In so many ways, having a second baby is easier than the first. You already own a bunch of baby gear (unless you got rid of it all!), know what to expect when it comes to labor and delivery, and have experience taking care of a baby.
At the same time, there are many ways in which second baby preparation is different from preparing for the first. Instead of learning and accumulating, you will be doing a lot of cleaning, taking stock, and figuring out how to care for two kids at once.
As a mom of four kids (two sets of kids who were born less than two years apart from each other, no less), I am happy to share what I think it is helpful to do in preparation for your second baby.
If you do these 17 items before your baby arrives, I think you’ll be as prepared as you can be for having a second baby!
At the bottom of this article, you will find a detailed checklist you can download and print to keep yourself on track. Don’t miss it!
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1. Consider how the seasons line up
If your first baby was born in a different season than your second is due, you may need to supplement your existing wardrobe with more seasonally appropriate items.
It would be great to be able to reuse any baby clothing you already have when having a second baby. However, you will need to check to see whether you have enough warm- or cold-weather clothes for the newborn and 0-3 month sizes. Babies grow at such different rates, there is a chance that your second baby could actually end up able to wear the clothing you have at the appropriate time, so I would not recommend planning further than that. Wait to see how large your baby is at birth and how fast he or she grows initially, and then supplement accordingly.
For example, my second girl was born in September, while my third girl was born in July. We had to get our hands on some warm-weather clothing for those first few months for the July baby. However, she has remained petite compared with her bigger, taller sister. She now wears the September baby’s hand-me-downs in the appropriate season.
You may also need to grab specific gear in certain sizes as part of your second baby preparation. Think about, for instance, snowsuits and warm caps for babies who will be small during the winter months, or sun hats and shady tents like this one for summer babies. You may be able to borrow these items instead of having to buy them new, especially if you think this may be your last baby.
2. Get clothes and linens ready before having your second baby
If you will be reusing clothes, get out the first couple of sizes, wash them up, and figure out where your new baby’s clothes will be kept. If you have more than you need (which I daresay is common for first babies, between showers, hand-me-downs, and eager grandmas or moms who love to shop for baby clothes), this might be a good time to weed out baby clothes that are stained or that you remember not getting a lot of use out of.
You will also probably be reusing crib, bassinet, or play yard sheets and mattress protectors. If you will have two babies in cribs at the same time — or even one in a toddler bed that uses the same size sheets — you may want to stock up on some additional linens. You will want to have some extras on hand for laundry day or middle-of-the-night sheet changes.
Other linens to wash up might include:
- burp cloths,
- sleep sacks,
- changing table covers,
- and portable changing pads.
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3. Clean, replace, and replenish items for your second baby
There are many items that can be reused for a second baby after being cleaned and disinfected, as long as they are in working order. Many of these items likely won’t be used until well after the baby has been born but you will also have two kids at home, so it might not be a bad idea to go ahead and get them ready now.
Examples of items that can be reused (as long as they are compliant with current safety guidelines and are not expired) include:
- High chair
- Play mat
- Hard teethers
- Diaper bag
- Crib (unless your first child is still using it)
- Bouncer or swing
- Car seat
Other items will need to be replaced or replenished because they will have expired, run out, or just generally not be safe to use for a second child. These items might include:
- Car seat
- Bottle nipples
- Soft teethers
- Diapers and wipes
- Shampoo, soap, lotion
- Bulb syringe (although a NoseFrida is much better, in my opinion!)
- Formula as needed
4. Make sleeping arrangements for the second baby
Where will the new baby sleep? We have a four-bedroom house, and we chose to put each of our first two kids in their own rooms. (We also put our third baby in her own room, but we had to rearrange once number four decided to come along!)
Setting up a room for the new baby can be a big process, especially if it involves transitioning your first child into a different space or adding a baby to his or her room. If the baby will be sleeping in your room for a few months, you might be tempted to leave the nursery preparation for later. However, I would recommend getting it done before your due date for four major reasons:
- You need a place to store all the baby’s things.
- You will be busy and tired for a long time after the new baby arrives, so you may not have the time or energy to tackle the nursery.
- It may help you feel more settled and ready for the baby’s arrival to have the space all taken care of.
- It may be better for your first child to be used to the new baby having his or her own space before the baby is out of the womb. In fact, the author of this Today Parents article recommends having your first child add his or her own decorative touch to the nursery!
5. Arrange childcare for the second baby
If you will be working after the new baby is born, do you have childcare settled for both kids? Your current babysitter or daycare may not have room for your second child, and you will not want to wait too long before you find that out and are rushing to find a spot someplace else.
If you are sticking with the same childcare provider, find out the cost of adding your second child. On the other hand, if you need to change babysitters or daycares, it may be beneficial to make the change early (if possible). This will give your first child time to get used to the new arrangement well before he or she also needs to get used to having a sibling.
6. Plan and prepare meals before having a second baby
As you recover from birth while also tending to your new baby and older child, cooking may be the last thing you feel up to doing. Prepare some freezer meals and stock your pantry with easy meal fixings. Hopefully, someone will put together a meal train for you, or friends and family will offer to drop food off. Also make sure you bookmark this list of easy family meals, which require common ingredients and do not take long to prepare.
7. Make a revised hospital packing list (and pack your bags!)
Now that you have given birth once, you probably have a better idea of what you actually need to bring to the hospital. Get out your first hospital packing list (if you still have it) and revise it. If you are going to the same hospital, you know what will be provided for you and can leave those things off your list. By the time I got to my fourth child, the list was pretty minimal! After all, you are only there for a day or two.
My latest hospital list included:
- Clothes to change into
- A few basic toiletries (deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste)
- A hairbrush and hairtie
- My wallet with ID and insurance card
- Laptop and charger
- Cell phone and charger
- Sleeper, onesie, and going-home outfit for the baby
- Car seat
- Some basic stuff for my husband (like clothes and toiletries)
- My pillow
Also, if your oldest child is going to be going to someone else’s house (versus someone coming to your house to watch him or her), make a list and pack a bag for the child, too. Pack those bags early!
8. Decide and communicate your hospital visitors plan
When I had my first baby, we had a pretty steady stream of visitors at the hospital. I was so exhausted, trying to figure out how to nurse, and wanted to spend time with the new baby, so I was pretty overwhelmed by all the company.
Now that you have experienced having a baby for the first time, what are your preferences for visitors? Do you want people to come to the hospital, and if so who? Would you rather everyone wait and visit you at home after you’re settled in? Will someone be bringing the big sibling to the hospital to meet the baby?
Hammer out all these details and communicate your plans ahead of time.
9. Find someone to watch your first child when you go into labor
This is perhaps one of the biggest changes between having your second baby and having your first baby. When you went into labor for your first baby, you and your partner could just up and go to the hospital. Not so when you have another child at home! You will need to put together a plan for who will take care of your older child while you are giving birth. When we had our second baby, our first daughter’s babysitter took her overnight at her house.
Once you have set up your childcare:
- Make sure you are clear that the person is going to be available for the four weeks surrounding your due date (if you are not having a scheduled C-section or induction)
- Get a backup lined up!
- Write out instructions about caring for your child if it is not someone who is used to taking care of him or her for an extended period of time.
- Once you know you are heading to the hospital, lay out the dance class clothes, the “cowboy” day at school clothes, the swimming lessons bag — whatever you need for the person to keep your child going through their normal routine.
10. Accept or ask for help
I hope that you have lots of friends and family offering assistance for life during the first months at home with your two kids. And I hope that if this is the case, you are accepting it! It can be so useful for someone to come play with the older child while you spend time with the baby or take care of the baby while you spend time with your older child. You may have friends or family who can help with dishes or sweep the floor after dinner — anything that will lessen your responsibilities during this overwhelming time.
If you do not have anyone offering, do not hesitate to ask for help. People may assume that since you are not a first-time mom, you will not need as much help, but that is not true. You may even need more! If you do not have friends and family available, check with your church or local volunteer organizations. One of my mom friends swears by hiring a postpartum doula. She talks about that more in this guest post about overcoming postpartum depression and anxiety.
11. Talk about and celebrate becoming a big sibling
Your older child’s life is about to change in a big way, and you can help celebrate that. You could read books about becoming a big brother or sister, get a special t-shirt for your older child to wear when he or she meets the baby for the first time, or get a special gift for the older child. Be sure to read my list of 28 new baby gifts for siblings.
Here are a few recommended books to read with your older child:
- The New Small Person by Lauren Child
- Lola Reads to Leo by Anna McQuinn
- How to Be a Baby… By Me, the Big Sister by Sally Lloyd-Jones
- Big Brother Daniel (Daniel Tiger) by Angela C. Santomero
- I’m a Big Sister/I’m a Big Brother by Joanna Cole
12. Brainstorm ways to keep your older child occupied
Your first child has been used to being the only child, and now there will be a new baby around to take some of your attention. Try to come up with some ideas of special things your older child can do while you are feeding or tending to the baby. You might have a bin of special toys, stock up on coloring or art supplies, or line up some special movies or shows that only come out when you are busy with the baby. If the weather will be nice when the baby is born, you might spend lots of time outside at parks or in your backyard. If you have adult family and friends around, maybe you could have them take your older child on some special trips or line up some activities.
13. Make a list of ways your older child can help with the second baby
There are lots of ways that older children (even if they are only toddlers themselves) can help with the new baby. This can help them feel included and give them a sense of having an important role in the baby’s life. Brainstorm some ideas ahead of time so that you are prepared with ways you can ask for help from them in the moment. For example, they could
- fetch diapers, wipes, and toys,
- help hold a bottle,
- make funny faces at the baby while you are getting lunch ready,
- explain to the baby what is going on to help him or her learn, or
- sing a special song when it’s time to put the baby down for a nap.
14. Consider the timing of upcoming big changes
Your older child might be at a point where he or she is about ready to tackle a big change. Maybe you have been thinking about potty training, weaning from a pacifier, or transitioning from crib to bed. Consider whether you will work on these things well in advance of the baby being born or save them for well after. You will be tired and busy when the baby is born, and your older child will be working through the transition, so the last thing either of you will need will be the frustration of any kind of big change or upheaval during those first few months.
15. Plan special dates for your older child
I think it is incredibly beneficial to bless your child with a sibling, but your first child may not see it that way at first. While it’s great to incorporate the older child into the baby’s life, the older child will still need one-on-one time with you (and you will probably need it, too!). Try to plan in advance for some dates that you can work into your calendar. Having them planned out may help you to actually follow through because, let’s face it, you will have some things on your mind once the new baby gets here.
16. Invest in the appropriate gear
There are certain pieces of equipment that I think come in extra handy when you have your second baby.
I cannot recommend enough having a good baby wrap and/or carrier once you have a second baby. I personally think it is essential! Wearing your baby will allow you to cuddle him or her close while also taking care of your older child. Especially if your first child is a toddler, you will need those free hands! I am a huge fan of the Moby wrap for newborns and younger infants, and my Ergobaby makes for a great next step.
If your first child is still using a stroller, look into a good double stroller. There are many options. With our first two children (born 21 months apart), we used a side-by-side Joovy. It was great in many ways, but it was not ideal for a newborn and was also kind of awkward to push, especially through tight spaces or around corners.
My third and fourth babies (also born 21 months apart from one another), I switched to a sit-and-stand. We have the Joovy Too Ultralite Graphite, and I positively love it. It folds down easily into a compact size. It is very light to push (I can do it with one hand!) and easy to turn and maneuver. Maybe best of all, it is super versatile. Right now, I have the rear seat installed, but when the older of my two babies gets a bit bigger, we will remove the seat and she will be able to sit or stand at the back of the stroller and hop off when she wants to walk.
You may also need a second baby monitor or a second camera to go with your video monitor. We use the Summer Infant Optics monitor and have really liked it. You can get a second camera here. It has a clear picture and sound, shows the temperature in the room, and allows you to press a button to speak to the baby from another room. The only downside is we have had a little trouble with the battery. (Long story short, you sometimes need to disconnect and reconnect the battery when you take it off the charger to get it to hold a charge.)
17. Brace yourself
Lastly, I think it’s just so important to be realistic with yourself about what it is going to be like to have two kids. It can definitely rock everyone’s world, and it just plain is not easy at first, no matter how prepared you are. Fortunately, those difficult early months will not last forever, and eventually, you will emerge with two kids who will be forever bonded and hopefully become lifelong friends. It is worth it! You’ve got this, mom!
If you need any moral support, pop into my Facebook group, Maternal Reality. We’d love to support you!
Download a free three-page checklist to keep yourself on track as you preparing for having a second baby. There’s space to brainstorm, take notes, and check off everything you need to do!
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