You’ve done it once, you’ve got the t-shirt and you’ve earned your parenting-spurs. How hard can it be throwing a second child into the mix?
Just as we were getting into the groove with our first born we made the conscious decision to welcome a sleep-stealing, milk-guzzling, poop machine back into our lives.
With just 22-months between our two kids, we also had the added bonus of the two-under-two conundrum to contend with too.
Undoubtedly, the confidence and experience gained from having our son meant it has been easier dealing with our daughter second time around.
But then let’s not forget that we’re still parenting a toddler for the first time, now with the added load of a totally dependent baby on top.
It has been a struggle at times, both physically, logistically and emotionally but overall we’ve embraced the chaos (mostly) and just about survived.
Now, 8-months post the birth of our second child, I’m able to reflect on just what helped us survive those early days of parenting two children under two-years-old.
That’s me, not the kids.
For some unknown reason I used to get thoroughly p*ssed when people told me to ‘sleep when the baby slept’ with my first born.
Apparently I just had so much to do that even the suggestion of a nap seemed utterly ridiculous.
Oh, how things have changed.
With two humans to feed, change, clothe and entertain I’d have spontaneously combust if I didn’t catch a bit of shut-eye in the afternoon.
Even now things have eased considerably I still sneak a cheeky power nap in every once in a while.
2. Welcoming back our Lactation Consultant
After struggling to establish breastfeeding with my first, I didn’t want to endure that level of suffering second time round while trying to tackle a toddler.
Thanks to a friend referring me to Jane – a qualified Lactation Consultant – I did manage to turn things around with my first born and feed pain-free for just over a year.
To give myself the best possible chance of breastfeeding my second, I invited Jane back, roughly a month before I was due to give birth.
Jane helped me harvest colostrum in case I couldn’t, for whatever reason, feed straight away.
We also had a refresher on what to look out for in a good latch, the various techniques on how to hold the baby to feed and discussed the possibilities of tongue-tie.
It was an absolute luxury, but one I’m so glad we budgeted for.
Not only did it make me feel more confident and ready for round two, but my daughter did also end up with a tongue-tie that was missed by both our hospital and postnatal carers.
3. Admit that it is hard
The logistics of looking after two dependents is hard. End of. Specially if there’s not much between the ages.
Ensuring you’re seeing to just their basic needs is sapping enough, never mind all the other stuff life throws at you.
Accept that it’s hard, accept that it’s just a phase and cut yourself some slack.
4. Getting the kids to nap at the same time
Utter LIFE SAVER!
In the beginning, I had two-under-two so this was relatively easy to set up, I just arranged the day to ensure my daughter was ready to go down when her big brother had his afternoon nap.
It’s one of the key things that kept me sane.
While BOTH kids recharged their batteries, I was able to nap if I needed to, eat, decompress and just gather my thoughts in peace before I had to be back in full-on parenting mode for the rest of the day.
Just prioritise getting a few bits ready the minute they go down in case one or both wake early. You NEVER want to be caught off guard.
I still do a quick tidy-round and nappy stock up straight after they’ve gone down so I can fully relax.
A sling has been my go-to accessory for carrying both kids, but it’s been an absolute life-saver second time around.
The freedom a sling offers is second-to-none.
It’s ultimately given me my hands back! It’s helped me be able to soothe my baby, when I’ve needed both hands free to help my toddler.
The sling really came into it’s own for the nursery drop off. It’s been much easier dealing with my emotionally-charged toddler in the nursery’s tiny reception area, thanks to the baby being safely cocooned in the sling.
6. Delaying paternity leave
We both wanted the whole family to enjoy paternity leave – who doesn’t? So, for us that meant delaying it until three weeks post birth of our second.
This allowed me to focus 100% on the kids and establishing some semblance of a routine without worrying about my husbands’ worries.
Naturally he wanted to help, and he did in those early days. But, unless he had a pair of boobs he wasn’t much help with the baby, and I just wanted to get on working out a new daily life for the toddler too.
He obviously was there for the birth, which turned out to be a Wednesday afternoon, so he took the Thursday off, went in on Friday and then had the weekend with us.
When his paternity leave did arrive, we were able to enjoy it because the post birth madness had died down, there was a bit of a routine and I knew exactly what help I needed from him.
Even with the addition of an extra baby, his paternity leave was much more enjoyable second time around.
7. Getting the eldest involved
In any way that he could.
He might not have been able to speak or even dress himself when the baby arrived but there were so many ways in which our toddler helped out in those early days.
From carrying supplies from room to room to getting wipes I’d forgotten mid nappy change, it was a win win scenario.
The toddler enjoyed the tasks seeing them as new games and he loved getting praised for doing something genuinely helpful.
8. Accepting help
I genuinely thought it was a slight on my mothering capabilities if I accepted help with my first child.
I made it my mission to make sure everyone knew how well I was coping.
Needless to say I capitulated. Badly. I suffered a panic attack and crippling postnatal anxiety.
I’d unneccesarily overloaded myself.
When loved ones were trying their hardest to help me, I was trying my hardest to say I was okay.
I learnt a lot from that experience, the most important being that people offer to help because they genuinely WANT to help and care for you.
We may have only lived in our village for 4-years, but in that time we’ve managed to build a wonderful network of friends that check in on us and help look after the kids.
From neighbours, to friends I’ve met through walking my dog, I’ve accepted help graciously this time around.
It’s not only benefitted me and my kids, but also those that have helped us. My elderly neighbour admitted it was a lifeline to spend time with my daughter.
Walking is therapy for me and something my toddler and I did lots of anyway.
Thank god he was used to it because I did A LOT of walking in the first few weeks after our second was born.
Logistically, I kept my son in his pram, facing outwards and my daughter in the sling.
We were together, but at the same time lost in our own worlds. My toddler entertained by the fields upon fields of cows, my daughter nuzzled into my chest and me soaking up the sun, breathing in sweet fresh air.
Adjusting to life-changing moments is hard and takes time.
Just remember, one minute you had one child dependent on you, the next minute, two.
You may have had 9-months to mentally prepare for the next arrival but experience should tell you that until you’re physically in the thick of it, you just won’t be able to be fully prepared.
Just roll with it until you find your life’s new normal.
You’ve done it once, you’ve got this. I promise.