Second-time moms: nothing is completely new – you’ve done it all once already. But does that make adding a new baby to the family will be easy? Not necessarily. Transitioning from one child to two can be a huge changeup for any family! Follow these tips for making the transition a little bit easier on everyone, especially older siblings.
1. Include your older child in the pregnancy experience, as appropriate for their age.
Whether that means taking them to an ultrasound, showing them ultrasound pictures of the baby, including them in the nursery decorations and set up, or just letting them put a hand on your belly to feel their baby sibling’s kicks, try to include your child in the pregnancy experience. This may alleviate some tension and help the older sibling feel like they are a special, integral part of the family! Some parents even include their older children in the delivery room – although you will be the best judge of whether this is a good idea for your child.
2. Make sure your older child feels needed and wanted.
Older siblings that act out or have a behavioral regression once baby arrives are usually acting out of jealousy and feeling neglected. Even if you are tied up with a newborn baby most of the time, make sure you tell your older child how much they are loved and how special they are. That could mean writing them little notes to put in their lunchbox, buying them their favorite snack at the store, letting them stay up a little bit later to watch a special movie with you, or taking them shopping to their favorite store. You can also let older children help care for their newborn sibling. Even toddlers and preschoolers can help grab a clean diaper, go find a pacifier, or rock a newborn in a bouncer chair. Older children can help warm bottles, put dirty clothes in the hamper, or grab you a snack while you’re breastfeeding! The more older siblings feel needed, the less likely they are to act out and misbehave once baby arrives.
3. Read books and watch shows that talk about adding a baby to the family.
Find some books that talk about new siblings. Check your local library, a bookstore, or online retailers for books about newborns. Watch videos or television shows about pregnant moms or adding a new baby to the family. The more your older child is exposed to information about new babies, the easier the transition will be. Children need to know what to expect!
4. If possible, spend time with friends or family that have a new baby.
Some children just have no experience of what newborn babies are like. The best thing you can do for older siblings is prepare them for a new baby and introduce them to how babies behave! Let them know that new babies cry a lot, sleep a lot, and are very dependent on their mommies. Talk to them, in age appropriate terms, about issues of safety – such as don’t let the baby play with toys that may be choking hazards, never feed the baby without your permission, and always make sure baby is buckled into their swing or bouncer chair.
5. Plan special one-on-one outings with the older child after baby is born.
Once baby arrives, most of your time will be consumed with caretaking, especially if you are planning to breastfeed. Try your best to leave baby with a spouse, family member, or friend for a few hours while you spend some one-on-one time with the older child. Whether you go see a movie, grab some ice cream, or just run errands without a baby in tow, spending quality time with your older child will help them feel less anxious and more at ease with the changes to your family. If you absolutely can’t plan a lot of one-on- one time with the older child, consider baby wearing (with a carrier, such as the KeaBabies Baby Wrap Carrier) while you do an activity with the older child, such as play at the park or walk around the mall.
6. Create an open dialogue between you and your older child about any questions and concerns he or she may have.
Assure your child that there are no “dumb questions,” and help them feel at ease talking to you about any concerns they may have regarding the new baby. It may be helpful to check in with your older child as you tuck them into bed at night. If your child doesn’t come to you with questions, create open discussions about issues that seem to be bothering him. The more your child feels comfortable telling you how they honestly feel, the less likely she will be to misbehave or seek negative attention when baby arrives.
7. Try your best to find balance – but give yourself some grace, because nobody is perfect!
It’s impossible to find absolute balance between caring for an older child and caring for a newborn. Rest assured that this is a phase of life that will pass. The baby will grow older and less needy, making it easier to balance your time and energy between children. Don’t feel guilty if your older child acts out, and don’t feel stressed if your older child experiences some sort of regression. This is normal. There will be days when you’re exhausted, and feel like an absolute failure. The good news: kids are very forgiving. They will love you no matter what!
Following these tips and tricks can make the transition from one to two kids less stressful! At the end of the day, transitions within families will always be hard at first. Rest assured that this is an exciting yet challenging time for your family, and give yourself a lot of grace as you all adjust to a new way of life together.
Parenting is awesome. Sleep is overrated. Everyday is an adventure.