29 Aug Bringing Home a New Baby
Bringing Home a New Baby
How to prepare when adding to your family
I remember feeling SO excited to tell my oldest that I was pregnant and that she would be getting a sibling. We waited until the first trimester was over (which happened to be right around Christmas time). We wrapped a “big sister” shirt and book and captured the whole thing on video! We were all so excited, thrilled at the thought of our family expanding. Then reality sunk in and I started to worry. How could we add another one? How could I split my time? Would I really love this next baby as much as my first? Did I have enough patience for this? How do you get two kids in the car at once? My mind was spinning.
I was grateful that it takes months to grow the baby so I could try and relax and come up with a plan. If I was feeling this overwhelmed, I wondered how my oldest was feeling?! I get asked about this topic a lot. What should you do to prepare your child or children that another one is coming. What is the perfect balance of being prepared but also not over communicating about the change and transition. How to make your child feel safe, secure, and also ready for the change. Eek! So much to think about. And all that pressure!! Deep breaths. You do not need this all figured out before the baby comes. It is impossible but I can help to ease some stress and help with the prep.
Below I have broken down some tips and tricks on how to transition into this change and prepare everyone best you can (knowing full well, or at least telling yourself over and over again, that you can never prepare fully in parenthood… ever).
Tips for BEFORE New Baby:
- Prepare them slowly during your pregnancy. You are pregnant for months and the waiting concept is hard. No need to discuss it too early or too often.
- Purchase books to explain their new upcoming role. Or you can make one! Reading about the change can be very helpful!
- Have them help you prepare the nursery and organize (especially if the baby is getting some of their old items, help ease the new sharing role by letting them help you organize).
- Discuss the plan. Explain what will happen when you are at the hospital and what will happen when you get home.
- Have a countdown calendar (best you can)
- Have a present from the baby at the hospital. Prepare them that visiting the hospital is a visit and they do not stay over night with you. Explain how you have to heal and need time to recover.
- Never underestimate the power of conversation and being present with them. That one on one time, those small but meaningful conversations, and them feeling heard and understood can make all the difference.
- Be honest. Try and avoid statements or questions like, “aren’t you so excited to be a big sister or big brother!?” (I am sure most of the time they are, but what if in that moment they are not excited?). Instead ask them specific questions or tell them your own feelings about the baby. We all feel many feelings towards a new baby and it is okay to share those. “I am so excited for the new baby but I am also nervous.”
- Avoid big transitions right before the baby is born. We want to make sure they are able to adjust to a new transition before the baby arrives. For example, give them at least 1-2 months of the change and transition before the baby. If you don’t have this much time, I would hold off on the big change (i.e. potty training, big bed, etc.)
- Explain before the baby gets here exactly what a baby does (eat, sleeps and needs a diaper change). Many children don’t understand that babies can not play right away.
- Discuss expectations before the baby arrives. Good boundaries and expectations are key in this change. For example, you may hold the baby when an adult is watching, says it is okay, and you are sitting on a couch. You may not hold the baby when you are walking or if an adult doesn’t say you can.
- If you find your child is acting out more before the baby is here, pull back on the baby communication. It might be overload at this point. Less is more approach can be helpful.
Tips for AFTER New Baby:
- Build in special roles for the older sibling (Grabbing a diaper, helping get the wipes, helping to burp the baby, etc).
- Give your child or children ways to help but also respect if they don’t want to help each and every time. For example, teach them they can say “no thank you” when you ask them to grab a diaper.
- Encourage the sibling relationship to grow by playing peek-a-boo, noticing when the baby is looking at their sibling and pointing that out, helping with tummy time or burping. Involving the siblings is key!
- Dividing your attention. Show the older sibling that the baby doesn’t always come first. This can easily be shown by “I need to change the baby’s diaper but the baby has to wait 5 minutes for us to finish building our tower”
- Remember that any reaction is an “okay” reaction. Children often have a way of expressing how they feel emotionally in a physical way. Sometimes we see regressions in potty training or using a paci once new baby has arrived. Just know this can be normal. We can normalize the behavior but we don’t have to give in. We can validate their feelings without saying a behavior is okay.
- Communication. Talk about what has changed and what has stayed the same. Also talk about the wonderful things about having a baby and also the things that could be frustrating. For instance, with my daughter, I would empathize with how she was feeling about feeding time. I had real conversations with her that it was frustrating having to feed her sister so often in the beginning. We would also have conversations about how fun it was for her to help me change her sister’s diaper. Balance the real emotions. They are feeling it all, as are we.
- Find ways to have one on one time. Here is an idea of how to share your attention, validate their feelings and give the older child some special time: “I know sharing my attention is hard with the new baby. Once the baby takes a nap, lets play!”
- Stick to your routine and be consistent. Change is hard but we still want to maintain our expectations and routine. This will help with the adjustment
- Be empathetic that change is hard and some behaviors are reactions to the new baby and some stress in their lives. Sometimes behaviors don’t even seem related to the new baby but might actually be. Give it time.
- Validate their feelings but also do not allow behaviors to continue that are aggressive or disruptive. It is okay to still give consequences during this time but also know where the behavior is stemming from (i.e. a new baby)
- More conversation. Even in young children they can benefit from matter of fact discussions. “When we get frustrated, lets take a deep breath instead of hitting. Can you practice with me? (take a deep breath and show them).” or say “Sometimes sharing time with the baby can be frustrating”.
- Patience. The baby is not going anywhere and neither are you. They will adjust. But give them time. As parents we have 9 months to prepare and even then I know personally I need time to adjust. They are the same way.
Lastly, remember to also take care of you. Take time for yourself and give yourself time to adjust as well. Even if this means a solo shower everyday. Enjoy the quiet and you time in any way you can.