Second Child on the Way? Are You Ready?
I am so honored to share a guest post today from the incredible Annie of PhD in Parenting. Read more about Annie at the end of this post!
We didn’t think too hard about the timing of our second child. My body and my mind told me the timing was right. The pregnancy was planned and I conceived very quickly after we started trying. The age difference between our children seemed right. We’d allowed the baby to be a baby for as long as he needed, yet they were still close enough together in age that they would be able to play together and have common interests as they grew. We were sure it was time. But that doesn’t mean it was always easy.
I remember a few times when I got panicky. Especially as I wound into the third trimester and was still nursing my two year old son back to sleep. What on earth were we thinking? Or at least that’s how I felt at 3:00am. During the day, I was (mostly) able to take a more rational approach.
If you are pregnant with your second child or are thinking of adding another child, there are some things you may want to think about (ideally not at 3:00am!).
The Birth and Arrival of New Baby
I heard a story once about a couple who decided to surprise their toddler with the birth of their second child. They never gave any explanation for mommy’s growing belly. They had Grannie take the little guy out trick or treating for Halloween and “surprise!” when he got home, he had a little baby brother. It didn’t go well. For that child, who had always been the only child, it probably felt like it would if your husband suddenly brought home a second wife.
I’m a big advocate of preparing your child for the birth. By the time you start showing, it is probably time to start talking. The longer your child has to prepare for the arrival of a new sibling and the more involved they are in the process, the more likely they are to be excited than to feel like the new baby is an intruder.
- Find ideas for preparing your child for the arrival of their sibling, including talking about the new baby, getting a gift from the new baby, making your lap bigger, becoming mommy or daddy’s helper, and multi-tasking tips.
- Find ideas for preparing the older sibling for the birth itself (whether they will be there or not), including explaining pregnancy, talking about the birth, watching human and animal birth videos, telling your children their birth stories, and figuring out your birth plan for your older children (where will they be?).
Where Will Everyone Sleep?
For co-sleeping families, the question of where everyone will sleep can be a big concern. It isn’t safe to have an older child sleeping next to a newborn baby in bed and a lot of parents have concerns about the baby waking up the older child or vice versa.
In our case, it was important for us to still be able to provide a warm and comforting nighttime environment to both of our children. Our motto is “Everyone can have someone to cuddle if they need it. No one has to sleep alone.” However, we weren’t sure we wanted both of them in our bed at the same time. From that perspective, we transferred our son fully to his own bed (a double bed in his room) long before the arrival of the new baby and one of us went to him at night if he needed us rather than the other way around. That way he wouldn’t feel like he was being kicked out because of the new baby. He already had his space and we had our routine long before the baby arrived.
But that is only one option. Other families use an arms-reach co-sleeper or side-carred crib to create space for the baby that is away from the older child. Others put a mattress on the floor in their room for the older child.
- Learn how four different co-sleeping families dealt with the addition of a new baby to their beds.
- Review the guidelines for safer co-sleeping to ensure that you are keeping your family as safe as possible.
- Find out how to side-car a crib.
Tandem Nursing: Yes, No, Maybe?
If you are still breastfeeding when you become pregnant, you may want to think about the possibility of tandem nursing (continuing to nurse your older child while also nursing the newborn).
Some toddlers will wean, others will keep nursing. If you had asked me at the start of my pregnancy or even part way through, I would have thought that my son was going to continue and that I would end up tandem nursing. In the end, he ended up self-weaning when I was about 7.5 months pregnant. There are times when he was having typical two year old meltdowns or when he was very, very busy, that I wished I had nursing as a tool to help him calm down. But it wasn’t meant to be in our case.
If your child doesn’t make the decision for you, then you will have to decide whether you want to tandem nurse. I think it is something that you should decide early in the pregnancy because weaning quickly toward the end of your pregnancy and then suddenly replacing your older child with a newborn at the breast could make them feel displaced and resentful. If you are going to try mother-led weaning, I would do it in the second trimester at the latest.
- Read the Nursing During Pregnancy and Tandem Nursing FAQ by Kelly Bonyata (of kellymom.com) and Hilary Flower (author of Adventures in Tandem Nursing)
- Read how four moms handled the possibility of tandem nursing and read one mom’s tips for moms who decide to tandem nurse.
Dividing Your Attention, Meeting the Needs of Two
I always had my hands full chasing after one child. One of my biggest worries about having a second child was how I would keep up with him, while still meeting the needs of the newborn. Probably the most important thing I learned was how to nurse in a ring sling (…and a wrap, and a mei tai). That meant that I could nurse the baby while still pushing my toddler on the swing at the park. Or I could make him a sandwich while nursing the baby. Ultimately, with a baby who nursed 12+ times per day, it meant that I didn’t constantly have to put my older child on hold.
After our daughter arrived, one of our favourite games became “my two babies.” I would take both kids on my lap and cuddle them and say “my two babies” and give them both kisses and hugs. There were also times when I would put my son up on my back, even though he was a very big boy, so that he didn’t feel left out of the closeness of babywearing.
No matter how hard you try to ensure that your older child is never excluded or pushed aside, I do think it is still important to give each child undivided attention. When the baby was napping solo or when my partner or my mom was taking care of her, I tried to carve out one-on-one time with my son. As much as possible, I made that child-led time, where he was guiding the conversation, choosing the games, and leading the activities. It was an opportunity to make him feel like he was in charge and to give him my undivided attention.
- Get more ideas for one-on-one activities and ways of playing with two children at once.
You Can Do It!
Adding a second child into the mix can seem overwhelming at times, both for the primary caregiver and for the kids. It is really important to find a way for everyone to get a break. I think a healthy combination of family time (everyone together), one-on-one activities, and solo breaks are what will help any family to get through it all and come out on the other end smiling.
There is nothing more rewarding than seeing my two children play and interact happily with each other. Despite some challenging times, it was all doable and is definitely worth it in the end.
Annie has been blogging about the art and science of parenting on the PhD in Parenting Blog since May 2008. She is a social, political and consumer advocate on issues of importance to parents, women and children. She regularly uses her blog as a platform to create awareness and leverage collective empowerment to make a difference in the lives of parents and their children.
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"Second Child on the Way? Are You Ready?"
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