by Krystle Gard
When you bring your first baby home time stops. Your whole life is now all about them. You feed on demand, sleep when you can, and stare at that sweet baby for hours. Life is relatively simple. And by ‘simple,’ I mean you have one sweet baby to care for. Enter baby number two and everything shifts. Now you need to navigate how to feed two mouths and manage two separate nap times, and where does sleep fit in? Here are five tips to help smooth the transition to a multi-child household!
1. Special Time
One of the biggest issues is that your oldest now has to share so much of you with their new sibling. So make a plan to create special time just for you and your oldest. This could even be a book and snuggle time - aka nap time for both of you.
2. Who’s a Big Helper?
Find ways to have your older child help out. They can be your super-awesome-water-bottle-filler while you’re feeding the new baby. Or they can be your fresh-wipe-hander while you’re changing diapers. Finding little tasks they can do will make them feel important - and invested in the care of their new sibling. It could be as simple as turning on the lights, to bigger things like making mom a snack or, for older children, doing the laundry.
3. Baby Has to Wait, Too
This is my favorite. So many times we make our oldest wait because we have to be with the baby for some reason or another. So find moments where you can create a “waiting time” for baby. For example, while baby is waiting peacefully somewhere, you can say to the baby, “Sarah, you need to wait while I put on big brother’s shoes…” This evens things out, and lets our older child know we’re prioritizing them, too.
4. New and Exciting
New babies inevitably bring new stuff. So have a few small new and exciting items for your oldest. Some parents make a basket of new toys and books for the older child to use during baby’s feeding times, so they get something fun while you are with the new baby. Pro tip: make these activities as autonomous as possible;they may need your help with Legos, but board books, blocks, magnets, water coloring books, etc. they can proudly do on their own.
5. Send in the Support Team
Find family members, friends, or hire a postpartum doula to help create space for you and the new baby and you and your older child. These support people can watch your oldest and play and engage with them while you have some one-on-one time with new baby, say in the bath. And at the same visit, the support person can take the baby so you can have some quality, on the ground one-on-one time with your oldest.
6. Make Space for Your Needs, Too
You can’t pour from an empty cup, and adding a new baby to the mix may take you down to the dregs of time, energy and enthusiasm. Making space to take care of your needs, and connect with your partner, is good for everyone - including your older child, who will still be counting on you as a playmate and patient caregiver. Here, too, having support from family, friends or a postpartum doula can help you fill your cup, so you can enjoy time playing with and caring for both of your children.
Siblings are such an amazing treat. Some older siblings may love the idea of a new baby, and the difficult part might be getting alone time with baby. And some older siblings may dread the new baby and have hostility towards them. Either way, adding to your family will multiply both joy and create new pressures. Putting in place some of the solutions above can help you balance the needs of everyone in your household - yourself included!
Krystle Gard is a postpartum doula with Bridgetown Baby in Portland, Oregon. When she isn’t writing or supporting other families during their 4th trimester, she is hopefully outdoors somewhere beautiful with her three young boys (including 3 year-old twins) and husband.