Friday, April 13, 2012

Prepping for Baby Tip: Establish Consistency

Kaitlyn holding McKenna. Isn't that precious!
As I have added babies to my family, I have of course analyzed and observed what has made the transition with a new baby easier and what hasn't. I have a number one tip for adding baby to your family. If I were forced to give a mom about to add a baby to the family just one piece of advice, this is the one tip I would choose.

Have a consistent schedule with your other child(ren) before your baby is born. Have this schedule in place ideally at least a month before the baby comes.

When you do this, you add your baby to this schedule. Your older children are not completely uprooted and turned upside down. Their day still goes like it did before baby came and at the same times. There is just an extra baby in the house.

Having a consistent schedule does not mean you can't be flexible or shift things a bit as needed. When Brayden was almost 2 years old and Kaitlyn was a newborn, during those growth spurts, we often ate lunch at 11 AM instead of our usual 12 noon. It wasn't a problem. Remember, flexibility means you start from a point and can return to that point. You need something consistent to start with in order to be flexible with it. 

I think a tricky thing if this is your second child (and maybe other children as well) is knowing how best to structure your oldest child's day to work with the baby. Let me give you some guidance.

Breakfast: This is your first stressful point in the day. For me, this was the most stressful time of day when both Kaitlyn and McKenna were babies. My husband left for work at the time by 6 AM, so he wasn't around for breakfst. When you have a newborn, you really don't know for sure when that baby will wake up. You know when you want her to wake, but they can be unpredictable. Another stressful factor was sometimes your child eats breakfast in less than 10 minutes (great!), but sometimes takes at least 30 (extra stress!). 

I think your best bet is to either plan to wake and feed your baby before or after your other children eat breakfast. I personally like after. Brayden woke at 7 AM, so I could have him fed and occupied in time to get Kaitlyn at 7:30. A newborn really needs you to watch the morning waketime. I liked having no rush with the baby in the morning. If she ever woke early, I either just held her for a few minutes while I wrapped things up with Brayden or I put her in the swing while I wrapped things up with Brayden. 

This time with our baby girl, I  have two great factors that will make this point in the day better for me. The first is Brayden. He will be 7 at the time, and he is more than fully capable of getting breakfast for Kaitlyn and McKenna if need be. Also, my husband leaves for work much later, so he will also be a great help in that area.

Take Away: Here are the main take-away points from this section. If you are on your own for breakfast, there are a few things you can do to make this time easier on yourself. One is to have your older child have a consistent breakfast time right now that stays through the baby. Get the metabolism used to eating at this time. Another is to work baby in either before or after your child's breakfast time. You might want to be mentally prepared to do either and have a plan for either side of breakfast happening. 

Independent Playtime: Make sure this is part of your older child's day. You will be so, so, so, so, so glad you do. I always did Independent play so it lined up with baby's second feeding of the day. That way I did not have to worry about the older child running around and getting into things while I did this feeding. 

Take Away: Choose a time of day you would like independent play to be (whenever you want and works best for you) and make sure that is a consistent part of your routine. Try to guess the timing for when you think your baby's feeding will be around that time of day. Then do things in the same order each day. If you have to shift the exact time of Independent Play by 30 or even 60 minutes, it will be fine. Worry about order of events more than exact times.

Nap/Rest Time: Have your older child do a regular nap or rest time each day. I time this for baby's third feeding of the day. It is another great time to not be worrying about the older child while focusing on the baby. Get this event solid in your day now. Work out any kinks. Do not wait until the baby is here to try to implement this. 

If your child is old enough he can be trusted to be nice and quiet and occupied while you are caring for the newborn, you can instead try to time this to line up with baby's nap in the afternoon so that you could potentially lay down and nap. I could nap with two kids, but it was nearly impossible for me to work it in with three. It seemed someone inevitably messed up my nap each day. But I always tried. 

My children were young enough with my other babies that I could do naps over both the feeding and the baby's nap. Remember a baby is up for less than one hour at a time. This time, I will be able to do that with McKenna. With Kaitlyn, she is up to a short rest time length, so I will have her do rest time when I am napping. Brayden will be at school. 

Take Away: Have a nap or rest time each day and make the timing work best for you. I recommend you line it up either with baby's feeding, your nap, or both. Have clear rules that involve no interrupting you while napping--make sure your child stays in bed during nap and rest time so that you can optimize this time of day. A rested mom is a nice mom.

Bedtime: If you are doing bedtime alone, this can be another tricky point in the day. I don't have to do bedtime alone, so I don't have great personal experience to draw from. I would suggest you put baby down first before your older child. For one thing, the timing of bed for the baby is far more critical than the timing for an older child. For another thing, getting a baby ready for bed is so much faster than getting a child ready for bed. If your older child is awake while putting baby to bed, have some ideas of things your child can do while you get baby ready for bed.

There is also a chance you will have baby sleeping while it is time to put the child to bed. This is especially possible for those who cluster feed.

For the sake of your older child's feelings of security, make sure you establish a consistent routine to bedtime. If you do stories at bedtime, I recommend you have a set number of books to read rather than shooting for a certain amount of time. You can say, "Choose three books to read tonight." Then stick to those three books. When Kaitlyn was a baby, we didn't have a set number of books, we just read for as long as seemed good that night. That worked fine when Brayden was the only child, but he really started to drag things out once she was around. We decided to implement the number of books rule and it worked well. 

Take Away: Have a consistent routine and order to your routine for bedtime. Also, have a plan in place for things the older child can do if you are interrupted by baby. This is very possible on growth spurt days as well as if the baby ends up having witching hour.

Conclusion
Do the best you can to have a very consistent routine before your baby arrives. I understand this is not always very possible--especially as older children get older and depending on time of year baby is born. With my girls, it was an easy feat. With this baby, I know it will be a challenge. She is due at the end of summer, and she will be born right before school starts. So our schedule will change significantly shorty after she comes. I plan to have what I can control consistent. Consistent breakfast time. Consistent bedtime and bedtime routines. Consistent nap and rest time for my girls. Do the best with what you can and it will all work out with time.

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9 comments:

Candace said...

Your breakfast time sounds like my dinner time. It is stressful doing it by yourself but it works =)

Katie {My Paisley Apron} said...

Great post! I agree wtih Candace - at least breakfast can just be cereal and milk. But with dinner - cooking something, feeding, doing dishes, AND it's often the infant's fussy time of day (and my DH wasn't usually home for it either)..... ugh. That was so tough. At least bedtime was the next main event!

Kristin L. said...

Great tips! Thanks for sharing what's worked for you! The thought about matching up schedules and balancing older kids with a newborn has been on my mind lately, as we think about having a second child!!!!!

Katie said...

Thank you for this post! I am due early august with #2, and currently have a 2.5 yr old. I have been pretty consistent with her schedule, but I always need reminding to keep it that way, especially closer to when baby will be born. Potty training is next up on my agenda. I guess life never slows down!

Jennifer said...

Great post! I've done these before my 2nd and 3rd were born and it helped so much.

I've also always been on my own for breakfast, but I've always gotten baby up first--right at 7 am--and gotten that first feeding in before my other kids get up. Well, often they've woken up, but they are really good about playing in their crib/bed for a while and don't mind that I don't come into their room to get them until 7:30 or so. Then baby gets to chill on the floor for a few minutes while we start getting the older kids dressed. I just watch the clock and leave the other kids to play (sometimes half dressed) while I make sure baby gets down at the right time. Then once the older kids are dressed, we can all go have breakfast together. I tried it the other way, but inevitably, the baby often got woken up by the older kids in the commotion of getting dressed or I felt like I had to rush through breakfast to get the older kids to independent playtime so I could get the baby up. Anyway, lots of ways to do it, but like you said, it is the consistency that makes it work!

Little Charly said...

Thanks Val! We are due with number two in the end of August as well. Was wondering how I could best prepare myself and my almost 2 year old for our newcomer. Thank you.

Ron and Tiffany said...

Thanks so much for this! We have a 24 month old and a 7 month old and found out in the last few weeks that another will be joining us in the fall. Since reading this, I've been working on routines and such. Son #1 is now almost potty trained, and I've finally let son #2 CIO (I was hesitant -- never had to do it with #1) instead of coercing/coaxing him to sleep every night, and he's moving closer to STTN. DH is in the Navy and may not be around when #3 arrives, so routine is going to be VITAL in our family!

Plowmanators said...

You are all welcome!

Thanks to all who shared their own tips and how things worked for you and your family.

Candace and Katie are right--it is stressful to be making dinner and have a newborn need you. That reminds me that I often have slowcooker meals in those early months. This time, I would also like to have some freezer meals made to add to the rotation.

Plowmanators said...

Tiffany you will have your hands full for sure! I just wanted to encourage you--it will be tough many times throughout those early years, but I think you will love when they are a bit older and all close in age. They will be little besties :)

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