Lots of parents worry about how their older child/ren will handle a new addition to the family. There are a number of children’s books on the topic, and the approach you take may well depend on your older child’s age.
We asked our Villagers what worked for them when they had second, third, fourth or more children! Here’s what they had to say.
“LOTS of talk. Talk about why the baby is crying, why the baby needs milk, why the baby sleeps lots, why we hold the baby the way we do. Assume that there are a million questions inside their little minds, that they aren’t quite sure how to ask, and answer them.”
“Definitely lots of talk before and after birth.”
“We talked about the baby loads before she arrived but then actually tried not to make too big a deal about it once here and all chilling out together – so that all the fuss/attention wasn’t suddenly on the baby rather than the toddler.”
“Not always possible but the opportunity for my eldest to be around / involved in the birth seemed to really help the transition for us.”
“Homebirth. Obviously not a choice that everyone would/could make but the fact that I didn’t go anywhere to have the baby, baby joined our family at home and eldest was the first to meet the new baby definitely eased the transition.”
“We read an article that suggested being aware of not ‘blaming’ the baby for parents’ unavailability. For instance, eldest asks to play Lego, the parent needs to sterilise bottles, this is framed as “I just need to wash up then I’ll be right there” rather than “I need to wash baby’s bottles”…mummy/daddy is busy but it’s not just because of the baby. The rationale was to prevent eldest from seeing the baby as the sole reason for mummy/daddy not being able to do things right away. It seems to have worked well for us.”
“Avoid pitching her as competition!! So I never say ‘I can’t do x with you because of the baby’ or compare them in any way.”
“I told my eldest about breastfeeding when I was pregnant so he understood why mummy had to feed the baby while daddy put him to bed in the early days. He enjoyed helping by bringing me a drink or the remote when I was stuck under a cluster feeding newborn!”
“Asking the toddler for help. She loves doing things like passing blankets and wipes to me for her sister.”
“As soon as it was possible I spent one on one time with my eldest. I think I was maybe 3 weeks in…baby had a big feed and fell asleep. I left the baby with daddy, and we went to throw a frisbee around in the park behind our house. It was a very special trip just for an hour in a very ordinary place but he seemed to absolutely relish being the centre of my attention and I loved being able to focus on having fun with him.”
“For me, it was about the little things I could do to show them they were still loved – like kissing them on the top of their heads whenever I walked passed them or sending random unsolicited messages to their iPads whenever I remembered.”
“We always framed the new baby as being for the older. So, from the start of pregnancy, it was ‘we’re making a little brother or sister for you’. Our older child took it on board and ended up referring to the new baby as ‘his baby’.”
“Another thing I found that worked really well is to acknowledge when things had gone to pot a bit (like on the days when they had to wear mucky school uniform, or I fell asleep while I was listening to them read!) but to say “thank you” rather than “sorry” (so I’d say “thanks for being such a big girl and understanding – Z is so lucky to have a big sister like you” or something like that) this meant that rather than them feel as though the baby arriving had wrecked everything, they got to feel as though they were superstars for rolling with it.”