Advice for Transitioning from 1 to 2 kids

person covering infant with swaddling blanket

May 29th 2023

I always knew I’d have kids someday. It wasn’t a burning desire but I knew I wanted to have a family and I knew it meant one than more child.

I have two younger sisters so maybe that’s why I wanted more than one. My sisters and I are all quite close in age with just about two years between each of us. I felt I wanted the same for my family.

When the time came to think about a second child, and to have that child be as close in age as my sister, it meant conceiving when my first was about one year old.

That thought alone was entirely overwhelming. Here I was with an infant who literally just became a toddler. Wearing a diaper just learning how to walk and I was supposed to go through another pregnancy while parenting this little child?

Needles to say, we did not plan our second baby at that time but rather waited an entire year and conceived him just before our first turned two years old. This was perfect timing for our family but I was facing a huge transition, moving from caring for and parenting one child to two.

I’m not sure anyone is really prepared for children. Yes you can plan ahead and learn about labour and birth and breastfeeding and everything to expect in that first year but it’s entirely different when you’re living it.

I knew what to expect after having one child but what I didn’t know was what to expect with two. Would my first child be jealous of my second? Would he be upset at the fact that my newborn would need me 24/7and his time with mama was now split?

I also wondered how I would be able to give myself to two children. What would this mean for my relationship with my husband? Life was already so busy with one baby, how would we have time for each other with two? Needless to say, I had a lot of internal questions.

The physical preparation

As my pregnancy progressed and once I had a noticeable belly, we told our toddler he was going to be a big brother. At age two I don’t think he quite understood but as that year progresses he understood mama had a baby in her belly and that baby was going to be a part of our family.

We talked about how’s mamas body would make milk for the baby and how mama would spend a lot of time feeding the baby. We told him how new baby’s eat often and mostly do a lot of sleeping and pooping.

We had him be as involved as possible when it’s came to setting things up for the baby. This meant transitioning him to a single bed and moving the crib into mama’s room for the baby. He did really well with all of it. I was more emotional than he was.

The day our toddler met the baby

When the day came and our second baby boy was born, our toddler wasn’t actually part of the birth. I chose a home birth but made the decision after labour started to have my toddler be with family.

He came home just a few hours after our birth team left and came into the bedroom to meet me and our littlest addition. I highly recommend filming your older child’s reaction. It was precious. He instantly loved his baby brother.

Navigating life with two children

Everyday we would have our toddler be a part of the new baby’s life whether he joined me in the bedroom for a diaper change or watched his baby brother have his first bath. I spent a lot of time talking to him, asking him how he was feeling and having him talk to his brother.

We quickly discovered he liked to sing to his brother as well as talk to him and tell him that he was his older brother. He never demonstrated any jealousy towards the baby and I’d like to think us helping to prepare him had some influence on that.

As I write this they are now just over 3 years old and almost 11 months old and it’s heart bursting to watch the two of them together. Little brother loves watching his big brother and when his big brother jumps up and down, he gets the cutest giggles. The baby can also cruise around and take a few steps so they love chasing and playing with one another.

There have been a lot of ups and downs these past 11 months. Whenever someone would ask me “so how’s it with two?” my response was honest and usually something like “it’s crazy some days but it’s been easier than I thought. The transition from 1-2 was easier for me than 0-1”. Going from zero children to having my first, rocked my world more than adding a second and I believe it’s because I had been through it once before.

So after having two children for the past 11 months, here’s a few pieces of advice I can share if you’re planning or already pregnant with your second.

  • Give yourself some grace. You will feel like you’re failing your oldest at times. When they ask you to play and you’re nursing the baby or they ask you to come to help put them to bed but you’re nursing the baby it will hurt your heart but you are the best mom for these children and will figure out a balance.
  • Lower your expectations of what you can accomplish. And then maybe lower them once more. Seriously. At least for the first few months.
  • Meal prep ahead of time (in the 3rd trimester) including foods your toddler/older child will eat. If you have a husband or partner that’s not kitchen savvy, write the cooking directions on the freezer packages.
  • Arrange for help wherever possible especially if your child isn’t in daycare and if you have a dog that needs walking or another house pet that needs care.
  • Don’t worry too much if your older child’s screen time goes up. You’re not a bad mom. You can create a special play basket of toys/games/activities your toddler gets when the baby is nursing.
  • Spend time with your oldest before your baby arrives. Day trips with both parents or 1:1 time with each parent, or just you if you’re a single parent.
  • Talk about the baby and tell your older child what to expect in terms of feeding and sleeping and the baby’s needs
  • Sometimes dinner will be take out and that’s ok
  • Don’t shy away from feeding your baby in front of your toddler. My son knows the baby drinks milk from mama and that sometimes I have to pump the milk for baby. He knows breastmilk is for babies and boobies feed babies.
  • If you breastfed your first or wanted to but had a struggling time, plan ahead for baby number two. Taking a prenatal breastfeeding course will not only remind you of what newborns eating and sleeping patterns are like but it will help you feel more confident and prepared. I have a free 5 day mini e-course you can sign up for here that will be sent straight to your inbox and help set you up for more breastfeeding ease.

Overall, it’s been a wonderfully amazing, joyful, messy, exhausting, overwhelming, love filled adventure adding a second child to our family.

Overtime, you’ll find your groove and before you know it, you’ll have a hard time remembering what life was like before your newest addition joined the family.

Alex Wachelka is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, mother of two, educator, writer and podcast host. She works with families locally and across the globe to help them feed their babies. You can connect with her on any of these platforms

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