Wednesday, June 9, 2010

And then there were Two (or three, four, five!)

The next three months appear to be baby boom months – many of my friends and people I have met are about to pop or have just given birth. I remember having King Arthur, and the huge jump it was for me to have children, and then having Aragorn two years later was a much larger jump than expected! Mine were all still very young when another one came along – know looking back I can see that, but at the time I thought it was normal!

Here are some things that helped me in adjusting to a toddler and a newborn:
  • we read our children loads of books about new babies before one was born, making sure that nothing would be a surprise (crying, breastfeeding, nappies, sleeping etc), and also using those books as a springboard to talk about their feelings and to treasure them that our love for them would never change. Here's one I just loved – "And then there were two" (the author escapes me just now!).
  • Reassure and affirm the elder child all the time – talk about what a wonderful big sister/brother they are going to be, how wonderful if is that baby is going to have them for a big brother/sister etc, so that it's not always babe that is getting all the attention. Be conscious of this when talking to others about the baby too if your eldest is in earshot. (You can ask people you know well to make a fuss of your eldest at the hospital first as well (before they start oogling at the newborn)
  • We also gave a present from the newborn to the elder sibling/s at the hospital on the first day they came to meet the newborn. (They also brought one of their special toys to give to the baby as a way of welcoming them into our family). This makes them feel special and I think it encourages the bond of openness and love – and it gives them something new to play with whilst mom and dad reconnect and give the new bundle some special cuddles!
  • when you are breast feeding, make a special juice for your toddler, one that he can only have when you are breastfeeding. Or give him water in a new special cup that he can only use during this time. You can also include a snack for him as well. That way, when baby is being fed, he is too.
  • Have a regular place that you will breastfeed, and place a special box with some quiet independent activities for your toddler to do whilst you are breastfeeding. And let me stress that word – independent!! Stickers, coloring in, play dough, a new car, threading activities etc. That way he knows it is his special treat and a special time to be with you in a different way.
  • The best advice I was ever given was by my sister-in-law who was a great routine based mom. She encouraged me to guide my babies into the same sleep routine as my toddler – so I did. And let me assure you, it was my sanity saver for the last four years! There was season where every day, at lunch time, all three of my children would rest. It enabled me to catch up on sleep, or read, or just breathe. It transformed me – I was a much better mother for it. I watched others in disbelief trying to function through the day with different nap times and no sleep or down time for themselves, especially during those sleep deprived early weeks. If you handle pressure like that well, go for it, but if you can nail this one, it will change you!
  • On a side note, if your children are now older than mine were, an no longer need a lunch time nap, don't think you're doomed! My boys now have 'quiet time'. Every day, after lunch, they play quietly in their room. My mantra is “I don't want to hear you, I don't want to see you”. This time gives me down time too, and gives them a time to rejuvenate themselves for their afternoon play or activities. If your older children are not used to this, I would strongly urger you to create pockets of this time in your day BEFORE babe comes. Start it as a game - “Sweetie, let's play this game. Let's see if you can play in your room quietly for 10 minutes. I'm going to set this timer, and when you hear it go off you can come to me and get a reward (say a smartie)”. Start with small pockets of time and gradually work your way up. I recommend some back to back slots as well – 10 minutes, reward then another 10 minutes. I think time like this is invaluable, if you need a power nap, or if you are trying to settle babe etc. Older kids will love it if it starts as a game!
  • I strongly recommend that during one of the babe's regular nap times, you consciously set that time aside for your toddler/older child – leave the laundry, washing up, tidying etc. Make that time a period where you just invest into her life. It will fill up her 'emotional tank', and if it becomes a regular part of the daily routine, you can remind her that her special time with you is coming if there is point where she is nearing melt down.
  • If there are sleeping arrangements or routines you need to change when babe comes, try as best you can to do that before the babe's arrival, to stop the older children from feeling displaced.
  • Children love to be involved – girls especially. Let them see where the baby clothes are going to be kept, how small they are, let them feel the powder and nappy cream, let them see the shoes and the cot. Show them pictures of when they were newborn, and if you have, of when you were newborn too! Let little girls have some nappies to put on their dolls etc.
  • ... and above all, remember babies are a lot tougher than we think! Ever watched the maternity staff handle babies? They don't handle them as gingerly as we do! Let your older kids hold them and love them – allow them to bond (whilst watching with an eagle eye!)

A friend once said that after having two, having a third, fourth or fifth just comes so naturally – and I can attest to that! Belle was born and our family just carried on - it really does get easier the more you have!

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