I once heard someone say that having children closely spaced together was just like having twins. I have children spaced closely together–all of my kids are about two years apart. I have twins. I can assure you beyond a shadow of a doubt that the challenges are definitely not the same. That’s not to say though, that having children spaced closely together is easy. But once you make it past the first few months, it does get easier. Here are a few tips to make it past those early days!
#1. Plan ahead and cook a little extra the six weeks before you give birth. Take the extra food and put it containers to freeze so you have frozen meals for the first several weeks after you give birth.
#2. When friends ask how they can help, suggest that they do something with your older child. Your older child(ren) are likely to feel a little left out and having someone spend ‘special’ time just with them can go a long ways towards easing the transition.
#3. Institute 30/30 time from the very beginning of your pregnancy. One of the best pieces of advice that someone gave me once was to take a nap every day after lunch. Insist that your older child, even if he has outgrown a nap, lay down and do something quiet for at least thirty minutes at the same time every day.
#4. Put together a cuddle time bag. Before you give birth consider putting together a bag with books, coloring pages, or whatever your child might like to use while you’re nursing or feeding the baby. You will spend a substantial amount of your time feeding your new baby but with a little planning you can use that time to read to your older child, do a sticker book or similar quiet activity.
#5. Reward good behavior. You should expect that your child will act out when the new baby arrives. They cannot communicate feelings and may not fully understand what’s going on. It is confusing and for some children a very scary time. It is very important to help ease the transition by giving lots and lots of praise for even the smallest things. This lets your older child know that you notice him–he’s not forgotten.
#6. But discipline bad behavior. I know that sounds like common sense. Who wouldn’t discipline bad behavior? However, when you see your older child do something shocking, it is easy to recognize the symptoms of jealousy and the struggles of adjusting to a new sibling. Believe it or not, your older child will benefit from consistency and knowing that the rules are the same.
#7. Consider buying a gift to give to your older child from the new baby. While it is a nice gesture and helps your older one know he’s not forgotten, it can also be a very handy distraction while your family is visiting in the hospital.
#8. Get a little mommy time. One of the hardest things about going from one baby to two is that there is no longer as much ‘off’ time. With one baby, you can pass the baby to your spouse and get a shower, or a quick bite. When there are two babies, if you pass the baby off, you can expect a toddler in your lap shortly. Establish some consistent mommy time that’s off limits to babies! (I still have to lock myself in the bathroom to accomplish this–but oh, what a difference it makes!)
#9. Invest in a sling. Slings are more convenient than baby carriers when you are trying to care for a toddler in addition to a newborn baby. They give you the ability to nurse hands free, get lunch ready, or attend to all the other things that your toddler will need.
#10. Give your older child a job. It doesn’t have to be a big job. . .our children have been enlisted to bring a diaper, bring a wipe and one of my children has even had the beloved job of singing to the baby while I changed her so that she would be “comforted”. The more that you involve your older one in appropriate ways to care for your newborn, the more he will feel like he has an important role to play in the family. (Which translates into less attention seeking behavior!)
Finally, just remember that this is for a season. You can let the house get dirty, you can eat microwave food or lots of take out, and you don’t have to mop the floors. Things will return to normal quickly and taking time out to coddle both your newborn and your older baby will really help ease the transition in the long run!