My own advice for you on adjusting to TWO kids:
- Start preparing your toddler ahead of time before baby comes. Teach your little one to do things without your help all the time. See this as a good thing you're teaching them, nothing to be sad about. Get your partner involved in the bed time and bath time if you haven't already done that. You cannot possibly keep up the routine of you doing everything once baby comes. It'll be easier on you and your child, as well as your partner, if you prepare them ahead of time with not having you do it all.
- Have a special outing with your first child before baby comes. You'll hold onto how special it was during the moments when you're feeling like you haven't spent enough time with your big kid because baby is around.
- Spend one-on-one time daily with your big kid. Daily! It sounds easy at first, but it's hard to do... but if you make an effort to do this for even 5 minutes a day you'll see how important it is and how much it helps.
- Get used not being able to do it all for two at one time. Someone is always going to be crying and waiting, and this was super hard for me to adjust to at first. I felt guilty and bad for whoever I couldn't get to at first. I'd alternate helping the baby and then the toddler first. I'd say "in a minute" every minute of every day it seemed. Realize they are OK if they have to wait and have to cry for a moment while you help the other one.
- Help your big kid feel like he's #1. I would make a big deal to tell the baby if she was fussing, "Just a second, baby, I'm helping your big brother right now, you have to wait a second..." so that my big kid knew he wasn't the only one I was telling to wait. I would praise my toddler for doing things on his own, helping him feel proud of how much of a big kid he was, how great of a big brother he was, etc.
- Delegate, teamwork, ask for help. Your partner will become Superman in your eyes if you just simply ask for what you need. While you're recovering from labor or surgery, especially, and feeding baby, you'll need your partner to do things for you. Just ask. They aren't mind readers.
- Keep your big kid's routine as similar as possible. Send him to preschool during the day so you can bond and rest with baby and he can get all the attention he needs with buddies at school. Keep bed time normal for your first one, which means he's probably going to bed first.
- Let it go. You will NOT have the same life as you did pre-baby #2. You will not be as fast at doing things, you will not have the laundry done in one day. You will have a messy house. You will have no clue where things are and will feel less organized. It's ALL NORMAL. You'll adjust. Let it go at first.
- Nest at full steam ahead of time. Get prepared! You won't have time for many months post-baby arriving... so do things ahead of time. Buy extras of your personal deodorant or toothpaste or things you need because it's hard to explain to someone else to go buy them later. Get baby's things totally ready so you can have more time to focus on the baby and big needy kid after baby is here, instead of folding and sorting baby clothes. Make freezer meals so it's one less thing to deal with when you're busy with two kids.
- Know you aren't alone. It's HARD going from one to two. But I swear you just DO it. You figure it out. Ask for help. Vent to a close friend. Ask questions. Breathe, have patience with yourself, and realize you'll get through it.
- Take a million pictures. It's hard to focus and remember things with two around... but you'll want these pictures and videos, so make sure you take time to do it.
Tips from real moms on surviving the transition to TWO littles:
- Help your firstborn become as independent as possible before baby comes. Teach to wash their body in bath, to play solo sometimes, help get dressed, etc.
- Try getting both kids to sleep at the same time.
- Include your first child as much as possible in the baby process with changing diapers, feeding, etc. But don't force it if older one is not interested.
- Don't feel guilty if you ask for help from someone to watch your baby so you can have an hour or two with your big kid. They need that special time with you.
- Have a good baby carrier so you have your hands free for older child.
- NAP yourself if you ever get the kids to sleep at same time even for 20 minutes. Cleaning HAS to wait.
- Just keep swimming... days are long but years are short. First year is toughest. Remember that.
- Ignore the mess. There will be way more messes. Ignore them. Do what you can. Love your kids instead.
- Survival mode the first year!
- Make a special box of quiet things for your older one to use while you're feeding baby: stickers, crayons, coloring books, books to read, etc.
- Don't be too hard on yourself. You'll make mistakes with both kids and that's normal.
- Your second child will have a different experience than your first: that's OK.
- Don't take on anything big right away like a trip or hosting anything.
- You will feel like you're failing and not getting it right sometimes, but you're doing fine.
- ASK FOR HELP.
- Keep in mind the baby will only be a baby for 12 months: feels longer than it is.
- Don't compare your kids. They are going to be different.
Enjoy this time!
It's chaotic and crazy, but it's also beautiful and so rewarding seeing your TWO babies together, loving each other, smiling, and just realizing you gave your big kid the best gift ever: a best buddy for the rest of their lives.