Kid Juggling
January 11, 2010 8:44 AM   Subscribe

Baby number two is on the way! My children will be about 18 months apart. My wife and I have the baby thing down pat.......when there is only one baby. What can we expect when baby two comes along, and how can we best handle it with minimal stress? I am looking for stories of your experiences and what you did that made the transition and ongoing experience work for you. How did your firstborn handle it? How did you juggle and delegate responsibility? How was that first plane ride? Feeding? Sleeping? Is it a lot more work or are there efficiencies built into the process? Help mommy and daddy learn about managing multiple little monsters.
posted by jasondigitized to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
The best thing we do is assign a parent to a kid. This is especially important in public because they sometimes run off in opposite directions. When the wife is alone she brings a boomerang.
posted by rdurbin at 8:54 AM on January 11, 2010

Is it a lot more work or are there efficiencies built into the process?

According to many answers to this recent question, it's 10 times as much work.
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:55 AM on January 11, 2010

Mine were three years apart. The strangest thing to us was that we had Thing 1 and Thing 2, but when they were together they became Thing 3, almost a unique and different entity. I don't have any advice on how to deal with it, just still a fascination with the interpersonal relationship between the two.
posted by raisingsand at 9:03 AM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

My daughters are just over two years apart in age. Since my second child was the easier baby in the world (making up for the demon child her older sister had been), I didn't find it to be 10x as much work. The older daughter wanted to help as much as a toddler can but she also "regressed" a little - wanted a bottle too, started poo'ing in strange places, would hit me (but not the baby), and so on. It didn't last long as we assured the older often that her place in the family was secure and gave her plenty of attention to combat the jealousy. These two were the best of friends for the better part of their childhood; so much so, the primary school principal called me in concerned that the girls preferred each others company to that of other children.

Currently, most of my friends with children have just two spaced roughly 18-30 months apart. I've not heard the wailing of trouble I read in the linked responses to "Is four a crowd" and many are pleased about the hand-me-down clothing and items bonus.

The answer to many of your questions will be determined by the personality of the children involved. YMMV
posted by _paegan_ at 9:04 AM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Mine are 23 months apart, both teenagers today. The math for additional children looks like this.

1 + 1 > 2. I hear from my catholic relatives that once you get to kid 4 you don't even notice the additional kids anymore, so you at least have that to look forward to ;)

Seriously, the 2nd kid, especially when the first one is still a toddler, is a lot more than a simple doubling of work. As they get older there are some efficiencies of scale, but at the toddler stage they don't recognize the needs of other, so it's nearly impossible to make then wait for something. Everything is now, now, now, times 2.

My best advice is to never turn down any offer of help. Take advantage of grandparents or siblings that will babysit for free. Get together with your friends that have young kids. If your wife is the primary child care provider make sure you take up the slack whenever you can, weekends, evenings etc. Once you get into the routine with two kids all will be fine, but that first year can be both physically and emotionally exhausting, especially for mom.

That said, billions of people have done this before, so really, how hard can it be? (I told myself that many times over the years...)
posted by COD at 9:45 AM on January 11, 2010 [4 favorites]

Make sure your child is around younger babies as often as possible in the next few months, invite baby and parent/s to your home. Encourage gentle interaction. If your first babe is familiar with smaller ones the new baby will not seem like such an alien invader.
posted by mareli at 9:51 AM on January 11, 2010

Number 1 is going to change when Number 2 comes along. How, I can't say, but every single parent I know has said that their children were different when the next one came long. Whether this means marked new progress or huge steps back is entirely up in the air, but you can expect your child to suddenly be different in any of the following areas:

- Potty training. I've usually seen kids take steps back here, but it's gone the other way too.

- Speech. Most of the kids I know learned to talk really quick, once they realized Mommy's attention was no longer solely focused on them, creating the need for a more... efficient means of making their desires known than generalized squawling.

- Walking and general mobility. Most kids are pretty mobile by 18 months or 2 years, but they get more so--or learn right quick--when the next one comes along. Gotta distinguish yourself somehow.

- Eating. This is weird anyways, but it gets weirder. One kid I know refused to be fed, insisting that he do it all himself, with predictable--and hilarious--results. Another did the opposite. Yet another wanted to go back to breastfeeding. Good luck with that one.

With all of these, YMMV, and there really isn't any way to plan for them per se, but being aware that Number 1 is going to head off in a different direction after the arrival of Number 2 should take some of the surprise factor out of it.
posted by valkyryn at 10:06 AM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

1. Learn to tend to the daily routine things in an assembly line manner.

When I was fostering two little ones (one was 8 months and the other 21 months), I found that if I needed to change one diaper, I probably needed to deal with two. I would go in prepared to change two and celebrate if I only had to change one. The older child very quickly caught on to the routine and would wait until the younger one was finished and then presented himself for the changing. With two, I realized this was often easiest done sitting on the floor. I'd change the baby and set the baby to the side to play with toys and the older one flop down in front of me for his changing.

This also worked well for getting them dressed, giving them baths and feeding them.

Say it with me: Assembly Line! Assembly Line! Assembly line!

2. If your home has more than one level, have multiple stashes of changing supplies. You do not want to have to cart everyone upstairs to change diapers when you can easily keep a pack of wipes and some extra diapers near at hand.

3. If the two are going to share a room, they will get used to the sounds their sibling makes. The 8 month old mentioned above would wake and SCREAM from midnight until 2 or 3 in the morning nearly every night. At first, we were afraid the child would wake the older sibling, but he never stirred. He was used to this. It was hell on us, but all the miles of walking the baby around the house in the dark and all the other techniques we use to soothe little ones would just make this one irate. By the time these children were reunited with their mother, the baby had improved to only screaming for a half hour or so in the middle of the night. Lesson: Older siblings can get used to nearly anything.

4. Prepare food that both can eat. Don't make yourselves into short order chefs. When the baby starts on solid foods, you will find that baby can quickly learn to eat the same thing you're feeding everyone else if you just mash it up a bit more.

5. Sleep when they sleep and get them on a good sleep schedule. This is definitely more important when you've moved beyond just having one child. Seriously, you don't need to stay up to see the 11 pm news. The world didn't end and you won't have to take a quiz the next day on current events. Get some sleep.
posted by onhazier at 10:09 AM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

My daughters are 2 &1/2 years apart. Oldest just turned 14.

Better than you would expect:
Stress over baby's health - You will worry less over every little thing
Understanding what's wrong - You will already know the difference between the 'I'm hungry' and 'I'm tired' cries.
Diapers/dressing/feeding - You learned it in action with #1, all the practice makes it easy the second time
Getting along - They will get along just fine. In a few short years, they will be inseparable.

Worse than you would expect:
Tiredness - You are already super-tired with #1, you will be even more tired.
Meals - The toddler & infant will likely need to eat at different times, handling both at once is super hard to do, especially solo. Also, they will eat different stuff.
Travel - Hard even with both parents there, there is no respite, like there can be with one
Appointments - Any time you need to be in a place, like a Doctor's office, it's is hard to keep them both content

Things you might try:
Exer-saucer - This thing was a godsend. Kept #1 busy while #2 was attended to.
Day care - Even for just a few hours a day, greatly reduces the stress.
Dedicated special time for #1 - Set aside some time, just for #1, as they will know they are not the sole focus anymore
The double stroller - Many good options today for the jogging style double stroller. Much better than the back/front versions.
Play-dates - More is better, for everyone.

Congrats & good luck!
posted by Argyle at 10:21 AM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm 17 months older than my brother. According to my mother, it took 1-2 days to acclimate me to his existence and then it was like he was always there. You can assign responsibilities to the older kid -- i.e. "Can you bring me a diaper for the baby?" "Can you count to 10 for the baby?" which helps everybody out.
posted by melodykramer at 10:26 AM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

I come here to give you reason to believe there's light at the end of the tunnel, because in the short term this is going to hurt.

When you have one child, that child can be bounced back and forth between parents, so each parent is on deck 50% of the time. With two children, that is no longer the case; both parents are always on.

Now, when you have three or four kids, the oldest kid(s) can actually start to help, and take some of the burden off, especially if the age spread is significant. However, with two (twins or close together like yours) there's not nearly as much benefit there.

So, here's the light: when your two children reach a certain age, they will start to spend a lot of time playing together. And, unlike a single-child household, where you have to spend a lot of time arranging playdates or being your child's playmate, in a two-child household (twins or close together) they will be each other's playmate, reducing the burden on you. Hang in there, support each other, spell each other as needed, and know that having two will eventually be easier than having one.
posted by davejay at 10:32 AM on January 11, 2010 [5 favorites]

My second's babyhood was somewhat easier than the first one's because the older one provided an endless source of amusement for the younger. Even when the older wasn't trying to be amusing! For the first one, I was the sole source of distraction - a little tougher on me. My two older were almost 3 years apart. (Now I am working on toddler #3.) I find the hardest part is when they are both trying to have conversations with me at the same time. If I had a dime for every time I said "I can't hear you when you are both talking at once!"...
posted by molasses at 11:30 AM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

My first two are two years apart. My oldest is pretty mellow, and didn't really care when the baby came. She didn't stop wanting what she wanted when she wanted it, but there was no regression. The second kid was a little demon the first few months. He wouldn't let me put him down. A baby sling and a swing saved my sanity.

Baby number two will not be a clone of baby number one. They are going to be different little personalities. Just because they are made from the same genetic material doesn't meant that they will be similar. My first was so much more easy going and it lulled me into a false sense of security. The second is now one of the sweetest almost seven year olds that you'll ever meet, but when he was a baby and toddler I thought he was sent to test my sanity. Well, actually that hasn't changed much.

They will feed off each other. One will get going and the other will join in for the fun of it. Crying, puking, finger painting on the walls, you name it. Be prepared for the 'tag team'. The older one will also be a good thing though. My second watched his big sister and would just light up when she came in the room. She was his favorite toy. When she played peek-a-boo with him he was just in heaven. It was so adorable.

It really is better when they get older though. My oldest two are a super help with my toddler, and they keep each other entertained really well. If you end up with two of the same sex you may get some rivalry, but that doesn't last very long. My sister and I are less than two years apart, and while we fought as teenagers we are really close now.
posted by TooFewShoes at 1:15 PM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

1 + 1 > 2. I hear from my catholic relatives that once you get to kid 4 you don't even notice the additional kids anymore, so you at least have that to look forward to ;)

That is SO true. I had four kids in four years (first born April '86, last born Oct '90), and it just gets easier after the third one.

Of course, I don't know the modern conveniences for babies, but here's what I remember about having babies close together.

Older toddlers *can* get jealous of attention that babies require, especially if they're the oldest. This can be curbed by keeping the older kid in the loop.

As babies grow into toddlers, older siblings are also great sources of information for their younger siblings - I found potty training and other things much easier for the younger kids because they just copied their older sibs.

Older toddlers like to feel useful, as someone else mentioned, plus it keeps them in the loop.
posted by patheral at 1:19 PM on January 11, 2010

Congratulations! I think 18 months is a fantastic age gap. My two girls, now 5 and 6, are also 18 months apart. The first year is tough, and tiring. But after that, once baby #2 starts walking, it’s so nice. Definitely seconding what davejay said – having the two kids play together is one of the best things about having a small age gap. My kids can easily entertain each other for LONG stretches of time – 1-2 hours – with minimal to no supervision. Plus they feel supported – they each have a built-in best friend. My girls work so well together as a team (sometimes too well! I get nervous thinking about the plots they’ll conceive in their teen years...).

Practical advice:
- Make sure your older child’s sleeping schedule is nailed down before baby #2 comes along. You don’t need to be double sleep-deprived! Added bonus: because our older one was sleeping solidly through the night when her sister was born, we were able to move her to a twin bed at a young age (20 months) with no adverse affects. Saved us from having to buy a second crib.

- Shower your firstborn with attention when the baby comes along. The baby won’t know the difference, but your toddler will. We tried hard to make sure my older one never felt neglected after her sister was born. We also tried to keep things as normal for her as possible, continuing her playdates, bedtime routine, etc. We didn’t have any major issues with jealousy or regression in our toddler.

- Efficiencies – yes! I started bathing the girls together when the baby was about 3-4 months, and I still do. When they were younger, this required my husband to be home to help get them out and dried at the same time, but it was well worth it. Having them in together provided some mental rest for me, because they loved being in there. It was “happy time”.

- Another efficiency: as soon as baby #2 was sleeping through the night (around 9 months), we moved her into her sister’s room. Saved space AND helped them bond, plus it was only one room to keep clean as opposed to two. As they’ve gotten older and started wanting some space, we’ve separated them, but this was great for the first few years.

The last thing I would suggest is to read up on sibling rivalry and the correct way to praise. The biggest challenge in raising two kids so close in age is the competition for attention. There is never enough of me to go around, and it’s sometimes difficult to give each child what they need in the moment. The book Siblings Without Rivalry taught me a lot. Good luck! Enjoy the ride.
posted by yawper at 1:30 PM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

IMHO, two is not 10x the work of 1, although of course that depends on the disposition of your kids. For me it felt like maybe 3x the work of 1. It starts out hard (because newborns are just plain hard work) and then gets easier as time goes on. My kids are almost exactly 2 years apart, oldest is 2.5 and youngest is 8 months old now. I work, so we had daycare to help us with the transition. #1 was already used to being around babies, so they were not alien creatures to him. If your eldest does not have regular access to babies, then definitely second the advice to organise lots of playdates with other families. Daycare was also great because that meant I only had to manage the little one during the day when I was on maternity leave, and his elder brother didn't have such a massive change to his life - his regular weekday schedule remained the same. I'm sure it will be much harder if one of you is a stay at home parent.

Talk about the impending arrival. A lot. Don't wait, start talking now. We got a couple of really awesome books to help with this (links here and here). I love them because they have no words, so you can pretend it is your family and use your names, which personalises it for the child. Its also great because it shows Dad doing a lot of the work around the house while Mom sits and breastfeeds the baby. Yay for reinforcing equal share of the work!

My eldest loved his little brother almost immediately, but for the first couple of months he was very angry at me. He wouldn't cuddle me and was very standoffish, I guess feeling rejected. Glad he still loved his brother though. It resolved itself one day when he got very sad and came for a hug with me. The only regression I have seen is that he suddenly insists on calling us mama and dada instead of mommy and daddy.

Definitely second the dedicated time with #1, my eldest and I go grocery shopping every Saturday morning, and even though its a fairly dull activity for a toddler, he LOVES it, and is upset if our schedule changes and we have to do something else. He will ask about it all weekend. Its important that #1 gets some alone time with mom every week or more frequently, just so he or she feels like he/she is still important to you.

Sleeping, we already had #1 in his own room, and #2 slept in our room. I think #1 was jealous of this, but we talked up the fact that his baby brother was going to move into his room when he got a little bigger. We also had #2s crib up and assembled in #1s room before #2 was born, so there was something concrete to point to and talk about, and so that the arrival of #2 did not coincide with upsetting changes to his space.
posted by Joh at 1:47 PM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

My two are 15 months apart. Within a month after my first was born, though, I inherited a number of stepkids (long story), who I actually think helped the process when my two were younger. I had a fine little army of helpers when I had my infants, so I can't really say much about the infant time. There are fewer concerns about the second baby, and that's very natural. You know you won't break the child with a pacifier they just threw on the floor or whatever. It also helped that I hadn't given away all the infant gear (onesies, sling, swing, crib, etc.) when my daughter arrived. I didn't care that she wore boys outfits, and we'd been given some girl's clothes that I'd held onto. The onesies were all neutral colors and good for the extra layer or whatever.

I did take both of mine to bed after I almost dropped my oldest when taking him to the living room to feed him. When my daughter was born via C-section, the nurses in the hospital ignored the fact that we were sleep-feeding. My #2 also had reflux, so we ended up sleeping on the couch propped up a lot.

My son's older brother helped him with his potty training. After circumstances removed the older brother, the toilet training regressed a little, but not a lot. Both of my kids potty trained on time. I was still changing two sets of diapers/pullups for a while, but I was in the habit, so it wasn't a huge deal. I'd also helped a couple of their sisters with potty training, so I'd had some practice with that.

When they were little, I could bathe them together and that was nice. And then, once a curiosity event happened, I needed to bathe them separately. More time with the nightly routine, which was kind of a drag, but we got through it fine, and that was when I was single.

They're 12 and 11 now, and still a lot of fun. I've enjoyed mine most between age 5 and now, so it's been a good run. They're both very interesting proto-people in their own ways. They have similarities and differences. Right now, they're both in the same middle school, so I get a lot of comments from their teachers, as I did when they were in the same elementary school. I can see the teen years looming on us all and hope to still be the mom they need.

As an only child, I've kind of made a project of watching my boy and girl. They fight like cats and dogs, except for when they are collaborating. They "hate" each other, except for when they don't. They both want my attention in totally different ways, except for when they want it the same way. You get the idea.

It's kind of a crap shoot depending on the personalities of your children. Congratulations on the new baby! I'm sure you'll do fine. We all just figure it out as we go anyway, right?
posted by lilywing13 at 2:36 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Let the older child do something, anything, to help. At least with my kids, any little thing the 2-year-old could do to help with his baby brother made him feel big and important.

Letting him feel useful, even when at times it would've been easier to do it ourselves, was the single most helpful thing for getting him used to the idea of a baby brother and keeping him from feeling insecure.
posted by greenmagnet at 11:21 AM on January 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

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