Preparing for baby #1 was all about taking prenatal classes, converting the guest room or office into a nursery, planning your schedule around the umpteen OB appointments and baby showers!
The second (or third!) time around is a bit different.
You know the baby care basics and other info from those classes, you try to squeeze in those doctor appointments in between school drop offs and playdates and you’re probably a little less worried about getting the nursery perfect.
But the BIGGEST difference is the other child in the house! You need to do a lot of the same prep work for baby #2, but you also want to make sure your first little love doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. That she doesn’t feel replaced or unloved because of the new baby. That’s the biggest fear of parents…
But what are some ways to do that?
Since I’m just finishing up with 5 expecting couples, getting their older kiddos on a better schedule [what was happening 9 months ago?! Ahh, New Year’s…], I’ve gotten this question a lot lately. I give them kudos for planning ahead!
First you want to get everyone to their happy place, and let’s face it, without enough sleep, crabby toddlers will never navigate there on their own! And from there, I’ve got 4 more tips to help prepare for baby #2.
1. Get your older child on a schedule
Seems obvious, I know. But you’d be surprised how often expecting couples call me 2-3 weeks before the due date asking for help because ___ [1. they thought their child would magically start sleeping better, 2. their child knows baby is coming – and is regressing or 3. they just ran out of time preparing for the new baby].
If you have any sleep issues with your first child, bringing in a new baby with the chaotic eating and sleeping schedule may just put you over the edge! Toddlers should be getting 11-12 hours of night time sleep with one afternoon nap – that’s the goal you should be aiming for to help your toddler be his happiest and healthiest.
Give yourself a good 4-6 weeks (if possible) to help get your child on a better schedule and enough time to practice her new skills before baby moves in. Adjusting to the new baby will be a lot easier if she’s getting enough sleep and not overtired and cranky. And that extra sleep will do wonders for you too!
2. Don’t change the rules
You know major changes are on the horizon. Lazy days playing blocks, gazing at your son’s (clearly advanced) creative ability while he builds block towers…yes, there will be some time for that in between feedings, diaper changes and if you’re lucky, naps for YOU, but soon your little guy won’t be your only responsibility anymore.
You’ll be tempted to change the rules because you want him to know how much you love him and are worried about how much time the baby will take away from him. So you may think a later bedtime is a good idea – more quality time! – or special desserts – sugar = love! – after dinner is the answer.
But your child likes boundaries and knowing what’s expected of him. Changing the rules on him will actually make him feel like things are out of control. And “indulging” isn’t a great idea – a later bedtime will cause him to get overtired and if you’ve read any of my blogs on healthy foods for toddlers, you know I don’t believe that sugar has magical love power!
And depending on the age of your older child, he may not have any idea what’s about to happen in his world. If he is unaware of the changes that are coming and all of a sudden starts getting all this extra fantastic treatment, he won’t know where it’s coming from, and that sends a pretty confusing message.
3. Realize you don’t have to have everything perfect
If baby #2 is lucky enough to have his own room, know that he’ll likely be sleeping in your room for some time immediately following the birth, so the nursery doesn’t need to be perfect before you leave for the hospital. (I can actually feel all of the Type A’s cringing reading this…)
But it is a great idea to have a bassinet or other separate sleeping space ready for your new baby. Something you can put close to your bed, but because of SIDS risks, something separate from your bed.
One mom recently shared that she was so busy nesting and organizing that she kept putting away her older daughter’s favorite toy (because it was always out in the middle of the room!) and she was trying to get things neat and tidy before the baby came.
Besides the fact that having a tidy house with a toddler in residence is virtually impossible, it’s going to make your older child annoyed that she can’t play the way she used to and wonder why things are all of a sudden different.
4. Prepare your older child for some changes
You’ll want to talk about the new baby and not just show up in your house one day +1.
Especially if it’s going to be a room sharing situation, talk about how she can help make the bedroom perfect for her and her baby brother. If it’s time for her to transition out of the crib, let her help pick out bedding for the twin bed. Ask her opinion on where the bookcase should go. Where photos should be placed. You get the idea – give her some control in this crazy new situation.
And a note on the transitioning from a crib to a bed right before the new baby will use it. Make sure to give enough time for the transition so your older child can get used to this new found freedom AND she won’t think her baby brother is stealing her stuff.
Toddlers and preschoolers – especially those that have great sleep skills – get pretty attached to their cribs. Just be aware that while you see it as a move forward, she may just see it as a displacement, so try to spin it that she’s ready for a big bed, not that baby brother needs her bed. And giving her ample time in between will help.
5. Plan ahead to keep #1 happy
This was one of the best pieces of advice I got when I was pregnant with #2. You will get lots of new baby gifts those first few weeks, and it’s a great idea to have a few little wrapped toys or books for your older child to open and not feel left out. Ask friends to greet your older child first before oohing and ahhing over your sleeping bundle of joy. Ask relatives to take your older child on “adventures” – new parks, libraries, playdates – or even better, ask them to stay with the baby while you have some one-on-one time with your first love!
Just remember that any major life changes take time to get used to, and sharing mommy and daddy is a doozy in the change department! Give your older child time to acclimate with plenty of love and attention, but don’t go soft on the rules – otherwise you’ll get a taste of the terrible 2’s (or 3’s)!
Know a pregnant mama getting ready for baby #2? Please share!