Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday Forum: Happy Siblings When a Baby is Born

(soon to be joined by amigo numero tres)
Friends,

This baby of mine is coming soon. I thought I'd pose one of my latest concerns as a question to all of you:

What are some ways to help older siblings feel special when a baby is born?

There is so much change that comes to a family with the arrival of a new baby. Change in routine, change in sibling dynamics, change in the overall definition of the family. With the impending arrival of number three I worry about Blaine (my oldest) acting out to gain attention and my little one (Roger) feeling displaced as the baby (ooohhhh how he loves being the baby!).

One thing I did when Roger was born was buy Blaine a present that was 'from Roger.' It was the first little wooden train track in the family and was the hit of the century! This helped in two ways. First, it entertained Blaine for hours on end while I was nursing and recovering. Second, because it was 'from Roger,' it immediately helped endear Blaine to his new brother.

I plan on doing something similar this time, but I feel like I need to do more to ensure a smooth and happy transition.

What do you think, dear friends? Any ideas to share?
xo,
anne

22 comments:

lizl said...

I honestly don't remember any of my kids having a hard time when a new baby was born, and here's my speculation about why. I LOVE having a newborn. Yes, it's exhausting, and sometimes overwhelming, but I remember those first few weeks with each baby as some of my favorite times in life. I tended to let almost everything else go, and just focus on nursing the baby, resting my own body, and making the absolute essentials happen in the house.

Children (especially little ones) usually reflect the attitudes of their parents. So be calm, be happy, enjoy the time, and hopefully your kids will too.

We also sometimes bought something for siblings (3-year-old Mary loved her "big sister" shirt) and Dad would try to do fun things with kids the first few days. We let them hold the baby whenever they asked (well, almost whenever).

There will be many more practical suggestions (try nursing on the couch or bed where there's room for toddlers to snuggle up next to you, as opposed to a rocking chair where there won't be room for them) but I promise, the attitude of the mother is #1.

Rachael said...

We've done the gifts from the new baby, but I think what has made the biggest difference (and I'm pregnant with #4, so I don't have a world of experience at this) was simplifying so that when the baby was asleep, I could spend time with the big kids. And when the baby was awake, we tried to make it a whole-family kind of interaction, like Liz mentioned.

One of the things that helped me the most to be ABLE to simplify: I made a lot of freezer meals before the baby was born. That gave me an extra hour every day to focus on just sitting on the floor playing with the older kids. And I tried to keep our regular routines going as much as possible, just adding in the baby: storytime on the couch became storytime on the couch while I nursed. I also have a detailed daily routine posted on my 'fridge, so my mom or sisters or whoever could take over things and know how it usually functioned around our house, which helped the older children to have a sense of continuity.

Emily said...

The hardest time is when you are nursing the baby. It seems like that is when everyone else wants to cuddle, show you something, help reaching something. This is when I pull out play dough, or painting, or stickers, or something fun and distracting that they don't get to use all the time. I also staggered bed times a bit so I could spend special time with each one. Good luck with number 3.

Quiltingdaisy said...

Ask them to read to the baby, my kids loved to do this!

Mandi said...

My mom always said, that while she was paying all her physical attention towards her babies, she was always giving all her mental attention towards her older children, and so they didn't feel left out or neglected.

amanda jane said...

I am certainly no expert, but I did a lot better with this for baby #3 than I did going from 1 to 2. start talking now about their role and how things will change, so the seed gets planted.
but of course this is very exciting! becoming a big brother, being the oldest.the better the picture the more excited they may be! and then again, making time for them, and letting the rest all go. this is the best time to nurture those future bonds too!

best of Luck and Enjoy!

Ann said...

My kids loved having an important job--official diaper retriever or something like that. That made them feel like they were helping with the baby. It has to be something helpful, though, and not a task to "get them out of the way"--they'll pick up on that.

Make freezer meals. Stay calm. Get as much rest as you can. Then you'll be able to see what your older kids need instead of being consumed by a need for sleep. Easier said than done, right?

Jessica said...

While I'm not a mom I am surrounded by kiddos all the time :) My Best friend had her third baby boy in June and she & her husband did something so simple but it seemed so special to the older two boys.

After she had the baby and after all the doctors and nurses had left, they got the boys to come in the room. They got to go in before any other family members and hold their new baby brother. I got one picture before they had the entire room just as a family. The joy on their faces was unforgettable! After 9 months of talking about baby Jasper, Solomon and Judah got to love on him all they wanted.

Like I said it was so simple but it was great when they get to be the first ones to hold their new friend.

Unfailing Love said...

I loved reading these comments! Mamas are so wise. Our #3 is arriving soon too, and like your family, we did the gift thing when #2 arrived. It worked well, but things turned after the first few days. #1 acted up for attention, and my reactions were the ultimate problem. I think lizl is on to something essential. If mama is stressed and grumpy, everyone is! Therefore, I am planning ahead by discussing the new roles with a baby and attempting to make life as simple as possible. Additionally, our birthing center offers a Siblings class to prepare little ones for the new baby. I look forward to my boys attending and learning more about a new baby from a professional. Good luck & Trust the Lord.

assortedjoys said...

We made the baby's birthday "Big Brother Day" and asked everyone who visited the house or hospital to bring a balloon (my son's favorite entertainment at the time) for him. That way he was getting his share of attention as well as the new little baby.

Asking them to have a role and help was also key. He loved to hand me diapers and wipes while I changed her, have the three of us cuddle on the couch to read, and giving her lots of kisses. I kept her in a bouncy seat at floor level a lot of the time (and he respected the no touching of the head rule) so that he could show her his toys and it seemed like she was there and "playing" with him.

Tysha said...

When I was expecting my second, I had my first (they are 19 months apart so it was gonna be confusing for him no matter what) help plan a "BIRTH DAY" party for his new baby sister. He had recently attended a few birthday parties so, while he was too young to understand much, he knew that a birthday party was a fun event to look forward to - and that there are cupcakes involved! So, I had him help "plan" her party. We picked out a present just for her - a pink rattle since we had nothing pink in the house (and little did he know, she had a present to give to him, too! - a die cast race car - he is SUCH a boy!) and he helped pick out wrapping paper and a cake mix and cupcake liners to get ready for the party. We practiced singing "happy birthday" and we knew her name ahead of time, so we prepped him well that baby Aspen would be coming soon.

She came just after noon two weeks before her due date. I was super lucky and had a quick, easy, natural labor. So, around 3pm my husband picked him up from our friend's home, and then they went home and made the cupcakes. And then they brought the cupcakes and the gift to the hospital to have our party that night. We ate dinner together, the four of us, and then afterwards, we sang and ate cupcakes and opened presents.

Another thing: our pediatrician recommended having dad and sibling(s) phone ahead so you know when they're coming - that way you can put the baby down for a moment and focus on them. You can have the older kids come sit with you and then have dad bring the baby over - so the visual of mom with new baby in arms (if kids even do think: baby is taking our place?) isn't an issue at all. Our 19 month old son came running into the room saying "apie? apie? (his name for Aspen)" he had heard of her for so long he was very excited to finally meet her. We helped him hold her and we videoed the whole thing - the look on his face was PRESH, like "oh my what in the world is this?"


I loved celebrating her actual day. And it made it so much fun to look forward to...for all of us :)

As for getting home...I just let him be involved as much as possible. I also had my husband take the new baby after we did the bedtime routine so I could spend an extra few minutes of one-on-one with my boy, reading, singing, chatting. He needed that. He still does (little sis is coming up on a year this month!) I think he always will :) Heck, don't we all need some "special" time with those we love now and then? I sure do!

Finally, like everything else in life, collect inspiration from others' experiences, but ultimately, let your instincts guide. You know your kids and your family better than any of us!

Tysha said...
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Tysha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tysha said...

ps

Another thing: our pediatrician recommended having dad and sibling(s) phone ahead so you know when they're coming - that way you can put the baby down for a moment and focus on them. You can have the older kids come sit with you and then have dad bring the baby over - so the visual of mom with new baby in arms (if kids even do think: baby is taking our place?) isn't an issue at all. Our 19 month old son came running into the room saying "apie? apie? (his name for Aspen)" he had heard of her for so long he was very excited to finally meet her. We helped him hold her and we videoed the whole thing - the look on his face was PRESH, like "oh my what in the world is this?"

Lindsay said...

I'm the oldest of 6 children and I remember my parents always making sure whenever my mom was in the hospital with our newest sibling, we got to do something extra fun while they were there. Something that we didn't normally get to do. Usually it was eating out at Chuck-E-Cheese. One time we got a new game for our Nintendo. It got to the point that we older siblings really looked forward to when a new baby arrived because we got to party!

Joan said...

lizl: Wise, WISE comment. I couldn't agree more with: "Children (especially little ones) usually reflect the attitudes of their parents. So be calm, be happy, enjoy the time, and hopefully your kids will too."

I just had number three and my boys have received our new baby perfectly and I think that has a lot to do with my attitude toward the baby and the boys.
It is also helpful to positively praise the older children constantly about what gentle, loving siblings they are to
their baby (even if maybe they are a little rough).

Lastly, TAKE CARE OF YOU. I have found that I am not a particularly kind or patient mother if I don't attempt to sleep when I can, eat well, and take time away for yourself regularly (an hour at Barnes and Noble with a good magazine or book and a cup of hot chocolate).

Barbara said...

It's been a long time since my babies were this size. My youngest came with a gift for my oldest. I don't know if it helped or not. One thing I did was to pack a little "lunch" in a lunchbox for my oldest in the morning with an unbreakable thermos and some healthy snacks. That way, if I was busy with the baby, he could help himself to some juice and snacks, and didn't have to wait for me.

Vicky said...

This is tough one. I also bought my girls a present from the baby when my youngest was born. That worked well and I will also repeat it when the next one is born in May.
I would suggest keeping your boys as invovled as possible with the baby, letting them fetch the nappies or anything you might need when you're nursing. That way they will feel like the baby is pushing them out and that they are being helpful for mummy.

Cammie said...

I overly encouraged my boys to hold their newborn brother. They quickly realized how little they could "do" while holding him. They love him and want me to hold him. Now, 7 months later, they will still ask to hold him, from time-to-time, but they mostly like to make him laugh by dancing for him. They rarely showed signs of jealousy.

Emily and Jaime at Everyday Art said...

What wonderful and wise comments. I think my transition to #3 will go more smoothly than the others (or maybe I'm setting myself up...) but it's easy to remind my first how fun #2 baby was, "remember how fun it was to teach her to laugh when she was a little baby?" That helps her get ready. I do remember "over-preparing" my first when #2 came though--I didnt' think it'd be possible to do so, but a week before the baby was born she started to have potty training regression, so I eased up a bit on teaching her how things would change and focused more on playing with her. We just talked a lot about all the good things a newborn brings, which helped a lot. And yes, I always showed as much love as I could to both so that by example my oldest learned to love her baby sister. Best of luck to you.

Jayne said...

I did the present from the baby too! I think that is always a big hit.

I think another thing that has helped us (and I haven't read all the comments, so maybe it has been mentioned) is that because I so often had to say, "I can't right now, I'm feeding/changing/wahtever the baby" I tried to make an effort to tell the same thing to the baby (who obviously didn't know) "I can't do that right now baby Julian, I am going to play with Parley" or "Julian, right now I"m going to help Hazel" Then, even though I chose the "older kid" times carefully, they felt like I was putting them above the baby sometimes.

Also, don't go anywhere for 6 months.

Unless it is to visit your friends on Elm Avenue.

jeanine said...

I only skimmed over the other comments so maybe I'm repeating something that's already been said.

I always have a special gift for the older ones... just something small. I let them help a lot... makes them feel special--LOTS of praise. My mom always comes out... and she always has fun games/treats/crafts/outings planned for them so that i can rest for the first week or so home. Not having mom/dad home for the first few days throws them for a loop but after that they are better adjusted.
When I nurse I let the older boys pick a show to watch so they can sit with me.
The baby sleeps so much at first that I try to spend time with the older ones during that time.
In the end though, every child is different. My oldest has always adjusted super well to new additions... but my second took a few weeks to really warm up (he was great with the baby... just had a hard time with everything else).