Expert advice about bringing home baby No. 2
I can still see my older daughter, who’s now 7, when her little sister first arrived. Paige, who was 2 1/2 at the time, couldn’t wait for her new sibling. She helped set up her room and got a new doll to play “mommy” with. In the hospital, the sisters exchanged gifts, and Paige doted on the baby. For a while, she even believed all that business of how wonderful being a big sister was. Then the novelty wore off.
A week after her sister was born, Paige said that we should take Marissa back to the hospital. When that idea didn’t fly, she suggested that we give her sister to a family who didn’t have a baby. One heartbreaking day, while I was holding Marissa, Paige threw herself down on the floor and sobbed: “She hurts my feelings.”
Ah, siblings. In spite of parents’ best efforts, having a second child is tough on a firstborn who, until No. 2 came along, had a monopoly on mom and dad’s laps, love and attention. “There isn’t any way to avoid the rivalry,” says T. Berry Brazelton, M.D., pediatrician, author and host of the TV show “Brazelton on Parenting” on Fox Family Channel. “It’s natural and healthy. The best you can do is help the child adjust and keep in mind there’s probably no better gift you can give a child than a sibling.”
Helping the first child adjust
While no parent can avoid or predict her child’s reaction to a new baby — which can show up as regression, aggression or withdrawal — you can help smooth the transition during pregnancy and after the birth, according to Vicki Lansky, author of Welcoming Your Second Baby (Book Peddlers, 1990). Here are some of her tips.
- Invite your older child to help set up the nursery.
- Let your older child adjust to a new bed several months before assembling the crib again for the newborn.
- Enroll your child in classes for older siblings.
- Buy your older child — boy or girl — a doll that he or she can “nurture” as you care for your baby.
When the baby arrives:
- At the hospital, get a heads-up from your husband or nurse; don’t be caught holding your newborn when your older child visits. Have both arms ready to greet her.
- Have a gift for the baby to give his big brother or sister. A gift from the older child for the baby is also nice.
- Set aside one-on-one time with your older child away from the baby. Try to make these dates at least weekly.
- When someone comes with a gift for the new baby, let the older child open it. Even better, have a stash of small wrapped gifts for her to open when the baby gets a gift.
- Acknowledge your older child’s negative feelings. Don’t tell her that it’s wrong to feel jealous or angry with the baby. Discuss her feelings instead. For example, say, “You’re feeling left out, aren’t you?” Or, “It’s hard to suddenly have to share your mom with another child, isn’t it?”
- Be sure your older child knows the baby isn’t taking love away from her, but only adding more love to the family.