Updated: Nov 15, 2022
Have you found out that you are pregnant with number two and you're worrying about how you will cope ? You are not alone. Read on and I promise you that you will feel more reassured and prepared.
Preparing your first born
Preparing your first born (providing your child is old enough) can be really helpful. Ivy was 18 months when George was born and she had little understanding of what was to come. Although we did attempt to prepare her by borrowing a bag from the nursery which had a baby doll, a bottle, some nappies and a book about the arrival of a new sibling. I highly recommend seeing if your nursery has a similar resource or putting together your own. Children love to role play; engaging in role play together gives your child the opportunity to practice how it might feel to have a baby brother or sister. Research shows that children tend to ask more questions when they are involved in role play than when they are having a discussion with a parent. When you answer their questions, try to be reassuring and honest.
If your child shows interest, let them touch, stroke, talk or sing a lullaby to your bump (Ivy used to like sucking my bump!).You could also show photos or read stories of siblings as babies and young children so that they don’t feel alone in going through this process. If they are old enough you may want to talk through some of the emotions you (or someone they know) felt when their sibling arrived (anxious, jealous, love, anger).
Introducing your toddler to your baby
This will feel different for every child, some will be excited, others anxious or upset. Validate your child’s emotions by letting them know that whatever they feel is ok and that you love them just as much as you always have and that that will never change.
You may decide to greet your child for the first time after the birth without having your new baby in your arms. This isn’t always possible to do. For us, Ivy came bounding into our room as soon as she woke up in the morning and I was feeding George. Unfortunately the introduction for us didn’t go so well– Ivy was keen to know when George would be going back ! But we had bought a present ‘from George’ which really helped, we bought a shopping basket filled with pretend food for her to play with in her kitchen. We told Ivy that George had chosen it especially because he knew how much she loved playing in her kitchen and that he couldn’t wait to be able to play with her.
Have some activities that your child could be involved in like helping you show the baby around your home or reading, or singing to the baby. Model how to touch and hold (if appropriate) the baby.
It is very normal for your first born to say things like ‘I don’t like the baby’ or for them to have more emotional meltdowns or to show more challenging behaviour after your baby has been born. Avoid saying things like, ‘I can’t play with you now because of the baby’ but rather ‘I would love to play with you, can you get the game/puzzle/toys ready whilst I finish feeding the baby ?’. Lots of parents find it useful to have a box of special toys that come out whenever you need to feed the baby as it can help to ease any tension that the baby needing your attention could potentially create. It can take a long time for your first born to acknowledge and accept their sibling into the family, take it at your child’s pace and don’t feel under pressure to rush this process.
When visitors come it can be helpful to ask them to be mindful of the fact that your first born is going through a big change and might appreciate them saying hello to them or playing with them before they meet or possibly, hold the baby.
The first few days and weeks
Know that this time is about SURVIVAL, it’s not the time to worry about much screen time your child is having or how many snacks are being consumed. This is the time to be kind to yourself and to acknowledge the change your family is going through and to understand that it will take everyone some time to adjust. Some families will take longer than others and that is ok, try to avoid putting unnecessary pressure on yourself to get back into your usual routine too quickly.
I remember looking out of the window watching other parents of two young children being out and about and feeling completely in awe of how they were doing it, as well as terrified at the prospect of me having to do it! I was very fortunate to have my step mum for the first week as well as my husband for a month ( he took two weeks paternity leave and two weeks holiday). I would urge you, whatever your circumstances, to have someone you can call on for help for at least the first few days and weeks after giving birth.
With my first born I never accepted offers of help, even though I would have loved some, I felt I ‘should’ be able to do it myself but as soon as George was born, the moment someone offered to help by cooking a meal or holding George whilst I had a shower or took a nap, I quickly accepted it. I’ve always been a napper but when my first was born the adrenaline took over and I could no longer nap in the day, but once George arrived, I found I could easily nap, given the opportunity!
Focus on getting feeding established in the first few days and weeks and know that there will be little consistency around sleep during this time. Have daily routines based around your first born’s needs as much as possible because young babies won’t have consistent times when they need to eat or sleep. I talk about this in a lot more detail in my toddler sleep course and my 0-5 month sleep shaping course which focuses on setting up strong foundations to sleep from birth .