Congrats! You've brought baby home!
This is when it can get tough for you, Mama, I'm not going to lie. You're trying to pretend that you're getting sleep, showering regularly, and generally have your life together.
Good luck with that. I mean that sincerely.
There will likely be a frenzy of activity as you get to know your new baby. This is when it's important to engage and connect with your original kid(s)... but that's not as hard as it sounds, I promise.
Pro tips for rocking motherhood without losing your mind:
- Share development stages (smile, etc). If you have a small child, he might be frustrated or disappointed that baby can't play yet or that she can't tote baby around the house like a doll. This is where sharing developmental information is helpful to explain what big brothers/sisters can do. I absolutely love the infographics on @healthiest_baby to help my big kids understand baby's development! Once my kids came to the realization that a newborn can't run around or match their level of crazy (yet), they enjoyed understanding what babies can do at each stage.
- Give special helper tasks. Let's be real here: Your other kid(s) might feel overlooked with all of the hoopla surrounding a newborn. Giving them a special role can help create a feeling of significance as they learn what it means to be a big sibling. This will probably hit your youngest child hardest, so be mindful of that. It is helpful to establish something to help them feel important. Examples: Can big sister bring you a snack? Can big brother sing to baby? Can they pick out baby's outfit or blanket? You can help reinforce this new role by sharing how proud you are of the tasks big sister/brother does to help with baby. This leads me to the next step...
- Don't forget praise! You have a golden opportunity to help shape the behaviors and attitudes that you want to see in your other kids as they relate to baby. Praise is a great way to do this. The key is to reward successive approximations - those baby steps toward the desired behavior.
- Set aside special time. Once the baby is home, your original child(ren) might feel left out as you learn to adjust to your new routine. It is SO HARD to create time when you're sleep deprived and juggling a baby, but mama, it is so worth it. I started doing dates with my kids once Baby #3 came home, and it was worth every tired second. These do not need to be elaborate or long. You don't even have to leave the house (though I recommend it, once COVID goes away). The key is to check in with your child and validate feelings. Don't underestimate how much that can mean to a child learning his/her new place in the world.
- Recognize feelings that things are different. Transparency builds trust, and it also helps your child with sense making. Yes, things will be different with another baby at home, but the biggest thing your child will notice is that your attention is now divided. I remember my oldest daughter asking me if I loved our new baby more than her the second day that baby was home. OUCH. I created a narrative to help shape this feeling, and it goes a little like this:
When I brought (insert Baby 1) home, your daddy and I thought this was the most loved baby in the whole wide world, because we loved him so very much. Our hearts felt like they could just burst with so much love! And when we brought YOU home, we thought that YOU were the most loved baby in the world, because you had our love PLUS your big brother's love. That's a lot, isn't it? Our hearts grew so BIG that it felt like it could just burst again. Then, when we brought your sister home, our hearts grew EVEN MORE. We thought your sister was the most loved baby, because Dad and I loved her, AND she had love from your brother and you. Did you feel your heart grow, too? You see, our hearts grow to make more room each baby, and YOU are a super important part of that! I love seeing how your sister looks at you. Being a big sister is a very important job, and I know you're going to be great at it.
As a mom of four, the best advice I can give you is to give your kids grace and space to feel the big feelings that they will experience. Help guide them in figuring out where they fit in the family once baby comes home. You're figuring out how to balance everything, and they are too. Remember that if it's challenging for you to navigate, it's probably a billion times harder for a your child - someone who is still new to the game here.
Will there be random tantrums? Probably.
Will they regress in some way? Maybe.
Will it pass? Yes. Like everything else, it will. Pinky swear.
If you're trying to figure our how to create dialogue with your original kid(s), I highly recommend @drbeckyathome and @curious.parenting for framing discussions and setting healthy boundaries for behavior. The way you communicate matters so much.
And hey, before you know it, you'll be on to bigger and better things.
Take it from me, introducing a new baby is a WALK. IN. THE. PARK. compared to puberty.