When your first baby is born, you’re hit with the relentless burden of healing from birth and caring for a newborn around the clock, on no sleep. It can be brutally difficult and a huge adjustment even for the most prepared mom.
But by the time baby #2 rolls around, there’s a certain degree of confidence that you’ve gained. I’ve done this before. I know what to expect. I can handle this. And just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, the second baby comes. And things start to get reeeeeeal interesting.
You realise very quickly that baby + toddler does not mean doing the newborn stage all over again. It means doing the newborn stage all over again with a toddler hanging onto your leg or trying to hold said baby. It’s not for the faint of heart.
What to expect with baby #2?
You’re now torn between two schedules: your toddler/preschooler and your newborn. You don’t have the luxury of following your newborn’s schedule (ie napping when he naps) because your toddler is coloring on the walls with crayons or flushing his toy cars down the toilet then. By the time bedtime comes around, you’re so exhausted that the thought of doing any work at all to improve your newborn’s sleep seems exhausting and simply out of reach.
The room setup isn’t as simple. You may not have enough bedrooms for everyone to have their own room. You may end up keeping your second baby in your bedroom longer than you would have anticipated or struggle with room sharing when the two kids join together.
Most of the time, big siblings act out in the months after the arrival of a new baby. Flippantly referred to as the New Baby Bed Bounce, it’s very common for toddlers to fight sleep once they realise that the new baby is staying here permanently. This can mean nap strikes, bedtime battles, or 4am wakings. This can be another huge hurdle to deal with on top of the newborn stress.
You’re less concerned with being the perfect parent this time- you know your best is enough and you can do this.
You have more confidence this time around. You’ve seen the weird things that newborns do and know how resilient they are. Facial twitches and blue toes don’t freak you out like they did the first time around.
You’ve given your firstborn a friend for life- what better gift could you give your child?!
You know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel this time. With a first baby, there’s no telling when the sleep deprivation will end. But once the second one comes around, you know that things settle down after the newborn stage- and if they don’t, there are resources that can help you. This is a very temporary stage.
When possible, delay your toddler’s nap until your newborn is ready for his next nap so that they can nap at the same time and you can get an hour of peace and quiet to yourself.
Accept as much help as you can. If no one offers, swallow your pride and ask a relative or neighbour to take your toddler for an hour so you can nap while the baby naps (or even take a shower for crying out loud!)
Keep perspective- on the really hard days, remind yourself “this is a stage. All kids grow up. It’s temporary. It will pass.”
To help your toddler process the experience of being dethroned from the Royal Only Child position, tell friends and family that the new baby is his. Introduce the new baby “this is George, Ryan’s baby.” Let the toddler make inconsequential decisions about the baby, like which colour pyjamas the baby should wear or which song the mobile should play.
Great tip from Louise- I remember a great tip that I got before I had my second was to prepare a “breastfeeding box” which were a few different activities that my toddler had to keep him busy while I breastfed the newborn and he could only get them out when I was feeding.
If you do have two kids room together, using white noise will be a HUGE help. White noise will block out normal sleep sounds like sighs, grunts, sniffles and moans and might very well prevent a nighttime waking that would otherwise have turned into a painful affair.
Stagger bedtimes. Put the deeper sleeper to bed first and then start bedtime with the lighter sleeper. This can look like putting the baby down for the night at 7:00pm and only then starting on your toddler’s bath. Do pyjamas and story time in the hallway, and by 7:20pm, put the toddler to bed. If your toddler is no longer napping and needs to go to sleep early, reverse this. Put the baby in the bouncer while you do bedtime with your toddler, and put the baby in 20 minutes later.
If you want to sleep train the new baby but are afraid of it waking your toddler, you can always move your older kiddo into your bedroom for a few nights while you sleep train the new baby in their bedroom. Once the new baby is sleeping well, move the toddler back in.
Things won’t look like they did when you had your first. Instead of coming home to a pristine house with a perfectly prepped nursery, you’ll probably come home to a sea of scattered toys and cookie crumbs all over the house- and your toddler may have coloured on the nursery walls. While this is no easy transition, it does get easier with time. And look at the bright side- you’re not outnumbered yet. With three kids, it’s a whole different ballgame.