When you’re pregnant with your second baby (or 3rd or more!), you may feel more confident and in control than first time around – after all you’ve been here before!
However, the balance of family life is about to change, so here are a few things to think about to make sure another baby fits in happily.
We suggest ways to cope with a second pregnancy, think about life with a newborn and a toddler, and offer tips to help siblings adjust to having a new baby brother or sister around.
During your second pregnancy...
How (and when) do I explain to my eldest about the baby in my tummy?
Before you tell your child you’re pregnant again, start pointing out pregnant women you see when you’re out and about, or visit pregnant friends and explain that they’re growing a new baby in their tummy. It’s up to you when you tell them the news, but you might want to think about waiting until later on in the pregnancy. Nine months is a very long time for a child and they might get very impatient!
When you tell them, it’s a good idea to have your scan picture to hand, as well as your scan from when you were pregnant with them. Cuddle up together and go through your child’s baby photos too, so they know what a new baby will look like. Children love to hear about what they did when they were babies, and you can also use this moment to reinforce how excited you were when they were in your tummy.
How can I prepare them for the arrival of another baby?
Talk about the new baby and let your child feel your tummy when the baby kicks. Visit friends with young babies, look at books about babies or second babies.
Be honest about what the baby will be like … at first babies just sleep, eat and poo! Don’t make your child expect an instant playmate, as they’ll be disappointed!
If you need to move your child into a new bed, or room, do it as soon as possible, so they don’t feel they have to move because of the baby.
At what stage in pregnancy should I stop picking up my eldest?
Unless you’re having specific problems, like pubic dysfunction, you should be OK to pick up your child until you’re four or five months pregnant, depending on how heavy they are.
Try to give another reason for not being able to carry them, so that they don’t blame their lack of comfort on the baby. And make sure you find plenty of other ways for them to feel the same closeness, such as cuddles on your knee.
What do I do when I go into labour?
Well in advance, arrange two or three people that you could leave your child with, and make sure that they know them and feel comfortable with them. It’s best to have several options as you can’t plan when labour will start, and your first choice might not be able to drop everything. Don’t forget, your second labour might progress more quickly than your first!
Don’t promise your child that you’ll see them later, or the next day, just in case you need to stay in hospital, or labour goes slower than you imagined. When you do see your child for the first time after giving birth, make sure someone else is holding the baby, so that you can give them a special cuddle and show them that the new baby won’t change how you feel about them.
Helping your child adjust to their new sibling...
How can I help my child bond with their new brother or sister?
While you’re pregnant, let your child feel the baby kick and talk about things you’ll do as a family with the new baby. When they first meet, have a present ready for your child, from the baby as a little sweetener!
Don’t put any pressure on your child to be a big boy or girl, to help mummy out, as they may feeling quite vulnerable. But do involve them as much as you can with changing nappies, choosing clothes, finding toys and so on. Show them how to be gentle with the baby, and give gentle kisses and cuddles, and make sure they know not to try to pick the baby up by themselves just yet.
A mum says..
“While Charlie slept, I’d play games with Sophie, paint pictures and make creations out of cardboard boxes! If Charlie started crying, I’d have to make sure Sophie was safe and occupied, before going to him. I felt guilty for leaving him to cry, but on the plus side, he’s always settled himself far more quickly than Sophie ever did, and now plays more independently too.” Jane, mum of Sophie, Charlie and a growing bump
How do I get one-on-one time with my eldest once my baby is born?
Special time alone with your child is really important, for both of you. Your newborn will probably sleep quite a lot to start with, so use this time to focus on your child, rather than to catch up on jobs around the house. Even just 15 minutes a day is 15 minutes well spent.
Bedtime is a great opportunity for one-to-one time, looking at books and cuddling up while your baby sleeps in another room, or spends time with dad.
If you’re busy with your child when your baby starts crying, try not to dash off immediately. Your baby won’t come to any harm for a minute or two, and it will show your child they’re important to you too.
How can I stop them being resentful of the baby?
It’s only natural if your older child feels a bit resentful; they’ve been centre of attention all their life, and now have to share the limelight.
Be careful how you phrase things, so that you’re not giving the message that the baby always comes first, and make sure you share plenty of time, activities and experiences together, so they feel special and important.
Keep them involved with the baby, and let them make choices for the baby, such as clothes, toys, room decorations, books. Let your child open presents for the new baby too, and tell them about all the presents they had when they were born, so they don’ t feel left out.
It’s also a good idea to explain to your child about newborns, the kind of care they need and why, and reassure them that their role in the family is equally important.
Should I expect any changes in my toddler’s behaviour?
Quite possibly, yes. If they see the baby getting more attention than them, they might regress to being more baby-like themselves, sucking their thumb, forgetting to use the potty, talking in baby-talk and so on. Or they might react in a more negative way and start throwing tantrums, misbehaving or refusing to eat.
The expert says
“Coping with changes to the family dynamic is hard for a young child, especially when they can’t express themselves fully, or really understand your explanations. Behavioural problems are very common as family life readjusts and while it can be stressful for you, it should just be a passing phase. Try to be patient, and talk to your health visitor about how to cope with your older child.” Sharon Broad, midwife.
Settling into a new routine...
How do I keep my child occupied while I’m breastfeeding the baby?
The key is to be prepared. Have a special box of toys that only come out while you’re feeding, so that your child sees it as a good thing. Get a snack ready for you to share, and try to think of anything they might ask for, so that you don’t have to interrupt the feed. If they’re potty trained, try to get them to go to the toilet before you settle down, so that you won’t be disturbed. Have couple of books to hand too, so you can cuddle together and read a book to keep them occupied.
How do I find a routine that suits us all?
Many second time mums find that the new baby has to fit around the older child. However, it’s best to keep an open mind and be flexible. If the older child’s routine has to change, try to do it gradually and don’t be too strict.
Can I potty train with a newborn in tow?
To be honest, you’re probably best off leaving potty training until you’re in a routine. Introducing major changes at this time can be unsettling for your child, which can make potty training all the harder. Keeping your child in nappies at the moment is easier all round, so just don’t worry about it for a while.
How do I cope with the school run with a baby?
For the first few weeks, ask other mums you know to help out – most will be only too happy to, if they can. Try to plan feeds to fit in with pick up and drop off times. Make sure you’re well organised each evening too, so that your child’s school bag is ready and waiting, to make getting out of the door that bit easier.
Top tips for coping with a second child
- Be flexible with meal times, meal choices, bath nights and so on. Trying to stick too rigidly to a routine can just create extra stress.
- Let some things slide! This is no time to try to be super mum. So if you don’t change the beds as often as you would normally, or vacuum, don’t stress about it!
- Ask for help, so you have some time alone or some time on your own with the new baby. If you’re coping with broken sleep and a lively toddler, you’ll need your energy.
- Stock up on easy-to-cook meals and keep a few takeaway menus handy, including ones that deliver!
- Keep toys handy in each room, so you can occupy your older child if you need to tend to your baby.
- Try to eat healthily most of the time, so that you get the all-important nutrition that will help boost your energy.
- Avoid any major changes that might unsettle your toddler, until things have settled down, such as potty training, moving nursery or starting nursery.
- Make sure there are plenty of cuddles to go round and make time to share special moments with each child in turn, as well as each other!