When I was pregnant with my second child, I knew it was “normal” to wonder if I could possibly love my second as much as my first. I remember having conversations with my mommy-friends and hearing from most of them that going from 1 to 2 children was hard. Only one of my friends said the transition wasn’t that bad. “You’ve already adjusted your whole life to having children… what’s one more?” she said.
What I wasn’t prepared for was how hard it would be for my 2 ½ year old to share her mommy. I’m pretty sure she cried more than the newborn those first three months. It was hard on all of us. But we survived, and today, my 13 month-old and 3 ½ year-old were eating pears together in their side-by-side chairs while I read them a story… so very sweet. I hardly remember the challenges we faced in those early months of becoming a family of 4.
Sure, there are still days that my 3 1/2 year-old whines more than my 1 year-old cries. There are times I haven’t been able to be the mom I’ve wanted to be to one or both of them. I’ve had to use my oldest daughter’s favorite television show to “babysit” while I tried desperately to get the baby to nap. She didn’t mind, that’s for sure!
Part of the solution I’ve discovered is having an acceptance and understanding of my limitations. Even with help, I am still only one person. I’ve found the kids have forgiven me for being human and still think I have super powers!
Here are some tips that I found helpful in assisting my oldest to life as a big sister:
Big sister party!
It was important to find a way to turn the focus onto my oldest, because everyone around us was so excited about the new baby. We kept the celebration small and laid back. Just my husband, Grandma and a family friend were invited to celebrate my oldest becoming a big sister. We bought a few toys at the dollar store and a cake. My oldest was so proud and excited for Her party! She still had a huge temper tantrum that night at bedtime, haha!, but I know the extra love made her feel special. We talked about her party for months after.
Consistent bedtime routine
My oldest was starving for my attention and desperately wanted me at bedtime. I couldn’t always finagle it, but if I could, I tried to do her bedtime routine during the first few months. This gave dad or Grandma one-on-one time with the new baby, as well. It was very important for me to be consistent with my older daughter’s bedtime routine, including having a distinct ending. She started having tantrums at bedtime, especially when I put her down in her crib after cuddling in the chair. I ended up using a 5-minute timer on my phone to help her know when snuggle time was over. The 5-minute timer would ring, and she knew it was time to go into bed. My consistency was very important. Even if she wasn’t consistent, I had to be.
Focusing on my daughter’s positive behavior was very important in the early months, since a lot of her behavior was not positive. For example, getting her pajamas on without crying earned a sticker. Each step of the naptime or bedtime routine could earn her a sticker. If she earned enough stickers, she got to pick either a small prize or to do something special together (like go to the park). See our sticker chart tips here.
Line Up their Schedules
Try to get their schedules to line up at least some of the time, if possible. For example, when my youngest was taking 4 short naps a day (around 4 months old) her first two naps were short (which is common around that age) and I helped extend her 3rd nap to an hour, since my oldest was napping at that time too. Aligning their two naps allowed us to get out of the house afterwards to do something that my oldest would enjoy. The baby’s 4th nap was oftentimes on the go in my carrier. It’s not easy to line up schedules, but we have schedule juggling tips here.
Special Nursing/Napping Basket
Nursing did not come easy to me and my youngest baby (she was born early). I found it helpful to have a special basket full of fun toys that my oldest could play with while I tried to nurse or nap the baby. These would be toys that only came out at those times, so she would be excited to play with them.
If I needed to leave her for short periods of time, I would make sure she was in a child-proofed room and had something fun to play with. Or, we would all sit on the couch while I nursed the baby, and she either played with her toys or had me read her a book. It wasn’t always graceful, but we got better with it over time. I found this blog helpful in coming up with ideas for my basket and for other ways to keep her entertained.
In the end, I love my two girls more than you can imagine, of course. Expectations mean a lot and now I know that some days are simply better than others and I imagine that will be the case for you, too.