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When expecting your second or third (or more) baby, you know that you’re up for some serious exhaustion and challenges, If you don’t have a lot of extra help and support around for your postpartum period, or a postpartum doula, you’re planning to battle sleep deprivation, conquer a laundry mountain and go to bed with a dish or ten in the sink. What many parents do not expect is for their older children to react negatively. You planned to handle your older child the way they are (excited about the new baby and becoming more independent by the day!). You weren’t expecting your toddler to become a demanding, temper tantrum throwing, baby pretending, torture devise.

OFTEN, PARENTS DO NOT REALIZE THEIR OLDER CHILD OR TODDLER IS ACTING OUT ABOUT THE NEW BABY BECAUSE THEY DO NOT ACT OUT TOWARDS THE NEW BABY.

There are children who just plain don’t want to be a big brother or big sister. Some kids are very verbal about their dislike of babies. Others are overjoyed and the hardest part of transitioning them from only child to sibling is that they want to hold the baby ALL of the time. Some where in between is the child that likes the baby just fine, but is angry, and frustrated by the changes that have occurred in their life. Often, parents don’t realize their older child or toddler is acting out about the new baby because they do not act out towards the new baby.

CAN I PREVENT SIBLING RIVALRY?

Preparing your child and your lifestyle for the changes that will come with adding a new member to the family is key.

Read some stories. We have five children and have found the best way to have a smooth transition is to prepare the children for the new baby. One of our favorite ways to prepare our children is to read lots of stories about new babies. Our family favorites are The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby and Mercer Mayer’s  The New Baby .

Get real. Be sure to talk about the less than fun parts of having a new baby. Even small children benefit from having a little heads up that their parents will be tired, that babies can be noisy and smelly and need to be held a lot.

Establish routines. If your life thus far has been more about what seems right in the moment or meeting your older child’s needs on demand and less about watching the clock, now is a great time to start establishing a routine or schedule. Adding some structure ensures your child continues to find familiarity in his life once the new baby comes. Routine also ensures your child isn’t getting hungry or overtired leading to big emotions and massive meltdowns.

WHAT DO WE DO NOW THAT IT’S HAPPENING?

Hungry and tired. Many of the children we see through postpartum doula care, that are struggling with having a new baby at home, are getting hungry and tired. Parents can get so busy meeting the new baby’s needs on demand and may miss their toddlers cues for hunger or early indications that it’s nap time. Our job as doulas in this situation may be to prepare a snack and find a fun way to get the toddler down for a nap. If desired, we assist the parents with finding a system that works with their lifestyle. A solid bedtime routine, where you bathe and read to your child while some one else looks after the baby, can also serve as one-on-one time.

One-on-one time. If this is baby number two, your child had you all to herself before the baby was born. She will likely miss that attention and special time. It’s important to dedicate time to your older child(ren). Let the other parent look after the baby (or grandma, a postpartum doula, a nanny) and take some time for your older child. Even just a half hour each day can make a big difference.

Magic toy box. Having a special basket of toys that only comes out when you are too busy with the baby to play can help, too. The basket can come out when the baby is being fed, bathed or is fussy and requires your full attention.

You are special (not just to mom). Your older child isn’t a baby any more! It’s a great time for your child to develop a stronger relationship with grandparents, aunts and uncles. Ask family members to spend quality time with your older child. Even a quick trip to the playground or a short walk can be just what you need to get a break and what your child needs to see how special she is, to her entire family.

The more help and support you have as a family to ease the transition, the easier it will be. A postpartum doula is professional that specializes in supporting families through the transition of bringing home a new baby.  Do not be afraid to ask your family and friends for help. Most parents are happy to have another child over to play to give new parents a break. Trade household chores and freezer meals for baby snuggles! Then, while your helper is holding the baby. you can take some time to spend alone with your older child.

All major transitions in life are challenging. With any luck, before you know it, your child and new baby will be working as a team to strip you of your sanity.

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