Becoming a mother is one of the most incredible and hardest transitions you can go through in life. But when it comes to adding a second baby to the family, people often underestimate how monumental of a shift that can be too. I’m only three months into this mama-of-two gig, and I’ve already been surprised at what a big change this has been, and how much I’ve learned in the process. So with that in mind, today I wanted to share a few valuable lessons that I hope to pass along to any other mothers in my life who are expecting their second baby. Check them out below…
1. Go easy on yourself.
I know what you’re thinking, mama. It’s not your first rodeo. This time, you know what you’re doing. You know how to change a diaper, breast or bottle feed, and soothe a crying baby. And as an experienced mother with all those hours of parenting under your belt, you have higher expectations for yourself. You’re no stranger to the constant juggling that goes along with having a family—cooking, cleaning, a career, a relationship, bedtime, bath time, meal times, after school schedules and everything in between. You’ve done it for a while now, and you’ve gotten rather good at it. But while that’s all true, try to keep in mind that adding a second baby still means a giant shift in your family dynamic. Just like when you were first thrust into motherhood, it will take time to find your new rhythm. Don’t be too hard on yourself if things feel majorly chaotic for a while. That’s normal. And just like last time, I promise it will get easier.
2. Call in the troops.
If you thought you needed an extra set of hands the first time around, this time you will want at least two extra sets! At the very beginning, you’ll be recovering from childbirth—only this time you’ll have a fully mobile toddler or older child to look after, in addition to a baby. And even once you have recovered physically, having some help will often be what saves your sanity. Whether that means calling upon your own mother, a friend, family member, nanny, or other trusted caregiver, make sure you and your family have plenty of help during this transition. Once you are a few weeks in, you will start to find it easier to care for two children at once. But at the beginning, my best advice is to say yes anytime someone offers to bring by a meal or help entertain your older child for an hour. And if they don’t offer, ask.
And along those same lines, if you need to give your older kiddo a little extra screen time those first few weeks, do yourself a favor and don’t feel guilty about it. We went from almost no screen time at all to having it be a daily occurrence with my toddler for a few weeks—and at first that made me feel like a bad mother. But you know what? She loved it! And it made my life a lot easier to have her easily entertained for that hour each day.
3. Make time for your firstborn, your partner, and yourself.
Newborn babies require round the clock care. There’s no getting around that. So making any real amount of time for anyone but baby may sound like an impossibility at first. But keep trying.
Find ways to spend time with just your older kiddo whenever you can. Keep in mind that in a single instant your firstborn went from always getting your undivided attention to having to share it—and that’s not easy. For the first few weeks, the sheer amount of time that my newborn spent nursing meant that my older daughter would mostly hang out with daddy while I cared for the baby. But after a while, that really started weighing on me. Slowly, my husband and I have been working to make sure our older daughter gets more one-on-one time with me too, and that he is able to spend quality time with her baby brother. Our new baby is not a huge fan of the bottle, so it’s been a challenge. But until that changes, I’ve still been able to sneak out for quick ice cream dates or park play dates with our daughter in between nursing sessions—and that time together is so important to both of us.
The same goes for you and your spouse. While a full-scale date night might not be in the cards for a few weeks or even months, make sure you are spending some quality time with your partner whenever possible. Sit together and enjoy a cup of tea before turning in for the night. Try to chat about something other than your kids for 10 minutes a day. My husband and I snuck out for 30-minute chair massages recently while my mother was watching the kiddos, and even that short amount of time alone together gave us a nice chance to reconnect and relax.
And lastly, try to sneak in some ‘me time’ too. It’s true that time is hard to come by during your first few months as a new mother of two, but it’s amazing what a mani/pedi or a yoga class can do for your spirits. A short hour or two away from your babies is often all the time you need to come back reenergized, with a fresh perspective on life and motherhood. So enough with the mama guilt—just do it, and enjoy yourself. These moments to yourself will make you a better mother.
4. Get your big kid excited about the baby.
There’s often no predicting how an older child will react to a new baby. And there’s only so much control you have over the situation. But if you can get your older child excited about the baby, that will make everything easier on the whole family.
Luckily, my older daughter simply adores her new baby brother—which is beyond sweet to watch and such a relief to my husband and me. We did a few things that I think contributed to this, starting with being very honest with her about what to expect. When I was pregnant, we tried to get her excited about being a big sister, of course. But we also had many conversations about how babies need a lot of attention at first, how they cry a lot, and how she might have to wait while we changed his diaper or fed him. That way, when he came along and she was no longer getting our undivided attention 24/7, it wasn’t as big of a shock to her.
Including the baby in her existing routine has also been a game changer. It was harder the first few weeks, but once we were able to start bathing them together, having baby brother listen in on story time, or having him be the smiling audience to his big sister’s puppet show, my older daughter really started doting on him. She’s so excited to have a little buddy hanging around with her, doing what she likes to do, even if he’s not super interactive at this point!
If you’re a mama of two or more, I’d love to hear your advice too.
Please share any tips of your own in the comments.
P.S. If you’re a first-time mom, here are 10 great pieces of advice for brand new mamas.
Photo: Stephanie Todaro Photography