Adding a new member to your family is a joy and a challenge, especially with older siblings involved. How do we continue to meet the needs of our older child and care for a newborn that needs constant care? Here are some of my favorite tips on how to manage the transition period.
Put together a nursing/feeding time box. Before baby is expected, get together a few toys that you can easily enjoy with your child with one hand. Blocks, cars/racetrack, new books, anything you think your child will enjoy. Put these in a special box or tote and put it up high and away out of sight. Once you new baby has arrived take down that box only when you’re feeding baby. Tell your child that these are special toys to play with with mommy during nursing/feeding time. In my experience, this only needs to be done for a few days but you’ll have the resource as long as you need it. This can make nursing time something your older child will look forward to, rather than feeling left out. When baby eats, I get special time with mom and some cool new toys!
Put your older child’s needs first. This may seem counter-intuitive, but it really works. If the older sibling is young still, when they run up to you and need you immediately hand the baby to another caregiver. If your partner or other family member is there to help you for the first week or so take advantage! Make sure your toddler or preschooler sees that you are still readily available. This can really help them with the transition.
Ask for and accept help. The advice of sleep when the baby sleeps doesn’t work so well with other siblings in the home. This is a time to cut yourself some slack. The house doesn’t need to be immaculate, or let’s be honest tidy. Paper plates are totally ok. Ask for a meal train where friends and family sign up to bring meals for your family for a few weeks. If possible hire help or allow your friends to help with the house. If that can’t happen, relax and understand that you will learn a new routine and be back to managing your home in time. It is totally ok for you to take some time to adjust too.
Babywear! I know, shocker right? Get an exercise ball, wrap baby up and bounce/wiggle. You may not be able to get baby down for a nap on their own with another child needing your attention. Take your big kid for a walk with baby in a carrier to settle them in for a nap, eat while wearing etc. Having your baby snuggled in close to you, while you have your hands free to push your child on a swing, prepare their lunch, or just eat with two hands is a complete lifesaver with multiple children.
Learn to feed your baby in a carrier. Nursing in a carrier is a learned skill but a very valuable one. I remember walking around a zoo all day with my 4 month old in a carrier who was going through a growth spurt and my 2 year old in the stroller. The little one nursed for several hours straight and I didn’t have to stop at all! What a difference from having to stay home all day during those times when they need to nurse all the time. I suggest keeping baby upright in the heart to heart position, lowering the carrier a bit so baby can access your breast and popping them on. As baby gets more head control this gets easier and in the beginning you may need to help by supporting your breast. Be gentle with yourself while learning this, try at home first and take your time. It is well worth the effort through. You can bottle feed in a carrier as well either by holding the bottle or tucking it under the wrap on your shoulders.
Find a support system. La Leche League is a breastfeeding support group that helps mothers of young children with many topics and there may be many wise women who have been through similar things with great tips and ideas for you to try out. Find a local playgroup and connect with other parents. Sometimes just having a sympathetic ear from someone that knows the struggle can make all the difference.
Relax. You’re not going to be perfect, you will make mistakes and that is totally normal and ok. Take the time to breathe and be with your kids, the rest of the world will wait.
I hope some of these can help your family as you add a new member. I’d love to hear any additional ideas that you have found work well in your family. Add them to the comments or on Facebook!