We are still fairly early into our time as a family of five, but while it is all fresh in my mind, I wanted to share my tips for bringing home another baby, based on our experiences so far. These thoughts are especially geared toward the first few weeks of bringing home a second (or third, or fourth) baby, though many will apply to any family with a newborn.
Bringing Home Another Baby: The Early Weeks
1. Remember it won’t be like this forever: Part of what stressed me out at the very beginning was the thought that the chaos and craziness of the first weeks was what our life was going to be like now that our family had expanded (again). It isn’t. While life will never be the same as it was, that also doesn’t mean it will always be like it is when you first come home from the hospital. Remember that you are still recovering – physically and emotionally – from delivery, plus you are all still finding your new rhythm as a family. Slowly you will start to get your strength back, the baby will start sleeping more, and you will all figure out your new roles.
2. Don’t worry about setting a precedent: During the first weeks, you really are in survival mode, so don’t worry too much about your older kids getting stuck into this new pattern. The early days are a “time out of time,” a transition period where things seem upside down for a while. That doesn’t mean that your kids will get too used to late bedtimes or eating more take out than usual or rules generally not being enforced as strictly. It is a bit like being on vacation. It may take a while to get back into a routine later on, but you will.
3. Follow your child’s lead about interacting with the baby: My boys were very different about how they reacted to the baby, and each reaction is totally normal and okay. One was interested briefly, then really wanted to get back to doing his own thing. The other was much more curious and visibly enthusiastic. If your child isn’t that interested, continue to offer opportunities to connect with the baby, but don’t push if it. Sometimes they are just not sure how to handle such a strange little creature, and sometimes the baby just doesn’t seem that interesting compared to their toys and books. They will come around in their own time.
4. Be kind to your kids: If your older kids are acting out or being extra clingy, remember that they are going through a big transition. (See great tips in the articles below about how to help them with this!) And even though you will be tired and so less patient than usual, remember that they really need the extra hugs and attention, so try to muster up some extra kindness for them.
5. Be kind to yourself and your partner: Parents, of course, are also going through a major transition. No matter how many times you bring home a newborn, each time it is a new experience, and a huge adjustment. You’ll keep saying, “Did the others cry this much?” “I don’t remember having to change this many diapers!” “I am sure we didn’t go through this before!” Newborns are wonderful and snuggly, but they are very labor and time intensive, and it is a struggle to balance caring for them with caring for older children as well. So cut yourself some slack. If you snap at your toddler or burn dinner or generally are less pleasant or “with it” than usual, it’s no wonder! This too shall pass, so have a little chocolate and try to go to bed early.
6. Ask for (and accept) help: This is not the time to be a super hero. Often it is physically impossible to do everything yourself in the early days. First, you are supposed to be staying off your feet as much as possible, and second, if you are breastfeeding, it is difficult to go far away from your baby. And really, letting others help you is a gift you can give your family, because it means you’ll have more time and energy to focus on them.
7. Kids – and adults – don’t need to bathe every day: Just sayin’! This tip alone will save you a lot of time and trouble, trust me.
8. Never pass up a chance to go pee, jump in the shower, or take a nap: There are many things you can do while nursing or carrying a baby, but some things are really best done alone. And when you are sleep deprived and trying to look after everyone else, you’ll be surprised at how much time can go by without you remembering to do one of these.
9. Safety first: Make sure that all the kids are being taken care of – at minimum, that everyone has eaten, gone potty, and is generally being looked after. Particularly after there is more than one child per adult, it is too easy to, say, drive half a mile down the road with one child unbuckled because you each thought the other was strapping him in (ahem). And remember that you are no longer able to multitask like you once were – especially when you were up all night with a newborn, your preschooler is clinging to your leg wanting you to play with him, and you’re pretty sure the baby just pooped – again. So take extra care to make sure the burners are all turned off, scissors and knives aren’t left lying around, and everyone is getting some sleep.
10. Remember it won’t be like this forever: I know I’m repeating myself here, but for me this is the main point to keep in mind. This time won’t last forever, so take a breath, look around at the beautiful chaos that surrounds you and take a mental snapshot. These are the moments you’ll always remember, the stories that will be woven into the fabric of your family history – the look on your child’s face when he held his sister for the first time, the way the boys decorated the house before you came home from the hospital, the time the baby peed on her big brother – these are the tales that will be told year after year at family gatherings, the photos you’ll pull out at each birthday. So don’t forget to enjoy the ride
More tips and reflections:
Playground Parkbench – What I Didn’t Expect from My Third Pregnancy: The good, the bad, and the surprising about a third pregnancy.
Mama Smiles – Raising Kids Who Get Along: Bringing Home a Younger Sibling: Great ideas here for positive ways to make older siblings feel special and important.
Tales of Beauty for Ashes – Letter to Myself After Baby #3: Beautiful letter about the ups and downs of bringing home a third baby – and how you will miss it all!
Makesovers and Motherhood – Dear Baby, Meet Your Siblings: Tips for getting kids excited about a new sibling and that special moment they meet.
How did you survive the early weeks of life with a new baby?