I’m writing this as I am pregnant with our second child. I’ve had some thoughts recently about how this pregnancy is different given that I am already mama to C, two and a half. So I thought I would give you my tips on how to cope if you are in your 2nd pregnancy and you already have a toddler.
There will be an age difference of 3 years between my children. I know many mamas who don’t go this long between pregnancies. I know a mama whose twins (!) are only 10 months younger than her firstborn! And I know that some mamas go much longer and their firstborn is already self-sufficient and going to school by the time they start their 2nd pregnancy. To each her own.
There are some factors out of our control (like fertility), but assuming you could get pregnant again today if you wanted to… well, would you want to, with a toddler to care for?
One thing is for sure: you’re gonna need a bigger mug for your coffee!
Before you get pregnant with your 2nd baby
Before you even get pregnant again, do some soul searching. A lot of us get pregnant with our first in an almost carefree way. There are new considerations for sure that overlap with your second child, but you also need to think ahead about how you are going to cope before you are simply “forced” to cope with a toddler during your 2nd pregnancy.
If you’ve been pregnant before, then you know how much it changes your body! Are you ready and fit to get pregnant again? Answering this question is twofold:
you need to want to embark on this journey again, but also
you need to know from a medical perspective that you are healthy enough.
Obviously you are going to talk to both your partner and your doctor about your family planning. If you are at any particular risk, your doctor will advise you.
You also want to consider your age and that of your partner, particularly if you have an age difference as we do (14 years). There are some health risks involved with age, but as I said, your doctor will advise you on those. What I mean here is: are you prepared for your next baby to live in your house for the next 20 years? If you’re nearing 50, do you still want your kid in the house when you’re nearing 70?
For me, I considered two very specific physical conditions before I started trying to get pregnant again:
Whether I was still breastfeeding my firstborn
Could I handle the physical changes of another pregnancy?
First, I wanted to recover from a hormone-related illness and have some time to spend in my healed body before I would be subject to another hormonal upheaval due to pregnancy. Second, I wanted to have stopped breastfeeding my firstborn (my goal was 2 years, but I actually stopped at 18 months due to that illness I had). I am happy to say that I succeeded in meeting both of those conditions when I got pregnant again!
A little caveat here: financial considerations are so seldom the defining factor on whether you choose to welcome another child. But we can all agree that they should always be taken into account in your family planning.
Here are some questions to ask yourself about the state of your finances:
Can your budget allow for a new arrival?
What do pregnancy-related medical bills cost?
What will childcare cost?
If your family is dependent on one or two salaries, are those jobs stable? If not, do you have a backup plan? Maybe you could start a side hustle or you have some savings for a little cushion?
Do you need to purchase more baby items or can you reuse the ones you have? For example, if your firstborn is still a young baby, will you need to purchase extra diapers, strollers, car seats, etc.? Or if your firstborn has transitioned out of these items, can you reuse some that you kept from before? Do you need to purchase a bigger car?!
I’ll talk a little bit more about baby necessities below!
Do you have room in your life for another baby?
Do you think you can cope with a 2nd pregnancy and a toddler in tow? Ask yourself:
Do you actually have time to care for another baby?
Are there activities that would take a hit? Do you need to drop anything?
Make some changes in your life if you need to. Before I got pregnant with my first child, I had to make some room in my life! I was going at 100 an hour and I believe I physically could not have cared for a baby, nor did I have time. So I changed that by dropping several gym classes and negotiating a part-time work schedule.
To accommodate my second, I am making some more career changes (after considering our budget).
Potty train your firstborn.
According to his age and development, I would highly suggest you get your toddler out of diapers before the arrival of your second child.
Again, this might not be possible according to the timing you choose. But if you can, potty training your firstborn will provide you with the following benefits:
Greater independence for your toddler.
Less mess for you!
Eliminate your diapering costs for your firstborn.
I would suggest you start potty training when your firstborn starts showing interest, even if it’s way ahead of when you are planning to get pregnant. And be warned: it can take a LOT longer than you think. I still haven’t managed it for C, so I’ll report back with my findings later.
But I do think it’s physically easier for me to help her on the potty rather than lifting her onto a surface to change her diaper. Think about, as you go along in your pregnancy, your belly becoming rather cumbersome, not to mention back pain! Save yourself the hassle and get your firstborn out of diapers if possible. Or at least start the transition.
Transition your toddler to a real bed.
If your toddler is still in a baby bed, as is mine, transition him into a real bed. This too is something we have not yet achieved for C, but it’s definitely needed soon.
We already have a real bed for her—two in fact—and we need to usurp her baby bed for her little brother or sister. We will save money because we won’t have to buy a second baby bed.
And again, it will be infinitely easier for you to put your toddler to bed or get him up in the morning when you don’t have to lift him over the bars of his baby bed. Lifting things is never a great idea when you’re pregnant! Think of your belly and your back and your pelvic floor muscles, oh my!!!
Take advantage of childcare for your toddler.
You know that when you’re pregnant, you are more tired than usual. You still need to get it all done, but you don’t need to sacrifice all your energy. That’s where childcare for your toddler comes in.
The only way I can cope with my toddler during my 2nd pregnancy is that I am not responsible for her care round the clock. I have halp!
If you don’t already have a nanny, look into getting one, even just part-time, or a babysitter.
If you have family close by, ask them to help out (and return the favor when you can). This doesn’t even necessarily mean they watch your child for you. They might help out with cooking, cleaning, or running errands.
At the very least, have yourfriends come over once in a while to help you make meals, clean, or walk your dog.
Take your child to see his friends at their house. If you arrange with the parents to leave him there for an hour or two, you could get chores done or run errands. Even if you stay the whole time, you’ll enjoy the freedom of just sitting back and letting the kids play together.
Prepare your toddler to cope with your 2nd pregnancy.
Talk to him often about becoming a big sibling.
Tell him that you have a baby inside you. Explain to your toddler why you are tired all the time or have stopped lifting him.
Then, ask him how he feels about becoming a big sibling. Does he have any fears or questions? You might get some silly-sounding ideas out of your toddler, but take them seriously.
C knows there is a baby in my belly, but I know she doesn’t “get” it. She also thinks she has one in her belly, too. And I am fairly sure she doesn’t realize that my baby will come out and that she will be a big sister.
Another great tool I have found is to read books to her about becoming a big sister, and also to talk about other sibling duos we know of so that she can start to understand about the family link.
Socialize him with other babies.
Babies are… strange creatures sometimes. If you had never spent time around one before, and suddenly you were living with one, it might come as a shock at how different they are to adults and even other children.
Take your toddler to visit with your friends and their babies or find a group for young families to meet. That way, your toddler can see you and/or other mothers in the position of caring for a newborn baby. He can understand how to hold a newborn and what to do if a newborn starts crying (get mama). He can also learn just how much babies cry and sleep, and the need to be flexible with baby’s needs.
Plan one-on-one time with your toddler for when your 2nd baby arrives.
Encourage independent play while you are pregnant, but do not make this absolute before or after you give birth. Your firstborn will need to understand that you will consecrate a lot of time to your newborn, but that also you will not forget that your firstborn exists, too.
Actually schedule outings or special one-on-one time with your newborn for after your due date. Papa and other caregivers can also begin to take on more of a role during your pregnancy.
Ways to cope with your toddler in your 2nd pregnancy
I’ve been told by mamas of multiple children that sometimes it feels like it will never be “the right time” to have a baby, but if you keep thinking that, you’ll never make one. Take the plunge and you’ll cope along the way. But that’s working hard, not smart—so hopefully my article has given you some tips on how to start planning your 2nd pregnancy with a toddler for an easier transition for the whole family.
Looking for more pregnancy advice? Check out my other articles here on Mamas Café Society:
Jessica is an American expat living the dream in Normandy. She is wife to a French hubby and mama to a Franco-American daughter, born in 2018, and one whippet. Passionate about all stages of writing, this Francophile created her blog in 2020 to help others navigate motherhood with a focus on conscious parenting and bilingual parenting. Bonne lecture !
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