Welcoming Baby Number Two

My second daughter’s birth was approaching but all I could think about was how my first daughter – just 21 months old and a Mummy’s girl through and through – would find the transition. Would she cope without me while I was in hospital? Would she feel jealous of her new sister? Would she get frustrated by my physical limitations during the recovery period or when my attention was focused on the baby at feeding and settling times?
We had heard that we should buy a gift from our older daughter to her baby sister, and one from the baby to her, to help her bond, and so we did. We read picture books about the arrival of new siblings. We planned activities to meaningfully occupy her while I was feeding or settling the baby. And crossed our fingers it would all go well.
It was a bumpy start. When Miss 21 months came to the hospital to meet her new sister, she announced, rather memorably, ‘I don’t like it!’ Later that day, she had changed her view: ‘I like it!’ she said. And from that day on she truly did like her baby sister.
Right away Miss 21 months identified that the baby was missing something very important: a blankie, or ‘silky’ as she called it. We walked to the nearest silky shop where she selected a blankie with a giraffe pattern for her sister. Miss 21 months reminded me whenever her baby sister was without her giraffe silky. Her baby sister had little choice but to adopt her silky, and within the year she was dragging it everywhere, just like her big sister.
My two gorgeous girls, now two and four years old, are about as closely bonded as sisters can be. They play and scrap, then play and scrap again … all day long. They are highly affectionate with each other. My older daughter asks regularly if particular foods are safe for her allergic younger sister to eat. The two girls show concern whenever the other is upset or unwell. It’s all I ever dreamed of for my children’s relationship.
‘How do I prepare my child for the arrival for bub number two?’ is a question that is asked frequently in the Inner West Mums group. So I have gathered a selection of responses to this question to help families navigate this exciting but uncertain phase, and of course included some tips from my own experience.
All the best to those adding to their brood!
 
Before bub’s arrival

  • Source picture books to help your child to adjust to the idea that a baby is on the way. There’s a House Inside my Mummy (by Giles Andreae and Vanessa Cabban), There’s Going to be a Baby (by John Burningham and Helen Oxenbury) and the interactive book Snuggle the Baby are a few excellent titles.
  • Involve your child in the selection of items for the nursery (if there will be a separate one) and let them (safely) explore any new ones, such as a bassinet, cot, rocker/swing, pram or capsule.
  • Your child may also enjoy having their own baby doll to look after.
  • In the month before the due date, create a countdown to baby’s arrival using a blank advent calendar.

 
After bub’s arrival – at the hospital

  • It is often recommended that you plan any hospital visits so that you are not feeding or holding the new baby when your child meets their brother or sister. Ensure you give your child lots of cuddles, listen to the stories of the adventures they have been having during this time and engage with any toys or games they might have brought with them.
  • Let your partner introduce the baby to your child and assist your child in holding the baby.
  • Allow your child to show the baby the gift they selected for their brother or sister, and offer your child a gift from the baby. A small present from you may also help with departures from the hospital.

 
Bub’s homecoming

  • It can be helpful to get settled at home with the baby while your older child is out with a relative or trusted carer or at day care.
  • Involve your little one in caring for their baby brother or sister where you can. Ask them to assist with nappy changes by finding the nappies, wipes or fresh clothes and let them squeeze a face washer over bub at bathtime.
  • When you are feeding bub, try to engage your child as much as possible. (I found that when I fed my younger daughter at the kitchen table my older daughter could still enjoy low-mess activities, such as drawing, stamping, stickers, felt scenes, puzzles and card games.)
  • When bub is sleeping, try to create some special time with your older child. (This is when I would opt for the messier activities, such as playdough or painting. Cooking remains a fun and productive activity my older daughter and I often do together when the younger one is napping.)
  • Once or twice a week try to arrange for some one-on-one time with your older child out and about. You may not feel so adventurous at this point, but a play or picnic at the park, a library visit or morning tea at a local cafe just with Mummy can mean a lot to a young child.
  • Organise some more adventurous outings for your child with their dad, grandparents or other trusted carers.
  • Some great books to read together once bub number has arrived include I’m a Big Sister/Brother (by Joanna Cole), Go to Sleep, Jessie! (by Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood) and The Swap (by Jan Ormerod and Andrew Joyner).

 
More articles from Ginny:
RPA Newborn Care’s Baby Warriors
Making Friends at School … with Other Parents
When Two Becomes Three (or More)
Focus on Women’s Health: Childbirth Injuries
Birth Injuries: An Uncomfortable but Important Matter
Finding Peace: An Inner West Mum’s Story of Domestic Violence
Our Incredible Village
Just Eloped!
The Day Cale Met his Idol Guy Sebastian
How to Support a Friend through the Loss of a Baby
Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
The Milk Wars
A Big Shift: How Three Women Transformed their Careers during Motherhood
You Know You Have an Inner West Child When …
The Game-Changer
Cookie Cutter Kids: How can we teach our children to celebrate diversity?
Running in Circles
Allergies: What’s all the fuss about?
The Early Days
Not Water – Tears
No Judgements, Please
Triumph or Trauma
Riding the Merry go Round
Friends, Near or Far
When is Enough, Enough?
My (Child’s) Kitchen Rules

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