The happiness and love that your first baby brought into your
life is beyond measure, and now you're thrilled to learn you
are expecting another child. Although you've been through
and childbirth before, you now have added responsibilities and
considerations in order to prepare for your second child.
Fortunately, preparing for a second child can be as rewarding
and special as the first time. Helping your older child understand
what to expect can lessen anxiety for both of you, and being aware
of the changes involved in having a second child is the best way to
prepare for this joyous event.
What Will Change?
Bringing about a second child and handling two children can be a
bit overwhelming at first . Getting organized before the baby is
born is your best bet, even though that might be a bit more
challenging than it was the first time around.
Because your time will be restricted, you'll be busier -
your once organized schedule may be stretched to the limit.
Sleeping and meal schedules will fluctuate and will depend on the
age of your older child.
You may also tire more easily, even before the baby is born,
since caring for your older child while pregnant takes a lot of
energy. After the birth, the first 6 to 8 weeks can be particularly
demanding, because your main job will be trying to get your infant
schedule, while anticipating your older child's needs and
One positive change that a second child brings is an increased
confidence in your own abilities, knowledge, and experience. That
is, the things that seemed so difficult with your first child -
, changing diapers, handling illness - will seem like second nature
to you instead of a full-blown crisis.
How Will It Affect You?
Bringing home a new baby will affect you in many ways - some
physically and others emotionally. Increased exhaustion and mild
anxiety is a normal occurrence after having a child.
" can be a frightening experience, but you don't have to
endure feelings of depression by yourself. Talk to your doctor
about your symptoms. It's important to differentiate between a
simple case of the "baby blues," which usually passes
within a few weeks, and postpartum depression, a serious disorder
that can lead to mood and sleep problems if untreated. If you begin
to feel very depressed or anxious, or have thoughts about harming
yourself or your baby, seek the help of your doctor
Physically, you are likely to be sore and very tired,
particularly if you had a difficult birth or cesarean delivery.
This makes all-night feeding sessions especially tough for you, if
you have decided to breast-feed your child.
Seeking the help of a postpartum "doula" during the
day can allow you to catch up on sorely needed rest and sleep. A
postpartum doula is a specially trained woman who cares for mother
and baby during the first couple of weeks after delivery.
If you work outside the home, you may be unsure about the future
of your career. Making a decision about whether to return to your
job is an important one; enlist the support of your family and
friends when weighing all of your options.
Don't be surprised if you feel concerned about bonding with
your new child. It may be difficult to understand that you will
have just as much love for your new arrival as you do for your
older child - but you will. As moms and dads often report, a
parent's love somehow doubles when another child is born.
You will notice that you have little or no time for yourself
during the first few months following delivery. Sleepless nights
and everyday tensions can be overwhelming, so be sure to make
"alone time" a priority for you. Likewise, you and your
partner will notice that you're rarely spending time together,
so be sure to have an occasional date once things settle down.
Helping Your First Child Adjust
Your first child may experience a range of emotions, from
jealousy to excitement and even resentment. Younger toddlers are
unable to verbalize their feelings, and their behaviors may regress
after the new child is born. They might suck their thumb, drink
from a bottle, forget their recent potty training skills, and
communicate using baby talk in an effort to get your attention.
Older toddlers and children might express their feelings by
testing your patience, misbehaving, throwing tantrums, or refusing
to eat. These problems are usually transient, and a little
preparation can go a long way in helping your older child adjust to
the idea of
welcoming a new sibling
. A good idea is to play up the role of older sibling. There are a
number of things that can help you achieve this, such as:
- Letting your older child help pick out items for the new
baby's room. If your children will be sharing a bedroom, this
is particularly important.
- Finding a special gift that your older child might like to
share with the baby, such as a favorite book or toy, or a photo
of the sibling for the baby's room. You might also want to
pick out something for your older child too, such as a special
chair just for him or her that he or she can sit in while
you're feeding the baby.
- Arranging special time just for you and your older child.
This might involve a trip to the library, grocery store, or
simply reading a few extra stories at bedtime. Your partner can
help you by caring for the baby during these times.
- Role-playing or reading stories to your child that will help
him or her understand what is happening in the family. There are
several books written especially for toddlers that can help.
Check a local bookstore or ask your librarian for specific
- Preparing your child for what to expect when the baby comes
home. This includes explaining that a new baby cries, sleeps, and
needs diaper changes frequently. Assure your older child that
although the new baby needs lots of attention, there will still
be plenty of time and love for him or her.
- Reinforcing your older child's role in the family. Tell
your child that he or she will be the "big
brother/sister" to the new baby, and let your child revel in
this new role. Consider taking your child on one of your prenatal
visits or letting him or her be present for an ultrasound. If
you're giving birth in a hospital setting, ask about sibling
visitation after the baby is born.
The arrival of a new child represents a big shift in your older
child's life, so you might want to hold off on introducing
other major changes. This is probably not the best time to start
, to begin the transition from bottle to cup, or to enroll your
child in a program where he or she will be separated from you for
the first time. Consistency will go a long way in making your
child's adjustment easier.
Siblings play a very special role in your new baby's life,
so don't leave your first child out of the decision-making. So
much attention (baby showers, new furniture, clothes, toys) is
lavished on the new baby, making it easy for the older child to
feel overlooked. Reassure your child that he or she is as special
as the new addition by letting him or her participate in the flurry
Tips to Help You Cope
There are a number of tips that can help you cope with the added
responsibilities of having a second child. Some of them are things
you can do before the baby is born.
- Stock the house with dry foods or quick, easy dinners. If you
feel up to cooking, make double portions and freeze them, because
finding energy at the end of the day will be difficult once the
baby is born. Keep a few menus of take-out food restaurants
readily available, including a few that deliver.
- Reorganize your laundry room, using one hamper per family
member or a basket for each child so it's easier to sort and
fold clothing. Laundry is usually the biggest complaint of a new
mom - it seems to quadruple when another child arrives, so now is
the time to prepare.
- If possible, make use of the items you already have on hand
(or that family members are willing to share with you) rather
than feeling as if you have to go out and buy all new things.
Hand-me-downs such as cribs, bassinets, strollers, high chairs,
and clothes can help save time and money.
- Treat yourself to a few movies, and don't watch them
until the baby is born. It will help get you through those
- Stock the car with a diaper bag filled with all the necessary
extras so you'll always be prepared. Many mothers keep a toy
bag in the car for the older child and a diaper bag with diapers,
wipes, and an extra blanket for the baby.
- Keep a book or toy bin handy in your bedroom, family room,
and even the bathroom or laundry room, to keep your children busy
for a few precious moments if an unexpected problem crops
- Ask a family member to spend time with you right after the
baby's birth, if you feel comfortable doing so. Not only will
he or she enjoy it, but you may be able to get some much-needed
- Use babysitting services or a housekeeper, if possible, who
can come in once a week for a month or two to help you with
chores that are too strenuous and exhausting.
- Look to your community or place of worship for support. There
are countless programs and classes available that provide
activities and social support for families with young
- Don't forget to take care of your own needs. Pamper
yourself, even if it's something as simple as a haircut or a
bath with candles and music, to help you relax after a trying
Once you and your family members get accustomed to the idea of
another child, you can enjoy the many positive aspects of a larger
Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: October 2007
Originally reviewed by:
Aviva Katz, MD
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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