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What You Need to Know About New Sibling Transition

Everyone says going from 1 to 2 children is harder than going from 0 to 1. But why? Here’s what you can expect in the months and year after you bring home your second baby and how you can prepare to make the new sibling transition a little easier for you and your family. This is everything you need to know about having a second child.

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What You Need to Know About The New Sibling Transition

How to Prepare Yourself

  • This child may be nothing like your first. I remember having this realization in the hospital with my second baby. He didn’t want to be held the same way as my first. Didn’t like the same breastfeeding positions. Didn’t want to just lay peacefully in his plastic bassinet and sleep like my first. Those differences became starker as time went on. As frustrating as this one at first, I soon realized the joy in learning about this specific new little person and, because I had done it before, I quickly learned what he liked and how to care for him.

  • You already know how to care for a baby, but that doesn’t mean everything will be easy. Yes, it’s true. You know how to take care of a baby. You know how to adjust to their needs and meet them, so caring for your newborn will be easier. But don’t expect not to have any struggles with your new baby simply because this isn’t your first time. I was surprised that I struggled just as much, if not more, with breastfeeding with my second as I did my first. I’d done it before. It was supposed to be easy. Some things are just a challenge. And some things are challenging with some babies and easy with others. Don’t expect everything to be easy, but do remember that you have experience and you can get through the challenges more easily because of that.

  • You will likely have some emotional turmoil and guilt. It’s unfortunate and unfair, but it will likely be very difficult for you emotionally to accept that you can’t be everything for this second child like you were with your first. You also can no longer be everything for your first like you were before. You are now splitting your time between two children. If your older child is under 2, you are splitting your time between two children who need you to meet all or most of their needs. You’re going to feel like you are failing both of them. (You’re not. You’re doing the best that you can.) And, depending on how well you handle those feelings, it may be heartbreaking for you.

How Your Older Child May React

Expect your older child to show some sort of aggression or misbehavior. I really wanted this not to be true for my older son. I hoped we’d have a great transition. Unfortunately, he showed a lot of aggression towards his new brother–even though I’d read him books and talked to him about the baby coming beforehand. He would rip items away from the baby, scratching him in the process. He’d sneak in a bite disguised as a kiss. And try to kick him off the bed. As he got older, he’d push him over when he was learning to sit up. Try to poke his eyes. You get the picture. It was extremely upsetting for me.

If your child is older, he/she may act out at school or daycare rather than at home. This can be confusing for parents, but it is related to how they’re feeling at home.

What You Can Do to Make the New Sibling Transition Easier

Remember that your child is going through a hard time. It’s easy to get angry and punish your older child for his behavior (which tends to make the behavior worse). Stay calm by remembering that your child has just lost half of your attention and he/she understands that this baby is the source of that loss. On top of that, you may be nervous or get onto your child more when he/she is around the baby, causing them to feel that they can’t do anything right when it comes to this baby. And he/she is out of your favor, BECAUSE OF THIS BABY.

The best things you can do to help your child transition and to help him/her accept the new baby are spending extra time with your child, being calm when your child is around the baby, and allowing your child to help you. Your child needs to know that he/she is still important to you and wants to feel a part of what you are doing, which includes being a part of taking care of the baby.

Yes, your child will probably be too rough with the baby and I’m certainly not telling you to let him/her have free reign. But you can show him/her how to act around the baby. Try not to say things like, “No, you’re being too rough,” or “You can’t do that!” Especially not in an anxious or angry tone (easier said than done, I know). Stay calm. Gently pull your child away and guide his/her hands with a gentle touch.

It’s okay to give instruction and set boundaries. Just do it calmly. Say things like, “I know you want to touch the baby, but he’s sleeping right now and I need you to stay away.” Or “I’m happy you’re excited to be around your brother, but I need you to give him some space now. In a few minutes, you can help me change his diaper.”

Sometimes, you need to take care of the baby and you don’t always want help. In John Rosemond’s (1993) book Making the “terrible”twos terrific!, he suggests buying your child a baby doll that he/she can care for alongside you and the baby. If you need to do something with the baby, you may suggest your child do the same with his/her baby.

Another thing you can do is try to find time to do things alone with your older child. A part of his/her misbehavior is because of the lost time with and access to you. Try to find times when you can give him/her your full attention.

Another thing that Janet Lansbury (2014) suggests in her book, No bad kids: Toddler discipline without shame, is giving your older child a later bedtime than the baby so he/she can have some alone time with mom every day. Use this time to read extra books together or do a puzzle. Anything that is focused on just the two of you.

A Note About Dad

If you are married and your husband hasn’t helped much with your first child, he may suddenly need to step up. This can be a big transition for him if he now has to give up extra time away from home or doing activities he enjoys because of the new baby. This may cause some resentment and a bit of turbulence as he adjusts.

I would suggest employing his help before the baby is born so that you are not experiencing this turbulence alongside all of the other adjustments in your home. For example, I asked my husband to alternate putting our son to bed with me every night in the months before our baby was born. This was so my son could adjust to me not being there, but also so my husband could start to adjust to doing more with him. When the baby came, he already knew how to do these basic care procedures with our son. This helped for a smoother transition for all of us.

Note: If you still have your older child in bed with you and want to transition them before the baby comes, I’d recommend doing that far in advance so your child doesn’t associate that with the baby. If you need help, read my post Get Your Baby into Their Own Bed Without Crying to a guide on how to do this the gentle way (it explains how to move older children as well as babies).

Pregnant woman sitting on counter with child

There you have a few ideas of what to expect from the introduction of your second baby and the new sibling transition. As well as a few tips for making things easier. Remember to transition as much as possible beforehand, talk to your child about the baby, and make plans to spend extra time with him/her after the baby is born. All of this will help your whole family transition more easily.

If you have any tips or tricks for adjusting to a second baby, please share them in the comments below to contribute to our communities of moms. If you liked these tips, don’t forget to subscribe to get more hacks for busy moms.

Resources

Lansbury, J. (2014). No bad kids: Toddler discipline without shame. JLML Press.

Rosemond, J. (1993). Making the “terrible”twos terrific! Andrews and McMeel.

Rosemond, J. K. (2007). Parenting by the book: Biblical wisdom for raising your child. Howard Books.

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