Millie was just 6 months old when I found out I was pregnant again. It turns out you’re REALLY fertile when you stop breastfeeding…In all honesty after the initial shock of realising we were pregnant again so quickly we were over the moon. Millie had been a dream, sleeping well and a really content little baby and we knew that we wanted another baby, we just hadn’t even begun to think about when that would be.
Once I realised I was pregnant I quickly realised that in reality I would have 2 babies to look after, not just 1. Millie was just 16 months old when Maisie appeared – she was still in nappies, still in a sleeping bag, still had milk from a bottle and couldn’t really talk. I struggled to find much advice on the internet about having 2 under 2, though the term ‘advice’ when it comes to parenting is always a contentious one! But there were some things that for me personally were a massive help with having 2 under 2 and I hope may be of some use to anyone else with a small age gap between their little ones:
- A sling. I found this so useful. I didn’t have one with my eldest, I just had a baby bjorn baby carrier for going on walks with. My friend lent me a babysling to use with Maisie and it was amazing. Come 5pm when all babies and toddlers seem to turn to gremlins, it was amazing to be able to pop baby in the sling and crack on with getting dinner ready for my eldest, doing a jigsaw with her, all while baby was happy and snug cocooned in with me rather than trying to hold her in my arms the whole time while making baked beans on toast one handed.
- Co-ordinate their routines. It doesn’t matter whether you have a ‘routine’ baby or completely go with the flow – there are certain things that your children do every day: eat their meals, sleep, have a bath, have a rest, play time. By making sure that they did both of these together it saved me a heap of time and anguish. I got them both down for a nap in the middle of the day together so that I could have an hour’s break too, they slept in the same room from when Maisie was a few months old, they bathed together, had play time together, read them stories together. One of the joys of having children close in age is that I think they adapt really quickly to having a sibling, they can’t really remember it being any different, so make the most of this by co-ordinating their daily routines early on
- Get friends to come and visit. When you have your first baby you often crave time alone with your baby and partner and feel like you have too many visitors. Not so when you have 2 under 2! Then it is amazing to have people come and visit especially if they have children – it is lovely to have someone to play with your eldest, to make you a cup of tea, to hold baby while you play with your eldest. Embrace the visitors and accept all the help you can
- Toddler groups. I didn’t really attend these with my first. I was too busy being caught up in all the excitement of having my first baby and managed to co-ordinate it with a lot of my friends so was out and about with them most of the time. With 2 under 2 toddler groups were a godsend. It meant that my eldest had lots of other children and toys to play with, I could sit down and have a cup of tea and there were plenty of people around to have baby if I wanted to play with my eldest or vice versa.
- TV is ok! With my first I’m ashamed to say I was a bit of tele snob to be honest. I was determined that she wouldn’t watch it except for an episode of In the Night Garden before bed and that we would spend our time together making flower crowns and running through fields while eating homemade humus. Ha! How little I knew. Peppa Pig was amazing when Maisie was born. It meant that when I needed to breast feed her I could pop Peppa on for 15 minutes and my eldest would stay still in front of the TV and I could feed in peace. It came in useful at so many times of the day – if I wanted to get us ready to go out, when I was putting the baby down for a nap upstairs, when I needed a wee! Combined with this, I didn’t just have it on the background, I put it on when I NEEDED it – so I knew that my eldest would be completely glued to it and not move from that sofa while I did what I needed to. I will be forever grateful to that little pink pig…
- Find other ways to connect with your eldest other than picking her up early in the pregnancy. I suffer from SPD and one of the main things you can do to reduce the effects of SPD is to not lift heavy things – such as a 9 month old baby. So early on in my pregnancy Millie learnt that she couldn’t be picked up all time (luckily she was walking by the time she was 10 months old!). Instead I found lots of other ways to be with her. If she wanted to be picked up I would get down on the floor with her and give her a massive hug and talk to her and then I’d stand up and hold her hand and we’d walk together. I would spend lots of time cuddling her on the bed or the sofa – all of this meant that when Maisie came along it wasn’t a big shock that she suddenly couldn’t be picked up all the time. She was used to it and we had our own ways of having lots of cuddles
- Don’t feel guilty about sending your eldest away sometimes. We all suffer mummy guilt and it quadruples when you have your second. But I soon realised that actually my eldest loved having an afternoon out with her grandparents or going swimming with daddy and it did me the world of good to have a few hours at home alone with baby.
They are 3 and a half and 2 now and they are the best and worst of friends. They play together a lot and come up with the most imaginative games together that only they understand. They also want to play with ALL the same toys and fight constantly over who can play with paw patrol. They miss each other like crazy when they are not together and they have a bond that is so special and unique to just them. Honestly, there seem to be pros and cons whatever the age gap with children. The joy of having them so close together is that not only do they entertain and play together from an early age, but it is also easy to find things to do that they both enjoy – days out, toys, tv programmes – they love the same things. We were also still completely absorbed in the baby bubble when we found out I was pregnant a second time so it didn’t come as a jolt to go back to sleepless nights, less money, lack of social life etc, we just kind of stayed in the baby zone and drifted from one to the next. Our little family is complete already and that is amazing. The main thing is that they are loved, other than that just get through that first year how you can and remember if in doubt, there’s always Peppa…
A Guest Blog from Katrina Bartlam