family building motherhood

Warnings & Tips for the Soon-to-Be Mom of Many

Does our oldest son’s mind look sufficiently blown in this picture? I think that’s right about how every mom feels during her first month of having two, three or more kids. 🙂

Right after I had our third baby, I wrote this post with tips on making it through the first weeks with a newborn and older children. In honor of my sister, who is having her second baby THIS WEEKEND, I decided to give this post a little facelift and see if I had anything to add a year later. Turns out, I still think it’s pretty solid advice. 🙂 And I added numbers 6 and 7. 

Good luck to my sweet, beautiful sister Rachel! (I am so excited for you!)

1. Make peace with a degree of crying. With older children, there will be plenty of times when you will need to help someone in the bathroom or kiss a scraped knee. You only have so many hands, so some crying is unavoidable. (I’m referring to the baby, but if it’s YOU doing the crying, that’s understandable too!) With a baby wailing in the background, it is easy to get short with the kids when it really is not their fault. Remind yourself that some crying is inevitable and you’re doing the best you can! 

2. Let go. There’s nothing like having a newborn to make you realize what a control freak you are! You’ll find that you have less traction when it comes to enforcing rules with the older kids, because how believable can you be when you’re sitting down nursing half the day?

You’ll also quickly realize that getting your baby on any sort of schedule will be much more difficult when you need to shuttle the whole fam to and from preschool, etc. Then, when the words “you better not make a habit of this” (like letting the baby take all her naps in the carseat—or whatever the latest book told you not to do) ring through your head, just shut it down! 

For now, it’s about getting by, not getting it “right.” Let the kids watch more TV, eat off paper plates, order takeout—just let go. Everything will work out.

3. Know that you may temporarily find your older children more of a nuisance. Several friends of mine have mentioned this to me, and I can relate. I figure it is a natural reaction to having your attention suddenly split between older kids and Baby. Be patient with yourself, and don’t freak out if your kids wear on your nerves for a few weeks (or months or however long it lasts!). It’ll pass.

4. Try not to blame things on the baby. I don’t want our little lady to be—in my boys’ eyes—the person who steals their fun because it’s time for her next feeding or yet another nap. If I need to pull them away from the park because Baby does indeed need to get home for a nap, I just say it’s time to go. If I want them to lower their voices at home, I just ask them to. I try not to volunteer that it’s because of Quinn. I suspect this made a difference when my second son was a newborn, because my oldest never had much resentment for his younger brother. (Also, a good dose of luck.) 

5. Help your older children understand that it won’t last forever. Granted, some things change immediately when you have a newborn, and it’s obvious that the baby is to blame. 🙂 My boys know things are different since we had Quinn; for instance, we don’t leave the house as much. But I assure them often that it won’t last forever, and they seem to take my word for it—and with surprisingly good attitudes.

6. Don’t push them away. Instead, give them responsibility. Some lady in the grocery store gave me this piece of advice before I had #2, and it turned out to be the best piece of unsolicited advice I’ve ever received. Her idea was to make your child feel a part of everything. Trenton sat so close to me every single time I nursed Quinn that I had absolutely no elbow room. He would stroke her head and whisper to her—and even ask me to “switch sides” so that he could reach her better. (TMI?) Let your children get close; babies are more durable than they seem. And ask them to grab diapers or help burp the baby, anything to make them feel important.

Along those lines…

7. Praise them up the wazoo for all positive interactions with the baby and all help they offer you. These months are the start of your children’s relationships. Talking positively and drawing out the good will set the stage now for their feelings and interactions with each other later.

But most importantly, don’t forget #2. Let go! It will get better week by week. You can do this!

one yearPS. Happy one year to our little lady! 

  • Vindie
    April 22, 2013 at 8:21 pm

    Yay! Thank you for this post! Totally needed these tips to help me not freak out about the impending family addition! I really like what you said about not blaming the baby. I think that is super easy to do, but also easy to not do. I think that will make a difference to my older ones. So glad the first month is going well for you! Quinn is so sweet!

  • Liz
    April 22, 2013 at 8:34 pm

    I’m thinking more about the actual birth and will just roll with the “crazy” once baby gets here. 11 weeks left!

    • Erica {let why lead}
      April 22, 2013 at 8:57 pm

      I’m positive you are easygoing enough to just roll with the crazy, Liz! That’s awesome. Yay for 11 weeks. You’re on the home stretch!

  • Rachel Thueson
    April 22, 2013 at 11:54 pm

    Good advice. Sounds like you are already doing great as a mom of THREE! Those first couple of months really are about survival with a newborn…and I can’t even imagine with multiple children in the mix. Something to plan for!

  • Michelle
    April 23, 2013 at 12:20 am

    Thanks for this great post. This is actually exactly what I’ve been searching the internet for these last few weeks! 49 days to go, but who’s counting? 🙂 I have an 18 month old little girl and am very concerned about her adjustment to her new little brother. Now, what’s your advice on “when in the world am I going to sleep!?” 🙂

    • Erica {let why lead}
      April 23, 2013 at 2:02 pm

      I am so glad, Michelle! And thanks for taking the time to comment! My oldest was 18 months when we had our second, so I can definitely relate! It’s hard for a little while, but I wouldn’t change a thing because I cherish the friendship they have, being so close together in age. I bet you’ll grow to love it too!

      Before my second was born, some lady in the grocery store told me to let my oldest get as involved with the baby as he wanted—touching the baby, holding the baby, sitting as close as he wanted during nursing sessions, etc. I tried hard not to make the baby seem off limits but instead just a normal part of our life. I do think that helped keep the jealousy at bay. Also, my pediatrician recommended talking to my oldest like he was the best big brother EVER and praising him like crazy for any kind behavior toward his brother or any helping with me (like putting a diaper in the trash). I think that paid off too because he felt special.

      I love that you’re counting down the days. I was sooo ready to be done with my last pregnancy! Good luck with everything, and keep in touch!

  • debbie Rowley (cousin!)
    April 23, 2013 at 4:41 am

    Erica you are such an inspiration to moms everywhere. Love reading your blog. Please give the boys & Quinn kisses & hugs. One for Ryan too and yourself! Sure wish we lived closer. My dad sure enjoyed seeing everyone when he was down.
    Love to you & your little family

  • Becky Kopitzke
    April 23, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    Spoken as a wise and seasoned momma! Thanks for this, Erica. I so believe in the value of passing our mommy wisdom on to others who will experience what we’re in the throes of learning. Just the fact that you can have clarity of mind on what you’re walking through right now is super impressive to me! Blessings to you and your family of five today!

    • Erica {let why lead}
      April 23, 2013 at 2:05 pm

      Thanks, Becky! I’m kinda surprised too! Quinn is (so far) the best sleeper of all three of my kids, so I think that explains why I’m actually functioning somewhat like a normal person today! Best to you and the girls!

  • Ashley
    April 24, 2013 at 12:54 am

    I’ll remember this! 🙂 I may refer back when we have more. 🙂

  • Betsy (Eco-novice)
    April 24, 2013 at 5:51 am

    From another mom of 3, these are great tips! Although I’ve never made peace with crying, I have gotten better at letting go, b/c what is more urgent than snuggling with that newborn? Nada.

  • Ashley
    April 24, 2013 at 8:57 pm

    For some reason, I keep thinking that once the baby is here, I’ll be right back to normal because I won’t be pregnant anymore (hurray!!!!). I seem to keep forgetting that then I’ll have a newborn- along with the other three home for summer break. 🙂 It’s gonna be a wake-up call for sure!!

    • Erica {let why lead}
      April 24, 2013 at 11:27 pm

      I know that feeling, for sure! I was constantly thinking I couldn’t wait to get back to myself. Now I’m thinking I have to wait a bit longer, till we’re over the newborn hump. But this stage has plenty of sweetness too, and I would definitely not trade it for pregnancy. You’ll be there before you know it!!

  • Natalie
    April 25, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    These are great tips! My youngest just turned 8 months…so we’re in kind of in a sweet spot right now but those first few months were hard.

  • Abigail
    April 25, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    I am guilty of using the baby to hush my eldest son. I have to change that!

    This post is a great tip and reminder for me.

    • Erica {let why lead}
      April 25, 2013 at 8:05 pm

      I definitely do it too sometimes, because it is surprisingly effective (at least for now, probably because it’s new)! But I do try to resist! Good luck! 🙂

  • kendall
    May 1, 2013 at 4:03 am

    I was totally unprepared for the older child being a nuisance after new baby. I always heard how your love just doubles when you have a new baby, but I totally disliked Henry for the first week of Charlie’s life. I am so happy that isn’t the case anymore. Thanks for adding that!

  • paula
    May 1, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    great tips! I’m not a ‘mom of many’ (only 2 kids) but these are great tips for even a mom of 2!!!

    • Erica {let why lead}
      May 1, 2013 at 8:16 pm

      Two is still many! It sure feels like it most of the time, doesn’t it?! I would have written “more than one” in the title, but that would have made it even longer, so I went with “many.” 🙂

  • Faith @ Artistic31Mama
    May 1, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    Great post! I have four children and I have had three friends just recently give birth. One gave birth to their third child and the other two just had their fourth child. This is a great post that I’m sure a lot of moms can relate to. 🙂

  • Richella @ Imparting Grace
    May 2, 2013 at 2:32 am

    An excellent post, Erica! Great advice and completely realistic. I’m glad that things are going well with your expanded family! 🙂

  • Gabrielle
    May 2, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    Yes, yes, and yes to all of the above! And let the house go a little bit if it means you have more time to enjoy all of your kids, bigs and littles alike. Excellent post! You’ve got this down! 🙂

  • Rachel T.
    March 21, 2014 at 6:59 am

    Thanks! I can’t believe this is all real and I will be a mom of two soon! I just hope I can survive the first couple months. And I’ve been feeling really sad for Sierra lately that everything is going to change for her. So many emotions!

    • Erica Layne
      March 21, 2014 at 7:13 am

      Oh for sure! So many emotions! But just remember that even though the change might be a bit hard for Sierra in the short term, giving her a sibling is the greatest thing you can do for her in the long term! She is so blessed to have such great parents who live love her like crazy through the transition. You totally have this!

  • debbie
    March 21, 2014 at 9:37 am

    Hi Erica! I cannot believe Quinn is already a year old! At least great grandpa Nielsen has seen her. Wish I could. Maybe one day. I enjoy reading your blog and seeing how you are all doing. You and Ryan are wonderful parents. Love to you all. Auntie debbie.

  • Claire @ Lemon Jelly Cake
    March 21, 2014 at 11:54 am

    Oh Erica, thank you for this post! My husband goes back to work on Monday and I am more than a little scared about taking care of two little ones on my own! So far Wendy is doing pretty well with her brother, but I definitely feel like I’m walking on eggshells trying to figure this whole “mom of two” thing out.

  • Emily Smith // The Best of this Life
    March 22, 2014 at 7:38 pm

    Happy Birthday Little Quinn!!! Great advice Erica 🙂

    • Erica Layne
      March 22, 2014 at 7:42 pm

      AH I know – Time flies! Abigail will be one before you know it! (I seriously cried like four times on her birthday. 🙂