You were just achieving a little balance in life! Your first is sleeping through the night and hopefully you have been on a few nights out again with your friends and partner! Are you ready for the newborn stage again!? 100 days of utter exhaustion and a chaotic unpredictable on-demand schedule? Yes! You can do this!
Congratulations! Having another baby is the best thing in the world, and honestly the best present you could give to the soon to be older sibling. But how can you get them ready for this transition that is about to change all the dynamics in the house? I think some of that depends on their age. An 18 month old is so smart, and can sincerely understand a lot. A 3 year old is a really big kid, and can express in detail how they truly feel. But can any age truly grasp what is about to happen?
Yes – it is important, fun and enjoyable to read books about being a big sibling, and there are many out there. Especially as your belly is showing more, it is helpful to talk to the baby, sing to the baby, and ask the older sibling for help in engaging and involving the baby inside. This will likely be fun for the toddler. But they are still “running the show” and you are still holding and hugging only them! The reality is, no matter how much you prepare, life is about to change pretty drastically.
You are about to spend 24/7 holding/feeding/loving/changing this newborn. Even when you make firm plans to take the older one to the park on a Saturday, there is likely to be a reason to stay with the newborn. Most likely there are going to be moments of guilt and frustration for everyone, but please remember that it is a temporary phase.
As the baby grows, they become more of an active fun audience. The 4 month old is laughing with the older sibling, and the 9 month old is practically wrestling with them! I promise it will get better, but it takes time.
Almost across the board, you’ll see some signs of regression, resentment, or rational jealousy. Parents were created for only them! So why are you now spending so much time with this new kid on the block!
You may see one step forward and two steps back. Or you may see such an acceptance that they are one day too rough with the newborn, or try to pick them up! It is such a fine balance as we seek to encourage acceptance, but still maintain a safe environment.
I think our attempt to do everything perfectly will only add stress that you don’t need during those sleepless first weeks. You read the books, and you have kissed the belly, and so why are they acting out or jealous? It is normal, and it will be a stage or phase, and you could not have done it any different or any better.
As we encourage the bonding, please remember to concentrate on avoiding germs and illnesses. Remember that in the newborn period a fever is a true emergency and will lead to every doctor insisting on testing including blood, urine and even spinal taps if a newborn gets a high fever. When they are so young, you can’t just say it’s a cold, and some germs can be very dangerous to the newborn. The germs are spread from a cough or cold or kissing the face, or touching the fingers of the baby. So while we want the older sibling to accept the newborn, you really need to set some boundaries, and prevent the newborn from getting sick.
Washing hands helps, but they still may cough right on the baby or kiss their mouths. So many will say kiss the feet, but not the face. This may seem to discourage the bonding or acceptance that you are working towards, but it’s the lesser of two evils. And after two months old, and the first set of shots, you’ll relax a bit, and the newborn will be stronger and more fun to play with anyway.
So please don’t feel that guilt. You are an amazing parent! You’ll soon be able to spend more time with the older sibling again, but your newborn needs you right now, and all day long! So pace yourself, and allow the older sib to express their disappointment or resentment. Appreciate it when they are feeling connected to the new baby, even a little, and just know in your heart it will all get better soon! Before you know it, they’ll be best friends forever!