Bringing home a new sibling!
I always wanted my children to be close in age. As soon as my oldest turned one, I was eager to start trying for a second baby. We were blessed to become pregnant quickly, which meant my boys would be 21 months apart! I was so excited — my dreams had come true!
As I got closer and closer to delivery, I began to get very anxious. It would no longer just be my eldest, Bennett, and me. By this point, Bennett was on one nap, so we had so much freedom to go out and about in the mornings. We were in our groove and had our routines down! I was grieving the loss of being able to focus all my attention on Bennett while also rejoicing in the fact that I got to give Bennett a sibling. Bennett still felt like such a baby to me, so how was I going to manage having another baby when I still had a baby to care for? My mind was flooded with excitement and fear all at the same time!
The time came for new brother, Lucas, to make his arrival, and let me tell you, while it was some of the hardest days of my life, it was some of the most joyful as well. It is incredible to me how both of those emotions can exist at the same time, but they do! Seeing Bennett meet Lucas for the first time melted my heart. To this day, watching the video still turns me into a puddle!
Below is a list of advice I would give to parents with two under two, but my best advice: breathe. You got this!
1. Have grace for yourself
I know this can be a catchphrase for new mamas, but there is a reason for it. In this day and age, we are expected to jump right back to our “old” selves. But with the birth of each new child, a new mother is also born. None of us are who we were before children. So have grace for your new self. Allow yourself to feel the sadness of having to divide yourself between two babies. Allow yourself to beam with joy watching the siblings interact. Allow yourself to sit on the couch and watch movies all afternoon with your toddler while holding the baby. Guess what…the dirty dishes won’t ever go away, and that is okay! I am preaching to the choir here. It is so hard for me to have grace with myself. I want things to be perfect and seamless all the time — even after giving birth, but looking back, I know it is impossible. So try and let some things go and relish the little moments.
Also, it is okay to feel spread thin and like there isn’t enough of you to take care of both babies. It is incredibly hard, but I promise you will find your groove. You are the perfect parent for your kiddos (all of them!).
2. Have grace for the older sibling
We often see toddlers start to act out once the new baby is home. This is very common and important to be aware of. The eldest’s little world has just been rocked, and her time with mom and dad is now divided as well. The house may be full of visitors ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the new baby, and she is unsure why this new baby is getting so much attention. As much as you are able when you see behaviors escalate, get on her level, scoop her in a hug, get her alone, and help her work through her emotions. Remember that the tantrum probably has nothing to do with the fact that you cut the apple the wrong way, but more so deeper emotions dealing with big changes in her world! You also may notice some sleep disruption for her. This is very common, but I encourage you to keep things the same around bedtime and even use it as a special one-on-one time with her to end the day.
3. Prepare the older one as much as you can
As much as you are able, try and prepare the older sibling for what is about to happen. Read books about little siblings, talk to him about mom’s growing belly, get him excited for having a future playmate (but do explain it may be a while until baby can really play!! — I made that mistake, and Bennett was very confused why Lucas couldn’t play trucks at one week old!). When it is time for delivery, let him know who will be staying with him and how excited you are to get back home with the new baby for him to meet. Consider greeting the older sibling once back home from the hospital without the baby. Have grandma or grandpa hold the new baby while you go into the house to see big brother or big sister. If the hospital is allowing visitors, consider placing the baby in the bassinet when big brother or sister arrives, so you can scoop him or her up for a big hug, then get the new baby out to meet!
4. Keep as many things the same for the older one as you can
Toddlers are keen on routines, and keeping with their schedules can help with the transition! While much of her world will never be the same (in a good way!) with the addition of a new sibling, it is important to try and keep some routines the same for your toddler. For example, try to keep your naptime and bedtime routine the same. It is easy to try and rush a toddler’s naptime or bedtime with the addition of a new baby (let’s be real, by bedtime, everyone is exhausted!), but I encourage you to stick with what you were doing before baby. You will not be able to devote all your time to the toddler anymore, but don’t be afraid to strap the baby in the baby carrier or the stroller and head to the park with your toddler if that is something you all enjoy doing together. If you and the toddler are used to eating lunch and then heading for a nap, aim to keep that up.
5. Carve out 10-15 minutes of one-on-one time with the older one
This is one of my best nuggets of advice. While it can feel hard to find just 10 minutes, I encourage you to prioritize this. If you are able to get the baby down in the bassinet or crib for a nap, use that time to sit and do puzzles or build blocks with the older sibling. Get on your toddler’s level, let her sit with you and read a book, play the tickle monster game, really anything that she wants to do. Let her lead the playtime, and give her your full attention. Set the baby monitor a small distance away so she knows she has your full attention. If the baby starts to fuss, it is okay to finish what you are doing with the toddler. I even encourage you to verbalize something like, “I’ll be right there, baby. I am playing with your sister right now.” Of course, don’t make the baby wait long, but even allowing the toddler to hear you are prioritizing time with her can mean so much.
6. Don’t rush to the baby
I touched on this a little above, but when we are spending time with the toddler (even if it isn’t the special designated 1-1 time mentioned above), it is okay to have the baby wait. Of course, we don’t want to leave the baby for long, but it is okay to finish what you are doing with your toddler. So often, we hear the baby fuss and say to the toddler, “I have to go help the baby.” There is nothing wrong with that (and you actually should go help the baby, just to be clear!), but it is also okay to say out loud, “I’ll be right there, baby. I am finishing something with your brother!” Your toddler will hear that you want to be with him instead of always having to leave him to care for the baby. In the same way, if you are working with the baby (feeding, changing diapers, etc.) and cannot get to the toddler right away, you can use the same language: “I’ll be right there, honey. I am finishing with your baby brother.”
7. Get the older one involved, but also remember the new baby isn’t her job
I have to admit that I got a little frustrated with my toddler when he didn’t want to bring me diapers for the baby or help me reach a burp cloth after I had been spit upon. I shared this frustration with an older and wiser mother who simply said: “It isn’t his job.” That really caused me to stop and think. Of course, we want our toddlers to be involved and helpful, and most of the time, they want to help. But it is also okay if they need a break too and just don’t want to help bring me all the things. So instead of getting frustrated they won’t hand you the burp cloth, try to turn it into a time to laugh with them. “Oh silly, I need octopus arms to reach that! Look at these arms.” (and pretend to have octopus arms!). They still may not help you get it, but it is guaranteed that the mood will be lightened, and you both may laugh instead of cry!
8. Let others help!
One of the hardest bits of advice for me, but maybe the most important, is to let others help. I am such a person of control. I immediately want to be able to handle things and for life to run smoothly thanks to my efforts. But you know what? It just isn’t possible after giving birth and bringing home a baby to a home that already has a toddler. Emotions are high, sleep is low, and control isn’t a thing. So try and let that go. It is okay for others to help. Let someone else wash the dishes, cook the meals, or even hold the baby if washing dishes and vacuuming the floor will help you feel more in control (anyone else? Or maybe that is just me?). Let grandma take the toddler to preschool or have a friend or babysitter take them to the park. Remember, this is just a season. Allow others to help you make it through.
So if you are about to jump into the two under two-game, just know that the best is yet to come. Your heart will be able to love two babies. Yes, you will feel overwhelmed. Yes, you will all cry some days. But, there is nothing like it. So buckle up, and get ready for an amazing ride!
Abby Sharpe has the best job ever getting to work with families all over the world! She lives in North Carolina with her husband and 3 sons! She loves to go barefoot, enjoys talking to her neighbors while her boys play outside, overuses exclamation points, and always has her hair in a bun. She cannot be outside without sunglasses. She loves ice-cold water (none of that room-temperature stuff) and dark chocolate peanut butter cups from Trader Joes!
Before Abby became a parent, she obtained her Masters in the Art of Teaching in Special Education and taught in the public school system in SC. After having her oldest, she decided to stay home with him. That is when her obsession with sleep began. After reading all the books/blogs/Facebook groups/etc and having success with Bennett, she found out that she could help other parents with their baby’s sleep for a job! What? Greatest job ever! That is when she pursued a career as a pediatric sleep consultant. Since 2018, she has been helping families teach their little ones positive, independent sleep skills.
Note: Guest blog posts are shared for informational and educational purposes and may not reflect the official policy or position of SlumberPod (parent company, Dovetail Essentials, LLC), our employees and/or contractors.