I'll say first that overall I've found the transition from 1 to 2 easier than the transition from 0 to 1. There really is no more terrifying experience than being a first time mother - everything is new, you have to learn how to completely give up your own needs for someone else's, advice is coming from everywhere but you don't know who to listen to, and most of all you don't trust yourself yet. And the long nights and sore nipples and crying babies make you wonder if you're going to survive all of this. Saying this now it all feels a little over dramatic, but all new moms know (or remember) how terrifying it really was. With the second you know what to expect, even if it still is as challenging (or more) as the first time. As much as the new baby will be (likely) completely different from your first, and although you likely forgot how to swaddle and maybe even what it's like giving a newborn a bath and how often they should poop, what you won't forget is that you survived it the first time. What you will know is that there is light at the end of the tunnel; what you know is that you can do it.
Big sibling prep
So with that (most important/uplifting thing) said, I'll share some of the more practical things that have helped. First and foremost was getting Liv ready for a sibling. Before even sharing that she was going to have a little brother or sister we definitely worked on getting Liv to learn how to do as much as she could for herself (which honestly we were doing even before we knew we were expecting). Liv loves grabbing things herself - in our kitchen we moved all of her plates and cups, etc to a drawer she could easily access, so she can get these when she needs them. We obviously still put the food or drink in them, but she starts feeling more independent and loves helping out with tasks. Now that the baby is here, we also have a lot of her bottles in the same drawer, and Liv loves helping grab a bottle for me (more on having big sibling help below)! As soon as we decided to try for a second I transitioned Liv out of our bed (we were still co-sleeping and she was nursing at night) and into her toddler bed which was actually much easier than I expected (I think it was all luck really), and she was sleeping through the night. We also transitioned from baths to showers - this was more of Liv's doing (she loves showering!) but it has helped tremendously. We started potty-training, and were almost there, but I'll talk more about that in the "hurdles" section. As soon as we shared with her that she'd have a sibling, we gradually started treating my growing belly like another person already (sounds weird, but we would talk to baby/belly, kiss baby/belly, etc.) We also put together her crib and washed clothes relatively early so that Liv would get used to that as well (we all share a room, you can read more here)!
Arrival of second
When Elli arrived Liv was actually with us at the hospital (totally not expected, you can read more in the birth story)! So she knew she was coming and was one of the first to meet her, and loved her almost immediately! I think the kissing of the belly helped because Liv immediately just wanted to kiss the real baby! She was so enthralled.
Things that have helped? Well, giving Liv a helper/big sister role has really been awesome - she loves helping. At the same time, we try to not make her help too much, she's two and we make sure to keep her feeling like a two year old! Our double stroller has been an absolute lifesaver. Trips are so much easier and Liv loves being able to get in and out herself and peek in on her sister. All details about our stroller are below - I bought it for Liv as a single knowing that we hoped to have our second when she was around 2, so I made sure to buy one that could convert to a double. I have absolutely loved it so far, and love that it folds flat and can fit in our trunk!
Personally, this time around has also felt easier because of pumping earlier and more. I knew I would need to start pumping earlier than I did with Liv because I was heading back to work in 4 weeks (versus the almost 4 months I had off with Liv)! But I started even earlier because Elli's initial latch wasn't the best, so I had really bad bleeding nipples. I continued nursing, but Elli actually started vomiting blood because of it (she was spitting up my blood she was ingesting). So we took a nursing break to heal up my nipples and pumped almost exclusively for about 2-3 days, but I realized that having N help with feedings was incredibly freeing. As much as I love nursing, and we still do it, pumping and bottle feeding has allowed everyone else to help more. This was a huge difference from Liv, where I only nursed - she was almost attached to me at all times, and we actually had a really hard time transitioning her to the bottle when I went back to work. I'm using my medela pump (check with your doctor as many insurances now provide a pump for free!) and extra milk gets stored in these storage bags. I keep the bags in Liv's drawer that I mentioned above, so she helps get me bags when I need those as well (she knows when mommy is pumping and thankfully respects that time for the most part, although she still tries climbing on my back some days lol)!
With two I feel like N has been helping much more, not only thanks to the pumping but also with getting Liv ready or getting her to bed or really anything. If he's home it's pretty much always a tag team which I love. As much as he offered to help when it was just Liv, I think with one it's easier to just think you can do it all, so I usually tried doing a lot of it myself. With two it's much easier (and necessary) to accept the help!
Importantly, we remember to still give Liv one-on-one time. For her and I it's usually our showers together, and she loves Target trips hahaha! She also gets time with just her and N - he'll take her out jogging in the jogging stroller or to the playground. I think that time is really key to helping Liv adjust.
Along with one-on-one time with the girls, one thing that gets forgotten even more is one-on-one us time for N and I. Thankfully we've talked about it and are actively trying to carve out more us time, so even that alone (the communication) is helping.
Hurdles we're still tackling
As much as Liv has done fantastically with the new baby and is a helper, the biggest thing we've noticed is that having the baby around, she tries to do a lot of baby things that she had moved beyond pre-baby. We were almost potty-trained, but now she is back to using more diapers - we're back to working on potty-training. She also loves stealing the baby's pacifier (and she never even used a pacifier)! These are minor things, but especially for the potty-training, it did feel like we took a step backwards.
Biggest take home
Trust that you can raise a child and take care of your family, and find what works for you. Take all the advice you want, but ignore as much of it as you want as well. Nobody really knows what they're doing, and even if they've found something that works for them and their family, it doesn't mean it will be best for you and your family. So find your own rhythm, listen to your own family, and have the courage to raise your children the way you want.
And we just bought this organizer (can't wait for it to get here)! I wasn't a fan of the cup holder that comes with the stroller (or maybe we bought it separately, I can't remember now), but it makes the stroller wider and hit doorways and gets loose really quickly and overall just sucked. The organizer gets fantastic reviews so I'm really excited to start using it!
*my coat is actually a boy's size 14, but it was on crazy sale and had amazing reviews, and thanks to the 40% off sale (still going on now) and a gift card I got for Christmas I paid all of $8.99 for it!!