A Pediatrician’s Advice on Preparing for a Second Child

April 22, 2019


How to prepare for a second child! - M Loves M @marmar

As excited as we were about the prospect of growing our family, Matthew and I couldn’t help but worry how having a second baby would affect Augustine. We’ve always known we wanted him to have siblings, since we value the relationships we have with ours so much, but we also knew it could be a rocky transition. And not just for Augustine, but for us! When pregnant, I used to tear up thinking about how the days of it being just the three of us would be over soon. Of course, now that our sweet Corinna is here, we couldn’t be happier and we’ve realized we didn’t have so much to worry about after all!

How our family adjusted to a new baby! - M Loves M @marmar A CHOC hospital pediatrician's advice! - M Loves M @marmar Tips for preparing for a second child! - M Loves M @marmar How to prepare for a second child in a family of four! - M Loves M @marmar

All that being said, I was recently given the opportunity to interview Dr. Reshmi Basu, a CHOC Children’s pediatrician. I felt like this was the perfect time to get some professional insight on how to best prepare a child for a new sibling. She kindly answered my most-pressing questions and shared so many great tips. I wanted to pass along her advice to my readers who may find themselves in a similar situation!

Prepping Your Child

Augustine is at a stage where he understands a lot of things, but we don’t have a full grasp of to what extent he understands abstract concepts. We did a lot of prep work to make sure he knew the baby was coming. You can read more about our strategies here {they seemed to work!} but I wanted to ask Dr. Basu what her thoughts were on how to make the transition as smooth as possible for the second child. She recommended you simply start by talking to them about what’s going to happen a few months in advance, “so it’s not too much all at once.”

She noted that it’s easier to do this with younger children once your belly starts to show. She also recommended focusing on how things are going to positively change by welcoming a sibling. For example, the fact that they’re going to have a new friend to play with.

We worried Augustine was too young to process a change like this, but at the same time we wanted him to be close in age to his new sibling. Dr. Basu doesn’t think the age of your first child matters too much. “I wouldn’t say there is an ideal age for the child because they will adapt either way,” she said. She recommends basing the decision to have a second child solely based on when you’re ready to be a family.

Balancing Both Children’s Needs

Life was pretty tricky to manage when we had just one child. We knew that having a second baby was going to rock the boat! Of course, we want to devote ourselves to helping our newborn thrive, but we want Augustine to have just as many resources as he did before. We imagined having to focus on our newborn’s needs more than Augustine, as he can be pretty independent. But Dr. Basu recommends you continue to focus on the older child, especially when it comes to their wellness. Augustine has always struggled with his sleep, so I considered whether to adjust his nap schedule to the match the baby’s nap schedule. Dr. Basu’s advice was the opposite. “I would concentrate on the older one being the one who sticks to a schedule,” she recommends. Which makes so much sense! A newborn sleeps so often, that their naps will most likely overlap with the toddler’s anyways. When we do not stick to Augustine’s nap schedule, we see a big difference in his mood and ability to get restful sleep, so, his schedule is what we will be prioritizing right now!

Dr. Basu also recommended spending one-on-one time with your older child. But she noted you should not feel guilty if you can’t meet both children’s needs at the same time. Independent play is ok too.  “You don’t have to necessarily be interacting with them 24 hours a day,” she reminded me. She recommended finding an activity that keeps the toddler occupied and that you shouldn’t feel guilty if you must give them a screen for 10 to 15 minutes to keep them occupied.

Dealing with Resentment

We had heard stories of older siblings resenting the new baby, so of course we worried about this happening with Augustine. Luckily, we didn’t need to worry, because Augustine is obsessed with Corinna! Dr. Basu noted that it is very normal and common for a child to act up after a new baby is born. But she said not to stress about it too much. She sees clinginess and needing attention as a more common side effect than aggression.

Relax, You’ve Got This

For us, the thought of having two young children was a bit overwhelming. But aside from the lack of sleep, it hasn’t been as challenging as we thought it would be! Dr. Basu agreed that it can be easier to have a second child. “Going from one child to two is a big change, but a lot of things come easier with the second one,” she says. “Even though there are more challenges because you are dealing with the toddler, a lot of it is counteracted because you know what you’re doing the second time,” she said.

I am so glad I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Basu. She gave such great insight on this topic and as usual I am so impressed with the resources the team at CHOC Children’s provides! We’re so lucky to have such an incredible children’s hospital so close to home!

Do you have any tips for preparing for a second child? Or anything that worked in your family? I’d love to hear!


photos by Priscilla Frey

DISCLOSURE: Thank you so much to CHOC Children’s for partnering with me on this post!

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