Are you ready for a 2nd baby? 6 questions to help you decide

March 5, 2019

If you’re an overwhelmed parent of one child, and hyperventilating at the idea of trying for baby No. 2, you’re not alone. My husband and I — like an increasing number of Americans — sit on the proverbial fence. While we always intended on having two or more children — and our son, Oscar, is an absolute joy — a toddler is also, as any parent knows, a lot of work. As adept as I’ve become at getting our 17-month-old to eat his veggies, wrestling him into his stroller and separating him from his beloved screen — all while somehow, sometimes, squeezing in a shower —  I’m just not sure we’re ready to double the “fun.”

“Every baby is different and comes with different challenges,” says certified family nurse practitioner and board certified lactation consultant Brea Loewit, of Youngstown, Ohio.

As a childbirth educator, Loewit has watched countless families transition from one to two.

“Just because you’ve done it before, you’ll still need to give yourself time to get to know and figure out this new little human,” she says.

Below, parents of two or more help bubble up some of the important questions that couples might want to ask themselves before trying for baby No. 2, while Loewit and other parents who’ve been through it offer some advice for those of us who fear we’re not quite ready.

1. Can I handle a second pregnancy physically?

All things considered, I had a relatively easy pregnancy. Even so, I wonder if I’m ready to make the sacrifice it takes to carry, birth and nurse baby No. 2. If your pregnancy wasn’t so smooth, you experienced a difficult delivery or had postpartum complications like physical pain or depression, you may be extra reticent.

ADVICE TO CONSIDER: “Even though every baby is different, many moms come into the second experience having realistic expectations.” Loewit says.

When it comes to breastfeeding in particular, Loewit suggests that having knowledge and experience to draw from often helps.

2. Can we afford a second child?

Having two children close in age means two in day care at the same time. Someday, that could mean two in college. For other parents who required costly medical interventions to get pregnant the first time, a second baby might require an investment similar to round one.  

Rachel Kahan, a mom of two from Brooklyn, New York, says that paying double the child care was a major consideration for her family.

“I have a nanny,” Kahan says, “So we discussed what would be a fair pay raise and when she would get it and when it would start.”

In the end, Kahan budgeted a couple dollars more per hour, which she planned to start paying right from the moment they brought the baby home (as opposed to after maternity leave).

ADVICE TO CONSIDER: According to a recent Cost of Care Survey, one in three families now spends 20 percent or more of their annual household income on child care. To reduce your child care costs, the experts behind the survey suggest families research the current rates of various options in their area with free, interactive tools, like local nanny rates and nanny tax calculators. Families can also take advantage of tax breaks that can save thousands of dollars.

3. Do we have space for another child?

When a family grows from one child to two, space becomes a major consideration. Some parents convert the dining room, master bath or closet to make room for the baby’s bassinet, while other parents acknowledge that an additional child requires not just a place for baby to sleep, but more living space, as well.

Mom of two Susan Fields, of Flushing Queens, New York, says that when she and her husband went from one to two, they needed a third bedroom.

ADVICE TO CONSIDER: The fact that AAP recommends infants share a parents' room for the first six to 12 months can buy you some time. If you do need to make any big transitions — such as moving your first child into his own bedroom — Loewit suggests parents do it well before the new baby arrives.

4. How will another baby affect our family?

One of my greatest concerns is being able to physically and emotionally provide for my first child while caring for a newborn.

Al Hoyt, a dad of two from Miami, Florida, concedes that it can be a challenge.

“Not only do you have a new person to worry about; you have to also worry about how that new person affects your first child,” he says. “Sibling dynamics make everything more difficult.”

ADVICE TO CONSIDER: Prepare your little one by reading a lot of books about having a new baby, Loewit suggests — especially books that acknowledge that older siblings will sometimes have negative feelings.

5. Is our marriage strong enough?

AlbaNidia Howard, a mother of two from New York City says the biggest question for her would relate to communication and relationship with your husband.

“If you are not in a good place, prepare to be torn apart,” she says. “My husband and I spent a lot of time in therapy doing the work. It has made having two kids a beautiful process. We are not perfect, but we’re in a good place.”

ADVICE TO CONSIDER: “Time is limited, but it is so important to make time for your relationship — and prioritize that time.” Loewit says.

It’s difficult when they’re small, she concedes, “but it gets easier when they’re older.”

6. Am I willing to adjust my expectations?

Mica Henderson, a mom of five of New York City says the jump from one to two kids was the hardest.

“When you have one kid, you think you’ve got parenting down,” she says. “Then you’re trapped with a newborn screaming, a toddler with poop in his diaper, TV blasting, toys everywhere, dogs barking to go out for a walk, you’ve reheated that coffee four times already… and it’s only 10 a.m.”

According to Henderson, you’ll need to learn to lower your standards and be more gentle with yourself.

ADVICE TO CONSIDER: Loewit agrees.

“Standards definitely change with baby No. 2,” she says. “Sometimes, things move from ‘thriving’ back into the survival mode.”

The bottom line

“Sometimes parents I work with don’t think about needing help with the second baby since they did it before,” Loewit says. “But it may be even more important to line up extra help.”

Even though there’s a lot to consider when adding a second, Loewit says, “siblings are pretty amazing. And it’s fun to get to experience pregnancy and a new little one a second time around!”

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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