- Written by Melissa Martz
I am the oldest of five children, but when asking my mom how she prepared us for the new arrival, she couldn’t recall – but hey, it’s been 25 years since her last child was born.
The arrival of a new baby (more so the second than third or fourth) can be a traumatic event in a small child’s life. After all, they have been the centre of your life since their birth. Even though you are excited about the new life growing inside you, mothers naturally worry about the bringing of a new child into the family, who you fear will have such an impact, and could ruin your firstborn’s life.
All too often, everything falls into place, and the fear of new baby jealousy either subsides quite quickly or doesn’t exist at all, especially when special attention is taken, so jealously is overridden with the open arms of the new big sister or brother.
There are several ways to help prepare you and your child for the new arrival:
You may have noticed that your two-year-old is naturally curious about babies they see at the mall, at the park, at church. Talk to them about the baby they see, and then pat your belly and say there is a baby in there, too.
As your pregnancy progresses, your child will also be progressing developmentally, and you will see them maturing, gaining independence and wanting to do more on their own.
Look for ways to include your child in your pregnancy. Pre-natal doctor visits are a great way - they have the opportunity to help the doctor measure your belly, listen to the baby’s heartbeat... and at an ultrasound, actually see the baby.
When you’re out shopping for baby, allow your child to help pick clothes and other items. Your child will feel really special when they see the sleeper or outfit they picked out on baby.
When decorating the nursery, have your child help to place stuffed animals, baby toys or baby’s personal items on the change table.Canadian Parenting Expert Ann Douglas says in her book, the mother of all pregnancy books, “Don’t try to enforce a totally ‘hands off’ policy. While you obviously don’t want to allow your toddler to carry the new baby around the room, you can teach him to hold the baby’s hand gently or to carefully pat the baby’s tummy. Babies are just as irresistible to toddlers as they are to adults. Imagine how frustrated you’d feel if no one let you touch the new baby.”
Let your child feel your stomach when the baby is kicking.
Play up the ‘big sister’/’big brother’ role - “You can be mommy’s big helper.” Make sure you say “can” rather than “will.” Don’t insinuate that they have to fulfill that role right away. Give them a choice. More than likely, they will want to help because it’s spending time with you, and have seniority over this little being. But, if they need time to adjust, let them have that time.
When baby arrives:
- Have a gift waiting for your older child that is ‘from’ the baby.
- Remember, when taking pictures of the new baby, include older siblings as well.
- Supernanny Jo Frost has several ‘techniques’ for desired results for various behaviors. When a new baby arrives, you can use the ‘Involvement’ technique. This technique is basically asking your child to bring you different things while you are tending to the baby: A diaper, Kleenex, the phone, etc. Keeping a running conversation (or commentary) allows your son/daughter to feel they are getting attention at the same time as the baby. Make sure to always praise them bringing the diaper, or the phone with a, “Good for you!” The technique is great for your older child to help alleviate the need for ‘I’m a baby, too’ behavior, regressing to that so they will be able to receive more attention. Giving praise and giving small tasks and responsibilities will make the urge to regress less appealing.
- You’ve seen all the baby stuff that is available for dolls – they can also help with this transition. “I’m a mom just like mommy.”
- Make sure that you and your spouse still spend time with your older child.
- Rest easy. With talking, preparing and planning for your future with a new baby, everything will be fine, and your worry about ruining your other child’s life will dissipate.
There are many books about welcoming a new baby:
The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby by Stan and Jan Berenstain
The New Baby (Little Critter® Series) by Mercer Mayer
This New Baby by Teddy Jam
Hi New Baby by Robie H. Harris
Melissa is a freelance writer living in Kitchener, Ontario. She was a nanny for 14 years, and has been writing since 2007, with more than 25 Canadian publications and dozens of articles to her credit.