It’s still in the early days of being a mom to three kids, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how easily Emery fit into our family. It certainly helps that she does a lot of sleeping. It also helps that so far, her big 4-year-old sister adores her and her big 2.5-year-old brother is pretty indifferent. There are always those moments of unexpected juggling that will teach you new skills — like wiping a butt while nursing the baby or spinning in circles changing diapers — but so far, so good. I’ll admit that I was slightly terrified of adding the third, but I had a few tricks up my sleeve to ease the transition. Hopefully they’ll help you if you’re introducing older kids to a new baby, too!
1. Talk about it early and often. As soon as we felt comfortable sharing our pregnancy news with the kiddos, we did. We showed them ultrasound pictures and let them try to feel the baby kick. I also braced them for how boring a baby would be so they didn’t have too-high expectations for their new playmate. I also talked to them extensively about how I’d be in the hospital for two nights and how that would affect their schedule. Hearing how it would work and who would be tucking them in at night if I wasn’t there helped ease any fears about me being away, for all of us.
2. Bring toys. When the kids came to visit me in the hospital, they each had a small toy “from the baby” waiting for them. My daughter got a ribbon wand and my son got a Cars car. It served two purposes: giving them something to play with in the hospital room for awhile and scoring major points for the baby. (She brings presents!)
3. Don’t force it. My son shied away from the baby immediately and gets pretty nervous around her. We’ve taken it really slowly with him so that he plays with her on his own terms.
4. Get them involved. My daughter loves the baby — wants to hold her, play peek-a-boo and hilariously, hide-and-seek. I try to get her involved however I can, with holding, burping, changing and playing with her. It makes her feel like part of the team, and helps me spend time with the 4-year-old when the baby needs attention. Knowing my son’s hesitation about baby time, I gently encourage him to interact with her so he’s not nervous about her existence. We rub her fuzzy head or count her toes.
5. Stay patient. Adding a new member to the family is an upheaval, so be sure to stay patient with the big kids. I don’t even necessarily feel like they’re getting less attention, but the dynamic shifts slightly, and they’re sensitive to change. Be patient and everyone will adjust.
6. Watch for warning signs. Sometimes kiddos throw out subtle signals like pouting and being generally grumpy to get attention. Other times, they’re more obvious: “Don’t hold the baby!” or “I’m not big, I’m LITTLE!” Be sure to pay plenty of attention to the big kids; all they want is your time and attention.
7. Watch out for “helping.” Bless their hearts: when the big kids are good, they’re so good. They want to share their toys, cover the baby with blankets, and have music-making toys play non-stop for the baby. It goes without saying that you have to watch the big kids around a new baby and never leave them unattended, but be sure to praise the intent behind their actions!
8. Make poop and burp jokes. When all else fails, make poop and burp jokes at the baby’s expense. There are lots of opportunities for them with a newborn, and they’ll always elicit a laugh from the big kids.
How did you help ease the transition when adding a new baby to the family? —Erin