Coming home with a new baby for the first time is an incredible experience, encompassing a whole range of emotions, from fear and worry to elation and excitement. However, coming home with your second baby can be a little overwhelming. Not only do have have a precious new bundle of joy, but also his/her sibling, your first child to think about. It’s natural to have concerns about how a new baby will impact on your existing family unit and to want to make the transition from one to two as smooth as possible. We have some great advice from some of the The Baby Show’s top parenting experts, especially for parents beginning their lives as a family of four.
Keep introductions short
Jo Tantum, baby sleep expert and author of Baby Secrets says: “Both parents will be excited about a new baby, but also anxious about how their new little one will impact on their family. The new arrival can be unsettling for an older sibling, particularly if they are still just a toddler themselves. A big brother or sister will will be inquisitive and very curious about the noises and movements the new baby will make. Most toddlers find all the attention is on baby and not them, so this in itself can cause regression and tantrums.
“My advice would be to keep introductions to the new baby short and sweet. Give lots of praise to big brother (or sister!) and ask him to be gentle. Then distract him with something else, otherwise you might find yourself being negative all the time as he tries to poke the new baby’s eyes and face when being inquisitive which is totally normal.
“When you have visitors ask them to speak to your older child first rather than go straight over to the baby.”
Prepare your little one
Sarah Beeson MBE, baby expert and author of The New Arrival and Happy Baby, Happy Family says: “Before the new baby arrives, read stories with your older child about having a new brother or sister. Once the baby is born, let your toddler express their feelings without reproach or excessive enthusiasm. Be calm and positive.”
Geraldine Miskin, breastfeeding expert says: “Usually breastfeeding is much easier the second time round as your body has been through it all before, so not only will you feel more comfortable handling your teeny bundle but you’ll also have more milk which is usually available sooner than with your first.
“Your toddler may become bored if you have to sit down to breastfeed often, so it is helpful to create activities around breastfeeding that only happen at or during feeding times, for example, book, bed and baby time where you get your toddler into your bed with a book and his bottle and while you snuggle up, breastfeed baby and read a book at the same time.
“Remember that breastfeeding second time needs to be efficient. Unless you have a very patient toddler, you’ll probably only have 30 minutes per feed during the day. Use breast massage or compression to keep your milk flowing and baby swallowing throughout the feed. The more your baby swallows, the shorter your feeds will be.
“You may find that you need to introduce expressing and bottle-feeding earlier with your second baby than you did with your first child. You may even decide to introduce formula to keep up with both of them. This is just the nature of being a mum of two.”
Create one-to-one time with the older sibling
Jo Tantum says: “It’s important to make an effort to still have one-to-one time with the older sibling without the baby. So, when the new baby is having a nap, dedicate play time to your older child; that way he won’t feel the need to start attention seeking behaviour which can turn into a temper tantrum.”
Zainab Jagot Ahmed, weaning expert and author of Easy Indian SuperMeals for Babies, Toddlers and the Family says: “Get organised – cooking meals in advance and freezing them prior to birth will help ease the pressure of cooking meals in the first few weeks after baby is born. For toddlers this is very important as they are still very much in the weaning stages. At this age a child requires three balanced meals and two healthy snacks per day to achieve his required calorie intake.
“Try to maintain your toddler’s feeding routine. There have been major changes in the family dynamic, so trying to keep some familiarity in your toddler’s routine will be comforting.
“Your toddler may regress slightly and insist that mummy feed him after seeing his new sibling being fed by mummy – even if he was happily feeding himself before. Be prepared to cope with extra demands, and try to ease your toddler’s feelings of insecurity by offering one-on-one time with him as often as possible. You can also cook his favourite meals and give him lots of hugs and kisses as often as you can.”
Include your toddler as much as possible
Geraldine Miskin says: “The more secure your toddler feels, the less rivalry you can expect as your toddler won’t see the new baby as a threat. Giving your first child a sense of responsibility and ownership of his little brother or sister will quickly get him on board and creates the opportunity for you to make a fuss over him every time he helps.
“For example, ask him to fetch a nappy, wipes, find a dummy, find a soft toy for baby, sing baby a song or stroke baby’s feet. All these things will make him feel important and a valued member of the team. He’ll get bored eventually and leave you in peace to breastfeed your new-born.”
Sarah Beeson says: “Let your little one find their own role as an older sibling. Resist the urge to put pressure on them to love the baby or help out too much. Give your toddler opportunities to get involved but don’t worry if they don’t always want to.”
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Sarah Beeson says: “Having two babies at different development stages is exhausting. It’s probably triple the work so preparation is key. Your physical and mental health is going to be stretched so it’s time to be honest and practical about the support you’re going to need, not just to meet your children’s needs but your own as well. Getting additional help either from friends or family or paying for a mother’s help or cleaner can take the pressure off and make a lot of sense.
“However, be firm with visitors. Family might be desperate to visit the new heir but parents need to be firm with visitors. Give them a time slot that suits you, and good friends will bring a cake with them.”
Jo Tantum says: “When it comes to sleep, and with all of your older child’s daily life, it’s best to try to keep to his same routine as this will also provide security in his changing world.
“The main issue is whether your toddler will go into a toddler bed so the new baby can have their cot. This is a big decision and would need to have been done before baby arrives.”
Don’t forget Dad
Sarah Beeson says: “Some couples experience relationship problems when children are young because the demands are so high. You know how up and down you can feel with a new baby, and there may be time when you feel guilty that your attention is so divided between your children, leaving very little time for yourself and your partner. Make sure you talk to each other, be kind and work as a team.”
New research from The Baby Show asked parents of more than one child what advice they would give to parents about to have their second baby. And the most popular response? To relax and enjoy it – and not to put too much pressure on yourself – says 57% of parents. Sarah Beeson adds: “The good news is you’ve done this before and can feel confident in your own abilities to be a positive parent and enjoy your new baby. You’ve got plenty of recent experience and most of the resources and equipment needed for caring for a new-born, and you aren’t looking back through nappy-free rose tinted spectacles! Remember, the new-born stage really flies by so make the most of those precious early days.”