You’d think that when you’ve done it once, having a second baby should be piece of cake. Right? Although there certainly are advantages (look at you, diaper-changing pro!) there are also unique challenges that come with expanding the family for a second time. You’ve already got your first kiddo to worry about, and now you’re about to restart the clock on sleepless nights.

Because we’re willing to bet there is already enough on your plate, we asked a panel of experts for their single biggest piece of advice for new parents to two. Here’s what they said:

Sue Atkins, parenting coach and author of Parenting Made Easy—How to Raise Happy Children:


Atkins’ advice for second-time moms echoes her suggestions for first timers: Make sure to take a moment for mom.

“Find your ‘me time’ to rest, recuperate, recharge and relax,” she tells Motherly. “Sleep when your baby sleeps or rest when your older child is playing on their own or with your partner.”

According to Atkins, second-time parents need to be mindful of the trap of comparing siblings and instead celebrate and enjoy the second child’s personality.

Dr. Shimi Kang, child and adult psychiatrist and author of The Dolphin Way: A Parent's Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy and Motivated Kids-Without Turning into a Tiger:

Kang suggests parents engage in some reflection before welcoming their second child into the world. Then, use that time to think about how they might tackle infancy challenges with the benefit of hindsight. “Take inventory of what worked and didn’t work the first time and adjust accordingly,” she says.

According to Kang, adding a second child to the mix may mean assessing the other responsibilities in your life and making some cuts to give yourself breathing room. As she put it, “You’ve added another human to care for, what are you taking off your plate?”

Dr. Cathryn Tobin, pediatrician and founder of the New Baby Sleep School:

A mother of four herself, Tobin says parents who suffered too many sleepless nights with a first child who needed to be rocked, held or jiggled to sleep should learn from that experience.

“It’s not your fault! We learn on the job,” she says. “But don’t make the same mistake second time around. Work on sleep habits early on.”

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Gail Bell, co-founder of Parenting Power:

According to Bell, one thing that really helps second-time parents is to have a special box with snacks or toys for the older child that’s always within reach when the baby is being fed. That way the older child can have a drink from their special water bottle or look through a book while baby is eating, without having to wait for an adult to get something for them.

If they older child wants to play while baby is feeding, parents can direct them to the box and let the child know that they are busy at the moment—while avoiding making it seem like the new baby is to blame.

“Don’t even say the baby’s name, just say, my hands are busy right now,” she says. “As soon as my hands are free I will come play that game with you.”

Jesse McCarthy, Montessori educator:

After 15 years of working with kids, McCarthy believes second-time parents need to be prepared for mixed emotions. Yes, there will be love, but that isn’t all—especially at 2 a.m. when the baby is crying. We should also have the same expectations of older children.

“We don’t want children to hide such emotions from us—or worse, from themselves,” McCarthy says. “We need to create an environment in which they can share their feelings, all of them: the positive, the negative and the ambivalent.”

Let your older child know that it’s OK to not like some aspects of being a big sibling and make time to listen as they transition into their new role in the family.

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Nina Howe, professor of early childhood education at Concordia University:

Howe suggests parents talk to the older child about the baby and promote positive interactions between the two—while remembering to be patient with a child who suddenly has to make room in their relationship with their parents.

“Yes, there’s research that shows that sometimes the firstborn can be a little bit aggressive, but in almost all cases that passes within three to four months,” she says. “Don’t forget there is a disruption for the older child, too, when you have this new baby who is unpredictable.”

Susan Newman, Ph.D., social psychologist and author of The Book of No. 365 Ways to Say It and Mean It—and Stop People-Pleasing Forever:

According to Newman, even when parents work to get big brother or sister ready for change, there will be some family growing pains.

“No matter how well you think you have prepared your firstborn for the new arrival, be ready for some push back,” she says. “No one likes to be dethroned, especially young children who may seem welcoming at first, then show signs of dissatisfaction. Be ready to acknowledge your older child's feelings and change of heart with comforting support and time alone with you.”

Welcoming a second child to the family is bound to be a big transition for everyone—but you already know about that, veteran mama! ?

When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.


The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.

As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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I was blissfully asleep on the couch while my little one was occupied elsewhere with toys, books and my partner. She got bored with what they were doing, escaped from his watch and, sensing my absence, set about looking for me. Finding me on the couch, nose-level, she peeled back my one available eyelid, singing, "Mama? Mama? ...You there? Wake UP!"

Sound familiar? Nothing limits sleep more than parenthood. And nothing is more sought after as a parent than a nap, if not a good night's rest.

But Mother Nature practically guarantees that you are likely to be woken up by a toddler—they're hardwired to find you (and get your attention) when you're "away."


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