Adding Your Second Baby
Many expecting parents find themselves anxious over adding the second baby. The older child, who has often been the center of existence, must make room for another, and this brings worry. Life is about to change for the entire family! Never fear; adding your second baby can be a joy.
What happens when you add another needy and helpless baby to the family dynamic? How do you prevent sibling rivalry?
There isn’t a way to prevent all friction among siblings. Learning how to navigate relationships and differences is an important part of sibling relationships and is a good thing.
Rivalry and jealousy among children however can be avoided with some easy tips.
This is THEIR baby-
This baby isn’t just mom’s or just dad’s. It isn’t going to replace anybody or take over the other child’s special place. The coming baby is a gift to the child. This baby will be THEIR baby and they will have a special role to fill.
This simple shift in language when referring to the coming baby makes a huge difference. Suddenly the baby isn’t a threat- it is a gift, a responsibility, something they are in charge of and will help with.
By referring to the baby as “their baby,â€ there is an ownership and pride associated with the coming baby, rather than rivalry. They are excited about their baby, thrilled to help care for it, honored that they are so big and they can be such an important person and play an irreplaceable role in the family. A feeling of ownership is key to a gentle transition from only to sibling.
Include the older sibling in baby preparations-
The growing belly and all your preparations for the birth are quickly obvious to your older children. While it is important to prepare in some ways without the presence of your older kids (like as you attend a birth class as a couple), it is also helpful to include your child in some of these preparations.
They can help you shop for things for the baby, talk about a name, get a sleeping space ready for the baby, and more. Older children can be an important part of preparing for baby.
Invite them to the birth-
Having the child at the birth can normalize this life event and is very comforting for some parents.
Children should be prepared if they are to be part of the birth. A good sibling birth class can help prepare them for this. A class with a childbirth educator is an option, or doing home study works great too. (Check out this amazing siblings at birth workbook. It is super fun!)
When a child is involved and invited to the birth, they can truly feel like they are part of the process rather than being left out.
Of course, children aren’t always appropriate at the birth either because it is distracting for the mother or because the child isn’t comfortable. Having an adult who is there to meet their needs and leave with them, if necessary, is a must.
Sometimes parents are so concerned about protecting the new baby that they deny the older children opportunities to be loving and nurturing. The truth is that every child, male or female, needs and deserves opportunities to nurture others. Having a sibling is a perfect time to learn this.
If they want to help with the baby- LET THEM.
If they want to hold the baby- let them. You may need to sit very close by to ensure safety- but don’t treat the older child like they are incapable of helping with the baby.
A warning- keep a hand very close and stay aware. When a two year old is “done” holding the baby- they are done right NOW and may just get up and leave.
If they copy nurturing things they see you do (like nursing, holding, walking, shushing, or loving a baby doll) then praise them. “You are such a good big brother/sister!” Children should be praised and encouraged for learning to love. It is surprising and touching how quickly children embrace a sibling when affection is an integral part of life.
Growing pains are normal-
When we add a new baby, it is always an adjustment. There is a learning curve for EVERYBODY. It is not unusual for children to show some regression. Sometimes a potty trained child will start having accidents again. Sometimes there will be acting out behaviour or extra emotional outbursts. Sometimes an older child will once again act like a “baby” or request extra cuddles and love.
Change is upsetting and those kinds of minor behaviour problems are normal and just part of the process. Roll with it. It ends. There are lots of benefits to being an older sibling rather than the baby, and the child will eventually choose that, especially if we encourage it in healthy ways.
Those little outbursts don’t mean kids don’t love the baby, they simply indicate that they are trying to find a way to deal with a big change in their life.
Change is scary and adjustment is normal. But adding a new baby doesn’t have to be awful for the older children. Sibling rivalry isn’t a requirement in any home. Encourage nurturing and responsibility and the transition will be so much smoother- for your entire family.