Managing the crazy: Some tips on parenting 2 kids under 2
New York — Monaco has royal parents of newborn twins, and Britain’s Kate and William will soon have a second little prince, but will parenting two kids under 2 be a soul-draining, tear-inducing experience for them like it sometimes is for the rest of us?
Unlikely, but their cushy highnesses aren’t completely immune.
Regression and rivalry may rear in older siblings, even royals, as they’re expected to be big boys or girls when still babies themselves. Even with plenty of extra hands, bringing home baby No. 2 can be more mega-disruption than bundle of joy to the comforting routine of baby No. 1.
And logistics, of the non-royal variety, can play out like you’re trapped inside a Rube Goldberg machine.
“The very first time I tried to leave the house alone with the two boys my youngest was 5 weeks old. It literally took me an hour and 20 minutes,” said Sarah McNish in San Jose, California. “I had a moment of, ‘I’m done. What did I do?”
McNish, whose kids are now 8 months and nearly 3, persevered with a plan of attack that began before her second delivery. Prince George will be about 19 months old when the Duchess of Cambridge’s due date rolls around next month.
“Most of us are not like the royals. We don’t have someone to hand the baby to. They have all of the help that they need. For most families, if you’re lucky enough to have two parents, one of them is off earning a living, and maybe both of you are off earning a living after a few months,” said clinical psychologist Laura Markham, whose book “Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life” will be released in May by Perigee.
Children closer in age do have a tougher transition, according to research, “but there’s a silver lining, too, because they can become very close,” Markham said. “Don’t expect things to be perfect. If you have two under 2 you have to start from the premise that you’re in a marathon and you can’t meet all their needs all the time.”
Other tips from the two under 2 parenting trenches:
Mommy’s growing tummy
Pregnancy is hard to hide once mom’s belly swells, but there’s no one school of thought on when to introduce the idea that a sibling is on the way, Markham said.
Some parents wait until after the first trimester and that major risk for miscarriage. Others fret their oldest won’t understand when mom is too nauseous and too exhausted to play in the early weeks before she’s showing. Whatever you decide, Markham suggests reading books with your child about siblings a month or so before breaking the news.
If the big announcement doesn’t bring about lightness and joy in your oldest, validate, validate, validate by saying things like:
“Babies do need a lot of love and care. But you are my only Joshua,” Markham suggested.
Avoid the implication that Joshua is “a big boy now,” dwelling instead on how he will be the “big brother.”
McNish and her husband decided to bring big brother Sawyer along on ultrasounds. “We shared with him that the baby was a boy and that the baby’s name was Sutton before he was born,” she said.
Bringing baby home
While McNish and her husband did a lot to get Sawyer comfortable with the sibling idea before birth, having the real thing home proved to be another matter.
“He came to the hospital the day we came home and he was looking at the baby like, ‘What is this thing? I don’t know what it is.”
That’s where extra attention from dad and grandparents came in handy, she said.
McNish signed up her husband and oldest son for a daily swim class the first month for quality time away from the baby.
Susie Hayne in Cameron Park, California, has a 14-month-old son and a daughter who will be 3 in June. She considers herself a highly structured, organized person who likes to follow a schedule.
“If you are the same, get over it because no two days will be the same and that’s OK,” she said. “A routine will develop, but it might be a year or so.”
Feeding the baby
If you plan to nurse and your older child has become the Velcro-sibling, put together an activity box and keep it fresh with things to do as you nurse. Nursing, or even pumping and putting breast milk aside in bottles, might reawaken your older child’s interest. McNish said that’s what happened at her house and they went with it, allowing Sawyer to drink pumped breast milk when he wanted.
She pumped so she could hand the baby off to her husband. Switching up which parent is with which child is important, Markham said, so both kids feel they’re getting time with each adult.
Markham said tandem breast-feeding works for some families to foster a close relationship between siblings close in age.
“When you sit down to nurse the baby, your toddler looks at you doing that and feels the same way you might feel if you watched your husband walk into a bedroom with another woman,” she said.
Two in diapers
“They never pooped together,” McNish laughed, and her older son lost interest in potty training once his brother came along.
“I believe Sawyer would be further along at this point if I didn’t have the baby so soon after Sawyer but I don’t push because clearly he needs time and is being influenced by having a baby in the house,” she said.
The family moved into a new house about six weeks before the baby was born. McNish and her husband didn’t want to shuttle Sawyer off to a new room so soon after so they let him sleep in a portable crib in their room as the baby slept in the room in a bassinet.
“That way he felt like he wasn’t being pushed out because of the baby,” she said.
Hayne suggested investing in the biggest, baddest double stroller you can find and getting both children out for walks. Chances are they’ll fall asleep at the same time that way and mom or dad can enjoy some fresh air for a while.
Diana Julian, a child sleep consultant in Helena, Montana, said parents commonly welcome their second baby by moving their older child to a toddler bed. If the older child is under 3, consider getting a second crib rather than rushing that transition.
“Most children younger than three don’t understand the rules that go along with sleeping in a big girl or boy bed. This will only lead to many trying, sleepless nights for everyone,” Julian said.
Embracing the crazy
Timothy Trudeau and his wife live in San Diego with their two daughters, ages 1 and 2, and their two sons, 7 and 9.
“We’re slowly climbing out of the fog,” he said. “There’s nothing you can do to prepare for this, but it’s doable. It’s just a season and you’ll eventually miss it. So just be present, don’t be looking to be past it or move it ahead. Just live in it and laugh. Your life is crazy, and that’s just the way it is.”