc, it shows up in my parenting.  So, doing things to nurture my own body and soul are not selfish, but LOVING towards my family.  If you have time, I would consider figuring out your top two or three things that you & Joe will prioritize to help keep you healthy & functional as a parent in the early months (time in the Word, babysitter, daily shower, coffee with a friend, airfare for TX reinforcements, etc. etc.)”

Would any of you other seasoned mothers out there like to contribute any advice?  My feet are still swollen and propped up as I write this, and I am still eager to receive any additional advice for the big transition that is just around the corner!

One Comment leave one →
  1. Becky Crowell permalink
    June 8, 2011 11:27 am

    Jenny, that was really thoughtful of you to share the great advice you received! Thanks! I will definitely save it for future reference.

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