Bringing a new baby into the house is a big deal for every family member. It’s exciting and it can also be quite daunting for everyone involved. Some kids will adjust better than others, some may get jealous and others may thrive off being your little helper. For those who have been following me for a while now, I’m sure you know that I go on and on about the importance preparing families with dogs for life with baby, so I thought it’s time we look at my 7 tips to help prepare our children for another baby as it is just as important.
Obviously how you prepare them will vary from child to child and also depend on what age your children are. Harper was only 18 months when Paxton arrived versus now when prepping both kids for baby number three they are both quite a lot older so we’re focusing on different things but the principles remain the same (Harps will almost be 4.5 and Pax almost 3). These tips are based on what we have done in both my pregnancies, plus the extensive reading and research I’ve done on this topic (yes, I’m a big nerd at heart).
Everyone responds to change differently, but here are my tips to help you and your family adjust and settle in a little bit easier to your new impending arrival.
Plan ahead and space out the big changes.
The one important lesson I learnt from Harper, is to try not to make too many big changes at the same time. Space them out, plan ahead.
The big changes may include; moving bedrooms, moving into a bed, toilet training, starting child care, moving house, and of course, the arrival of a new sibling and I’m sure there are many more. For example, my due date is 13 weeks away now and we have just moved Paxton into his new room and a big boy bed! Gives him plenty of time to be settled in before the baby arrives.
With Harper, she started crèche, we moved house and we had a baby all in the space of three months. Because of these big things going on and because of her age, we made the decision to hold off on moving her into a bed and toilet training her until things were settled with all those changes first.
So my advice here is to priorities the changes that need to be made first. Move rooms if you need to make space for the baby and leave things like toilet training to a few months after the baby arrives if you have too much going on before. As mentioned above though, each child is different and may adjust to change more easily or with more reluctance than others, so just go with your gut, trust your instincts, you know your child best.
Try to encourage as much independence from your older kids in the months leading up to the new baby, not just when the baby arrives.
Teach your child/ren how to get dressed themselves and how to put their own shoes on. Teach them to put their dirty washing in the washing basket, to make their own bed in the morning. Encourage them to tidy up their toys and their belongings rather than leaving them around the house. Stop spoon feeding them and make them do it for themselves. Ask them to bring their dishes to the sink when they are finished. If they’re old enough, they could rinse the plate themselves and pop it in the dishwasher. The less you have to do for them and the more they can do for themselves, the easier it will be when the baby comes. This will give them a great sense of independence, so make sure to really reward and praise them for doing these things, don’t let them know unnoticed.
When the baby comes you’re not going to have as much time to do these things for the older kids so getting them used to independence before is critical. And talking about it will help them too. Often in the mornings when Harper and Paxton get themselves dressed, we let them know how proud we are and we let them know that it will be such a big help when their baby brother arrives as we might not have as much time to do it for them.
Prepare them as much as possible for what it will be like when the baby arrives and include them as much as you can.
Read them books that can help prepare them for the big change. We did this for Harper when I was pregnant with Paxton. I found a book about becoming a big sister which she loved. And this time round we have bought a new book about a house in mummy’s tummy, which they also LOVE reading every day!
Visit friends with babies so they can see a real live new born baby and what comes with it.
Go through old photos and videos of them as a baby and talk about what it was like. Talk to them about feeding time, burping, bathing time, sleep time, all those moments where you may need to have your attention on the baby and not on them. And discuss some things that they could do to help during those times. Include them, make them feel a part of it all. You don’t want them to think that the new baby is coming and they will be pushed aside. Even bring them along to a doctor’s appointment if you can. Discuss baby names with them. They will love it!
Make sure they know what will happen when you go into the hospital.
Have a plan of attack ready, know who will have your children when you go into labour and the days following when you are in hospital. Make sure you let your children know so they are prepared for this too. Try as much as possible to keep their routine the same, it will just help them to feel a little more settled if possible. And of course, let them know that they will be able to come and visit you as soon as the baby arrives.
Make sure you have a plan for when you will be tied up with the new baby, i.e. when feeding, settling etc.
Go out and buy some new toys; puzzles, lego, arts and crafts, things you know your kids will love to do for those times when you just can’t be there for them. When I had Paxton, we had bought Harper her own little baby (a doll) with some cute accessories, like a pram, a cot, a high chair, etc. So often when I was feeding Paxton, she’d come and sit next to me and feed her baby too – yes that’s right, she pretended to breastfeed her doll too. And this time around, we have done the same thing, she still has the same doll but we have bought one for Pax too and we now have an extra dolls pram too. That way, when the kids can’t actually be helping with the baby, they can copy what I am doing with their own babies. My kids love imaginative play, obviously, not all kids are the same, so find some things that you know will work and roll with that. When all else failed, I’m not going to lie, snacks, snacks, snacks and tv, tv, tv were also a huge help in those early days!!
Plan for some good quality one-on-one time with your children before the baby arrives and once the baby has arrived.
I am a huge advocate for one-on-one time. All the time. Not just during pregnancy and with a new born. I make sure to allocate time each week where I give my kids time, just me and them, one-on-one. I think it’s so important and they thrive off it! They are totally different kids when they are on their own too (much better behaved to be honest).
In the lead up to your baby, make sure to spend some good quality time with your kid/s. And then once the baby arrives, also make sure not to forget about this. It’s so easy to get caught up in the newborn bubble. But to your child, they were your number one before this baby came along, so you need to keep in mind how they might be feeling, and really let them know how much you love them and enjoy that special time with them.
The day I got home from the hospital with Paxton, after we were all settled in, I fed him so I knew he was happy and wouldn’t need more for a few hours, and I took harper out for frozen yoghurt, just the two of us. I still remember it, 2.5 years later! She just loved it! She loved being alone with me, after I had spent the last 4 days in the hospital with her brother. It made her feel special and know that I am still always going to be there for her.
More than anything, reassure them that you love them and you are always going to be there for them.
Some kids really do sense that things are going to change and may even start to play up in the month or weeks leading up to the arrival of the new baby. This is common. Try to be patient and understanding. It is a phase and it will pass. They know their world is about to change and they have no idea what to expect. So do your best to just love them and let them know it. If they’re having a meltdown for no reason, just hug them – it might be all they need!
I hope you find these tips helpful. And I hope your children adjust ok to the changes that are about to come their way. Having siblings is the best, I am one of three and just love it, although learning to share your attention and their toys, may be easier for some than others. Good luck! As always, please feel free to get in touch.
Disclaimer: Cooper and Kids will not be liable for anything that happens to you, your dog or children by following the advice and tips in this article. If you have real concerns or worries about your dog and/or safety of your children, please seek out a professional to come and assess the situation asap.