Thursday, April 19, 2012
The Second Time Around: Are you prepared for your next baby?
Bringing a new baby into the house for the second time is a big milestone for you — and your firstborn. Margaret Saunders tells us how to make the first weeks home easier on everyone.
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You’ve been down the newborn path before so you’ve probably got the basic moves down: You can breastfeed one-handed, diaper blindfolded, and snap up a Onesie in two seconds flat — plus your hips are on auto-rock.
But juggling your newborn’s needs with those of your equally demanding toddler (or preschooler) is a whole new ball game. Sooner or later (and it’s going to be sooner) you’ll face a tot who wants to be cuddled at the very same moment her baby brother needs to be nursed.
Or there’ll be a boo-boo that must be kissed “now!”— as in just when you’re up to your elbows in a spectacularly soupy diaper. While you can’t grow an extra pair of arms (though you’ll often wish you could), there are ways to help smooth your senior sib’s transition from only child to eldest child.
Put yourself in your firstborn’s shoes.
A little perspective goes a long way in helping you understand your older child’s baby ambivalence. Imagine, for a moment, how you would feel if your husband walked in the front door with another woman, and cheerfully announced (fully expecting you to be happy about it): “Look, honey — this is our new wife! We’re all going to live together, and be happy together…and by the way, isn’t she cute?” Well, it’s the same thing for your firstborn when you step in the door with a new baby — understand that, and you’ll be better able to empathize. Something else it’ll help to keep in mind: Your firstborn may be older, but she’s still very young. Despite her new designation as big sib, she can be expected to act her age (and when she understandably regresses, even younger).
Deputize and defuse.
Turn your firstborn into a Big Helper — a full-fledged member of Team Baby — and she’s likely to feel less threatened by the competition. Show her how to handle the baby gently and show him some love without hurting him. Lessons to include: how to kiss without smothering, hug without squeezing, and hold him in her lap while supporting his floppy head. When (and if) she wants to play with him, have her hold out a finger for baby bro to squeeze, or shake a rattle softly while he watches. Explain that babies like quiet sounds and songs better than loud ones and that they totally love to look at faces (especially hers!). If she’s clamoring to take on baby-care duties she’s not quite ready for — like burping, bathing, and diapering — give her a doll to practice on (and fully control). Around the house, look for age-appropriate tasks that’ll make her feel competent and proud — little kids make expert fetchers of indispensables like diapers, washcloths, and teddy bears. More ways to give her self-esteem a big-sister boost: Put her in charge of picking her little sib’s outfit, choosing which lullaby is on deck at baby’s bedtime, and making sure everyone uses their whisper voices when he’s napping.
Resist that regression.
Even a long-weaned tot may get a yen to suckle once she sees you feeding your newborn. Instead of chiding “That’s for babies!” (after all, it’s the baby who’s getting all your lap time), offer her a big-girl drink in a nifty new cup, and let her snuggle close to you while she drinks it (just like the baby). If she’s already toilet-trained, don’t let that cute backside backslide into diapers — but do be extra understanding and patient when accidents happen (and they likely will — as much a sign of stress as a cry for attention). Reassure her that she’s still your baby, too, by stepping up the cuddling she’s craving more than ever (and needs just as much as the baby does) — while pointing out also, “I love my big girl!” When she needs to act like a baby (baby talking, crawling, fake crying), let her — she’ll get it out of her system faster.
Accentuate the positives.
While you shouldn’t make a fuss about baby behavior, you should pile on the praise when your older child acts her age. You’ll reinforce good behavior by rewarding her with hugs and compliments when she shows patience (waiting without wailing while you change a diaper), cooperativeness (handing you that diaper instead of winging it at the wall), empathy (“The baby’s crying, Mommy. Maybe he’s hungry”). And play up the perks of being the big kid on campus, too, by pointing out all the cool things she gets to do that her baby sibling can’t — like talk to Grandma on the phone, go down the slide at the playground, blow out birthday candles (and eat a piece of cake).
Satisfy her curiosity. Why do babies cry so much? Why do they need so much sleep? Why do they eat — and poop! — so often? Your firstborn is likely to have all kinds of questions about the new baby (including, perhaps, when he’s going back to where he came from). Here’s your chance to capitalize on some profoundly teachable moments. Use simple language to explain why a newborn does what a newborn does, and use bath-time and diaper changes to talk about those teeny-tiny body parts. (“The baby’s belly button looks pretty funny now, but someday it’ll be as perfect as yours!”) Reading picture books together about new babies — and older siblings — will help clear up some of those mysteries, too, while easing the adjustment (it always helps to know you’re not the only one). One to try: What to Expect When the New Baby Sibling Comes Home.
Build in one-on-one time.
Babies need a lot of care, true — but they’re generally not too picky about who provides that care. Your older one, on the other hand, is picky and — no surprise — she picks you. Making sure you build some one-on-one time into every day will reassure your firstborn that you love her just as much as you always did and just as much as the new kid on the block. Make a collage together when the baby naps or let her go solo with you as you run errands (while Dad gets in some baby-bonding time). Suggest your spouse schedule special big-kid-and-Dad activities also, like whipping up weekend waffles or heading out to the movies or the park.
Those endless feeding sessions will be easier for your older little one to cope with if she’s not on the outside looking in. Invite her to cuddle up beside you for a story or a quiet game while baby feeds.
Give a gift (or two).
No doubt there’ll be awesome baby gifts arriving by the truckload, which can be pretty rough for a tot who’s sitting on the sidelines, watching the loot accumulate. So once in a while, surprise your older child with a big-kid present you happen to have at the ready. Nothing fancy — just a little something that says “being a big sib rocks,” like a new set of markers and a giant pad, a coloring book, a book or puzzle, even a sheet of stickers. When friends arrive with (yet another) giant box for the baby, let your tot unwrap it for him (what a good helper she is!). If it’s an item that your newborn is too little to use (like a doggie pull-toy or set of blocks) let your big kid (gently) break it in. And encourage your older child to make her own gift for the baby — a pretty picture, for example, that can hang next to the crib or changing table.
Reestablish old routines. Don’t feel guilty about sending your firstborn back to day care or preschool when you’re home with baby number two. Sure, your older child will likely protest what she perceives as exile, but the comfortable predictability of that pre-baby routine may be just what she needs. (Plus, those few hours when she’s out of the house are a chance for you to bond with your newborn — and maybe even take a shower.) If you had a babysitter come by on a regular basis, continue with that too. Your older child will eat up the one-on-one attention and the reminder that life with a new sibling isn’t so different after all.
Don’t push the sibling bond.
One minute your oldest will be in love with the baby — the next, she’ll want nothing to do with him. That’s partly due to her understandably mixed feelings, partly due to her fleeting attention span, partly because the baby’s not a whole lot of fun to play with yet — and partly because unlike her mom, she isn’t hardwired to adore the baby around the clock…or even like him all the time. The sibling relationship evolves over years, not days, so if she turns down your invite to a group cuddle session or couldn’t care less about your newborn’s newest trick, don’t push it. Give her time to grow into her new role.
Posted by Chantel Presents at 3:30 PM