Getting ready for another baby
It goes without saying that you will try to get as much rest as you can before your new baby arrives. It may not be easy at times, but a snuggly afternoon with your toddler and a DVD may help you rest and close your eyes for a few minutes. You fill your freezer with food so you can quickly defrost a meal rather than cook, if time and energy is in short supply once the new arrival is there and it can be beneficial to buy some new DVDs and books, or borrow some from your library, for your toddler so you can snuggle and spend quality time with your toddler in those early days and weeks.
It can also be a good idea to buy your toddler a present from the baby – something they will love and play with and hopefully be occupied with as you adjust to life with two children. Enjoy the time with just your toddler, because life is about to change and the juggling will begin, so put together your list of helpers, just in case you need them – family, friends, other mums – who may be able to swoop in and help with your toddler or take them out for a while as you find your feet.
Introducing your new baby to their older siblings
I remember planning this moment, being excited and nervous about the moment we introduced our new baby to her big sister. I wanted it to be this beautiful, emotional moment when we became a family of four – my eldest daughter walked in, we introduced Lucy to her big sister who said: “She’s nice. Can I have a biscuit?” And off she ran to the kitchen.
Your children and your experience could be so different from this but it taught me that older children may not experience the same excitement and emotion as you. After her biscuit, Alice had lots of questions about what the baby could do and the Moses Basket was soon piled high with toys she was happy to share (the baby wasn’t in there but it also made me aware to make sure the toys weren’t piled up in there when she was!)
Looking after the needs of both of your children
- This is where the juggling can begin. Your older child will probably be happy if life can continue as normal, as much as possible anyway. So their time in nursery, playgroups, toddler groups will be a great source of continuity for them. It can sometimes feel like you and your baby was just slotting into your toddler’s routine – but if that works, go with it.
- Your toddler can get involved and help with a few things such as nappy changing. When you are feeding your baby, see if your toddler wants a cuddle and maybe a story. When you get feeding established (whether you are breast or bottle feeding) you can feed while playing with your toddler.
- A sling can be a lifesaver because your baby can be settled and close to you and it leaves your hands free to play and be with your older child – even it is just to make some lunch. Some mums will bring the pram into the kitchen so they can settle their baby while getting stuff done.
- Bedtime routines may need to continue as normal for your toddler – if your partner is about then you can do it together, especially if it involves a bath. If it’s just you, you can try using a sling or bringing the moses basket or a bouncy chair into the bathroom so you are hands free for bath time. When my husband was in to help, me and the girls would often have a bath together (along with 100 toys and dolls), he would take the baby to get her dry and dressed so I could play splashy games with Alice. After the first couple of weeks, bedtime stories in our house involved baby too. We would snuggle in bed to read story after story until it was time for Alice to go to sleep and her baby sister would either be feeding, sleeping or lying on the bed with us. Every family does it differently and you will find what works.
- You might also want to enjoy some time with just your toddler – and you may need to ask for help from your partner, friends and family to enable this to happen. Someone else can share the load by holding, playing with or taking your baby for a walk, which will free you up a little to play with your toddler.
Some days you just need to do the basics – feed all of you and change your clothes when necessary. Don’t feel guilty for using the babysitter in the corner (TV) when you need a few minutes and if by 2pm (or 12, or 10am for that matter) you are all in pj’s, the toys are all over the floor, the playdoh is all over the table and the floor and the walls, the tv is on and your hair needs a wash – write the day off. And if there’s no chance of cooking dinner, order a take-out.
When you have a great day – toddler gets ready, the baby doesn’t poo as you are ready to walk out the door, you get along to some groups, the shopping is done, the washing is on, dinner is made, there is order in the house – enjoy it, rejoice, shout it from the roof tops, but don’t expect that of yourself everyday because it’s exhausting! If your toddler already has a schedule with toddler groups, it can be useful to stick with it so their routine stays the same and they get the chance to burn off some energy.
Invest in a sling to keep your hands free and keep a box of your toddlers favourite books and toys handy for when you are feeding the new baby. Expect a change in your toddler’s behaviour – they might be more disruptive and looking for attention, prone to more tantrums, along with causing battles about food and using the potty.
Changes you may notice in your toddler
It is normal for toddlers and young children to become a little upset or confused by the arrival of their baby sibling. They may be jealous, especially if they need to wait for your attention because you need to finish feeding or changing the baby.
Typical behaviour changes include regressing with sleep and any potty training – we definitely experienced more tantrums and ‘naughty’ behaviour as a way of getting my attention away from baby. As hard as it may be at times, just ride it out because it will pass – try not to lose your temper or tell them off too much and don’t make a big deal of these changes. They are adjusting to sharing you and your time and that may take a little bit of time.
These changes don’t necessarily happen when your new baby arrives – some older siblings aren’t that bothered by the arrival of a new baby because the baby doesn’t directly impact on their life as they are not taking their toys, but when your baby is crawling and wants to share the toys, that’s when older siblings might become a little more bothered!
What might you need?
Help, if you need it, especially if you are without much sleep, could include:
someone taking your toddler/older child to nursery
arranging some play dates for them
practical help around the house
teamwork with your partner so you get to have some time with one child or to have some time on your own
a bucket load of patience
kindness to yourself