I wasn’t sure I wanted to have more than one kid. Having the first one terrified me for so long that I was convinced I would be tipping the delicate balance of occasional serenity I had finally reached if I brought another one into the mix. You may have heard me say a big part of the reason I do this work is catharsis. Those first few years were rough and now, I honestly take pleasure in helping moms get through those early days, weeks and years with some practical knowledge, humor and hugs, hopefully allowing them a bit of calm amidst the storm and offering the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel (apologies for the high cliché count!). When it comes to having another baby, all sorts of feelings come up. Rather than offer my thoughts on reasons to expand your brood (or not) and the complicated emotions associated, I figured I’d share some potentially helpful ideas for once you’ve made the decision to bring another one into the family fold. Read on for thoughts on how to introduce not only the idea but the actual tiny human to your previously one-and-only (pets excluded). Apologies in advance for some of the more Captain Obvious-coined tidbits. Some of us mommas require intense hand holding through this process!
SUGGESTIONS FOR PREPARING YOUR CHILD FOR THE BIRTH OF A SIBLING
The arrival of a new baby in the family is a time for readjustment for each family member, and most significantly, your child. The following are some ideas that can help your child adjust to the birth of a sibling. Preparation varies and depends on your individual parenting style and the needs, level of interest, and age of your child.
Preparing Your Child For A Sibling
· Make changes in your child’s lifestyle before the baby arrives. Move to a big bed, another bedroom, a new nursery school, or move from diapers to potty well before the baby arrives. Or, delay these developmental tasks until after the newborn is at home and new routines are established.
· Read books about new babies and allow child to ask questions about what to expect from a newborn. Point out how babies change and that the baby won’t be a playmate right away.
· Visit another new baby. If you’re planning to breastfeed, let your child watch a baby nurse, if possible.
· Give your child a new baby doll and some baby supplies to care for and play with. Practice diapering, swaddling, bathing and dressing.
· Take your child with you to a prenatal visit to hear the baby’s heartbeat. Let your child sing and talk to the baby. Allow her/him to feel the baby move.
· Help your older child (4 years and up) follow the development of the baby by looking at books on fetal growth.
· Tell your child stories about her/his birth and babyhood. Include her/him in going through the baby supplies/clothes and purchasing new ones when getting prepared for the new baby.
· Encourage your child to draw a picture of the new baby.
· Take some special time to look at your child’s baby photo album together.
· Involve others in your child’s care and play so (s)he will accept care from others when you are not available.
· Discuss where and with whom your child will be when you are giving birth. Make sure it is a familiar, comfortable place.
· If you are planning a hospital birth, tell your child you may leave when (s)he is sleeping or in school. If you are planning a home birth, explain how (s)he will be involved and what to expect. Consult with your midwife on how to further plan and discuss this with your child.
· Make it clear that (s)he can call and come visit you at the hospital, and that you’ll return home as soon as possible with “our” new baby.
· Avoid over-preparing with so much attention focused on getting ready for the new baby that you overwhelm or overlook your child. Let the child ask questions at her/his own pace.
· Encourage dad, partner, grandparents, friends, and relatives to remain in contact with child.
If You Are Delivering In The Hospital
· Record on tape or video some favorite stories and a good night message for your child to listen to while you are in the hospital.
· Leave a note if you leave when your child is asleep or not at home.
· Ask your child to take care of something (water a plant or care for a pet) for you while you’re in the hospital.
· Hide small gifts around the house for your child to find when you are away.
· Call your child often while in the hospital. Reassure her/him that you are fine and you will be home soon.
· Have someone bring the child to the hospital for frequent visits after the baby is born.
· Have your child’s favorite foods and toys available at home while you’re away.
· Ask someone else to hold your baby when your child comes to visit so you’re free to welcome and hug your child.
· Have a special gift from the baby for your child when (s)he comes to visit. Have your child help open the baby’s gifts.
· Take your child’s picture when (s)he comes to visit.
· Remind your child of the guidelines you’ve set regarding the baby’s well being. For instance, washing hands, staying seated when holding the baby, and having an adult present when (s)he holds the baby.
· If your child does not come with your partner to pick you up at the hospital, have your partner carry the new baby into the house so that you are ready to greet her/him with open arms when you get home.
· If your child does come to pick you up, involve her/him in helping you get ready to come home. Have your partner carry the new baby so you can accompany your older child.
· Consider keeping the first day home free of visitors so the family can spend the day together.
· Present your child with a new “I’m a big brother/sister” T-shirt or pin. Consider throwing a “Big Sib Bash” – a small party celebrating your older child.
· Talk over feelings with your child, letting her/him know it’s okay to have both positive and negative feelings, that it’s natural.
· Involve your older child in the care of the new baby and praise her/his efforts.
· Have your partner, visiting friends, and family members greet your older child first and give her/him attention before they visit with the new baby,
· Plan daily “special time” alone with your older child. No need to make it hours long - 10 minutes of focused activity or snuggles is extremely valuable.
· Try to keep your child’s daily routine and normal as possible.
· Plan play dates for your older child. Emphasize how special being an older sibling is, praising all her/his abilities.
· Increase your child’s privileges, such as a later bedtime.
· While feeding your new baby, have a story, activity, snack or toys ready for your older child. Consider a special “Nursing Basket” of fun items that only comes out when the baby is feeding.
· Tell your child, “My hands are busy right now” when (s)he wants something and you’re involved with the baby instead of saying, “I’m busy with the baby.”
· Hire a teen to come play with your older child in the afternoon while you prepare dinner.
· If possible, get help with the housework so you can spend more time enjoying your children.
· Take the new baby to preschool and let your older child “show off” the new baby.
· Let your child help make the telephone calls to announce the new baby’s arrival.
· Get treats (it’s a boy/girl) for the child to pass around to friends, family and neighbors.
· Allow your child to ignore the new baby if (s)he wishes.
· Give your child opportunities to safely express her/his negative feelings about the new baby. Help her/him release negative feelings through talking or with large motor movements such as running, jumping, banging on a toy or punching a pillow.
· Some children will become physical with a new baby. For this reason it is best never to leave them alone together.
· Expect and allow your child to regress and/or act out. (S)he may become more demanding, exhibit “baby-like” behaviors have tantrums, want to nurse or bottle-feed, wet the bed, or have trouble sleeping. It’s okay if your child needs to temporarily be a baby (bottle/breast feed, wear diapers, or sleep in your bed).
· Jealousy is a common normal phenomenon.
· Praise your child’s appropriate behaviors and ignore or set limits on the inappropriate ones.
· A school-age child may adjust more easily to a new baby. Be careful not to expect too much maturity.
· Lots of love, support, patience, and a sense of humor can help everyone during this time.