Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Overcoming the Challenges of Adding a Baby to the Family

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Having a child changed my life. The first night Brayden was born, I was in awe. I was so in awe that I literally did not sleep all night long. I stayed up and just watched him the entire time. Clearly I had no concept of how precious sleep was! I would soon learn. But I was enthralled.

Of course there were hard days ahead. There were moments, in the late night when I wanted to sleep but couldn't because he wouldn't sleep, that I wondered what we were thinking having a baby. Life had been so simple before! But as he settled in and I figured things out, I thoroughly loved being a mom.

The birth of Brayden and his addition to my life was profound. It changed me and improved me. He and I spent all day every day together. When it came time to add another child to our family, there were a lot of questions. There had been a lot of questions with my first, too, but this time I had a better idea of what my questions should be! How would adding a second child change my life? Would the changes be as profound?

By the time any of us are contemplating having a second child, we are experienced in the parenting world enough to be concerned over how that second child will change our lives. What will it do to our firstborn? What will it do to our family? What about our marriage relationship? Will we be able to give a second child enough attention? How will we maintain naps with more than one child? How will we maintain sanity!

All of these are valid questions :)

I think these concerns come up with the addition of each subsequent child, though as we get more, we come to be a little less worried about each detail getting disrupted. Here are five common areas of concern and my assurances you can overcome them.

HOW WILL I MAINTAIN NAP SCHEDULES?
If you felt trapped in the house with one baby's nap schedule, how are you going to feel with a baby plus an older sibling to work around? A baby needs a lot of naps, and how can you coop up your older child like that?!? Another side to this question is how do you keep the noise levels in your house in a state so the baby can sleep while the family lives life as normally? It was fine and dandy keeping the adults quiet, but now a child?!?

Meeting the sleep needs of the older child is fairly easy. A baby basically sleeps all of the time, so it isn't going to be a problem for the baby to be home for the older child's one nap (in most cases--even if your older child is taking two naps, baby can easily work with that).

The trick is meeting the needs of the baby. Some people feel very guilty in having the older child(ren) home as much as is needed for a baby to take naps. This is when flexibility needs to be considered. Now, I don't think you need to feel bad if you are all home more than usual during the relatively short period that your baby is sleeping all day long. It isn't bad for children to be home; you can do fun things at home. If you want more social interaction for your child, invite a friend over every so often.

But it also isn't a bad thing for your baby to take some naps out of the crib sometimes. Remember a couple of rules. One is it is best to be home for baby's first nap of the day. It is a very important nap. Second is don't do it too often. Don't have baby miss naps daily unless you want nap problems to likely arise. How often can you disrupt naps? It will really depend on how naturally flexible that baby is. Some can really handle a lot. Some are pretty particular and need naps to be disrupted sparingly. For more guidance on this topic, see my posts Babywise With Baby Plus Older ChildManaging Baby Plus Older Kids' ActivitiesWelcoming Baby to the Familyand Managing the Entire Family's Schedules.

Now for what to do so baby can nap with other children in the home. In short, have rules to respect sleeping people. I don't allow yelling, stomping, or other loud behaviors during naps. But I don't expect whispers and tip-toes either. For more on this, see Older Children While Baby Naps. Your level of strictness about this will likely depend greatly on how light/heavy of a sleeper your baby naturally is. My third was a very heavy sleeper and nothing would wake her up. My fourth was a very light sleeper. Because of this, we had to be more strict with the rules for baby four than baby three.

HOW WILL I MEET EACH CHILD'S NEEDS?
I think this is a big concern we have as parents. We really worry how having a baby will impact the time we are able to give to our other child. Let me assure you, you will be able to do it! Let me also assure you that your older child won't be scarred by you giving attention to someone other than him (I am a first born so I can speak from experience). It is a good thing for your child to have to learn to accept that all attention cannot be on him at all times. Not to say there won't be adjusting or anxiety, but your child will love the baby. See my post Meeting Needs of Each Child.

I think it is a good idea to work to have one-on-one time with each child. We do special dates (see my post One-On-One Outingsand my Dates tab for ideas).

WILL I HAVE TIME FOR ME?
Yes! But less. I have actually found my time for myself to be an interesting journey. With just one child, I felt like I had no time for myself. As I got a grasp on parenting, I was able to get some. Then as I had my second child, I actually had more time for myself with two than I had when my first was just a baby. And I found that to be true even with my fourth. So you naturally develop skills in managing your time so you can have some to yourself. But of course with each child, you will have less free time. Each person you add to the house will require more of your time in various ways. The child needs attention. The child will have dirty laundry. The child will make messes, dirty dishes, need baths, etc. As children get older, they do not take up less of your time overall. Having time for yourself happens with effective time management. See my post We Don't Need to Live at a Frantic Pace for help with that.

HOW WILL I KEEP THINGS AGE APPROPRIATE FOR EACH CHILD?
This is one of the biggest challenges of raising multiple children. It is a challenge to keep things age-appropriate for each child. In reality, it is never perfect. The older child(ren) will at times be held below what is perfectly age-appropriate. The younger children will often be exposed to things and allowed to do things earlier than is ideal. That is the reality of life in a family and that is okay!

There are things you can do proactively. First, get straight in your head the difference between Fair vs. Equal. Don't let yourself get suckered into trying to keep things equal. Make sure you know How to Set Boundaries. Set them! It is okay for younger children to not have the freedom older children have. Older children don't need to be kept back just so younger children don't feel left out. Keep the funnel in mind (see my post Siblings and the Funnel).

When you initially have a baby, keeping things age appropriate will be easier to do. It gets harder as the baby grows to be a toddler. Even before then, older children will at times comment, "Why do I have to do xyz and the baby doesn't?" My response to this question is to point out what life will be like if it is equal for the children. "The baby takes two long naps a day. The baby sits in a high chair to eat and eats baby food. Are you sure you want you and the baby to be treated the exact same?" The response is always a no and the complaints come to a swift stop. The trick is, if the complained continued, I would do a few days of treated the older child the exact same, and they know it! So they are happy to live with the differences.

As the younger child gets older, there will be things she wants to do that are not quite age appropriate for her. Make an evaluation of when that activity would be appropriate for that child and stick to that standard. There are many things the younger child won't be able to do no matter how much they push--like starting to play soccer. There is a minimum age and no amount of push will change that. Have the same line drawn at home for things that your younger child just isn't ready for.

It can be helpful to have an idea of an age for things, but do also take into account individual children. Younger children might be ready for some things at an earlier age, and in some cases, it might need to be a later age than the older sibling started. 

HOW DO I ROOM SHARE?
How you arrange the house with a new baby is another challenge. Many families need (or want) to room share. See my post Room Sharing {9 Tips} for tips on how to do this successfully. Do not room share at naps--find separate locations for naps if at all possible. You can get creative. Kaitlyn took a couple of naps a day in my room for most of her first year of life. She did great! And it led her to be a very flexible sleeper. She would sleep anywhere.

Room sharing at night is definitely doable and even fun. I remember when my sister was born. My parents gave me the option to have her in my room or in a different room. I remember choosing my room. I wanted to share (at least until I was about 9, then I was done ;) ).
BONUS TIPS
These are more tips I have for getting ready for a baby:
CONCLUSION
Should you have a second child (or third, fourth, etc)? Only you and your spouse can decide that. Let me assure you, the effort required to have a sibling for your child is well worth it! Having more children is a crazy ride, but it is a fun one full of adventure. And it will change your life. 

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