The transition from one to two kids can be a drastic change for many families. Get the best tips to fully prepare for life with a new baby and toddler.
When I left the hospital with my second baby after 4 days of a c-section recovery, I knew our family dynamics were in for a bit of a change. But I never imagined what a chaotic turn my entire life would take with two under 2.
Like many new parents, we always wanted our child to have a sibling — someone to play with, share toys with and just a best friend to grow with. Although we didn’t do much planning and just let it happen when it did, we were excited about our growing family.
I just WISH I had prepared myself for the transition from one kid to two kids a bit more.
The challenge of adding a second child
When I found out I was pregnant a second time, I knew it would be more work overall and quite a transition for our toddler. I just didn’t fully comprehend how the changing dynamics and needs would affect the day-to-day.
But going from one kid to two small children, especially when you have an ACTIVE toddler, is truly exhausting. I mean it’s a game-changer. And that’s not just because you’ll have your hands full as a stay-at-home mom.
Your world will alter because this first child will now have to compete for YOUR attention with a new baby…one that you will absolutely have to spend most of your time with. While breastfeeding or bottle-feeding. Soothing. Changing frequently. Bathing. And taking to the doctor for check-ups or vaccines.
And this will contribute to regressions in your toddler.
They may want that newborn paci or bottle again. They may experience sleep disturbances or may just feel a bit jealous as though mommy doesn’t love them anymore — which is of course, untrue but still heart-wrenching.
With a little planning to set expectations for all, adding another child to your family doesn’t have to be a complete struggle.
Tips to Go from One Child to Two
Prepare your toddler (and yourself!)
One of the most overlooked tips for adjusting to another child is to simply prepare for it — mental prep included. Be real with yourself about what adding a second child will look like for your family, taking into account your lifestyle, support available and current child’s needs and personality.
- Do you have an easy-going child?
- A high-needs child?
- A special-needs child?
Reflecting on these questions will help you better prepare for the changes once they occur.
To prepare your toddler, start talking to them about a sibling. Even though they are little, you don’t want to just surprise them with a new baby. Warm them up to the idea of a little sister or brother — so that they are better prepared for the big changes when they come.
Consider spacing kids out
Age can definitely play a role in how the transition from one to two will go — the wider the gap between baby number one and number two may make things a little easier. For one thing, the older child becomes more independent as they grow so you can focus a little more on baby those first few weeks.
And if we’re being honest here, having kids closer in age may seem nice for playing and bonding, but it does come with challenges. It means you’ll have to learn to really master divvying up your attention, supervision and energy between kids — because if they are into the same things, you can guarantee there will be a little sibling rivalry in your future.
My boys were all just under 2 years apart. So one of my major challenges was caring for and breastfeeding a newborn, while trying to keep up with an active toddler. And then potty-training. Then handling tantrums. And picky-eating.
It was a trying time for sure!
So think about your specific child and their needs for each age: will you have a newborn and a toddler at home with you all day? Will you have a preschooler or older sibling that will be in school for a few hours.
Thinking about age proximity can really help you, plan your day-to-day and make the best choice for your family.
Don’t ignore your toddler when the baby arrives
It’s natural to focus all your energy on caring for your newborn those first few days. They do in fact depend on you for everything. But it’s important to not ignore your other child in the process. Of course, you might not intend to do so, but it happens often. Visitors want to see the new baby, hold the new baby and go gaga over the new baby.
So it’s up to you mama, to include your toddler in as much as you can throughout the transition and remind your guests as well!
At the hospital, greet your toddler while baby is in nursery or sleeping. Embrace them fully. Shower them with attention BEFORE bringing baby over for the big intro. Give them a special gift “from baby” — it doesn’t have to be anything fancy — our go-to are the big brother books.
At home, you can have special time with just the two of you to reconnect (this isn’t just a nice-to-do it will save you some stress later when your kids start showing more jealousy). Sure you may not always be able to do it during that precious nap hour, but quality time with your older child (who’s world has just be turned upside down) is SO key.
I can’t recommend it enough. So many times I thought I was already doing activities with my toddler, but it wasn’t with 100% focus on him. If the tv is on, if you are multitasking around the house, it won’t be as effective. Turn off all devices and give your kid your full attention — even if it is only 15-20 minutes of play, make sure it’s done right and remind your child this is your “special time” to reinforce the idea.
Involve your toddler with your baby tasks
Once you are settled back at home, involve the older sibling in helping with baby. Even the little things count. They can:
- “Read” baby a story as you breastfeed
- Tell baby about their favorite toys and games to play
- Be your assistant and pass you, towels, bibs or outfits for baby to wear
Those little things will help make your kid feel important and included — another key to making the new brother role acceptable.
Stick to a schedule for your baby and toddler
With kids, schedules and routines really can make a big difference and help them adjust better.
This is something I wish I had done more of when my boys were little. Those early days felt so chaotic and having a good routine to follow definitely was lacking.
I wouldn’t be a stickler and say “if it’s on the schedule it must happen!” Just use the schedule as a guide for ideas to make the day easier. For example, in the mornings you may want to wear baby while taking your toddler for a stroller walk. Then you can all eat lunch together. And during baby’s nap, you may want to schedule that one-on-one time.
Master organization now
Just as a schedule can help make the one to two kids transition easier, now is the time to master your organization skills. Hear me out for a moment. Postpartum is a really big transition for mom too. I’m not in any way saying to start focusing on organizing or keeping a tidy house. Trust me, from experience I know that is impossible to do alone and will only cause unnecessary stress.
What I mean is, if there’s any time you need to rely on your quick thinking or organization ability it is as a mom to two or more kids. For when you have to run to the doctor’s office or errands with two kids in tow. For when you have to pack a diaper bag with baby essentials AND toddler must-haves. For when you need to load and unload baby and toddler into the car alone (oh how I dreaded that routine!!).
The mental and physical load is huge those early days, so anything to help you survive those crazy moments is a must!!
Below are a few things that helped alleviate that load for me. I cannot stress enough the difference my go-to baby gear made during the transition — I just wish I had used them sooner!
- A trusted baby carrier
- A double stroller (with infant seat)
- A diaper bag with separate compartments for all of the musts
- A pack and play
Now that my boys are growing, I often think back to that moment in the hospital when my toddler met his new baby brother. I wish someone had told me that the transition from one to two can be so drastic. Because it really does depend on so many factors in your life.
Prepare now to make life with a new baby and toddler manageable. You want to remember it as MORE than just a time where you were trying to survive the day. Make it a time where your children loved to play together, splash about in the tub, cuddle during storytime…and a time YOU were filled with joy.
Ana, a mom to three rambunctious little boys, has supported hundreds of thousands of women throughout their pregnancy and motherhood journey since 2012 as a blogger and maternal health advocate at MommysBundle.com.