In March of 2017, just 7 months after Emmy was born, we found out we were expecting our second child. #whoa.
While the feelings of joy were apparent, I couldn’t help but be a little worried about how I was going to handle having two babies under two years old.
With how young Emmy was, the early struggles of early motherhood were still very fresh in my mind. The sleepless nights, the breastfeeding learning curve, the colic… the newborn stage is tough! And more than that, Emmy was getting close to being on the move. How would I be able to keep up with her with a newborn?
Luckily, I had a few months to really think through how to prepare for this exciting change.
Controlling the Chaos and clutter
Chaos seems to be the best way to describe what I think people envision when they think of having two under two. I’d be lying if I said our lives were chaos free. We’ve had moments where both babies have diaper blow outs, both are crying, moments where I’ve been nursing newborn Nora only to see Emmy run in the room with an open Sharpie Marker…the crazy moments are inevitable. While you can’t avoid them, you can take on an attitude of embracing them. Our philosophy is, as long as every one is fed, safe and loved, it’s perfectly ok to laugh at what a whirlwind of a ride you are on.
So while I have definitely taken on an attitude of “laugh at the hot mess I am”, I still have a few hacks up my sleeve that seem to have really made things a lot easier. Don’t get me wrong, there are still moments where I feel like the day is running me and not the other way around, but I am working to make those less frequent.
Without fail, every Sunday evening a little bolt of energy goes through my body reminding me that my husband will be back at work the next day and I’ll be flying solo with two kiddos. I took on the task early on of prepping for the week. I really tried to pinpoint what moments in the day were the toughest for our family and find a way to prepare for them in advance. Here are just a few we’ve taken on:
- Pre-made Snacks- Emmy loves her pretzels, raisins and cheerios. She also doesn’t exactly have perfect timing when asking for these. So in order to keep her from getting worked up because I don’t have two free hands to pour it all out for her, I sort our small amounts into small Tupperware and have them stacked and ready in the pantry.
- Assemble Sippy cups- because for some reason it’s an industry-wide policy that all sippy cups must have 16 small parts. I try to make sure I have at least 5 assembled before the week starts.
- School Clothes- I pick them out on Sunday to make sure we don’t go bonkers at 7 AM searching for matching socks.
- Bills, Meals and Weekly plans- Not really kid related, but I like to take a few minutes to see what bills are due that week, see if checks are needed for lawn care, day care, etc. and get all of that ready. I like to look at the family calendar, see if there are any Dr. appointments that week or other activities out of the norm. I also like to just mentally go through what dinner plans are for the week to make sure I’m somewhat ready.
- Daily Activity Boxes– I started this before Nora even arrived and it has been such a game changer. I have 5 labeled plastic boxes in a storage closet under our stairs. As soon as I open that door every day, Emmy rushed over because she knows what is in there! I take a few minutes every Sunday to reassemble, mix up and restock the contents of her boxes. More details here.
Decluttering, Organizing & Cleaning House
I know I am not the only one who is amazed at how quickly you accumulate so MUCH stuff with kids. Toys, clothes, gear, it’s just never-ending and it can quickly become a stressor. Add in having two under two and the smallest amount of clutter can make thing quickly feel like you are losing control.
In terms of toys, we had 4 large plastic storage containers and divided the toys among them. We rotate out the toys every few weeks. Not only does it keep things cleaner, but it keeps it interesting for Emmy!
I also set aside a small set of toys as “nursing toys”. In a bottom dresser drawer, right next to my nursing station, I would keep a few fun things for Emmy. This would help keep her occupied (and close by) while I was feeding Nora. I would rotate these out every few days as well.
I have to admit that my overall standards of a “clean house” have changed since having Nora. While I used to clean (meaning vacuum, sanitize surfaces, dust, etc in all rooms and bathrooms of our house) every week, that just doesn’t happen anymore. And I am TOTALLY okay with that. I know that my priorities every day are my family and being present for them, so if that means the night stand may gather a bit of dust, so be it. Having a “cleaning day” every 2 weeks or so is perfectly acceptable to me.
Now, I aim to just keep to 2 rooms in the house clean daily: the kitchen and the living room. This is where we spend a majority of our time. I try to set aside a few minutes every night after putting the girls to bed to straighten up, load the dishes into the dishwasher, sweep up Emmy’s collection of crumbs from the day and wipe down the counters. It takes about 15 minutes but the feeling it gives me in the morning to walk out into a tidy space…. it’s well worth it.
A big change we made before Nora arrived was creating a playroom for Emmy. I happily gave up my home office to make a space just for her and her toys. I rarely spend time at the end of my day cleaning up the space. I may tidy up a bit if it’s complete chaos, but to me honest, most days, I just shut the door.
Baby Carriers & Other Essential baby Gear
Baby b’Jorn and Baby Wrap by Sis and Sal
This is my number one piece of advice to future two under two mamas: You need a good baby carrier that is comfortable for you to wear throughout the day and in multiple scenarios.
Finding ONE baby carrier that met all of our needs was tough. I loved the idea of a wrap but knew that in certain scenarios, I would want something a little more rugged (lengthy walks, being outdoors, etc)
So I have both a Sis and Sal baby wrap and a Baby Bjorn. I usually keep the Bjorn in the car since I like to use it for cases where we are out and about. While I love the wrap, it can be kind of difficult to get it all set up standing in a parking lot. The Bjorn is easy to get on and get baby in just about anywhere.
However, the Bjorn isn’t exactly the snuggliest thing and sometimes I just want those intimate cuddles from Nora. So I almost always wear the wrap while we are at home. I lace myself up in the morning and leave it on most of the day, even if Nora is out of it for an hour or so.
We had previously been using a sound monitor for just Emmy, but with baby #2 on the way, we decided it was time for a video monitor.
I did a TON of research on this category and read countless reviews on Amazon. We ended up going with the Summer Infant Dual Video Monitor. We have now been using it for close to 6 months and I am 100% pleased with it.
The only downside is the sound. While you can show two rooms on the screen, you cannot hear the sound from two rooms (you can switch back and forth though). UPDATE: I stand corrected! A fellow mom blogger emailed me and explained to me that you can indeed do sound in both rooms with the SCAN function! Thanks to Michele from Mommy With A Chance of Showers!
Just like the baby monitor, I spent SO much time trying to figure out which double stroller to buy. I wanted it to be able to act as a travel stroller while Nora was still in her infant car seat but I also wanted it to have the sit and stand features for Emmy as she got older. After 3 trips to Babies R Us and Target, we finally settled on the Graco Ready 2 Grow double stroller.
In terms of steering, ease of use and set up, it is perfect for us. The only issue we have is it is slightly too big for the back of our car (we have a Nissan Rogue). In order for it to fit, there has to be NOTHING else in the trunk and we have to take the snack tray and one of the sun shades off. It’s a hassle, but well worth it for how easy it is in all other areas.
For some strange reason, having two babies has not led to twice as much stuff in my diaper bag…. its more like FOUR times as much stuff. Our old backpack style diaper bag wasn’t going tp cut it.
We switched to a Lily Jade Diaper bag due to its extreme organization, large size, boatloads of compartments and versatility of being either a backpack or shoulder bag.
In terms of a reasonable priced counterpart, I would suggest the Skip Hop Chelsea Downtown bag.
Diapers and Wipes and All the other family Necessities
Speaking of diaper bags being full, we go through ALOT of diapers these days.
I started using Amazon diaper delivery with Emmy and it was very convenient. Now, it’s essential. I don’t know how I would keep up with who is low on diapers and how many wipes we have left and what not. So I have them delivered on a monthly basis and it is just so wonderful.
When it comes to grocery shopping, I heavily depend on grocery pick up services. In the close to 5 months since Nora has been born, I have maybe been in-store grocery shopping 5 times. So far, I am familiar with HEB, Randalls (Tom Thumb in some areas), Kroger and Wal-Mart all having online ordering and curb side pick up available. Some of these even have delivery options! Some of these services are free and others have a small fee. I would highly suggest it. It saves so much time and energy. I also feel like it is easier to stay within my budget when shopping online! There are less of those browsing temptations that come with going through every aisle.
When I do go grocery shopping (and non-grocery shopping trips, like Target and Home Goods and TJ Maxx… etc.), I love using the Binxy Baby Shopping cart Hammock. It saves so much room in your cart versus taking the infant car seat.
Preparing the Older Sibling
In order to get Emmy somewhat acclimated to a little sister coming, we got her a baby doll, complete with diapers and a binky. We would practice rocking the baby, singing to the baby, changing diapers and what not. We would also talk about the fact that a baby was in Mommy’s belly just like her little baby. We also worked hard to have Emmy involved in helping prepare for the baby. When we worked in her room, we would always have her in the room with us.
To be honest, you can’t expect a baby younger than 2 to 3 years old to really understand what is happening but it’s more of just getting them used to the idea of there being another baby around.
We of course read a lot of books about being a bib sister. Again, I’m not sure how much this helped, but the welcoming of Nora home went very smoothly. Adorbs photo provided for evidence.
One of those most wonderful tips that someone gave us was to make the first meeting between siblings a neutral experience for the older one. When you bring Big brother or sister in to meet baby for the first time, it may be best to have them in a bassinet of some kind and not in mommy or daddy’s arms. This helps them absorb the excitement of the moment and not go into wondering who the heck this thing is that my mommy is holding instead of me?
When I was pregnant with Emmy I did a big round of freezer meals. I did it all in one day for about $165. Full details on the recipes here.
While preparing for Nora’s arrival, I knew I needed to be REALLY prepared with meals. So I made about 30 freezer meals. I made alot of the same meals I made with Emmy plus a few new ones! And while I TOTALLY anticipated being able to do a blog post about it, Nora ended up arriving before I got around to it! But lucky for you I have an entire folder on my laptop saved with some of my favorite recipes!
- Make Ahead Lasagna Roll Ups (we spit this one into two pans since it was just me and hubs who would be eating it)
- Tuscan Pasta with Sun Dried Tomatoes (The “homemade sauce” was intimidating to me and took longer than I usually spend on a freezer meal, but it was 100% worth it!)
- No Boil Cheese Manicotti (I was SO skeptical of this one. I did not think the noodles would actually soften when placed in oven, but they did!)
- Chicken Spaghetti by the Pioneer Woman (because she is the Pioneer Woman and everything she does it delish.)
- Crockpot Chicken and Gravy (no a full pre-made meal, but the ingredients are mostly dry so I just had them on hand to dump in the crockpot day of).
- Crockpot Country Style Ribs (served best with some Mac n’ Cheese in my opinion).
I know that the task of making so many meals at once sounds daunting, but trust me, it is WELL worth it! Recruit help! Call your girlfriends, mom, sister, whoever! I even got my husband in one the action the second time around!
Because Nora was born a bit early and spent her first days in the NICU, I began pumping the night I had my C-Section. By 30 days postpartum, I had 400 ounces of breastmilk stored in my freezer! More on that here.
Around 6 weeks of age, I started letting Nora have a bottle every now and then in order to help me have some one on one time with Emmy, catch up on sleep or have some much-needed “mom time”. Even though I knew I would be staying at home, I still wanted to have the ability to take some time for me when needed.
At 8 weeks postpartum, I awoke one morning with this terrible pain in my stomach, within just a few hours after arriving at the ER, I was prepped for surgery to have my appendix removed. I was SO thankful I had my stash at home. Nora was able to nurse for the 3 days I was in the hospital!
When the going gets tough…
If you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, take a look at your plate. What task could you stand to not do or ask for help on? Are you creating super high standards for yourself and your home that are impossible to accomplish?
I know I have already touched on this point, but I feel like I definitely needed to hear it multiple times before it really sunk in. It’s impossible to do it all and aiming to be super mom will likely lead to you feeling burnt out and missing out on some of the great moments that come with having two under two.
So let the dishes pile up if you have to, throw your hair in a messy bun and just love on those babies! You won’t ever regret spending as much time with them as possible.