I was a young mom with my daughter, and it sometimes seemed like it was us against the world. She was by my side throughout my entire college experience and even walked across the stage with me at graduation. For nine whole years, we were a family of three. Back then, I thought that I could never possibly want more children, nor did I have any desire to add to our little family dynamic. We were perfect just as we were.
When I was in graduate school, I suddenly decided that I wanted more kids. We welcomed Colin in October of 2013, two months before my daughter's 9th birthday. We then welcomed Graham in February 2016, about 28 months after Colin. Going from one to two children was an interesting experience for me, first going from one to two with a larger age gap, and then again with a small gap.
So many moms reach out to us here at The Ollie World and ask how they can prepare for this monumental change. They express fear and anxiety over the unknown – are they going to forever ruin their family dynamic? Will they be enough for both of their children? All of these feelings are not only common, but they're healthy. From my experiences as a now veteran mama of a teen, almost kindergartener, and toddler, I wanted to take the time to share my best parenting hacks, tips, and tricks for going from one children to two. If you're about to experience this shift in your family dynamic, I hope these help!
1. Keep your first child's routine in place. Does your first child attend preschool or daycare? Many parents think about pulling their older child when the baby is born in order to save money, but I strongly recommend reconsidering this if you can. You'll be incredibly grateful for your child's consistent routine and for the break to adjust to new parenthood all over again. Plus, your child is going to be enduring some major changes, too! Having him or her at preschool or daycare is a little piece of consistency to help make adjusting to the new baby that much easier.
2. Have your village ready to go. If you're breastfeeding, don't wait until there's a problem to begin finding a lactation consultant. You'll be in a state of exhaustion, and it will feel very overwhelming. Have a journal or digital notepad that lists the full contact information of your support system: doula, midwife, lactation consultant, babysitter, etc. before baby is born. That way, you have them at your fingertips when and if you need them. If you are breastfeeding, I highly recommend having a few lactation consultants on this list that you can reach right out to if need be. I always recommend seeing IBCLCs, and make sure you chat with the consultants to learn their policies on fees and insurance so there aren't any surprises.
3. Get your home ready for baby. Don't go too crazy, but do have a few specific preparations in place to help with the transition. First, have a couple safe baby spots on every floor of your home to put baby down in rooms you use the most, such as the family room or playroom. This can be a pack and play, play mat, etc. but just make sure these spaces are ready in case you need to set down your new baby to tend to your older child. Have little baskets of essentials like wipes, diapers, and pacifiers at various stations, too, so you won't ever have to run and search for anything. Plan ahead for your next day's errands when baby arrives, and pack the diaper bag the night before you head out. Keep emergency stashes of diapers, wipes, pacifiers, nursing covers, and other day-to-day items in your car, just in case. This has saved me more times than I care to admit.
3. Enlist postpartum support before baby arrives. As a former OB/GYN Nurse Educator, we learned during our education that a lack of postpartum support has an extreme impact on mom's mental health and her ability to develop postpartum depression or anxiety. Talk to your friends and family members to see who can be there to support you after baby, even if that means just coming over to hold the baby while you shower. If it's in your budget, consider hiring a postpartum doula or taking things off your plate like cooking and groceries with deliveries or subscriptions like Hello, Fresh.
4. Have a stash of freezer meals. When you're an exhausted mom of two, the last thing on your or your partner's mind is going to be what to make for dinner. It's different when you're a new mom of one, because you can scrounge up anything since baby isn't eating solids yet. With a second child, though, you now have the added responsibility of feeding a little one in the midst of that new mom exhaustion. I highly recommend having a small stash of homemade freezer meals that you prepare beforehand or ask people to help prepare for you. Keep it simple and stick post-it notes on each meal that explains heating instructions. For example: Baked Ziti, Heat at 350 for 30 minutes. Voila! Takeout can get pricy, so this is a more cost effective and healthier alternative.
5. Expect behavioral changes from your first child. Remember that it's a huge adjustment on them, too; they have been the center of your world for however many years, and it's going to be a little tough to share you and your partner. Some kids act out at home, while others develop some behavioral issues at school. Some regress when it comes to new milestones or independence that they've recently achieved, such as potty training, while others transition very smoothly. Expect some hiccups, just in case!
6. Anticipate the moments of chaos. I remember the first time that both of my boys were crying for me at once. My third child was about a month old, and I was sitting in the rocking chair trying to console him when my two year old suddenly began wailing for me, too. I held both of them in the rocking chair as we all sobbed together. It's worth repeating – EXPECT the moments of chaos, because they are inevitable. Here's how to deal with them: first, take a deep breath. This too shall pass. Second, prioritize your kids' needs. Is someone hurt or unsafe? Tend to that child first. Don't be afraid to put the baby down to attend to the needs of your older child. If you lay him or her in a safe place, it's ok to step away for a couple minutes. Repeat it to yourself as many times as you need to hear it: in just a few minutes, this moment will be over.
7. Work your new baby around your current schedule. With your first child, you are often home for those crib naps and completely structure life around their schedule. Now, your little one is likely on the go with you and your older child, so don't be afraid to work baby #2's schedule around your first. Embrace the car naps and don't be afraid to nurse in a play place while your older child expends some energy. It's all about survival!
8. Prepare for less sleep and down time – and don't be afraid to turn on the TV. When your first baby sleeps, you had the luxury of downtime. Now, you will likely have the new baby to manage. This is one of the reasons I suggest keeping your older child in preschool or daycare, because you will get more of that much needed downtime. To help prepare for times that I needed a break, I created a "busy basket" filled with workbooks, play-doh, an etch-a-sketch, coloring books, and other fun, new toys that my oldest had never seen. That way, when I needed to nurse or just get something done for a few minutes without being disturbed, I brought out the busy basket and had him sit at the table while I finished my tasks. I also fully admit that the iPad and cartoons made an appearance quite a bit those first few months as a mom of two closer in age. There's no shame in that! Don't be afraid to turn on the TV or bribe your older child with a new iPad game. Your sanity is important, and everyone will survive!
10. Strive to streamline your kids' routines. Initially, newborn schedules are unpredictable and it will seem next to impossible to get both kids on the same schedule. Slowly work up to having them do things together – like bathing, napping, and bedtime – as much as possible. I remember the first night that we successfully bathed our boys together, I almost cried tears of joy. Giving one bath was much easier than two. Our boys are two years apart, and now that they're 2 and 4, they have the same nap and bedtime schedules about 90% of the time. It took time to work up to it, but it was worth it.
9. The Baby Carrier is your BFF. I don't think I would have survived those first six months as a mom of two littles without my Tula. When my toddler wanted to play, I threw the baby in the carrier and took off after him. It made shopping trips and grocery store runs bearable, too, especially because I was able to avoid the hassle of lugging a stroller Sometimes I'd wear him to get jobs done around the house or simply when I was playing in the playroom with his older brother. If you don't have a baby carrier, I highly recommend one!
10. Make sure you get out! It seems scary, but make sure you're leaving the house at least every couple days. In fact, try to do it daily. Even if it's just to go to the park and have a picnic together, you will feel so much more like a person if you aren't holed up in your home with a newborn and another child who is dying to expend some energy. Remember our tips above? Bring that baby carrier and have the diaper bag ready to go, and you'll get out of the house much faster!
11. Take time to meet your needs. Do you need to pee? Go. Are you thirsty and dying for a soda? Stop and snag one. Do you need to make a phone call? Step away for a moment and do it. It's ok if someone (or more than one someones) is crying! Everyone will survive, and it is absolutely essential that you practice self-care more than ever during this time.
12. Take time for your relationship, too. Remember that you and your partner need alone time, too, even if that alone time looks like a picnic on your living room floor the first night both kids are successfully in bed at the same time. Try to go on date nights as much as possible, even if they're only an hour just to get out of the house for a bit.
The transition from one to two can admittedly be a bit scary, but with some preparations and tips, you will rock it. Hopefully these tips can help ease the transition and give you the confidence you need as you prepare for your newest little one.
About The Author:
Jessica is a Boston girl turned Austinite as of 2016. She is a wife to Kyle and mama to Hayley (2004), Colin (2013), and Graham (2016). Though she misses many things about the East Coast, she absolutely cannot complain about the active, taco-infused lifestyle of Texas. She is a former OB/GYN Nurse Educator turned digital media agency owner and lifestyle photographer over at Jessica Rockowitz Photography. When she's not busy behind the lens, you can catch her caffeinating, desperately trying to find a cheer carpool, and obsessing over microfashion. You can also follow her antics over on Instagram, where she admittedly spends way too much time.