Transitioning successfully from one kid to two can be challenging, but oh so rewarding. I was in serious shock when I found out I was expecting my second baby when my first was only four months old. I obviously know how it happens and we wanted another babe soon after the first. But as a first time mom of a newborn, I felt like I was still in the postpartum wind tunnel. You know which one I am talking about? I was walking into the wind and had not even had a chance to eat a meal that wasn’t cold cereal in the kitchen late at night.
Regardless of the joy and craziness of the newborn phase, I was facing the wonder of growing another human life while still trying to learn about the first one. Labor, the age gap, and the sleep struggles did not worry me in the slightest. I was most afraid of being a mom to two instead of one. At the time, I was loving every single second of motherhood with my daughter. I wanted to rewind every day a hundred times over. I was most afraid of the solo time I would lose with her and the change it would bring to our relationship and to my parenting. If you leave this page with nothing else, know this:
“You have an infinite amount of love to give to your children. Adding another does not diminish any of the joy and love your share now.”
Yes, things will change and there might be bumps. But you will be in awe of the endless love you will find as you grow your family. Here are some of our changes and how we made it the best transition yet.
Create individual attention moments in your schedule now that you can continue with after baby
Right now, you can devote all your time to your one and only child. They do not need special times of individual attention because their whole life is individual attention. Be thoughtful now about a few moments of your routine/day that you want to protect as individualized time. For me, it was bedtime routine and reading. We made sure that reading books in the glider and singing songs before bed became special “Mommy” time.
After baby came, my husband and I made sure we had protected time with our oldest. He knew that during reading time and bedtime routine, he had the newborn. It gave him a chance to bond with the baby (even if the baby cried most of the time) and made sure our oldest knew that her time was hers. It does not have to be anything crazy or time consuming. But it needs to be consistent so that your child trusts that it will happen and they know they are still your world.
Build in independent play opportunities, along with family play
My first child did not have a lot of opportunities for independence before her sister’s arrival. We found activities and games that she was able to play by herself and gave her small opportunities to practice engaging by herself. After baby, I had a specific box/toy area for these independent activities that we pulled out when I focused more on the baby. My daughter ended up looking forward to these independent times and we saw a lot of growth from her.
We also made sure during the other times, to make play time family oriented. This meant laying the baby on the floor with us, and teaching our daughter how to play with a newborn nearby. She quickly learned how to play when it was independent time vs. playing during family time. She developed a strong bond with her sister even at a young age, while also growing her independence. The more I involved her with the baby at her own pace, the more she grew as an individual and as a sister.
Organize your surroundings to fit your needs
Remember when you used to camp out on the couch with a TV remote, snacks, and water while settling into a cluster feeding nursing session? While your second child wants that too, but now you have another little one to look after. You will feel more in control if you organize your surroundings around your baby and toddler needs before things get crazy. For us, this looked like lots of baby gates blocking exploratory rooms like bathrooms, stairs, and laundry. This looked like a toy chest in the living room and also in the nursery, so that wherever I needed to nurse, I had options available for my toddler. This also meant preparing my toddler’s breakfast and lunch the night before in the fridge (and snacks from mama!) so that I was prepared for the hangry storm.
I also worked on getting our toddler and newborn on a consistent nap schedule for ONE nap of the day. The rest of the sleep was all over the place, but a consistent nap time for my toddler coinciding with my newborn’s napping meant one opportunity a day for me to complete a task or take a minute. Our schedule went much more smoothly when I could control for as much as possible.
Invest in babywearing, if that is your thing
I had a structured carrier for my first born that got occasional use on hikes. With my second child, baby wearing became a lifestyle for us. I ended up falling in love with ring slings for the newborn stage, and wore my babe constantly. She was comfortable, close to me, and learned how to nurse in the sling. This meant lots of play time outside for my toddler with my newborn tucked in the sling, and the option to be hands-free to care for my toddler. While not every baby will automatically love being in a carrier, this was a lifestyle change that made a big difference for us. For structured carriers, I love my Lillebaby All-Seasons, and for more flexible carriers, my favorite is Wildbird.
I am of the believe that you do not need to spend a ton of money on specialized gear for going from one to two. Invest in a few key items that will make your life easier and more enjoyable, but do not feel pressured to “double” everything. We invested in a double stroller that already fit with our existing newborn car seat from Facebook Marketplace, got a new crib because our first was still in her crib, and washed everything in our entire house. Other than those items, they share everything. Do not feel like you have to do anything outside your budget. My one splurge item for our second baby was a new diaper bag, which I asked for as a birthday gift solely because I fell in love with it.
Be intentional about your patience level and tone with your toddler
Whether you are having Irish twins like I was, or a larger gap between babes, your oldest is most definitely at an age where they are soaking it all in. They see EVERYTHING. They remember EVERYTHING. And this time around, you will be facing all the postpartum hormones and lack of sleep with the added responsibility of raising a wonderful little toddler. I absolutely love the toddler phase, but even on the best days it can be challenging. Your little one is figuring out the world and testing the boundaries. Eating everything. Falling off of things. Each day I had to be SO intentional when I got up about how I wanted to be that day with my daughter.
I knew I did not want to snap at her when she did not listen just because I was tired. I knew I did not want to say “No” to everything she asked about even if cleaning up finger paint was not high on my list of priorities. She was (is) watching me and how I spoke even in my hardest moments. I went to bed each night reflective of the day and how much joy we shared during that day. I woke each morning reminding myself that she was ready to have her best day, even if my day started at 2 am. It truly takes being intentional and being mindful to parent in the way you want to.
Which leads to…being present and practicing self care
I feel like self care has become more of a buzz word instead of a routine. THIS IS IMPORTANT. This is REALLY important to be the best mom, wife, friend, daughter, etc. that you can be for all the people in your life. These days feel like a blur, because they are. So take time to be present when you are deep in mom life, and be present with yourself when can be. Enjoy the dance parties with your toddler and take all the fuzzy pictures. Enjoy the sweet newborn naps on your chest, and eat peanut butter sandwiches every day if that’s working for you all. Be present with your kids when you are with your kids.
And when you have the opportunity to be with yourself, take it guilt free. Accept the help of your parents or friends when they offer. Trust that your partner is the parent you know they are, and take a ride to get a coffee alone. Turn up the water extra hot and stand in there extra long during the double nap time. Let your friend drop off donuts. Enroll your toddler in a part-day pre-school so they make friends and you get to know your newborn. Take date night with your spouse, even if that means dating in your basement with your sleepy newborn in the bassinet. Do the yoga with your friend. Whatever self love looks like for you, make sure that it still happens. It may be fewer and farther between, but the important thing is that it happens.
Growing from a family of three to a family of four was wonderful, humbling, and filled with so much joy. It was not totally graceful, but it was perfect. I cannot wait for what our next chapter looks like as a family of five!
All the best,