Amalah focuses on how to introduce your siblings and pets to the new baby.
- Is full-term, almost done, probably about a medium-well on the Burger Scale.
- Is about 20 inches long and over seven pounds, maybe, depends, who knows.
- (Seriously. No one knows. If you have an ultrasound this week or next, take the measurements and weight guesses with enough grains of salt to season a fresh batch of fries. Late-term ultrasounds are ridiculously imprecise, with a margin of error of up to TWO POUNDS in either direction.)
- Oh, please. Like you need ME to tell you anything about what you’re going through at this point. I’m just gonna stand over here, out of your way, and maybe silently nudge this pint of ice cream on over to you.
When I was pregnant with my first baby, everybody I knew seemed extremely concerned with how our pets were going to handle the baby. What were we doing to prepare the PETS? Did the pets seem like they knew what was happening? What did they think of the nursery? Did they seem extra protective of me? Had I taken enough precautions to ensure that their sweet little feline and canine souls would not be crushed by the massive demotion in status that was in store for them?
This time nobody gives a rat’s ass about the pets, but instead want to hear about Noah and what HE thinks and how we’re preparing HIM and oh, goodness, do you think he’s really READY for a sibling?
I have no idea. I DO hope we’ve prepared him a little better than we prepared the dog, at least. If we can avoid a broken bone this week, I’d say we did okay. I’m aiming high, yes.
Preparing your pet for the new baby
As far as preparing pets go, the Humane Society has a slew of suggestions, including some pretty practical (and easy!) things like decreasing attention and lap time BEFORE the baby comes, putting baby powder or lotion on your skin to get them used to the smell, trimming nails for safety, etc. If you’d like to drive yourself completely berserk, feel free to do EVERYTHING on the list, including carrying around a baby doll (including OUTSIDE, ON WALKS, IN A STROLLER) and playing recordings of babies crying and cooing. (I know you already have those lying around the house, right?)
I sent my husband home from the hospital with a hat and blanket we’d used for the baby and instructed him to let the pets smell it. They both ignored them completely, since they were way more interested in FOOD! REFILL MY FOOD! WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN WE RAN OUT OF FOOD FIVE MINUTES AGO FOOOOOD!
When we arrived home with the baby, our cat was completely nonchalant and nonplussed, while our dog proceeded to have a conniption for about eight solid hours. She whined, she cried, she sniffed, she hovered and snuck off to pee on the kitchen floor. She tried to smell my boob while I nursed in bed and I hollered at her and she jumped off the bed and ta-da! That’s how we ended up at the emergency vet with a broken leg our first night home.
So…how not to do what we did? Our biggest mistake was NOT decreasing of attention and lap time, or forcing a change in her sleeping arrangements ahead of time. Why it didn’t occur to me that I wouldn’t want the DOG in bed with us while trying to get every scrap of sleep we could, I have no idea. Trust me, I know you love your dog like a child and can’t imagine NOT finding comfort in his slobbery, hairy body curled up with you on the couch, you will want him OFF the couch and OFF your lap and you will scold him and order him to lie down in the corner away from you. Start establishing a little distance NOW, when you can do it gently and kindly, before your patience level plummets.
Preparing young children for a new baby
Obviously, this doesn’t really work with a three-year-old child. We’ve done everything we can, I THINK, to prepare him for a sibling. Although preparing a toddler for major life changes is sort of like…uh…trying make a Jell-O mold with a sieve. (NOTE: I have never made a Jell-O mold with a sieve, or any Jell-O molds for that matter. One time in junior high I burned Jell-O because I thought you had to cook it.)
A few things we’ve done:
1) Bought him a realistic-looking (but toddler-proportionate) baby doll. We call it Noah’s Baby and practiced giving the baby a bottle, burping it and talked about the proper way to touch and hold babies. I am pretty sure that Noah’s Baby gets picked up by his eyeballs and hurled against the wall whenever we’re not around, but hey, we tried.
2) Lots and lots and LOTS of repetition about the baby in Mama’s tummy and baby brother and where’s baby brother? and what will baby brother do when baby brother is born? (Answer: cry, eat, poop in diapers, sleep in Mama’s room, etc.) Again, I don’t know if any of this stuff has gotten through beyond a rote memorization level, but WE TRIED.
3) Took him to our 3D ultrasound and gave him a wallet-sized photo of his very own. He became surprisingly attached to it and carried it around everywhere for awhile.
4) Regular playtime in the nursery. Noah loved the reappearance of his old baby toys, so I put them out in a basket where he could go in and play with them anytime. We’d talk about what babies do with rattles and teething rings, and then we’d talk about the crib and the changing table until he seemed to understand that yes, this is BABY BROTHER’S room and BABY BROTHER will live here someday.
5) Books. We ended up with several books on the “I’m a big brother/new baby at our house” genre. They’re all virtually identical — just find one with pictures and phrasing that appeals to your kid. Noah definitely dug the ones with a lot of repetition of Big Brother and Baby Brother, since those are the terms we use a lot already.
6) TV. Yes, TV. If your child is preschool-aged or younger and has a favorite show, chances are there’s an episode out there about new babies. Blue’s Clues has several about Mr. Salt and Mrs. Pepper going to the baby hospital to deliver their little spice shaker babies (I KNOW, I KNOW), and Dora the Explorer has both a TV episode and a book about the birth of her younger siblings. Watch them with your kid and then try to use the same phrases and terminology afterwards — over and over and over.
7) When in doubt, BRIBERY. When the baby gifts started piling up, we were lucky enough to have brilliant friends who made sure to include Noah. We have a gift ready and wrapped in the hospital bag to give him (or for “Baby Brother” to give him) when we introduce them for the first time.
And for the past week, we’ve been opening little gifts from the Big Brother Box — a truly totally inspired shower gift if I have ever seen one. Sara from Norwood Arts makes a variety of “countdown boxes,” similar to an Advent calendar, with 10 small gifts to open and help count down the days. (The sibling versions contain simple toys like Play-Doh and stickers and OMFG A SLINKY! A SLINKY! THE GREATEST THING EVER IN THE WORLD OMG A SLINKY!) Since we’ve been talking about Baby Brother for AGES now, I was concerned about how to help Noah realize that yes, Baby Brother IS coming out of there at some point, I MEAN IT THIS TIME. He seems to get that when all the boxes in the Big Brother Box are opened, it will be time for the Baby Hospital and Baby Brother Day and all that.
And my friend gave me some great advice: your older child will constantly be told that “the baby needs Mama/milk/diaper change/rocking right now,” so whenever you attend to your older child’s needs, turn to the baby and tell HIM that “Noah needs Mama/juice/to go potty/a snack right now.” I think this is brilliant.
But, like we learned with the pets, there’s a limit to how much you can prepare a small child. I have no idea what will happen when Baby Brother IS home. And stays at home. And doesn’t ever go back to the Baby Hospital and what do you MEAN the Big Brother Box is all done? Mama! Baby Brother is looking at my Slinky MAKE HIM STOP DAT MAMA! We’re aiming to keep everyone safe and all legs unbusted. We’ll be stretched pretty thin for awhile, I’m sure, trying to make sure that everyone from the pets on up get the security and attention they need, but luckily I know this time that love sure as hell isn’t a finite thing around here.
Finished with the Pregnancy Calendar and want more? Visit Amalah’s postpartum weekly column, Bounce Back. Bounce Back is about the postpartum experience — the good, the bad and the gory.