How to Balance Your Time Between Older Children and a Newborn
How did you balance your time between older children and newborns, especially high needs babies? Especially when feeling like the high needs of a newborn places most everything and everyone else on the back burner.
Tips to Balance Time With Multiple Children
Balancing time with older siblings and toddlers when bringing a newborn home can be tricky. Here are some ways I navigated this with my three kiddos:
1. Prepare the Older Children
First, it’s important to prepare the family, both parents, and older children ahead of time for what’s to come when a newborn baby comes home. For example, talking with your family about what it will be like with a newborn in the house can make the transition to a larger household easier and less stressful. A fun way to do this is to get out your children’s photo albums from when they were little babies and tell them stories about how they were taken care of as newborns.
2. Identify Which Moments are Important to Your Older Children
Now for practical ideas: It helps to identify what is most important to baby’s siblings and be sure to allocate that time to them for a good balance. For example, my middle daughter very much valued our bedtime routine together. With my older daughter, she really wanted me to watch her with full attention when she had something to show me – be it a new dance she made up or a picture she drew or a story she was telling me. As much as possible I tried to focus and be there for them for those moments when it meant the most to them. In that way, it was easier when I was not.
3. Communicate When You Will Be Available
Hearing the comments “no, wait…I can’t right now…I’m busy…the baby needs me” can feel defeating especially when older children are already feeling a bit left out. Instead, try giving them an idea of when you will be available. “As soon as I put the baby in the sling, I will be happy to make you lunch,” “Your school project is very important – how about I help you in an hour when the baby is napping.” You are validating that they are still very important and that you care about what they need, reassuring your older child that you will make time!
4. Special Time With Mom Creates Balance
Scheduling chunks of time to spend alone with each of the older siblings is very valuable. This will help your older child to know that you will not have to jump up at a moment’s notice to tend to the baby and that a chunk of time can be all about them is huge. Also, when baby’s need is not urgent or hugely important, allowing the baby to wait while you give your first attention to an older child can help.
5. Bring Out the Reinforcements
I found it helpful to have certain toys or activities that only came out when the baby was especially needy, and I had very little time to give to the older children. This way, my older ones were occupied and often excited for mom to be busy with the newborn. This is also a great time for your partner to give older children extra time and attention. In fact, dads often bond in an extra special way with the older ones once your newborn is home. This can bring some great balance to the whole family.
Resources for When Bringing a Newborn Home
Martha Sears, RN
Martha is the mother of Dr. Bill’s eight children, a registered nurse, a former childbirth educator, a La Leche League leader, and a lactation consultant. Martha is the co-author of 25 parenting books and is a popular lecturer and media guest drawing on her 18 years of breastfeeding experience with her eight children (including Stephen with Down Syndrome and Lauren, her adopted daughter). Martha speaks frequently at national parenting conferences and is noted for her advice on how to handle the most common problems facing today’s mothers with their changing lifestyles. Martha is able to connect with both full-time, stay-at-home mothers and working mothers because she herself has experienced both styles of parenting. Martha takes great pride in referring to herself as a “professional mother” and one of her favorite quips when someone voices their concern about her having eight children in an already populated world is: “The world needs my children.”