Updated: Dec 2, 2021
Helpful Tips for Parents and Older Siblings
And baby makes four – you’ve finally brought home your second bundle of joy! The excitement! The relief! The exhaustion! You’ve done this all before, but now you have two children to love and care for. How do you divide your attention between these two children you love so much? Why does big brother or sister seem to be more needy than your newborn? Where is that time to snuggle and bond and gaze lovingly at your newborn baby?
“There will be joy and tears, chaos and laughter – it’s all part of the wonderful journey of raising children.”
Things are definitely not the same with the second child – your time is now divided between your older child and your newborn, and your older child may seem to need more than your new baby. Routines that may have been established – sleeping through the night, independence in dressing, toileting – might regress and you may find that you are doing many things for big brother or sister that they previously did independently. Keep in mind that your older child has lost something – he is no longer the sole focus of your attention, or the attention of other family members. This may cause him to act out, regress, or be extra needy. Not easy when you have a newborn that needs so much from you, too.
So how to deal with this? Attention to your older child may look a little different now – make baby’s feeding a time when your older child will bring a book for you to read together or a basket of special toys just for use during feeding time. Applaud their independent skills and brag about them to your new baby. Talk to your baby – “Ok, now you’re going to go in your swing while I play with your big sister.” Give your older child some words to help them express their feelings – “It’s hard to share mommy”. Doing this provides a positive example for dealing with stress and encourages them to talk with you, rather than always acting out feelings.
You may get questions about feeding from big brother or sister – can I nurse too or have a bottle? Don’t deny it – but point out that they can have so many different food choices than their baby brother or sister. List some of their favorite foods – these are things the baby can’t have.
And that one on one snuggle time with your newborn? It is still possible, but your time for this may be a bit less than you had with your older child. Look for those moments when you can – middle of the night feedings, a quick few moments while your older child is napping or otherwise engaged, or you can also establish regular routines of cuddling with both kids. Be mindful of the moments you have with your baby and focus on enjoying the pleasure of holding your newborn rather than lamenting having less time to do so.
Why do my partner and I seem to be constantly going in two different directions and have little time for each other? Our relationship is starting to feel like a business arrangement.
Depending on the age difference between your children and your older child’s activities, you and your partner will often be using the “divide and conquer” method to ensure that the needs of both your children are met – older brother goes to a park district class while baby needs to be home in bed for a nap. While this pull between different needs and activities will continue, you and your partner can decide to what extent that will happen. Decide which activities take priority and if the time commuting and being away from home are worthwhile. Keep in mind that this “divide and conquer” method is temporary, and most likely whole family activities, or activities when one parent takes both children, will soon resume when parents are ready.
Early bedtimes for young children can make it possible to have time to connect with your spouse at the end of a busy day. With a newborn, you both may need to adjust your expectations and accept quality over quantity time.
The current work from home phenomenon can make home feel like work – negotiating space and quiet adds an additional challenge to any relationship. Is there a specific time of day when work-related activities can stop? Can phones and laptops be put aside – for example at dinnertime? Is there a natural break in the day when work can be put on hold and you and your spouse can connect either just the two of you, or with your children too, for some quality time as a family?
Tips for big brother or sister
Your baby sibling won’t be ready to play right away, but you will soon have their full attention! They will love seeing your smiling face (and start smiling back at you) and watching all the amazing things you can do. They will start imitating you and following you - you are someone they will look up to and admire. You can be a helper to mommy - bring a diaper when the baby needs to be changed, or show your new baby brother or sister how their toys work while she is busy with another task. Even though it can be hard to share mommy, you are still special to her and she will tell you the many things she loves about you that make you unique!
Embrace the new normal, embrace the chaos
Your second baby is a different experience than your first – your time and attention are now focused on two, rather than one. Your newborn has entered a world with a toddler or older child who is busy and curious. Those quiet times of snuggling with your newborn may be short, but can still be sweet! You and your partner are both learning how to balance the needs of two children while also nurturing your relationship as a couple. Over time, you will all develop a new rhythm of family life, and you will soon realize that you are doing it – managing your home, nurturing your children and partner in ways that are gratifying to all of you. Some days will feel more balanced than others, just like other aspects of your life.
Congratulations on your growing family – there will be joy and tears, chaos and laughter – it’s all part of the wonderful journey of raising children.
Jennifer Polizzi is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the state of Illinois. She has a passion for working with pregnant and postpartum women, entire families, new and not-so-new parents, and walking them through the challenges of the journey we call parenting. She believes that people already have the answers within, and strengths that may be underutilized. Call us now (630) 478-0707 to schedule an appointment with Jennifer!