A New Baby is Coming to Your House

A new baby is coming to your house? Congratulations! As an oldest child myself, anticipating a new baby made me feel happy and sad all at the same time – how would this change my precious daughter’s life?

Here are some suggestions that helped guide our transitions from only child to big sister. Worked again when our third child was born! As with any advice, remember to read, discuss, listen – and then choose things that will work best for your family. Every big brother and big sister is unique; each situation is a “special situation”. It’s not always easy to integrate a new child into a family – but it’s not always hard either! Use your own style, expertise and flair to welcome these changes, and your new baby.

Think first about some of the good things about having another child.

Older siblings will benefit from the opportunity to be a teacher (and sometimes a boss!). It may be one of the reasons oldest child so often show leadership abilities – even more than the only child. Your “big kid” will learn how to share, enjoy expanded social opportunities, and have a friend who will always be very special.

The new baby gets the benefit of a larger cheering squad, extra stimulation, the love of an extra person in the family (the sibling), and extra wisdom (from the parent, who probably learned a thing or two about parenting from that first child!).

Emphasize reality

…versus “aren’t you looking forward to having a baby brother to play with?”. Babies really aren’t much fun at first, and mom may be pretty busy. But it won’t be all bad. Visit with a new baby, if at all possible. You might want to watch a baby care DVD together. (One big sister, after watching the section on cord care, remarked, “I was pretty worried about that black thing. But now it’s okay.”)

We placed our kids in charge of teaching the baby to smile. They spent a lot of time in en face position with the baby, and we have great pictures of big sisters with funny faces. The day when the baby first responds with a smile is priceless for everyone. And do you know how a baby let you know it loves you? Put your finger carefully on the baby’s palm. If s/he loves you, the baby will hold your hand. (Hey, we know it’s the plantar reflex. That doesn’t change the magic!)

Birth stories are helpful and fun (but many mothers say that is NOT true of the ones on TV). Instead of watching your daily dose of “an emergency cesarean right after this message” think back to the wonderful parts of your first child’s birth. Tailor the story for age and interest, and embellish with the details. (“The doctor said, What’s her name?” and Daddy shouted, “Blythe Hope!” and there you were!) Get out those baby books and photo albums too. You’ll enjoy it as much as your child.

Details, details

Begin to make arrangements for all the details that need to be taken care of. Can you believe how much your family – and you responsibilities – have grown since you first became a mom? Next week we’ll have a checklist that you can use to get yourself ready. Some of those tips are great for developing your child’s problem solving skills. But What If also helps to calm your child’s very natural fears about the future.

Start packing away baby things that will be handed down. You may want to enlist your child’s help in choosing baby toys to put away – or you may want them to just disappear! Give careful thought to the crib – most experts suggest it’s easier on the older child if they have about three months in a new bed before the crib becomes the new baby’s bed. If you are sharing a family bed, it’s a good time to discuss night time arrangements with your partner. The age and developmental stage of your older child, along with your feelings, can help you decide what’s best. (Our first child invited our second child to share her bed when we were facing this decision during our third pregnancy. We were all delighted!)

Fill the tank

Ross Campbell, in his excellent book How to Really Love Your Child, suggests you “fill your child’s emotional gas tank” by making sure s/he gets plenty of eye contact, physical attention, and focused attention. When a child is “full” of these three things, s/he will be better able to deal with stressful situations. (Works for me, too!) And just like the car seems to run out of gas when the tank is low – well, you get the picture.

Should your child attend the birth? You will hear many forceful arguments from both sides. Again – you are the expert on you and your child. If you decide to have your child with you, preparation should begin now. Have a special friend available to attend to your child’s needs during labor and birth.

By the way, we had a baby who never came to live with us, as I had a miscarriage just after we had told our three children about the pregnancy. I wish I’d had Marilyn Grite’s book, No New Baby, to help us with all our questions.

Finally, remember: Love doesn’t divide. Love multiplies! Here at the Birthing Center we had a lovely big family with a new baby. The five year old looked pretty down at the mouth. The mom called him close. “Do you remember when we went to Disney World? When someone new came, the hotel opened up a new room. My heart is just like that hotel. There is always room in my heart for you. Now that the new baby is here, I just opened a room for him too.”

The amount of love you have available will expand to take care of your baby’s needs, without taking anything away from the love you have for the children you love so very much today. Happy parenting!

Join us next week for our Getting Ready checklist.

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