MoonDragon's Parenting Information
NEWBORN BABY'S FIRST DAYS
IN THE HOME WITH SIBLINGS
BEFORE THE BIRTH
While the mother is still experiencing pregnancy, it is good to involve the older child in the pregnancy by allowing him to listen to the baby's heartbeat, feel the baby move and kick, and talk about the baby as a part of the family. Children tend to be fascinated with pregnant women and many love becoming involved with the tummy checks given by the midwife. Many young children will begin to look at the upcoming baby as "their baby" and look forward to when it comes "out of mommy's tummy". Include the child in helping to pick out clothing, toys, and other items for the new baby. Ask his advice about what toy does he think would be best or what color does he like best for something for the new baby. Do not forget to include a special "something" for him too, for helping out and being "such a great helper". This may be a toy or a special treat. Include him as much as he wants in the pregnancy, but, do not force him to become involved. Allow him to choose how much he wants to help.
AFTER THE BIRTH
Whether it is a homebirth or if the mother has had the baby in the hospital or birth center, there are usually hectic moments when the mother has given birth to her newborn baby and is at home in her own environment. She is tired and preoccupied. The father and other family or friends rush about, being helpful, if possible. If the older child is there, he may stand around feeling left out and ignored. If he was there at the time of the birth or immediately afterward, do not forget to include him in the activities. Give him extra hugs, love, encouragement and support. Let him help out if he wants to so as to feel needed and important.
It may be better for the older child, depending on the age and temperament of the child, to be away on an excursion or an overnight stay with friends or family during the birth and immediately afterward, if this can be arranged. This would allow the mother and the newborn baby to settle in and become comfortable. If this is a homebirth, this may be cleaning up after the birth, allowing both the mother and baby to stabilize and initiate breastfeeding, and then having the mom and dad get a little rest before having to care for an older child. If this was a hospital or birthing center birth and the mother is coming home with the new baby, then this would be an hour or so later, when the baby and the luggage are in their places and the mother is relaxing on the bed. This is usually time enough for the child to come in. His mother can hug him and talk to him and give him her undivided attention.
Since children appreciate concrete rewards, it's nice to have ready or bring a present home for the sibling. A baby doll of his own or a wonderful new toy can help him not to feel abandoned. You do not have to keep asking your child, "So how do you like your new sister?" Sometimes it takes awhile for them to adjust to the baby and they may not really know yet how they feel about the new baby.
Let him bring up the subject of the baby when he is ready to. And do not be surprised if his comments are unenthusiastic or hostile. Do not scold the child if he comes off in a negative manner, but remain positive and allow him to adjust to the change in his own time.
KEEPING EXCITEMENT IN CHECK
It is usually tactful to keep excitement about the new baby in check during the early weeks. Do not act too excited about her. Do not gloat over her. Do not talk a lot about her. As far as is convenient, take care of her and have her playtime while the older one is not around. Fit in her bath and some of her feedings when he is outdoors or taking his nap. Continue to include him in helping with the baby, if he wants, when he is around and reinforcing his help with extra praise and hugs.
BREAST & BOTTLE-FEEDING
Many young children feel the greatest jealousy when they see the mother feeding the baby, especially at the breast. Whether or not, he is still bottle-feeding or breast-feeding at the time of the birth, allow him a bottle or a turn at the breast, if he wishes. My own son, age 3 years, had this initial jealousy since he had just recently weaned himself off the breast himself. When he saw his new little brother breast-feeding, he, too, wanted to breastfeed. So I allowed him to climb on my lap and with a bit of adjusting, had him on one breast and the new baby on the other. However, even with his mouth on my nipple, he did not suck, he just grinned and patted my breast that was in his mouth, and said "ninny for new baby" (ninny was his word for nursing) and scurried away to play with his toys. He never again had jealous feelings about the baby because he was the one that "gave" the breast to his new brother, he was not being replaced by the new baby, and he also knew that if he ever needed to have the security and comfort of the breast, it was always there for him. I was very proud of him.
Although it may be a little sad to see an older child trying a bottle out of envy of the baby. He thinks it is going to be something special. But when he gets up his courage to take a suck, disappointment spreads over his face. It is just milk, after all, coming slowly, with a rubber taste. If it is formula, he may actually make a "yuck-face" since most formulas taste just that way. He may want a bottle off and on for a few weeks, but there is not much risk that he will want to go on with it forever if the parents give it to him willingly and if they do other things to help him learn to deal with his jealousy.
If he is around when you feed the baby, he should be allowed in freely. If he wants attention from you, allow him to cuddle with you and give him that attention. Reading to him or telling him a child's story while the baby is breast-feeding might be a way to make this quiet time special between you. But if he is downstairs or outside playing happily, do not attract his attention to what's going on. The goal is not to avoid rivalrous feelings altogether -- that may seem impossible -- but it is possible to minimize them in the first weeks and afterward. If baby care and feeding are incorporated into the family's activities in a non-threatening way and made to feel as if it is just another task in a day's work, that it is absolutely nothing for him to be worried or concerned about, then there is less chance that he is going to feel his life is disrupted and become upset. Children just want to be wanted, loved, and feel they are important and are not being replaced with someone new, just like us adults.
DEALING WITH VISITORS
When a visitor walks into the house, he or she should suppress the impulse to ask the child, "How's the baby today?" Instead, ask the child how he is doing and what is new with him. Engage him in his own one-on-one interaction with the visitor. It is better to act as if the visitor has forgotten there is a baby, sit down, and pass the time of day. Later the visitor can drift on to have a look at the baby when the older one is interested in something else.
Grandparents who make a big fuss over the baby can be a problem, too. If the grandfather or grandmother meets the older sibling in the front hall with a big package tied up in satin ribbon and says, "Where's that darling baby sister of yours? I've brought her a present," the brother's joy at seeing his grandpa or grandma turns to bitterness. The grandparents or other close visitors need to be told that if they bring over a gift for the new baby, to include something for the older child as well.
If parents do not know a visitor well enough to coach him or her in how to act, they can keep a box of inexpensive presents on the shelf and produce one for the older child every time a visitor comes with a gift for the baby. This way the child will be included and rewarded, instead of left out and forgotten.
RELATED MOONDRAGON INDEX LINKS
MoonDragon's Pregnancy Information Index
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MoonDragon's Pregnancy Information Index & Survival Tips
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