Prepping Siblings for Baby Tip: Establish Consistency

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How to prepare your kids for a new baby. Tips to make the transition to a new baby easy and how to make baby’s schedule work with the family’s schedule. 

Four children sitting on swings

As I have added babies to my family, I have of course analyzed and observed what has made the transition with a new baby easy and what has made it hard.

After that thinking, I do have a number one tip for adding a 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, there are several benefits. For one, you add your baby into this family schedule. Another benefit is that your older children are not completely uprooted and turned upside down when baby comes. Their day still goes like it did before baby came and things happen at the same times. The only difference is 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, we often ate lunch at 11 AM instead of our usual 12 noon during her growth spurts. It wasn’t a problem. You can still be flexible even if your schedule is consistent.

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.


Read: Babywise Schedule with Two Children


How To Structure Your Older Child’s Day

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. You want to set up a nice, consistent schedule before baby comes, but you want it to be a schedule that will also work with a newborn baby schedule. Let me give you some guidance.

How to prepare your kids for a new baby. Tips to make the transition to a new baby easy and how to make baby's schedule work with the family's schedule with a picture of four children on swings

Breakfast

This is your first stressful point in the day when you have a baby and older children. 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 breakfast and was not able to help.

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 newborns can be unpredictable.

Another stressful factor about breakfast time was sometimes my older child ate breakfast in less than 10 minutes (great!), but sometimes took at least 30 (extra stress!).


Read: How To Prepare for the Birth of Your Babywise Baby


I think your best bet is to either plan to wake and feed your baby before your other children eat breakfast 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. Since the older child(ren) had been attended to already, I knew they wouldn’t have NEEDS while I took care of the newborn.

If the baby 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.

With our fourth baby, I  had two great factors that made me prefer having baby eat after the older kids were done with breakfast. The first is Brayden. He was 7 at the time, and he was more than fully capable of getting breakfast for Kaitlyn and McKenna if need be. Also, my husband left for work much later, so he was 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.

Girl holding a newborn

Independent Playtime

Make sure Independent Playtime 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(ren) running around and getting into things while I did this feeding.

Get Independent Playtime established before your baby comes. If you do not do independent playtime yet, it can be something you need to build up to and troubleshoot. You don’t want to be stressing over that and a newborn schedule at the same time. See my tips for Starting Independent Playtime Late here. 

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 the order of events more than exact times.

Independent Playtime Overview

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 the 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. With my fourth baby, I was able to do that with McKenna. With Kaitlyn, she was up to a short rest time length, so I had her do rest time when I was napping. Brayden was 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.


Read: How To Do Rest Time Instead of Naps


Bedtime

If you are doing bedtime on your own, 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 for bed 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 with Brayden. That worked fine when Brayden was the only child, but he really started to drag things out once Kaitlyn was around. We decided to implement the number of books rule and it worked well. If you prefer a certain length of time, you can always set a timer and let the timer determin when stories are done. 

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 two middle girls, it was an easy feat.

With my fourth baby, it was more of a challenge. She was due at the end of summer and was born right before school started. So our schedule changed significantly shorty after she was born.

I planned to have what I could control be consistent before she was born. Consistent breakfast time. Consistent bedtime and bedtime routines. Consistent nap and rest time for my girls. I made sure I set our “consistent” to work with the school year schedule even though it was summer.

Do the best with what you can and it will all work out with time!

Related Posts

How to prepare your kids for a new baby and a picture of four children on swings

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valplowman
valplowman

Valerie, also known as The Babywise Mom, is the mother to four children. She has been blogging on Babywise and general parenting since 2007. She has a degree in technical writing and loves using those skills to help parents be the best parents they can be! Read her book, The Babywise Mom Nap Guide, to get help on sleep from birth through the preschool years. You can also find her writing at Babywise.life, Today Parenting, and Her View From Home. Read more about Valerie and her family on the About page. Follow her on FacebookPinterest, and Instagram for more tips and helps.

Find me on: Web | Twitter | Facebook

9 Comments

  1. Candace
    April 13, 2012 / 7:10 PM

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

  2. Katie {My Paisley Apron}
    April 13, 2012 / 8:19 PM

    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!

  3. Kristin L.
    April 13, 2012 / 9:15 PM

    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!!!!!

  4. Katie
    April 14, 2012 / 2:07 AM

    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!

  5. Jennifer
    April 14, 2012 / 5:17 AM

    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!

  6. Little Charly
    April 14, 2012 / 7:09 PM

    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.

  7. Ron and Tiffany
    April 18, 2012 / 2:14 AM

    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!

  8. Plowmanators
    April 28, 2012 / 7:36 PM

    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.

  9. Plowmanators
    April 28, 2012 / 7:37 PM

    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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