Before my first was born, I prepared as well as I could. I read an assortment of baby care books, I carefully washed and folded tiny onesies, and I scoured the “Kids & Parenting” section of Pinterest. Of course, there was nothing that could have prepared me for my whole life to change, but those actions helped me feel calmer and genuinely made my life easier.
This time around, I have the infant care knowledge and books ready to go, and tiny onesies are the least of my worries. Last week, I attended a helpful round table that my local parenting group hosted about transitioning from one to two kids, and it got my wheels turning. Preparing for the second baby is entirely different than preparing for the first. I gleaned some great tips from that event, so I’ve combined those with my previous baby experience to give you: 10 things you should do before baby number two.
1. Stock up on Freezer Meals
Yes, people will bring you food. It’s one of the best parts of having a baby—free, delicious, cheesy, prepared comfort food. But after a month or two, the free meals start slowly trickling to a halt as people move on with their lives (understandably). Since I have a tough time preparing dinner with one kid, I’m filling my chest freezer with easy go-to meals to cover the nights when I just can’t even and I know there won’t be a casserole on my doorstep.
2. Get Any Big Transitions Out of the Way (or Avoid Them)
Here’s where we’re talking about sweet baby number one (who’s likely no longer a baby). Is Johnny ready for a big-boy bed? Is Annie turning into a binkie addict who needs an intervention? Let me make a suggestion (backed up by the veteran moms in my group): either decide to make these transitions months before the sibling comes or avoid them for now.
You’re probably well aware that transitions can be tough with a toddler, and a new bed or potty training or a binkie ultimatum are probably in your future. But try not to plan on a transition shortly before or after your second baby is born. Give yourself a break and remember that it’s only a season, and you won’t be sending your firstborn off to college with a binkie strapped to her shirt (promise).
3. Choose Birth Announcements
You may laugh at me, but this is one of my favorite parts of having a new baby. And hey, getting ready for this baby should be a little fun! Before Charlie was born, I picked out three or four birth announcement designs and had them ready to go online. I’m a paper-lover, and couldn’t wait to announce my baby’s birth with crisp, shimmery card stock and gorgeous colors. This time around, I’m working with Basic Invite to announce Ada’s birth—and I’m a tiny bit obsessed with the options they have available.
One of the best parts of Basic Invite’s options is that you can customize the colors and fonts (whhhaaaaat?) and make your announcement or invitation look however you want. You can even customize the envelopes! For a design-lover like me who doesn’t have the chops or time to create my own announcements, this website is killer. I often love parts of an invitation or announcement design and don’t like another—the color, the font, the layout. The ability to customize and tweak is priceless. As the cherry on top, Basic Invite lets you easily order samples of your design so you can be sure you have exactly what you want. I’m sold!
4. Talk to your OB or Midwife About a PPD and PPA Action Plan
Did you know that one in seven mothers will experience postpartum depression—and that number is only based on self-reported cases? Recent studies have also suggested that many more women suffer from PPD’s nasty cousin, postpartum anxiety. I personally struggled with postpartum anxiety, and never thought to ask for help. Like many women, I thought I could power through and would wake up one day feeling better. This time around, though, I’m going to be kinder to myself and have resources available if and when I start feeling lost. Talk to your obstetrician or midwife about how they can help you during your postpartum period.
5. Go on a Date (or Five)
Remember those first few months with your first baby? Remember how you forgot your partner’s name and what they looked like before aging ten years overnight from sleep deprivation? It’s probably going to happen again, so get those date nights on the books while it’s simpler with one! There will be plenty to talk about just dreaming about and planning for your growing family. The moms in my group suggested agreeing beforehand on one non-negotiable “luxury” for both of you before the baby comes. For some, this may be a 45-minute nap, while for others it may be a morning run. Whatever your partner’s non-negotiable is, you do your best to give it to them when the baby is born, and they do their best to give it to you.
6. Take Your First on Dates
Your life is about to change dramatically, but someone else’s life is about to be upended. That busy kid is about to share the stage with a sweet-smelling bundle of neediness. Give your older child some one-on-one time before baby arrives, and do what you can to make this transition special. My daughter will be just under two and a half when her sister makes her debut, so there’s only so much she can understand at this point. We’re focusing on spending time with her, reading about babies, and talking about “our baby” often.
7. Deep Clean and Organize
Yes, I’m a crazy person. But having your house in some kind of order before your baby arrives will make you feel better, I promise. I have a modest cleaning schedule lined up for the rest of my pregnancy, tackling rooms and sections of my house one at a time. I’m also planning on hiring a cleaning service for a one-time deep clean the week before this baby is born.
8. Have your baby shower
With a second baby, the shower can seem a little less important. But even if you don’t need many of the essentials, you’ll need the celebration, well-wishes, and the diapers—oh, how you’ll need the diapers. Don’t be afraid to ask for very specific items this time around, since you’ll likely know exactly what gaps you need to fill in your baby gear inventory.
9. Decide on after-baby visitors and help
The days and weeks after having a baby can be a whirlwind. I’d say I remember that from my first, but in all honesty, I barely remember a thing that I didn’t write down from those sleep-deprived first days. With your second baby, help will be even more essential because you’ll be contending with the limitless energy source known as your first child. Be specific when visitors and family members ask how they can help—and send that toddler off to the park with grandma whenever you need to.
10. Plan Nice Things for Your Postpartum Self
I saved the best for last: don’t forget about you during this transition! With Charlie, I tried too early to be supermom, didn’t allow myself time to heal and rest, and didn’t prioritize my needs. I won’t be making that mistake a second time.
In many cultures, women are encouraged to observe a “lying in” period after giving birth; it’s a time when their sole focus is nurturing their new baby and resting. For this period, I’m planning on a few practical preparations to make my life calmer.
- A postpartum healing basket: The Tucks, the granny panties, the lavender essential oil, the calming bubble bath, the bottles of my favorite wine—these are the friends I remember from my first postpartum healing period. I’ll be stocking up on all of these things ahead of time so that I don’t have to make a Target run on the way home from the hospital.
- Paper and plasticware: Here’s an important deal I’m making with myself: I won’t be doing dishes for a month at least. That’s why I’ll be stocking up on paper and plasticware to last me until I’m good and ready to look at the dishwasher again.
- Set up home delivery or grocery pick-up: Confession, y’all: I’m terrified of grocery shopping with two children. I’m even more terrified of the germs that infest every corner of grocery stores in the fall and winter that my toddler befriends and brings home. That’s why I’ll be taking full advantage of Amazon Prime (yes, you can deliver my laundry detergent to my doorstep, thank you) and grocery store-side pick-up services. It’s worth it for the first few months.
- Set up a breastfeeding station: I did this with my first, and it was a fantastic choice. I set up a station near my comfy glider with all of the essentials, including burp clothes, lanolin cream, snacks, a big water bottle, a book, and some diapers. This made breastfeeding more relaxing.
- Stock up on distractions for your first child: Speaking of making things more relaxing, don’t forget you’ll still have an energetic older child running around. I’m stocking up on surprises, toys, and activities for my two-year-old to make those first weeks easier on everyone.
I hope these tips are useful to you as you get ready for your next big life transition! I’m rooting for you, mama.