“Can you take him back now?”
He was super excited to be a big brother, and delighted when he met the new baby. But, the magic’s worn off and now, not only is he no longer amused, it actually seems like he’s plotting against you. Against all of you. So much for one big happy family.
Play favourites, at least for now.
A new baby gets a lot of attention. In fact, it’s pretty likely the new baby’s getting all the attention. From everybody. There’s a theory that when a new baby’s introduced to the fam, an older sib feels the same way one of us parents would feel if the other parent brought a new spouse home. Yikes!
The most important thing your older baby needs right now is you. Any visitors will gladly dote on your newborn for as long as you’ll let them, so take advantage of the opportunity to reconnect with your little big bro (you’ll have PLENTY of wake-up calls/diaper changes/tummy time to bond with baba). And, as much as you want to sleep when the baby sleeps, naps are an excellent time to give your firstborn your undivided attention. When your lap/arms are finally free of that suckling/crying/spitting-up bundle of joy, letting your older child fill them back up will flip a switch on your relationship, helping to turn HIS frown upside down! You’ll get bonus points if you do something out of the ordinary with him… one of us might have taken our then three-year-old on a Canada Day Timmie’s run around bedtime when he’d had a particularly late nap (nap dropping issues – just what a parent wants when there’s a newborn in the house!) and then stayed up extra late to watch fireworks together. We can neither confirm nor deny… mostly because our memory’s shot (thanks milk brain!).
Involving him as much as possible will help him adapt easier. Ask him to pass you a clean diaper/gently splash the bath water/lift the book flaps/nap the baby… basically anything he’s capable of doing that’ll make him feel important. But follow his lead – if he’s not interested then forcing it only pushes him even further away. Another way to involve him is to read relevant books together, making it easier for him to understand and hopefully get that conversation ball rolling. I’m A Big Brother is still one of our faves, and both our boys loved it when we subbed in family names for the sibs. A few other reco’s: The First Rule of Little Brothers, My New Baby and You and Me.
Our oldest was delighted when his baby brother gave him a present in the hospital. Being one of the sharper knives in the drawer, he quickly figured out that there’s no way a baby could have bought him a gift. And you probably know by now that we’re not into lying to our kids. So, we fessed up, as in “No, sweetie, he didn’t REALLY bring it for you. But he did start kicking pretty hard when we were shopping and spotted it.” He liked that answer. And it was the truth.
If you haven’t already invested in a sling – do it! We like the FreeHand because it never hurts our backs and has a few convenient positions based on baba’s age, but anything that gives you a… free hand (or two) will do the trick. Popping the baby in the sling so life can go on as it always has, which means playground trips/splash pads/ravine walks/PB&J’s with no crying/fussing babies and no strollers… props. And we definitely mastered the sling nurse, making it easier to feed on the go once we’d practiced a few times. Maybe slightly more than a few.
When you’re in the middle of something fun with your firstborn and the baby interrupts, it’ll ease your older child’s frustration if you have a special toy/puzzle/craft stashed away. You can go as far as to create a Big Bro Box that gets pulled out only when it’s time to feed/change a diaper. The key is to fill it with things he can do pretty much by himself… otherwise you’re sorta shooting yourself in the foot. Inevitably, there’ll be times when both children are screaming for you and you have to choose one over the other. If it’s not an emergency, choose wisely… the baby won’t remember.
If he’s not getting enough attention he’ll do whatever it takes to force you to pay attention to him – and acting out is usually the fastest way. Negative attention leads to all kinds of power struggles and relationship damage… probably not something you want to encourage. You can scale back on playing favourites as the new baby grows and your older one starts to feel more secure. For now, just focus on the love… and the sleep.
Email us if your older child is physically hurting your baby and you don’t know where to turn – we can help!