With just six weeks to go until my due date, I’m feeling ready for baby #2 – but is my daughter? Doubtful. She’s had me all to herself for four years, and now she’s going to have to share me with a tiny poop machine who can’t even sit up, much less join us for Zoo Bingo. It’s a huge transition, and there’s probably no way to make it bump-free, but I’ve been soaking up as much advice as I can from parents and experts.
What’s working so far? Viv loves reading books about pregnancy, babies and being a big sister. She also enjoys dressing and changing her new baby doll (I try not to panic when she drags it around by the ankle). But when the real baby is actually here, in our home, making noises and messes and demanding my attention, who knows how my 4yo will react?
Post-partum doula Giuditta Tornetta has some idea. In a helpful “Preparing Sibling for New Baby” video I found on Kids in the House, she compares a child’s adjustment to a new baby to what it would feel like if my husband brought home a second wife. That would be traumatic indeed! (Though, frankly, an extra pair of hands for laundry and cooking holds some appeal.)
So how can I help my daughter adapt? Giuditta points out that a new baby’s cries can feel “earth-shattering” to a young child. She suggests reframing the crying as “talking” and engaging the big kid in a game of “What is the baby trying to say?”
I think Viv would love to crack baby’s code and come up with reasons for the cries–is she tired, hungry, wet or just needing to be held? This kind of detective work could also help her feel empathy towards the baby, and maybe be more tolerant when I pause our playtime to tend to the little one’s needs. I’m definitely going to try playing this game with my daughter. It’s much preferable to that other game, “Why is Mommy ripping her hair out?”
Parents who’ve been there, what are your tips for integrating the new baby?