More Than One Child
INTRODUCING THE BABY
Gifts from the baby to the older brother or sister help make this more of a family celebration! The older child might feel ignored when people give gifts to the baby and not him. Therefore, you may wish to have a secret supply of gifts to be given so that the older child always feels like a participant. Convey to your older child the pride you feel in your growing family.
“Actively sleep” is a phrase which simply means that you think of sleeping your baby as an active process. Sleeping is not something which passively occurs now and then without any pattern. Try to anticipate when your baby will need to sleep. Your baby will need to sleep every 1-2 hours during the day. Therefore, soothe your baby to sleep every 1-2 hours. The purpose of soothing is to make the transition from light, play, wakefulness towards dark, quiet, sleep. Think of the soothing time as wind-down period. At the end of the soothing period, (which may include feeding) place your baby in a motionless place to sleep. Just as you do not feed your baby on the run, try to avoid naps on the run. That is, do not nap your baby in the stroller while shopping. Just as you do not deny food when your baby is hungry, do not deny sleep when your baby is tired. Often you try to anticipate when your baby will become hungry; likewise, try to think of sleep as food for the developing brain which should not be denied simply because it is socially inconvenient for you. Because you have more than one child, there will be times when the baby’s sleep is disrupted and it is usually impractical to always hold the baby during daytime sleep periods. On most occasions, practice putting your baby in a crib or some other motionless place to sleep after soothing, whether your baby is asleep or awake at the time when the soothing period ends.
Perfect timing produces minimal crying. Sometimes your timing will be off and there will be some crying as your baby winds down to sleep. Letting your child cry for 10-15 minutes will not harm your baby and will allow the baby to learn how to soothe himself to sleep. You can begin the practice of actively sleeping your baby as soon as you get home from the hospital because you have had experience in helping your first child learn how to sleep well and this experience will allow you to sense when it is that your baby will need to sleep. Do not assume that there necessarily will be any crying, but do not feel bad if there is a little. Read Your Fussy baby: How To Soothe Your Newborn and Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child to understand more about crying and sleeping.
Your first child will feel uncomfortable because you are less available. Your response times are slower and you will have less time and energy for the older child because of the time required to care for your new baby. To help your older child adjust to the changes in your behavior, set aside a time, which is labeled “Amy’s Private time”. The time may be brief, such as 10-20 minutes, but it should occur every day at about the same time. You may wish to use a kitchen timer to control the duration and give the event special importance. The time may be before or after dinner or before bedtime or any time when you know that someone else will care for the baby. This is the time when Amy will expect your undivided attention and you do whatever Amy wants to do during this time. Thus, throughout the day, when you are exhausted or have to care for the baby, you can say, “I’m sorry, Amy, but we will have to wait for our private time”. Amy will feel more secure with the arrival of the new baby because “Private Time” structures her expectations. She knows that there will be a daily time when she does not have to compete with the baby for your attention.
It will take about 3-4 months for your baby to develop regular and predictable sleep patterns. During these first 3-4 months, the biologic immaturity forces social irregularity into ordinary home routines. This irregularity in your house upsets the sense of security for your older child because security is partially based on regularity of routines. During the 3-4 months required for the older child to become adjusted to the new home routines, his behavior might reflect this stress. Be more tolerant and less strict in matters of discipline.
Avoid crowds of strangers, but allow your friends to visit. Their children should not touch the baby or should wash their hands before touching.
SEPARATION AT FEEDINGS
Feeding your baby should be a relaxed family event, but initially your older child might become bored, jealous, or learn quickly that this is a vulnerable time for you. He may become deliberately disruptive in order to get more attention from you. He loves you very much. . . he’ll take whatever attention he can get. A sweet request to settle down or a stern command to stop what he is doing equally provide him with what he wants: more attention from you. Therefore, if his behavior interferes with the calmness you need to feel when feeding the baby, practice separation. You announce, “Feeding times are quiet times and when you behave this way, I do not enjoy the pleasure of your company.” You separate yourself from the disruptive child by retreating to your bedroom or bathroom and close the door behind you.
Remember, you are trying to maintain calmness for the baby’s benefit. You have to outlast the commotion caused by the older child but as soon as he stops, welcome him to your arms. If you do not outlast him, then he will learn to be more persistently disruptive. Praise him well for stopping the specific behaviors that were disruptive. He will learn faster if you say, “Thank you for stopping the yelling.” than if you say, “Thank you for being a good boy.”
“Smothering” means holding too tightly, embracing too strongly, gripping too tightly. When your older child is too forceful in handling or caressing the baby, SAY NOTHING. Say nothing unless the baby cries or grimaces. Usually the baby is not hurt by the strong or rough handling by the older child. You promote sibling love by saying nothing at these times because the older child becomes more disinhibited around the baby. If you are often saying things like “be careful”, “not too rough”, “be gentle” with a cautionary tone of voice, but at other times you say with an encouraging tone, “let’s touch”, “let’s hug”, “kiss the baby”, your child could easily become confused about exactly how he is supposed to act around the baby. The older child might resolve his dilemma by avoiding all contact with the baby.
Be silent and control your natural fear that the older child will hurt the baby. Praise the specific behaviors you want to see repeated. When the baby does grimace or cry because he is hurt or startled, then point out to the older child exactly what he did which caused the baby to cry and then model how you wish him to act by demonstrating what it means to be more gentle or soft with the hugs, kisses, or embraces. He then learns by observation of the baby and your demonstrations how he is expected to behave.
You will feel guilty because you will note that you are spending less time with your new baby than you did with your first. There is no reason to feel guilty because your new baby has two advantages, which more than compensate for the decreased time from you. The first advantage that the baby has is the presence of an older brother or sister. The older sibling will stimulate and facilitate your baby’s development in ways you cannot now imagine. The second advantage that the baby has is that you are experienced parents. At every stage, at every age, your newborn has the benefit of more calm and knowledgeable parents.
A single “supplemental” bottle given to a breast-fed baby will not cause “nipple confusion” or interfere with lactation. The bottle confers the following advantages: your husband and your older child have the pleasure of feeding your baby, mother can take a break, parents can go out on a date and the future transition to weaning or partial weaning will be easier. The bottle could contain either expressed breast milk or any type of formula. Expressed breast milk may be mixed with the formula in the same bottle. Offer 4 ounces, but your baby will probably be satisfied with less. On special occasions, it might be necessary to give more than one bottle per 24 hours. This will not interfere with successful breast-feeding. In general, however, the single supplemental bottle is given only once within a 24-hour period. The bottle may be given by different people and at different times of the day or night. The content of the bottle may vary at different feedings. If you have successfully breast-fed your previous baby, the single bottle may be started immediately.
TWO CHILDREN AT HOME
Your second child is more likely than his older brother or sister to be disturbed by the arrival of the new baby. Your first child has more friends and activities outside the house. Therefore, although you may offer “Private Time” to both of your children at home, it is the younger child at home who will need most of your undivided attention. Request that your first child spend 5 to 10 minutes with your second child just as you have: reading, coloring, building, or quietly playing together. This gives you brief breaks from caring for three children and encourages the older child to assume some responsibility in caring for the younger members of the family.