Preparing Older Siblings Prenatally

Updated: Jan 25







Often parents find that the hardest part of preparing for their second, third, or even fifth born is anticipating the adjustment that older children will experience.


Many are relieved to find that steps can be taken before the baby is born that will help to ease the transition for everyone.


The key is to have realistic expectations of and for everyone.


These include:


New Baby: It's been a while so you might not remember what life is like with a brand new baby. Here are some reminders:


  • Newborns sleep quite a bit in the first few weeks. In fact, many parents are pleased to find that their baby is so "good" -- they wake, eat, then go smoothly back to sleep. Remember that this is often the case, and rest all that you can during this time. You do indeed have a good baby -- of course, all babies are good -- but that baby must and will wake up eventually. Be prepared for this transition - this is the time when we see resentment build in older siblings, as more and more time goes to meeting the baby's needs.

  • Newborns are designed to feed very frequently - at least 8x every 24 hours. This may have felt challenging with your first baby, but now you have additional little people to tend to at the same time. A challenge, no doubt, but not impossible.

  • Newborns expect, prefer, and deserve to be held close to your skin as much as possible. We know that babies who are worn cry less, grow faster, and regulate their breathing and digestion better. Invest in a quality carrier that is appropriate for a newborn. Learn to use it prenatally, and begin to use it as soon as possible after birth so that everyone's needs are met from the beginning.

Older Children:

  • Do your older children know what newborns are like? What they can and cannot do? Sometimes older children expect their new sibling to crawl or babble and are disappointed when the baby does not. Big brothers and sisters have been known to "feed" the baby food like Cheerios. Spend time preparing the older children well in advance. Weekly trips to the library and internet searches will provide a variety of medium and age-appropriate materials. Simply spending time with friends and family with new babies is the most practical approach. This applies to all siblings to be, even those who are just a year or so themselves. While still pregnant, set up friends, family, and childcare providers to come and visit after the baby is born. If the children don't know these helpers well, perhaps try to arrange more time together so they don't feel that they're being abandoned by strangers once the baby comes.

  • In addition, protect your time together with your older children. Identify rituals and activities that are top priorities in your home, and plan around them. Babywearing and evening helpers tend to be most efficient in these respects.

  • Understand that your older child, who will seem so grown to you, is still a little growing person who needs you. Don't be surprised if resentment crops up. With a first baby, you may have held the baby in your arms all day. The same strategy with a second child can cause a lack of mobility and a resentful older child. Feed baby, tuck them in the carrier, and move on with the baby and older child both feeling nurtured.

  • Carefully consider transitions like a crib to bed, potty training and weaning from the breast, bottle or pacifiers before undertaking them late in pregnancy. Staying mindful that children often regress after the addition of a sibling, consider which transitions are imperatives and which might wait for some time after the birth. Any that are priorities should take place well before the final weeks of pregnancy.


Parents


  • Many new parents are tired. You may think that you remember this, but it is different when it is actually happening. Plan for opportunities for support and rest not just during the first days, rather ideally during the first three months and beyond. Grandparents, doulas, neighbors, and teen or even pre-teen "mother's helpers" can help to smooth the transition.

  • Finding time to nurture yourselves as individuals and a couple becomes all the more challenging, but remains just as important. Again, explore this while still pregnant. Consider swapping childcare with a friend weekly or monthly if the budget does not allow for babysitting.

Borrowed from the DONA International Workshop 2013 presented by Jackie Kelleher.


The time immediately following birth is precious. A child is born and for a moment time seems to stop, as past, present, and future meet. When a family feels at home in their environment in which they meet this new life, there is a special radiance. Allow me to assist, guide, and nurture your family's transition! Contact Suzanna at suzannamiller@positivepostpartum.org


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Natalie

 "I cannot encapsulate a better experience than having Suzanna as our doula...She was not only incredible support during postpartum but we also consider her a friend. She provided us incredible support with such a calm, empowering demeanor. She is also such an incredible resource and wealth of knowledge. We couldn't have made it the last three months without her, and every time she was away, we missed her (and still do)! If you are looking for postpartum support or a night nurse, Suzanna truly is a great person to have and we are so grateful to have experienced sharing post birth with her." -NW 2020

Emily

"Suzanna helped me through the beginning of a new phase of motherhood as a stay-at-home mommy of two. She coached me, helped me create and track goals to keep my brain focused, and provided an outlet for much-needed adult interaction in those first few months while everything was overwhelming and new. She was patient and kind, she listened to my opinions and concerns, and made sure that my mental health was a priority when I didn’t have the brain space to spend on it.

Suzanna is incredibly knowledgeable about pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, postpartum, and childcare; which was so helpful when I was exhausted, struggling with the changes my body had just gone through and had two little ones to look after on top of it all. It was life-giving having someone to care specifically for me and my mental health in this transitional time. It helped me become the best mom I could be." -2018

Lora

“We cannot even begin to express our sincere gratitude for Suzanna and her expertise. As first time parents (and first time mom of a now almost 7 month old!), my husband and I were unfamiliar with the role of postpartum doulas. She introduced us to incredible care centered on the recovering mom and needs of the brand new infant. Our daughter arrived a bit early, and was less than 5 lbs when we brought her home; she required a “triple feeding schedule” that resulted in almost 90 minutes of various forms of feeding followed by 30 minutes of rest...and repeat!  Needless to say, and despite so much love and support from our families, we were exhausted. Suzanna was truly a light in the haze of sleeplessness and new-parent uncertainty. Her unassuming and warm presence, calming words, as well as evidence-based, postpartum/breastfeeding knowledge were unparalleled. She skillfully guided us all through the early weeks of parenthood (and with COVID looming). We recommend her services to all!” -2020