Image credit - Flickr
Expanding your family involves more than just having a baby. It includes laying the groundwork for a healthy and happy household. Firstborn children are often expected to mature overnight and handle everything with ease, but can that really happen without support and guidance? Can a new mother somehow do it all – children and life, without dropping a ball? Why is she even expected to?
Adding a baby does not have to be a hard and trying experience for a family. By avoiding the following mistakes, the transition should be a breeze!
#1 Not Preparing Your Firstborn
A toddler (or child at any age) will need to be prepared for adding a sibling into their lives. It is easy to think that talking about the baby and having a few conversations is enough, but it may not be. Sibling rivalry, jealousy, regression and acting out are all too common in today’s families. The best way to create a strong foundation of friendship and love between children is to help the firstborn smoothly transition away from being an only child. This can be done by:
- Bring your firstborn to appointments: hearing the heartbeat, seeing an ultrasound, and learning about pregnancy will help him feel connected to the baby.
- Watching Birth Videos: Birth is real life. It is beautiful and empowering. Even the youngest of toddlers are smart enough to know that a stork did not drop this baby off. By understanding how this little sibling entered the world, he will be less likely to tell you to “Take him back!” He will also know that he was born this way as well – it is a connection young children make easily.
- Read big sibling books
- Include the baby in your daily conversations, but never let it overshadow what your oldest is saying.
- Including firstborn in baby decisions: Nursery decorations, baby names (or big brother nicknames), clothes shopping, and baby gadgets – big sibling gets to be a part of it all!
#2 Pushing Your Firstborn Away
So many parents distance their firstborn without realizing it. There are a lot of changes coming that are unavoidable, trying to be aware of your child’s emotional needs should be a priority. Moving into a new bed, leaving Mommy’s bed, starting daycare or preschool so Mom can have time alone with the new baby, less snuggles, more independent time, it can all add up to hard adjustment period for everyone.
- Don’t change anything within your control: If you bedshare, keep bedsharing – or let Daddy sleep with your oldest for a while. If your oldest has never been to daycare, do not enroll him within weeks of a baby joining the family. Take things slowly and celebrate milestones as they come naturally.
- Talk about when your oldest child was born. Young kids and toddlers love to be in the spotlight. Replay your birth memories and make your oldest feel special for being the baby that made you a mommy.
- Adding a ‘Big Sibling Help List’ to the fridge: Young children thrive on routine and responsibility. A daily checklist of ways he can help now and when baby arrives will keep him feeling included.
- Purchase a toddler-sized baby carrier and baby doll for your first child: You can babywear the newest baby while your oldest wears his baby.
- Make your firstborn feel special: By doing things that a baby cannot do, like helping to cook dinner, or getting nails painted, he will begin to understand that it’s great to be the big sibling!
#3 Misjudging Your Time Off
If you are taking maternity leave and will return to work, there’s a high chance that the weeks will pass faster than you can blink. Balancing breastfeeding, sleep, the house, new baby snuggles and big sibling attention is not easy. 8-12 weeks at home may seem like a nice chunk of time, but the reality is that it is not. Our society’s expectations of a mother returning to work so quickly are greatly misconstrued.
- Take each day as a chance to strengthen your bond with both children.
- Let your oldest help while you pump and store breastmilk for your return to work.
- Leave positive, encouraging affirmations around the house to keep yourself happy and optimistic.
- Take some time for yourself: get a massage, go for a 30 minute walk each evening alone, or have lunch with friends.
- Remember that motherhood is hard, and no one is perfect.
#4 Taking On Too Much
Within days of giving birth, mothers tend to be cooking, cleaning, shopping, and running children everywhere – juggling too many balls too soon. These things may need done, but you do not have to do them all.
- Delegate instead of doing: Let your partner take charge of things for a bit.
- Hire a cleaning service: This will be the best money ever spent.
- Let family help: Grandparents can take your oldest child for an afternoon of fun while you nap with the baby.
- Request visitors complete a chore before holding the baby: It sounds rude, but it’s not. Your visitors want to help. Ask them to throw a load of laundry in, load the dishwasher, or strip the sheets on the bed. If anything, they will feel happier for having helped!
- Start a food train: Websites exist that allow friends and family to choose a date and bring you a meal. They can order you food and bring a dish to your door.
#5 Buying Excess
By the second baby, most couples realize that infants do not need much. Somehow though, all-the-things are still purchased.
- Keep tags on and receipts saved: Return things that are not needed.
- Shop gender neutral if you plan to have another child in the future.
- Hand-me-downs are wonderful: Be thankful for what is given, and do not be afraid to give things to others.
More from parenting