The happiness and love that your first baby brought into your life is beyond measure,
and now you're expecting another child. Preparing can be as rewarding and special
as the first time.
But you'll have some different things to consider as you await your second child,
even though you've been through pregnancy and childbirth
before. Being aware of the changes to come — and helping your older
child understand what to expect — is the
best way to prepare for this joyous event.
What Will Change?
Having a second child and handling two kids can be a bit overwhelming at first.
Getting organized before the baby is born is your best bet, even though that might
You'll be busier, and your once organized schedule might be stretched to the limit. You might tire more easily, even before the baby is born,
since caring for your older child while you're pregnant takes a lot of energy.
After the birth, expect the first 6 to 8 weeks to
be particularly demanding. You'll be trying to get your infant on a feeding and sleeping schedule while
handling your older child's needs.
One positive change that a second child brings is an increased confidence in your
own abilities, knowledge, and experience. The things that seemed so difficult with
your first child — breastfeeding, changing diapers, handling illness —
will seem like second nature now instead of a crisis.
How Will It Affect Me?
Bringing home a new baby will affect you in many ways — some physically and
Physically, you are likely to be
sore and very tired after
delivery, particularly if you had a difficult birth or C-section.
This makes late-night feeding sessions tough, especially if you have decided to breastfeed.
Getting help from a postpartum doula (a woman trained to care for mother and baby
during the first couple of weeks after delivery) or
baby nurse (a newborn care expert) during the day can let you catch up on much-needed
rest and sleep.
Emotionally, don't be surprised if you feel concerned about bonding with your baby. You
might worry about whether you'll have just as much love for your new arrival as you
do for your older child. You will — as moms and dads often report, a parent's
love somehow doubles when another child is born.
Are you feeling a little sad? The "baby
blues" can be scary, but you don't have to go it alone. Talk to your doctor if
you have feelings of depression. It's important to differentiate between the baby
blues, which usually will pass in a few weeks, and postpartum
depression, a serious disorder that can lead to mood and sleep problems if untreated.
If you begin to feel very depressed or anxious, or have thoughts about harming yourself
or your baby, get help from your doctor immediately.
You can expect to have little or no time for yourself during the first few
months following delivery. Sleepless nights and everyday tensions can be overwhelming,
so be sure to make "alone time" a priority. Even a few hours out of the house
by yourself can help you feel calmer and more relaxed.
Likewise, you and your partner will notice that you're rarely spending time alone
together, so be sure to have an occasional date once things settle down.
Helping Your Older Child Adjust
Your first child may have a range of emotions, from excitement to jealousy or even
resentment. Younger toddlers, who can't verbalize their feelings, might regress to
earlier behaviors — like thumb-sucking, wanting to drink from a bottle,
forgetting their recent potty training skills, and using baby talk to get your attention.
Older toddlers and kids might express their feelings by testing your patience,
misbehaving, throwing tantrums,
or refusing to eat. These problems are usually short-lived, and a little preparation
can help an older child adjust to the idea of welcoming
a new sibling.
Focus on the important role an older sibling plays. Some tips to try:
Let your older child help pick out items for the new baby's room. This is particularly
important if your kids will share a bedroom.
Find a special gift that your older child can give to the baby, such as a new
book or toy, or a photo of the sibling for the baby's room. Consider picking out something
for your older child, too, like a special "big kid" chair he or she can sit in while
you feed the baby. You also could have a small gift ready from the baby for your older
Arrange special time just for you and your older child. This might involve a trip
to the library or grocery store, or simply reading a few extra stories at bedtime.
Your partner, a family member, or a friend can help you by caring for the baby during
Role-play or read stories that will help your child understand what's happening
in the family. Books written just for toddlers about growing families are available.
Check a local bookstore or ask your librarian for specific titles.
Talk about what to expect when the baby comes home. Explain that a newborn cries,
sleeps, and needs a lot of diaper changes. Assure your older child that although the
baby needs lots of attention, there will still be plenty of time and love for him
Reinforce your older child's role in the family, saying that he or she will be
the "big brother/sister" to the new baby, and help your child enjoy this new role.
Think of ways that your child can be a part of the baby's care. Your oldest might
get a diaper or a burp cloth when you need it, help pick out the baby's clothes
for the day, or even dance around in front of the baby when your newborn is cranky.
Maybe your child could come to a prenatal visit or watch an ultrasound.
If you're giving birth in a hospital setting, ask about sibling visitation after the
baby is born.
The arrival of a new baby brings big changes to older kids, so you might want to
hold off on introducing others. This is probably not the best time to start toilet
teaching, to transition from bottle to cup, or to enroll your child in a program
that means separation from you for the first time. Consistency will help make
your child's adjustment easier.
Siblings play a very special role in a new baby's life, so don't leave your older
child out of the decision-making. So much attention is given to a newborn, making
it easy for older kids to feel overlooked. Reassure yours by encouraging his
or her help in the preparations.
Tips to Help You Cope
To help manage the added responsibilities of a second child, try these tips before
the big day comes:
Stock the house with quick, easy dinners. If you feel up to cooking, make double
portions and freeze them. Finding the energy will be harder after the baby is born.
Keep some menus of takeout food restaurants handy, including a few that deliver.
Consider reorganizing your laundry system using one hamper per family member or
a basket for each child so it's easier to sort and fold clothing. Laundry is usually
the biggest complaint of new parents — it seems to triple when another child
arrives, so now is the time to prepare.
If possible, use items you already have (or that family members can share) rather
than buying all new things. As long as they meet current safety standards, hand-me-downs
such as cribs, bassinets,
chairs, and clothes can help save time and money.
Stock the car with a diaper bag filled with all the needed extras so you'll always
be prepared. Many parents keep a toy bag in the car for older kids and a diaper bag
with diapers, wipes, a change of clothes, and an extra blanket for the baby.
Keep a book or toy bin handy in your bedroom, family room, and even the bathroom
or laundry room, to keep kids busy for a few precious moments while you're feeding
or bathing the baby, or doing chores.
Ask a family member to spend time with you right after the baby's birth, if you
feel comfortable doing so. Not only will he or she enjoy it, but you'll be able to
get some much-needed rest.
If possible, have a housekeeping service come in once a week for the first month
or two to help you with chores.
Look to your community or place of worship for support. Many programs and classes
are available that offer activities and social support for families with young kids.
Don't forget to take care of your own needs. Pamper yourself, even if it's something
as simple as a haircut or a bath with candles and music to help you relax after a
Give everyone a little time to get used to the "new reality" of life with a second
child. Then, you can all celebrate the many joys of your larger family.