Getting ready for a new baby-sibling prep.
Are you expecting a new little one? Congratulations! It can be so exciting, as well as exhausting, being pregnant while caring for your older child(ren).
Here are some things to keep in mind while you get ready for this big change in your family’s life:
Before your baby is born:
Keep routines steady, as much as possible. Your older child needs the predictability and stability of a regular routine, before and after your new baby arrives.
Don’t start your older child in a new program just before your baby is born. If you are going to start them in daycare or preschool, try and do that at least 3 months before your baby arrives.
Talk to, and read about new babies with your older child. You can start this conversation by your second trimester. Keep your statements simple, clear, and honest (no stork bringing a new baby to your house!)
Try not to talk about any worries you may be having about your pregnancy, or postpartum in front of your older child. Even if they don’t seem to be listening, they are!
As you get closer to your due date, be sure you have a plan in place for who is going to be taking care of your older child, and let your kiddo know. Keep your comments short and to the point, and offer reassurance if your child seems concerned. If possible, try a practice run ahead of time, so your child knows what to expect, and you can troubleshoot any issues that come up.
After your baby is born:
Know that regressions are very common before and after your little one arrives. Your older child may become tearful, or defiant (or both!). Mood swings are to be expected, and there may be some anger towards you or your baby. Be very careful not to leave your baby unattended, and try to acknowledge your older child’s feelings without sounding too angry yourself. It’s ok to set boundaries for your older child, but know that they are doing the best they can with this big change, and need your calm support to adjust.
Give your older child opportunities to snuggle with your baby. Be descriptive about how you see your child being so gentle with their little brother/sister. Try to steer clear of saying “what a big boy/girl you are!” Instead, describe what you see your child doing (Thank you for getting your brother’s/sister’s diaper for me! That will help me with changing our baby’s diaper.) (Or, “I see you touching our baby so softly with your finger. It looks like she/he likes that.”)
Try and spend some one on one time with your older child without the baby in your arms. Even just 15 minutes a day will help your older child. Try and do it around the same time each day, so your older child knows when they will be getting this special time with you.
Offer lots of reassurance to your older child that even though there’s a new baby in the house, you will always take care of them, and you have so much love to give to both the baby and to your child.
The family dynamic changes when you have another child, and it can take your older child some time to get used to this new family system. Their place in your family has changed, and it can throw them off for a bit. Be as patient as you can with regressions and upset feelings. They will subside with time.
Know that sleep may be interrupted for a while after your new baby arrives as your older child gets used to the new sounds of the baby. Stick to your bedtime routine, and try not to slide into offering too many concessions to your older child, or it can mean you get even less sleep than you already are.
If you do let your older child climb into bed with you, it’s best to do in the early morning, and be very careful where your older child is laying, so there isn’t any risk to your baby.
It’s a big adjustment for everyone. Let me know if I can help you with this major life transition!
Disclaimer: Elizabeth Green's Early Parenting Sleep Consultations and written materials are for educational purposes only and are not meant as medical advice. All spoken and written information is to be used at each parents' discretion.