Bringing home baby and making the transition into parenthood for the first time can be an exciting time. It also comes with its challenges. New schedules, loss of freedom, the changed dynamics of your relationship with your mate, new routines, and the demands of a needy newborn can put a great deal of stress and strain on the strongest of people and relationships.
That transition doesn't ease up much when it involves an older sibling. When mom and dad introduce baby to a new sibling, they may not be thrilled. After all, newborns don't talk, play, smile, or interact. They tend to cry a lot, demand lots of attention that used to be theirs, and change the state of what was their normal to this new normal (which, frankly, they may not like very much).
Take heart, mom and dad. This season of transition won't last forever. Here are some survival tips to help you endure those first weeks at home with your new baby.
Ditch the guilt.
All moms and dads feel torn between multiple children. It's a fact of life. And parental guilt is real (especially mom guilt!). Here is the bright side: You have just brought home some amazing and important learning opportunities for your older child in the form of a squawking newborn! Your older child is going to learn and grow through this time. Some great teachable moments will come at the realization that waiting and being patient are part of life, that it's important to share, care and love others, that life doesn't always revolve around their needs and wants, and that helping and looking out for one another is part of what being an older sibling is all about! Yes, it's true that their life feels a little disrupted at the moment. But they'll adjust and so will you!
Expect changes in behavior.
You may see your older child withdraw, ignore baby (or you), act out, misbehave, or show regression in areas they had previously mastered. Behavior changes can look different in each child. Either way, know that it's ALL normal and temporary. Your older child will adjust and pretty soon you will all get accustomed to your "new normal."
Believe it or not, your older child most likely WANTS to be involved in what's going on with the new baby. They may ask to hold baby, play with baby, or help in some way. Let them! Encourage them in their new role and give them lots of positive feedback on what a great job they are doing as a big brother or sister. Pretty soon they'll be feeling a sense of responsibility for this new life and that isn't a bad thing at all.
Make time for just the two of you.
The demands of a newborn can make it seem almost impossible to spend one on one time with your older child. But see if you can carve out a small window to play a game while baby naps, go out for a special "date" or just sit and snuggle together. Let your child know without a doubt that you love and value him/her and that even though the dynamics of your family have changed, your admiration for him/her has not. That time of reconnection may be just what you need too!
Happi loves serving families in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago as a labor doula and childbirth educator. When she's not at a birth, she loves spending time her husband and three boys.