I’m about three months from my due date for baby number two, and I alternate between feeling that is a crazy short time or an incredibly long amount of time. It seems short when I think about my sweet newly 2-year-old Jackson, and long when I think about how much Wisconsin winter we have left (or about all the heartburn I’ll have between now and then). Overall, I am pleased that as early May seems to be around the corner, the balance is shifting to feeling more eager than anxious about having a baby and a toddler. I am over the moon about meeting my daughter, but also sad to be closing the chapter of just Jackson.
I think it’ll be hard, but I’m ready to start putting my energies into diving into it rather than wondering (i.e. worrying) how I’ll manage to care for two humans who would like all my time and attention. Plus, we’re starting to make plans. And as a planner, that makes it seem closer and more manageable. So I thought I’d write a little bit about what I’m planning, and then be able to report back after little Lily arrives on what was most helpful (or what we didn’t get around to, but maybe should have!) I’ll break it up into three categories: preparing Jackson, preparing the house, and preparing myself.
First, Jackson is growing and developing every day, and some of these we’d tackle even if there wasn’t a new baby coming, but we’d probably be a little less motivated to start early or be quite as intentional about them.
Second, there is this tension between thinking about how when the next baby will come something (nursing, co-sleeping, carrying him around etc.) will have to stop, so does that mean we should stop it early to prevent Jackson associating the change with the baby or to fully enjoy whatever the particular activity is because it is going to stop in May?
I don’t know! I think every family will decide which falls into what category. Overall the rule of thumb I’ve heard is to try and minimize the major changes that happen around the time (within a month or two) of the baby coming since a new baby is already such a big adjustment for everyone.
We started to tackle potty training about two weeks before we got pregnant with Lily. Jackson was on the young side (20 months), but it was the end of summer break, Evan was home, and I didn’t want to potty train a toddler in sub-zero weather, plus it’s given us a lot of time to get potty training down before new baby comes.
But that said, I’m really glad the hardest bits of potty training didn’t correspond with morning sickness. Plenty of moms have two in diapers, but from a purely monetary perspective it’s nice that our cloth diapers got used for less time and the whole stash will be ready for this new baby.
At this point, six months into potty training, Jackson is doing great night and day. We just did day training at first, and then about two months ago he said no diaper at night, and we just went with it. That was the easiest bit of potty training by far, not everyone has that experience, but it’s been pretty nice.
We still prompt him a lot to go, which he doesn’t love, so we’re working on letting him be more responsible for going when he wants to. That means tiny training pants accidents (like a teaspoon of pee, enough to change the undies but not the pants) sometimes, but it’s all part of the process. Potty training isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s been so great to see Jackson grow into it! (You can read more about the gear I love for potty training in my toddler registry post including my favorite book: Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right by Jamie Glowacki.)
Big Boy Bed & Night Weaning.
In an ideal world I would have loved to have Jackson have all his teeth before we did night weaning and the big boy bed, but Jackson gets teeth so extremely slowly, and I don’t think he’ll have all his teeth for another 10 months, maybe a year!
I kept putting off moving him over to his room because he was teething. But at Thanksgiving break we took the plunge since there was no end of teething in sight, and Jackson did great (I thought reading The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers by Elizabeth Pantley was very encouraging).
My husband, Evan, has been taking over night duty, and that means I’ve been getting a lot more sleep (awesome for pregnancy and my general outlook on life!). Jackson still wakes up a couple of times most nights, but settles back when Evan goes in to lay down with him (we have a full twin floor bed).
Everyone I talk to is handling toddler sleeping arrangements differently—some toddlers are in a crib, some cry it out, some are trying to wean off a pacifier, some are still happily co-sleeping, some still night nursing. All my friends have different situations and challenges. Nobody I know thinks they’ve got toddler sleep down perfectly. I think it might be one of those things that nearly all parents of a two-year-old feel like they are working on some aspect of sleep.
For us, the main things that are hard for Jackson are his crazy early rising (4:30 is pretty normal) and that we still nurse to sleep.
I love nursing him to sleep; it’s one of my favorite parts of the day, so it’s probably more about me being resistant to giving it up than just about Jackson’s preferences.
Here is definitely a place where I am torn between wanting to treasure it because it might be one of the last times we’ll be able to do it, and worried that I should cut it out sooner because new baby is coming.
We have had mixed success getting Jackson on dairy, so it’s also a bit about him getting milk and me wanting to continue our nursing relationship. I’m planning on tandem nursing come May. Our current vague plan is to try and transition nursing before sleep sitting up, so it’s still part of the routine but would be easier to incorporate a newborn into. But, honestly, it’s probably the thing I have the most conflicted feelings about.
Getting Dressed Independently.
It’s so much easier to just dress Jackson myself (and he doesn’t mind) than to try and have him dress himself.
But I’m trying, especially in the mornings, to be really slow and have him help me. We practice pinching the sleeves of the pajamas to help pull them off, pushing pants down and then putting the jammies away if they’re clean or down the dirty clothes shoot if they are dirty.
One thing that has helped our mornings a lot is the morning routine of Kenny Bear in Richard Scarry’s The Best Word Book Ever.
We open the book every morning and do all the things that Kenny does: wash his face with a wash cloth, brush teeth, comb hair, get dressed, make the bed, and walk out to pray (ok, so technically Kenny walks out to get breakfast, but we’ve already had breakfast).
I kneel by the couch and read the morning hour from Divine Hours and Jackson says Amen randomly and looks at a book (sometimes a Kid Bible, sometimes something else); it takes about 3 minutes. Then I ask him who he wants to pray for, which is probably one of the most precious moments of the day.
Some days, Jackson doesn’t want to participate in getting dressed, but I’m trying to be slow and steady in showing and explaining the steps of getting everything on and off. I think he will definitely still need help (and want the focused attention!) after the baby comes, but we’re working on it.
Before I had a baby, or cared for one as a nanny, I imagined that I would be able to sit with my notebook on a quilt while my baby quietly played with a toy.
That has NEVER happened.
If I’m available and the baby is awake, that baby would like my attention—as in they will cry or prod me until they get it. But there are going to be times when I am going to need Jackson to play independently (or at least it should be an option versus weep and wail while I attend to the baby), so I’ve been trying to slowly incorporate more independent play into our days.
The most success I have had is to make it part of the routine. After breakfast (before our Kenny-Bear Toileting) I clean up the kitchen. Jackson’s options are to help me or play. Having it be something that happens every day definitely helps.
I’ve also noticed that sometimes he just needs me to help set up an activity. He loves to play with blocks, but he’ll play a lot longer if I start by helping him sort them into types as oppose to just a big pile of blocks, then announce I’m going to go clean something. (He seems to understand me cleaning, and he’s a lot more patient about that than me checking my phone or computer. No patience for that!)
Sometimes it’s also a matter of proximity. If I’m in the kitchen making dinner, sometimes all it takes is suggesting that he bring his trains into the kitchen to play with them next to me. Or he’ll go up into his booster seat to play with his Little People Barn or color with crayons. I know that there are some moms (and a million ideas on Pinterest) who are so great about setting up independent activities for kids, so I could probably take advantage of those resources as well.
Mostly this is one area where I’m trying to be more intentional about not rescuing Jackson so quickly when I need to do something so that when it comes to taking care of his sister it’s not totally new. Plus, he’s naturally getting more interested in independent play as he gets older.
Practicing with a Baby Doll.
As far as actually practicing being gentle with the baby, we got the most beautiful Waldorf-style baby doll that my sister-in-law Candace made for Jackson for Christmas. (A bit like this one.) And we practice kissing the baby and putting the baby in a blanket for “nigh-nigh.”
Jackson’s a pretty gentle dude in general, and with all his stuffed animals, but we’re extra gentle with Baby. I think I’m going to try and make a little carrier for him (maybe like this one), so he can wear his baby when I’m wearing his sister. He loves to see pictures of babies, and meet my friends’ babies, so I’m hoping that enthusiasm translates to his sister.
We also talk a lot about baby Lily and what she’ll do when she comes out of mom’s tummy (I know “tummy” isn’t always a word parents want to use; my niece is adorably insistent on correcting me that there is a baby in my womb). Lily will play (Jackson is quick to say “with Dack”—his name for himself), nurse, go nigh-nigh, and we’ll say “lav-lu,” [i.e. love you] and give her kisses, and cuddles.
Reading Books About New Babies.
Our wonderful library has a whole section in the kid’s section dedicated to books about new babies. We try to keep the books really positive (because there are a lot of books about big siblings not initially liking their baby siblings. I think that those books might make more sense for a bigger kid, but for a 2-year-old, I want to accept his feelings about his sister, but I don’t want to plant the idea that he wouldn’t like her because he read a book aimed at older kids.) My very favorite is probably Mr. Rogers’ book, but these are all lovely, and Jackson brings them over for us to read regularly.
- Fred Rogers’ Mr. Rogers’ The New Baby
- Joanna Cole’s The New Baby At Your House & I’m A Big Brother
- Marc Brown’s Arthur’s Baby
- Caroline Jayne Church’s I Am A Big Brother
- Aliki’s Welcome, Little Baby
- Mercer Mayer’s The New Baby
- Rachel Fuller’s Waiting for Baby & My New Baby
- Alden R. Carter’s Big Brother Dustin
- (Older kids would enjoy: 9 Months: A Month By Month Guide to Pregnancy for the Family to Share by Courtney Adamo & Esther van de Paal )
I’m also slowly sorting through Jackson’s baby pictures, and I want to get his baby photo book done before Lily arrives so we can look at baby Jackson.
Preparing the House
Baby & Toddler Proofing (fixing door latches etc.).
We have a mostly baby and toddler proof house, but I was almost always watching Jackson, and so there are a few things that as he gets taller and stronger and I might be in the other room I need to make a bit safer (or at least make it easier for Jackson to make good choices.)
We had a sweet family over for a play date recently with a 2-year-old and a 9-month-old which made me remember some of the things that we used to put away, and look at some of Jackson’s more recently acquired toys with a critical eye as my new mom friend casually took them out of the 9-month-old’s mouth. Also I am slowly gathering the baby toys so that they can come back out in a few months as designated “Lily Toys.” ( classic oball, //skwish// Sophie La Girafe Teether //owl balls // montessori wooden toys)
We also live in an old house with those old glass door knobs which have a habit of falling off. We spent an eventful half-hour a few weeks ago playing “escape room” as a family when we all got locked in Jackson’s room with no phones. So after that adventure ending with Evan climbing out the window to get a screw driver from our coded-garage, we are switching the door knobs to less pretty ones that, you know, work.
We’ve never had baby gates in our tiny house, but I’m thinking that we might need to get some! We’re pretty conscientious about having everything wall-mounted and latch locked, but it’s a process that is constantly evolving. Over the next few weeks, we’ll make a big bucket list of house chores (and fun things like dates!) that Evan and I want to do before the baby comes.
Cribs and Clothes for New baby.
We’ve kept our bedroom setup for baby since we’ve moved Jackson over, so the crib is all set up. A lot of what we have for Jackson (you can see all my favorite baby items in this baby registry post) will work perfectly for Lily.
My sweet friends are throwing me a little sprinkle in April so I have a little amazon baby registry for that. Mostly I just would like a few girl clothes to mix with what we had for Jackson, and a few things that each child needs his or her own (blanket, stuffed doggie, water bottle, plate and silverware).
The big item is a double stroller, but even that isn’t something we’ll need for a while since I’ll probably just baby wear her and push Jackson in the stroller for the beginning.
Not knowing that Jackson was a boy until he was born meant that a lot of our initial baby stuff works for any baby. (But honestly I’m not really that fussy about gendered stuff for babies in general. I just think, would I wear this, and if the answer is yes the blue onsie stays.) I’ve been slowly washing and sorting baby clothes, asking friends for hand-me-downs (does anyone have a boppy? The one I was lent I gave back when my friend had her baby!), and digging out the baby car seat.
All things registry and nursery are really a significantly smaller priority this time around, where my motto seems to be — how can I spend the least amount of money!
We are so blessed that both of Jackson’s grandmas are planning to come and spend a few weeks here getting us through mid-May to the end of Evan’s school year in mid-June. Amen. If I didn’t have so much help, I would definitely look into hiring a postpartum doula for some help.
I’m hoping to have some special Grandma-Jackson things that they can do (side walk chalk, baking (paleo) cookies, going to the zoo) ready for both the time that we’ll be in the hospital as well as for the days that follow.
My mom is planning on coming out a bit before the due date, so if Lily stays put like Jackson, we’ll hopefully have a few days to focus on getting her used to Jackson’s routines and favorite parks plus freezing a few meals and making meal plans for after baby comes (my mom loves to follow a recipe and a meal plan!).
Our church is really great about setting up meal trains, and because we have so many dietary restricts I try to have a list of what we can and can’t eat and where to find recipes to make it easier on our friends to bring us meals we can actually eat!
Preparing myself for the transition is probably the most important bit, or at least the one I have the most control over. I think the best thing I can do is do the work to stay healthy during my pregnancy to set myself up for a good birth and a good postpartum time, and to have enough energy to care for Jackson while pregnant. (Here’s a post on some of my pregnancy practices and one on my favorite labor and postpartum resources).
Right now, that means I don’t get a lot of writing time in because I often use naptime to exercise when we’re house bound in snow or really cold Wisconsin weather.
Reading is my other main way to prepare myself. I loved the book From One Child to Two by Judy Dunn, even though it wasn’t particularly crunchy and is a bit old. I find RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers) really helpful in thinking about how to help older siblings through the emotions of having a new sibling. Here are a number of articles by Janet Lansbury on all things siblings.
Sometimes I don’t think I will be able to do everything they recommend, but it’s helpful to hear their perspective.
On my to-read list is Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish’s classic Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too, and Adventures in Tandem Nursing: Breastfeeding During Pregnancy and Beyond by Hilary Flower (although this one is tough to track down!)
The biggest encouragement is my friends and online mentors who have walked this path before me and have multiple-children-families that are doing great. Here are some of my favorite posts and articles. Several of them have incredibly rich comment sections with practice advice (like teach your toddler to stand on the yellow line on the parking lot when they get out of the car while you get the baby out):
- Simply Rebekah’s “I’m Scared to Have 2 Kids“& : “An Update Two Years Later“
- Like Mother Like Daughter’s “Ask Auntie Leila: The new baby and the toddler” (especially the comments on this one!)
- Learning Motherhood’s “Transitions: Reflections on (almost) a year of having two“
- Catholic All Year’s “The ‘Your Baby’ Method Of Sibling Preparation, And Some Book Recommendations“
- Dr. Sears’ “Introducing Baby 1 to Baby 2“
- Kelle Hampton’s “From Two to Three“
- Lindsey Kubly’s “Pre-Baby Bucket List“
- ** For these and a number other blog posts and check lists on all things 2nd baby check out my pinterest board of 2nd baby prep **
My mother-in-law, a source of so much wisdom in this department, reminded me recently that I can trust that Jackson will be able (with our help) to work through this discomfort that will come with making room for a new sister. I did it with my brother, Evan did it for his sister, and Jackson will do it for Lily. We can do hard things, and like so many things in life this particular hard thing is also one of the most beautiful.
How about you, do you have any advice or resources for me?
*Note* This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means if you were to buy a book, I’d get a tiny commission at no cost to you. Thanks for supporting Stories & Thyme!*
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