Fear and exhaustion pressed in on all sides. I touched the soft, feathery fist curled around my index finger and tried not to panic. Riding home from the hospital and leaning on less than three hours of sleep, one thought spun again and again through the revolving door in my mind—
We’re outnumbered, we’re outnumbered, we’re outnumbered…
We pulled into the driveway where the sweetest scene played out: my two older children held handmade “Welcome Home” signs and danced wildly in the yard. They ran right past me and straight for their new baby sister. Their first moments of love and excitement are memories I’ll never forget.
But there are a few other moments I won’t forget. Like the moment my parents, who had stayed with our two oldest while my husband and I were at the hospital, walked out the door, leaving the five of us behind. Like the way my six-year-old started doing flips off the couch, and my three-year-old started screaming because said six-year-old just kicked her in the head. Like the way I clutched our two-day-old baby to my chest and prayed to God that she’d survive the “gentle” touches and tackles from her siblings.
Outnumbered and overwhelmed. That was me.
Correction. That is me. Like right now. In this moment.
As part of our Bump in the Road: Facing the Fears of Motherhood series, we asked moms just like you about their top fears going into motherhood. Helping siblings with a new baby was at the top of the list.
Moms of multiples, you’re in good company. Your life is changing, but so is theirs – and often it’s hard for children to express their many feelings. Below are 7 ideas to help your older child(ren) transition into life with a new baby.
7 Ways to Help Your Child Adjust to a New Baby
- Prepare a Big Brother/Sister Gift. Your new baby will receive lots of attention and gifts, and this can be hard for older siblings to watch. Having a special gift prepared for older siblings is a great way to make them feel seen, loved, and celebrated. Here are a few great ideas shared by other moms: big brother/sister t-shirts; a small baby doll and/or baby carrier; a “tool belt” to hold baby items so the brother/sister can help with baby; chalk, bubbles, or other outdoor activities to keep kiddos moving.
- Provide Opportunities for Them to Hold Their New Sibling. Teach gentle touches and coach your older children on how they can comfortably hold the baby. A great way to prepare for this is by practicing with a baby doll before the baby is born. Be patient with them–none of us became experts at holding a newborn the first time we did it!
- Avoid Blaming the Baby. You may find yourself tempted to use this sentence structure again and again: “We can’t _______ because the baby ________.” These types of explanations communicate one thing to older kids: this baby is ruining my good time. Instead, try and let your answer be “yes” whenever possible. For example, if your older children ask to go to the park, instead of saying, “No, because the baby’s sleeping,” your answer could be, “Yes, that sounds so fun! Let’s make a plan for the best time to go.” This allows you to have the same end result without making your baby the bad guy.
- Give Special Jobs/Responsibilities. Include your older children and ask for their help caring for your new baby. If they’re old enough, let them change diapers. If they’re younger, ask for help getting diapers and wipes. Let them soothe the baby with a pacifier or wipe spit up from the baby’s chin. Let them choose the baby’s outfit or sing a lullaby. Make sure to acknowledge these acts of service. Some ways we do this at our house is by saying, “Thank you so much for caring for your sister, you’re an amazing big brother,” or “Wow I couldn’t have done that without you, thank you for helping me love your sister!”
- Be Patient with Changes in Behavior. Your older child(ren) may ask for a bottle, start using “baby talk,” ask to be rocked or held more often, or even have increased tantrums. This is all normal behavior. Your children are processing their new worlds, and their feelings will manifest in a variety of ways. Resist the urge to “fix” their behavior with anger or punishment. Instead, redirect or try to identify the moment that may have triggered their reaction. If your child asks for more affection, be intentional about joyfully giving it to them, along with your full attention, even if it means setting baby down or letting her fuss for a few minutes.
- Plan One on One Time. Make time to spend with each child doing something he/she enjoys. For my daughter, it’s playing a game of Princess Candy Land. For my son, it’s building a new LEGO creation. It doesn’t have to be expensive or extravagant, just special time without distractions. Getting out of the house and having a change of scenery can be super helpful as well.
- Try to Stick with Routines and Boundaries Already in Place. The first days and weeks after bringing our third home, we were in survival mode. Everything was new and exciting, but also chaotic. Making sure our older kids had some “normal” was helpful for us. This included sitting down at the dinner table together, a Bible story each night, and a normal bedtime. It may be tempting to let the older kids “get away with” some things they wouldn’t normally. But whether they admit it or not, children love predictability because it helps them feel safe and secure.
Mom, You Can Do This
Parenting multiple children is anything but easy, but nothing less than a wonderful adventure. There will be challenges, but also great joy. You can do this, and we can help. We’re here to support you every step of the way. Our two group classes, Pregnancy 101 and Parenting 101, are available to equip you with the essentials you need for a healthy pregnancy and a strong start to parenthood. You’ll also connect with other moms who can provide a support network during this new season of life. Give us a call today to find out how you can get started.
Special thanks to all the moms who submitted ideas and suggestions on social media.