Does our oldest son’s mind look sufficiently blown in this picture? I think that’s right about how every mom feels during her first month of having two, three or more kids. :)
Right after I had our third baby, I wrote this post with tips on making it through the first weeks with a newborn and older children. In honor of my sister, who is having her second baby THIS WEEKEND, I decided to give this post a little facelift and see if I had anything to add a year later. Turns out, I still think it’s pretty solid advice. :) And I added numbers 6 and 7.
Good luck to my sweet, beautiful sister Rachel! (I am so excited for you!)
1. Make peace with a degree of crying. With older children, there will be plenty of times when you will need to help someone in the bathroom or kiss a scraped knee. You only have so many hands, so some crying is unavoidable. (I’m referring to the baby, but if it’s YOU doing the crying, that’s understandable too!) With a baby wailing in the background, it is easy to get short with the kids when it really is not their fault. Remind yourself that some crying is inevitable and you’re doing the best you can!
2. Let go. There’s nothing like having a newborn to make you realize what a control freak you are! You’ll find that you have less traction when it comes to enforcing rules with the older kids, because how believable can you be when you’re sitting down nursing half the day?
You’ll also quickly realize that getting your baby on any sort of schedule will be much more difficult when you need to shuttle the whole fam to and from preschool, etc. Then, when the words “you better not make a habit of this” (like letting the baby take all her naps in the carseat—or whatever the latest book told you not to do) ring through your head, just shut it down!
For now, it’s about getting by, not getting it “right.” Let the kids watch more TV, eat off paper plates, order takeout—just let go. Everything will work out.
3. Know that you may temporarily find your older children more of a nuisance. Several friends of mine have mentioned this to me, and I can relate. I figure it is a natural reaction to having your attention suddenly split between older kids and Baby. Be patient with yourself, and don’t freak out if your kids wear on your nerves for a few weeks (or months or however long it lasts!). It’ll pass.
4. Try not to blame things on the baby. I don’t want our little lady to be—in my boys’ eyes—the person who steals their fun because it’s time for her next feeding or yet another nap. If I need to pull them away from the park because Baby does indeed need to get home for a nap, I just say it’s time to go. If I want them to lower their voices at home, I just ask them to. I try not to volunteer that it’s because of Quinn. I suspect this made a difference when my second son was a newborn, because my oldest never had much resentment for his younger brother. (Also, a good dose of luck.)
5. Help your older children understand that it won’t last forever. Granted, some things change immediately when you have a newborn, and it’s obvious that the baby is to blame. :) My boys know things are different since we had Quinn; for instance, we don’t leave the house as much. But I assure them often that it won’t last forever, and they seem to take my word for it—and with surprisingly good attitudes.
6. Don’t push them away. Instead, give them responsibility. Some lady in the grocery store gave me this piece of advice before I had #2, and it turned out to be the best piece of unsolicited advice I’ve ever received. Her idea was to make your child feel a part of everything. Trenton sat so close to me every single time I nursed Quinn that I had absolutely no elbow room. He would stroke her head and whisper to her—and even ask me to “switch sides” so that he could reach her better. (TMI?) Let your children get close; babies are more durable than they seem. And ask them to grab diapers or help burp the baby, anything to make them feel important.
Along those lines…
7. Praise them up the wazoo for all positive interactions with the baby and all help they offer you. These months are the start of your children’s relationships. Talking positively and drawing out the good will set the stage now for their feelings and interactions with each other later.
But most importantly, don’t forget #2. Let go! It will get better week by week. You can do this!