...And Baby Makes Three

My two-year old, Eric, is worrying me. Well, maybe worry isn't the right word- causing consternation? Here's the deal- In only a matter of weeks, the dynamic of our family will be changing again, as we welcome baby #3, our maybe-girl into the world. And while I want to shout and cheer and do an awkward and unsightly pregnant dance for joy at the fact I will no longer be barfing, my littlest one is simply not ready to be displaced. I need help. I need advice on how to prepare him, what to do, how to make him feel ok about the whole thing. My four-year-old, Jeffrey, is beside himself with excitement and can't wait for baby to be here- possibly because my mom keeps telling him he gets to go to Disneyland 'after the baby comes', but regardless- he is thrilled. He was happy when his brother was born too, though, and has always liked babies. He is kind and gentle and caring with children smaller than him, (which is good because he is a moose and most of his friends and classmates are smaller anyway). Ah, but Eric is another story. A few Sunday's ago, when I was holding a friends' baby at church, he tried to bite her on the head. This is not new- any time I hold another baby, he is physical and tries to hit, pull or otherwise maim said baby. We have tried all the things we did with Jeffrey to teach him to be gentle, with no success. We got him a baby doll, and while he likes to play with it, he is 'physical' and likes to throw her and shoot her with his "laser-shooter" (a mystery spot on his wrist that blows things up, in his world). We have spent a great deal of time talking about the baby in my tummy, and how she will be here soon- We have talked up the whole "big brother" thing, even getting him a shirt with that claim to fame. He's a physical and fearless kid, and I am out of ideas on ways to make this more comfortable for him. Jeffrey never worried me when Eric came along, but I am concerned now, both for Eric's ability to acclimate to a new family dynamic, and for the safety of a tiny, helpless newborn. Anyone with any sage advice or experience on this, please chime in!


Blogger Keryn said...

I don't know how sage my advice could be, but here it is: My son acted like that, too, whenever I held another baby. And when we brought home our daughter, he (at 17 months) tried to push her off my lap for the first week. He was NOT a happy boy.

But after that first week or so, he came up to her and gave her his version of a kiss. Maybe it helped that I kept saying, "Oh, this baby loves you! She loves her BIG brother!", maybe it was just the fact that she didn't go away, maybe it was the prayers that they would love each other.

Now (not quite a year later) they can't get enough of each other. He won't take his nap without her in her crib having her nap, and they truly DO love each other.

2/24/2006 01:20:00 AM  
Blogger nestle said...

Well Tracy I'm passing on the only piece of advice I will ever pass on to any other mother. I've done this several times and each time it's met with success. I received it from our pediatrician right before my youngest was born (can I just tell you if any of you live in Utah there is THE BEST doctor up at the University of Utah by the name of Norlin. He is the all time best pediatrician in the world). Anywhoo he said that when little one is born EVERY time you feed said little one bring the next youngest child to sit with you and talk to you EVERY TIME. Soon the young one will realize that you are not having special alone time with the baby but it's just business. They will get bored and not really care after a few weeks.

My experience: AFter a week, stupid parents that we were didn't follow NOrlin's advice, she bagan to act out against baby. REally act out, we caught Megan trying to roll baby off the bed, stand on baby etc. So I instigated the Norlin rule. IT WAS AWESOME!! After 2 days Megan realized that no, baby was not getting extra attention away from her, but, it was just business. Because I didn't produce enough milk we also gave baby the bottle (I recommend pumping from the start for this) and put Megan in "charge" of holding the bottle. This also helped.

2/24/2006 10:40:00 AM  
Blogger The Wiz said...

If possible, have him help feed the baby (hold the bottle if you do bottles). Also, have him give her the binky - he knows what binkies are, and why kids like them.

And remember, he is young, he will forget very soon what life was like without baby sister around. A week is my guess. That's how long it took my oldest when my second was born. (she was 20.5 months) She used to stand and SCREAM at me (like, turning purple, hyperventilation screams) whenver I nursed the baby. But she got over it. Maybe that's why my second never nursed well....

But that baby LOVED her older sister from the day she was born. Every time she heard her voice, her eyes would open really wide and she'd turn her head. That made my oldest feel good, that the baby already knew her voice and wanted to get to know her sister.

2/24/2006 11:03:00 AM  
Blogger Julie M. Smith said...

One more piece of advice: if you give your 2yo an opportunity to BE a baby, he's less likely to hate the little usurper. Snuggle him in a cradle hold as if he were a baby, talk baby talk to him, etc. etc.

2/24/2006 11:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two tricks that have worked (fairly) well are these: have the "baby" bring a present to the hospital and when older siblings come to visit, give them the present from the baby. We usually gave our boys a box of 5 Matchbox cars and had them wrapped and in the hospital bag so they'd be ready. Inexpensive, but they loved getting their own gift and really thought it was from the baby.

Second, when you come home from the hospital or birthing center, have dad bring in the baby and be ready to either help unbuckle and hold the hand of the older ones, if they picked you up, or be ready to give them big hugs walking in the door.

2/24/2006 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger wiggiepete said...

A few weeks before our third (and last... I think) was born, my wife bought a couple white T-shirts and some T-shirt paint pens and helped my girls paint "I'm a Big Sister" on them. They then were told that they'd be able to wear them to the hospital when the baby was born.

My two (almost three by the time baby came) couldn't wait to wear the t-shirt she had made to see the baby, so she was really excited for the baby to come.

I also like the idea of the baby bringing a present for the older siblings. New babies get so many presents that the older kids feel pretty left out.

2/24/2006 12:00:00 PM  
Blogger mindy said...

My daughter (2 1/2 at the time) was too savvy to believe the "gift from the baby" thing. I recommend planning special "daddy & son" time for your #2 son so he feels like he is getting ALL of the attention occasionally. You can do "mommy & son" time, too, but with a newborn that can be a bit harder.

I hadn't heard this idea when I had #2, but if there is a #3 I think I'll try it--have a "nursing basket" full of little toys, books, snacks that can ONLY be played with/read/eaten when you are nursing the baby. Incorporate this with what nestle said about having the child sit with you and talk to you, and it seems like that'd be a help.

Other piece of advice...keep an eye on the baby, and don't give your son chances to "mess up" with her. If you lay her on the floor and he sits on her or hits her, you may have a hard time not responding in anger to him, and this will only make it worse. Carry the new baby in a sling or front carrier, or have her somewhere out of his reach unless you are directly supervising.

Good luck! I don't think I'll be ready to make the plunge to three kids for a looooong time.

2/24/2006 01:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Nichole said...

I'm so glad you wrote about this! I'm going to have my third in a few months and the second will be 17 months. Now I know what to do. Thanks ladies!

2/24/2006 02:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Susan M said...

Sounds like (from the advice given) Eric should adjust pretty quickly to having the baby around, but maybe teaching him to be gentle with it will be difficult?

When my kids were toddlers I taught them to be gentle by taking their hand and forcing them to touch something gently. That sounds funny, but it worked.

With my kids it was animals they'd get too rough with--for some reason my older kids were REALLY serious and careful around babies. But animals got their hair yanked, etc. So I'd take their hand, run it gently over the animal's fur--and they always tried to grab the poor dog/cat's hair, so you have to be very careful to control their hand--and tell them to use a soft touch, gently.

Oh--and often, kids who bite and hit, pull, etc, are just very affectionate. They go overboard expressing their affection. So teaching them to be soft and gentle in their touching/kissing is a good idea.

2/24/2006 07:48:00 PM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

#1 would always run into the next room and find a binky (which she was weaned from) in the baby's room and then sit on her stuffed animals in her closet while I nursed #2.

#2 would SCREAM at the top of her lungs unless I was constantly holding her non-stop for a week --even while nursing #3.

We solved #1 by asking her gently if she was going to be the big sister or the baby. She would always choose to be the big girl --except once. We let her be the baby, and after 10 minutes, she came out without the binky. It lasted 4 days and then was done....

We solved #2 in the only way we coud. I held her. Even while nursing, she was in my lap (Hey, this is #3! I'm a veteran now!). It was over in a week.

Granted, those were 2 girls. I have no idea how it might work out for my crazy boy (who throws things --everything) if and when baby #4 comes around...I'll probably refer to this post in the future... :)

Good luck!

2/24/2006 11:23:00 PM  
Blogger brneyedwahine said...

Having three is an adjustment. Not to be depressing, it is just a reality. When you have one, there is one baby and the two parents. When you have two, you have one parent for each kid. When you have three, you are simply outnumbered. So it is tricky and it is a definite concern if you think number two is not going to be receptive of number #3.

I have 3. The oldest one is 7 years older then the youngest. The second and the youngest are 21 months apart, with the middle one being 5 years younger then the first.

For both the first and the second, I made sure that they were mommy's helper's and in their case the big brother and the big sister. Big brother helped hold the baby and sister sat next to mommy and helped "feed" the baby by being on my lap as well. I made a special box in the fridge for both the older two that we put togethe in the mornings with snacks, fruit, and activity (crayons, stickers, a little car etc.)Whenever I attended to the baby (nursing that is), they could sit with me and pull out there box and have a snack or do an activity...it was what we called there special box! Somehow, this worked and made them feel important and thus #3 came into the world with full acceptance.

2/24/2006 11:43:00 PM  
Blogger Ana said...

Heh ... when we were planning to adopt our second, our pediatrician responded to the news with, "Congratulations! There's absolutely nothing you can do to prepare him."

I think he was right -- Sam at 21 months just did not get the reality that a baby was going to be joining us, in spite of all our doll play and swaddling practice. It was too abstract for him at that point.

I wish, though, that I'd had some of this advice then. It sounds very smart. Sam's main response after Abe arrived was a very insistent, "Put that baby down, RIGHT NOW!"

2/27/2006 04:32:00 PM  
Blogger Thoroughly Mormon Millie said...

Dr. Spock wrote a great chapter about older siblings and new babies in his "Baby and Child Care" book. He describes what it's like for older siblings when Mom comes home from the hospital with the new baby, and it is heart-wrenching - the "in the way" feeling, the adults' shushing, the wanting to love Mom now that she's home, but she has this new kid, and where do I fit in now? I've never forgotten it.

Because I had C-sections, my well-meaning inlaws always tried their hardest to keep my youngest child from bothering me after the baby was born, particularly while I was in the hospital. They also tried to get the kids to adore the new baby. There was a lot of pressure and tension. "Look at your little sister! Isn't she cute? Why don't you want to hold her? Don't you like her?" as if the baby would somehow feel rejected.

When the kids came to visit me, at the hospital or in bed at home, I ALWAYS made a big deal out of them, not the new baby. Try to help them see that life goes on as normal, except for one little difference. You'll still play with them, read stories, hug them, all the stuff you used to do before the baby. Talk to your family about not rubbing the kids' noses in the new baby or disciplining the kids for any little misstep (my kids would get unruly at the hospital and I was always the one to say, "They're bored! Take them out to play somewhere! Go buy them a treat!"). The adults' attitude toward the older children will make a big difference in how well the children accept the baby. If the adults are calm and OK and smiling and still loving toward the older children, things will go more smoothly.

3/02/2006 01:10:00 AM  

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