Are you starting to prepare for a second baby? Do you even know if you want a second baby? Deciding to have another child is a big deal, and you want to be sure you are ready. Having two littles (especially if your oldest is a toddler still!) means doubling the joy, but it also means doubling the amount of diapers, food, and sometimes sound.
Should I have a second baby?
So many people wonder if having a second child is a good idea. There are so many factors that go into this consideration. It’s not something you should take lightly, and yet only 22% of American moms have just one child.
(If you want more information on family size in the US, check out this article by Pew Research) So if you decide to have more than one child, you are in good company. For some reason, that makes me feel better because most people have experienced having a second child.
But it’s still something you want to think through, so here are a few different questions to ask yourself:
Am I/are we (yourself and your partner) in a good mental state? If you are experiencing a lot of stress or having a hard time in your relationship with your partner, now may not be the best time to have a second child. Going through a second pregnancy can be hard on you physically and emotionally, so you should be thoughtful about this. If you’re in a difficult place, adding a crying baby that doesn’t sleep very often will not help you. Likewise, if your marriage or relationship is already failing, adding a crying baby to the mix will not fix any problems.
Am I (or your partner) physically healthy enough to give birth to a child? Assuming you are not adopting, then whoever is giving birth should be in a healthy enough state that they can have a child. Talk to your OB if you are concerned about how your body will take a second pregnancy and birth. (If you are wanting to try a natural birth, check out my article about how to mentally prepare yourself)
Are you financially prepared for another child? Honestly, this question is harder to assess than you might think. If you wait until you really feel you are “financially stable”, it could be years. As long as your family is currently able to eat and you have a stable income, you can make things work.
You don’t need to wait until you have a college fund set up, or until you move into a bigger house. If you want more children, and you feel secure in your job, you can be financially responsible and have a second baby.
What will you do for childcare? Although I think most families can make ends meet when they have a second child, it’s important to assess who will be taking care of your child. Is it best for both of your children to go to daycare? Would it be easier for your family to have one of you stay home? Either way, you will want to consider where your kids will be during the week before you have another child.
What to Know Before Having a Second Baby:
Here is a long list of the things I wish I had known before having a second baby. Some things were pleasant and welcomed surprises, while others were things that were harder than I expected. But all of them are things that will help you prepare for having a second baby.
You have enough room in your heart to love both your first and your second child. Your heart doesn’t have to divide in two, it actually just grows bigger. I know this sounds cheesy, but it’s so true! I know of a lot of parents (especially mamas) that worry they won’t have enough love to spread to both the new baby and their toddler. But I will tell you, that just isn’t true. You will love your second child just as much as you love your first! Somehow, your ability to love expands AGAIN!
Remember that insane feeling of love that you felt the first time you held your baby in your arms (or maybe it took you the first few weeks, but you know what I mean!)? Yeah, that will happen again. You will feel another layer of love surface that you didn’t know you had. I promise. You have the capacity to love two little humans with just as much gusto as loving one.
Neither of your children will get as much attention as your first did when it was just them, but they will gain tons of valuable attention and interaction from a sibling. I think a lot of parents worry that they will not be able to give as much of themselves when they have a second. And honestly, you can’t. You have two children now, so you will not be able to have as much one-on-one time as you had with your first child. But the ENORMOUS benefit of having a sibling will make up for it. (That’s not to say your child will never be jealous of getting time with a parent, because that will definitely still happen.)
Your eldest will likely be interested in the baby and want to learn about playing and interacting with them. And if they aren’t interested right away, they will get there.
As they get older (even just a few months in) your kids will learn a few ways to “play” with each other. It is the sweetest thing to watch your kids play and have fun together. My favorite thing to this day is to hear fits of giggles coming from both of my kids, as they begin to build their strong sibling bond.
Just because you’ve done this before, doesn’t mean you know everything. I kind of assumed I would “get it” since I already had a baby. But that’s just not the case! There are still questions you have to ask the doctor, mistakes you will make, and diaper bag supplies you will forget to pack. You won’t be quite as frantic and unsure about everything, but don’t think that you know it all just yet. You’ll keep learning and growing as a parent, just as your children learn how to become grown-up humans. You are all in this together!
Labor isn’t always faster/easier. Everyone always tells you that the second baby will come faster and easier. I was fully prepared and excited about this as I approached my due date. However, my laboring was actually slightly longer. For me it wasn’t more painful, it just took forever. But hopefully, you will be the lucky type and get baby #2 out quickly!
Going to stores gets harder with two. Taking one child to the store is hard enough so of course, having two will complicate things even more. You have to try to find grocery stores where you can have a baby with a toddler in the same cart. No longer will it work to use the regular kind.
You and your partner will have to split the load a little more. With one child, you could take turns holding the child. One person could watch the baby while the other one does whatever they need to do freely. But with two, each parent will have a baby or a toddler (or maybe you have an older child).
You will have two kids to feed (do you need a second high chair?). You will have two kids to take to the park, the church, grandma’s house, and your friend’s house. With two, it’s manageable but it does mean that your partner might have to pitch in a little more sometimes.
The way you talk about baby can really shape how your oldest one copes with the change. Be sure to really talk up your oldest before the baby comes, and especially after they arrive. Let them know that they are a great big brother/sister (even if they aren’t acting the part yet). Tell them how much you like it when they help the baby or when they gently touch the baby. Point out when they make the baby smile or laugh. In general, talk about how much fun it is to have a baby in the house. We like telling our oldest about how much our baby loves her. Your words can really encourage a more positive connection between the siblings.
What to expect with a second child?
Expect that your oldest child might experience some regression. This comes in all different forms, but it’s super normal for your first child to take a step back in some areas of development. This might mean getting pickier with food, sleeping a little less, or not talking as much. This is normal, and in time, your child will get back to where they were. As little people, they are adjusting to a lot, so it’s not too surprising that they may have some behaviors that change.
Your oldest might be looking for new ways to get your attention. Sometimes this looks like toddlers crying or throwing more tantrums. For some kids, it might be demanding more time on your lap so they can get some extra snuggles in. Other children will act out by doing things they know they aren’t supposed to. Again, this won’t last forever. Try to find space in your day when you are able to give your eldest child more one-on-one time. Most likely you can find a bit of time during a baby’s nap. This will hopefully help your oldest out when they are feeling a little jealous.
Your oldest won’t just know how to interact with the baby. You will have to teach them a little bit with this one. Sometimes getting a baby doll before #2 is born can be a good way for your oldest to practice. (We love these soft baby dolls.) Show them how to gently touch the baby and where to touch it (probably not the head!). Even with the preparation of playing with a baby doll, they still might experiment with touching the baby in not-so-nice ways.
Just kindly remind your oldest to touch softly, and show them how to do that. Instead of always saying “Don’t touch baby like that” or getting upset, try telling them what they CAN do. (“You can touch the baby’s toes” or “Can you give your baby a love pat?”)
They will adore each other (eventually). Your oldest will be fairly interested in this new little creature, and the baby will be enamored with their older sibling. Sometimes it takes an adjustment period, but once your oldest gets a little more used to the baby being permanent, things start looking up. I can’t believe how sweet it is to watch my two kids interact now. It is honestly one of my favorite things in the whole world!
You won’t get much sleep. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since this is your second time around. However, when you had just one to deal with, you could try catching up on sleep when he/she was sleeping. But now you have another child around too, who is probably not napping. This can be hard, but you can adapt! I was pleasantly surprised that because I had already gone through the lack of sleep with my first, I was more mentally prepared to not get much sleep for a while when my second came.
You will sometimes feel really prepared, but you will still have times of feeling really overwhelmed. Since it’s your second baby, you won’t lose your mind the first time they have a weird color poop or the first time they run a little fever. You know a bit more about what to do this time. However, there will be occasions when you can’t possibly imagine how it’s going to turn out okay when you have a crying baby and a whining toddler. Alas, this too shall pass. Know that you will learn how to manage it all, but it will take time.
Second Baby Must Haves (For Baby and Older Sibling):
Books: There are so many great books you can get your child to help them prepare for being a big brother or big sister. We love “The New Baby” by Mercer Mayer because it talks about some things that babies won’t like, and what you can do with your new baby instead. You can either get, “Big Sisters Are the Best” or “Big Brothers Are the Best”. Both are great! I also like “I Am a Big Sister” or “I Am a Big Brother” because it talks about things you can do with your baby and how they can be a good helper!
Baby doll: The baby can help your child prepare for what it’s like to have a real baby. And once #2 arrives, they can take care of their baby while you take care of the real baby. I love this style of baby doll because it is soft and comes in lots of different colors. The Wee Baby Stella has cute accessories and is made well.
Baby doll accessories: I like these simple baby accessories that can help your oldest with pretend play and get used to interacting with a baby. It’s fun to let them have some of the same things you will be using with your baby, and this set includes diapers, bottles, and more.
Double stroller: Double strollers are nice to have if your oldest isn’t old enough to walk alone. Check out this one by Graco, a trusted brand that we love at our house! It’s well-reviewed because of how sleek it is and how it can grow with your family.
Wagon: We love having a baby wagon by Speed Rider too. Once your second child can be in a wagon, it’s so nice to let the kids be in a shared space on walks. You can also use it to put the snacks in or a few toys to have along for the walk. This is a basic version of a wagon, and it’s the one we have and love. It is collapsible, so we can take it anywhere with us!
Independent toys for toddlers: Depending on the age of your oldest, you might consider getting them a few new toys to play with while you are feeding/nursing baby. You could try Play-Doh with some fun Play-Doh toys, or coloring books like this one or this one.
How do I prepare for a second baby?
Prepare your oldest by talking about the baby. Using the books above or a baby doll, make sure you are talking to your child about having another baby. One of the most important ways to prepare for a second child is by helping the big brother or big sister understand the coming changes. The way you talk about the new baby matters, so handle the topic with excitement! And pump your oldest up by telling them how fun it is to be a big brother or sister. You can also talk to them about how they will be special helpers. Most kids love having special jobs that make them feel like “big kids”.
Make sure you have sleeping arrangements figured out. Is the baby going to move into the old nursery? Do you need to move the toddler to a new room? Will they be sharing a room? You just want to have a plan for where everyone is going to sleep so it doesn’t get stressful when baby is here.
Consider moving your oldest to their new bed before the baby is born (if they are moving at all). Some people worry that if you make big changes after the baby comes, your oldest will be mad at the baby. Instead, make it a fun move before baby arrives. Emphasize that your child will be moving to the “big kid room”. Even let them pick out some of the décor in their room. Maybe they can pick out the comforter or the decorations. Either way, make it fun!
Get the gear! I mentioned in the section “Second Baby Must Haves” what gear you might need before your second child arrives. You obviously don’t need nearly as many things as you did the first time around, but you will need a few new things for sure. To really prepare for a second baby, you need to go through what you have from your first child and make the necessary upgrades.
Try to give your firstborn some extra love and attention before having your second. I made sure to plan extra fun events and activities to do with my oldest right before I was due. It gave us extra special bonding time and made my momma heart happy. Consider going somewhere fun, trying out new activities, or even going out to eat. It doesn’t have to be crazy to be special.
Know where your oldest will be when you are in the hospital giving birth. Make sure you have a plan for where your first child will be when you are having baby number two. This will help ease any stress as the day gets closer. Be sure to tell your child about the plans beforehand so they know what to expect too.
If you are good at being organized, consider making a few freezer meals before you go to the hospital. You know that there is definitely a recovery time after giving birth, and you will want to take it easy. Make things simple by putting together a few meals ahead of time so you can lighten your load.
Pack bags for everyone. Since you have done this before, you probably have a better idea about what you want to pack in your hospital bag for you and your baby. Just don’t forget to also pack a bag for your oldest.
Honestly, having two kids is so much fun. Yes, there is more chaos and less time to do other things, but it’s SO WORTH IT. Hopefully, this article provided some clarity for you going forward as you think about how to prepare for a second baby. If you choose to have two, I don’t think you will regret it!