After all we had done to prepare my Little Man for his sister before she was born, yet when he came to see her in the hospital for the first time, & when his eyes hit her angelic little body resting on my chest, he stood there in amazement, or maybe he was shocked! I really can’t tell! He just froze, didn’t say a word, kept staring at her in curiosity, and didn’t even come to hug me as he does usually!!!!
He was still young to comprehend what an important day it was for our family.
At the heart of sibling rivalry is the fact that brothers and sisters have to share their parents’ love and attention as well as space and possessions. They’re also figuring out their place in the family and concerned about fair treatment and control.
The first time my hubby was playing with baby girl, and teaching her to say Papa, my Little Man was shocked – he said, “you are my dad!! Are you talking to me?” We were confused!! How to explain to him, that she’s also our girl and we are her mom & dad!
Here are 9 tips we used to make the transition as smooth as possible after my baby has already arrived, and they were extremely helpful!!
1. Expectations – After baby comes it’s normal for the toddler to regress back into some old habits that you thought were long gone. For us, it was tantrums. We had just gotten past a really intense tantrum stage a few months before baby was born. After she had been here a week or two Little Man was right back at it again, throwing fits like nobody’s business! I had heard from many other mamas that this is to be expected, so I was mentally ready for it, which made it much less stressful when it happened.
2. Be consistent – When your older child acts out, try to keep in mind that everything in the toddler’s little world has just changed. That can be scary for him/her, and the child will be sure to test all the boundaries that have long been in place. They do this both for attention and to see if the boundaries have remained the same while everything else was changing. It’s key for mama to stay calm and consistent. I did my best to handle each outburst in the same way that I would have handled in the past. This helped my boy realize that somethings (like rules) are staying the same.
3. Don’t downplay the baby – De-emphasizing the importance of the new baby compared to the older child could start a life of competition between the siblings or make the older one feel entitled to special treatment. Instead, I was explaining to him that new babies require a lot of attention and that he received the same treatment when he was a baby! He responded well when I showed him how she’s so tiny and she doesn’t know how to do anything like feed or dress herself -things that “big” boys like him were quite good at!
4. One on one time – This seems like a no-brainer but it’s hard to do it consistently!
5. Create a little helper – I try to involve my Little Man in whatever I’m doing, and he loves helping with his sister. He does simple things like bringing her Bottle when she’s crying or singing songs to her. Or handing him the wash cloth and letting him wash baby’s tummy (Sometimes when she’s sleeping he would shout to wake her up ) Oftentimes when I’m nursing we will read books together on the couch so that Little Man is not excluded.
6. Try not to get mad when the toddler’s “help” is not helpful – I can’t tell you how many times Little Man has decided to “help” by attempting to shove a pacifier in the peacefully sleeping baby’s mouth! Or decided to share something heavy with her by placing it on her head, etc. etc. It’s so hard not to respond to him in anger but I don’t want him to be afraid to interact with his sister. Instead of reprimanding him harshly when he means well, I just try to steer him in another direction.
Example: He likes to brush her hair, but that -obviously- not the best activity for him. Instead of reprimanding him, I encourage him to tickle her feet or something similar. We make sure that interacting with baby is safe & fun for both of them, and not something he gets in trouble for doing (except for those times when he’s intentionally trying to harm her)!
7. Let the toddler still be a baby – Little Man still loves to be the baby. When he gets of the tub he asks to be swaddled and rocked like a baby, (and I enjoy doing it). I never want him to feel like Princess has replaced him in any way. Even though he may not be able to put it into words, I feel like when he holds his arms up to me and asks to be the “baby” what he’s really asking is if I still love him the same way that I used to. He’s making sure my love has not changed. He’s my big boy, but he’s also my baby, and he’s free to alternate between titles as much as he wants.️
8. Boost his ego – I tried to make him proud and connected to his new sister, and encourage friendships with her, by saying things like, “She only smiles like that when you’re around” or “She likes when you hold her bottle” 🙂
9. Be ready for simultaneous melt downs – It amazes me how often they have synchronized scream fest! At this point, make sure that you’re emotionally prepared because it can be really draining! We all have been there (or we will be at some point) so just remain calm and tend with whichever child’s need is more urgent, or most easily fixed.
Example: Baby girl screaming because she’s hungry and Little Man is fussing for a sliced apple – I usually get the apple first because then he will be calm while I feed his sister (which takes more time). Sometimes there are no easy fixes and I’m just left counting the minutes ’til Daddy comes home to help, but that’s not every day.
I can’t say that it was a super easy transition going from one baby to two, and there were some bumps in the road!! Besides Little Man was so spoiled, being the only grandchild, & he was taking so much advantage of it!! But everything was smooth up until a couple of months ago when she became more mobile and Little Man realized she is a real human and was demanding more attention!! I’ve been using all these ways and they were tremendously useful!!