Your world was most likely turned on its head when you brought your first baby home. Your identity stripped from you as you fumbled through learning to parent and wondering if you will ever sleep in blocks of longer then 3 hours at a time again! By the time you bring home baby number 2, particularly when you already have a little one at home, it is all about being practical.
Here are 20 suggestions and tips to make the transition from 1 to 2 a little smoother, when your eldest is still little. It comes from my personal experience of having 2 under 2, along with input from other ParraParents mums in a similar boat.
1Shower before your partner leaves for work
Everything is easier if you’ve had a shower! If you feel better about yourself by putting on lip gloss and mascara then take the minute to ‘treat yourself’.
2Always plan for what’s ahead
Children have great timing. Baby and toddler often need an urgent nappy change just as you are trying to leave the house. Reduce those stress levels slightly by having bags packed ready to go early in the morning or even the night before.
Another way to be organised ahead of time, is to lay out everyone’s clothes in advance. And to have a tub in the car with spares of the essentials, like a change of clothes for the kids, nappies, breast pads, bib and wipes.
3Accept and ask for help
If a friend wants to come over to meet the baby and asks if they can bring something, say “Yes! Can you please pick up morning tea/ milk/ toilet paper/ older child from day care/ tissues/ a magazine/ lactation cookies/ chocolates/ wine”? Or get them to change a nappy 😉
This is likely to be one of the hardest times in your life so it might be worth investing some money to save your own sanity. Keep the older child in daycare, buy a dryer, hire a cleaner, introduce takeaway Tuesdays, book a babysitter or have your groceries home delivered. You might feel you don’t have any spare cash but it is worth considering something that would really help your family.
5Always be stocked up on the essentials
Some essential items like nappies and wipes are bulky and not much fun to balance on the top of a pram so it’s best to be prepared beforehand. You can set up (several) shopping lists online with Woolworths or Coles home delivery and/or click and collect. By setting up a few lists you can choose for example ‘Bulk shop’, ‘Baby stuff’ or ‘Get me through the next 3 days’.
6Chat with your partner beforehand about how you are going to parent 2 kids
It simply will be different. You might need to divide and conquer – you get up to the newborn and your partner attends to the toddler if they wake during the night. Talk about how you will get through the housework. Work out how you can both give each other some time out to exercise, sleep or enjoy another interest. Keep all these conversations going rather than trying to do it on your own.
7Spend some quality time with your older child
You’ve finally managed to get your new born down for a nap and you look around at which mess to tidy up first, but the best way to spend your next five minutes is to sit down for a cuddle and a play with your first born. Even a few minutes of one on one time will ‘fill their cup’. When you do have a larger chunk of time to spend with them here are some fun things to make.
8Make meals easier
The dinner, bath, bed routine can be full on. Every. Single. Night. You might like to approach it in bite sized portions. When you get a few minutes during the day, it’s great to cut up some carrot sticks, celery sticks and cucumber for your own snacks. Learn to embrace the slow cooker, prep the veggies or make the salad (without dressing) at lunchtime. Make a few things to be able to throw together an easy meal later. Boil some eggs – peel them and pop in airtight container they last up to a week in the fridge. Cook pasta (add some butter and let it melt through) and sausages – let them cool, put them into airtight containers and they last for 48 hours in the fridge, just reheat for an easy meal.
9Make a morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea lunchbox for the older child the night before
You can just grab it out of the fridge in a moments notice when they start getting hungry which always happens to be when you are trying to feed or get the baby to sleep. It also means in your foggy haze you aren’t worrying about if they are eating a balanced meal.
The ultimate in food preparation is cooking your own meals in bulk, freezing them and reheating for dinner. Using some time on the weekend when your partner is around to play with the kids and you can escape to the kitchen. Bolognaise sauce, curries, casseroles and soups all freeze and reheat well. Alternatively, you could make a double batch every 2nd night to refrigerate and reheat.
11Depending on the age gap, use a double pram
The older child will still have sleeps for a while yet (children may have day naps until they start school). Navigating the shops with an active toddler, a carrier and a nappy bag can be tricky. If you can entice them into the pram it can be a lifesaver.
12You only have two hands
There will be times when they both want to be held and you need to do something at the same time. A carrier can come in really handy as it frees up your hands – meaning you can hold your other child and still get food out of the fridge. Even with a carrier, your newborn might get put down a lot more then your first and that’s okay. Have a bassinet close to the lounge, a play mat to lie bub on and a rocker. Your eldest may also not be picked up as much and you may find it handy using their high chair for play activities, knowing they are safely ‘contained’ and unlikely to get up to too much mischief.
13Your toddler might also have more TV and independent play time
The short-term lack of undivided attention is more than made up for with the long-term gain, that they both now have a sibling.
14If you thought Mt Washmore was big with one child, well now it’s officially huge
Work out a system that works for you. It might be that you use a time delay start or put on a load first thing in the morning so that it is ready to hang out. You will probably find that you need more of some of the basics too, you won’t want to be waiting for a mattress protector or muslin to dry! Sorting clothes into piles for each person while taking them off the line and just folding one pile at a time seems to save time. Plus smaller piles don’t seem quite so daunting.
15Get your toddler to help
Your older child will love to help mummy with little jobs. Teach them to bring you a wipe, a muslin or to put their plastic bowl up on the bench. They will feel very important and it’s a great opportunity to praise them. Toddlers love praise!
16When you are ready – start going out every day
Like a quick trip to the shops for some basics, a 30 minute play in the park, a play date or a morning activity such as a playgroup. You might find it easier to be out in the morning and home in the afternoon. With the added bonus of them possibly falling asleep on the way home.
17All kids are different
It’s sounds funny but Baby number 2 might be a needs-a-feed-every-hour compared to first Bub who stirred-for-a-feed-every-four-hours or the other way around. Whilst there will be a lot of similarities and a lot of “oh I remember this age”, they will also have their very own little personality to add to your family.
18Some things are less important when you have two little ones
When you have one child, chances are you followed their progress very carefully. Tracking how they were going against every little milestone and encouraging them along. When baby number 2 comes along, there is a lot more to take up your attention (and brain energy) and some of these things will not be as important with your 2nd as with the 1st….and that’s ok. It also may make your life easier to not rush some things now with your 1st, like transitioning them to a big bed or toilet training, seeing you have your hands full with a baby as well.
19Don’t forget there is help out there just a phone call away!
Call the ABA 1800 mum2mum (1800686268) if you are struggling with feeding at 3am, call Karitane 1300 CARING (1800 227464) or Tresillian 1300 2PARENT (1300272736) if you need some advice on sleep or settling. Call health direct 1800022222 to speak to a nurse if you don’t know if its a gp or hospital trip. Call mothersafe 93826539 if you have any questions about if a medicine is safe to take while pregnant or breastfeeding. If the blues have hit give BeyondBlue a call 1300224636. You can remain anonymous for almost all these services and they aren’t limited to mums.
20Most importantly embrace the madness
It’s a crazy, busy time and so much fun. Just remember to be kind to yourself too. Happy mummy equals happy babies.
Here are some other ParraParents articles that may come in handy with 2 under 2/3/4yrs: