Making Room for Baby
Pregnant with first baby: You meticulously packed your hospital bag at 36 weeks. Just in case. Husband’s pajama pants included. Ya know, it gets cold in hospitals. Car-seat installed and safety check performed at 37 weeks. Seersucker car-seat cover to boot. Your birth plan is typed out, and you’re going to make it as long as possible without drugs, maybe even the whole time. Susie did it. I can totally do it.
Pregnant with second baby: What hospital bag? The nurses provide grannie panties spun from angel dust – what more does one need? Do we even have the infant car-seat anymore? There it is – covered in questionable crust in the back of the garage. Cool. Just blow it out with the leaf blower. Birth plan as follows: epidural upon admittance. You the real MVP, Suse.
So while you’re more than prepared for the hospital song and dance this second time at bat, one blaring detail needs to be addressed:
How do we prepare big brother or big sister to make room for baby? We gotchu.
In the weeks leading up to the new baby’s due date, talk with your oldest about mom, and maybe dad too, spending a few nights at the hospital to get the new baby ready to come home to them. Keep this upbeat and matter of fact. You’ll likely have a special plan in place with grandparents or relatives to step in when it’s go-time for babe, so you can also speak to the fun time they’ll have with that special person while you’re staying at the hospital. Make plans with grandparent or caretaker to bring big bro/big sis to the hospital for a quick visit and have a special sibling gift from the baby in your hospital room upon their first meeting. A simple stuffed animal goes great lengths in the tender heart of a toddler!
As you well know from Round 1, upon your arrival back home, visitors will want to meet your new bundle. Sweet gifts for baby often accompany sweet visitors, and this can be hard on the older sibling sometimes. Having a stash of a few new, interesting little items on hand like a coloring books, crayons, sticker pages, etc. to give to the older sibling when guests come over will be helpful to everyone. You’ll likely find the stash comes in handy for nursing sessions as well. Pro tip: The Dollar Store is your bestie for this and a great errand for a relative who really wants to help. If the pretty packages and bows still strike some discord with the older sibling, a gentle reminder to the tune of “Just like when you have a birthday and received a few, special gifts, baby’s birthday is important to celebrate too.” should help with perspective.
You’ve heard all the urban legends of potty training gone wrong and paci fairy revisitations. Rest assured, regression signs are not typical with children under age two since these younger toddlers don’t fully understand what this new sibling means. (A perk to 2 under 2 😉 That said, regressions may appear in older toddlers. It’s important to keep their days and nights mostly the same and keep their daytime schedule and bedtime routine solid. Having a new family member is a big change for them, so staying consistent where you can will set them up for success! Often times, well-meaning parents keep the older sibling up longer at night to spend more time with them. This only introduces more change and leads to overtired toddlers. Ain’t nobody got time (or bandwidth) for that.
As the older siblings see pacifiers, rattles, bottles and baby swings through their toddler eyes, novelty returns. You know your family, and you know your boundaries. While some things are non-negotiable, letting toddlers make choices of what to try can be helpful if the choice is not harmful to them or to baby. For siblings under two, distraction and redirection is best for unwanted behaviors. For older siblings, help by listening to them and teaching appropriate behavior when needed. Simple words such as “I see you. I hear you.” before jumping into a behavioral critique help immensely. Older toddlers may benefit from a doll to take care of themselves. These little sponges crave to mimic our behaviors and will learn so much these first few months of the new baby’s life.
Should we potty train before or after the baby arrives? That is the question. We recommend avoiding acute changes close to delivery, and you will not want anything extra on your to-do list directly after baby is born. With this in mind, potty training months beforehand or months after baby is a good, general plan. Whenever you choose, reinforcing their “big boy or big girl” status helps solidify this amazing skill they learn and goes perfectly hand-in-hand with their new role as big brother or big sister.
You’re going to do great, and so will your first born! You will be amazed at how much they learn and grow. The main takeaway for your toddler and for yourself: grace, grace, grace. Your hearts just doubled in size. It takes time for the rest of the body to catch up!
Don’t forget: We can help you get that angel baby newborn sleeping and keep your toddler on track. We are here to help!