You’re expecting a second baby. This should be a breeze. You know what to expect as you recover from childbirth and you’re probably less anxious about how to care for your second child. Yet, bringing home baby No. 2 is much different than bringing home the first. You‘ll be faced with the reaction of your older child. How will she react to being a brother or sister? How will you meet the needs of two children? What can you do to make the adjustment easier for her and for you?
The most important thing to do is to prepare your child for the new sibling well before the baby arrives. Tell her about your pregnancy when you tell your family and friends. Talk realistically about what to expect after the baby is born. Explain that you’ll be tired and the baby will do nothing but eat, sleep, poop and fuss in the very beginning. Be sure that she doesn’t expect you to bring home a playmate or a toy.
Make any necessary preparations, such as moving her to a new bed or new room, weaning, toilet-training or beginning school or child care, as soon as possible before the baby arrives. That way, your older child has ample time to adjust and doesn’t feel resentment that the changes are because of the new baby. If your hospital offers sibling classes, attend them with her.
When your baby arrives, try to have your child visit you and the baby in the hospital. Allow someone else to hold the baby as you give your attention to your older child. Give her a gift from the baby to celebrate the baby’s birth and let her help open the gifts the baby receives.
Children younger than 18 to 24 months often won’t understand the meaning of a new baby and will not feel threatened. However, as your time becomes divided, they may become jealous and begin to act out. Ignore the acting-out behavior, but reward good and acceptable behaviors with the thing your child craves most: your time and attention.
Children older than 2 but still not of preschool age won’t be happy about sharing your attention. Encourage your child to help care for the baby. Have her get the diapers or hand you wipes as you change diapers. Show your child her baby pictures and tell her stories about when she was a baby.
School-aged children sometimes feel jealous about the amount of attention a new baby gets. Talk to her about the advantages of being older, such as staying up later, being able to play with toys, talk and walk.
Give your older child as much time and attention as you can when the baby is asleep or quiet. Remember that it’s OK to ask for help with your baby so you can have time with his big brother or sister.
When friends and family visit, they’ll want to hold the baby. Your older child had her turn as the center of attention, but she won’t remember it. Tell her about it and include her in the conversation with friends and family when they visit. Be an advocate for your older child and share your attention with her, as well as the new baby.