The transition to mothering two was, to me, harder than the transition to motherhood. Not because of the juggling, but because it was not until my sweet baby number two came along that my patience with my first born was tested. I had all the patience in the world with my boy. Being gentle and calm was pretty easy. I would always squat down to eye level whenever he talked to me and I could count the number of times on my hand I huffed or put him down for a moment when he was crying. After my daughter was born, my son was wonderful and I am so proud of him, but we did have a journey for the next 12 months I'd say. I am grateful I went through this process. I can now fully understand the self development required when having triggers, when having patience and calmness tested, when dealing with guilt and learning to forgive oneself when one has not been the perfectly gentle mummy. So here I write tips for two. Somethings to expect when expecting number two and what I found important on my gentle journey. I hope it helps some gentle mothers out there with the transition to two.
Here they are:
- I would recommend not planning how you are going to manage things with two. I like the "wing it" option because you just dont know what baby or toddler is going to like. Trust a perfect creative solution will come for your family when you are in the moment.
I worked gently to get my boy to sleep in his own bed through the night. It was not easy and two weeks before the birth his sleep went out the window. Waking hourly again. I feel he could sense a big change was coming. I decided I just needed to rest by now so he slept with me all night again. When baby came she was very gurgly (due to a very quick birth) which disturbed my son. On the first night home when he was quite upset I asked him if he wanted to go sleep with daddy and he said yes. In hindsight he would have got used to it in a few nights as he did in our day naps.
- Don't be surprised if your baby is completely different to your first in all ways. I find this is more often the case be it whether they like baby wearing or the stroller, water baby or not, daring and fearless or cautious and careful, easy going or very sensitive.... So things that worked for your first quite possibly won't for number two. Be open, flexible and intuitive to their likes.
My first baby would fall asleep within 30 seconds of breast feeding. It was quite challenging to get a good feed into him. My second baby would have a long feed and be completely full yet completely awake. It was quite strange!
- Be creative and flexible in ways you get your little baby to nap. My daughter would fall asleep with walking. That was what did it. Not rocking side to side, not a rocking chair, not feeding, it had to be walking. So morning walks down the road with toddler on a balance bike were our thing.
- Be creative and open to ways for toddler to play independently while you are putting baby down for a nap. Story cds, music, salt doh, a special basket of toys that comes out at baby nap time ... ideas will come. Or just baby wear. Things will work for some weeks or months, then you need to get creative again.
- Have a plan A and plan B. It calms you. "I ll try to get her down but if that doesn't work we ll go for our walk" was mine.
- If your older one is still napping, have a nap all together in the afternoon. I read this somewhere a mother saying it was a very special time. So I did it. And now I can say .... it was a very special time. Mummy gets a rest. Everyone gets a rest, connecting. Beautiful.
My boy got used to me having to feed the baby and him falling asleep with me gently tickling his feet very quickly. About 6 month later he didn't want to come into the bedroom with us so I would set him up with a bed on the couch and his "magic bottle" of glitter and water. It would mesmerise him and he would be asleep in 5 min well before baby.
- If you are still feeding toddler it can be quite normal to have aversion. However this doesn't mean you have to wean them, but you can gently set boundaries of how much they feed. I read a great article on this. So I would say when my son wanted some milk too, "at nap time or bed time" and he was ok with that. Or I would say "ok till I count to 20". This was a phase I had to manage and later I really enjoyed and cherished feeding him again as I knew it was nearing an end.
- Understand your toddler is processing the change inwardly even if not showing signs outwardly. It is quite likely jealous feelings will come out in some way which may be physical. It is so very understandable for them to feel jealous and they simply don't have the neural networks to control his feeling impulses. Punishing them will only add to their hurt jealous feelings. They need love when there has been an issue too. Understand this is a phase you have to help them through and model gentleness and kindness and respectful communication.
- Be like a broken record with your calm statement and boundary
- Be aware that a lioness can come out in you when your baby is hurt and it is very challenging to keep that lioness calm. Have your strategies to stay calm and respectful to your toddler rather than a yell. They are very much trying to process it all.
- Physical intervention and repetition is needed. Janet Lansbury described how they still cannot process a verbal instruction in a short amount of time. They are impulsive and still don't have the neural connections to control emotions that a brewing and bubbling over in that minute. And that is ok.
For 6 months I was happy to repeatedly say "we don't push people" and steer him away as I held his hands. After he turned 3 I got frustrated. He is 3, he should be able to understand what I am saying. It was when I read an article by Janet Lansbury I had patience for the rest of the time I needed. You do need to jump up off the couch and guide them however many times a day rather than saying an instruction "don't push your sister" and expect them to follow.
- Similarly when baby is older and they are learning to play together keep modelling kind respectful communication. Repeatitively. They learn by imitation up to the age of 7. What you do and how you say something is more important than what you say. They will copy your communication when they play with each other!
- Spend time reflecting and understanding your toddler rather then resorting to the quick scold or punish.
My son would let's say "nudge" my baby. It was a gentle push just big enough to push her over. The sound of her head hitting the tiled floor will forever make me cringe. He did it out of jealousy, he did it to get my attention if I was out of the room for a minute, he sometimes did it out of exuberance in play or all of the above at once. He did it sometimes to protect her from something which in the moment I didn't see. On the rare occasion when he verbalised explaining himself he sometimes described how he was trying to stop her doing something or breaking a toy etc. My heart melted at those times as I felt guilty I had scolded him for a second and I realised he had his reasons more often than not, he just couldn't verbalise them.
- Hormones at certain times of the month + tiredness + not having your needs met = decreased patience. Simple. Now I recognise my monthly cycle and think "ok I have to dig deep and just get through the next few days" and at these times try to have some days with extra rest built in for me.
- Give a moment for the creative solution to come. If baby is crying for one reason and toddler crying for another just pause for a moment and breathe. I swear a creative solution comes.
- Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
When both my children woke at the end time, baby wanting a feed and my son being grumpy and out of sorts as he was at nap waking I would give him a cracker. He loved crackers and this just kept the peace for everyone. Early on if both were distressed crying at the same time I would sit on the bed and feed both of them. It calmed everyone down straight away easily. That was my go to and makes me smile looking back.
- Learn to Laugh. Know your toddler will wake your baby. And your baby will wake your toddler. If it doesn't happen, that's a bonus. Go celebrate! Imagine taking 40 min to get your tired baby to sleep then your toddler waking them 5 min later. Yup. Hence learn to laugh! Take a breath. Let it go. It's a beautiful first world problem to have. Laugh and say "it's one of those days".
I remember doing this and my toddler laughed and said it too as we troddled off into the other room where my baby had woken. This was unusual for him, as normally he would be so upset I had to leave.
- Have one on one time with toddler. I used to plan special time while baby was asleep. Either a picnic, puppet show, glueing and pasteing, just train and car play together. We also had our ritual of feeding the horses together at 5.30 when daddy came home and sitting watching the sunset. Or sometimes sitting on the step watching the stars before his bedtime.
- Don't rent a house that comes with three honking geese walking around the house all day and the pen next to the bedroom window.
- Have a daily and weekly rhythm. This gets more and more important and more and more easier as you get into preschool years. It calms them. And calms you. Your day flows peacefully.
- Have a weekly housework rhythm. Laundry day, kitchen day, floors day, bathroom day, bedroom change linen day. This calmed me immensely rather than chasing my tail here and there and being overwhelmed.
- Learn the art of holding the space for them (to play in). I will write a blog on this.
- Have a list of 14 easy dinners. Shopping list repeats.
Most of all, slow down and enjoy. It is the most beautiful time and goes all so quick. For me, watching my two children play in the sand pit together is pure bliss. That has been our daily ritual for a few years now and I will cherish it forever.