Unknown unknowns of baby #2?
January 8, 2016 9:17 AM   Subscribe

My family is about to welcome child #2. We have a 2 year old who is about to be a sister. We have done some preparing, but not enough (did I mention we have a 2 year old?). What are your hottest tips 'n' tricks for making life easier in the 1st year of having a second child?

Dos and Don'ts welcome-- for preparing ourselves, our spaces, the toddler, the grandparents, or the rest of the world.

Possibly relevant:
Toddler will be just shy of 2 years old when baby is born (ya, it's soon).
Toddler sleeps great, loves her crib.
Right now toddler goes to day care every day. After 6 weeks the newborn will be joining her there.
We're doing disposable diapers. Final answer.
The plan is to breastfeed for at least first 3 months.
Currently living in a 2 bedroom apartment.
Not into buying a lot of extra stuff. We already have plenty of rock and plays and car seats, etc.
Proud owner of a 2011 Honda Accord.
posted by Potomac Avenue to Human Relations (21 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I found it was nice for the older child to have a baby doll that he could cuddle, diaper and breastfeed (yep!) when I was doing the same to the new baby. He is still protective of his baby doll, three years later.

Although it was a supremely weird experience to walk into the toy store with the goal of getting a doll that would be as similar to the upcoming new baby as possible and ask "Do you have any more of this particular doll, but in, uh...well...Caucasian?"
posted by Liesl at 9:29 AM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My kids are 19 months apart. The big warning I always give is that the older sibling will regress for a few weeks after the baby is born. Just be prepared. Toddler will throw tantrums, won't want to eat, won't want to sleep. Mine chose our first night home with the baby to climb out of his crib for the first time. Toddler will adore his or her new sibling but may not be too happy with you. Just hang in there; it's temporary (a friend of mine told me to expect one bad day for every month of the older sibling's life - so in our case 19 days... This was actually pretty accurate for us).
posted by amro at 9:31 AM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: We had 3 kids in 30 months. The only advice I can give you is that when out in public such as the grocery store, some idiot will find it necessary to comment about how close in age they are or ask if they are both yours. Be prepared to either ignore, have a snappy comeback or have an answer. IT seems to be a fascination to others how close (or not) in age your kids are.

Otherwise, be prepared to go with the flow. There is virtually no way to be prepared for every contingency and of course the ones you do not anticipate are the ones that happen. Just approach those problems logically and not emotionally. Oh, for the two year old? Ice cream always worked for us when the balance of attention had drifted too far to the newborn. Do you want to go with Daddy to get ice cream while mommy feeds your brother? Worked for oldest and daddy.

Also, this is your first time with two kids. It is also your kid's first time with two kids. So, there are no preset rules or established norms. You will make mistakes. So will your daughter. We found that the best way out of a mistake was to simply right it right away or ignore it, but not fret about it. This is a change for the entire family. Feel your way out to what works best for you and your family in the circumstances you are in.
posted by AugustWest at 9:33 AM on January 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: We have four kids, spreads across…mmmmm nine years.

Remember how after you had a kid you couldn't remember what life was like before you had one, and how you regard the You of those days as maybe charming but a little naive in terms of what you didn't know that you didn't know? But if you had tried to explain that stuff to You, You wouldn't have gotten it? It's like that again. :7)

I would say that your "possibly relevant" items seem like good choices WRT time management, compromises, and realism (if that's why you made them). People who put dogma before practicality often aren't coming at decisions from the same place as parents of multiples. *shrug*

In the past, one of you could have Alone Time while the other one had the baby; from now on, both of you will almost always have one of the kids, just for a change of scenery (for the kids!). Finding some Alone Time will now require some conscious effort, and I encourage you to commit yourselves to doing so.

Good luck, have fun, and try to take just as many pictures of this one as the first one!
posted by wenestvedt at 9:48 AM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I tried to include Toddler when discussing what was needing to be done for the baby. Like "we can play in a bit, but right now we need to get BabyFingers fed, we don't want her hungry" rather than "I." I felt like it sounded less like a competition for attention that way.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:00 AM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't have children, but I know people who do.

It used to be that Grandmas would come to your house and do for the family while you all got used to the new dynamic. If it's not possible to install a Grandma, outsource as much of your life as you can. Grocery deliveries, laundry, cleaning, chores whatever you can think of.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:11 AM on January 8, 2016

Best answer: Prepare for how you will react when toddler pushes baby over, hits, bites and bangs baby's head into the doorframe. (Usually when baby is at a crawling age.)
Seriously. I am still very ashamed of how I acted, I completely lost my shit several times and pushed toddler away so hard she got hurt, too! Just come up with a plan and stick with it, please.

There is no way to completely prevent some sibling aggression. There is a phase that lasts a couple of months where you can't move an inch away from their sides when they are next to each other. Do the laundry at night or something, you can't leave them alone. In our case, Toddler pushed baby so hard while I was standing right next to her that we were at the ER on two consecutive weekends (baby banged her head against corners/drawer handles).
I mean, we may be extreme, but be prepared!
posted by Omnomnom at 10:38 AM on January 8, 2016 [6 favorites]

Best answer: My kids are 27 months apart, but if the first hadn't been born premature, they'd be just under two years apart.

My best advice is to relax your standards. I know, you relaxed them when the first baby came, but relax them again. A lot. For your house, for your own behavior, for your partner, for your toddler. I felt like I would know what I was doing because I'd already been down the baby road once, but they're different kids - so different that in a lot of ways it was just as hard. I had to re-learn all the newborn soothing techniques and sleeping tricks and everything, because nothing carried over. I kept beating myself up for being so bad at it, but the reality is that #2 is a totally different person than #1 so pretty much the only thing that should carry over is the knowledge that this too shall pass.

Help your toddler not take your new busy-ness personally by saying things like "My hands are busy" instead of "Mommy or Daddy is busy".

FWIW, my oldest never regressed at all, not even a little, after the baby came. It wasn't until he started crawling at 10 months that she got upset and possessive and mean. It's good advice to plan ahead about how you'll handle that.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 11:03 AM on January 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: +1 to getting a doll for the older one
+1 to relaxing standards

I have a three year old and a seventh month old and some great advice I got was to not always prioritize the baby. Obviously a lot of the time the baby's needs are immediate but if the baby is fussy and the toddler needs a drink sometimes I'll say, "Hang on [Baby], Mommy is getting [Sister] juice." It helps my older one to know that she still comes first sometimes and the baby isn't going to remember that she fussed for 30 extra seconds while I got some juice. The move from zero to one kid was much more challenging than one to two kids, if that helps. I'm sure you'll do fine, congratulations on the new baby!
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 11:15 AM on January 8, 2016 [8 favorites]

Best answer: We have an almost 4 year old and a 3.5 month old at home.

Seconding that it is unlikely that the toddler will take out aggression on the baby. Our older one loves the baby, although is less than thrilled with us at times.

Friends commented to us things along the lines of "it's not twice the work, it's more like the amount of work squared." We've actually found this to not really be the case. It really is twice the work, although I think that you're not really prepared for that. You (consciously or unconsciously) think that some of what you're doing with the older kid will transfer, but it really won't.

One bit of advice that I found to be really true is to make time for the older kid to have some one-on-one "special" time with you and your partner. I had heard that before and thought it was a good idea, but sort of didn't really give it that much weight. Part of this was because our older kid actively wanted the baby to do things with us. However, the one-on-one time with the older one has been great and totally worth it for keeping everyone happy.
posted by Betelgeuse at 11:29 AM on January 8, 2016

peanut_mcgillicuty: My best advice is to relax your standards.

Oh, lordy, yes. Less angst over not meeting them, and more joy when you do.
posted by wenestvedt at 11:53 AM on January 8, 2016

Make a point of sometimes telling Baby, "You have to wait, it is Big Sister's turn to have Mommy time now." That will let the big sister, who overhears you talking to baby, know that she isn't the only one who has to take turns. Obviously, not when the baby needs you but, for example, if you are putting baby down on the floor for some tummy time and are getting ready to read a book to the sister, just highlight that it is sister's turn now.
posted by metahawk at 11:56 AM on January 8, 2016 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Toddler sleeps great, loves her crib.

My kids are 24 months apart. Toddler was a rockstar napper and sleeper; he would run to his crib and as soon as you put him in he would flop down and wave bye and smile. About a week after we brought his sister home, he started throwing INSANE tantrums at naptime and bedtime. I quickly figured out that it was because he thought we were staying up and having tons of fun with his sister and he was being left out. We spent 5-10 minutes talking to him before each nap and bedtime and thoroughly explaining that we were ALL going to sleep: mommy, daddy, sister, the cats, EVERYONE (i.e. lying our asses off), and we needed him to help us put his sister to sleep by showing him how good he is at falling asleep. He stopped throwing tantrums after a couple days and downgraded to just looking very sad. After 10 days or so of sleepytime sadness he was completely back to normal. I think we were probably very lucky since this was really the only negative behavior he's had, other than an uptick in tantrums (which could just be terrible two's, anyway).

I'm a big believer in toddler labor; nothing makes my son happier than feeling useful, and the baby is a wonderful opportunity for that. I call my toddler my little helper and praise him whenever he brings me a spitup rag, bib, my nursing pillow, etc. He is always super happy to feel like he's special and like we really need him to help take care of his sister. And really, it actually is extremely helpful when he brings me that stuff when I'm trapped under a nursing baby!
posted by gatorae at 12:18 PM on January 8, 2016 [6 favorites]

Best answer: We were lucky enough that, overall, our 3yo was fantastic about welcoming her little sister and we didn't see any of the regression or neediness that people talk about all the time (though we are seeing some of it now that she's 5 and wondering why there are different standards for her and her 2yo sister in terms of things like cleaning up after themselves).

With a sample size of one, of course, it's impossible to say if we did anything right or were just extremely fortunate, but here are two things that we did that felt like they helped:

1. When the baby came home from the hospital, she brought a present for her big sister. This was a pretty big present, about equivalent to the most extravagant present she would expect at Christmas (in this case, a bicycle). It was a complete surprise and it was entirely from the baby ("Look what your new sister brought for you!"). She loved it and we kept reminding her to thank the baby after every bike ride.

2. We asked for her help with everything baby related, even when (usually) her help was minimal or even a hindrance. We'd ask her to pick out the baby's clothes at the start of the day. We'd ask her to get the diaper when it was changing time. She really enjoyed feeling like she was helping us take care of the baby, and it felt like maybe that sense of responsibility made her not so much want to act like a baby herself. Maybe?

Good luck! You'll do great! And even when it's bad, it's not bad for long.
posted by 256 at 1:21 PM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: We have two boys, about 3 years apart. The younger one is now a year old, and the older one still has bouts of aggressive territoriality, maybe more often now that the little guy is really active and handsy (no ER trips, thank goodness). My wife and I would have benefited from talking about how to respond as a team to those things, and the older one acting out in general. I feel like I got off easy and mom ended up yelling more, which isn't fair to her.

Some of this also deals with managing kids as a couple - both splitting up the focus on the kids, and giving one parent the option to tap out and have some quiet, alone time while the other parent takes on both little maniacs. If nothing else, check in with your partner when you're about to bend the rules for the older one, so you agree and don't end up debating the action after it has taken place.

You won't need a lot of extra stuff. In fact, we have too much, with birthdays and holiday gifts for both boys, and we have a two story house. But be prepared for the older sister to re-claim some forgotten baby toys once then come back out for the baby. Sharing is still tricky, because our little guy is most interested in whatever his older brother is doing and using.

You would probably benefit from working with your daughter to put away fragile things, especially as the new addition gets bigger and bitier. Our older son has a lot of matching game cards, which the little guy loves to bend and chew, much to the dismay of his older brother. Those toys could be saved for when the baby is napping.

Fun exercise for the older sister: silent scream. It's just what it sounds like - clench your fists at your side, lift up your head and roar - but without making a sound. Our older guy learned this at his Pre-K school, and it allows them to get some energy out, without waking up a sleeping sibling.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:33 PM on January 8, 2016

Best answer: Congrats! I love this age gap though the first few months are really tough. My girls are 11 and 12 now (18 months apart). Someone else mentioned trying to take as many photos of your second as your first, and I would like to expand on that: whatever you did for your first child in terms of record-keeping (baby book, etc.) please try to do for the second in equal measure. It will be much harder now to find the time and energy, but if your kids are like mine, it will matter. I did my best but just could not keep the same kind of detail for my second, and now when she looks at her baby book and compares it to her older sister's, she is sad. There are actual tangible things she can point to, like: "you don't know when I lost my first tooth" or whatever and it makes her feel like she was less important. In the scheme of things it's not a huge deal, but if you can manage this, it could reduce some hurt feelings down the line.
posted by yawper at 1:36 PM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

newly mom to two, big brother was 2.5 when (now 3 month old) sister was born. I fing myself telling my son he has to wait, I'm feeding/changing/helping his sister. now I make a point to tell baby she has to wait, because I'm eating lunch with her big brother. obviously she has no idea, and I'm not going to let her get hysterical, but just hearing that makes big brother feel like he isn't being ignored all the time in favor of the new baby.

eta: what metahawk said
posted by sabh at 6:12 PM on January 8, 2016

oh, also: will the baby be in your room? I sensed big brother is jealous that his sister gets to share a room with mommy and daddy. moved the baby sooner than expected (she doesn't sleep through the night), and big brother is totally oblivious to her night wakings.

some advice I got when #2 was born: spend 15 minutes of one-on-one time with each kid every day.

look forward to double nap time!

some more advice that was given to me: shower every day.
posted by sabh at 6:28 PM on January 8, 2016

I joke, only halfway, that I wore the first baby in a baby carrier all the time because he wanted me to, and I wore the second one all the time because *I* needed to. I wore him when he was a newborn/pre-crawling baby because that way I had hands for wrangling the toddler, and I wore him after he started going places because he would run away otherwise. So my recommendation is: get a baby carrier, if you don't have one already.
posted by linettasky at 9:24 PM on January 8, 2016

Best advice from our midwife when #2 arrived: maintain elder kid's schedule as much as possible (daycare is a plus here), if elder kid wants to nurse when they see baby nursing, let them. It will lose its appeal much more quickly if it's not off limits. In our case, elder kid tried to nurse once, had forgotten how, and found it hugely funny.
posted by lizifer at 4:50 AM on January 9, 2016

Set aside a basket or box with tempting toys, which you only give to the toddler when you're feeding or bathing the baby and need a moment to do that. Recycle the contents frequently - if you put something away for a couple of weeks, it's "new" again when it returns.

Let the toddler help as much as possible. My eldest (2 when the youngest was born) was very proud of her responsibilities - fetching a nappy, giving the baby a pacifier, gently brushing the baby's hair, putting babyfood on the plate, sneaking in to check out if the baby was still asleep - just whatever she was capable of.

Finally, I would not have managed without babywearing. It frees your hands to save the toddler without having to drop the baby. ;) A flexible knit jersey wrap was the most comfortable for the first few months.

Good luck!
posted by sively at 11:16 AM on January 9, 2016

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