How to Prepare for a Second Baby
Written by Tessarose Brown
You would think that since you are no longer a first-time parent that having a second child would be easy. But the truth is, it’s often considered the most difficult transition. Each of your children will be vastly different, and the most frustrating part is that when you think you know what you’re doing, a new one comes along that makes you rethink everything you did before.
After just having my second baby, here are some tips I’d like to share to help prepare you and your family for your new bundle of joy.
1. Enlist Help Whenever Possible
One thing I quickly learned is that I could not prepare for my second baby all on my own. When your friends, family, and unit offer their help — take it. Below are a few ways to enlist the help of others.
Decluttering and Organizing Your Home
This is your second child. Depending on the age difference and gender, you may be able to reuse some things, but you undoubtedly need some time and help to make more space. You might even consider hiring a professional organizer. I hit my nesting phase about 5 weeks before my due date, and I could not have gone through my house without the help of my sister.
When decluttering and organizing, it was easier to decide on what to keep, throw away, or pass on when I thought ahead of time about the systems I needed in place. For my daughter’s room, I had to figure out how I would separate my eldest daughter’s clothes. She was currently wearing some of them, but others no longer fit, yet were still in good enough condition to pass on to her new little sister.
Nesting Party vs. Baby Sprinkle
After decluttering and organizing the baby items you already have, you may find it unnecessary for a traditional baby shower. There are two alternatives that I recommend: a nesting part or a baby sprinkle.
The nesting urge can be very strong and overwhelming. Instead of your friend and family throwing a baby shower, have them come to a nesting party where they help you prepare your home for your new baby. They can help with anything from putting together and rearranging furniture to organizing clothes and preparing postpartum items or freezer meals.
Another option is to have a “baby sprinkle.” This is a baby shower but on a smaller scale with typically lower-cost items requested on your registry. For my second child, we opted for a virtual baby sprinkle. Utilizing social media, we had a group video chat where I showed off what had been done in the house to prepare for the baby, discussed what our pregnancy journey had been like, and played a few baby shower games.
One of the toughest hurdles military spouses face is finding adequate and affordable childcare for their children. When welcoming a second baby, this pain point becomes that much more difficult. Prepare for your childcare needs well in advance of your return to work. For child development centers on military installations, you can get on waitlists even before your second child is born.
You’ll also want to arrange care for your first child while you and your service member are at the hospital during your labor. My labor went into the late evening, but luckily I had arranged for a friend to pick up my daughter from daycare and care for her until my labor was over and my sister could pick her up.
Meal Train or Freezer Meal Prep
Cooking was the last thing I wanted to do after giving birth. Ask friends and family to help you make easily reheated, nutritious freezer meals. You can achieve this through a nesting party, assigning a friend or family member to ask around, or creating an online sign-up sheet. Some easy favorites of my postpartum meals are bone marrow soups, baked pastas, stuffed chicken breasts, and beef stir fry.
Say Yes To Help Postpartum
Ideally, once you are home from the hospital you should not stray far from your bed. Take advantage of your service member’s military parental leave. Your service member or helper should be bringing you and the baby your meals in bed.
As military spouses, we may not always have our service member present. One thing to consider when preparing for your second baby is hiring a postpartum doula who can help with tasks you are unable to do in your first few weeks. They can even help with your other child.
If that’s not in your budget, take advantage of your friends or anyone else who says, “Let me know if you need anything.” I like to make a list of things I wouldn’t mind having someone else do for me such as helping to tidy up every few days, doing a couple loads of laundry, babysitting while I shower, cooking dinner or meal prepping, or even doing some grocery shopping for me. All of these tasks can be draining on a new mom, I know they were for me during my first pregnancy. So, this time around I say, “Bring on the help!”
2. Prepare Your First Child for Siblinghood
There is almost nothing more exciting than finding out you are getting a new sibling…except for maybe a puppy. But it can be a huge challenge for families integrating another person into their daily lives, especially for young children who up until recently were the center of their parents’ world. I extensively researched and asked the smartest women I know (other military spouses) what their advice was for preparing my 3-year-old for siblinghood.
Tell Them About the Baby…But Not Too Early
When to tell your first child about your pregnancy is really determined by you. One military spouse I know suggested waiting until you are showing so your child has something physical to associate with the baby. We decided to tell our daughter about her new sibling fairly early on in my pregnancy. This was because we felt that at 2-and-a-half-years-old, she had the language and comprehension skills to understand what this meant. We used the same phrases frequently and even had a few books about becoming a big sis.
Here are a few of the phrases we used to talk about baby:
- There’s a baby in mommy’s belly.
- When she’s done growing, she will come out to meet us.
- The baby is joining our family, and we are going to love and protect her.
Another strategy that helped was telling our daughter her birth story. This helped her prepare for our hospital stay and is a great initial conversation into “where babies come from.” My daughter’s story started out like this: “There once was a mommy and daddy who loved each other very much. Their names were…” I then continue on to let her fill in some blanks such as our names, mommy has a baby in her belly, they went to the hospital so the doctor could help them get the baby out, then they came home and were a family. This story can change and mature as your child does.
Give Them Ownership of the Baby
A new baby in the home is a huge change for everyone in the family, but it can be especially confusing for your first child, especially if they are younger. One way we helped our daughter take ownership of the new baby is to use inclusive language when referring to the baby: we would always call the baby “hers” or “ours”. We also read books that depicted things she could do with her new sister. Finally, we discussed their future together. We would tell my daughter how she could take her little sister on outings to the pool or zoo. We talked about teaching her how to do things and how to play. This also helped build excitement around getting a new sibling.
Practice with Babydolls
One thing we did early on was get my daughter a few baby dolls and role-play with her how to handle babies; slowly and gently. She also practiced bringing us diapers and wipes to help change the baby. This is a great tool for preparing your little one for siblinghood.
Sibling Gift Exchange
The cutest thing we did was get my older daughter a present from her new sister. This helps initiate a positive association and relationship between them. It also prompted my older daughter to want to get something for her new sister. The pictures and videos of this exchange are too cute.
The ASYMCA Has Programs That Can Help Support Military Parents
Preparing for a second baby can be overwhelming, especially for military families who may be away from loved ones. The Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting military families. With over 200 locations across the United States, ASYMCA provides various programs and services to help improve the lives of service members, their spouses and children. Learn more about ASYMCA’s programs today.