But how do you introduce a new baby to the first born? And how do you make sure it's an easy transition? How do you avoid sibling rivalry? How can you guarantee that they will be best friends and not hate each other?
I believe these are the million dollar questions, and sorry to say but not really an easy answer. Sooo much goes into how siblings will interact, from temperaments, and different personalities, to the overall home environment.
Do any seasoned moms out there have any advice?
I obviously don't have personal experience, but there are a few good tips out there (from several sources as well as babycenter.com and about.com) as well as some books, including my favorite authors, Faber and Mazlish.
While you are Pregnant:
Telling your child you are pregnant: Young children have trouble understanding time, so it's best to say the baby will arrive when the weather gets warm or cold, or around a holiday. I personally have been pointing to my belly and telling my toddler there is a baby in there and she will be coming out soon to meet her big sister! (Of course she doesn't really get it, but at least we are talking about it :)
Remind her she used to be a baby: As you are setting up the new nursery, get out the old baby clothes and tell them they used to wear them, like their new sibling will and be sure to pull out photo albums from when your little one was an infant and talk about the new baby. Talk about what a cute baby she was and how much fun it will be to have another little one in the house.
Expect some crankiness: For older children, it will really be evident and will be perfectally normal for your child to have different feelings about the new baby day by day (or hour by hour). As mommy’s lap begins to get smaller and she can’t bend and pick up an older child, she may be angry as she feels like her life is being changed. No matter how your child reacts it’s important for you to listen carefully and not make your child feel badly if she’s not acting especially warm-hearted to the idea of a new baby.
Don’t Rush Milestones!: This is a big one. Trying to teach them to potty train? Thinking about moving over to a big-boy/girl bed? You may want to hold off for a little while. Children regress big time after a new sibling is born, potty training goes out the window and thumb sucking can begin. Also, you don’t want your little one to feel displaced because the new baby needs his crib. (But usually newborns sleep in the parent's room the first few months so keep that in mind when planning.) Once the mother has entered the third trimester, it’s a good idea to hold off on introducing any new major aspects to your child's life.
Keep Some Focus on the Big Sibling: Since toddlers are really focused on themselves, feed their little egos by talking about what a great big sibling they are going to be and how the family is going to need their help. A good idea for younger preschoolers, try purchasing a baby doll similar in size to a newborn. Let your little one practice holding, changing and feeding her “baby.” Treat it as close to the real thing as realistically possible, taking it for walks in the stroller and even placing it in a car seat as the due date nears.
Getting a Doll: Purchase a baby doll (yes for boys too), and show them how to change the diaper, burp them, put them to sleep, push in a stroller, etc. That way they can see what you will be doing once the baby comes AND they can practice too and learn to take care of their new sibling, NOT that they will be the ones taking care of them, but so they can learn to be nurturing and caring towards the new baby.
Books to Prepare: What to Expect When Mommy is Having a Baby by Heidi Murkoff and Laura Rader (HarperFestival, 2004) and The New Baby by Mercer Mayer (Random House, 2001) as well as I'm a Big Sister and Big Brother:
After the Birth:
Visitor #1: Let your child be the first member of the family to meet the baby, as close to its birth as possible! And keep the meeting private. One friend of mine recommended having someone else hold the baby when your child enters the room, that way they don't see you with the new baby first. Have the family member bring the baby to you and hold her/him and then introduce them to your older child. The first time your preschooler sets eyes on a new sibling, could be overwhelming emotionally for them, so it’s important that you stay in tune with what he’s feeling.
Celebrate! (with Presents): Be sure to let you preschooler pick out a gift to give to her new baby brother or sister and have the new baby “bring” a present to your little one. While you are at the hospital, after the baby has been born, it’s likely the new addition will get lots of gifts from well-wishers. This could be hard for your preschooler, so you may want to stock up on little items like coloring books, crayons, stickers and small trinkets to bring out.
Caring for the newborn: Make sure that while you are sleep deprived, you are still the primary caregiver of the newborn. Having your older child step in and do little chores for the baby could be too much for them. They may start to feel responsible for the baby and feel stress that they are not doing a good job, or that something may happen to the baby. Also, for older kids, taking on too much caregiving is called Parentification, and the child becomes the parent, and feels responsible for them and could lead to later resentment.
Mommy and Me time: If you can, try to plan some alone time activities with just you and your older child. Sign up for a mommy and me class for just the two of you. And try to enlist family or a babysitter to watch the baby so you can make sure your first born has some special time with you.
Then what? What about the sibling rivalry? Well, that will have to be for another post, but the best book out there that I get my advice from is by Faber and Mazlish, Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too
Okay seasoned moms, advice for those moms having a second child??