When you welcome a new child into your family, you naturally hope your other child(ren) will accept and love the new sibling. While there is bound to be an adjustment period, I have outlined 10 strategies to help ease the transition on the way to “baby love”!
1. Prepare your older child in advance. Talk about the new baby in age-appropriate terms. Even the youngest of children will need and understand your explanation, preparation and reassurance about the coming change. If you have decided to find out the gender of the baby before the birth, consider whether you are ready to share the baby’s name before the birth as well. If not, you might wish to give the baby a nickname that makes it easier to talk about this creature on the way: Baby Bug, Peanut etc.
2. Read children’s books that explain the process of pregnancy, birth and/or caring for a newborn. For children ages 2.5 and older I like Baby on the Way. For very young children I like We Have a Baby.
3. Prepare yourself too by honing your parenting skills. Read a book or two on welcoming a new baby into the family. Try the classic Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish for tips on how to help your older child express his or her feelings without physically taking out his or her emotions on the baby. If you’ll be tandem nursing, Adventures in Tandem Nursing: Breastfeeding During Pregnancy and Beyond by Hilary Flower is a must-read.
4. Discuss the plans for the birth or adoption travel. Will you be having a home birth? Is your child emotionally ready to be present? If not, who will care for him or her? Will you be going to the hospital? Will you be traveling as part of an adoption? What are your plans and back-up plans for child care while you are away?
I went into labor at 11 p.m. at night and my water broke at midnight. I had to wake my good friends up in the middle of the night and drop my child off at 1:30 a.m. Thank goodness we had friends we could trust and more importantly, ones my 2.5-year-old daughter could trust.
5. Before the baby’s arrival, buy one present each for your older child and your newborn. My daughter chose a stuffed animal to give her new little sister, and her new little sister “gave” her a set of wooden play food much like this Melissa and Doug Food Groups set. My daughter still talks about that gift and plays with the food two years later!
6. Prepare a basket of toys for your older child to play with while you nurse. It helps to have a special set of toys that are only brought out when it’s time for the baby to nurse. When breastfeeding is well-established, you can also use the time to read to your older child.
7. Invest in a good sling or baby carrier. A sling leaves you with two hands free to play games or dance around the room with your older child. Eventually I found that I could nurse my baby to sleep in the sling then gently set her down on the bed, safely arrange the sling around her and sneak away!
8. Arrange special one-on-one time. While you might be able to coordinate your children’s naps and sneak in a nap of your own occasionally, sometimes it’s nice to use the baby’s nap times for special one-on-one time with your older child. Making nap time a special time for your older child helps keep him or her quiet while the baby sleeps. (Nothing irritated me more than when my daughter woke up the baby! It was hard to keep in mind that it was my responsibility to keep her appropriately entertained during those sacred nap times!)
Your child also can benefit from set one-on-one time with your spouse or partner or one of the child’s relatives like a grandparent. For several months my husband had a standing Saturday morning breakfast “date” with my older daughter. They loved that time together and it gave me some quality time with my newborn as well.
9. Discuss child care responsibilities, household duties and marital expectations with your spouse or partner. If you thought bringing your first child into the family was an adjustment, brace yourself for bringing the second child home. Suddenly I faced the responsibility for two little lives with unique and pressing needs. I was more tired, less patient and needed more help than ever! Don’t worry, we soon settled into a new family routine, but it certainly was an adjustment period for all of us!
10. Be kind to each other. Realizing that this wonderful addition to your family comes with some adjustments for each member of the family will help you be more patient. Try to put yourself in your child’s shoes. As Siblings Without Rivalry asks, how would you feel if your husband (or wife) said, “Honey, I love you so much, and you’re so wonderful that I’ve decided to have another wife just like you.” Would you feel a little angry, jealous and insecure? Imagine how your child might feel threatened by the arrival of a new baby.
The admonition to “be kind to each other” includes yourself–be kind to yourself as you adapt to your growing family. Remember that the laundry can wait while you nurse your newborn or spend that extra five minutes snuggling with your toddler.
Don’t forget to vote in the poll in the sidebar and enjoy the rest of the entries in Baby Love: A Carnival of Breastfeeding.