Tuesday, May 21, 2013

New Siblings, Take 2

Several readers out there have asked me, "Now that you've had your second child, did any of your new baby sibling tips work?" from my post here.  And I have to say YES, absolutely, from the reading the new sibling books tips, to introducing her to the new baby in the hospital (or at birth center/home) tips.

But for some specifics, here are the main things that really helped my older child.  And again, every child is different, some tips may be more effective or less depending on your child and their temperament:

1) Reading I'm A Big Sister really helped our daughter and reading it for almost the past year since our baby was born has been a huge help!  I always inserted my daughter's name in place of the big sister in the book, and she thought it was so fun and made it personable to her.

2) Showing tons of pictures of my daughter as a baby to her before her sister came helped as well, and showing my pregnant tummy.  I had some maternity photos done, and took some together with my daughter.  I got them developed and framed them in her room.  She loved seeing pictures of herself with me and my pregnant belly!

3) Having our daughter help put the baby clothes up in the new nursery and decorating it also helped her look forward to meeting her new baby sister.  And using her baby doll to try on the baby clothes :)

4) When our baby was born, we had her in a birth center, so we were going home in 6 hours after she was born.  I didn't have the time look all fresh and take a nap while I was there, so when my older child came in to meet her sister, I was looking kind of worn out.  I still made sure my husband (or someone else) was holding the baby, but when she saw me in a foreign bed and looking tired, she started crying!

She thought I was hurt and was scared to see me in a place that wasn't my bed.  So I highly recommend maybe wearing clothes she can recognize you in, and telling the person who is about to bring your child in to warn them that mommy will be in a different bed, and will look tired because she just had a baby.  I also recommend wearing some makeup if you normally do, and sitting up as much as possible so they don't think you are looking hurt or in pain.

She quickly recovered from seeing me looking tired, and really welcomed our new baby and we got a lot of fun pictures as a family together!

5) Another thing that helped was to bring a gift to her to open after she met the baby!  We gave her a new baby doll to dress and feed and take care of, and she really loved it!  Even little boys could benefit from a doll to care for and pretend they are 'mommy'.  Or any little gift will do.

When we got home and had visitors, most people brought my older child a present too, in addition for one for the baby, and it REALLY helped.  Not that you can ask visitors to bring a present for the older child, but we were sure happy they came prepared ;)

6) When I came home and was breastfeeding, I had her near me while I nursed and I think it helped her feel connected to us.  Plus, she really enjoyed being up in bed with me.  I also had a few special toys I brought out just for breastfeeding times so she could play with them and not feel as jealous.

But I really encouraged a lot of snuggle time with me while I was recovering in bed.  And yes, the TV was on, and it was a life saver for some mommy and Luna snuggle time in my bed while I took care of the baby next to me.  As the weeks went by, my daughter did okay and adjusted pretty normally.  She really loved hugging on her new sister and we caught her breastfeeding her baby doll a few times, so adorable!!

7) Another great tip that helped was when I was back up and on my feet, I had family care for my newborn while I took my older daughter to special play times.  Now, I know it's super hard to get away from a newborn, so I made sure I had fed her and then went on a quick 30 minute to 1 hour outing to the park, to get yogurt and to our neighborhood mall's indoor duck pond. 

8) I also spoke to our newborn baby as if she could understand me, so my toddler could feel understood.  For example, I would turn to the baby and say, "Baby Belle, mommy is going to set you down because it's your sister's turn to be held and have hugs" and then place the baby in her crib.  That way my toddler could hear me say these things to the baby, and it helped her to see that her mommy didn't neglect her once the baby was born.  She felt cared for and her feelings were validated.

Or another example, as the baby starts the pulling hair and biting stages, I would turn to the baby and say, "It's not nice to pull our sister's hair, we have to use soft touches" even though the baby was only a couple of months old and of course can't help it, it really helped my toddler feel understood by me and that I wasn't playing favorites. 

9) And the hardest part of having a new baby and a toddler?

Ha!  I'd be lying if I said it was twice as hard as having your first child, because for those of you that know, it's more like 200 times as hard :)  But the hardest part at first was that you can't leave them alone in the same room.  You can't place your baby in the swing in the living room while your toddler plays so you can run to the bathroom.  Even though your toddler may be the most well-behaved child ever, they may think they are being soft and touch (hit) your baby's head by accident.  It was a lot more work caring for them together.

So what really helped me was to buy some extra (used) bouncy chairs to keep in different rooms.  That way I could take the baby to the bathroom with me, or when I put my older child to bed I could set the baby down in there, or if I had to go into the kitchen, etc.

10)  I also bought a Maya Wrap ring sling to wear my baby around the house.  Because let's face it, you are on the go with an active toddler and moving from room to room in the house or when you are at a playdate at your area indoor/outdoor playground really makes it easier on you.  Plus, my baby was really colicky and the ring sling was a life saver!  It really calmed her down.  I can't believe I survived having a toddler while taking care of a colic newborn in the summer with no Mother's Day Out! :)

11)  And my favorite tip for new siblings is giving group hugs and soft kisses!  I constantly gave lots of group hugs with my two girls, and still do it as many times during the day as I can.  To encourage my toddler to hug onto her baby sister and give her kisses is the best lesson I can give during these early years.  I am always grabbing both girls, giving big hugs and telling them I love them every day, and it's so cute to see my toddler reach over and give the baby a hug with me and kiss her! It's great modeling and I hope it continues to build their relationship for the rest of their lives :)

It's almost been a full year now since our baby was born, and things are going great.  My toddler still has her jealous moments and says, "mommy, hold me, pick me up, put Baby Belle down!" and I reflect her feelings and acknowledge them.  But all in all, she has transitioned pretty well :)


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