I do like this back post about this topic: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/01/11/transitioning-the-only-child-to-older-sibling/ but today I wanted to add a few things to that post.
I still think siblings are the best gift you can give your child (see back post here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/11/01/siblings-are-the-most-precious-gift/) . However, this is not to say the transition point of this is all roses. Many mothers at one time or another have felt as if the baby was intruding on their special time with their older child or the older child was intruding on their special time with the baby. Some mothers have told me they felt like it took them longer to bond with the second baby simply because they had less time to just sit and hold the baby and they were so concerned about the adjustment of the older child.
I think all of these feeling are normal.
I think the other thing no one says about transitioning to two children is that you may be going from things being more focused on one child, a rhythm around one child, to having a rhythm now encompassing more of the needs of everyone in the family, and encompassing children who are at different developmental stages. I don’t mean that to sound harder or scary, but just to point out that it is what it is. It is also better to know that some of these transition points don’t come up right away when your baby is still small and mainly in a sling nursing, but come up as the infant grows and matures and becomes more mobile and has more of a personality.
I had one mother tell me she wished people had told her that her relationship with her older child was going to change when she added an infant to the mix. Your relationship with your older child will change, that is true. However, I think sometimes when there is a younger sibling/infant in the house we tend to see that as the impetus for change and we forget that that older child is growing and changing and that our relationship with that child would be changing as well, (with our without a younger sibling) because of growth and maturation and new developmental stages that would happen naturally anyway. This is not to downplay the transition that does occur with adding a child to the family, but to remind us all that our relationship with our older child would not be frozen in time anyway.
These are the areas I have heard from mothers that they found hardest to deal with when nurturing two children:
- Dealing with guilt! Mothers have told me how hard it is to stop feeling guilty because they cannot give 150 percent to each child individually. It is okay that your neighbor takes your four-year-old to the pool. It is okay that you can’t run next to your child on their bike with training wheels because you are nine months pregnant. It is okay for that older child to not be center of the universe, and in fact, I would argue it is better for them to not be under a microscope all the time.
- The other area of guilt is in dealing with feelings of perhaps not liking the older child’s behavior. This is normal. Toddlers, preschoolers, go through different behaviors as they adjust to the family rhythm changing. You can still love your child, and show them as much warmth as possible and as much attention to their needs because they still need Mommy too. You don’t have to love every challenging behavior :), but you still need to be their loving parent.
- Co-sleeping. Mothers have had to work to come up with what works best in their family, whether that is moving another mattress into their room, co-sleeping with the infant only and having Dad sleep with the older child somewhere else, or whatever worked out best for the needs of the whole family.
- Tandem nursing. For many mothers this works well, most mothers seem to feel happy they could do this for their older child and felt it did ease some of the transition, but I have also heard mothers who did wean their children over the age of four after a bit of time into tandem nursing. Again, you will have to sort out what works for your family.
- What to do with the older child during the infant’s naptime is another area that comes up as a challenge. If your child is young and still taking naps, you can encourage your child to sleep when you and your infant sleep. Some mothers have talked about the older child being wakened by the infant and also the infant being wakened by the older child. If your child no longer naps, baby wearing can be a real lifesaver. Some mothers will set up a play scenario in the napping room or a snack in the napping room. Some mothers will read to the older child and nurse the baby and when the baby falls asleep, mother and older child will slip out. Some mothers use white noise to help hide the noise of a toddler or younger preschooler during the nap. Some have babies who can sleep through it. These things are all individual and take time to sort out.
- When both children are crying at once. The best thing with two children is you still have room in your arms and your lap for both children.
- When the baby needs you during the older one’s bedtime routine and is crying throughout bedtime story time. Having extra help around bedtime is helpful, as is planning calm afternoons with early dinners and early bedtimes.
- The transition the fathers go through at this point because their calm presence and their help is needed more than ever. They may have to step in and guide the older child’s behavior, deal with being the “less wanted” parent because the older child wanted Mommy to do it, or the baby really wants to be held by Mommy. It can be a hard role, and especially challenging if Dad has not really stepped up to the plate with nurturing the first child or taking a very active role with the first child.
- Mothers remark that the lack of time for themselves is difficult; that with the first child they thought they were so busy but with the second child they realize now that any of the little pockets of time they had carved out with the first child is now being filled.
Goodness, I look at this list and I hope it doesn’t sound too negative! But I think as mothers we need to talk about the reality of things more and support one another.
Thanks for reading and I welcome your comments. What was hard for you as you transitioned from having one child to two children and what worked best for your family?