Tuesday Tips: Transitioning from one to two…

two boys

We’ve had lots of requests from readers to share tips on dealing with the transition from one child to two (or from two to three, etc.). It’s a tricky one for me to answer because it was 8 years ago that my second was born and my memory is foggy, but I wanted to raise the topic as a discusion and to try to gather tips from readers for readers.

I’ve said it before, but for me the most difficult period in the past ten years was the three months after my second was born. I found it so, so overwhelming to go from one baby to two — to have two small children with completely different needs, both of them needing me at the same time!  I just wasn’t prepared to be tugged in two directions like that and I think I cried nearly every single evening, both from pure exhaustion and from a sense of relief that I had survived another difficult day. I also remember wondering how anyone could possibly have more than two children! : )

My first two are only 22 months apart and my second was a colicky baby, so I think it was an especially tricky time. But I also think that there is something about this transition that is different from others, and that once you learn your way and master the multi-tasking, it’s actually not that much more difficult to go on to have a third or fourth baby. It’s a bit like juggling – once you learn how to juggle, it’s not that much more difficult to add another ball to the mix. (At least I found this to be the case — I would be interested to hear how others have found it.)

Here are some simple tips I can remember, but again I would really love to hear from mums who have done this more recently:

  • Cut yourself some slack. Don’t worry about how tidy your house is, don’t feel guilty if you cook scrambled eggs for dinner two nights in a row, don’t worry if your kids aren’t bathed every day — everything will be perfectly fine despite not being ‘perfect’.
  • Try not to feel guilty about the lack of time you give to your eldest child. Focus instead on how important it is to teach your child how to share the attention, and even more importantly on how wonderful it will be for him/her to have a sibling to play with as soon as the baby gets a bit older. (My second child started walking at 8 months and my boys were playing together from a really early stage. I remember seeing them playing together, or watching my eldest push the youngest one on the swings, and thinking that it was definitely ALL worth it!)
  • Use the baby feeding down-time to your advantage. Make good use of all that time on the sofa by reading books to your older child or just simply sitting still and talking to them, asking questions, or playing simple games while you feed the baby. (We had a stack of flash cards sitting next to our sofa and I taught Easton his letters while nursing Quin. It was something he really enjoyed, and it meant that nursing Quin didn’t have to mean time away from Easton.)
  • Allow your eldest to be as independent as possible. Velcro shoes and elastic trousers that your child can do and un-do himself are so smart. Also, keep toys in baskets on the floor, so they learn to access their toys on their own and tidy them up too. Buy step stools for the bathroom sinks so he can wash his own hands, etc.
  • Get out of the house, even though it’s difficult. I have always found that a simple walk around the block can do wonders for your mind, and that running small errands can make you feel like wonder woman! It might be tricky to get two small children out of the house and it might take twice as long as it did before, but once you do it, it feels so good and you feel so proud of yourself for putting in the effort.
  • Make friends with other mums who are in a similar boat. Esther lived just down the road from me when our second babies were born, and it was SO nice to be able to have someone to talk to and share tips and tricks.  Sometimes it’s just nice to admit to someone else that your day was really hard or that you’re feeling especially exhausted or that you haven’t been romantic with your husband in months, or whatever it might be. Most often, she’ll be feeling the same way and it’s nice to know you’re not alone.
  • Depending on the age of your older child, it’s probably a good idea to invest in a good double buggy, preferably one that isn’t too wide to fit into shop doors and one that folds easily to fit into your car/train/plane, etc. (We loved the Phil & Teds double buggy, but I’m sure there are loads of other great ones on the market now.)
  • Remind yourself how quickly time passes and try to enjoy those precious first months of babyhood. It took me until my third baby to really understand what my parents were saying all those years when they told me to stop willing away the time and to enjoy even the sleepless nights and busy days. It really is so true — you blink and they are big!

I hope these simple tips are helpful. Please, please share any tips you can add.

Courtney x

The photo above is of my boys when Quin was around six months old and  — the first time that Easton could push him on the swings. This was a turning point for me when things started to feel easier and when I could finally see the benefit of having two kids so close in age.


Comments (23)

April 21, 2015

Completely agree with all that Courtney has said above – I too found the 1 to 2 babies transition the hardest – mine were also 22 months apart and it was really draining at times. Adding a 3rd to the mix 2.5yrs later felt a complete doddle! My big thing would be to get some sort of routine going – I had my 3rd baby when my eldest was starting school. Just that routine of breakfast / school run / school pick-up / tea time / bathtime etc seemed to make the whole thing so much more manageable. Of course not everyone will have a baby when an older one is starting school, but just getting some sort of routine & sticking to it, I find, makes things easier. My youngest (a.k.a, the ‘baby’) is now 3.5 years old, I can’t bear how fast time has passed …although I don’t miss the sleepless nights 😉

April 21, 2015

Many thanks for this, Courtney! We’re about to have number two, so the timing is excellent…

April 21, 2015

My second is just 3 months and it has been a difficult adjustment for all of us. I think having routines is key and doing things like making lunch and choosing clothing the night before has helped. It’s so true that getting out of the house is hard but worth it. I always feel so much better after even the most mundane outing.

Courtney in London
April 21, 2015

That’s a good suggestion to make lunch and choose clothes the night before! Thank you. xx

Louise Braim
April 21, 2015

Personally I found going from 1 to 2 with 18mth gap not that bad in hindsight but 2 to 3 with a 20mth gap was and is hard. Having 3 under 6 yrs old and the logistics of sharing myself out between their different needs and having 3 to take everywhere can be complicated and often a nightmare. I have no extrrnal help and no family close by and husband works full time so for me 3 is tricky and at some point each day I am in tears over something!

Courtney in London
April 21, 2015

Oh sweet mama. It really is SO hard, and you have such small gaps in between your babies, I can only imagine how difficult it must be! Just know that it does get easier as they get older. And how fun for your kids to have each other and be so close in age! x

Renée from Amsterdam
April 21, 2015

My kids are 24months apart and the youngest is now 8weeks. And jeez i find it hard, especially the feeling of guilt towards my older child not being able to spend as much time with her as i used to. I am much more relaxed now i have stopped breastfeeding so i can leave the house with my daughter and let daddy take care of the baby on saterdays for example. So that would be my advice, the freedom of not breastfeeding but i’m sure some moms would disagree with my motives.

April 21, 2015

I have three children each 22 months apart. My eldest is now 6 years old. Some days it seemed like it would take forever to get out of the house – just when you thought you were going to make it out the door someone needed attention – feeding, changing, a suddenly urgent toilet trip or finding a shoe (that had mysteriously disappeared between the bedroom and hallway!).

If I could travel back in time and give myself some advice about this crazy period of life, it would be to take more and better care of myself: take an extra minute or so in the shower to collect your thoughts, accept any offers of help rather than try and do it all yourself and remember that this day/hour/tantrum will eventually end. To get you through those difficult moments, try to focus on your son or daughter’s beautiful smile from another time.

I feel very lucky to live in a place where the local mothers are supportive of each others’ choices regarding breastfeeding, returning to work (or not) and child-rearing styles.

Regardless of what your own views are, a smile, wave or sign of support to another mother may just make their day : )

April 21, 2015

louise,,,,,my third was born 2 days after my first fourth birthday… is so tough – i know it might not be possible but if there is anyway you could get help – i got a minder 1 morning and 1 afternoon a week – it has kept me sane….as my husband is away a lot and i was beginning to resent him when he came home and went for a cycle! I don’t have family to help either and its so hard…..even one afternoon a month – anything ….nurserys can be helpful places to ask for a part-time minder…..good luck and try and get some head space to yourself…I nearly went crazy and feel so much better now…..I say yes now to any help…..I also agree with everyone’s comments esp lulu and of course courtneys article.

April 21, 2015

My oldest two are 24 months apart. They both celebrated their birthday this past week in April (16;19) I was showing pictures to the younger one on her milestone birthday, of how when mummy was feeding her, her brother sat beside us and fed his teddy!! Funny that this topic is covered now. Did I mention my oldest two are 27 & 25 years old now!!! It does get better and better and better. I enjoyed everything about having babies….Enjoy ALL stages. I love the adults my children are. We spend fabulous quality time together as much as we can. I agree with your folks Courtney, time flies by. Xx

April 21, 2015

Easton looks like Marlow!

April 21, 2015

I watched a very good documentary last night (available on Netflix) called The Dark Matter of Love which follows a family as they transition from 1 (teenage) child to 4 kids overnight. They adopted an 11 year old girl and 5 year old twin boys from a Russian orphanage. Whilst it’s mostly a study about love and emotional connections, it also explores how the family copes with this major change. Not to give too much away but they basically fall apart at the beginning! What I found interesting was seeing how each member of the family adapted to the change. One thing that struck me was the importance of communication between the parents and their love and support for each other, particularly when one of them was down. This couple were very sweet together and you could see that this is what got them through the hardest part of the transition. Here’s a link to the film in case you’re interested (I have no affiliation with it)

April 21, 2015

Thank you so much, Courtney! I find these Tuesday Tips very inspiring. My daughter will have her first birthday this week and we’re thinking about a second baby. It is so helpful to get a glimpse into what that season might be like and although I’m sure it’s exhausting, I’m also sure, it’s so rewarding. Dankeschön!

April 21, 2015

Thanks for the article! I have three kids under 4 (3 month, 18 month and my daughter who will be 4 in July). I also found more overwhelming and complicated to go from one baby to two (even though my second was, and still is the easiest baby ever!!!). With one baby, I still had the feeling that I had some ¨social life¨ and opportunities to relax and recover some energy (easier/cheaper to find a babysitter for one child; your relatives are always willing to take care of one child, different story when you have two, and let alone 3!/trips with my husband), that I could take a break when she slept…When I went to two babies all of the sudden I realized that it was impossible to have a break! (there was always someone awake who needed you!). At that time, I was working full-time, and I think that it helped a lot. Those hours in a total different environment, talking to colleagues, and having the opportunity to eat with two hands! was my lifesaver. I stopped working when my third son was born, and for the time being I am a stay-at-home mum. Although it is the most hardest work I have ever done (I truly respect and admire SHM), I guess that once you have two, as Courtney said, you learn how to juggle and become more relaxed (I would have never given to my first baby formula if I needed to leave her with someone else). I find that being able to share experiences with other mums even if it is on-line is key.

April 21, 2015

My oldest daughter was 5 years old and 1 week when my youngest was born. My husband and I were exhausted from waking up in the middle of the night. After much convincing from my husband, I agree to get one a mid-wife from the maternity for 5 or so evenings spread over 2 to 3 weeks. This allowed us to have a good 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep. I felt like a failure. I cried and cried. But what a difference that made. I would do it again!

April 21, 2015

Love this article Courtney! And I’m still at the stage where I wonder how ppl can handle more than 2! I would love to have 3 at least but with no family nearby I just don’t have the courage! It feels like I should wake up at 4 am in order to bring them to school/kindergarten in time! Even now we’re late sometimes! And when husband is away (often) I feel like a robot! Hats off to you!

April 21, 2015

For me the Transition from two to three kids was tougher than from one to two. I think it really depends on the baby. My second one was the most chilled baby ever. I so much enjoyed having her.
Carrying the baby in the sling while going to the playground and playing with Nr.1 helped a lot.
Also having a cleaning lady once a week.
Breastfeeding made me mellow and less grumpy.
Visiting and staying with my parents for a couple of days.
Meeting friends who had children at the same age.
Eating chocolate-a lot!!!!!
Kissing and cuddling my babies-a lot!!!!
Practicing Family bed.

April 22, 2015

Yup – going from 1 to 2 was the hardest for me too. It was probably the darkest period of my life so far (a whole story unto itself!). Grace for self, a therapist, a lot of sleep, an incredible husband, and medication got me back on my feet! And now I have four children – ha! But for those mamas struggling with the 1 to 2 transition – take this blog post to heart and know that if things seem impossibly hard, do consult your doctor in case you’re suffering from PPD. You aren’t doing anything wrong – your body is just maxed out from the physical and emotional stress of caring for those darling little humans. xoxo

April 22, 2015

Hurray! I think on every comment I’ve written for the past 4 months (even unrelated topics) I’ve asked for advice on this transition – thank you so much for posting this!!! It’s sooo helpful to read your advice and all the comments above… and not feel alone! It’s also very nice to hear how your feelings have changed with hindsight, compared to how they were at the time.

I really like what Lulu wrote, that each tantrum/difficult moment passes, and it’s important to breathe through it (today my daughter patted me on the head and said “don’t worry honey” when I was obviously fraught with my cranky baby!). And to look after yourself – GOOD ADVICE LULU! And Allison’s advice about being organised the night before (packing day bag etc), can make such a huge difference given how hard it is to get out of the house!! You are totally right Courtney it’s so important to get out of the house, yet right now one of the hardest challenges is physically getting out of the door!! The first time I tried to have a picnic with both kids, it took us 40 mins to get out, as soon as we sat down a bird pooed all over the baby including his hands and then it started to hail!! We were home within ten minutes and my daughter’s summary was the best: “dad, mum was soo grumpy, then a bird pooed all over finny, then there were stones hitting my face!!” Great!

In terms of what’s helped me, I also echo those above saying a supportive partner, there have been a few bad weeks when my guy has calmly stepped in after a long day at work and soothed all three of us, cooked/cleaned/whatever – a huge support. Also getting a cleaner (even monthly!!) best decision ever given how much time you spend at home yet how little time you have to clean/tidy with a newborn. And this week I’m in love with the Brio train set that is now living in our living room and occupying our older child a lot – thank you Brio! Finally thank you for the reminder to not will the time away Courtney, it is exhausting, but it’s such a happy time and we are so blessed if our babies are healthy. And yes Marlow and Easton are total twinsies! xxx

April 23, 2015

Thank you! That was wonderful to read.

April 23, 2015

I get asked this question a lot… a lot!!! The jump from one to two was huge for me, because I never really thought about what the my first born would do during all the hours of nursing a newborn – it was a very quick re-adjustment!!! Otherwise it didn’t help that every single adult asked my older child how he felt now that his world was turned upside down – could they not have put a more positive spin on it!!! Anyway – I wrote a blog post about it – you are welcome to take a peak:

April 23, 2015

[…] and his sister was amazing and they were so cute together and everything was wonderful.  Except, when you have a second child it’s really hard.  So much harder than anything I had done before, and Jake’s law firm didn’t really let him […]

April 27, 2015

This is a lovely and reassuring post. Because we are crazy, we moved house when the second baby was two weeks old – I don’t recommend it!!! Two months on and I’m still recovering, boxes to be unpacked etc. I have learned to accept that on the days when I have both children I achieve nothing other than keeping them safe, fed and entertained. Although at certain points in the day I struggle with even these basics! Like Allison I put their clothes out the night before and now I’m on maternity leave with number two I even put my own clothes out! I even “pack the bag” the night before if we have to be somewhere at a certain time. All this plus breastfeeding and a baby who won’t nap except in my arms means no time for myself. I miss time with my son, just the two of us, so I understand Renne’s choice. I hadn’t anticipated that at all. Never mind time with my husband! What’s that! I guess when you have two, at least you know everything will pass. But of course I must remember to enjoy even the tough moments, because I know it goes quickly.

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