After the post: Se7en things I Never Thought About Before Having a Baby… I got a heap of comments of folk asking me “What about siblings?” And since we have a few siblings I thought I would write about our experiences…
I do want to mention that this is what works for our family. Take what you like and use it. Please leave the rest behind you!
- How will I ever love this new baby as much as the first one?
Amazingly enough you will! When you have your first baby you cannot imagine that you could love anything quite as much – ever again. And we also think that the next baby will be some variation of the first one and we love the first one just as it is so we could never love a variation. Here’s the thing: The next baby and all the ones that follow are their own unique selves and you love them totally for who they are. You love them all completely and you love them all uniquely. You won’t believe me on this one, but ask any mother with more than one child if this is true and if they worried wether they would love the next one enough. I think it is one of those universal inherited fears – like snakes!!!
- How do I make sure that my relationship with my firstborn doesn’t change?
It will change, you are changing the whole family dynamic and everyone’s relationship will change and how you all fit together will change. And it will take a little time for everyone to adjust. Change isn’t necessarily bad, just a bit terrifying! Now here is the thing: Your first born is the most beautiful teeny tiny baby in the whole world. If they do something wrong no amount of excuses will do: it’s okay they are tired, they need a snack or whatever. Your new baby will arrive (you know the one that you won’t be able to love enough!) and it will be your teeny tiny baby – your toddler will seem monstrously huge… their little hands will suddenly seem gigantic compared to the baby – trust me this always gets me! And shockingly enough the excuses that worked in your mind for your toddler will just kind of dry up! And this will be a bit of a shocker for both of you. The first time I had a newborn and a toddler I was appalled that I was no longer quite so tolerant of all those little annoyances from my firstborn. And this happened overnight – no gradual change here… baby born and boom. In fact I found myself annoyed when my, until hours before, perfect toddler suddenly appeared to be somewhat irritating! You will love the next one but your love for the first one will change – trust me it is just a new phase in your relationship. Your relationship won’t be marred for life. Don’t be terrified (even though I was!) because your relationship with your child is going to change as they grow up and you aren’t loving them any less but you do love them differently. Most relationship changes happen slowly and we don’t notice them, I think it is the suddenness of this change that knocked me for a loop. That being said, I certainly didn’t stop loving them totally and completely! I think it just maybe one of the first steps in the long line and millions of steps it takes to a growing a well-rounded adult person.
- How can I prepare my first child for the next one?
This is all about marketing and there will be a lot of well meaning adults around you saying to your child:
“Oh shame, you are going to have to share all your toys now.”
“Oh shame, your mom is going to be so busy with a new baby now.”
“You are going to have a new friend to play with now.”
In fact a whole lot of “Oh shame’s” will flow and no wonder the poor kid won’t be too keen on the whole idea. We sell it to them right from the start. We are going to have a new baby and its going to be wonderful. You will have the opportunity to teach it all your tricks, you will be able to love it and share with it. I don’t know why sharing is seen as such a negative thing. I love sharing things with people I love and so should my kids. I don’t spend my life saying: “Now children – do share,”
but when I share something with them I will say: “Isn’t it fun to share this snack together,””Isn’t it fun to share this blanket while we are reading together.” Really I don’t know why sharing is sold to kids in such a bad light, except maybe that the adults don’t like to share. Otherwise, the new mom will be busy with the baby but most likely the whole family will be consumed with the new baby and just like cooking and cleaning if you involve your toddler they are all for it. And finally, the playmate – hahahaha – they are not getting a new playmate – have you ever seen a newborn… they are not that playful folks! They like to be held, they like to nurse and they like to sleep. The advantage of that is that newborns are not born able to crawl around and fiddle with the toddlers stuff. In fact that doesn’t happen for quite a while and when it does happen it happens incrementally, which kind of lessens the blow.
- How can I involve my toddler with the new baby?
Give your toddler a very important job to do. Toddlers are earnest and serious about helping – don’t mess with that by giving them a job that is too much responsibility or a job that is too difficult for them. No, holding baby wipes while you change a nappy/diaper is not a good job – it’s a useless job and any toddler will see through it straight away. Along with all the other jobs people will suggest for your firstborn. Knowing that I will be spending a lot of time nursing and knowing a new baby will need to nurse at the drop of a hat. Our very important job is to teach our toddlers that when the baby cries, grimaces, gurgles whatever (and they will be watching the new baby very closely!) they must tell you immediately that the baby needs to nurse. That way they have told themselves that you are about to nurse and they have gone a long way to ensuring that the new baby gets the comfort it needs. Your baby may not need to nurse: it may be cold or need a fresh diaper or whatever… you obviously assess that! But your toddler has a very important job that will often get visitors out the way, folk off the phone and so on – so that you can actually tend to your baby. The other very important job you can give your toddler is let it open all the baby gifts – many adult gift givers will say “no, its for the baby” – pretty dumb!!!, I have never seen a newborn baby open gifts. But it is a job your toddler can do to help the baby and they will enjoy finding surprises for the baby! Everyone wins.
- What do I do with my toddler while I am busy with the baby?
Good question, I never gave this one a thought! Oh what mayhem! When you are settled in your favorite chair and you and your new baby are snuggled in for a good long nurse – you absolutely cannot have your toddler roaming the home especially the kitchen unattended – they can get up to all manner of madness in moments (you know feed the goldfish an entire years supply of food all at once and then decorate the entire lounge while using a lovely shaker action with the fish food dispenser – this would never happen in my house of course – hehehe!!!). Apart from the fact that it just isn’t safe. Obviously I made this error!!! and had a toddler roaming the home every time I sat down to nurse. What I learnt was to sit where they are playing to nurse, if need be put a chair in the room where they play (I use a folding camp chair that can roam from room to room) and then shut the door with all of you on the same side of the door. After a couple of weeks your toddler will get used to you sitting in one spot, your baby will nurse more efficiently and things will get back to normal!
- How do I make sure that both children’s needs are met? How do I share my love?
Firstly, keep in mind that your toddler was very recently a baby! When the baby needs a new nappy then your toddler either needs a new nappy or a trip to the toilet (trust me everything works together now!). When your baby is hungry then your toddler needs a snack – and when folks ask how they can help you – you need snacks. Let’s say that again: You need snacks… make it a rule if someone visits and asks if you need anything. You do, you do need snacks! Moving on, if your baby is tired then your toddler probably needs some down time too! If you are still nursing your toddler (and many moms are and that’s a-whole-nother post!) then when your baby wants to nurse then your toddler who may not have nursed during the day for ages, will now need to nurse too. This mad nursing frenzy from the toddler will pass as soon as it realizes that it can nurse when it wants to. What you can do is pre-empt the needs of your baby as soon as you notice it is jiggling and meet the needs of the toddler quickly, because the needs of a baby take so much longer and trying to care for a baby with a VERY needy toddler can be exhausting. I know most books say baby first then toddler, but if you have ever tried to nurse a new baby with toddler that wants a snack hanging on you. Well you will soon realize: take a second to get the snack and then feed the baby – everyone will be happier. As for sharing the love you aren’t, they each have their own love. But if you do stuff with your toddler already and you enjoy doing things together then don’t stop those things when a new baby arrives. You will have hours sitting and nursing but you can still build towers, read books and scoot cars while nursing. You can still go for walks together, even if it is just in your own garden or to the park – everyone will feel better for the fresh air.
- How will a new baby fit into our routine, we are so busy as it is?
Whatever you do, I would not recommend changing anything in the name of the new baby! No new big kid bed (unless you do that when you are two weeks pregnant!), no removing of baby equipment that your toddler feels ownership over! What we do is we put baby stuff away as soon as our baby is finished with it (like the infant car seat) and then bring out all new and interesting for the new baby… If you absolutely have to change baby kit from one baby to the next, make sure you have a replacement item for your toddler and make sure you don’t “blame” the baby – any other excuse will do! Whatever your ancient second cousin twice removed tells you – do not suddenly toilet train your toddler because you can’t cope with two in nappies/diapers. You can, but it is very hard to chase a desperate toddler to the toilet when you have a newborn. If your toddler isn’t three or hasn’t trained themselves yet – leave it (yet another whole post!). And, no your toddler will not go to university in nappies. Worry about the things you have to! If your toddler still nurses to sleep at night then make sure that before you get ready for an hour long nurse with the newborn you let the toddler have it’s two minute nurse … you will all be happier, you and your entire neighborhood, that the toddler nursed quickly first!
Finally: Just for fun I made a list of the preparation I did for each baby as it arrives – look and learn!!! You will see how my needs changed and wisdom grew from baby to baby!
- For the first baby: I took my super fitness for granted. It was all about learning about labor and accumulating enough clothes to dress an orphanage and laundry, laundry, laundry – every sheet, every towel, every blanket, every everything!
- For the second baby: It was all about food and meals. We got a chest freezer and I slowly but surely packed it with meals the entire pregnancy! I re-read all my favorite pregnancy and birth books.
- For the third baby: It was all about preparing the older two. I put the pregnancy books next to my bed. And forgot we had a freezer!
- For the fourth baby: It was all about snacks and I never took the pregnancy books off the shelf. I sold the freezer I could use the money elsewhere and certainly could save on our electricity bill.
- For the fifth baby: It was all about fatigue I lay on my bed and read dr suess books for the last month!… I did no preparation, but this guy did weigh in at about 11 pounds. And I would have prepared newborn clothes in vain!!!
- For the sixth baby: I did a lot of walking to keep my body in shape. And don’t forget heaps of snacks.
- For the se7enth baby: I swam and swam through mid-summer and spent the last few months lurking round the pool in the effort to survive a mid-summer pregnancy… turns out I was really quite fit.
The fitter you are the easier your labour and the quicker your recovery, not to mention the easier it is to cope with an active toddler or two or three!
That’s it – really, but I should mention we always have a welcome to the world party. Just for us, new parents again, new siblings… And it is something special my kids look forward to from baby to baby. It certainly helps in the build up to the birth. We will have a party as soon as the baby arrives. It emphasizes the happiness and the celebration of the change of status for everyone!
That’s it, I am sure I can ramble on, but need to get back to life! I do have a couple of baby post ideas lined up. So if you have any questions ask away in the comments and I will get back to you.
I popped this post onto the Works For Me Wednesday Site – go and have a look there for all sorts of tips on absolutely anything.
23 Replies to “Se7en Things People Ask Me About Siblings.”
Thank you for this wonderful post! I am due in 4 weeks and my toddler will be almost 2 at that point. So I REALLY appreciate all the wonderful tips and ideas!
Hi S, Glad to help! I hope it all goes well with your new little one and wish you all the best.
Thank you so much for this post! Such great advice! I have a son and have been thinking (quite often) about having baby #2. I find myself constantly trying to figure out a good age gap between them. Any advice as far as age? Thanks again!
Hi A, I am so glad you liked the post. Sibling gaps are so personal! Lots of people say your child should be old enough to be fairly independent before you have the next one but we have really enjoyed having them close together. I certainly think it is a mind set and we always planned to have more than few kids. So even though our eldest was an only child for 19 months our mindset was that he was one of many. I think that helps them to understand that they are not the center of the universe but part of the universe and their world is less likely to crumble when a new part of the universe arrives, so to speak! Also, we make sure not to rock their world when a new arrival arrives – same bed, same play dates, same activities – not suddenly shifted off to granny for a week or school eight hours a day. Like I said, it is all marketing (!!) and you have a lot to do with how they interpret the new arrival… really I think the age group is much less important than your attitude, which little ones so often reflect.
I enjoyed this post as we recently welcomed our third baby. Our older ones have been happy and I think speaking positively as you suggest helped. I also got them presents. Yes, containment is essential when feeding!! Sitting st the table with play dough is working right now.
Congratulations Sherrin!!! What wonderful news – so excited to hear about your new babe!!! And fantastic that you found the post so helpful!!! Lots of love from the far side of the world!!!
Thank you for a great post!
I gave birth to my third babe a few weeks ago and I am tandem feeding – which is proving a big challenge to know how to satisfy both when feeding at the same time can be so hard..
It’s great to read your words of wisdom and experience. Thank you 🙂
Hi Kim, That is fantastic news, huge congratulations!!! Tandem nursing is hard, there is no easy way… but practice does help and for us it was so so worth it. Here’s a post I wrote on our Tandem Nursing journey that might help. Wishing you all the very best!!!
Thanks – that’s very good to read. How did you manage if/when your new born wanted to be held only by you, and your toddler was desperate for “mummy time” or to nurse? It’s heartbreaking for me to say “no” to either one, tho we are asking our toddler to wait at times which can be really hard for her ..
Hmmm Kim, that is a really difficult one… you cannot be two people at once. For us, our toddlers nursed really quickly and just needed the reassurance that I was totally there for them… and I was able to place the babe along side me, with my hand on them, while the older one had a quick nurse and then I would distract like crazy… when I had to sit for hours nursing a newborn and give the older child very important jobs… like could you possibly read a story to the babe? or could you possibly build a tower for the babe? Honestly your newborn couldn’t care less and shouldn’t have too… There were insane times but like all newborn things, we moms are alarming good at getting better at the insanity and coping with steep learning curves. You are three weeks in already and your newborn is half way to six weeks, it is a crazy time – but really you can let everything else go for a couple more weeks- give yourself a holiday and emerge sane if not refreshed!!! One thing you can do to help your older child, who lets face it even if they are only a year apart, are old enough to understand the importance of a newborn, I would – not while you are in the thick of a crisis raise this – but during a peaceful moment when the babe is asleep… mention all the advantages of being bigger and how they can have snacks, play and so on and they can have the very important of noticing if the babe needs you… teach them to notice the snuffle before the cry and encourage them to tell you straight away… toddlers need to know that babies need sleep and to nurse so that they can grow up and be friends. It is very important to share that when your toddler was a newborn that they got all the mommy time they needed and now it is this babies turn. Do you have photos to show of them in your arms or nursing, so they can see they were totally looked after. When I wasn’t nursing and they both needed holding a made full use of the sling and I always made a big deal about “holding all my babies” even if it was for a very short while… I hope this all helps, clearly I can ramble on about it forever… I have fond memories of this time, amidst all the chaos of many small people… and while you can’t believe it now – you will have those too. hang in there and all the best.
Thank you so much for your insightful and encouraging message.
I will mull over all of it. It’s very generous of you to share all your experience and insight!
But can you advise me on this….?
My toddler wants to nurse LOADS and spends a very long time at the breast. Luckily my newborn sleeps a lot so its possible at times. But last night my toddler woke to nurse constantly through the night – it was impossible. I am praying she will need it less and start eating more solid food again (she’s 30 months old).. Will this constant need to nurse pass and what can I do to help? Thanks in advance 🙂
Hay Kim, Again… I am guessing that she wasn’t nursing so much before your new babe was born and that it is a “there is a new baby in the house thing…” she will very quickly return to her old rhythm as her world returns to a new normal. All my toddlers increased their nursing ferociously when a new sibling arrived and as soon as they realized that the babe was really here to stay and you were still totally there for them they went back to normal. I followed the policy of don’t offer, and don’t refuse and in the day time when I had more energy I would offer interesting distractions. Tandem nursing or not, nursing toddlers do have phases of nursing insanely, it is usually related to a growth spurt or teething… I did set limits on our older nurslings and would only nurse them if I was lying down. That way if I didn’t lie down and we kept busy then they didn’t really think of it as an option… and if we were nursing then I at least was lying down and so resting. Hold your breath and keep going, you are doing a great job and things will even out.
Thanks once again for pertinent and sage advice.
I will cherish your words and keep going – with some new hope and some clearer boundaries too, I think. Lots of food for thought…
Thank you 🙂
Great Kim, Really wishing all the best… ask away if you need any help. Hope you have a fantastic day!!!