Adding another baby to the family? Dealing with a toddler at the same time?
Most people have their second child when their first is between 2-3 years old. I often hear people say things like, "He's jealous of the new baby", or "the baby brought him a present when he was born so he would feel included". Or people go out of their way to greet the toddler first so his 'feelings' don't get hurt. I see adults project so many of our grown up concerns onto our toddlers and preschoolers.
We have brought 4 newborns into our home with an older sibling waiting for them. Never have we experienced any sibling rivalry or jealousy of the newborn. Here is my 'advice' on how to handle bringing a new baby home with an older sibling waiting for them:
1. Keep in mind the age appropriate behaviors that your older child will exhibit. A two year old will act like a two year old simply because they are two. Not because of a baby. They throw fits, get frustrated, and work on their communication. These are likely not attributed to a new baby and Mommy's attention being elsewhere. They are acting their age.
2. NO GUILT! This is the most important advice I can give. Many parents parent with guilt even without a new baby in the mix. You are not making their life worse, you are blessing it with a sibling and forever love. Don't be sorry for someone's life. You owe no such exclusivity to your older child.
3. The birth of a new baby is about the baby. Not about the 1st child. They already had their time in the spotlight. Now it is baby #2's turn to be on center stage and get presents. It's OK for your toddler to learn that they aren't the only one who needs attention. The sooner they learn this the better. Life doesn't revolve around them. Other people need care, food and attention. Waiting your turn for a string cheese is a great skill for a toddler to learn.
4. Be normal. Same routines, same bedtimes, same people. Who usually puts kid #1 to bed? If it's mom then mom should continue putting them to bed. Kids thrive on routine and structure. Knowing that mom is the same and is still there when he wakes up and still feeding him breakfast while baby hangs in the swing is important. Newborns don't need a ton of attention. They need to be fed every 2-3 hours, changed and then they can be put down or worn in a sling while you attend to your toddler doing every day things.
5. Sleep! if you haven't already gotten your first child on an early bed time with good sleeping through the night habits. Do it now! Parents need sleep to be successful during the day. Toddlers need sleep for brain development and recoup. Newborns also need to learn good sleep habits. I am a big proponent of sleep training the Babywise way. Little kids should be in bed by 7 pm. An added bonus is the alone time this afforded to you and your spouse. It's like a free date night in your house every night for 3 hours:)
6. Parent together. If you and your spouse are not on the same page with parenting this is an area to improve in. Moms, does your husband feel like you run the whole show and he just jumps under your command? Is your husband undermining your discipline and playing the good guy? Does your husband need more alone time with you, more attention? Toddlers can see the cracks in your parenting and exploit them. They are so smart, we constantly have to be ahead of them yet show them consistency, grace and love.
I have to say that when we bring a new baby into our home it is a sweet time of togetherness and joy. I hope this advice helps but it is just that, my advice from my experiences and observations. I hope the transition is smooth and wonderful to a family of 4 or more.