Life after baby with older siblings presents its owns particular joys and challenges.
In truth, when my third was born with siblings aged 2 and 4 years, I make the joke that every newborn should come with a 4 year-old. She was so capable and helpful, rocking the cradle so I could take a shower, finding the pacifier when I dropped it, grabbing a clean diaper when needed, and more.
One of the biggest challenges for me newly postpartum was finding ways to meet my older kiddos needs for boisterous activity, when I felt like snuggling in with little one and staying put.
Here are a couple free resources we make use of now when indoor fun is needed that work great for older siblings with a new little one in the house.
Cosmic Kids Yoga
Free on YouTube, this channel combines narratives your kiddos may recognize with easy to follow yoga poses. And, the channel also offers some guided meditations, which can be great if you need to bring the level back down to calm in the house.
These playful combinations of movement and rhymes or song can definitely make a dent in the wiggles. And, I've found myself busting out some of these when we are waiting in line or in a less than ideal situation and my kids need to focus their energy - some of our favorites include Purple Stew and Pop see ko.
Having a short list of simple games to play can make it easier to snuggle baby in the rocker or carrier and keep kids occupied. Simon Says, Red Light/Green Light, Freeze Dance, and any other childhood favorites can be great tools.
Looking for other tools to keep older sibs entertained? Read about how we use audio stories and art tutorials in our postpartum toolbox.
Looking for more support in the days and weeks postpartum? Head on over to Nested Mama and learn more about in person and online support services.
The transition into life with a new baby stretches everything - your patience, your partnership, your identity, and so much more.
The transition into toddlerhood is something else, though. The baby who previously needed to be transported everywhere can suddenly get places under her own power. The baby who only needed milk and snuggles suddenly voices a whole host of other needs and desires, adamantly and at increasing volume levels.
Just like having a baby stretches us as parents and asks us to grow in new and surprising ways, the transition into parenting a toddler asks perhaps even more.
As Dr. Shefali Tsabary writes in The Conscious Parent: "The transition to parenthood is complex, requiring us to surrender to an irrevocable loss of our identity as we have thus far known it. To create the internal space required to embrace the tending of a new spirit, the pillars of our old lifestyle have to crumble. Who we were before becoming a parent doesn't and cannot exist with the same ferocity. Once children enter our life, their impact is indelible and we are required to reinvent ourselves in response" (96).
If you are anticipating the next stage of baby's development into a toddler or find yourself already in the sticky middle-of-toddler-years days, check out these fabulous resources for setting loving limits and holding them with love and respect.
Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids by Dr. Laura Markham
To get a sense of Markham's approach, check out the AhaParenting website, which has an awesomely helpful index by age and stage. This is one of my first stops when a new kiddo stages throws me for a loop.
It's Okay Not to Share and Other Renegade Rules for Raising Compassionate Kids by Heather Shumaker
One of the most anxious points of toddler parenting for me was learning how to navigate my kids social interactions - when to stand back, when to hop in, and how to be helpful. Shumaker gives so many helpful examples for how to handle situations in a positive and productive manner.
Playful Parenting: An Exciting New Approach to Raising Children That Will Help You Nurture Close Connections, Solve Behavior Problems, and Encourage Confidence by Lawrence J. Cohen
In rough stages, sometimes you just need a fresh tool or outlook to come at problems from a positive and collaborative place. If you find yourself in that place, this is a great read.
Siblings without Rivalry: How to Help your Children Live Together so You Can Live Too by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
Toddler parenting takes on a whole new dynamic when you've got sibling squabbles in the mix. Faber and Mazlish made this a super quick read that's easy to distill and implement. And, it helps me remember that sibling conflicts are normal and the perfect opportunity to build skills of conflict negotiation and compassion.
The Gentle Sleep Book by Sarah Ockwell-Smith
While we'd like to pretend that only tiny babies wake at night, the reality is that waking for reassurance during the night is developmentally normal for toddlers, too. Ockwell-Smith offers gentle suggestions that can help the whole family get more rest while still meeting your toddler's needs in a developmentally appropriate manner. (If you find you need more support making gentle sleep transitions, head on over to Nested Mama's Sleep services.)
Mothering your Nursing Toddler by Norma J. Bumgarner
Wondering what's normal as you nurse your baby into toddlerhood? This book from La Leche League International provides awesome perspective. (And if you find yourself nursing into a pregnancy, Adventures in Tandem Nursing by Hilary Flower is the essential read on the topic.)
Siegel, Dan J. and Tina Payne Bryson. The Whole Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind. New York: Bantam Books, 2011.
In a nutshell:
The Whole Brain Child offers parenting advice based on neuroscience and a developmental approach to parenting. Instead of expecting children to behave like miniature adults, Siegel and Tina point to the ways in which children's brains are still under construction. Instead of feeling frustrated when our attempts to communicate and handle tricky situations with our children go sideways, the book encourages us to see these moments as opportunities to parent in a manner that ultimately promotes the growth and emotional resiliency we hope our children will one day possess.
I love how practically the authors approach each of their tips. For each situation, they offer case study examples and a cartoon briefly summarizing the strategy they suggest. Additionally, they provide a kid-friendly cartoon breakdown of each idea such that you can work with your child to develop his or her own understanding of how the mind works. And, each chapter ends with a section for parents, which draws attention to the fact that we, as parents, have so much growing to do in how we handle our own emotions and frustrations.
Some quotations of note:
"It's also crucial to keep in mind that no matter how nonsensical and frustrating our child's feelings may seem to us, they are real and important to our child. It's vital that we treat them as such in our response" (24).
"Even though we will want to help build this metaphorical staircase in our child's brain, there are two important reasons to maintain realistic expectations when it comes to integration. The first is developmental: while the downstairs brain is well developed even at birth, the upstairs brain isn't fully mature until a person reaches his mid-twenties" (41).
"Your state of mind can influence your child's state of mind, letting you transform fussiness and irritability into fun, laughter, and connection" (133).
The Whole Brain Child is a parenting text with longevity - helping you understand your toddler to your teenager and even some of your adult relationships, too. If you are looking for a straightforward parenting text grounded in neuroscience that will challenge you to grow alongside your child, The Whole Brain Child is that book.
As my kids get older, I’m starting to hear the the dreaded “I’m bored” more and more.
In general, I’m a big fan of boredom - I want my kids to have moments of quiet in their day, where their thoughts can run wild and imaginations flourish. Often, when I start to hear declarations of boredom, I find that just going outside gives them a change of scenery and the inspiration they need to get in a groove of exploration and creativity.
But, when caring for a new baby, I need my deck stacked with easy activities to supplement those quiet moments, especially activities that can be done indoors with relatively low prep and little cleanup.
One of my favorite resources that meets all of these criteria is Art Hub for Kids. These kid-friendly art tutorials often feature an adult and child working alongside each other. In particular, I love the drawing tutorials, because my kids can do the prep all on their own (grab out paper and markers) and clean up takes no time at all.
I also love how the tutorials say again and again that it is okay if the kids’ projects look different - that is just their own unique style. And, the tutorials gently emphasize practice, which I find an encouraging outlook for kids as they develop these skills.
In my experience around 4 or 5 is a good age for the simpler tutorials, but that will vary greatly on your child’s own development and interest. My middle child enjoyed watching and scribbling on his own paper or sticking stickers while his older sister did the tutorials. Now, as a young four year-old, a switch flipped and he’s on fire to learn to draw.
In any case, if it isn’t a hit at this moment for your child, you can always try again later when a few quiet minutes of art could do you both some good.
Looking for more suggestions for a better postpartum? Register for the next Nested Mama Planning for Postpartum Workshop on June 2 at Robinson Family Wellness in Coralville.
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One of the topics mothers expecting their second baby often bring up in conversation is that of how to integrate older siblings and baby into family life during the postpartum period.
When offering advice and experience on this topic, I often share links to some of my favorite parenting websites (found here and here) or books that talk about sibling integration (found here and here).
Today, I’m going to share with you one of my favorite resources for creating quiet time in our day and providing my bigger kids something to do when we all need a break: Sparkle Stories. We make use of this resource all the time, even though youngest is now approaching two. But, these audio stories can be especially helpful in that postpartum window when the need for quiet breaks may be more frequent.
Sparkles Stories has a free weekly podcast, audio stories for purchase, and a monthly story subscription. The story subscription offers access to over 1,000 audio stories. You can sort them by age (from 3+ to 9+), topic, or series. Currently, my kiddos favorite series features Martin and Sylvia - a home-schooled sibling pair who love fairies and imagination.
Sparkles Stories offers a podcast with a new story a week, as well as featuring a free story on their homepage and many free stories on the Sparkle Stories Blog. And, fantastically, they also offer a 10-day free trial, if you’d like a fuller sense of the depth of their library.
For us, Sparkle Stories doesn’t replace cuddling together and reading. Instead, the audio stories provide a perfect quiet time activity, and they give us all the a bit of a break, which we all need come the afternoon.
Anticipating a second or more baby and looking for support with sibling integration? Head over to Nested Mama to find out how a postpartum doula can aid you in this time.
Johanna received a Ph.D. in English in 2014. Now a postpartum doula and educator of childbirth, breastfeeding, and infant sleep, she blogs about pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and parenting.