How parenting changes with your second child
Many parents wonder how life will be different if they have more children. The answer is it’s different for every family - it depends on the newborn, and the support you have around you.
In my experience it’s important to think ahead and make any changes that involve the sibling(s) before the baby arrives. For example, if your older child needs to move rooms to make space for the new baby, do so before the baby is born. This way it is less likely the sibling will feel displaced or usurped.
Along with talking about the baby in mummy’s tummy, if possible include your child/children in visits to the midwife or doctor and also share your scans with them. Another good idea is to use children’s picture books to introduce your toddler to the imminent arrival of a baby – you can find these at your local library or children’s bookshop.
Once your baby starts to kick, encourage your toddler/child to feel your tummy – this gives them a better understanding that something is changing in their lives.
Siblings can be amazingly attentive, absorbing every little detail and eager to help with their newborn sibling. Most just want to be involved with their new brother or sister. Rather than shutting them away, which may encourage frustration or jealousy, encourage calmness as best as you can and try to answer their questions honestly. Invite them to join you during feeding, nappy changing or bathing time.
Another good idea is to dedicate one parent or adult to the needs of the toddler, because mum will be busy feeding the new baby. This way the toddler/child doesn’t feel that he/she is missing out on attention they usually get.
You can also try using language that connects the newborn with the sibling to help forge an early relationship and sense of belonging. Instead of talking about ‘the new baby’ perhaps ask, ‘would you like to meet your baby?’
As early as possible, depending on age, include the older sibling by inviting them to cuddle the baby. This will acknowledge the toddler in their own right and make them feel loved. The best place to do this is somewhere the parents have their hands free to support the toddler.
Toddlers respond well to positive attention — a ‘catch me when I’m good’ approach can prevent some negative behaviour towards the newborn. Saying no to a toddler often has the opposite effect and only entices them to do it more. If a sibling has taken to hitting the baby, for example, it’s better to make a positive intervention and prevent the hit, mid-flow, by distracting the toddler — try pointing out the window. Nine times out of ten this works.
Encourage them to be gentle with the baby and other small things in the world and demonstrate this by guiding their hands to the baby, or, for example, gently stroking the baby’s arm or body.
Some toddlers have never been away from their parents so if you are having a hospital birth then try and time it (not always possible) that when they visit, the baby is in their own bed. You could also arrange a present for the new baby to give to the sibling — ideally a doll or something related to the world of babies in a toy form.
Many children see new babies as an opportunity to play at parenting. Some are content just observing.
Remember, siblings have had their world turned upside down and are still working out where everyone fits into the family dynamic. Until this happens it is a bit like a juggling act. Try not to be hard on yourself if you feel you are not handling it well. It is an ongoing process and rarely do parents get it right first time — but it does get better.
Remember parenting is a life long journey and this journey will have many ups and downs, but as parent you are doing your best.
Dorothy Waide is a Karitane nurse and a leading sleep consultant who has almost 30 years’ baby nursing and sleep-settling experience in homes in New Zealand and abroad. Her consultancy BabyHelp is dedicated to teaching new mums everyday parenting skills and ‘mothercraft’ – find it on Facebook here. She has also released the book You Simply Can’t Spoil a Newborn – a guide to nurturing your baby in their first three months.
For more baby care advice and resources, visit the ecostore Mother and Baby website.