Caitlin back again to share how our family has adjusted to a new addition and bringing a new baby home to our toddler!
Miss Becka joined our family on July 17th, and her big sister is completely in love with her.
Adding a new baby felt like a big change, and I was very nervous about how our toddler would handle it. To go from having mom’s full attention to having to share. Here is how we’ve supported our toddler, Aileen, through these first few weeks at home with new baby Becka.
1. Say yes as much as possible and pile on the love.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed when adjusting to life with a new baby. Add in a busy toddler and things can get chaotic pretty quick! I’ve tried to put myself in Aileen’s shoes. Her whole world has shifted and she doesn’t get a lot of say. So we are focusing on the joy of yes. Yes to an extra popsicle. Yes to one more episode of Sesame Street. Yes to playing outside. And most importantly, yes to helping with and holding baby sister. This helps Aileen feel included.
Focusing on the positives is also helpful. Expect more tantrums as everyone adjusts, but keep all your toddler’s strengths at the front of your mind and words. Give out that praise as much as possible. I try to spot the good at every chance so that Aileen is getting lots of positive attention right now. “Wow, you are such a big helper!”, “I love how gentle you are with the new baby, and “I’m so proud of you! High five!” are all easy ways to keep up the positive while being trapped under a newborn with high needs.
2. Divide and conquer as much as possible.
If you are blessed with family to help, take it. It takes a village to support a new baby and a toddler. For us in the time of COVID, this means taking advantage of extended paternity leave. During cluster feeding and the fourth trimester, Dad duty is including taking over all the cooking, cleaning, and toddler care. And a few times a day when we can we trade so that Aileen has time with both of us.
Remember, even if you are breastfeeding, there is so much Dad can do to help your growing family, you, and new baby. Changing diapers, cooking, and household chores, can all be part of Dad’s jobs. It can be hard for some Dads who really want to feel helpful but aren’t sure how during the newborn phase.
Do you have an amazing Dad in your life? Lil Helper loves those hands-on Dads and always wants all parents to feel supported. Dads can join the #DadsAreChanging community on Facebook to stay connected with others and talk all things parenting.
3. Go easy on yourself.
The first time alone with a newborn and toddler is overwhelming. By day 6 at home, I had my first mini-meltdown, brought on by my partner having to run some errands, sleep-deprivation, hormone changes, a toddler tantrum, and a cluster feeding newborn. Go easy on yourself. This is a time of adjustment for everyone and there are going to be bumps in the road. You got this. Snuggle your baby, kiss your toddler, and remember you are already the mom they both need.
4. Remember your own recovery.
Whether you gave birth vaginally or via c-section, you have physical recovery to do. As the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup, and those kiddos need a mom who is physically and mentally well. Rest, and take care of your body. For me, this looks like going back to bed in the afternoon with Miss Becka for a rest/nursing session in peace.
5. Use language your toddler understands.
Common phrases in our house these days include:
“Have new baby!” -Aileen needs to announce this to everyone we see
“Mama open shirt, feed Becka” -Aileen’s explanation of breastfeeding
“Mama busy, feed Becka. Aileen wait little longer” -while sharing mom can be tough, she understands
You know your toddler best, and giving them the words to share what is happening with new baby is super empowering. Giving them jobs to help with new baby is even better. Aileen loves picking out her sister’s clothes, bringing her a toy to cuddle, and even fetching me fresh breast pads when I need them!
Most of all, try not to worry. During my pregnancy, I was so worried about new baby taking me away from my toddler. How would I handle splitting my heart in two? But that’s not what happened. I didn’t have to divide my heart because, instead, it doubled in size.
What’s been the biggest surprise? How my little girl seems to have gone from my baby to a big kid overnight next to her sister. She is our big helper. When you forget just how tiny those sweet newborns are, bringing new baby home to your toddler really makes you realize how far you’ve come since your first days home with a newborn.