For most of us the scariest thing about bringing home your first child is the fear of the unknown (how do I feed them? Change a nappy? Put them to sleep?), however when the second baby comes along things change. One of the biggest worries for an experienced Mama is how her other child/ren will react to a new baby and how best to handle it.
As always, MMM have got you covered. So as part of our Positive Parenting Series, here are our top tips on how to adjust and adapt when you bring home a new baby.
Acknowledgement: Thank you to Nazmina Dhanji for contributing some pearls of wisdom to this post, which was inspired by her original article in Muslim Mums issue 7 (circa 2009) – Small things make big Muslims instilling Islam in your children.
1. Be real – Without saying it, this should probably read ‘expect the worst,’ but this is our Positive Parenting series so let’s flip it and try and think happy thoughts. This time may be a challenge and there may well be regressions, hitting, crying and the like, but setting realistic expectations will help. Acknowledge that this is the transition phase. It won’t last forever inshAllah.
2. Keep calm – Easier said than done, but chances are if you react, their feelings will only get larger. If you need to become a physical barrier to stop them from hitting the little one – pick up the older child and give them a hug instead of ‘protecting’ the baby. This will remind them that they are loved and make them feel safe and secure.
MMM Tip: When things get tough, try to take a breath before you react, give yourself the space to think so that you are mindful about what you say or do. Using dhikr of Allah (SWT) is often a game changer; whilst you pause say As-Sabur (the patient) and this will remind you to react patiently.
3. Prepare for the change – keep that communication between you and your child/ren going throughout your pregnancy and especially as you reach the final stretch. Talk about the new baby and how things might change. Use simple language for toddlers and explain that you will go away to bring the baby home (unless you’re having a homebirth!), so that they’re not shell shocked if they wake up one morning and you’re not there.
MMM Tip: Children and toddlers love visuals and stories – reading a book about a new baby a few times before your delivery can help explain the process to them. Rather than buying these – check out your local library and borrow them beforehand. Cost effective, sustainable and saves space!
4. Give Gifts – It is narrated that the Holy Prophet (SAW) has said, ‘A gift brings about affection, reinforces brotherhood, and removes grudges. Give gifts to each other and you will love each other.1-2’ Giving your older children a gift from the baby is a lovely way to kick start their bond.
MMM Tip: A baby doll might be useful for a toddler to role play and copy their mum
5. Be sensitive to the older child’s feelings – it’s a big change for them and they will need a lot of extra love and attention to ensure that they feel secure. Teaching young children words or actions which might help them to express themselves beforehand may go a long way when baby arrives (e.g. excited, frustrated).
6. Get them involved – Try to refer to the baby as ours and involve them in tasks from the get go. Giving them a role and importance will help them to feel involved and at a young age nurturing this will inshAllah cultivate care and compassion.
MMM Tip: Show your older child/ren the baby’s crib and where the baby’s things will stay beforehand – you can keep them busy and involved by bringing you bits you may need (e.g. nappies, muslin, vest). Make it a fun game when you’re setting up the nursery – do it with your older child/ren – it might take triple the time, but they will cherish it.
7. Use smart language – Try not to use the baby as a reason you are unable to give your older child/ren attention for example ‘I can’t play with you because I have to give the baby his bath,’ or ‘Shh, the baby’s sleeping’. Instead focus on the positives and what you can do: ‘My hands are busy, but we can still talk’, or ‘We’ll go to the park when it’s 4 o’clock.’
8. One on one time – After the initial settling in period, once you’ve worked out what you’re doing (kind of), try to find a spot in the day where you give sole attention to your other child/ren (even if it’s as little as 5-10 minutes on the crazy days). This will help you to continue to bond with them and give them a chance to feel extra special with your undivided attention.
And finally a few practical pre-labour tips:
- Encourage your older child/ren to get used to spending more time with others (daddy, grandparents etc) before baby arrives. This will ensure they don’t feel like they are missing out on time with you as it will feel normal to them.
- Try to keep routines on point and avoid any big changes around the time of the big day
- The first time your older child/children meet their new baby sibling, try to place the baby in a cot or bassinet and not be holding them yourself. This will inshAllah ensure that they see the baby for the first time as their own person rather than associating them with you and will hopefully negate any feelings of jealousy. Bonus, it also frees you up to give them a big hug
- If the first visit happens at the hospital, try not to wear a hospital gown so your older child/ren don’t think you are unwell.
That’s it folks, we hope this helps you to smoothen the transition as easily as possible.
What did you do to prepare for a new baby? Let us know in the comments below
- al-Kafi, v. 5, p. 144, no. 14
- Bihar al-Anwar, v. 77, p. 166, no. 2