Tips for a growing family: hello baby #2

Making the transition from parenting one child to parenting two is tricky – and often how well things go is dependent on the temperament and ages of your two children – here are some tips which have helped us leap into becoming a family of four. I’m far from being an ‘expert’ and I’m very new to this ‘Mum of two’ position, but my oldest daughter was 26 months old when her little sister was born two months ago and we are all still breathing, so I would consider that a success!
Pre baby #2’s arrival:

– Don’t worry about love – right now your first child is the apple of your eye, your entire universe and your heart is consumed with love for them and your partner, so how will you find room for another? You will. The love you have for your first child will not be halved – it will double. And you will feel fit to burst with how joyfully overwhelming that is.

– Encourage independent tasks, like dressing and undressing, and work on really useful skills – things like using a fork, removing a yoghurt lid, putting clothes in the wash bin, etc

– Don’t implement any major changes – if your child is going into a big bed or you want to potty train either do it WAY before the new baby arrives or a while afterwards, when everyone is more settled (we decided to wait to potty train to avoid regressions and will be making the move to a ‘big girl bed’ this Christmas)

– Teach your toddler to wait for things by not jumping to every request immediately

– As much as you can, encourage your little one to learn key words to help them let you know what they need (hungry, thirsty, food, drink, poo, potty, etc)

– Try to teach your toddler the importance of safety in potentially tricky situations – holding hands near the road, for example and that ‘STOP’ is a serious request

– Read books together about becoming an older sibling

– Take a trip to the shops so your toddler can buy your baby a ‘welcome’ gift – then steer them away from chainsaws, knives, matches, etc

– Encourage independent play

– Freeze extra portions of healthy home-cooked meals so your toddler can eat well even if you are reaching for the takeaway menus while you adjust to life with a baby again

– Make a list of everything you will need to put in your changing bag when you leave the house with both children and stick it to the fridge

– Consider buying a buggy board or double pushchair (our daughter showed no interest in her pushchair the whole way through my pregnancy but then wanted to sit down when she saw her baby sister doing it, so we bought a double pushchair and it is a GODSEND)

– Do a couple of online food shops, then if you don’t feel too confident about the supermarket or can’t manage the heavy stuff you have access to supplies without even leaving the house
The big intro:

– Lower your expectations – your toddler might indeed gaze lovingly into their new baby sibling’s eyes – or they might yell “I DON’T LIKE IT! PUT IT BACK!!!” – neither reaction is a prediction of your children’s future relationship

– Buy a gift from your baby to give to your toddler when they meet (this was a doll, for our oldest daughter from her baby sister)

– Try not to be holding the baby when they first meet, they will want to see you first and foremost and can then be gently introduced to your new baby

– Don’t push your oldest child to show an interest, let them do things in their own time

– Try not to put words into their mouth or ask leading questions, e.g ‘You love your new little sister, don’t you??’

– It really helped us to have their introduction at the hospital and then we travelled home together for the first time as a family of four

– Ask visitors to get your toddler to introduce them to their new sibling when they first arrive, rather than making a beeline for the baby
Post baby #2’s arrival:

– Don’t be fooled – our toddler was FINE for about a week and a half. THEN the attention-seeking started 😬

– Be sure to show your toddler that the baby is having to wait for things too

– If your baby is fussy/has colic, use a baby carrier to free your hands and settle them at testing times of the day

– Involve your oldest child as much as possible, they might enjoy being a helper with things like bath time and choosing clothes, etc

– Buy your toddler their own ‘baby’ so that they can look after theirs while you tend to your newborn

– Don’t be tempted to say ‘You’re a big girl/boy now…’ – they haven’t grown up overnight, even though it might seem like they have

– Remind yourself that your oldest child is still a baby too, and try to be patient, despite your sleep deprivation

– Expect your toddler to want to be ‘babied’ and oblige with kindness

– While your toddler still naps, nap when they do if your newborn is also sleeping, if your toddler stops napping (after you stop drinking!) encourage them to have 30-60 minutes of ‘quiet time’ at the same time every day, to give yourself some relief

– When your baby reaches 8 weeks ish, start to work on a routine – bedtime is a good place to start. Put your baby down after a bath/wash, pyjama change and bottle at the same time each evening, working around your toddler’s bedtime – for us this worked best by bathing/getting night clothes on alongside each other and then staggering bedtimes – so our toddler has a quiet play and a drink of milk while our baby gets put in bed, then we can do her teeth and story when the baby is asleep (we plan to alter this once our baby is older, to have a bedtime story together)

– Accept that you won’t achieve the perfect balance straight away – a newborn is very needy, you won’t be able to split your attention 50/50 – in fact it’s better to strive for time together with your children rather than time with each of them independently for now, you are a family after all and will live in hope that they will play together one day soon

– Make time for your oldest child even if it’s only a short amount of time, but use it wisely and make sure they know this is your special time and if the household jobs really can’t wait, try to involve your toddler as much as you can in these

– Allow yourself LOTS of time to leave the house when you are venturing out with both children. Like LOTS

– Make your peace with Peppa: the TV isn’t your worst enemy and children can learn a lot from watching the right things on TV for short bursts every now and again

– Try to prepare your oldest child pre-baby feeds by asking if they need anything (a drink, a snack, clean bum/toilet) and gently warn them that you won’t be available for a few minutes while you feed their baby brother/sister

– Don’t become a recluse – even if it’s cold outside, get out in the garden or go for a walk to the park. Your toddler will relish the fresh air and so will you

– Give lots of praise to your oldest child, and maybe try a reward chart if they are struggling with things/their behaviour takes a nose-dive

– Highlight some of the benefits of being the older sibling (e.g ‘The baby can’t do X, Y, Z because they are only small – but you can!!’)

– Laugh. A lot. And appreciate the little things – toddlers are hilarious!

– Try to enjoy this new chapter of madness in your lives – or you might blink and miss it!
And finally – be kind to yourself, you just had a baby. I’m sure the next weeks, months & years will present WAY more challenges to us and our girls as they grow up alongside each other but with hearts full of love we will face them together, as a family of four 👨‍👩‍👧‍👧❤️


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