Some say preparing for your second child is easier than your first. Perhaps this is true but ‘first time’ around you didn’t have a little person to contend with and their feelings to consider.
It’s important to keep in mind that while welcoming another little one is an adjustment for you and your partner, it is also a HUGE adjustment for your first born who has to date, only known the ‘center stage.’
The thought of preparing your child for a new baby might make you feel a little unsettled at first, but there are a lot of little things you can do to make the transition easier. As a mother of 4, this is something I know all too well!
During those first few weeks post birth I would repeatedly wonder, ‘how on earth will I cope with caring for two children (or three, or four)’ but before long you find a new groove and routine. It’s important however to plan ahead on how to support your first-born (or other children) make a smooth transition as well. Having another individual enter the family is an enormous transition process for everyone involved and your other children will feel the household emotional high’s and lows that a par for the course during the post birth period. So use your pregnancy to prepare them ahead of time.
Here are some of the things we did when preparing our boys for a new sibling. What you do and how you do it is of course dependent on your child’s age, but the overall key is communication and to involve them in the over process as much as possible.
Before the birth:
• Emphasise the importance of becoming a ‘big brother or sister’ – if your child feels like they play a role in the new baby coming into the world they are likely to be excited, rather than feeling ‘left out’.
• Show your child pictures of when they were ‘a baby’ and when they were ‘younger’ reminding them of how they have grown and changed.
• Familiarise your child with your growing bump. Have them read, sing, talk and feel your growing belly. This could become a before bedtime ritual.
• Familiarise them with what newborns look like and sound like.
• Spend time with friends who have new borns. This will help teach your child how to interact with a newborn – its important they understand that a new baby isn’t a ‘instant playmate’ and they don’t do a whole lot in the first few months apart from eat, poop and sleep!
• Let them know that newborns feed a lot and sleep a lot and this can be time consuming and frustrating – so everyone will need to patient. When babies feed well and they get the sleep that they need, they are happier babies and this makes everything easier for the whole family.
• Explain that babies also wake a lot at night and that some days Mummy may feel a little tired but family day sleeps will help with this.
• Show your child ultrasound pictures.
• Have your child accompany you to some of your appointments and allow them to listen to the baby’s heartbeat. You could let them listen to their own heartbeat, then the baby’s.
• Encourage your child to socialise and play with other children, not just newborns. This will help your child develop the social skills to have a good relationship with a new sibling, teaching them the importance of sharing and communicating.
• Involve your child in the practical business of preparing for a baby. Have them help you set up the nursery or pick out toys for their new sibling. If your child loves activities such as drawing/painting, have them create something for the new baby. Frame it, display it, make it important.
• Teach your child that the new baby is a separate person with its own needs.
After the birth:
• It is sometimes best to introduce your child to their new sibling one on one, with just you and your partner present. This will avoid your child feeling overwhelmed by others.
• A new baby is a very exciting time for all members of the family, however it’s important to encourage family to not place all of their attention on the new born while visiting. If they are bringing gifts for you and the baby, perhaps they can bring a small gift for the whole family or your older child, nothing expensive, even just a card that says ‘congratulations on becoming a big brother/sister!’ This will help avoid any feelings of jealousy.
• When you bring the baby home, it’s important to keep your child’s routine as normal as possible, don’t be afraid to call for help especially in the first few weeks when you are still recovering from the birth.
• Familiarise your child with things such as dressing, bathing and feeding your newborn so they grasp a better understanding of how a baby is cared for. Allow them to be present and help where they can.
• If your child is old enough to communicate verbally, they may not understand why their new sibling can’t do the same. Explain to your child as best as you can that a newborn communicates via sounds or crying, and this doesn’t necessary mean they are sad or hurt.
• Ensure you still have one on one time with your child so they don’t feel like they have lost that connection with you.
So, if you are currently pregnant with or have just welcomed your second child I hope the above advice helps to make the transition a little easier for your family. As a mother of two juggling your time between both children can be overwhelming, but it will get easier, that I can promise!
Soon you won’t be able to imagine your life with just one little munchkin.
. . . . .
Yours in Health,
Dr Jennifer Barham-Floreani
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