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After having my second child when my first was a mere 18 months old, I was often asked which of the following was easier.
Going from 0 to 1 kids
Going from 1 to 2 kids
While they each presented their own challenges, going from 1 child to 2 children was WAY easier and here's why.
We knew what we were getting into. We knew that there would be nights when the newborn is going to be wide awake at 3am and want to sleep the rest of the day. We knew how to give the first bath. We knew how to jam my boob into the baby's mouth properly. We knew how tired we would be.
The mental aspect was easy. We accepted that the first 2-3 months were going to be a shitshow. Our toddler would watch way too much Bubble Guppies and probably eat way too many frozen fish sticks.
Once you overcome that mental hurdle, the physical aspects are simple. You just do it. You wake up 3+ times at night to feed the baby, then you're up at 6am to take care of the toddler. If you're lucky, both parents will get an extended leave. If not, you power through.
And powering through is so much easier with your second child because you know how truly rewarding parenting is. You've seen how they grow (so quickly!) into little personalities. They don't stay blobs that barely respond for long. All the smiles and snuggles and bedtime stories remind you that these little people see you with rose colored glasses on. You're perfect to them...even with toothpaste in your hair and your bra on backwards.
So if you're nervous about having your second child, below are a few tips + links to hopefully get you out of the water.
Caffeinate + Hydrate
The days are long, but the years are short. But the days are like really long.
Find the balance between 'Oh my God I've had so much caffeine I'm going to shake to death" and " I have to pee every 5 minutes because of all this water." The caffeine will keep you going and the water will at least make you think you're making healthy choices.
Spend time with each child alone
This can be really hard at the beginning. I admit, I didn't do a great job. Since I was nursing #2, #1 spent a lot of time with his dad. I should have been more proactive about it, but I was tired and sore and busy making excuses obviously. Hand over the littlest one every now and then and play with the big guy. Do what he wants to do. Remember how silly and fun you used to be with him. That's who he wants to see.
Get on a schedule ASAP
This saved my sanity. When I had an idea of what to expect each day, I could manage the little hiccups that came along.
Sync the schedules
One of my OB nurses suggested this every appointment - get your kids to take at least one nap at the same time. My older son always napped around lunch time, so I knew that I had to work it out so that the little fella did one of his naps then. I fiddled with his Eat, Play, Sleep routine until I got the naps within 30 minutes of each other.
Now that they are 2 and some change and 9 months, they still have a nap that overlaps. It allows me to finish the housework, write, eat lunch, and get ready for the afternoon. It is essential.
Involve your older child
18 months is a bit young, but I was still able to ask Brooks for diapers and wipes. He would waddle over with them for the baby. It gave him a sense of purpose in the times when I was truly focused on the baby.
Know that your children will be as different as night and day
My first son had a dairy intolerance as a newborn. It took long nights of him writhing in pain and a tummy that was hard as a rock for me to put two and two together. Once I figured it out, I started a dairy and soy free diet. However, it takes a long time for all the dairy and soy in you to be completely flushed out. So Brooks continued to writhe with a hard belly for another 10 days - 2 weeks. It was truly awful. I (of course) blamed myself for not knowing and not eliminating the allergens sooner.
With my second, I cut the dairy out of my diet a full month before he was due just in case he had the same intolerance. I slowly reintroduced dairy once I felt like I knew his patterns and temperament. He was fine. All the worrying, sending meals back, and label reading was unnecessary this time around. He is, after all, a completely different baby.
There will be a lengthy transition time
We are still in the midst of this, and there is a post in the works on that. Basically, your older child will act differently. He'll want his normal amount of attention and do anything to get it. And your older child might not love the little one immediately. It takes time.
Purge your house before baby #2 arrives
I foolishly started doing this when the littlest was 1-2 months old. I hit a boiling point where we had too much stuff. All I wanted was a clean house with only the essentials.
I recommend A Simplified Life by Emily Ley. It's step by step how to simplify all aspects of your life.
If you're still not scared, check out these articles. They will make you laugh.
Have a Little Confidence
First of all, you've done this before. You know how to take care of small humans. Sure, they will each be different and take you to unexplored territory. But that's the fun of it too. Go on an adventure together knowing that you'll both be better on the other side.