Bringing home a new baby can be the greatest yet scariest and most stressful experience you will ever have. This can be magnified if you already have a child or two and are introducing a whole new member of the family. It is very common for parents to have anxiety of how their older children will react….will they get jealous? Will they have behavior issues? Will they feel attention deprived? Will they still know that we love them even though we can’t spend as much time with them? Will we be able to establish a good routine? All of these thoughts and worries will plague even the most veteran of parents throughout the pregnancy and birth. Unfortunately, like with all things related to parenting, there is no book or step by step on how to deal with these situations. Obviously, every family and child is different so how your particular kid will react is anyone’s guess. However, having done this a couple of times I have compiled a list of things that helped both my family and my kids that will hopefully help you and your family as you transition into this new and exciting chapter in your life.
1) Prepare your child/children all throughout the pregnancy for the new baby. This seems very obvious but many parents don’t really know where to start on explaining this “thing” in mommy’s belly. Depending on the age of your child, there are a few different options. For smaller children there are a lot of great books and stories that really dumb down the whole concept in a way they can understand what it going on. Obviously, pregnancy is a very complex event in which no 2 year old will understand but those books can really help explain and make the child more comfortable about what is happening. For older kids I found that discussions and videos work wonders. With my 7 and 5 year old we would watch development videos for each month of pregnancy so that they could understand how baby was developing, what milestones they would reach, and how many weeks we would have left. I would also show them the information on my weekly apps so we could go to the store and find the “fruit” that matched the baby’s size for the week etc. These seem like silly things but it really helps the older kids get involved and feel like they are a part of the pregnancy as opposed to just sitting on the sidelines. I encouraged my kids to play with the baby by holding a flashlight above my belly or reading him a book at night. All of these things have really helped with the bond between them and the baby now that he is born.
2) Schedule a date night with your kids. I started doing this before I got pregnant for the 3rd time but it was really great during pregnancy as well. Set aside a night a couple times a month where you take one kid out for some special one on one time. I found this really allowed my boys to feel like I hadn’t forgotten about them since becoming pregnant and it provided an opportunity for them to tell me how they were feeling about a new sibling. It’s amazing what good conversations you can have over pizza and ice cream. Even smaller kids can really utilize this time to tell mommy or daddy how they feel. Once the baby is born allow yourself a month off and then try to start the night back up again in month 2. It’s really important to continue giving that one on one attention and it’s a good time for mom or dad to get out of the house themselves.
3) Write your child a letter when you get close to your due date. This is a great way to tell them how much you love them and how you were feeling right before the family expanded. (This is also great to read years later) Since life with a newborn is very demanding it’s important for your children to know just how much you love and cherish them before they get a little less attention in the coming days and weeks.
4) Once baby is home try to stick to your older child’s routine as much as possible. This seems completely impossible with a newborn, especially if you already have multiple children at home. What helped me is getting a poster board and literally writing down what my older kids could do every hour on the hour. We had our 3rd son the day summer started so we were making a summer and new baby routine which was overwhelming. Once I wrote down the activities that they could do and our daily schedule it really helped alleviate all the anxiety and “I’m bored”moments that plagued us those first few days. Plus, kids like to know what’s next and what is coming up in their day…..that’s how it is in school….so this helps them feel more comfortable and causes them less change.
5) Plan some family time. Even if it’s a simple board game or some play time on the floor while you pump, this time is very important. The days fly by with a newborn and before you know it a whole month has passed and the family hasn’t done one thing together in that time. Kids thrive on uninterrupted attention and need this time with mom and dad. Even if you have to call grandma to watch the baby for a couple of hours while you play in the living room…it’s well worth it.
6) Allow them to help whenever you can. Kids of all ages can fetch diapers, wet wipes, put the bottles away, sing to baby etc. It may seem small but allowing the older siblings to help really makes them proud and involved. Plus, it gives you a break from having to get off the couch every 4 seconds for something. Toddlers and any young child has tons of energy just begging to be ran off so fetching the diapers all day really does help….sounds crazy I know!
7) Finally, remember that these things take time and nothing is ever smooth sailing. However, keep your chin up because your child/children will adjust in no time and you’ll hardly remember the days before your newest addition was born. Having a newborn is hard work so don’t beat yourself up when you realize a whole day has gone by and you barely remember kissing your toddler good morning. It happens and you can have fun making up for it the next day. Keep your chin up momma and you’ll always be a hero in your childs’ eyes no matter how your days unfold.