Most baby care books and websites are aimed at parenting newbies; there’s not a whole lot out there for repeat customers. But the truth is (as you might suspect), a second child is a total game-changer. So we asked our child development expert, Aliza Pressman, co-founder of Seedlings Group, for a few tips and reminders to help navigate the craziness.
Expect to feel differently. “It’s not unreasonable to cry hysterically or be totally ambivalent on your way to the hospital, even if you were overjoyed and excited the first time,” Pressman explains. Or maybe last time you didn’t fall in love immediately, and this time you do. No matter how altered your feelings, they’re probably normal.
Give yourself a refresher course. “Even though you’ve been through it before, you may be surprised at how much you’ve forgotten about the finer points of things like burping, swaddling, and sleep timing.” So dust off that pile of books and skim the important chapters, at least.
Let it go. You’ll probably be more relaxed about most things, but “pay attention to sleep,” says Pressman. “Let other things go, but not sleep.” Teaching your baby to fall asleep on her own in a static environment (like her crib), putting her to bed early, and getting her on a good sleep schedule is key.
Embrace their differences. Chances are your kids will develop differently, at different paces. “You can’t compare them,” Pressman says.
Remember that jealousy doesn’t always happen right away. Be aware that a tantrum or unusual acting out that isn’t directed at the baby may still be related to the baby. And even if it’s smooth sailing at first, don’t be surprised if there’s some kind of negative reaction when the baby starts to move and communicate more—around eight to ten months—that’s when she becomes a competitor.
Greet your older child with a massive hug. Don’t be holding the baby when your firstborn sees you for the first time after the baby is born. Of course you’ll hold the baby in front of him later, but in that moment when you initially see each other, have your arms free for him.
Keep things the same. The weeks after a new baby arrives is not the time for a new nanny, a new home, or potty training.
Don’t alienate your older child during feeding times. Let her help with a bottle, or sit with you while you breastfeed. If she’s antsy while you nurse, some moms suggest having a few special toys that only come out during breastfeeding time.
Instill some pride. When talking to your older child, refer to the new baby as “your” baby, so he feels some responsibility for his younger sibling.