How to cope with a toddler and a pregnancy

Second pregnancy
Second pregnancy

Your first-born has become a cute little toddler in need of a sibling and you and your partner have settled into a nice routine. It’s usually round about now that the idea of conceiving baby number two seems appealing.

Don’t be fooled. Falling pregnant when your first-born is just out of nappies and only beginning to negotiate life on chubby, ill-coordinated legs is tantamount to fighting a hurricane with extreme nausea and severe lower-back pains.

The downside

First off, you don’t have time to take those luxurious little naps that helped to power you through the first pregnancy – toddlers are needy little things and when they sense their future competition growing in your womb (and they’re smart so you’d better believe they know) they take demanding to a whole new level.

And just imagine how your precious two-year-old must feel knowing that the “thing” taking up most of mommy’s lap space is her future sibling... it does not bode well for the little green-eyed monster!

Aside from feeling tired and overwrought, it may also appear as if you’re gaining more weight this time. But take into account that you are still carrying unshed kilos from your first pregnancy, coupled with the weight you’re gaining this time, and you’re bound to feel more ungainly.

Add to that your stomach muscles are just not as firm as they used to be before you decided to have children and so you tend to carry lower in your second pregnancy, which ultimately puts more pressure on your bladder and back much earlier on.

The upside

With all that said and done, falling pregnant while bringing up a toddler can become a wonderful adventure. Involving her in the progress – how her unborn sibling is developing and allowing her to contribute to choosing a name – will turn a potentially overwhelming experience into an endearing and memorable one.

During your second pregnancy you’ll also find yourself connecting sooner with your unborn child as you begin to feel little flutters much earlier on. While it’s common to only start feeling movement in the fifth month during your first pregnancy, the second time around you can feel movement as early as the fourth month.

When the movements become bigger and more definite, make sure your toddler is the first to experience the kicks and turns. Allow this to become an open invitation for her to connect with her future sibling by suggesting that whenever she feels like talking to her unborn brother or sister, all she needs to do is place her hands on mom’s big tummy.

You can say goodbye to indulgent naps but that doesn’t mean you can’t indulge at all. Simply putting your feet up and taking time out while cherishing the moment with your toddler will help you get through your second pregnancy and, at the same time, breed a happy, confident first child who now looks forward to welcoming her little brother or sister into the world.

8 Tips for a happy toddler

  • Don’t tell your toddler that you’re pregnant too early on – 9 months is light years away for a 2- or 3-year old. A good time is when your stomach starts expanding and your astute little one starts noticing. Tell her there’s a new baby growing inside and that she is going to be a big sister. Let her pat your tummy gently and speak to the baby if she wants to.
  • Invite her to 1 or 2 antenatal appointments – the best time to do this is when the unborn baby can be seen clearly on the scans and the heartbeat is loud and clear, around 20 weeks.
  • Turn the pregnancy into a great big adventure and let your toddler know that she’s an important person on this exciting 9-month journey.
  • Prepare her for the shift in dynamics by reading books to her about children going through the same experience as she is, such as I’m a Big Brother by Ronne Randall and Kristina Stephenson.
  • Let her know that no matter how different it may feel, she will always be the family’s special first-born child.
  • Spend quality time with your little one but also allow her independence and get her used to spending time with the people that will care for her when you’re in hospital.
  • Talk consistently about the new baby but don’t go into too much detail – your little toddler cannot take it all in and won’t be able to grasp the real implications until after the baby is born. Only paint the big picture and do it frequently.
  • There’s no hard and fast rule to whether your toddler should be toilet trained or not, but it may be wise to start encouraging her independence especially if she’s sleeping in your bedroom.
  • Take the nine-month period to gently ease her into her new independent role but, whatever you do, don’t leave it too late as it will place far too much pressure on her. Don’t be surprised if your toddler’s potty training regresses during this time either.
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