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 pregnancy and childbirth before, you now have added responsibilities and considerations in order to prepare for your second child.
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 to come is the best way to prepare for this joyous event.
Having a second child and handling two kids 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 also might 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 on a feeding and sleeping schedule, while anticipating your older child's needs and changing emotions.
One positive change that a second child brings is an increased confidence in your own abilities, knowledge, and experience. The things that seemed so difficult with your first child — breastfeeding, changing diapers, handling illness — will seem like second nature to you instead of a full-blown crisis.
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.
The "baby blues" can be frightening, but you don't have to endure feelings of depression alone. 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 immediately.
Physically, you are likely to be sore and very tired, particularly if you had a difficult birth or cesarean delivery. This makes late-night feeding sessions tough, especially if you have decided to breastfeed.
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 might 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. You might worry about whether you'll have just as much love for your new arrival as you do for your older child. You will — as moms and dads often report, a parent's love somehow doubles when another child is born.
You can expect to 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.
Your first child may experience a range of emotions, from excitement to jealousy or 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 kids might express their feelings by testing your patience, misbehaving, throwing tantrums, or refusing to eat. These problems are usually short-lived, and a little preparation can help an older child adjust to the idea of welcoming a new sibling.
Emphasize the important role an older sibling plays. Some tips to try:
The arrival of a new baby brings big changes to older kids, so you might want to hold off on introducing other major changes. This is probably not the best time to start toilet teaching, to begin the transition from bottle to cup, or to enroll your child in a program that means separation from you for the first time. Consistency will help make your child's adjustment easier.
Siblings play a very special role in a new baby's life, so don't leave your older child out of the decision-making. So much attention (new furniture, clothes, toys) is lavished on a new baby, making it easy for older kids to feel overlooked. Reassure yours by encouraging participation in the preparations.
To help manage the added responsibilities of a second child, try these tips before the big day comes:
Once everyone gets used to the reality of another child, you can all enjoy the many positive aspects of a larger family.
Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: October 2013