Transitioning From 1 to 2 Kids: What to Know

Motherhood Unfolding

Hey Mama! In this post, we are talking all about transitioning from 1 to 2 kids. When I was pregnant with my second child, I was nervous about how it was all going to work. I searched for information about the transition, but there wasn't a lot of content out there for me to reference. Now that my daughter is close to being one, I am sharing everything we encountered so you will know what to expect.

When you think of siblings, especially those close in age, it's easy to idealize their relationship with one another. You may have heard your friends say that having two isn't any harder than having one because they keep each other busy. Or you might see your nieces and nephews or friend’s children playing happily together. You might even see it through social media. Having two is a lot of fun, and there are many perks and sweet moments that make your mama heart want to burst. But don’t be fooled, the rewards take time to develop.

Some days are hard no matter what, just like it is with one child. And this transition you are about to go through is hard. In fact, the hardest days you will face as a mama of two are, unfortunately, at the very beginning. But you will find a way through it and come out the other side with more love in your heart than you ever thought possible.

A Familiar Situation, Unfamiliar Circumstances

When transitioning from 1 to 2 kids, you will begin to notice the differences even in pregnancy. There isn't as much time to sit around thinking about the little one growing in your belly. Going to Target or Buy Buy Baby and leisurely wandering the aisles for baby goodies isn't happening. You may or may not have a baby shower this time around. The budget might be tighter. You may not feel the same close connection you found in your first pregnancy. Maybe none of this applies to you, or maybe it all does and it's all ok.

This is a new, different, and beautiful experience all its own. Cherish it and don’t compare it to last time. In the early days, I was constantly comparing my experience with my first and second born. It’s natural; it’s what we know. BUT, it’s important to recognize that while you’ve done this before, you’ve never done it with this baby. You are in a familiar situation, but the circumstances have changed. Remember that, mama.

Mothering Differently

Once your new baby arrives, you might find that your decisions anywhere from co-sleeping to product choices may change. Your entire family is going through a huge transition and what works this time might be different than what worked last time.

Keep an open mind. Don't expect that your new baby will like the same things that your older child did. It’s an easy trap to fall into when you are in the postpartum - lack of sleep - just survive mode of the early days. Some of the tricks you learned the first time won’t work.

My best advice is to let go of your ego and the voice in your head that says you should have this all figured out because that isn't helpful. Allow yourself to be a beginner. You are a new mom again facing new challenges. Don’t stick to rigid stances or judge yourself for making decisions you thought you were against.

Do what works. Some of the hardship we find in postpartum is brought on by casting judgment on ourselves and our own decisions. Be kind to yourself. You are making the decisions that need to be made to make this whole new dynamic work. Believe and trust in yourself.

Disciplining Differently

Depending upon the age of your older child, discipline may also look different. Or it might even begin to take shape at this time. In my case, once my daughter was born, it first time I really encountered a need for discipline and boundary setting. Sure there were little things but before this time there wasn't much I had encountered with my 21-month-old son. It took me by surprise. At first, I didn't have a true plan for discipline. Other than deciding against spanking, I didn't have a course of action.

I didn't think about the boundaries that needed to be set and what I was going to do when those lines were crossed. Instead, I acted in the moment, mostly on a sleepless postpartum brain, which was a recipe for disaster. My initial instinct to raise my voice was ineffective at stopping the behavior. Sometimes it even unknowingly encouraged it.

When your newborn baby gets bit, hit, or pushed, it’s shocking. It's something you probably never encountered with your first. This type of behavior is unfortunately common in the early days and will happen more than you think.

Complicated feelings like jealousy, impatience, misunderstanding, and not getting the attention they are used to are new feelings for your kiddo. The aggression they use is not an intent to harm their sibling. It's a side effect of the inability to regulate and appropriately deal with their feelings. For us, a combination of both time ins and time outs proved to be effective in treating the root cause of these behaviors.

Time In's & Outs

When a new boundary had been crossed, a "time in" proved to be helpful. I would talk with my son and help him sort out and name his feelings. If possible, I would also take a step back and assess if there was a way I could handle things better. Talking through the hard moments and providing extra comfort can be really reassuring to your child during this time.

There are also moments, however, when your older child knows the boundary and continues to cross it. Time ins have been given, and you are at a point where your child needs to know their behavior is unacceptable (such as hitting their baby sister/brother).

In this case, a short time out (a minute or two) followed up with a time in to reaffirm your love and respect for them can be extremely effective. I was at a loss with my son when he would show aggressive behaviors toward my daughter until I tried this method. After a few time outs & ins were given, those boundaries stopped being crossed pretty quickly.

If you haven’t already begun to prepare your older child or are looking for some tips, visit my post, Preparing a Sibling for a New Baby. You might also find my post on dealing with toddler tantrums to be helpful.

Comparison Is The Thief Of Joy

Now that we’ve gone through how mothering and disciplining can look different, let’s talk about mentality changes that you might experience.

While deep in postpartum and transitioning from 1 to 2 kids, I found myself thinking, "I am not as good as a mom as I was" or, "I wouldn't have lost my temper and yelled when it was only Luke and me." Even, "Luke would be having a lot more fun today if I didn't have to spend so much time focusing on Zowie." Comparing your days to what they once were, serves you no purpose.

Things are different. You are living and learning through a transition and finding your new normal. This is tough stuff. Don’t compare yourself as a well-established mama of one with your newly postpartum self as a mama of two. You will lose every time, and it's not a fair fight. Give yourself a chance to find your wings.

I also found that it took me a little bit longer to build a bond with my second child which made me feel guilty. It wasn't something I experienced with my son, and it wasn't something I was expecting. This, of course, didn't mean I loved her any differently or that we didn't have a strong connection to each other. It simply came down to time. I didn’t have as much time to focus my undivided attention and affection on her.

Whether other mamas will confess to it or not, I think it is common for mama/baby bonding to take a little more time the second time around. Don't get in your head or let yourself feel guilty for this. It has nothing to do with our love and everything to do with the amount of time & lack thereof we have to forge that bond with our little one. Fear not, it will happen in its own good time.

Reinvesting in Yourself

As you find ways to bond with your new baby and reassure your older child of your love and attention, it is easy to let your own needs slip between your fingers. In the early days with two, it’s increasingly difficult to find time for ourselves, but it’s also needed more than ever. Do not ignore your needs. I have trouble with this as I'm sure you do too. It’s easy to say you will take care of yourself, but it’s hard to put into action.

Here's the thing, no one will fight for you to take the time you need. If you're lucky you might have a husband or family member that occasionally reads the signs. But don't rely on that and don't wait for someone else to permit you to take care of yourself. You and your mentality are vital to the success of this transition. By investing in yourself you will better serve your family.

One of the best ways I know to realistically care for myself with two kids is to wake up an hour or more before they do. It’s challenging, and it may not be possible in the newborn days. But when your schedule allows for it, try it. Wake up and give yourself time to adjust to the day quietly and by yourself.

Another quick outlet I find helpful is to journal before bed. I can unload anything I’ve been carrying throughout the day and set my mind to rest. Alternatively, if you have trouble journaling or it’s not really your thing, one line a day journals can be fun and still provide self-reflection and care. I recently bought this one, and I am excited to start filling it out as a keepsake for this season in my life.

Ultimately, find a meaningful way to care for yourself that helps you refill your vessel so that you can pour into your loved ones without going dry.

Finding a Balance as a Mom of Two

Balance is something that takes a while to find. For us, it wasn't until around five months that things began to take on a comfortable rhythm. Even then, there were days and weeks where it was a mishmash of regression and progression. This transition does not follow a straight line to success.

It’s a challenge to tend to a newborn, figure out breastfeeding again, and actively engage a toddler/young child (let alone finding time to brush your own teeth). Allow yourself to take the easy route once in a while and cut yourself some slack. In the beginning, if you need to eat out more often or find increasing screen time to be helpful, do it.

I myself have a hard time with "taking the easy route" whatever that even means because, let’s face it, caring for children isn’t easy. But if you find yourself in a similar mindset, think of it this way: What do you gain by letting your child watch extra TV today (or XYZ). What do you lose? If you can gain a few moments to get a snack or even sit down, then you are doing a service to your child. A mama who gets a minute can give back that minute 10 times over.

We have to take care of ourselves and find a way to juggle everyone's needs. Balance is no joke. It's not something that comes easily, and you will forever be finding ways to improve. When you start to get your feet under you again, then you can cut back on the things you’ve let slide. A rhythm will come together and the less rigid you are, the quicker it will happen.

Time, Even When Challenging, Is A Gift

Lastly, as you find your rhythm, don’t wish time away and fall into the thought pattern “when baby crawls it will be so much easier, when baby can walk it will be so much easier", etc. While it might be true, embrace the season you are in and stay in the moment. Build your rhythm around the now and don’t rush the process. While the beginning of transitioning from 1 to 2 kids is a tough time, it only happens once.

Enjoy the beauty of a new beginning even if that new beginning is a challenge. That first year flies and the balance you so crave will naturally find its way to you. Who knows, in a little while, you might be ready for baby # 3. I remember when that seemed laughable or even unattainable but here I am starting to try for baby #3 myself.

If you want a peek into how I found my balance with two kiddos and some tips on how you can too, check out my post, Finding a Balance as a Mom of Two. I wrote this when I was five months into the process and since then, it’s only gotten easier. The memories my little ones have made together this last year have been almost too sweet for my mama heart to bear. You are truly in for an exciting ride, even though the road is a little bumpy!

Tips for Two

Now that we’ve gone through everything you can expect, let’s talk about helpful tips for transitioning from 1 to 2 kids!

  1. Find time to devote 1 on 1 attention to each child even if that time is only 10 minutes.
  2. Breastfeeding can be one of the most challenging times for your older child as their feelings of jealousy may be at its peak. It's also a time they can easily get into trouble because you are stationary and they are not. Letting them watch TV or play on a tablet can be helpful during this time.
  3. Invest in a sound machine for each child’s room to use during nap and nighttime.
  4. If your kids are close enough in age that you need a double stroller, check out the Graco Modes Duo. We have it and I have nothing but good things to say! It has a ton of ways you can set it up.
  5. Babywearing is SO helpful with two. One of my tricks is to start wearing them right away, which increases the likelihood they will enjoy it. Tula Explore and Lille Baby All Seasons are two of my favorites.
  6. When your youngest gets old enough for a bouncer, try doing inclusive wiggle time. Put your baby in the bouncer and involve your older child by either jumping or dancing with them. This makes for a fun bonding activity and a great way to tire them out together.
  7. Pacifiers can be very helpful. With my first, I was against it. But with my second, it proved to be so helpful and gave me a little support when I needed it.
  8. When you first come home from the hospital, invest in some paper plates. Do yourself a favor and take a break from dish duty. The environmentalist in me cringes but, the realist in me knows that it can be a big help.
  9. Allow yourself to be a new mom again because this is a whole new experience unto itself.
  10. If your older child wants to do something babyish such as being swaddled or taking a turn in the bouncer, let them. They will quickly see that it's not something they actually want. Most importantly, it can de-escalate a potential tantrum or subdue feelings of jealousy.

Well, mama, there it is. This is everything I can impart to you as you begin transitioning from 1 to 2 kids. You are doing the hardest and most important work there is. I see you. I know it's hard. It will get easier. The best moments of motherhood are just waiting to be discovered, truly!

I'd love to know where you are in the transition and be able to connect with you. Head over to my Instagram account so we can get to know each other! I'd love to help support you on your journey.

Till next time, mama!

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Motherhood is an evolution and a baptism by fire. I am here to help those raging flames turn to mere embers and to help you get the best out of motherhood.

Nashville, TN

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