There is no doubt about it, bringing a second (or additional) baby into your family will change things. Family dynamics and the flow of daily life, will certainly take on a new rhythm. Most parents embarking on this journey feel nervous, and rightfully so - this is a big shift! While we can’t plan everything, taking some time to consider a few areas, can make a world of difference in how we approach, and also feel, about these familial changes.
Here are 10 areas that you may want to explore:
Iron out the immediate logistics.
There is no way to plan everything that will happen when a new baby comes into your home. But you will want to consider the initial logistics, in relation to your first child (ren).
Some questions to consider may be:
Where will your child (ren) be during birth? What if the birth is at night? Or during the day?
Does your child (ren) want to be a part of the birth?
Who will be your child (ren)’s primary support person and who will be yours?
There are no right or wrong answers - only ones that will suit your family best. I am a firm believer in openness, even with little people. Once you’ve made decisions, explaining your thoughts with your child (ren) can help ease the big transition, for them and for you, giving you all time to process what is about to unfold.
Take time to mourn the big changes that are happening.
When we become parents we go through a major shift on all levels of our being. While we’ve been through the baby stage before, our brains can only hold so much information, and we almost have to relearn all things baby, when we have subsequent children. We also have to reshift our lives once again. Adding a new baby into our lives, forces us to move from more independence, back into the “grind” of around the clock diapering and feeding.
In addition to this, even thinking about adding a second love to your life can feel overwhelming. Often people wonder how they can love anything else as much as they love their other child (ren). Having a tiny new baby, also puts the growth of your first child (ren) into perspective. Realizing that the time with your first has past can bring on feelings of grief. The truth is, the heart is big enough to expand to love them all. Plus, watching your children grow together and forming their own bonds, is an extremely special experience.
Take the time during your pregnancy to fit in self care activities, talk to friends and family about your needs and what you want your postpartum support to look like (see point #4). And know that this too shall pass, just as it has before!
Invest in Babywearing.
Getting out the door and entertaining a toddler or child, with a newborn, is not always easy, to say the least. Babywearing can help these moments by meeting your baby’s needs (being close and the regulation of bodily functions through close contact) and giving your older child (ren) what they need (trips to the park, drop ins/play dates, and so on). Read more about the benefits of babywearing here.
Find your village.
In our modern age, most of us no longer have a built in village to support us through parenting. Yet, it has recently become clear how important a having a tribe of support is during the postpartum period. As Courtney Sullivan writes in her incredible New York Times piece, “in the trenches with a baby, you need someone to text at 2 a.m.” This need continues (and even amplifies) when adding a second baby.
Take some time, during your pregnancy, to map out your postpartum team. Often the village looks like a combination of friends, family, a postpartum doula, lactation consultants, and other health care professionals. It could also involve, meal trains or food services, and other “out sourcing,” if your financials allow. Re-familiarize yourself with drop ins, parent meet-ups, and other baby and me programs. These groups will not only get you some fresh air, but also offer the ability to empathize and connect with other parents.
Carve out one on one time with your first.
Transitioning to sharing a home, and parents, with another human can be difficult for little people to comprehend. For some children this may manifest as jealousy and/or attention seeking behaviours.
Finding ways to “fill their bucket” can help ease these feelings and reactions. This may mean offering your child (ren) special trips with grandparents, your partner, or friends. But, importantly, it also means, carving out space for one on one time with you - even a 10 minute book and snuggle each day can help you both reconnect.
Adopt new (flexible) family rituals and routines.
As with all things parenting adaptability is a huge asset - nothing is linear and life with little people can be totally unpredictable. Setting up some new rituals and routines can help everyone in the family adapt to big changes. Key times this might happen are during feeding, bathing or at bedtimes. For example, balancing the constant feeding pattern of a newborn, with a toddler that needs attention can be tricky. Having special stories and/or a special box of toys or activities, that you older child (ren) can pull out (or if you’re ambitious you can partake in somehow too!) while you’re feeding your baby, can be a great strategy.
Ditch the Comparisons.
Every pregnancy, birth, and baby follows its own unique pathway. While it’s so easy to do, comparing our children, adds no value to our lives. Processing our previous birth and early parenting with our first child (ren), can help wipe the slate clean before venturing into a new world. Consider talking, writing or other forms of “therapy” to help your processing experience.
Keep up your own self care.
In her book The Fourth Trimester Kimberly Ann Johnson encourages new parents to, “remember what brings you joy”. Life changes immensely with every human you bring into your life. But you matter too - remember, you cannot pour from an empty cup! Make a list of experiences that make you feel whole - maybe it’s fresh air, a hot shower, or finishing a hot cup of tea. Try to fit at least one of them in to each day.
Spend some time in your relationship with your partner.
The hustle and bustle of parenting life is ongoing. And often times our relationships get put on the backburner. Just like your own self care, your relationship is going to sustain you and your family. Together with your partner, make a list of the things that make your relationship feel whole. This can be as simple as a daily hug or more ambitious, like weekly or monthly dates (these might be stay at home and watch a movie type dates). As a team, aim to keep the momentum going, as well as the communication lines open.
Harness empathy for yourself and your little one.
When our children respond negatively it is not because they are trying to being bad. Most often, it’s because it doesn’t feel good to their body, and they are still learning how to articulate their feelings and thoughts.
If you find your child is having a hard time with the new transition, try pausing and breathing together, and wholly acknowledge their feelings. As author L.R. Knost puts it so well, “When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it’s our job to share our calm, not join their chaos.”
With that said, it is totally normal to find yourself going through a whole range of emotions, when a new child comes into your life - you are human after all! Acknowledging our own emotions and communicating about them with our children, can go a long way. The reaction after your initial action, is sometimes even more impactful.
You may find solace in affirmations or breathing exercises - these are proven to positively affect our mind frame.
And remember - you are enough, you’re accomplishing an incredible feat, and you’ve totally got this!
For more information on this topic, I highly recommend checking out these resources:
How to Introduce a New Baby to a Toddler, Sarah Ockwell Smith
The Second Baby Book, Sarah Ockwell Smith (currently available on amazon.co.uk but should be coming to North America soon!)
Sibling Transition Downloadable E-Book, Aha Parenting