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Baby makes one more
When you’re 3 years old and the only child in the house, change can be difficult to handle.
You’ve been pampered, perhaps, your entire life and, presumably, have had things fall in your favor more often than not.
Then mom and dad decided to make the family a quartet.
Oh. Well, that’s different.
That’s a huge adjustment.
Luckily for Josie Barum, a Farmington toddler with a baby brother coming soon, her parents — Tamara and Mark Barum — have worked to make her transition to big sister a gradual one.
In fact, they’ve spent the past nine or so months trying to help her adjust.
“We talk about it all the time,” Tamara said, weeks before their son, Cooper, was to join the gang.
“Josie, where’s the baby?” Mark asks.
“In mommy’s tummy!” she says excitedly, pointing to Tamara’s stomach.
“For the longest time, it was, ‘That’s my baby brother-sister,’” Tamara said. “It took awhile to get it to be just ‘brother.’ ”
Now, it’s “my Cooper.”
Include your child
Child involvement is a key part of easing the transition to an expanded family, said Kate Saumweber Hogan, a licensed midwife with Twin Cities Midwifery.
That might include going to prenatal checkups, where children can, when appropriate, help with measurements of the baby, listen to the baby’s heartbeat and, of course, feel for movement.
To share in the joy of the expanding family — rather than feel left out or extraneous — a sibling also can help with phone calls, messages and letters that announce the pregnancy or even the arrival on the big day of birth.
That way, “they get to be the messenger and share exciting news,” Hogan said.
The Barums included their daughter in their pregnancy announcement — and had a little lighthearted fun: After Tamara had her first ultrasound, she taped a picture of the baby in utero — and an eviction notice — to Josie’s crib. She took a photo with Josie standing in the crib to share with their friends on Facebook.
Tamara and Mark Barum have worked hard to help their daughter, Josie, gradually get ready for her big-sister role. Photo by Corey Butler
Get ready early
Transitioning to a brand-new family dynamic doesn’t necessarily come easily, however, for the older sibling once the baby is born, Hogan said. This, after all, is the single biggest adjustment many young children are asked to make (and it’s not exactly a snap for the parents either)!
Sibling rivalry starts at birth.
“It’s going to be natural to talk about the baby coming,” Hogan said. “You want to really talk about what the child’s role is going to look like. All of us do best if we know what to expect.”
For the Barums, that message has been loud and clear from the start.
“It wasn’t about getting something new,” Tamara said. “It was about her becoming a big sister.”
Hogan said it’s important to take steps well in advance of the birth.
If you’re moving a child from the nursery to a new room, do it well in advance of the birth or — if the baby stays in the parents’ room at first — well after the birth.
If you’re going to move your older child’s car seat to a new spot in your vehicle, Hogan suggests doing it at least it six to eight weeks before the baby arrives so the soon-to-be-sibling can get used to his or her new space. No “turf” is lost.
For Josie, getting a new sibling meant getting a new room that she was allowed to help design and paint. She also picked out new sheets.
After the bedding was in place in her new room, Josie was asked to make a decision: Do you want to sleep in your baby room or your big girl room?
Without hesitation, she went with the big-girl room.
Josie, 3, and her dad Mark Barum of Farmington, prepare a new room for her little brother before his arrival earlier this year. Photo by Corey Butler
Balance your attention
Of course, the idea of a new baby is a lot different than actually living with a new sibling. Children may feel confused about all the time their parents are spending with the new baby instead of them.
That’s why parents need to be attentive to their older child’s needs, despite the urgent demands of a new baby, Hogan said.
When friends or family come to visit, Hogan said, leave a sign on the door asking people to wash their hands, keep visits brief and to spend time with the older sibling so he or she doesn’t feel left out.
It can also help to ask the older sibling to assist with singing, feeding and, when appropriate, diapering the baby.
If your older child can gain a sense of pride in caring for his or her new sister or brother, he or she may feel more excited, included and grown up — and less threatened!
Finally, be sure to acknowledge — and continue to reinforce — the important and role siblings play in the new family birth order: Some kids might even enjoy wearing their position on their sleeves: Carter’s and other children’s clothing brands offer T-shirts with phrases like “Cool Big Bro” and “Big Sister.”
You can even find coordinating smocks and bibs for the little ones proclaiming: “Little Sister” and “Cool Little Bro.”
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