Your second baby: tips for surviving

Advice on caring for babies is often geared towards first-time parents. When you have a toddler zooming about, that old 'Sleep when the baby sleeps' line may have you throwing your hands up in despair.

Toddlers are little powerhouses of activity. When you are up to your eyeballs in playdough, blocks and glitter-glue, the strategies have to change!

Pregnancy the second time around: relax, renew, recharge
There may be a multitude of things taking up your time and energies during your day: Full or part-time work, your partner, your child, other family, running a household, ante-natal visits and preparing for the new baby. The demands upon you may leave you with little time for yourself, and you may wonder where those quiet nights tucked up with a good book went! With a new baby about to come into the mix,it is more important than ever to take your health seriously and ensure that you still have time to relax, to renew, to recharge. 

Take the time to do the things that you enjoy most.
Haven't tried yoga or pilates before? This may be the time to sign up for yoga or pilates classes especially designed for pregnant women. Walking, swimming and all forms of low-impact activities can keep you feeling your best throughout the pregnancy, and after your new baby is born. Pushing your toddler in the stroller gets you both out in the fresh air, and gives you more energy, stress-relief and helps prepare your body for labour.

If you experienced ante or post natal depression previously, be sure to discuss this with your pregnancy care professional. You may have additional concerns arising from a previous pregnancy/pregnancies: Miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal loss; premature birth; or a difficult pregnancy or labour. Talking about your concerns with your health professional, and sharing your experiences with others who have been through similar, can help you to feel more positive about your current pregnancy.

One of the most difficult things you can ever find yourself doing is to be carrying around a toddler and a big pregnant belly! Aim to limit the times that you will need to do this. If grocery shopping is becoming difficult, you may decide to do the shopping with your partner at night (if available in your area, online grocery shopping can be a godsend - especially once the new baby arrives). If your toddler seems to have become suddenly clingy since you've been pregnant, and demanding to be picked up all the time, perhaps playing some extra little games with her will provide the attention that she is seeking.

The tiredness that many women experience in early and late pregnancy can leave you with little energy for an active toddler. Early-pregnancy nausea can leave you feeling as though you have been sailing the high seas! Some days, pushing your toddler on the swing or taking them for a walk to the park can seem like impossible tasks. (Be careful when kicking balls around or climbing play equipment with your toddler - pregnancy hormones have relaxed your ligaments; and you find yourself doing some painful damage to your back and pelvis.)
 
Some easy activities to enjoy with your toddler

  • Reading with your toddler is a quiet, soothing activity for bedtime or any time of the day. In the later months, your unborn baby can also experience the rhythm and sound of your voice as you read.
  • Grooving to the music
  • Throw on some nursery rhymes, or music from their favourite singing groups. You may be finding it too tiring or awkward to do the moves with your toddler, but you can rest on the lounge, and do the jack-in-the-box or the hokey-pokey with a hand puppet!
  • Playing shops
  • Set up toys, food and household items on a table or desk. You are the shopkeeper. Give your child money (large plastic coins that a toddler cannot choke on are best) that she can buy items with from the shop. This can keep a small child entertained, and teach them sorting and pre-math skills at the same Pregnancy support & social groups.  Meet others at the same stage of pregnancy as yours!

Specialised pregnancy groups to share experiences
If you have a specific issue or concern, join a group and get some help, or share some knowledge. There are an array of EB groups for topics as diverse as: Symphsis Pubis Dysfunction, Preeclampsia, Multiple birth, Gestational Diabetes, Crohns & Colitis, High Risk Nuchal Transluceny, Expecting After Stillbirth and Neonatal loss. Take a look at our pregnancy forums.
 
Getting prepared for bub number two!
There are many considerations when preparing for a second baby. These include:

Where will baby sleep?
If your toddler is still sleeping in a cot, you may want to start a gentle transition from cot to big bed for them; well before the new baby is born. Perhaps having two cots will be the best solution for you. Choosing cots that will convert into beds later on can help defray the cost.

Will your toddler need to be moved to another room?
You may wish to have the baby in the room that is closest to yours. If this means moving your toddler to another room, you can help them to feel happy about the move by buying a couple of new, exciting things for their new room, such as a special toy box. 

Do you co-sleep with your toddler, and do you intend on co-sleeping with the new baby? It is recommended that older children do not co-sleep with a baby. Find further information on co-sleeping: Sleeping With Your Baby.

Does your toddler understand that a new baby is on the way?
Very young toddlers may have little or no understanding that a baby is in mummy's tummy. Having them around the babies of friend and family, or the babies at playgroup, can help. There are many books that you can read aloud to your toddler. For many toddlers though, the baby will not become 'real' to them until it is born.

Toddler feelings: what about me?
It is common for children to feel tugs of jealousy when a new baby enters the house. A child may be overwhelmed by the sudden whirl of activity: gifts for the newborn, photos being snapped, a flurry of friends and relatives coming to visit. Parents may be exhausted, especially if it has been a difficult birth, or the newborn has been keeping them awake at night. The feelings of an older child can easily be overlooked.

It's a good idea for parents to have some one-on-one time with their toddler: This could be watching them ride their tricycle, blowing bubbles with them or simply having little conversations with them. Try looking over photograph albums from when your toddler was a baby. Point out the different stages: rolling, crawling, walking. Let him know that the baby will grow big enough to play with him one day too. Look at recent photos of him and point out all the things that he can do now: running, jumping, painting. Tell him about all the things that make him wonderful. A special gift 'from the baby' to him may help him feel positive about this new little stranger in his house.

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When people come to see the baby, get your toddler to show them his room - and he can point out his toys, his finger-paintings and craft that he may have made at playgroup, daycare or at home. 

You may find that shopping trips often involve strangers fussing over your newborn. When they tell you how beautiful your new daughter is, you could say, "Yes, she's just as beautiful as Sam is!"

Toddlers often enjoy getting things for the baby, such as nappies and blankets: so involve him where you can. A toddler may also enjoy having a newborn doll to bathe, feed and play with.

Dinner times
Great meal ideas - you'll find delicious and easy meal ideas from our members in the EB Recipes forum.

Dinner can be a mad rush with toddlers underfoot and unsettled babies demanding attention. Some parents find that planning ahead can help greatly.  Try sitting down once a week and planning out meals for the week (or fortnight) ahead. Shopping trips can then revolve around buying all the items you'll need for each meal. Buy bulk items on special and make up extra meals to freeze. Knowing exactly what you'll be making, or having your frozen meals on hand, can help take the stress out of dinner times.

Keeping your toddler to a firm routine at this time of night can also help: dinner, bath and off to bed at the same time each night.  If you know that either yourself or your partner will be preparing the dinner at a certain time, then you may be able to set your toddler up with a quiet activity beforehand.

Sleep times
A toddler who went off like a dream for a nap once or twice a day may suddenly start questioning why they need to go to bed and the baby doesn't; whether they verbalise it or not! It may be that your toddler is just feeling unsettled with the new baby in the house, or it simply may be that your toddler was already coming to the stage where they need less sleep during the day. Taking your toddler out for walks, to the park, playgroup or to a friend's house will help them to spend some of that energy and to feel ready for sleep. If you have never attended playgroup before, it may be time to give it some thought. Taking your toddler to the park on a regular basis may quickly become boring for you, whereas playgroup can provide other children for your child to interact with and other parents for you to chat with.

It's best to get shopping, playgroup and any other outings over before lunchtime; this way your toddler will able to have their nap after lunch, but before late afternoon. A toddler who naps after around 3pm may be difficult to put to sleep at night time. You may be able to sneak in a rest yourself if your baby also sleeps at the same time of day!
 
Stay in touch!
Make contact with other mums by joining an EB Parents Group, such as the Babies forum.