Whether you are pregnant with your first child or your third, adding a new member to the family can be quite the adjustment. Your whole family dynamic can change, at least for a little while before getting adjusted to the new routine. Here are some tips to help you get settled.
During the first year of a baby’s life, there will be a lot of adjustments. You may feel that as soon as you get into one routine, suddenly your baby drops a nap which can throw off your day-to-day scheduling.
Some adjustments you make may be more functional, such as changing your wardrobe to nursing-friendly if you breastfeed, and other adjustments may look like figuring out how to handle nighttime wakings.
Try to keep your routine flexible depending on your baby’s needs. If you normally get them to bed at seven o’clock, and at 6:30, they’re rubbing their eyes and cranky, getting them to sleep an extra 30 minutes early will not mess up their whole night. They could be going through a growth spurt and needing extra sleep.
Don’t be afraid to lean on your friends and family when things get hard. It can be difficult to ask for help, especially if you are used to being independent, but it’s important to get your needs met too. You’ll hear people say “Sleep when the baby sleeps,” and while that is good advice, it’s not always practical. Sometimes you’re just not tired enough to sleep, and other times you have other pressing things to attend to. Instead, try to priortize your needs and you will feel better for it in the long run.
Read our previous blog on Postpartum Planning for more tips on navigating the immediate time after having a baby.
Growing your family to more than one child can prove challenging in other ways. On the one hand, you already know how to care for a baby. On the other hand, though, your older child or children will have to discover a new role for themselves while you balance your time between work, the new baby, your older children, and your partner. It may feel like your attention is being pulled in many different ways.
Practicing mindfulness and meditation can be especially helpful in keeping your emotional and mental state balanced. Another long term benefit of mindfulness is being able to redirect your attention to focus on the task at hand. These benefits will come in handy, especially when your older child is struggling with their own emotions. Modeling how to regulate your emotions will also show your child how they can work on regulating their emotions. Help them label what they are feeling then do some deep breaths with them and listen to their concerns.
It’s common for older children to feel jealous or lonely when a new sibling is introduced because babies can take up so much of the parent's time and attention. While you may not be able to avoid these feelings all together, you can find ways to lessen them.
One such way would be to give your older child 10 or so minutes (depending on your child's age and needs) of your undivided attention and play with them however they want to play. You can do this while the baby is napping or you can even make a show of it to your older child and set your baby down and tell them "Okay, baby. I am going to spend some time with your big sister/brother now. You wait here and I'll be right back to get you."
Try to encourage your older child to help with changing the baby’s diaper like asking them to grab a clean diaper and wipes, but don’t force them to interact with the baby if they don’t want to. Eventually they will foster their own relationship as they get to know each other.
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