A while ago, I wrote about how the second pregnancy was different from the first.
Now that the baby is here, I can tell you about what it’s like going from one child to two. My son was 16 months when our daughter was born, so he’s still a young toddler.
I have included some tips I found helpful for introducing the toddler to the new baby. This is my personal story as someone with a partner, so if you’re a single mum, you may have a much harder time with two. Here we go…
Introducing our newborn and toddler went better than expected. I made sure I wasn’t holding the baby when my husband brought our son to the hospital to meet her. I gave him a hug and showed her to him. He reached out to pet her hair and gave her a gentle pet on the head. It was incredibly cute.
I decided not to wean my son at one year old (my original goal was to continue breastfeeding until 1). I was already pregnant when he turned 1, and I decided to tandem feed as I thought this would help reduce jealousy and allow them to bond more. Tandem feeding did seem to help, as our son is always coming and wanting the breast whenever he sees me feeding the new baby. When they are both feeding, he will reach over and pet his sister’s head. It also helped to promote strong milk production which is helpful for the new baby.
Be prepared for the days of alternating crying. Once you settle down one, the other starts. A helpful partner will be your biggest blessing. Sometimes I feel like our two have made some kind of agreement to cry in turns.
Be prepared for some regression. Your firstborn may want to do everything their new sibling is doing, including using nappies, bottles, pacifiers, and being held and cuddled whenever the baby is.
Additionally, jealousy. If you have a toddler like me, be prepared for a bit of a love-hate relationship. One moment your toddler can be sweetly petting your newborn, then suddenly they are lashing out. Mixed feelings are normal, but make sure you’re vigilant about any interactions between your toddler and newborn to keep your baby safe. Avoid yelling and scolding, which will only feed the jealousy and rebellious behavior. Your toddler is just expressing a need. He wants to know that you still love him just as much.
The car situation. A small 5 seater with two baby seats in the back means our car won’t fit anyone other than my partner, my kids and myself. Taking out and putting back baby seats is time-consuming and a real hassle. You wont want to do this unless it’s really necessary. We should just forget we even have back seats as we won’t see them again for many years (at least, until we upgrade our car). The middle seat is inaccessible and too small to fit the car seat next to the other one to free up any space. We have a hatchback but can no longer expand the boot by folding the backseat down to make more room. If you’ve got a similar car, and you need to make bulky purchases that you want/need to transport yourself, you should do that before the baby arrives.
Tips for the birth and first days
Make most of the hospital time. In Australia you can have up to 3 days admission for a normal birth. This is covered under medicare. Hopefully, you have your older child in a daycare or preschool (or school) and a partner willing to care for the older child in the couple of days after you give birth. Taking advantage of a couple of nights in the hospital will give you some time to bond with your newborn and establish breastfeeding, before worrying about the sibling relationship, jealousy etc. Your partner can also have some special solo time with the older child before the new baby comes along.
Give your firstborn lots of attention at the first introduction. To avoid the new siblings getting off on the wrong foot, make sure you’re not holding the newborn when they are introduced. Particularly if you have a toddler that’s not speaking and can’t understand the situation as yet. Give the older sibling a cuddle, hold them, give them some love and attention, and THEN show them the new baby.
It’s okay if your firstborn wants to act like a baby. My son, after refusing pacifiers and bottles his entire life, even when he was a newborn, started wanting to use them when he saw his sister with them. This is a bit of jealousy showing through. He sees the new baby getting lots of attention and feels like if he does the same things, he will be able to get some love too. Your potty trained child may want to go back to nappies, and they may want to use a bottle or go back to breastfeeding. Just see this behavior as an expression of a need, and allow it perhaps at specified times. After he has wanted his sister’s pacifier we allow him to have the pacifier at bedtime. I am also tandem feeding to avoid the jealousy over that. Had I weaned him prior to his sister’s birth he would have felt like the baby had ‘stolen’ something from him.
Dont leave your firstborn and newborn alone together. This is generally regardless of age, unless you’ve got a very responsible teen. Remember the relationship between siblings is very different than between a parent and their child. Even teens can lack the maturity to care for a baby or their younger siblings well. With younger children and toddlers in particular, do not leave the child unattended with the newborn even for a minute. They can very quickly do a lot of damage, even unintentionally.
Babywearing is useful. If you’ve found a good baby carrier, you can wear your newborn and get things done, and spend time with your older child without the newborn interfering or interrupting too much. Newborns also like being close to their parents and will generally cry a lot less if they are being worn and close to their mother. Baby wearing has been useful in developing countries for increasing the survival rate of premature and low birthweight babies when the facilities for medical interventions are unavailable. Babywearing, along with breastfeeding and skin to skin, can lower the risk of SIDS.
What are your best tips for baby #2? Let me know in the comments.