So you’re expecting another little baby, but you already have other children…
Firstly, huge congratulations! Secondly, if you’re feeling a bit anxious about the adaptation, or the juggle, this is totally normal, but it will all work out!
Keep reading for a few hints and tips which may help the transition be a little smoother for everyone…
Talk - Open up the conversation about babies! What do babies actually do and need? You know this, but your little one(s) might not have a good grasp of how defenceless they are, so let them know that baby will need to have lots of milk to fill up their tiny tummies (whether this is from the breast or the bottle), that they’ll need lots of nappy changes (dependent upon the age of your other child(ren) you could explain that their help in getting things for you, or ‘entertaining’ baby whilst you do the change would be so helpful), that they will probably sleep a lot during the day at first (but might wake up during the night too).
Make it relatable - Do you know anyone else your little one’s age with a younger sibling? Who else do you know with siblings? When I was expecting my middle and littlest, we knew we were having girls, so we talked a lot about other people we knew with sisters (but this would work equally well with brothers, or if you don’t know, just siblings in general)
Dolls and pretend play - Again, dependent on your child’s age, then dolls and pretend play are wonderful for introducing new concepts. We got my eldest a doll when we were expecting his first little sister, and then pretended to change her nappy, cuddle her to sleep, push around in a pram.
Books – we love books in our house, so these are always a winner for introducing new ideas gently. We particularly liked “There’s A House inside my Mummy”, and also bought “Topsy and Tim: The New Baby”. There are tons on the market / available to borrow from the library, that you could explore together. We changed the words a little to make it more relatable / realistic for our own circumstances (changed the babies to girls, said the babies were breastfeeding, etc.)
Photos – if you’re anything like me then you’ll have hundreds (ha, thousands!) of pictures of your other child(ren) when they themselves were a baby. We looked through these, and baby pictures of us and other family members and talked about how babies are all different, their hair colour, they size, and how they change and grow up so quickly!
Gifts – this is a bit of a marmite one, but bear with me… when we were expecting our middle child, we got our eldest a few little gifts to open across the first week and said they were from his little sister. 1) this helped him to have warmer, fuzzier feelings towards her and 2) gave him something new and novel to engage him whilst we all settled in to our new family life. When we were expecting our youngest, I made both of them a little box of gifts to open up with their grandparents whilst we were at hospital giving birth – some PJs, some books, and a jigsaw, which helped the time we were away out of the house pass more quickly for them.
Meeting baby - When introducing the new baby for the first time, I ensured that baby wasn’t in my arms, so they could come straight to me for a cuddle and baby wasn’t an immediate barrier. This meant they could view baby from their place of security, rather than viewing them as a rival for affections.
Visitors – we asked all visitors who came in the subsequent days and weeks after baby’s arrival to go to our eldest child(ren) first, rather than the new baby, and to spend time playing with him/them on their visit, instead of purely focusing on baby and pushing the eldest to the sidelines (baby has absolutely no clue, your eldest child will definitely notice that people seem less interested in them)
Inclusion – we tried to ensure we included the bigger one(s) in as much as possible, whilst still ensuring everyone’s needs were met – family cuddles, routines as consistent as they can be, playtime / 1:1 time whilst baby sleeps, special box of toys that just came out whilst I was breastfeeding (so it felt exciting, rather than mommy’s attention being stolen away).
Acceptance – acceptance that it might be hard for a while, there might be teething issues, there might be lots of big feelings to contend with (for everyone!), reminding yourself that your other child(ren) didn’t necessarily plan on sharing you or having a sibling and/or realise the realities of having another little one in the home. Not beating yourself up on the tough days, but reminding yourself that everyone is safe, and looked after, and tomorrow is a new day. That even though things might feel hard at times, that the gift of a sibling brings so much more than it takes away.
And lastly, you might worry about how your heart can possibly hold any more love, you first child is your world and your heart is theirs…and then another baby arrives and shows you you weren’t ever expected to share that pot of love between two (or more), that it can magically expand so that there is more than enough love for everyone!