By Katy Thomson
Having another child can bring many changes to a family. Preparations for a new baby can take a lot of parent’s time and/or emotional energy. After the baby is born, much of the family’s attention revolves around caring for the newborn, much as it did when their first child/children were born. The challenge comes with learning to balance the needs of a newborn with those of older children.
Keeping communication open, tapping into your empathy, and using these tips below can help to make this transition a smoother and enjoyable one.
Parents can help prepare children for a sibling by discussing the pregnancy, changes that may happen and what babies need/do in terms that make sense to them. Allow your child’s questions to guide you into how detailed to get.
DURING THE PREGNANCY, PREPARE YOUR CHILD FOR LIFE WITH A BABY:
- Establish the routine that will be in place once baby
- arrives; daycare or other changes in routine or
- adults in their life
- Look at the child’s baby books or photographs
- Involve the child in caregiver appointments with the midwife or doctor
- Read books about babies and becoming a big brother/sister
- Give child a doll/teddy to care for
- Let child know who will care for them during the birth, prepare them for home labour and or birth
- Pack their own birth (sleep over) bag
- Spend time with other newborns
- Child can make a box with their older baby toys/clothes to pass on to baby
- Child may want to buy a gift for baby, or pick out an outfit/blanket to pass on
- Any big transitions like moving to a toddler bed, toilet training, car seat position changing, new room, should be done a few months before/after baby is born, and not too close to the birth
ONCE BABY ARRIVES, HELP YOUR CHILD FEEL CONNECTED TO THE BABY:
- Let the child introduce their new sibling to visitors
- Bake and decorate together a birthday cake for baby
- Include child in baby care, by asking if they would like to and accepting when they don’t
- Child can sing and entertain baby (this gets better once baby starts to laugh)
- Ask the older sibling what they think baby needs/why they might be crying
- Emphasize baby’s love for child but never the other way around. Your older child may not be feeling loving towards baby at that moment, it is important to let children air their feelings, and to listen no matter what they say. You may help younger ones by paraphrasing feelings with empathy, helping them to name emotions.
STRENGTHEN YOUR BOND WITH YOUR CHILD AFTER THE BABY IS BORN:
- Make special one on one time with child, with full attention, daily if possible even 15min
- Physical contact; holding, carrying, piggybacks, cuddling….. with older child
- When child first meets baby, put baby down and greet them first with a hug, then introduce baby and say how excided you are for them to be big brother/sister
- Surprise bags for when baby is getting gifts. Ask for no gifts, or also for big brother/sister gifts
- Snack baskets and activity baskets prepared for cluster feeding/fussy baby times, e.g. Aquadoodle, puzzles, Magnadoodle, books that colour with only water, Duplo set
- Use slings/carriers to meet babies needs and have your hands free to meet child’s
- Never blame the baby as the reason the child’s needs cannot be met. This will breed resentment. Example; “I can’t because I’m feeding the baby”. Instead try; “Yes I would l like to in x amount of minutes or when daddy gets home”
All this change can be hard for new big brothers/sisters to handle. It’s common for them to feel jealousy toward the newborn and to react to the upheaval by acting out. Try to understand what emotions might be motivating that behaviour. A month or two may even pass before you see real tantrums and attention seeking behaviour. Try and work in as much one on one time with your child during the honeymoon period to alleviate feeling left out. Encourage older children to talk about their feelings, and make space for their other interests as well, not always talking about the new baby.
It truly does take a village to raise a family and siblings are one of the biggest influences on each other. One of the most joyous parenting experiences is watching the bond grow between your children. Enjoy.
Katy Thomson has been involved with the wondrous world of birth for over fifteen years. Katy is a mum of three, a Breastfeeding Counselor, Childbirth Educator, as well as a certified Birth and Postpartum Doula, who is always continuing her education and working towards a lactation consultant certification.
Katy Thomson is the instructor of our Refresher Workshop.This rewarding four hour prenatal workshop is specially designed for second (or third) time parents. It includes everything from birth to breastfeeding. Discover ways to reduce sibling rivalry, to help your youngsters cope with the changing family, and to connect with your new baby while maintaining your bond with the first.