Adjusting to Life with Two Children

Will you help me with a reader question?

Karen asks:  My husband and I are considering having a second child. Congratulations on expecting your fourth! Can you give me some advice on adjusting to life with two? My child just turned two.

My guess is there will be as many opinions and tips for this one as there are families with more than one child!  The variables are endless, and one thing that will make a difference is the age of the firstborn when the baby arrives.

For us, it was 5 years ago that we went from one child to two.  Our oldest was 2 years and 3 months old at the time our second was born.  Blessedly, I don’t remember many adjustment struggles now, but I’m sure there were some!  Here are a few things that seemed to work well.

  • Maturity – Ok, so really… we had nothing to do with this.  We just got lucky.  Our first-born talked early, potty trained early, pretty much did everything early.  That had to have helped, right?  She was pretty independent at 2 years old.

  • Family Nap – Excuse the “photo of a scrapbook photo” but this illustrates my solution to something near and dear to my heart.  How will I ever get my sleep?!  In those early days and weeks when mama needed her sleep, the three of us napped together in our big king-sized bed.  Bliss.
  • Daddy Time – She loved her daddy before, but our big girl became daddy’s best buddy once the baby arrived!  They did everything together while I was nursing the baby, or bathing the baby, or nursing the baby, or sleeping with the baby… or nursing the baby.  😉
  • Make Room – When daddy was at work, I simply made room for the big girl.  She brought her books to me to read while I nursed.  She got lots of attention as my “right hand girl” and we cooked together, did laundry together, and cleaned together while the baby was sleeping.

There will likely be trying, exhausting moments as you adjust from one to two, but those moments will pass… and you will adjust! I know it works for some families, but I personally can’t fathom life with an only child.  One of the best gifts we’ve ever given our children are their siblings!

What about the rest of you?  Was it difficult to go from one to two (or more)?  What worked for you?

*** You’ll have to excuse me and my Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me? series organization for the next month or two.  In these last weeks of my pregnancy we’re just going to take this series as it comes and not worry about order, okay? (kind of mirroring my life right now!)***

*** If you have a question about pregnancy/childbirth/infant care you’d like to ask my readers, please email me and I’ll work it into the series!***

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  1. I’ve had two kiddos in diapers for… well, what seems like a long time. Lots of moms pregnant with their second child have asked me if that’s a big deal or not. I tell them NO WAY – it is *lots* easier to have two kids in diapers than it is to have one in a diaper and one that just recently potty-trained and has to be helped or reminded about going potty all the time.

    So, for any moms wondering if they should potty train their 1 year old in preparation for another baby, I would say don’t stress it!

    Mom to three-almost-four kids five and under!

    • If my first wouldn’t have potty-trained herself starting at 16 months (she’s a nut) I wouldn’t have messed with it. Big transitions like that with a baby coming along aren’t worth it, IMO. And… I think some kids tend to regress when the baby comes if those new behaviors aren’t firmly (and happily) in place.

  2. Oh dear, I’m not too helpful… I went from one to two when number one was a mere 10 months old. 😉 It’s kind of hard to remember having only one child… I will say that I LOVED having mine close together. There was never one iota of sibling jealousy. My first-born doesn’t remember life before his sister and they are the best of buddies. I had some crazy times, but I don’t regret it a bit!

  3. We did the family nap time too, sometimes it included a cartoon for the oldest (who was 21 months old when #2 arrived), but it was wonderful. We also did a ton of snuggling/reading/coloring while I sat and nursed (still a favorite memory). My oldest also got a kick out of being my “big boy helper”- he was wonderful with helping me get things done around the house during baby’s naptime and so proud of himself for being a great helper.

    My oldest was still in diapers when #2 came along, but at that age he was great at helping me with diaper changes for the littlest and then laying down for his own diaper change when needed. Sure, using the potty would have been handy, but having two in diapers didn’t really feel like more work than one. The very best thing I did to prepare was to simplify the bedtime routine in advance. We got it down to pajamas and brushing teeth, and then one parent (usually daddy) tucking him in after a quick snuggle from the other parent. As complicated as it sometimes can be with a newborn around bedtime it was WONDERFUL to have one kiddo who I knew was going to bed just fine by himself.

    I’m getting ready for #3 right now and would love any advice from those who’ve made the adjustment from 2 to 3 kids. The oldest boy is 3 now, and my second boy will be 18 months when baby arrives – besides getting meals/my stockpile in order I have no idea how else to prepare!

    • Good call on the bedtime routine. I think evenings can be the most stressful. Babies are generally more fussy, everyone is tired and cranky… not a great combo.

  4. Thanks for this post! I’m getting ready to meet our second baby in just a few weeks! Can’t wait to see my two and a half year old as a big sister! 🙂

    • That gives me goosebumps. My very favorite thing about bringing a newborn home is watching their big siblings react to them. PRECIOUS!

  5. Great question!! With 5 kiddos, the 3 middle kids are 21 months apart, I actually found going from 2 – 3 the hardest. I felt so out of my league, what did I get myself into!!! Two was an easy baby, maybe that helped. Three I did have post partum depression too. I think I just felt out numbered! With 3, errands were such a challenge. Where do I put everyone in a grocery cart? How will 3 car seats work? But it worked out. I found my sling to be the greatest blessing and keeping the newborn in my bed, insured everyone got the most sleep possible, every night! This is key!’

    Preparing the children was always fun. I don’t believe at 21 months the “got” the whole picture, but they sensed enough. We read lots of books about being a big sis or bro. Franklin, berstien bears. I got the i’m a big brother/ sister shirts, for dad to give to them before they came to the hospital. One thing I’ve always done is have a gift wrapped in my hospital bag to give to the big siblings from the baby, something simple, book, crayons, bubbles. In preparation for the new babies, the older kids help wash and fold the clothes. I get out pictures of them wearing the same outfit.

    But honestly, the biggest thing, they will take ques
    from you and your spouse. They mimic us! One other thing I do, is when my hubby brings up the kids for first time, he’ll call just before coming up, if at all possible, I have the new baby in the bassinet, so I could be freely available to hug, kiss and old my now big kid! Then we as a family met the new baby !!

    Funny story, after #5, I took a trip to buy diapers. I had 2 in diapers and2 in pullups and I always by at least one box, 4 different sizes. When I checked out, the cashier asked me what day care I worked for!!

    One more thing, then I’m done… after 3 it’s a cake walk, your a pro!! My 4th and 5th were fabulous! I enjoyed every moment of the pg, birth
    and each stage, there after. The kids are used to siblings, so what’s one more!!! Best wishes for an easy transistion!

    • I’m looking forward to #4. I’ve been told, just like you said, that once you switch from “man-to-man” defense and go “zone” defense with three, then adding #4 (or more!) is a piece of cake. 🙂

  6. Ha ha! I hope I forget my struggles 5 years out. My 2 year old discovered tv (sesame street and dvds) while I dozed on the couch during my pregnancy. I was quite sure having a second baby was a HUGE mistake during those first few weeks! My son was 28 months when #2 arrived. Not talking at all, not potty trained, not really sleeping in his own bed. I would imagine a more independent 2 year old could make things easier. I think the best advice is go with the flow and do what you can without stressing about what you can’t. Enjoy it because it really goes by fast.

    • “Go with the flow and do what you can without stressing about what you can’t. Enjoy it because it really goes by fast.” That is most definitely the best advice!

  7. I am sort of with Heather, above … both desperately wanting this second child and wondering what I’ve gotten myself into. My DD will be 26 months when he arrives, assuming he is “timely.” She is somewhat independent and talks some, but I highly doubt she will be potty-trained by then. I also worry she is just old enough to really have a lot of jealousy.

    I’ll be back to read ALL the comments!! And Amy, I just love you. I love this series! Thanks for putting it all together.

    • You make me smile. 🙂 And… you’ll be JUST FINE when the baby comes. I do wish I was closer to invite Libbie over for a few afternoons, though. She’d have a ball with my kiddos and you could rest up with that new sweet baby.

  8. Thanks for the advice. This was really helpful.

  9. Two was easy, at three, I ran out of hands!

  10. Oh. The transition from one to two rocked my world. And I was mad at all my friends who had 2 and did NOT tell me how hard it was going to be.

    Can I link to one of my posts again? It’s called, “What They Don’t Tell You About Having a Second Child” I’m pretty sure I wrote it in tears. 😉

    {Seriously, Amy, I’m not trying to pimp myself all the time. You just bring up such good conversation!!}

    • seriously — I WANT you to link to your posts! 🙂 If it’s any consolation, I think 2 to 3 was easier than 1 to 2. And since we’ve already switched from man-on-man defense to zone defense, we figure #4 will be a cakewalk. {ROFL} #justsayin

    • Thank you for posting your link to your post about having a second child. My second is a month old and I have wondered why I haven’t felt that oh so in love feeling with him. I am slowly getting there I think.

  11. My second one was actually 100 times easier than the first. The hard part is dividing your time between the two. My oldest had to learn to wait on me nursing or changing a diaper before I got her a snack. And dividing my lap between the two was interesting! I can’t imagine with 3 or more what you would do! I think with two, you just learn to juggle a little more. Yes, you pull out lots of hair but seeing the older love on the younger one was so much fun!

    • See, I thought the adjustment from 2 to 3 was even easier than 1 to 2… 😉 Maybe because my “big girl” was 4 at the time and was truly able to help me out!

      • Yes, I think when people first thing of having multiple children, they think of having 2 and 3 infants at a time (well, if you are having twins obviously LOL). My friend just had her 4th (including twins) and she said it’s so much easier because her twins are 7 now and really help out. Also, this one is a really good baby.

  12. I feel a little in the minority here, our firstborn will be about 4 1/2 when #2 is born. We didn’t really plan for such a gap, but now I’m wondering if it will be a blessing in disguise. He is already potty trained, sleeping in a big boy bed, very independent, etc. The biggest change for me will be coming home again. My son is currently in daycare and I’m working. I’m more than just a little freaked out at the prospect of working up until the baby is born. And, then having all three of us at home right away. I’m not so good with radical change. Money will be tight, so I’m not sure if we will be able to afford preschool… Ahhh, I’m sure it will all work out. I’m just getting stressed out thinking about it.

    • My guess is that there are different challenges AND different blessings with all gaps, great and small. 🙂 I’m like you, if I overthink things I get stressed. Just take it a day at a time and all’s well!

    • Andrea :) says:

      I’m in a similar situation as you, where my daughter will be 5 when the baby arrives. I think it is a blessing in disguise as she is so excited to be a big sister and wants to be the best helper ever! She will be able to help, and will understand things better, too.
      The biggest thing I plan to do for her is to make sure we still have plenty of one-on-one time (like we currently do) to work on crafts and projects together. If he is on a schedule in his daycare, try to keep a similar schedule with him.
      Make a list of activities that are easy, inexpensive, and things he can do independently. It will be a great help as you are also going through an adjustment. On those days you are exhausted and sleep-deprived, you can look at the list and find things to help entertain him (like building a fort out of couch cushions).
      Also, plan some ‘play dates’ with a group of friends where you can get together with other moms to let the kids play and for you to have some adult interaction.
      Good Luck!

  13. This will be me in December! My son will be 23-24 months or so when my daughter is born. Kinda nervous. He talks some and I expect that will only continue. Potty training? PSH! Right.

    He’s a sweet, gentle, mostly obedient boy and I think he will be ok.

    I consider the first few months of my child’s life to be an adjustment period for the family and we’ll hunker down and be in survival mode for awhile. Plus it’ll be winter — perfect for some hibernation.

  14. I just had my second a month ago. It has been easier than I thought as far as the transition with my older son. However, I am much more tired since I can’t sleep when he sleeps. I like the idea of napping while letting him watch cartoons in the bedroom. I may have to even try that today! Because of course during his nap time my youngest wants to eat.

    Yesterday was hard because I was SO tired and had just had my eyes dilated. I wanted so badly to take a nap and then my youngest wanted to eat. I felt so bad because I just left him in his car seat and held the bottle in his mouth from my bed. Then I almost didn’t burp him ( I eventually did). I told my husband I was feeling like a bad mom and he said “baby, DHS doesn’t come and take kids away because they didn’t get burped.” Great words of wisdom!

    I appreciate all of the tips and advice and stories that have been told here. I feel so much better knowing I am not the only one going through this.

  15. Great post! I also have recently transitioned from one child to two children. My elder child was barely two yrs when our little arrived. I was also fortunate my daughter did every thing a little early too. I couldn’t agree more with making room for the older child in daily tasks. This helps decrease tantrums and helps build self-confidence.
    My other tip would be to make sure to get out of the house and to invest in a baby sling, wrap, or carrier.
    I have lots of tips about these subjects in my blog too! Thanks again for your post.

  16. I think the best thing I did when we had #2 was get back in “newborn” mode. Our oldest was 2 a few months before the second came along, and I had adjusted well to have a 2-yr-old. I could cook, do laundry, and take care of most things around the house with only 1 kid. #2 was a tornado – nursing ALL DAY and NEVER sleeping, and he screamed nonstop. I had to remember what it was like to have a newborn and change my priorities. Once I realized that spending time with the kids (feeding, playing, etc) would take up about 90% of my time again, I was a little more relaxed. I only had about 30 min in between feedings with the baby, so I had to make sure and spend one-on-one time with the older one during that time. Even 5 minutes makes a huge difference! I’m now expecting #3 and am quite nervous about it, but I’ll just give you the same advice I need to hear – RELAX!! Enjoy them while you can, and don’t stress about the things that won’t matter a year or 2 from now. It will matter if you played with your kids and loved them when you had the chance. It won’t matter if the house is spotless or you have all of the laundry done. Remember what’s important and try not to focus on the difficulties!

    • Excellent advice! (and advice that I need to remember a few weeks down the road…) Expectations of yourself and everyone around you must change for survival (and all things peace/love/happiness) when a newborn is around. 🙂

  17. I am going through the transition right now of 1 to 2 kids. My two boys are currently 18 months and 3 months (15 months apart). I love the RELATIONSHIP the two have. From moment they met my oldest son has been able to make my youngest smile. My oldest loves to share with his brother. When little brother cries he gives him his favorite toys. Just this week my big brother learned how to sit next to little brother and play with him. Little brother gets the biggest smile on his face and then big brother gets the biggest smile on his face. The not so easy….. two babies that need me 24/7 for all their needs. Two in diapers is not any harder (except on the wallet). Nursing is not a problem. My oldest loves to bring me toys and books and sits on the couch with me and plays while the baby is being fed. Our oldest had a bedtime routine before the little one was born so he goes to bed easily. As already mentioned it is a great help to know that one of the kids will go to bed. What is really rough on me is when both get up all night because they are hungry. Best advise is to realize “doing it all” is feeding and clothing your kids and loving them. If nothing else gets done that day I remind myself I have gotten everything done that day. I go out on the good days when everything is going well and all the rest I have come to accept it is OK to stay home. Everyone needs there sleep and a peaceful mommy to be at their best.

    • I think that would be the best possible thing about having babies close together. The relationship! They would never remember life without each other. 🙂


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