Congratulations you’re having a second baby! As exciting as it is to be pregnant with a new baby, you may feel a little overwhelmed about caring for both your newborn and your older child. Remembering the 24-hour care, feeding, changing from your first baby and realising that you will also have your older child to care for, play with, try to reason with and entertain.
Many parents are concerned about trying to divide their attention between 2 children, how to give them both quality time and fit it all in.
Even though your first child is probably used to being the centre of attention at all times, this new baby effectively means a demotion to them. But we don’t want them to feel this way. It is important to make them feel special and explain that their new role as big brother or sister is particularly important to the family.
This may be the first time they have had to wait and not get what they want straight away. This is an important lesson to learn, sharing your time with their new sibling, but it will take some time for this to become normal.
After the birth of your newborn, your first child will seem huge! Even if they seemed like a baby before, all of a sudden you will realise that they are not. In comparison to the new baby you will see that they are capable of being much more independent. Many toddlers and pre-schoolers love being in control and more independent so use that to your advantage.
Strategies that may help to smooth the transition
Before the birth:
- As your tummy grows, talk to your child about the new baby and that they will be their baby brother or sister.
- Talk about it being their job to help look after the new baby and the fun they will have playing with them when they grow bigger.
- Read books about a new baby in the family.
- Involve your child in antenatal appointments – seeing ultrasound scans and listening to the doppler heartbeat.
- Encourage independence with everything, depending on age try for eating meals, dressing, using the toilet and washing hands.
- Depending on age, try to move your child into a bed so that the cot is available for the new baby. If possible, do this some months before the birth so they don’t think this is their cot anymore.
- Go through the toys with your child and find all the baby toys and set them aside for the new baby. Talk about how he or she doesn’t play with them anymore, but the baby will love them.
After the birth:
- Have a gift for your older child when they meet their new baby brother or sister.
- Include your child in caring for the new baby by giving him or her small jobs such as getting a clean nappy or singing to them in the car.
- Keep routines similar for your child, especially bedtime routines. Children thrive on routine and this will make the transition smoother.
- Try to have some 1 on 1 time with your older child every day. This may be 5 minutes to read a story, eat lunch together or a trip to the playground when your partner is home with the baby. This is also a great time for Dad and baby to spend more time together and bond.
- 1 on 1 time with your new baby is also important and will probably happen overnight or when your older child is napping. This special time allows for bonding and getting to know each other.
- Self-care is even more important now that you are caring for 2 humans! Try to find some time, try to share the load with your partner and ask for help as needed. Remember the plane analogy with putting your oxygen mask on first before others, this is true and essential.
- 1 on 1 time with your partner is also important. Early on this may be difficult to achieve but over time you will find small pockets of time when both children are sleeping that you can spend time together. This may be as simple as eating dinner together or watching a movie. Share your feelings about having 2 children and how you’re managing. Try for a date night and ask friends or family to babysit for a few hours. Your time is well spent keeping your relationship strong.
- Accept all offers of help, cooking meals, cleaning, playing with your older child, doing your shopping, everything. Friends and family want to help so let them.
- Social connection with other parents is important. This could be with the parent group started with your first child or by joining a new group. Try a virtual group such as my Survive and Enjoy Your Baby Mothers Group.
- Over time it is worth trying to time your older child’s afternoon nap time with your newborns nap. This can be some time out, a chance for a nap for you as well or a chance to get something done on your own.
- Your older child will enjoy entertaining the new baby, just make sure they are gentle. They can help with tummy time or showing them their toys while you’re driving or getting other jobs done. Babies love watching children, and this will help their bond to grow as well.
Don’t feel any guilt about giving your new baby less attention than what your first baby got. After all your newborn knows no difference and this will be their normal. Waiting a few minutes at times while you attend to your older child is the reality of being a second born. This may contribute to common differences in personality due to birth order.
As a bonus, many Dads feel that they develop a closer bond with the older child when a new baby comes along. This is a great time for them to play together, for Dad to involve them more in household tasks, shopping and so on.
Some Mums worry that they already love their first born so much, they’re not sure if they will have enough love or be able to share this with their new baby. But it’s amazing how love works, even when you think you have given so much of it to your first child, there will be more. Sometimes it can take a little while to develop. Either way, many Mums are surprised that they find even more love for their new baby.
Remember you are giving your child and your family the greatest gift of all, a new sibling. There is nothing that can compare to this even though there may be some challenges along the way.
Enjoy your new baby.
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