Having a child upends your world in the most amazing and unexpected ways. One day, you have total autonomy and free will. The next? Your life revolves around the wants, whims, and needs of a tiny helpless human.
Deciding to add a second child to the equation is more than A+B=C — it’s a whole other mathematical complexity. It’s a push-and-pull, and a circus-worthy juggling act.
So if you’re thinking about expanding your family, or already awaiting a newbie’s arrival, read on for some practical tips and words of wisdom.
How do you know when — and if — you’re ready?
Some parents are perfectly content with one child; others feel like their family is not yet complete. Still, there are lots of factors to consider when that baby itch returns. It’s important to know what you are in for. Here are some things to consider:
Your family dynamic
Once again, having a second baby will change your family’s established dynamic. Your firstborn will no longer be an only child, and it will be an adjustment for them, for you, and for your respective relationships.
It’s also important to remember that each child is unique. If your first was an easygoing baby who slept through the night within a few months and rarely throws a toddler tantrum, don’t assume that your second will be the same.
One thing to consider is the age gap between your older child and your baby.
Some parents want to have kids close together so that they can play together or so that they’ll both be in diapers at the same time. Other parents opt to space out their first and second to give themselves time to adjust to the demands of parenting.
Age gap aside, the reality is — there will always be some inconvenient obstacle that makes having a second child difficult: a promotion at work, potty training a toddler, and overall exhaustion. The timing will never be perfect, but if you want to do it you’ll find a way to make it work.
Of course, more kids means more expenses — and we all know children don’t come cheap.
The good news? You may not need to purchase lots of new stuff for your second baby — at least right away. Hand-me-down gear is the way to go to save big time. Plus, you may be able to reuse all those fancy infant clothes you bought but barely used the first time around.
It’s not all savings, though — you’ll still be shelling out for child care, car seats, and caffeine to keep up!
What are ways you can prepare for a second child?
If you’ve made the decision to try for number two (congrats!), there are a few savvy ways to prepare your family before the madness officially begins.
Get your older child ready
You have some time to prepare your firstborn for the impending arrival of their sibling. Talk about the changes that will take place in an age-appropriate way, read books that celebrate their new role as a big brother or sister, and have them practice with a doll.
If your child will be transitioning to a big-kid bed so that the baby can go into the crib, celebrate this important milestone, but don’t wait until the last second to make the big change.
As your due date approaches, it can also be helpful to have your older child pick out a gift to give to their new baby sibling. Likewise, once the baby is born, you can have a present ready for the newly minted big brother or sister to mark this momentous moving-up ceremony of sorts.
Ask for help
No matter how much you cram into a single day, there’s only one of you — so it’s, once again, time to ask for and accept help.
If you have a partner, delegate family responsibilities in advance, and remember that sometimes you’ll have to divide and conquer — especially when bedtime rolls around.
While you’re at it, line up family members and friends to help ease the burden.
Organize in advance
Channel your nesting instinct, and prepare what you can before the new baby arrives. Make and freeze meals that you can pop into the oven on those nights you’re chasing a naked toddler while soothing a colicky baby.
Get used to prepping and leaving early
You know how it felt like a major feat getting out of the house for minor errands with a newborn in tow? Imagine doing that but with twice the kids and double the stuff.
Yes, leaving home to do anything with two little ones can feel like an epic workout. There are car seat buckles to wrestle with, diaper blow-outs to tend to, and so many ridiculous essentials to pack.
Get in the habit of preparing everything you need in a diaper bag the night before any outing or appointment. Better yet, start keeping extras of everything stashed in your car and head out for anything you want to be on time for at least 15 minutes earlier.
What are things you can’t prepare for?
Life with two kids will keep you on your toes. You’ll have balls flying in the air, and it’s your daunting job to know which ones to catch first. The truth is: You can’t prepare for everything a second child will bring, including:
A new and different love
Among parents who decide to have another child, one common concern is that they won’t love their second kid as much as their first. The simple truth is that you will love them both fiercely. The love may feel different, but it’s no less or more.
It’s hard to explain until you experience it. But, yes, your capacity for love will expand. You can’t prepare for this, you just have to have faith that it will happen.
Second child syndrome
The notion of “second child syndrome” also weighs heavily on some parents. It’s true that you’ll have less time and attention to devote to every milestone and first. But you’ll also have more perspective, more self-assurance, and more experience with all things parenting.
While your second child won’t have you to themselves, they’ll have the benefit of growing up with a sibling. Don’t sweat the imperfectly completed baby book — there are benefits to being baby number two as well!
Déjà vu for you
Pregnancy and childbirth will not be new to you this go around. In many ways, the newborn days will feel vaguely — tediously — familiar.
But every pregnancy and respective baby is different. They’ll have their own set of exciting firsts. (You might just forget to capture them all on camera this time — because, well, second kid.)
What changes when you have a second child?
There are, of course, some challenges and fears that come with the territory of going from one child to two. You are just one person, after all, and suddenly you have two small humans vying for your attention.
It can be mentally and physically taxing to have two times the workload, but — guess what — it can also bring twice the fun.
Here are some common concerns among parents who are adding a second child:
You’re going to get very good at triaging your children’s needs. At some point or another both of your kids will want you, and you’ll have to decide what and who to prioritize in that moment. Boo-boos trump tantrum tears, and poop explosions beat out snack requests.
Your older child will have to adjust to not having your undivided attention at all times. This can be a tough transition, and they may feel jealous of the baby who seemingly gets more of your time.
It’s par for the course, and completely natural. Allow your child to talk out their frustrations and find creative solutions to help ease their pain. When you’re breastfeeding the baby, allow your older child to cuddle up and watch a TV program together. It’s all about compromise.
You will also want to carve out one-on-one time with each child so you can give them the attention and affection they each deserve — even if it’s a solo snuggle and book before bed.
Lack of sleep
If you thought you were tired with one kid, you may be in for a rude awakening — literally. With two little ones, sleep will be limited to say the least. You can no longer “nap when the baby naps” if you have another wide-awake child craving your attention.
Bedtime also may become especially complicated with two kids, waking through the night or crawling into your bed. Rest assured that you’ll eventually get some Zzz’s again — it just may be a while.
Outings with two kids
As we mentioned before, going anywhere with two little ones will make you break a sweat. And ensuring that everyone remains happy and safe is a whole other stressful experience. Gone are the days of leisurely park trips. You must now find a way to grow eyeballs in the back of your head.
Is there anything that gets easier with a second child?
On the flip side, some things will be easier for you the second time around. You’re no longer the newbie you once were, but rather a skilled parent armed with your own savvy tricks and plenty of snacks to spare.
Diapering and dressing
As an experienced parent, you could diaper a baby blindfolded and snap those complicated stretchy buttons with one hand tied behind your back.
Buckling the car seat and using gear
Remember the first time you tried to put on a baby carrier or wrap? They’re not the most intuitive baby gear, but now you can tie and sling and buckle with ease and efficiency.
Tricky baby care tasks
If you’d hold your breath every time you’d clip your first baby’s fingernails or use a rectal thermometer, you can inhale and exhale a little easier this time around. Your first baby had to be the guinea pig; number two will always have short, tidy nails and an accurate temperature reading.
If nursing didn’t come easy the first time, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a go at it again. You likely learned some tips and tricks along the way that might benefit your second baby from the get go. Same goes with bottle feeding — you know those telltale hunger cues and can elicit a big belch at every burp break.
Trusting your own instincts
You may find that you don’t second-guess yourself as much this time around. You are a confident parent to two, and you now listen to your gut and follow your instincts.
What parents wish they’d known about adding a second child
Transitioning from one child to two might not sound like a big deal, but those of us who have been there and done that know it’s a major milestone. Here are some words of wisdom to remember when you feel completely in the weeds.
It will get easier
You’re going to be pulled in a million directions and — trust us — you will be utterly exhausted 24/7. It will get harder, then easier, and then harder again (repeat basically forever). Every phase has its own challenges.
Take a deep breath when you’re feeling overwhelmed, and try to remember that this too shall pass. Before you know it, your two little ones will be bigger and more independent.
Enjoy the chaos while you can. It’s hard to grasp while you’re in the throes of it, but, one day, you’re going to miss the mayhem of the baby days.
Siblings can be best friends
If your firstborn expresses indifference toward their baby sibling, don’t fret. If they’re envious of the attention the little one gets, don’t worry.
Sibling rivalry comes with the territory of having more two or more children, but they may also become each other’s best friends and fiercest defenders.
Two kids together seems like an army
It’s a confounding truth that two kids feels more like 10 kids ganging up on you. This is mostly because they tend to need you or want something at the exact same time. Their synchronous cries and whines can sound like a symphony of children.
You must learn to orchestrate the madness. But, don’t worry, there will be moments of peace and harmony.
You’ll feel like a superhero
There will be days you’ll want to curl up in a ball and hide in your closet. But then there will be amazing moments that make your heart swell with pride and love.
Your baby will say their sibling’s name for the first time, or you’ll catch your older one reading to your little one. It’s then that you’ll realize you’re not doing it all perfectly, but you are doing some things spectacularly right.
Deciding to have a second child can be a big deal. And while friends and loved ones might not throw you a surprise shower this time around, it’s just as worthy of celebrating.
In fact, one study from Russia found that life satisfaction improved after the birth of a first baby, but even more after the birth of a second.
Your family is about to get bigger, your little kid is about to transition to the role of big kid, and you are about to go from busy to, well, way busier.
There will be long, hard, exhausting days ahead. But a second child will bring you and your family double the cuddles, twice the sweetness, and immeasurable joy.
Good luck to you and your growing crew!