Bringing home the second baby can be one of the most exhilarating, frustrating, and exhausting times in a mother’s life. Not only are there the enormous demands of a newborn, but the two year old, also a baby himself in so many ways, has special needs. This is the greatest change in your two year old’s life. He has gone from being the sole child with all the attention, to suddenly having to compete with a little squawking thing. You may have talked with him about having a baby, and let him feel your swollen belly, but believe me, he has no idea about what it means to have a younger sibling. In terms of his reactions, expect everything…anger, frustration, temper tantrums, an enormous amount of clinging, regression in speech and some of his developmental milestones, and generally insecure behaviour. Obviously not all these things will happen – in fact none may. Give him as much individual attention as you can and just ”GO WITH THE FLOW”. If he is being terribly clingy…love him, reassure him, and cuddle him. He will soon adjust to his younger sibling, and before long they will be interacting in a very positive way. By bringing home that second baby you have given your firstborn the greatest gift you can ever give him…a younger sibling.
Some tips on how to successfully introduce the new baby to her older brothers and sisters.
- Deciding when to tell your child of the new baby’s impending arrival will depend not only on his age but also his interest in the birth. Young children have no concept of time and telling them too far in advance can confuse them. Attaching the baby’s imminent appearance to a holiday like Valentine’s Day or to an event like starting school will have a more significant meaning to your child than just announcing a due date.
- You want to be the person who advises your child of the new arrival, so don’t wait too long or you may risk having someone else tell your child of the upcoming event.
- Put off any big changes like toilet training, new crèche or caregivers, or moving to a new home until after the baby is born. If you have decided to move your child out of the cot (crib) and into a bed, do so well before the new baby arrives. Don’t be surprised if your child exhibits regressive behavior, such as unlearning toileting skills or becoming jealous of the new baby. These are all normal behaviors and you should acknowledge his feelings and bring them to the forefront.
- Make a fuss of your child by discussing their new role as a big brother. Bring out the baby photos of your child and talk about his babyhood. Read books together about babies and siblings. Visit friends or relatives who have babies of different ages. Expose your child to their daily care rituals, such as breastfeeding, nappy (diaper) changing, etc. Explain to your child that the newborn will not be an instant playmate, but that in time the baby will grow up to become his friend. Show your child your ultrasound pictures and let him feel your tummy.
- If possible involve the other children, they can help you to set up the new baby’s room, decorate it and help choose baby clothes.
- Make sure you clearly explain to your child when you will be in hospital and where he will stay whilst you are away.
- When you pack your hospital bag, let your child participate by helping you to think of what to include. Perhaps you could gently suggest that you would love for her to make you some paintings or drawings of you and the baby to hang in your hospital room.
- Buy him a present from his new sister or brother. Have it wrapped and waiting for when he visits you in hospital. Try not to be encumbered with the new baby when he arrives and greet your child with open arms. Allow the big brother to hold his new sibling and remember to take lots of photos.
- When you return home encourage the older child to take the spotlight by introducing the newborn, showing off the baby’s room and unveiling the baby’s presents.
- Include your child in the daily baby care rituals like changing nappies (diapers) and bathing. When you are breastfeeding your newborn, have your child snuggle in close to you and use this time to read to your child or listen to calming music.
- If your children are older, involve them in some of the pleasant and heart-warming aspects of the new baby by recognizing their new role as big brother or sister.
- Try to maintain your old routines as much as possible, older children feel incredibly reassured when they realise in a physical sense that their life does go on pretty much the way it used to.
- If the newborn is crying a lot of the time, acknowledge that this is hard for everyone in the family, siblings may be woken at night and find the noises difficult to cope with. Talk to them about it and explain to them that this is a stage and it will pass, remind them that the new baby is getting the same care and attention that they did, and tell them about their crying habits when they were young.
Remember, younger brothers and sisters provide your first child with the opportunity of lifelong friendships and the eternal bond of siblings. Their relationships should be recognised and nurtured right from the beginning.