Preparing yourself for baby number two
You’re already an experienced parent – you’ve figured out all about feeding, getting your baby dressed, soothing them, helping them sleep, taking care of them when they’re sick, and you know what you need to take when you leave the house. But bringing a new pēpi into the mix can bring up a few new concerns.
- You may worry that you’ll lose yourself to your children’s needs, and wonder how you’ll be able to manage two children in the house when you have so little time as it is. It’s true it’s hard to find time for yourself when you have young tamariki. If you’re someone who’s good at asking for help (or hiring babysitters), you may find it a bit easier to take some time out. Remember, you’re not just a parent, you’re a person with your own needs. Looking after those needs makes parenting easier – so asking for help is a positive thing.
- You might not admit it out loud, but you may be wondering how you could possibly love another child as much as you love this one. Don’t worry – with each child, your heart will continue to expand. You have plenty of love to go around.
- You may wonder how to deal with a girl if you had a boy first, or vice versa. Just like you did with your first, you’ll figure it out.
- If, at first, you don’t feel as connected to your second baby as you do to your first, know this is normal. You’ve had a lot more time to bond with your first child, and it takes time to get to know each other!
- Try not to expect your second pēpi to be like your first. Every child is different. You may be pleasantly surprised by how different your new baby is from your first, or you may delighted in how similar they are.
- You may worry about how your older child will cope with having a baby in the house. At first, they may not cope too well. Even if their reaction is negative, you can remind yourself in the end, you’ve given your older child a true gift. Their sibling is someone they’ll share life experiences with, to team up with against you when they’re older, and a friend to play with.
Preparing your child for baby number two
If you have an older child or children, it’s a good idea to prepare them for having a new baby in the house a few months before your baby’s due. Some children will be more interested than others at the prospect of having a little brother or sister.
You can expect that your first child (regardless of the age difference) will sometimes be jealous of the attention the baby gets. Other times they may just ignore the new baby together. Some children might see the baby as something strange and interesting, rather than as a rival.
How your first child reacts depends largely on their age and personality – and their mood on the day!
If your first child is two or under
Toddlers won’t understand much about what it means to have a new baby in the house, but while you’re pregnant:
- talk to them about the new baby growing in your tummy and show you’re excited about it. Hopefully your excitement will rub off on them!
- show and read them books about a new baby
- give the older child a present from the new baby when they arrive.
Once your baby arrives, they may be extremely jealous – ‘why is mummy holding another baby?” It makes sense – until now, they’ve been the centre of your universe, and now they have to compete for your time, attention and affection.
It can be really challenging if your child turns two around the time your baby is born. It’s hard enough to handle a two-year-old's new emotions, defiance and meltdowns without a new baby to care for. But don’t despair – children this age seem to accept the baby pretty quickly, and before you know it they’ll enjoy playing together. In the meantime there may be a lot of talking about house rules - "in this house, we don’t hit" and "in this house, we use kind words."
Ultimately, the goal of parenting isn’t to protect your child from any negativity or challenge. Working through challenges is how children learn and grow, and it’s important they learn to deal with them. Although it may not feel like it at first, you’re helping them to grow up strong and resilient.
Preschoolers and a new baby
Preschoolers are likely to still be very attached to you, and may be less than enthusiastic at the idea of sharing you with anyone else. They might feel threatened by the idea of a new baby. It’s a good idea to:
- show and read them picture books about a new baby
- involve them in preparing for the baby, taking them shopping, showing them their own baby pictures, perhaps buying them a baby doll so they can look after their own baby
- be honest – explain the baby will cry and take a lot of your time, but let them know that you’ll love them just as much and they’ll always be very special
- try to make any major changes before the baby comes – things like toilet training or moving to a big bed – or wait until after the baby is settled in at home
- let them know who’ll look after them while you’re having the baby
- give the older child a present from the new baby when they arrive.
Sometimes it helps to ask them to be mummy or daddy’s special helper. When the baby arrives, this may help them feel extra important in the family and could cushion the blow.
You may even be lucky enough to have a toddler who understands, accepts, and enjoys their new role as a big brother or sister.
School-age children aren’t usually threatened by a new baby as younger children are, but they still might resent the attention the new baby gets.
- Tell your child about your pregnancy when you tell your friends – they need to hear it from you, not from someone else.
- Give them a realistic idea of what to expect when the baby first arrives. Tell them you’ll be tired, and the baby will take lots of your time – and that the new baby won’t be able to do much except eat, sleep, poo, pee and cry. Make sure they know that this will change, though, and that one day they’ll be able to play with their new brother or sister!
- Look at pictures or videos of their birth and babyhood. Tell them what they were like as a baby, what their first words were, and what their favourite things were when they were a baby. Tell them how excited you were when they were born, and how everyone wanted to see them and hold them.
- Read books about pregnancy, birth, newborns, and baby siblings with your child, and give them a chance to ask questions, talk about things that worry them, and vent feelings the books bring up.
- Once the baby arrives, just do your best. This can be a challenging time for the whole family, and it’s important you do things to take care of yourself. Your needs are just as important as everyone else’s needs, so try to do something just for you at least once a day, whether it’s taking deep breaths while sitting in the sun for five minutes, doing some stretches, taking a walk, or having a bubble bath.
- Remember, this too will pass. Your older child or children will adjust, and so will you. It just takes time.