We were having a second child, our daughter, when our son was only 15 months, so we had to develop strategies to make pregnancy and the early months easier. Many of them are so simple, but equally invaluable.
I know our tips are largely just common sense, but the best ones usually are. They mean that the words ‘cope’ and ‘handful’ generally don’t apply.
Don’t get me wrong, there are days when it’s tough, but you have those with one child, and they’re outweighed by the days when you see the most precious bond developing between your two children.
Our Magnificent Seven
1. Set up a play area. Newborn cuddles are unbelievably special and there’s no reason why you should miss out with your second; set up your toddler’s play area with a comfy chair and any essentials so that you can spend time with both children.
Include your toddler in nappy changes as ‘wipes monitor’.
Do it while you’re still pregnant so there’s minimum change when you’re having your second child. With both children at home, I’ve spent countless hours being grateful that we planned ahead.
2. Pregnant-friendly environment. If your firstborn is still crawling while you’re pregnant, as ours was, carrying them can put real strain on your body but is difficult to avoid.
Shop online, arrange playdates at home, attend playgroups with friends and get your other half to put the pram in the car the night before a day out. If you are sorting your play area in anticipation of your new arrival, choose somewhere that works while you’re pregnant too.
3. Get your toddler involved. Forge relationships between your newborn and existing child from the outset. I read so much about this and, although our toddler was too young to comprehend a lot of the advice, one of the best things we did was get him involved from the beginning.
We gave him time to explore the new arrival, showing him how to do this safely; included him in nappy changes as ‘wipes monitor’; gave them a shared nightfeed, ensuring it’s a special family time; and made the most of our play area set up so that he got used to having her around.
I’m the youngest of 5 and my mum vowed by getting us used to the sounds of the hoover.
4. Nap in noise. Familiarise your newborn with the daily noises at home. I’m the youngest of 5 and my mum vowed by getting us used to the sounds of the hoover and washing machine so we applied the same philosophy to a noisy toddler: our baby has napped in the playroom, the kitchen, wherever we are, since she was born and is happy sleeping anywhere. I know there will come a time when that changes, but it really helped us in the first 6 months.
5. Must-have baby gear. Everyday household tasks or simply brushing your teeth can be a challenge, but aren’t impossible. We installed safety gates on the nursery, kitchen and bathroom doors, have two baby monitors and use our bouncer to keep our youngest in sight when having a shower. The peace of mind they give us is immeasurable.
6. Pack & plan ahead. The night before a day out, ‘walk’ it through in your head so you don’t forget what to pack. I know it’s common sense but it’s hard to find the time when you’re rushing around in the morning. Our two have a food pod each, but share a changing pod so we can find what we need quickly and avoid doubling up.
7. Keep calm and assess. A friend once commented how calm I was when applying ‘controlled crying’ with my children, but the reality was that neither was true. Having a second child, there are times when both want something from you and you’ll have to assess each situation to determine who to go to first. It doesn’t make you a bad parent.
As an English teacher, it’s probably no surprise that I’ve always wanted to write. Finally finding myself with something to share, I started my blog while in the final trimester with our first (he caught us off-guard by arriving 1 month early and just in time for Christmas). Our daughter was born this spring so we’re now fully-fledged members of the crazy two under two club – there’s 15 months between them! Add an excitable pup to the mix and life is pretty hectic, but that’s how we like it, I think!