Introducing a New Baby
By Jennifer Seawell, MD, FAAP
Few things are more exciting than the introduction of a new baby into a family. Our hearts and minds fill with images of our children playing together happily. We imagine the sounds of laughter filling the house and heartwarming family pictures. But we also worry about how our older children will adjust and what behavioral issues will sneak into our lives.
Luckily, our older kiddos are pretty resilient and there are many things that we can do to help them with the transition.
There is enough love for all of a mother’s children
My eldest daughter was 5 when we discovered we were adding a new baby to our family. We knew she wanted a sibling and she was super excited about the news. But as my pregnancy progressed, there were moments where I’d catch her usually glowing smile replaced by uncertainty.
One day while we were looking through baby stuff at Walmart, I looked over and saw that look on her face… you know the one… sadness, confusion, self-doubt. When I asked her what was wrong, she looked up and me and shared that she was worried I wouldn’t be able to love her as much when the new baby came. And that I’d be so busy taking care of the new baby, that I wouldn’t have time to take care of her too. Talk about a sharp kick-in-the-stomach.
But it was also a beautiful moment to understand where our older children may be when we bring a new child into the mix. Because my daughter was older, she was able to vocalize her greatest fear. But we need to understand that our younger littles may have the same fears and be unable to clearly put those fears into words for us.
A mother’s heart grows while the baby is growing to make sure there is plenty of love to go around. So when you see my belly growing, you know my heart is growing too.
These are the words I shared with my daughter on the day that she shared her darkest worries. And I watched as the relief flooded her face.
We can help our older kids be part of the process
Your older kids may enjoy helping to get things ready for the new baby. And although we may not go along with their top name choices, (my daughter wanted to name her sibling Harry Potter if it was a boy) they may be able to help out with other important selections. Ideas to consider…
- Pick your two favorite nursery decor ideas and ask your older kiddos to help choose which one to go with.
- Let them help pick out a special toy for the new baby and let them get a matching one if that’s what they’re into.
- Help your older kids create artwork for the baby’s room. You can get a pack of 3 8×10 blank canvas panels at Walmart for $3. Draw a simple design in pencil and let your littles go to town with some acrylic paints. When they’re done, do the outlines with black paint and let it dry. If you make several different pictures you can create a really neat art section. Imperfection preferred. 🙂
- Let your older children pick out a special outfit for the new baby to come home from the hospital in.
We can be honest with our kids on what to expect
Change is scary. And a new baby is a BIG change. Mom going to the hospital can be scary for your older littles. In many cases, going to the hospital to have a baby may be the first time our older children are separated overnight from us. But we can let them know what to expect and make it less scary.
- If the older kids will be visiting you in the hospital, make sure to tell them about all the stuff that goes along with a hospital setting. Contraction monitors, pulse ox monitors, blood pressure… all these things make noise. IV poles connect tubes of fluid to mom. There are wires everywhere. Add a tired uncomfortable new mom into the mix and it’s not surprising that seeing mom in the hospital can be a tad bit scary, especially for toddlers. Let your littles know beforehand that these things are going to be there. Show them pictures of what a hospital looks like.
- If your littles are going to be with you during the course of active labor, let them know that you are going to be uncomfortable and may be in pain. The sight of mom in pain can be very overwhelming particularly for young children. Consider having them stay with friends or family during your labor if you know that this is going to be an issue.
- Make sure your older kids know that you are going to be sore for a bit after the baby comes. And although snuggles are appreciated and very wanted, you will need them to help you by being gentle. Even if you don’t think your older children are going to really understand, tell them anyway.
We can keep our older children involved at home
Our kids love showing us how big they are. And bringing home a new baby means an automatic promotion for them. So involve them to the extent that they want to be involved. Diaper fetcher, paci gatherer, clothing picker-outer…. Help them to be involved. If they’re not into helping with the baby though, don’t force the issue. Keep giving lots of love and snuggles.. They will come around.
We can help foster their relationship
Once you are home from the hospital and settled into a routine, make sure to keep setting good boundaries and expectations. Remember to notice when your older children are doing things you want them to repeat. So often, we are so grateful that things are going smoothly, we don’t remember to point out the good things and instead focus on redirecting the bad stuff. So make an effort each day to notice and comment on several things your mini is doing well. You will be amazed at the result.
Your older kiddos are still your baby too
Sometimes when you bring home a new baby, your older child is not ready to give up his/her role as the baby of the family. And although growing up happens to the best of us, we can reassure them that no matter how big they get, they’ll still be our babies. And that although they may have gained a new roll in the family, their overall role has stayed the same.
So welcome to the world of parenting more than one kid. Enjoy the journey and laugh a lot. And if behavior issues crop up that you’re not sure how to handle, make sure to chat with your pediatrician. There are so many things we can do as parents to help our kids along in this process!