So, you’re ready to grow your family and can’t wait to welcome another new bundle of joy! But is your first child ready?
Ha — that was a trick question. Because the answer is almost definitely NO! Your firstborn is about to have a seismic (but amazing) shift right alongside yours. So here are some tips to help you prepare your first child for the arrival of your second.
1. Create a busy box
This seemed to be the most helpful piece of advice for me when my second was born. We made a box (this does not have to be fancy, mind you) with special activities or unusual toys that my eldest could only use when I needed to sit and breastfeed my newborn. Once the feeding was over, the box was done and I could put my baby down and get back to fully engaging with my kiddo.
2. Remind your first that he or she is your baby — forever
This can be done in countless ways. Try reading books like “I Love You the Purplest” or “Love You Forever” — and also say it over and over. Someone once said to me, “There is no love like your first child.” As a second child myself, I always found this to be so sad. However, as a mother of two, I get it now. The time and space to study each blink and snuggle for hours is just not feasible when you have an older sibling to parent as well. Reminding your first child how they will be your baby forever is always a wonderful way to help your child feel less dethroned.
3. Tell your first that he or she is the baby’s first teacher and best friend
Telling your firstborn she is the baby’s first teacher was wonderful advice given to me by my “Second Time Around” moms group leader (thanks Dawn!) who helped me understand what an empowering statement this is. By telling my older daughter that she will teach her little sister, she felt excited and important — and she acted as a role model. I also let her know her younger sister would be her best friend, because I have always cherished the relationship my brother and I have, and I wanted to foster this in my girls from the day they met. (Three-plus years in, it seems to have worked — they are BFFs!)
4. Make a photo book
I made a book online highlighting the story of what babies need, all using photos of my older daughter as a newborn. I then created a second part of the story about how while babies get lots of attention, they can’t do much. The book then shares all the amazing things my then 3-year-old eldest daughter could do, such as climb, jump, draw, ride a tricycle, etc.
5. Don’t expect everything to be perfect
We know this for ourselves, but be sure to allow room for error in your firstborn also. My guess is you feel like you have this whole motherhood thing down, so the transition to two will be OK. It will be OK, but that isn’t to say there won’t be all the feels along with it. There will be hard moments, and they will pass. Just remember to accept help as much as you can, and that regression is normal.
6. Carving out special mommy time is key
Don’t worry, I am not talking about a lot in the beginning. Setting a timer for five or 10 minutes of alone time with your first kiddo, where you are not to be disturbed whatsoever, is an idea. I liked to do this the second my youngest baby fell asleep, and then I knew I had at least some time to read a story or do a puzzle without interruption. Sometimes it can be hard to remember to do this, but it will mean the world to your big kiddo! The key with this, for us, was labeling it and calling it “special mommy/your child’s name” time so the child feels important, valued, and seen.
7. Tell stories about your firstborn
While this may feel like a lengthy endeavor to always do this, it can be really helpful. When it is diaper time, be sure to tell that ridiculously funny or absurd time you changed your firstborn’s diaper in an inopportune time or place (I know you did — we all did!). When bathing, dressing, feeding, or singing to your second-born child, tell these stories!
Lastly, for any mother who feels bad or guilty for the second child, I speak on behalf of most second children I know when I say we are awesome. We are resilient, strong, and love being second children! So maybe our baby books aren’t filled out to perfection, but we are thrilled to be part of the family and to have a big brother or sister to lead the way.