Friday, July 11, 2008

To Welcome a New Sibling

I just recently became aware of how potentially crazy the arrival of our third child will be in just a few weeks. While his nursery is all set up, his clothes washed, and his Fuzzi Bunz arranged neatly on the shelf, the emotional stability of my other children may be in jeopardy!

While having friends over the other day, I plucked up their 6-mos-old and snuggled him, completely unaware of the stress I was causing our precious T-baby, 2 in August. I looked down to find him in full tears, saying "No Mommy, no baby." Oh no! I quickly passed off the infant and scooped T into my arms, consoling him as best I could. The situation soon passed and all was well.

But how could I really console when I knew that the scenario we just encountered was soon to be our daily reality. We are gearing up to welcome our third son in early August. M will be 3.5 and T will be 2 when Baby J arrives, fresh out of the womb. I can already see T crawling all over me, demanding attention especially while I'm nursing... I can also imagine the subsequent tantrums. Lord, help me!

I know I'm not the first parent to encounter such issues; to weather the changes a baby brings to a family; to endure the jealousy that little ones might harbor toward a new addition. In fielding some advice from friends, I received two gems of wisdom. The first was to prepare for the baby by having the children buy a gift for the little one to welcome him/her. Likewise, the baby could also have gifts for the kids when he/she arrives home from the hospital. The second was to always relinquish attention to the older child. If T and the baby need me at the same time, always refer to T so as not to encourage jealousy between the two. Excellent advice.

Now, all of you seasoned mothers of many out there, have any nuggets to add? I am desperately nervous about this transition and want to do all I can to prepare for it as best as possible! Thanks and blessings!


Anonymous said...

I do agree with the gift giving advice you were given. I did that myself when bringing home #2,3,and 4. As far as always deferring to the elder sibling...hmmmmm. That may be good to a point, however, it may be impossible as well as impractical in some situations (e.g. when you're in the middle of changing a messy diaper). Elder sibs also need to learn that everyone has a place in the family, even a new baby. IMHO, constant deferrence given to sibs over baby will give them the idea that they are more important than baby and who knows what can of worms that will lead to. The hard part of parenting is trying to think ahead to how current actions will later play out with the ripple effect.

I would suggest including the older sibs in the baby care. They can fetch a diaper for you, they can hand you the wipes, tuck a blanket around him/her, fetch your water bottle, etc. etc.

Also, remember that most of the time what worries us the most never comes to fruition.

Best of luck and Blessings.

4ddintx said...

My best advice is to find ways to tend to both the baby and the sibling at the same time.

For example, you need to nurse the baby so ask the sibling to go get a book for you to read to him while you snuggle both kids.

That has been a cherished tradition with us.

Don't discount the fact that they'll both fall in love with the baby and that changes things, too--holding someone else's 6 month old is very different from you holding THEIR helpless newborn. Always find ways for them to hold the baby each day. That helps, too!

Many blessings...

Elizabeth M said...

I have concerns about the "always deferring" too. At 2, toddlers are so self-centric anyway (they have little choice developmentally). It seems that always deferring to him will push his sense of the baby's importance too far behind his. Yes, it's a balancing act. But he needs most of all to know that the baby does not take you away from him all the time or that he/she does not take away your love. When baby is fed, dry, and in a safe location, make sure you show both of your other children that you have time for them. It pulls on your time and energy, yes, but it will help.

Emphasize that they can do things with you that Baby can't yet (color, PlayDoh, blocks -- anything). Point out all the "big kid" stuff they get to do that Baby can't yet. I found this helps them separate and then, eventually, start to realize that Baby needs more help because she/he is NOT a big kid.

I agree too with letting the siblings help when it's feasible. That makes them feel a part of it (rather than pushed aside) and reassures them that you are all part of the family together.

I think the fact that you are aware of it ahead of time is a good thing, but try not to worry too much. As it gets closer, you'll need to let them know that you'll be away when the baby comes (if you're in a hospital) and assure them that they'll come to visit, tell them who'll stay with them, etc.

It couldn't hurt to get a baby doll ahead of time so they can think about how a baby might look and then they can take care of his/their baby.

Bethany said...

It's funny this topic comes up now. When my third child was born my others were a bit older, "The Boy" was almost 6 and "The Peanut" was almost 2 1/2. I never really had any of the jealousy from them when "Sweetpea" was born. However, now that "Sweetpea" is 1 I have noticed her getting jealous when I have one of the other two in my arms or on my lap. Which makes me wonder if she will be the jealous one when number 4 blesses our household in the future. Or will she pick up on cues from her brothers.

B-Mama said...

Great insight on deferring to older siblings piece of advice. I agree, balancing attention to ALL will be the real trick... Wonderful wonderful. Thanks.

I think we are also going to have to get a baby doll for the kids to start practicing. Sadly, we have none to speak of in this male-dominated home! The one we had awhile ago NEVER received any attention (was brand-new), so I gave it away to a little girl expecting her first brother. Hopefully things will be different this time around! :)

One additional tidbit is that the boys are obsessed with kittens and mama cats. I may look for some stuffed mama cats with nursing kittens to give to them to encourage more conversation about mothers and babies, nursing, etc.

Right Said Red said...

I definitely disagree with the advice to defer to the elder child. T-baby has a difficult transition ahead, but at the age of 2 it will be very good for him to have his world rocked and learn that he is not the center of the universe! Sorry T-baby!

I think the easiest way to make the transition initially is to have plenty of extra hands around for help the first few weeks. Attention from Grandma or Dad can make all the difference those first few weeks. Since hubby will have just finished taking the bar exam, T-baby will have plenty of time with him before he starts his job this fall--that's a GREAT thing!

You will definitely have some tantrums, and some difficult days, but it will get easier! It just takes some time for older siblings to adjust, but after about 3 months they will have forgotten what life is like without a nursing mother and baby brother. And eventually, it will actually be easier to have the 3 because they will all bring each other so much joy!

In addition, I think the suggestion to have the boys buy a toy for the new baby is GREAT! I would also suggest that they receive big brother toys.

Right Said Red said...

Oh, and I love the photo! You look GREAT!

Anonymous said...

Cake! When our third was born, the big siblings made a birthday cake while I was at the hospital and brought it in. We sang happy birthday to the new baby and then enjoyed some cake. Let them decorate it themselves with whoever's taking care of them while you're at the hospital.

Personally, I would have them make something for the baby - drawings to put in the room, or decorate a onesie for J to wear or a blankie. He's not going to be interested in toys at the beginning, and the process of making something is more involved than just buying something. I do think that much-coveted big brother gifts from the new baby at the hospital are great, though.

Also, when the boys come to the hospital, I would put the baby in the bassinet and make sure you're not holding it when they arrive. It's a small thing, but to be able to great them with open arms and not have the baby in hand could be helpful...I agree that meeting the older kids' needs before the baby's is not always the best idea, but for that one moment in the hospital, I think it's a good plan to not be holding the baby.

Hope some of this is helpful!

texas mommy said...

Thanks for asking this questions, B-Mama! If I'm coherent enough (unlikely!), I'll pass on any insights gained from making this transition a week or two earlier. I think the temperament of the child affects how they will react...I anticipate that Jack-Jack will have a much more difficult adjustment than Dash did. We'll see!

Gail said...

Similar to what you were saying about getting them a baby doll, one new toy my oldest got around the time number two came along was an all plastic Pooh Bear that came with a bath tub. When I was bathing the baby, my daughter would be next to me doing all the same things with her Pooh bear. I don't know if they make that particular toy anymore, but it was a great one.
I agree with the other commentators about having the big sibs help out with the baby, fetching diapers and the like. And holding the baby. Sometimes we do let the baby cry for a few extra minutes than we'd really like so that we can finish up what we're doing with the big kids first.

Erin said...

Hi there. I had all these feelings when I brought my sweet Emma home and Angelica was only 18 months old. But she was a "big helper" by getting things when I needed them. I always let her gice the baby lots of kisses. We found a really neat time that eased transition was when I would nurse the baby (which Angel wasn't too sure about becuase she had also only stopped at 16 months) was to read her a story at the same time....worked really well!! My mom also got her a "big sister" present and she felt special during the baby excitement too...I remember the first 3 months being the hardest....good luck and I will be keeping you in my prayers!

Wendy from Zoom said...

Whenever we have a new baby (we have 6 kids so far, mostly 18 to 24 months apart), the new baby is the "special baby" of the previous youngest. They get to help with the baby in special ways. They are the ones who get to hold and touch their special baby first.

We keep the emphasis on the idea that the baby is OUR baby, a gift to the family. We start while pregnant with "when your special baby comes out..." We also talk a lot about the other kids babyhoods and do lots of playing baby.

Definitely having the kids make gifts is great! If they make cards and pictures, you can save them in the baby book.

Anonymous said...

How the older "baby" would react caused me real anxiety, but each time it worked out well. And nothing prepared me how much siblings love each other--a love independent of the parents. When my daughter was just 2, my son was born. She was still nursing and I really wondered if she would freak out to see her newborn brother nursing. But the first time she wanted to nurse with me in the hospital, I took both of them in my arms, said a prayer, and nursed them both. She stopped after a moment, smiled, and said, "Oh, Mama, TWO babies!" We had our moments of struggle after that, but she immediately grasped, much to my delight and amazement, that her brother had dibs on nursing and she was to wait. I couldn't believe how patient she was. And now they are the dearest pals, 4 and 6. God bless you lovely mothers. I wish I were expecting another little one. What joy there would be in this home! It all goes too quickly.

Anonymous said...

My 2 year-old refers to the new baby as "MY baby N." She doesn't like the older kids in my lap, but isn't jealous of the new one.

I agree to read to the older ones when nursing the baby and to give the next older one a baby doll before the baby is born (some of my kids have taken to the doll more than others).

We've always been able to take the crib and changing table down at least 6 months before the next baby came, and move the previous baby out of the nursery at least 3 months before the baby came.

In our house, everyone but the youngest gets a turn being the only kid going on an errand with Daddy. We look for other promotion opportunities and also mention how many naps babies take (mine give up naps early, so none have been napping when the sibling came) and all the foods babies can't eat.

As soon as we know there will be a new baby, we decide what skills and chores we want each child to master before the new sibling comes and start working on them without mentioning why. We don't add any new ones the month before the baby comes.

Show lots of pictures of when the previous children were babies. Take pictures of the children interacting with the baby.

Be very careful about what books about new babies you read. Some seem written to instill jealousy. Others (Spot's Baby Sister, and a Franklin the Turtle book), just get hopelessly confused between animal and human realities)

I really like
1) The Baby House, recommended by Amy Welborn

2) I'm a Big Brother/Sister by Joanna Cole [emphasizes all the things the baby can't do yet]

3) What Baby Wants by Phyllis Root (it's the next oldest child who figures out how to make the baby stop crying)

4)Just Me and My Little Brother by Mercer Mayer. (all the things they'll do when the baby gets a little bigger)

5) Angel in the Waters by Regina Doman is beautiful and wonderful, but I don't think any pregnant woman could read it without crying : )

6) How Babies are Made - an Usborne Flip-Flap book. I was somewhat dubious when my consulant recommended it, but she said kids don't go on to ask more detailed questions and that has been my experience. Definitely something to preread and aimed at elementary school age kids.

Juris Mater said...

Almost-2-yr-old Bean (who, like T, REALLY appeared to love being "the baby") completely freaked out for about a week when Angelina was born a couple months ago. Then suddenly and painlessly he was a changed man: he's come into his own so beautifully, not being the baby anymore. He's become more affectionate, talkative, responsible, obedient, and helpful than I ever could have trained him to be without the addition of Angelina to our family. I think you have a lot to look forward to, B-mama.

Everyone's advice is so good, and I'll add one thing that MaryAlice told me that worked wonderfully for Bean. Encourage T and M to show the new baby their toys and the things they love to do, and have the new baby sit on your lap or hold him up so he can "watch". If he moves or coos, tell T and M he must be really excited to join them as soon as he's big enough. And ask T and M what they'll play with him when he gets big enough to join their play. Bean adores trains, as I know your boys do, and it means the world to him when Angelina and I just sit there quietly and watch him play trains, and he gets to show off to Angelina.

Just tonight, Bean was saying over and over, "Hi sweetie. I wanna see the sweetie. She's so cute." He wants to know where Angelina is all the time, he's proud of her and adores her.

B-Mama said...

I just can't tell you how much all of these thoughts warmed my heart... You've all made me MUCH more hopeful about our coming months with three babes in the home! Thank you many times over! I'm going to try to implement so many of your suggestions in the little time left!! Mary, Mother of Mercy, pray for us! ;) God bless!

CJ said...

We found that welcoming #3 and #4 was much smoother than bringing home #2, because our younger children had never had my undivided attention to begin with, as #1 had. So take heart -- this baby might just ease right into your family. My sons were much more affectionate with their own baby brothers, and much more tolerant of my holding them, than they were with other people's babies.

A tip I picked up from a more experienced mother when my second son was tiny: when the baby is sleeping deeply enough to be laid down, say something in the toddler's earshot like, "Baby, it's time for you to lie down and take a nap now. Your big brother and I need to sit down and read a book [or whatever else], just the two of us. You stay here and sleep." This sends the message to the toddler that his need for you does still matter to you, that he can still be your top priority sometimes.

It can backfire if you try it before the baby is well and truly asleep, though, so be advised. :-)

AWOL Mommy said...

Nursing is so great. I just had a moment with my fatty little 6 mo. old man today -- you know what I mean: the pulsating throat, grateful little eyes, grabbing chubby hands, and deep swallowing sounds. You are going to love it all over again!. I think we have a tendency to get wrapped up in how difficult the logistics of nursing with other little ones running around is and forget the shear beauty of the whole thing. Also, I have a phrase around here that is very easily understood by my 3.5 yr old. When she needs me to do something and little brother is nursing I just say "V., I am attached right now, I can't do that just yet." Although it conjures up images of a fire hose being attached to a hydrant, I think the very visual nature of it helps her and she usually wanders off to do something else and wait until I am free.

AR's & J's mama said...


I didn't read all the responses, so this may have already been suggested. The thing that helped the most for my daughter (who was 19 months old when we brought J home) was that my husband really increased his time with her. He was home for a week, and while he tended to me and the baby, he really tended to my daughter, and she really liked that daddy was home during the day to play with her. We also used the baby doll approach (easier since she is a girl) and she really took to taking care of her "baby". Your family is in our prayers and we can't wait to "meet" the newest member of your family! a.

Joanne said...

In January I brought home a baby to my 2.5 year old and I was really worried, as he is on the autism spectrum and isn't a great communicator. I didn't have him come and see me at the hospital, since I didn't know how I'd get him to leave me there. A friend of mine told me that if he did come to the hospital, I should try and look as normal as possible (i.e., sitting in a chair, maybe not holding the baby right then). I was so worried but I kept thinking that my Mom brought home four kids in five years and we must have all been okay about it!

I think it's a good idea to defer to the older child in times of stress - that is, if both kids are crying and need you, go to the older child first, because he is the one that will see who you go to first.

It's been six months and we are doing fine, even with our limited communication. We always refer to the baby as 'OUR' baby and my son seems to really love her, and always has. I'm so happy it's gone so well because it really is a beautiful thing to behold, and now I'm sorry I worried so much about it.