The first month of postpartum is a whirlwind especially for first time moms. You’re adjusting to your new responsibilities, the lack of sleep, the recovery, and the sudden lack of control in everything. Being second time parents, my husband and I were mentally prepared (or as much as we could) for our second wave of ‘shock’ to our lives. The only thing we were REALLY scared about was how our 17-months old little boy was going to react… so we expected for the worst. My husband and I both have older siblings with multiple children, so we’ve seen all the jealousy, the mental and physical resentment of the older child with their younger sibling. However, we’ve also heard hopeful stories of protective brothers with their baby sisters… but we tried not to have any expectations. Now that we’ve successfully survived the first month of having 2 babies under 2 years old under one roof; I’d like to share my experience which may give you some insight on how life could be if you are in a similar situation.
Tristan & Amber
One of our biggest concern with having Amber is “How well will Tristan cope?“. As most parents know, any ‘change‘ creates shock to the child which can affect things like sleep, eating habits and behaviour. The challenge with having two kids so close together is that we couldn’t mentally prepare Tristan. We’ve been telling him for months that he’s going to be a big brother and that he has to love and take care of his little sister, but he’s too young to understand. Timing was also not to our advantage because Amber’s birth was going to overlap with Tristan’s transition to the toddler class at daycare. In addition, we’ve decided to move Tristan to the larger bedroom so he feels like he’s gotten an upgrade. So the only thing we could do on our end was carefully plan and space these changes out, which will hopefully lessen their impacts on our little boy.
I will never forget the moment when we brought Amber home and introduced her to Tristan. When Tristan saw her, he took a few steps back and didn’t really know how to react. After seeing all the grandparent’s excitement and our interaction with the baby, he felt more comfortable and became very curious of this bundle of moving / crying thing. I think daycare prepped him well, because he knew Amber was “Baby”, and he tried to pet her head (more like slapping her head). He also tried to mimic Amber’s random purr which was simply adorable. Over the next few weeks, he became more comfortable with Amber, and started to mimic our interaction with her. He would give her hugs and kisses (which was more like him head diving into her stomach and wiggling his face into hers). To be honest, every single time he gets close to Amber I get a bit scared; not because I think he’ll hurt her purposely, but because he doesn’t know how delicate she is and how strong he can be. At the same time, I don’t want to discourage him from interacting with her because I want him to like her. Struggles of a mother …
Of course, it is not all sunny days. Tristan would have moments of jealousy when he sees us cradling Amber, or feeding her milk which he thought was his. He also became more needy – wanting more cuddles and attention, and sometimes he would throw tantrums because he’s frustrated of not being understood. We would purposely give him more attention so he wouldn’t feel neglected, and tried very hard to balance that so we’re not spoiling him. We’re still trying to figure everything out but so far it isn’t as bad as we thought…
Amber’s Eating & Sleeping
As with Tristan, we’ve decided to exclusively pump for Amber. We found this worked best for our family as we knew exactly how much Amber drank, and that daddy could help feed her and build a stronger bond with the baby. The bonus is that anyone could feed Amber allowing me the freedom to go out during the day, and not have to wake up for every night-feeding. My husband and I were also open to supplementing with formula so we never stressed when my milk hasn’t came in yet, or when my supply wasn’t enough for the baby. Based on our experience and stories we’ve heard from our friends, we found that babies with a full stomach generally sleep better and are happier.
Going back to Amber, she’s been an angel. I felt pretty rested the first night at the hospital because she only woke up twice for feeding (she did a 6 hour stretch). For the remainder of the month, she did 3 hour naps during the day and occasional 4 hour stretches at night. Since my husband and I were alternating with the night feedings, we each got a good 6+hours stretch a night. Except for the week Tristan was sick, he continued his usual 11-12 hours sleep (from 8 to 7/8) so compared to many other new parents, we were very rested.
We also equipped both their rooms with white noise machines so Amber’s night feedings wouldn’t affect Tristan. And yes.. Amber slept in her crib and in her room since the very beginning – a recommendation from our paediatrician which worked wonders in allowing us all to have good sleep. I will discuss more about the sleep practices we used to help our kids develop healthy sleep habits in next month’s update.
On the eating side, like Tristan, Amber can eat. At the hospital, the nurses recommended only giving newborns 30 ml because their stomachs are small. When we had Tristan, we followed these recommendations which left Tristan hungry and unsatisfied (and lots of tears). This time, we started off with 30 ml, but if Amber wanted more, we’d give her more as long as she doesn’t puke. She started drinking 60 ml the second day, and 120 ml from the third day forward. Last time, I pumped religiously every 2 hours and my milk came in on the 4th day, and this time I pumped every 3-4 hours and my milk came in on the third day. Maybe it is the lack of stress (as I knew it would eventually come in) or because my body knows what it needs to do, this time was much easier. At about week 2, I was able to fully provide for Amber and a little bit extra for freezing.
Both deliveries were similar but the recovery seems easier this time. Possibly because I was mentally prepared with what’s to come, or because I asked my husband to take 2 weeks off and stay home to help (he went back to work the next day last time). The only thing I did differently this time was taking some Chinese herbal medicine which helped ‘flush’ all the blood and whatever gunk that was left in the body. For those who are not familiar with Chinese herbal medicine, they are usually in soup form, dark, and typically bitter. I am usually ok with Chinese herbal medicine, but this one tasted awful. This med worked so well that I was leaving a blood trail at the hospital (no exaggeration and sorry for the gory details). That being said, my bleeding was close to nothing after the first few days.
From the pain perspective, the first 3 days were tough, but 4th day forward I was moving around with little pain. I also had a lot of pain everywhere (lower back, legs, arms etc.) which could be caused by my intense pushing during delivery, or the change in weight (tummy gone) so my body needed some time to readjust. I tried to avoid any heavy lifting (or any weight to be honest), but when you have a toddler who keeps crying and asking “Up? Up?” all day, you really have no choice. From a weight perspective, I shed 25 of 40 lbs I gained within the first 2-3 weeks without really doing much, but there’s a lot of extra skin everywhere. I could also see my red, deep stretch marks (which I never had from the first pregnancy) clearly, so I continued putting on stretch mark creams hoping it’ll help. The stretch marks are a bit lighter, but still very noticeable. The swelling subsided after the first week, and I could finally see my features again (although I still couldn’t put my engagement and wedding ring back on). I’ve also been using the tummy tucker/back support for my core, which seems to help with the toning.
Hand Foot Mouth Disease
The night after I gave birth, my son refused to eat and had a temperature of 104 °C. The fever lingered for a day or two and the refusal to eat lasted over a week. At first we thought it was his reaction to Amber’s arrival, until my husband and I started experiencing similar symptoms. It started with crazy chills which later transformed into an unbearable sore throat that even drinking water was painful. We never thought much about it until I started seeing little rashes on my hand. At first, I thought they were similar to the lumps I had when I had a reaction to dish detergent because I was constantly washing bottles without gloves. These rashes were super itchy and seemed to triple overnight. The next thing I knew was that my feet started feeling itchy, and these rashes began to appear on my toes. After looking at a few websites (I know I shouldn’t…), I was convinced I had the Hand Foot Mouth Disease. This was later confirmed when I brought Tristan to daycare and one of the caregivers told me to be careful as a lot of kids were getting the HFMD.
After doing more research, it appears that not everyone shows all symptoms and that many kids only get the fever and the sore throat but not the rashes. Thinking back, everything made sense -the crazy fever Tristan had, and the week of no eating (because his throat hurts). The only thing I didn’t understand was why I got the rashes and not my husband as we both lacked sleep and therefore have a poor immune system. Not sure if its true, but he was taking Vitamin C daily and I wasn’t. I started taking them immediately and began putting Bio Oil on my rashes (which actually helped ease the itchiness / pain) and noticed immediate improvement the next day. A lot of the previous rashes became less swollen, and the newer rashes seems to have died down. I also stopped seeing signs of newer rashes which was definitely very reassuring. The whole thing (from fever to no more itchy rashes) lasted about 7 days, and I truly hope I’ll never get it again.
2 Under 2 – Month 1 Lessons Learnt
- The second child is easier because you kind of know what’s going on and what you are doing
- You spend significantly less money because you have stuff from the first pregnancy
- Boys may not have the innate ‘motherly’ nature, but they seem to have to innate ‘protective’ nature
- Expect your older child to regress to an earlier stage in behavior after having a newborn sibling
- You thought you were busy with 1 child, wait till you have 2
- Newborns are so much easier than a toddler
- Worst scenario – BOTH parents sick with young children
Some of the products I use…
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- Medela Breast Pump – For those who plan to pump exclusively… the Medela double breast pump is super convenient as it could take it wherever you go and cuts your pumping time in half compared to a single pump.
- Hands-Free Pumping Bra – a MUST HAVE for exclusive pumpers. The hands-free pumping bra + a double breast pump gives you the freedom to do other things or move around as you are pumping.
- Bio Oil – Great for stretch marks pre and post pregnancy (if you are religious in using them)
- Isotonix Vitamin C – This Vitamin C comes in a powdered form which has a similar pH and osmotic pressure as your body when you add the right amount of water, allowing the body to do has less work to maximum absorption. Also tastes like C-Plus 🙂
Thank you so much for reading 🙂