We always knew we wanted more than one child, and that we wanted them close in age. We weren’t planning on them being quite so close. Our second baby was God-planned, but a surprise to us, and born just shy of his brother turning 15 months old. Locke is just over 18 months now, and while that first year was difficult, we made it through, and you can too!
Assuming that you are pregnant with the little sibling, you’ll want to get big brother or sister ready for the little baby to be born. Most toddlers won’t really understand the whole concept of a new baby, but it’s a good idea to start talking about the baby while pregnant to help their minds begin to build a framework for this new person. More importantly though, you’ll want to work on some important independence skills. If at all possible, you want the bigger baby walking before the sibling is born. It is possible to carry two babies at the same time (do your squats, ladies!), but it’s easier if you can just hold hands and walk. Having the older sibling also able to eat small snacks independently (with supervision of course) is also really helpful. Unlike having twins, two very young children at different ages will need things as different times and having the older one able to take care of some of those by him/herself is very helpful.
Remember to keep life simple. You may have tons of obligations that you cannot control, and you may not get much of a break from them once baby is born depending upon your situation. You can however control your home life and try to keep it as simple as you can. Make sure you have quick snacks and easy to make meals around the home. These don’t have to be junk food! Fruit is often quick and easy, as is organic granola and cereals. Have some quick foods for the toddler too! This is also a good time to evaluate your housekeeping. Do you really need to dust every bookshelf every three days? Can you skip vacuuming every once and a while? You will have plenty to keep up and it’s perfectly acceptable to do household chores as needed rather than on a specific schedule.
Recruit help! Everyone loves to hold babies! Invite friends over to help you out, especially in those first few months. An extra set of hands can really make a world of difference. Super awesome friends will even help with chores when they come to visit! (Hint, hint, nudge, nudge. If you have a pregnant friend or one who just gave birth- don’t just come to hold the baby, offer to roll up your sleeves and do dishes or bring dinner. Even if they don’t accept, they’ll appreciate the offer.)
Take some time for yourself. Those first few months can be really rough, especially if you’re breastfeeding and have to be available to baby almost constantly, but you can take a few minutes for yourself. Let Daddy burp and change baby after a feeding while you take a quick walk around the block or put on make-up or whatever else makes you feel good. As baby gets older and you’re able to be gone for longer periods of time, go out to lunch with a friend or go to the grocery store by yourself, just get out of the house and do something that relaxes you.
Don’t forget Daddy! It’s really hard when you have two tiny humans that are pretty dependent on you to remember that Daddy (or Mommy) needs you too. Take some time to do things together as much as you can. Maybe that means watching a show together while you pump. Maybe that means monthly date nights. Maybe that means lunch away from the kids once a week. Whatever you do, make sure you take some time to foster the relationship with your partner.
Remember, even on the roughest of days, you aren’t in this alone. Join a local MOPS group, or a Facebook group of local or like-minded moms if going to a group meeting isn’t right for you. Talk to other moms who are up nursing at 3 am via chat. (You’ll know who they are because no one else is awake at 3 am). And if you’re having a hard time, talk to someone. Reach out to pediatrician, your OB/Midwife, your pastor, your yoga instructor, someone. The postpartum period is really challenging physically and emotionally, even with just one kid, but if you feel overwhelmed or are having prolonged feelings of depression, anxiety, or obsessive thoughts, seek help from your care provider or a therapist. If you have any feelings of hurting yourself or your child, immediately call for someone to come sit with you and seek professional help.
Having two babies under two years can be really hard, but the rewards are so worth it! The first time they hug each other, or say “I love you” to one another; when they look for each other first thing in the mornings, and help each other find their favorite toys; these are the moments that make it all worth it.