What is the best and most useful advice for second-time mums? It struck me after writing advice for my friend the first-time mum that second-time mums probably need it more; especially when the main type of comment you get when you are pregnant for the second time is ‘YOU’LL have your hands full, won’t you?’ Accompanied by the head tilt and the teeth-tsk.
Which is always great, isn’t it?
So helpful. Especially as it comes at a time when you’re pregnant and exhausted and have a baby on board and a most likely a toddler in tow and are coping with tantrums and potty training and everything else as well as growing a baby and you just want to have a nap but can’t because as a second-time pregnant woman as there’s a child to keep alive and snacks to fetch and things to carry so many things to do and you can’t quite imagine what it’s going to be like with two children when you’re only just about holding it together with one.
So with even the Duchess of Cambridge – who has a whole palace of help – admitting being a mum of two is hard, here’s some useful advice for second-time mums:
Devise a shower strategy: There’s nothing worse than trying and failing to have a shower all day because you are constantly baby wrangling with both hands to make you feel, well, rubbish. This is where you need a fail-safe shower strategy. Have one before your partner goes to work. Have one in the evening but get dressed as soon as you can in the morning. Bring the toddler toys in to the bathroom while the baby is in a bouncy chair. Whatever works; devise a strategy that’ll set you up for the day and not leave you answering the door at lunchtime in your dressing gown. Not like that ever happened to me…*side eye*.
Make sure you allow yourself time to recover. You might feel great after the birth (or you might not) but you still need to take it easy even though there’s an older child to consider. Accept all the help you can!
Childcare is a good weapon to have in your arsenal, but don’t feel guilty about deploying it. The older child will be entertained by someone who’s not a knackered new mum and you’ll get some quality time alone with the baby. We kept up our usual two nursery days even when I went on maternity leave and it worked, well.
All that time spent sitting in coffee shops when you have your first child? Won’t happen second-time round or if they do, they will be much less peaceful when you have two to contend with. So playdates are where it all happens – either at your own or other people’s houses as it means you can still sit around and feed / look after the baby while the older child plays. And drink loads of tea.
Find a playgroup one you don’t hate and actually make an effort to go, every week, as soon as you can, unlike me. It gets everyone out of the house and is entertainment for the older child that is not soft play horrors.
And on that note, in spite of this try to leave the house at least once a day, preferably as soon as you can in the morning to avoid everyone having a dull day meltdown at home. If you don’t have a reason to leave the house, make one up (like all of these). Or just go and run around in the garden for ten minutes.
Two simultaneously napping children is the holy grail. Embrace it if it happens and do absolutely nothing. If child 1 has recently dropped the nap it might seem like a long long day. Use the old nap time instead to have ‘quiet time’ to give yourself a bit of a break. Or let them watch TV (it’s OK).
And yes, TV is OK. Find some non-annoying TV programmes / channels without adverts, such as CBeebies.
Don’t count the hours of sleep you didn’t get. You’ll never get it back. There are much less opportunities to ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ second time as usually the toddler will wake up just as the baby sleeps, it’s the law. Having realistic expectations around baby sleep helps, too (it also helps if you had a bad sleeper first time). Go to bed when they do at least once a week.
Do what works for you. We had a SnuzPod co-sleeper cot and ended up mainly with all of us co-sleeping just because it was the way we all got more sleep (P.S. if you’re upsizing your bed, go for the super king! We only went for the king which I still regret).
Teach the older child where the healthy snacks *cough* biscuit tin *cough* is kept is so they can help themselves when you have your hands full.
Slings are a complete godsend. Especially for naps in the sling so you have your hands free to do everything else for the toddler.
Remember all that time you spent obsessing about everything first time? Yeah, it won’t happen with the second. The Wonder Weeks app was practically my bible first time round yet I barely opened it the second (mainly because I knew babies are developmentally grizzly most of the time). I absolutely loved the baby days second-time mainly because I was much more relaxed about everything.
Don’t expect your two children to play together for a long while. It might take years, in fact. The older child might show lots of interest. They might show no interest at all. They might be affected in weird ways you’re not expecting.
And don’t fall for the myth of the giant first child. When your first child is next to the tiny newborn they will triple in size, at least (every second-time parent says this). But remember the older child is still a child and don’t expect too much because they’ve been bumped up the sibling order, especially not emotionally. At the time I remember thinking E, at 2.9, was practically a fully-formed adult when she was still tiny.
If you’re breastfeeding, then feed down on the floor to play with the toddler at the same time. Or read books / play games up on the sofa.
BLW works wonders: Second-time motherhood is full of interesting contrasts. I didn’t enjoy weaning first time but unexpectedly loved it second-time. First time we went for a mixed approach, second we went for full-on I loved BLW and I found it really magical. But the useful side-effect is that it means you are hands-free at mealtimes and don’t have to wield the spoon (here’s more about why I loved BLW).
If you can, divide and conquer bedtime and regularly ‘swap’ children. On the days it’s just you, do what you can and have a giant wine waiting. Even two-and-a-half years in it’s still a struggle that usually ends up with all of us asleep in my bed. See, we should have gone for the super king…
Remember there might be bad days. There will be great days. There will be days, hours, minutes even that are a mix of both. Having a nice cup of tea soothes most ragged tired souls, and there’s always bedtime. But give yourself some credit; you’re doing an amazing job.
What’s the best advice for second-time mums you can think of?