If you still have a baby or young toddler and you are having another baby soon, take the time to prepare. Your first born depending on their needs, they will need some preparation for whats going to happen once baby arrives. As the birthing person, you will be more physically tied to the newborn in regards to having to feed and settle. So your firstborn may need to adjust to your partner or other significant others being more involved with their care. While you are pregnant, you can start preparing by having your partner attend to your first born more in regards to settling, getting off to sleep, and spending more one on one time together. Even if you still feed your first born to sleep, you could try after feeding having your partner help with settling them to sleep. Even if that means thinking of other ways for them to get to sleep- like in a carrier, pram, laying with them or bedsharing. Sleep and responding during the night can be a big change for the firstborn, so start on this several months before baby arrives.
To also prepare your firstborn, if there are going to be any changes in regards to sleeping locations/rooms, changes in care arrangements (like going to childcare/grandparents), if you can and feel ready to, start these changes before baby arrives. It can be tougher to make happen once your newborn is already here, very attached to you and you are exhausted.
Make a postpartum plan. You can hire a postpartum doula to help with this, use the guide in books like The fourth trimester, or just work out with your partner and family what you are needing in regards to support and what you hope for your postpartum time.
If you are expecting another baby with less than a 2 year age gap, you basically will have 2 babies on your hands. A one year old still requires so much care and support, and has little ways of communication. So load up on support and accept offers of support! Your turn to return help will come.
Support can come in many forms. But the main things to get help with are meals, domestic duties, assistance with the care of older child, and support so you can rest and recover after birth. Pre-cooking meals for the freezer, having a fill the freezer party, starting a meal-train or making one on one requests with people for food will benefit you all greatly. Allocate what domestic duties are essential and those that can be held of completing. Then allocate some of those essential duties to others. Perhaps your mother-in-law can wash and fold clothes weekly for you, you can hire a cleaner for your bathrooms and floors, and perhaps a neighbour can walk the dog for you. You will find life becomes very busy if you have 2 very small people. So it may be the time you start using grandparents, childcare, nannies, or neighbours more to help care for and play with your first born. You don’t obviously want to be shipping your first baby off all the time, but you may need to utilise these supports so you can get more rest and a break. You may also want to use these supports so they can watch the new baby while you have some precious alone time with your first born. It really should take a village to raise a child. A very important aspect is that you are able to experience a joyful and peaceful postpartum period. Getting support is essential to achieve this. Your body has been pregnant and birthed with a short time frame in-between. It is so crucial you are able to rest and recover. On top of all the above supports mentioned, I encourage you to prepare and engage in professional supports. Having a private midwife, allied health, Lactation consultant and/or a postpartum doula, will assist you as you transition to life with 2 children born close in age.
3. Manage sleep deprivation.
You very likely may still be waking up and assisting your first born with sleep when baby number two comes along. Sleep deprivation is often a major worry for parents expecting baby number two, especially if they are close in age. Strategies like mentioned above with getting partner to increase their help with your first born will help the birthing person get the rest they need in between feeding the newborn. Mastering the art of napping during the day can also help. If you are lucky some naps may line up with when the older child naps. If this is happening, prioritise you sleeping too, forget the house work! If actual sleep during the day is tricky, then rest. If Baby is asleep then you chilling in front of the TV on the couch with the older child is really ok to do so you can rest.
4. Prioritise achieving things that bring you peace and happiness (AKA self-care).
When you have children close in age and who are so dependent on you, it can be easy to push your own needs aside. Before baby number two arrives, write down what you need to do daily, weekly and monthly that will bring you peace and happiness. Daily might include a shower, a cup of tea, a piece of chocolate. Weekly might include connecting with someone by a phone call, a walk on your own or a takeaway cuppa from your fav café. Monthly for you might be a few hours child free, getting your nails done, visiting a friend, or watching a movie. Discuss these needs with your partner and family, and discuss ways that you can make this happen. The transition with motherhood and with each child is massive. So it is just as important to prioritise your health and happiness during this time as well.
5. Forget being perfect and aim for good enough.
That goes for everything. It includes the tidiness of the house, the meals and snacks being consumed, screen time, and the big one-parenting. There is no such thing as the perfect parent. By giving birth alone our brain goes through massive changes. We are suppose to learn on the job. So it will be a massive learning curve on how to juggle two very small children in the early days. Use trial and error, take a deep breath at the end of each day and say to yourself ‘I did the best I could today.’
6.Look on the funny side.
There will be days when you will be literally covered in spew, crap and food. At some point your toddler will try and feed your baby a sausage or try and smother them in their teddies, or draw on their face in texta. You will also experience both kids screaming needing you both at the same time. It may be stressful in those moments. But if you can reflect and find the humour in how bloody crazy life is right now it will do you wonders. My kids are all close in age, 18 months apart then 2 years apart. The sort of mischief they now get into is just out of this world! My partner and I often stagger into bed and share the crazy funny moments that have happened with the kids that day!