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Let’s get this out of the way: Nothing – NOTHING – will prepare you for a second kid. Not only do you double the responsibility by bringing kid two into your world, but your attention is also immediately divided. With a few helpful hints, you can hit the ground running when your firstborn’s little brother or sister makes his or her debut.
Take Time to Hunt for Deals
Chances are you have a head start before your newest arrival comes home. Planning ahead pays off, big time. So take the time to look into everything that number two will need. If you do your shopping in advance, you can save some cash on things most closely associated with babies.
A savvy shopper can find some decent deals both online and at brick-and-mortar stores. Places like Target often offer a gift card with purchase, while Amazon.com offers discounts through Amazon Mom and Subscribe and Save.
Most Target deals require that you buy more than one package of diapers to get the gift card deal, and the same is true for formula or baby wipes. But if you have the money to stock up right out of the gate, it’s a great way to save while you’re building your supply. Also consider Target’s free Cartwheel app that manages coupons and gives you app-only deals.
Amazon Mom, combined with Subscribe and Save, really pays off. Amazon Mom is an enrollment program that gives you an Amazon Prime-like membership for free. But the true beauty of it comes in the exclusive deals you receive via email.
Subscribe and Save offers you discounts on items you have shipped to you on a regular basis. You can set up an automated shipping date that recurs on nearly any interval you choose. Even better, you get a discount for doing so. You can cancel the automated delivery any time you choose and opt back in for the same great deals.
Take a Second Look at First Aid
It’s always a great idea to beef up on your baby and/or childcare knowledge. Whether your first and second kids are close in age or years apart, you’re bound to have forgotten a thing or two.
Kid two is your chance to refresh your memory when it comes to things like CPR, choking and first aid for infants and children. And in the time since your first and your second kid, techniques, medical advice and best practices might have changed.
First aid evolves, and it’s up to us as parents to keep up on the changes. For the latest in first aid best practices, visit the National Library of Medicine or The Red Cross, and print out a quick cheat sheet for first aid. Keep it taped to the inside of a cabinet or stick it to the fridge just in case it’s ever needed.
Check Your Gear
Here’s a fact parents might not know: Car seats, carriers and bases have an expiration date. It’s not milk and it doesn’t spoil, so why does safety equipment have an expiration date? Because, just like your milk, plastic can go bad over time. Plastic becomes brittle with age. Manufacturers put an expiration date on child safety equipment to ensure that the product you’re using maintains the integrity it needs.
At the same time, you want to make sure it’s installed correctly for every kid in the family. Check out “Are You Using Your Car Seat Correctly?” to make sure your kids are buckled up just right.
Also worth checking into are recalls. And not just on safety equipment either. Toys, strollers, bottles, blankets – very nearly everything your child handles – should be checked for recalls. The Consumer Product Safety Commission keeps a database of everything recalled, Parents Magazine keeps a list of the latest toy recalls and SafeKids.org keeps a library of recalled children’s products dating back to 2008.
This one’s a biggie. With two kids, your childcare costs automatically double. It’s crazy to think that you’ll spend so much letting someone else enjoy playing with your kids, but it’s a huge expense – an expense that needs to be considered. Zing blogger Chloe Paglia covered the most pressing issues in her post, “Questions to Ask Yourself When Looking for a Daycare,” but what about when kid two comes along?
Daycare expenses for a second child can sometimes eat into a family income so much that (if it’s a two-parent household) one parent’s salary is going exclusively to pay for daycare. If that’s the case, look into caring for your kids yourself.
Even better! Look for help from family members. My mom watches my infant son and two-year-old daughter one day a week, while my wife’s mom watches my son one day a week. That time with grandmas saves us $150 A WEEK. Help like that comes as an added bonus too. Our kids are lucky enough to have two grandmas (and grandpas for that matter) who absolutely LOVE spending time with them.
One caveat when it comes to family caring for kids: Make sure it’s worth their while. Don’t let grandma plop the kids down in front of “Curious George” while you’re at work. Encourage your kids’ creativity by helping grandma (or whoever is taking care of them) come up with crafts. Bring games and flashcards over. Stock up grandma’s children’s book library. Make their house a fun place to play where they’re sure to be loved.
Prep the Big Brother or Sister
Probably one of the most important things you can do in advance of number two is to get big brother or sister ready for the new arrival.
Depending on your firstborn’s temperament, he or she will either be really excited or entirely resistant to number two. And why not? Their whole universe is you, and sharing you with someone new can be a hard pill to swallow.
As a parent, you can go a long way in softening that blow. It’s all about including big bro or sis in preparation. Get him or her involved in decisions like, “What color bibs will baby like?” or “Where can we put your new brother’s bed?” Make number one feel like he or she has a hand in making number two feel special, and make number one feel like his or her choices hold value.
Make being a big brother or sister a big deal. But more than that, fill them in on what it means. Telling him or her, “Your little brother needs a lot of help when he’s a baby. Can you help daddy when he needs a diaper?” It’s a great chance to play out scenarios in which kiddo will need to be fed or need a diaper, allowing big brother or sister to come in and save the day.
It’s all about setting the stage and making big brother or sister feel that his or her place in the family is still secure. When my wife and I were expecting our second, we expanded our nighttime reading repertoire to include books that told the story of a big sister expecting a little brother. Our little girl was able to relate to the title character in Joanna Cole’s “I’m a Big Sister” so well that she started calling the character Norah, after herself.
Just Hang On and Enjoy the Ride
Like I mentioned earlier, nothing can truly prepare you for what’s to come. Adding another family member can be a huge adjustment for everyone. The great news is that with every unexpected twist, every wrench thrown in the gears and every unexpected hiccup, there are a million moments of joy.
The last piece of advice I can offer is to roll with it. Kids are unpredictable, and they’ll spend just as much time figuring things out as you will. Give your child room to make mistakes, but make the same exception for yourself. Nobody’s perfect and parenting is far from science.
How did you prepare for your second child? Was there anything I left out? How did you help big brother or sister make the adjustment? How did you adjust? Let us know in the comments below.