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When I was pregnant with my daughter—my first—I worried about a lot of things: is it ok that I bumped my belly into the dryer? Could I use my eye cream? Is it ok to eat shrimp? Once I was pregnant with my second child, those fears evaporated and I no longer had my poor OB on speed dial. Instead, another fear cropped up, one that decimated all of those little worries: How will my daughter adjust to a new baby? Read on to discover the secret I learned about how to prevent sibling rivalry with a new baby in the house.
It was bad enough I was due around my daughter’s third birthday. It was worse when I went into labor on my daughter’s actual third birthday. Luckily, my son arrived at 3:03 am the following day. Whew! Disaster avoided—nothing is quite as jealousy-provoking as “you stole my birthday!”
I can honestly say that at almost 5 and almost 2, they get along pretty well. And, although my daughter confided in one of her little friends that her brother is, “always bothering me,” I can’t say she’s very jealous of him. Are you ready?
Here’s the secret: when the baby is born, give the older child more attention.
Now, I know what you’re saying, “How can I do that? Babies demand constant attention!” So true. I know this firsthand from having a colic baby first. However, the kind of attention babies need is different from the attention toddlers and preschoolers need. Babies cry because they need all of their needs met by you. For the most part, it’s purely physical.
While older children certainly need their physical needs met by you, they also have emotional needs that need to be met as well. And, while I’m sure a baby has those same emotional needs, he’s just not going to realize if you’re paying attention or not.
To put it simply: if you give a baby more attention, the older child’s feelings will be hurt. If you give the older child more attention, the baby isn’t really going to know the difference. Of course, you still have to keep up with all the physical demands the baby has (duh). The trick is, to make your older child feel like he or she is your priority, your emotional priority.
Here are Some Simple Ways:
1. Have a Mommy and Me Date:
I think this is essential for an older child, not only when she has a new sibling, but as often as you can manage it. When my son was born, I was lucky enough to have my mom around to watch the baby once a week. Every Wednesday, I would bring my daughter to her ballet class, to the play area in the school, and then out for ice cream.
It made her feel so very special. And, I still look back at the pictures of her in her little tutu at the ice cream shop and smile. All in all, it was about 1.5 hours a week—I didn’t even miss a feeding. But, the bond it created and the love and kindness it showed my daughter lasted far beyond any time constraint.
Brainstorm ways to take your older child out of the house. Can your husband babysit the baby for a few hours on the weekends? (even if it’s while the baby is napping). Consider what your child likes to do—make sure it’s a special activity for him or her.
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2. Use a Baby Carrier
One of the easiest ways to provide your baby comfort is using a carrier. I love Ergobaby’s carriers—they’re comfortable and allow you to wear your baby all day. You can even breastfeed in them! When my daughter was an infant, she used to take all her naps in one because she refused to be put down.
Baby Tula Carriers are also functional and beautiful.
If you haven’t used one before, it allows you to be hands-free while you’re holding your baby. That means, you can be giving your baby the cuddling or feeding he needs while you play with your older child, giving her the attention she needs. Voila! How’s that for multi-tasking?
3. Establish a Daily Ritual with Your Older Child
This might sound tough, but sometimes you only need a few minutes a day with your older child. Kids love routines—try to do something at the same time every day with your older child that she can look forward to and can expect. That way, she’s comforted by the idea that you will have your time together. Maybe it’s as simple as eating breakfast together while the baby is still sleeping, maybe it’s playing your child’s favorite game after lunch, maybe it’s spending 20 minutes alone with her when your husband is occupying the baby. Whatever it is, make it consistent so she expects it every day and is comforted by the expectation.
4. Make Feeding Time Connecting Time
Feeding time can be especially difficult for an older child, especially if you’re breastfeeding. All the cuddling and attention the baby receives can induce jealousy very easily, for obvious reasons. Before my son was born, I collected some easy games I could play with my older child while I was breastfeeding: the memory game, a fishing game, and this fun game:
While I fed my son on the couch, my daughter sat on my left and we played one of those games together. It kept her occupied, she enjoyed it, and I still got to have bonding time with the baby—because this only counted for a few of the daily feedings. Don’t worry, there are plenty of other feedings you can share alone with your baby! Babies need to be fed all the time!
5. Put Your Older Child to Sleep
In the beginning, I was very tempted to have my husband put my older child to sleep (since he offered and who am I to turn down any kind of offer like that?). But, I realized that was my daughter’s special time (and it still is) when she needs attention. Her bedtime usually takes an hour from start to finish because she needs that time with her mom or dad. So, for the first few months, I made sure I was the one to put her to bed. I knew that she needed that time with me because of all the time I spent with the baby.
I know that sounds like an awful lot of your time, so what about you? All moms need a little time for themselves, too. Sign up below for my 10 best tips for making time for yourself.