Most of us have a sibling and these can be some of the closest relationships we have in our lives; a whole shared history, similar outlooks, not to mention all the other family members in common. A lot of people also have an attendant story about how the sibling got more attention from our parents and it can be a tricky path to negotiate. If you are apprehensive about how your child will relate to a new baby, feel reassured that it’s natural for the first child to experience jealousy or fear that they are no longer loved and they may revert to babyish behaviour themselves.
A suggestion I received to help was the baby ‘bringing’ a present for the older sibling. Other tips include ‘giving the older child special jobs’ (1) or involving them in decisions about what clothes the baby should wear. Also well-wishers coming to see the new arrival can address the elder first and spend time with them as they always have done. After all, the baby won’t notice and the older child will feel reassured they are still important and visible.
Something else to consider is how you will feel. You may have focused on your feelings for the newborn so much; you won’t really have considered how your relationship with the older child will change. Many mothers are anxious that they won’t feel the same love for a second child. However you might experience a more immediate connection to the new baby because you’re more settled in the role of mother. With my first child a mantra kept running through my head …. ‘Is he too hot, too cold, hungry, tired, bored….help!!’ The baby seemed like a complicated machine and I couldn’t see the person behind all the tasks that had to be done. However I was learning ‘on the job’ and did the best I could at the time, as all women do. It is so easy for a mother to feel guilty, that she is doing everything wrong. I, like countless others, reached for manuals to reassure me rather than trusting my instincts.
The times I found most challenging were the evenings when the elder was tired after nursery and clamouring for my attention. Quite often his three year old whines spoilt the special alone time with the baby. I would feel cross, but then would look at him, still so small yet suddenly seeming so big and ungainly and saw it from his point of view. He had had all of my attention until now and couldn’t understand why this impostor had muscled in. This mixture of feelings after a second birth are as normal and natural as the overwhelming ‘all at sea’ ness after the first birth. It’s important for the older child to know they are just as loved and wanted. The time after the baby has been put to bed in the evening is a good time to have some ‘big’ boy or girl time with mummy and daddy, when you can talk about what they have done that day.
It is also very important to relax and go easy on yourself. The world will not end if a timetable is not adhered to and the washing up is not done. While the beginning may be challenging eventually things will settle down and everyone will adjust to their new roles. Some of the sweetest moments I remember were watching my elder nestled up to the baby, whispering something or showing him a picture in a book. This is when you are struck by the realisation that they will have a special bond as siblings that is very powerful.