It is easy to get swept up in the craziness of having a newborn and when you have other children it is hard to give everyone the attention that they need. There is also the added bonus of the tremendous amount of guilt a parent can feel when they have to put their newborn's needs first.
I was reminded at my recent Fresh 48 photo session, just how helpful an older sibling can be and how much they want to help. So instead of trying to do everything yourself, as mothers are known to do, find small tasks that your other children can help with. Children are naturally curious and want to help most of the time so let them, even if that 'help' makes the task longer. Here are some of the things I tried to do with my own daughter when I brought her baby brother home:
Let them help get things the baby needs, like diapers, wipes, swaddles, blankets, etc. You can even ask them to throw away dirty diapers; for some reason my daughter really loved doing this.
Let them entertain. When you are getting your newborn dressed, bathed, ready to go in the car, any and all the things that babies hate, have your older child try and entertain them with a toy or song. You can make up a song together for the baby that describes what is going on.
Clean Up, Clean Up, Everybody Lets Clean Up. See a lot of things are song based, thanks Daniel Tiger! My kids never want to help clean up but I think when you have a newborn and it's seen more as being a big help to mom and dad instead of cleaning up for cleaning ups sake, they are more willing to help. Laundry is a good example. There is ALWAYS laundry! I have done the math and the amount of laundry I have to do doesn't really add up to the amount of people living in my house. It's one of life's biggest mysteries, along with where all the socks go. Anyway, let your older child help fold the laundry. Are they going to fold it right? Absolutely not but they love to help and this is a good time to have some one-on-one time with them as well. You can also have them help put the dishes away as well as in the dishwasher.
Read stories. My daughter can't read yet, but she has a wonderful imagination, as I feel most children do, and loves books. So let your older child 'read' books to their baby brother or sister. They can describe what is going on in the book and most times that is basically what the words say anyway.
Breastfeeding! Breastfeeding or bottle feeding takes up a lot of a new moms time and that is obviously not something your other child can help with, however, there are ways to include them in different ways. When you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding you can read books with your toddler- whenever there is a chance for reading I take it, - just cuddle and talk, play a game like I spy or an animal guessing game, talk about when your toddler was a baby, and of course TOYS. Have some toys available while your baby is nursing, like puzzles, coloring books, blocks, etc. When the baby gets older your oldest can help feed them some baby food. This will probably be a disaster but I feel you have to embrace the chaos or get sucked up in it.
So those are just a few tips for new moms trying to handle a newborn and a toddler. Please share some tips of your own if you have some that worked well for you. And since I am a photographer I have to include a picture. This is photo is from my recent newborn fresh 48 session and the reason I chose to write this blog. Carleigh was so incredibly helpful to her mom and dad when they were in the hospital with their new little one. She got diapers, opened the blinds for me to get more light, moved things that were in the way, and basically loved up on her new little brother. She is already being a great big sister and is absolutely adorable.