Big Sister

Top Tips for Welcoming Baby Number 2 (or 3!)

If you are lucky enough to have more than one child, one of the things you get in return is the wonderment that is siblings together. Sure we no doubt have lots of fighting and snatching and wrestling and broken bones and emotional turmoil in our future too, but there is also so much affection and so many sweet moments of love and warmth reserved only for brothers and sisters.

Ever since the boys were born, Elsa has been a loving and attentive big sister. When she visited us in hospital she was quiet and amazed by the tiny babies, handing them toys she had picked out that morning with a gentle pride and stroking their sleeping heads. When they came home a day later she fussed around them, rocking their car seats, kissing them and gazing at them.  She has been able to tell them apart almost instantly, an, as time has gone on, her obsession with them hasn’t waned, but settled into a fiercely loyal love. She adores her brothers and proudly calls them ‘my babies’.

She tends to their every need whenever she can – fetches blankets when they’re cold, and toys for them when they’re sad, pops their dummies back in when they fall out and gives them cuddles and kisses as much as she is allowed. She has an almost second sense about them too – sometimes diagnosing what they want before I have. “Mummy, I think he wants to lie on the floor with toys,” she said once when Felix wouldn’t stop crying – she was right, it worked instantly. “Mummy, I think put Monty in the swinging chair and I sing to him,” she said on another occasion, and again, she was right.

Oh the singing. She sings to them all the time, and loves it when they return her efforts with a smile. She will sit with them for hours, reading stories, waving toys, playing games and telling them about her day.

When she paints pictures of us all, Felix and Monty are right there at the centre. She has never questioned their place in our lives, never complained that they take up so much of our time, never wished them away. She is patient and loving and sweet.

And they in turn adore her. They save all their best smiles for her and she is the only person that makes them really truly giggle. When she’s in the room they watch her like hawks, she can turn their heads with barely a smile, and she can stop them crying with just a little stroke of her hand or a up close nose bump. They love to lie with her on their playmat, listening to her stories or watching her fool around; they reach for her face when she comes close, and will sit happily on her lap for a cuddle. They feel safe with her, they feel loved and she makes them really really happy.

I think most of our success with Elsa as a big sister is probably down to luck, and the fact that she is both mad about babies of all kinds, and an innately nurturing, empathetic child. She is also not a naturally jealous child and has never minded me holding or cuddling other children. At nursery her kindnesses towards the other babies is always noted, and she is a thoughtful, generous friend. If I sound like a proud Mummy, that’s because I am. Children all have different strengths, and these are Elsa’s. It’s not something clever we did, simply how she was made.  The only thing we have done is to encourage and foster this empathy and this warmth. And to build on it. 

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Tips for Welcoming Baby Number 2 (or 3!)

We were given some really useful tips for welcoming new children into the family – which ones you choose to use will depend on your own situation, but these are the ones that worked for us.

Presents From the Babies: The babies each ‘bought’ Munchkin a small soft cuddly rabbit when they were born. Quite absolutely her favourite thing anyway, it gave her something easy to focus on when she first met the boys and made sure that she felt celebrated in that moment too. She loves them still now and takes them to bed with her nearly every night. Most touchingly of all though, sometimes she chooses to give these to the boys to cuddle when they are sad….

Don’t be Holding the Baby: If your little one first visits you and the new arrival in hospital, don’t be holding the baby when the bigger child turns up. Having your arms still open and free for a warm hug is a wonderful message to send and ensures the first time you see your bigger child after the birth you don’t instantly have to spoil the moment with ‘careful, gentle, no, don’t’.

Think About Homecoming: When we came home from hospital the day after the twins were born, we made sure that Elsa (and her Grannie) were in the house already, so that the boys came into her space first and not the other way around. That way, she was always here first and didn’t feel she had to prove it. 

Going Back to Nursery: One of the other things that was hard, was sending Munchkin back to nursery a few days after the birth. She didn’t want to go and found it really hard to leave us in the morning. We printed out a few pictures of the twins and had pre-warned nursery about their arrival. When Elsa got to nursery that morning, her favourite staff member was waiting for her and together they went through the pictures, talking about the boys and their names, before showing all the pictures to her friends at nursery. Apparently, after that she ran around all day, happy and playful as normal, holding one of the photographs, and saying to everyone: ” These are my twins.”

Babies are Boring: Give your bigger child the benefit of being an ally every now and again – it’s worked wonders sometimes for us, when things are tricky, saying to Elsa: “Babies are so boring aren’t they?” or “Are the babies being annoying? Silly babies.” Legitimatising her feelings and being on her side every now and again seems to redress the balance somewhat.

Fabulous Fifteen Minutes: Before the babies are born, get into the habit of giving your bigger child just fifteen minutes of your total and complete undivided attention, at a specific time of day. Make that your time and stick to it, even after the baby is born, even in the midst of screaming twins I’ve always been able to find 15 minutes for a cuddle and a story, or a bath, or to play a game or go for a little walk.

“Our brothers and sisters are there with us from the dawn of our personal stories to the inevitable dusk. “
Susan Scarf Merrell

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