Preparing Your Older Kid(s) for Another Baby!
Preparing Your Older Kid(s) for Another Baby!
By Melissa Bigler
My first baby ended up being born via C section, and while the recovery was incredibly hard, I never struggled being home with the baby during my maternity leave. Anxious about having to go back to work, I got my baby and me on a schedule from the beginning. I even woke him at 6 AM every morning so he would be used to our 5 AM wakeup call when I returned to work. At the time, we were living in Alexandria, Virginia. A friend encouraged me to join the local Stroller Strides group. Local moms joined together three days a week by the Alexandria waterfront at 9 AM. We worked out; tickling our babies between exercises and stopping 10,000 times to nurse, change a diaper or just sit with our babies. I was so happy. I loved being home with my baby during maternity leave. When my first baby was nine months old we moved to Roanoke for my husband’s job. I left my job, my friends and family, and moved to Roanoke to spend my days with my babe. And shortly after moving to Roanoke, we found out we were expecting baby number two.
Even though I didn’t need help with my first baby, I knew I would need help when having my second. Having a toddler at home was a game changer. I signed him up for a Mother’s Day Out program for three hours, three days a week so I could have some time at home with our second. Since my parents didn’t live in town, I needed all the help I could get.
Our baby boy arrived in January, two weeks after my first turned two years old. Snow was on the ground, his Mother’s Day Out program was closed; my husband was back to work; my mom had left town and it was just me, my extremely colicky baby, and my two-year- old. He was sweet to his brother. He loved his brother. We had given him a baby doll in weeks leading up to the birth so he could learn to use gentle hands. He held his brother (with our help); he sang to him. He seemed thrilled to be a big brother! But he was acting out, a lot. Not towards the baby, but at school and towards Mommy. He only wanted Daddy, he didn’t even seem to like me anymore. We prepared him for what a baby WAS…how to be gentle with the baby, and grab the diapers for mommy. We prepared for how to be a big boy-our big helper! But, boy was that wrong. While kids do love to feel big, this doesn’t always ring true when a baby comes into the mix. They don’t want to be BIG; they want to still be your baby.
So while we practiced gentle hands and being “big” we didn’t prepare him for was how much life would be different. For one, mommy was stressed out. The baby cried 13 hours a day and didn’t sleep. After three months my husband was given 48 hours’ notice that he would have to leave for work for the entire summer during the weekdays. I was officially in survival mode. Since my husband was gone, our once clean diets slipped some and individual time with my first couldn’t happen as I planned. My parents that summer had travel plans and couldn’t come to help. Everything and everyone struggled. I ended up hiring a friend to come over for three hours a couple days a week so she could play with big brother while I worked on grocery shopping, cooking meals, and getting little brother to sleep. It wasn’t enough. The kids had constant ear infections and constant sickness. Just giving my first baby a baby doll and talking to him about babies, didn’t really prepare him OR ME for what our new life would look like. No one seemed happy. We made a lot of adjustments in our life-our health, my son’s school, even our style of parenting. Life started to get easier, my kids became adjusted after a while. Mommy and Daddy even got to schedule a vacation-ALONE. Shortly after this short lived blissful period, when baby number two was 18 months, we were surprised to find out we were expecting number three. While shocked and excited about this surprise, I was terrified. “IT WAS SO HARD LAST TIME,” I kept saying. I was determined to not just survive this, but to enjoy this time. I knew it would be different than it was with my first, having a full day of uninterrupted snuggles and nursing, but I did want a few hours to enjoy those special moments in the first couple of months. I wanted to be able to spend time bonding with my baby, and help adjust our children to being a family of five.
Pregnant with number three, when I started to approach forty weeks, we talked a lot more about what having a baby meant. We still gave our youngest a baby doll. But we also told him how he was still our baby. He is two years old, he was/is still my baby. Instead of worrying about preparing the boys, I prepared to get help for our family so that I could be present with each of my children. This time around when my family said they would “help as much as they could” I asked specifically which dates would they come. If my mom or husband wasn’t here to help for 3 hours every day, I had an incredible babysitter take the boys to the pool, the park or the library. When the babysitter didn’t help, I had them signed up for morning camps all over Roanoke. I was worried that it would be too many different things going on instead of just having consistency. But they did great, because they had each other. That’s the difference between the second child and the third. The brothers had each other. So going to a different
camp, or having a sitter come, they did it together. Each day it was only 3-4 hours of help. But it allowed for the baby and me to actually sleep in the morning- cuddling, bonding, nursing. Pure joy.
My boys would come home every single day happy from their fun adventures. They were getting a FULL summer of so many fun activities! Was I missing out? Of course. I felt badly that I missed having all these adventures with him. Summer is our favorite time together. But I also knew bringing the baby out in 90 degree temperatures, nor keep the boys confined inside all day; would work. It may not be the perfect situation, but it was a situation that worked for us. I think that is what is important. You don’t have to do what anyone else on Facebook seems to be doing. You just used all your super powers having a baby; so this is not the time to keep playing super mom. You are a super mom, even if you get help with the older
Have a friend set up a meal train. We didn’t have one, since people are afraid to bring us dinner with all of our restrictions. But usually, a couple people bring us meals-and we salute those families! Again, I planned. I had an entire document made of grocery items we buy regularly and easy meals my husband or I could put together. I don’t love a ton of freezer meals, because don’t they all taste the same? But freezing a few things for meal preps did help.
In my opinion, the best way to prepare an older sibling is by preparing yourself. Also, talk to them a lot and remember they are still your baby. My second child burst into tears when he realized the baby wasn’t going to another mommy. I cuddled him up and told him that the baby would be in one of my arms he could lay on me on my other side. Still plenty of room to cuddle all three of my sweet babies.