Welcoming a baby into your family is a joy, but a joy that can come with worry. If you’re expecting baby number two, you might be worried about how your older child will adjust to a new sibling. Jealousy is a natural emotion for kids, especially during the ages when they are particularly attached to their parents. They’ll notice you are taking time to care for baby and that people are excited about baby. But, there are still ways that you can help your older child adjust. 

How can I help my older child adjust to a new baby? 

One of the ways that parents can help older children adjust to a new baby is by involving siblings in newborn care, to the extent that they want to be involved. If they are a little older, they might want to help with feeding or bathing. If they’re younger, you can have them get a pacifier and put it in baby’s mouth (gently) or get a diaper. 

Especially for toddlers, it can be helpful for parents to acknowledge the difference between them and the baby. You might find yourself telling the older child to wait while you feed baby or change a diaper. On occasion, you can tell baby that they have to wait while you do something with your older child. You can also remind your older child that they are a big kid and doing something or have something that baby can’t. Emphasizing that they are special can help with feelings of jealousy. 

How do I keep my older child from feeling overwhelmed when baby comes?

 Having a baby can throw everyone’s schedules off, from sleep to meals. One tip to help your older child adjust to a new baby is by keeping their schedule as consistent as possible. If they go to daycare three days a week, keep them at daycare even if you or your partner are home with baby. 

Babies do need a lot of attention, which can create feelings of jealousy in your older child or that there is a certain level of unpredictability. When you feed your baby and do need to devote attention solely to baby, it can help to find something calm and special that the older child can do. While you are trying to have a calm moment for feeding, you can let your older child watch a special show or read a book. 

How can friends and relatives help my older child adjust to a new baby? 

One of the easiest things friends and relatives can do to help your older child or children adjust to baby is acknowledge the sibling first. When they come over to meet baby, have visitors prioritize the sibling. It is so easy for everyone to get excited about the new baby, and your other child can notice this excitement. Have friends and family ask the older sibling if they want to introduce baby or share something special about their new sibling. 

If you have someone who can help you during the postpartum period–whether it is a doula, a family member or friend–you have a great opportunity to prioritize each child on their own. They can take care of baby so that you have quality time with the older sibling. Or, they can take care of the older sibling so you can either rest or take care of baby. 

We’ll start with the unfortunate truth: the US does not guarantee paid parental leave on a national level, and not all workers qualify for the six weeks of unpaid leave federal law mandates. According to the Washington Post, “Most Americans do not have access to paid family leave through their employer.” 

All of this means that there is no standard for when you return to work after parental leave: it could be six weeks or six months. But regardless, returning to work–for either the birthing person or partner, can be a significant transition. You may be thinking about everything from your energy levels, your schedule, pumping and/or feeding, your partner’s schedule, and how your baby will do without you. Here are 4 things to consider and plan for before you return to work. 

Know what your leave looks like and be open with your employer. 

Long before delivery you may be thinking about your parental leave options–both what your employer offers and what your ideal scenario might be. Be open with your employer and consider asking for something that might make the transition back to work easier. That might include returning part-time at first or working from home. Your employer might also be willing to be flexible in ways that they haven’t shared with you. Ask other employees or your employer directly about how others have returned to work after leave. 

Think about childcare after parental leave, and then come up with a back-up plan. 

You may have come up with the perfect childcare solution: you are returning part-time to work and a friend or family member is baby-sitting on the other days. In 2022, that might be problematic because of changes in school openings due to COVID. Or, the caregiver might have to quarantine after a COVID exposure. Problems could arise simply because they are not as reliable as you would like them to be. Whatever your childcare plan involves after you return to work, come up with a backup plan. If you have a family member caring for baby, what happens if they are sick? 

If you are working from home, remember that you are still working and taking care of baby is also full-time work. Although working from home can make it easier to care of baby, you should still try to have a secondary caregiver available. Some of our clients have utilized our postpartum doulas while working from home to ease that transition. 

Figure out priorities and roles for when return to work after parental leave. 

You partner may have taken little or no time off after baby arrived. But, your transition back to work is still a transition for them as well. Take time to figure out each of your priorities and roles. If you are not a morning person, consider having your partner take care of baby’s or the family’s morning routine. This way, you can get ready for work in the way that you need to. Discuss who will pickup baby or kids from caregivers, daycare, or school. You may have figured out a postpartum plan of who was cooking and cleaning, but you may need to revisit those plans if both partners are back at work. 

Don’t be afraid to acknowledge your emotions and ask for help. 

The postpartum period can be difficult: you are adapting to a new family member. If you gave birth, you may be experiencing physical changes in your body as well (link to blog). You are going to have a lot of emotions–from being excited about being back at work to sad that your baby is someone else’s care. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge that whole range of emotions and understand that they are all OK. If you being feeling overwhelmed when you return to work after parental leave, ask for help, whether from your partner, family, friends, or other loved ones.

Are you introducing your baby to family and friends this holiday season? Thanksgiving and the winter holidays present a perfect opportunity to gather with loved ones. But because of COVID, you may not have had the chance to have your baby meet everyone yet. And we can all imagine what happens next: everyone wants to hold baby, give them lots of love, and share in the joy. That can be exhausting for you and the baby. Here are some tips for keeping everyone happy when your newborn meets family and friends. 

Manage Everyone’s Expectations When Newborn Meets Friends and Family

Within the first month of bringing baby home, you may not want to have visitors because it can be exhausting. Don’t be afraid to ask guests for help. They can bring a meal, help with household chores, or care for pets and siblings. If you’d rather they spend time with baby, then set them up to care for baby so you can focus on your needs. This might be taking a shower or a nap, eating a meal, or running an errand. 

If you are traveling for the holidays, it is also important to manage everyone’s expectations. Think about spreading out meetings or having multiple events with smaller numbers of people, rather than having one large event with lots of friends and family. 

Be Aware of Germs 

COVID has made us all hyper-aware of germs, but because babies have new immune systems, we should always be careful around them. The minimum hygiene requirements for someone holding baby should be thoroughly washing hands, wearing a mask, and avoiding touching or kissing baby’s face (as hard as that might be for them!). You may also want to limit the exposure to germs carried by younger children who are in daycare or school. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask about family member’s vaccination status. If you are uncomfortable being around someone unvaccinated, it’s OK to say so. 

Think About How Your Baby is Going to React

Even if your baby is just a month old, you’ve already learned how they react to different situations. Keep that in mind as you plan meeting family members and friends over the holidays. You should also prioritize your baby’s needs. First, make sure feedings are consistent with how you’ve been doing them at home. Think about the comfort level for you and your friends or family if you need to breastfeed or pump. If others want to feed baby, make sure they are doing so appropriately. Make sure they are holding baby right and giving the right amount of food. 

Recognize When Your Baby is Overwhelmed 

For a baby who has been at home with one or two primary caregivers for a few months, a room full of people could easily get overwhelming. Use the 5 S’s (swaddle, suck, side, sway and shhh) to reduce external stimulus and calm baby. Also considering creating a relaxation space wherever you are traveling. This can be a space for you, your baby, and partner to relax and get away from the crowd. Consider inviting in one or two people at a time, rather than passing baby around. Bring a portable crib or bassinet to make this space a safe one for baby to sleep in. And, just like feeding times should stay as consistent as possible, try to make nap times consistent as well. 

Make an Exit Strategy 

One easy way to make sure you and your baby stay relaxed is by setting parameters for the visit ahead of time. If someone is coming over to your house, ask them to come for a specific amount of time like dinner, a walk, or an afternoon nap. Be straightforward with your communication, and don’t be afraid to say, “We are going to get ready for bed. Thanks for coming over and bringing us dinner. Please don’t forget your dish!” If you are traveling, you can also say when you have to leave by or make it clear what times you will be visiting. If you are staying with a family member or friend, you can also say you are going to bed (or put baby to bed and slip away, too). 

The holidays with your new baby are a great time to make memories and see people we haven’t seen in a long time. But, the memories are even sweeter when we are as relaxed and healthy as possible. 

This is to the people having babies in their 30’s. It is a bit of a whirlwind. Maybe you are at this juncture because of professional choices. Perhaps now is the start of parenting because of earlier heartache. Or maybe you have been terrified of how to afford a kid, and now you finally can.

But you’re here. And one huge surprise is that your friends are not. So, where did they go?

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As long-standing professionals in the birth industry, we at Doulas of Baltimore are exposed both to professional suggestions for how to parent, and opinions based on lore. Shockingly, some of the most “tried and true” pieces of new parent advice that have been passed down from are perpetuating lies.

How?

Either the bits of advice are unsafe, or they perpetuate stereotypes that make a new parent’s first days even more difficult than they already are. Also, isn’t the whole point of advice is to have learned wisdom from those who come before?

Here are a few pieces of “Advice” we wish would go away (in no particular order):

1. “Sleep when the baby is sleeping.”

What most people mean when they say this is when your baby takes a nap during the day, you should take a nap too. However, for most, this is unrealistic. Babies sleep in different cycles than adults, so having the capacity to nap and have that nap be restful, is not necessarily a correlation that makes sense for most new parents.

Also, for most modern day parents, when a child is napping is usually when they can tend to themselves if they do not have help – like shower, eat, and communicate with other adults; do activities that help them restore a feeling of personal autonomy, or help to organize what is happening or needs to happen next in their life.

For most families, this piece of advice does nothing but increase the feeling that as a new parent, you are out of your league.

We say ditch this one as soon as possible.

2. “Don’t leave the house until 40 days have passed.”

Many cultural customs are becoming more mainstream. One of them is the postpartum traditions of being cared for and nurtured for 40 days after birth.

It sounds idealistic.
It sounds lovely.
It sounds downright mythical.

One of the realities not discussed when this piece of advice is shared is the reality that modern parents are usually responsible for getting their infants to medical appointments in the first weeks of life. Also, beyond these appointments (for some who choose homebirth, these appointments may happen in their home) many healing parents are not equipped to be isolated from support systems that are only accessible by venturing out.

It may seem silly to say seeing your favorite barista is part of your healing process after birth, but we’ve heard the stories of women who needed to get out of the house with their baby.

They needed the escape.
They needed a view of their old normalcy.
They needed to see their friend!

Not leaving your house for 40 days is only possible when there are systems in place to fulfill all physical and emotional needs of healing parents, AND the desire is present in the parents themselves. If this is advice place on a family and feels like a punishment, it has the potential to harm.

3. “Don’t take your baby outside before they are two months old.”

This little gem of advice is similar to the last “advice” in that it plants the seed that healing is equated with being secluded and at home. It is common knowledge that infants have a compromised immune system, and, it is possible to have an outing with small babies before they reach the CDC’s recommended time for starting a vaccine schedule.

For many new parents, feeling confined for this period can negatively impact their mental health, while also sending the wrong message about how germs travel through the general public.

If you feel like you are on pins and needles and taking your baby for an outing would help you, there are ways to make this happen that can be beneficial for you, and can be safe for your baby.

4. “Don’t even start pacifiers, because you will never get rid of that thing.”

While this piece of parent advice shared from a place of good intentions, it is usually a reflection of personal experience gone awry.

Pacifiers are a tool.
They can be used in various situations.
They can be used successfully with babies who are fed by breastmilk, and formula both.

While there is no guarantee that your child will use a pacifier, trying it as a way to help soothe a baby with a need for oral stimulation is often a great help to parents.

If you feel scared to give your child a pacifier, be it because of a breastfeeding professional, a parenting book, or a story your friend shared, let us help you learn when and how a pacifier can be useful.