img_4515When the topic is about raising children, there is no one size fits all approach. Every family have their own dynamics, values and culture, and, every child has their own individuality – they are their own little person even before they can begin to express their feelings.

I still have it clear in my mind (despite my baby brain) the sound of my babies’ first cries. Our oldest daughter, J, had a loud and intense cry, and she wouldn’t stop until she was warmly held in our arms. In fact, minutes after her delivery, our doctor just had one funny comment: “Oh she has a strong personality!” – and he was right!

Baby L, on the other hand, came out with this soft and cute cry. It was exactly the opposite of her older sister. She had this calm and happy facial expression that continues to reflect her personality, even up until today.

As infants there were also other differences. Although both of them were very attentive and liked to look around, J used to give people “cut-eye”, she would observe and look deep into people’s eyes with a suspicious look.  Her smiles were hard to get, at least until she was a bit older. L, by contrast, has always smiled at everything, if the wind blows she smiles, if a stranger passes by she smiles… L started to smile very early, she loves human contact and gets very upset if we are not looking at her. Although they are still very young (2 yo, and 4mo), I can see different personalty traits in them.

What I wanted to share with you is our approach on introducing baby L to her big sister. Although J was not old enough to understand all the concepts, we worried that she would feel left out once we couldn’t give her 100% of our attention anymore.

We’d heard about stories where the older sibling would feel jealous and resent the baby but also good stories where they actually loved having a new baby at home. Here, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Some families use the exact same approach with different outcomes. I think that understanding and accepting the personality of your child is crucial to find the best approach to help them go through big transitions in their lives.

J is now a great big sister, she loves the baby and tries to help all the time. In the beginning it was very hard because J would cry every time the baby cried. It was a nightmare and I thought my head was going to explode, but eventually it got better.

The first time we talked to J about a new baby I was already showing a little bump. J didn’t understand the concept, but I kept telling her we would have a new baby. “You are going to be a big sister! The baby is growing in mommy’s belly and when she is ready she will come out and be part of our family.” Of course I didn’t get any response, but I thought that if I kept talking about it with time it would feel natural to her.

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A month or so before delivery  we started reading books for her that explained the arrival of a new baby and what was like to be  a big sister. She loved the books and got really into becoming a big sister. I would recommend these books for any mother having a second baby – they have the big brother version too.

My sister-in-law gave J a little baby doll that was supposed to be her new baby – J love it! She still enjoys taking care of her little baby doll copying everything I do with L: bathing, feeding, and putting to sleep. She LOVES to put her doll and all the other toys to sleep, it is quite funny.

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We also bought a present for J that was ‘from Baby L’ and we gave it to her the first time they met in the hospital.  “Look! Your baby sister arrived and she brought you this cute little gift!” J was very happy with that gesture and was excited to meet her little sister right away.

The first time she saw her little sister, she was curious and wanted to hold her. It was such a nice moment to have them together. Having my two daughters next to me gave me a boost of energy and filled my heart with joy. It was one of these magical little moments in a mother’s life.

When we came back home it was tough for several reasons:

  1. J wanted to be hugged and picked up by her mommy all the time, but I had a c-section and it was painful to even lean over.
  2. J was surprised with breastfeeding, – we never prepared her for that. The books all talked about the baby having a bottle, so it took a while for J to get used to see the baby feeding.
  3. J didn’t understand why the baby got more “cuddles” (as I had to nurse the baby very often). She started avoiding me. At some point she just wanted to be with her dad and it broke my heart. I cried so much one night thinking that I was losing my daughter. Fortunately, it was just a phase and it improved as I recovered from my c-section and was able to hold J again.

For us and for J the best approach was to give her positive encouragement and praise her every time she was good to her sister.  “Aw, you are such a good sister!”  “Thank you for being loving and gentle with the baby.”  “Look! The baby loves you! She is smiling!”

There are good and bad days, but overall they are very cute together. J is most of the time gentle and loving but I can already see that it will get more complicated when they have to share toys. We are starting to look into how we will approach that phase.

Most kids also have some regressions when a new baby comes. In our case we noticed that J lost a little bit of her independence, she wanted us to treat her the same way that we treated the baby. For many times my husband and I had to carry them both at the same time – it was challenging, but it helps you build some muscles 🙂

We are still learning as we go, things change all the time but this is just how parenthood is. We are always adapting to survive. 😉

I hope our story helped to give you some perspectives if you planning on having a second baby. There is much more to it, of course… but I just wanted to give you glimpse of what it could look like.

With love,

GB