Sibling introduction and expected behaviors
Your next baby has arrived and now it is time to introduce your children. Sibling introduction can be an overwhelming encounter, but it is also a beautiful sight to behold. Some parents choose to do it in the hospital while others wait till they get home. When not during a pandemic with limited visitors, talk with them about what they would prefer. If they are too young, make your best guess.
Suggestions… In the hospital, maybe ask the nurse to take the baby to the nursery right before the siblings come. Spend time snuggling, talking or playing with your older child(ren) FIRST and then bring in the baby. Celebrate by singing Happy Birthday to the new baby, let your child(ren) hold them, with assistance if necessary, kiss them and get in a snuggle. Then, if possible, ask the nurse to drop the baby off again just until your older child leaves. This may help your older child(ren) not feel replaced or that baby gets to stay while they have to leave.
If you are doing the sibling introduction at home, have your partner walk in holding the baby while mom is geared up to receive the excited older sibling. Sit on the couch and snuggle, read or talk to the older child while your partner gets the baby settled. Follow the cues from your older child as to what amount of “baby time” (holding, kissing, talking, etc) they would like. Don’t force them to hold the baby if they do not want to. There is no right or wrong way to make this intro happen, just suggestions for what I have seen work.
Be prepared that siblings (young and old) may regress, throw tantrums, misbehave, test your patience, refuse to eat and act completely different once the baby arrives. You might wonder what happened to your sweet child? They too are having their own struggle with the new addition and sometimes they can’t explain it or don’t want to talk about their feelings. Their emotions are all over the place too, excitement, jealousy, anger and sometimes even resentment. Sibling introduction and interaction can be hard for everybody.
As parents, you personally, will still need to be prepared for exhaustion, soreness and the roller coaster of emotions when the new baby arrives. It is not as easy as it was when you only had one, so here are some little reminders to be on the lookout for:
Physically, you are likely to be sore and very tired from taking care of a newborn and playing with your older child. Don’t push yourself to do too much. Your body WILL let you know when you are overdoing it.
Emotionally, your heart with double with love with each child. Bonding should happen right away or quickly as you begin to learn about each other. Watching your partner and older child(ren) fall in love will release a ton of feel good hormones. However, if you begin to feel very depressed or anxious, or have thoughts about harming yourself or your baby, get help from your doctor immediately.
Self-care- If you don’t take care of YOU, no one else will. Remember the oxygen mask scenario on a plane…..put yours on first before your children’s. Carve out some time for yourself, do something little that you enjoy and make “alone time” a priority. Even a few minutes outside of your 4 walls can help you feel calmer and more relaxed.
Relationships- relationships, roles and dynamics change. You and your partner will soon realize that you are rarely spending time “alone” together. Do something thoughtful for your partner, write a note on the mirror, send a text, fix each other a favorite snack or smoothie, or cuddle on the couch once things settle down. Don’t forget about each other!
While your heart is expanding your exhaustion and sanity may be overwhelming you so here are some tips to help make your transitions easier:
Food-you’ll want to make sure the fridge and pantry are stocked with high protein, easy to grab nutritious foods. Get your child’s favorite snacks to have on hand. Finger foods are great to grab and eat with ease while chasing your toddler or nursing your newborn. Food=energy. Set up a meal train so family, friends, neighbors and coworkers can sign up to bring you a meal. If you are tired of drinking water and need some flavor, keep fresh fruit around to add to drinks, drink sparkling flavored water and buy or use a fun fancy cup with a straw to keep you hydrated.
Clothing and laundry-laundry, aka the never ending story, unfortunately doesn’t do itself. It has been said that the best 5 seconds of the week are when the laundry basket is empty. Unless your family likes to be naked, you have to find a time to do it. Ways to cut down on laundry: wear your clothes, especially pj’s more than once, put your laundry IN the hamper (not on the floor) and hang up clothes and towels as soon as you take them off.
For kids, pick your child’s close out the night before to avoid any outfit tantrums that might happen in the morning. Some moms put outfits in a drawer for the entire week, then allow the child to pick one out each day (you know your child best). If your kid is extra messy, remove shirts before eating, painting or playing outside. Each household has their own way of doing laundry, some do a load a day, while others do it once or twice a week. Whatever is best for you, implement this routine and think about how to simplify this task before the next baby arrives.
“I am thankful for all this laundry it means all my loved ones are here at home.” -Unknown
Stuff/toys/books/-it is amazing how quickly things multiply as children arrive. All the apparatuses you have stored away, make a return. Your once tidy family room becomes cluttered again with big stuff (bassinets, pack n plays, swings, bouncy seats, floor gyms, etc). Take a deep breath before you continue reading. It is ok! Life will be messier but I don’t want it to cause you anxiety.
“In twenty years, my kids won’t remember my messy house, but they will remember the time we spent together and the love they felt”- Unknown paraphrase
Once you decide what room you will likely spend a good portion of your time in, try putting out one thing at a time to try with your older child. If your older child has a lot of toys, books, etc, look into purchasing a big bin that toys can be easily and quickly stored in. Does your older child struggle with pulling everything out throughout the day, limit what goes into the box. If it is out of sight, it is usually out of mind. Rotating your kid’s toys makes clean up easier. Teach them the cleanup song and pick up all toys before nap time and/or bed time to help alleviate the overwhelming stress of doing it all at the end of the day everyone is ready for bed.
Special box/bag– this especially pertains to the younger siblings. This box/bag can be anything, just let your little one decorate it. The box ONLY comes out when you are sitting down to feed your newborn. Go to the dollar section and pick out little toys your child might like to play with. Suggestions, coloring books and crayons, markers, playdoh or clay, pipe cleaners, stickers, little cars & dolls, puzzles, a new book or DVD, a scavenger hunt, bubbles, paint, sunglasses, head bands or bows, activity books, snacks, a lollipop, crackers, piece of gum, etc.
Be creative! Make a big deal about this special box. Tip, get a drink and a snack out too because they inevitably will become hungry and thirsty. Praise your child for playing so well while you attended to the baby and then put the box back up.
Create/Schedule playdates-ask your parents, family members, friends, neighbors and other mom friends. They might be willing to take your older child(ren) for a play date or to their house. This is good for your older child and you get a little alone time with your newborn. If you are comfortable, ask a neighbor kid to spend a couple hours a week playing with your older child.
Hire help-if finances are available, check into hiring additional help and support for around the house. A postpartum doula can be a great help in the first few weeks while you are adjusting (www.yourfamilysjourney.com). A housekeeper to help with the bigger tasks, changing sheets, cleaning bathrooms and the kitchen is always welcome. A nanny, an extra set of hands to help with your older child(ren) while you focus on your newborn (www.trustingconnections.com). A life/mom coach to help you get organized, feel focused, re balance and enjoy this phase in your life (www.catalina-wellness.com).
I hope you have gleaned a few tips and tricks that might help you. With experience comes wisdom! Give your family time to adjust to your “new normal and trust yourself. You got this!