Ah the joys of having your second baby; your body and boobs knows what to do this time (hopefully), you’ve got the confidence and knowledge from the first baby (probably) and you’re word perfect on most nursery rhymes sung at the weekly music class. But alas! You now have an energetic toddler who demands to only eat his snacks out of the green bowl, will only wear shoes if he puts them on and regularly has full blown meltdowns in the park when he can’t walk any further. Only kidding it’s not that awful but the skills required to calm a fractious baby and entertain a 3 year old with the attention span of a gnat would make most SAS trained soldiers buckle at the first hurdle.
Just before my second daughter was born, we prepared my first born in every way possible to help soften the blow when she would discover she was no longer the centre of our universe. We bought her a doll and push chair in the hope that she would love this plastic baby as much as her own sister. Baby Annabelle made realistic crying sounds, which my daughter declared ‘really annoying’ and asked us to take the batteries out when she couldn’t handle the incessant noise anymore. So we decided to take the approach to be as brutally honest as possible without scaring her for life. We told her that although new born babies are very small and cute, they were also very boring and did a lot of sleeping, feeding and crying. Her new baby sister wouldn’t be able to play with her for quite some time so whenever the baby was asleep I simply ignored her and focussed my time and attention on a more fun and big girls activity (I would have preferred a child free lunch with friends but settled for sticker activity books and play dough). This allowed my older daughter to still have some very precious 1 to 1 time with me without having to wait whilst I tend to her baby sister first.
If you’ve previously been using some sort of childcare for your first born my number one tip to all mums is KEEP IT. It may feel wrong to send your child to nursery or off to the childminders as you’re not at work but I guarantee you will need a few days a week where you can just be with your new born baby and not have to watch Peppa Pig for the millionth time. Children love structure and routine and by keeping these things in place when their entire world has been turned upside down by this new baby will make things easier for you at home.
If finances mean that this isn’t always possible perhaps call upon grandparents or a good mum mate who can take your older child to the park or their house for a few hours to give you a bit of rest. Going back to bed with a new born when you’ve been up lots in the night can feel like a trip to the spa. My message is if people offer to help TAKE IT.
Remembering that small babies don’t need much if any stimulation (a jaunt around Sainsburys definitely counts) so save any form of entertainment for the older sibling. Local playgroups were my holy grail in those early days; I found that if I filled a morning with activities like drinking a 50p cup of tea in a church hall whilst my daughter played with toys the day went much quicker. Mum win right there. Plus to have other mums around meant I could vent about how tough I was finding it without feeling judged, after all everyone needs support from other women who just get it.
There were times when I definitely was not winning at motherhood at all and felt terrible for repeatedly saying ‘wait a minute, just hang on, your sister needs feeding and shall we put on the tv again.’ And there were times when my older daughter would say ‘I hate my baby sister she gets all your cuddles’ but I figured (after sobbing down the phone to my mum) that this is life and there isn’t always a right and wrong way of doing things. All children react differently when a new sibling comes into their family and will in some form show jealously and anger. But the love between my older daughters now is so special to witness, my younger daughter adores her big sister and will do anything to please her. And just like any stage of motherhood, it can feel really hard at that moment in time but you’ll look back in years to come and hardly remember it and say to yourself ‘did that really happen at all?’. You’ve got this Mama.
*This a taken from a piece I wrote for Tracey Blake Small Talk blog which can be found here*