perks of being a sibling, and prepping a child to become one!

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mothersday3having come from a family of 5 children, i haven’t known life without lots of other siblings around. while i’m the oldest, my next sister arrived when i was just 18 months old, so all of my memories and experiences very much include at least one of my sisters. growing up, there were times we were all super close, and times when we fought like mad, but for me personally, i think probably the best thing my parents ever gave us…was each other. (and while my baby brother is in mexico right now, all of my sisters were in the city over the weekend and it was seriously one of my favorite weekends ever!)

as i grew up and went away for college, i always knew i wanted a big family of my own.  and when i met josh, his candidness straight away about how much he wanted that as well, before i ever voiced where i stood with children, was something i was immediately drawn to.

something i love about life and relationships is how different each one can be. while the big family thing is something i value and have enjoyed, it’s not for everyone, and that’s fine! while i’m going to focus this post on a lot of the questions i receive around having our children close together in age, and what we’ve learned preparing each one for a new baby’s arrival, please know that me sharing my own experiences here is not me trying to say everyone needs to do it this way.

siblings22how far apart in age are your children?

eleanor was just 16 months old when we brought samson home from the hospital. and samson was two and half when conrad was born. while i have really loved having our kiddos close in age, i don’t think there is some magical age gap number between siblings. i was actually 12 years old when my parents had their last baby, my little brother isaac, and i remember everything about that experience like it was yesterday.

what tips can you share from your own experience in making the transition smooth when introducing a new baby to a toddler?

when samson was born, eleanor still very much felt like a baby, so i wanted to make sure the experience didn’t feel threatening to her in any way since she was so little and it was hard to explain to her what was happening.

a few things around each birth that we found helpful… when the new baby is born, and you’re about to introduce the older sibling, don’t have the baby in your arms when the siblings walk in, rather in the bassinet beside you. this way, you’re focusing your attention on your reunion with your toddler and they get to focus on seeing you again! i had read somewhere that it can sometimes feel overwhelming and scary when a toddler is so small and he or she walks in for the first time to see her mama holding a new baby. almost like being replaced!

another tip we have used with each birth after eleanor, is having a small trinket or gift for the toddler from the new baby to open at the hospital. a sort of, “thanks for welcoming me into your family” type of situation. maybe this is us enforcing bribery in the hopes all things go smoothly, but it’s been really fun for everyone involved as we open some tiny presents on mama’s hospital bed after meeting the baby. i remember samson being like, “how did he KNOW?!” when he opened something from newborn conrad a few years ago. i feel like samson instantly felt bonded to conrad solely based on his gift giving skills!

the last thing i noticed that was really helpful, was involving the toddler as much as possible after the baby was born in being your helper. giving them important tasks like grabbing a diaper, or holding the baby’s hand, etc etc. helps give them this sort of confidence that you both are in this together. in our case, it helped everyone feel like they had a place as we got to know the new baby at home.

in addition to that, a girlfriend had mentioned several years ago that when her toddler was needing her attention or help, and she was tied up with the baby, she’d do her best to answer, “mama’s hands are full, let me help you with that once they are free” instead of, “i can’t right now, i’m holding your brother…” so there wasn’t any resentment about how much you might have one baby in your arms. i loved that approach and have tried to take similar ones with each transition.siblings2siblings4

when do you tell your children about a new baby, and how do you help younger ones understand what is about to happen?

we are a rather close-knit family, and so our kids always knew straightaway. in fact, for the last few years as we’ve wanted to add another baby to the family, they were very much aware as they wanted it, too. so a lot of conversations and prayers were centered around the topic before we were even expecting. i knew the risk was high of them sharing the info with friends or family sooner than we were ready, but i was willing to take it, they did a great job with it!

depending on their ages, i think it’s helpful to talk about the pregnancy and mama’s body and everything that is going down as much as possible. showing them pictures of when you were pregnant with them is helpful, as well as pictures of the baby growing inside from books or pregnancy apps.

i think all three of our children feel a very special bond already to the new babies and it is so humbling as a mama to see. every night there are so many tummy kisses and goodnight wishes for the babies. samson actually talks in detail about his day to my tummy each night and i feel like they might know his voice better than anyone else’s! we have also included them in baby name conversations from the early stages which maybe wasn’t the best idea, as they are incredibly invested now in helping choose the names! eleanor even said at one point rather seriously after we’d been chatting over names, “if we get to the hospital and you guys have already named the babies and we don’t like the names, it’s going to be a problem!” ;)siblings6

does it get harder or easier each time you add a baby to the family?

for me, the transition from one to two was the trickiest. i think a lot of that had to do with eleanor being so small when samson was born and just trying to wrap my head around a new life with two little ones. but with them being so close in age, the pros definitely outweighed the cons for me as i watched this insanely beautiful bond between the two surface rather quickly. they are very close even now, and i love how they’ve had a built-in best friend since the very beginning.

there is also always the challenge of navigating change. learning a new baby’s cues and needs while trying to keep to a schedule for your other ones can be tough. i think it helps to give yourself a good couple of months to get situated after a new arrival and not evaluate yourself in those early weeks when it’s still so much a transitioning time.

i know i’ve struggled a lot during each pregnancy with the idea of this timeline coming to a close on life with just one, or just two, or right now, three… but each time the new baby arrives, i’m reassured that this is a blessing for not just us, but for them! and it’s been nothing short of a complete joy to watch my babies build strong bonds and relationships with one another over the last several years.

….

if there’s anything you’ve found helpful transitioning for a new baby’s arrival, or tips to help strengthen sibling bonds, please share below for all of us!!! always love learning from your wisdom and own personal experiences, too!

  1. I only have one sibling, my brother, who I am very close to. He’s one of my best friends. However, our parents have lots of siblings. This made for lots of cousins and lots of fun at family gatherings. I always had in mind that I would like five children. However, I will modify that desire depending on my pain tolerance during childbirth.

    Happy Wednesday
    http://www.lovecompassionatelee.com/thinkoutloud/mother-of-pearls

  2. Jordan

    Awwww I love this post about siblings! I’m one of seven and my mom had 4 of us in 4 years (crazy!). I absolutely LOVED growing up with such a large family and want the same thing one day. My parents always joke that once you have three kids, you’re already outnumbered so you might as well keep going! ha!

  3. Verity

    I don’t have any tips, other than ones you have already given. But I just wanted to say thank you for sharing this. I have a 3.5 year old and a 9 month old and it is not the easiest right now, our eldest is struggling slightly with his brother being more mobile now.

    I regularly tell myself that they may not always be thankful to have an ‘annoying’ brother, but they will always love each other and have each other’s backs.

  4. joana

    hi!
    i’m not a mom, but when my little sister was really small my mom made sure she always had a little time with just me, and so i started having swimming lessons and she came with me every time. it was our time just the two of us, away from my sister and from the rush of everyday life. i don’t remember it as something special, just normal, but i’m sure it helped ease my little sister into my life, having mother-daughter dates just us two :)

    and you’re absolutely right: there is not greater thing in the whole wide world than having siblings! i have three sisters too :)

    and one more thing: i love reading you for many reasons, but one of the most important ones is that although you have your beliefs and your way of doing things you always make sure everyone knows it’s just your way, not the only way possible. it’s so refreshing! we’re all different, we come from different backgrounds, experiences, beliefs, and we don’t need to agree on everything, we just need to respect each other.

    thanks for always doing that!

    hugs,
    joana (from portugal)

    • TAZA

      i love hearing that about your swim lessons growing up! we have also found it so beneficial for our kids and us to make time one on one. also, thank you for your kind words, it means so much to me. xoxo

  5. Kerry Mitchell

    My sons turned 29 years old last month and their sister is 19 months younger than they are. I have few memories of just mama/daughter time when she was a baby, but I agree with Naomi – the fun of having them all at once far outweighs any negatives there might have ever been! Although they did fight like crazy sometimes, they have always had an INCREDIBLY close bond. (My daughter has always called her brothers “my boys.”)

    • TAZA

      this makes me excited about the future too and hopefully witnessing strong bonds later on as well. thank you for sharing!

  6. Chelsea

    One of the things I found helpful with the transition was to let the older child hear you tell the baby to wait or be patient while you’re “tied up” with the older child. This way the older child sees that the baby has to wait sometimes just like they do. For example, during the bedtime routine I would put the baby into pjs and then put her down to dress the oldest and the baby would inevitably get upset. I would say, “you need to be patient [baby], I’m putting pjs on [oldest] right now. She was patient for you and now it’s your turn.”

    • josh

      I love this! We need to try this.

    • TAZA

      i’m stealing this! so good!

  7. Alissa

    My pediatrician shared the best advice as I prepared to welcome my second child just 22 months after the first. She said to speak to the baby as I did the toddler. As in, “I’m feeding the baby right now but I would love to read to you in a minute.” And then a few minutes later, once the baby is asleep or happily occupied in a bouncer or on a play mat, say to the baby aloud, “It’s your brother’s turn now, so you need to occupy yourself for a few minutes while I play with him.” It seems strange to say that to a baby, but it makes all the difference in the world to the other little ones at hand.

    • josh

      This is great advice. Thanks!

    • TAZA

      this makes so much sense! i’m gonna have to try this one for sure. thank you for sharing!

  8. Brook

    Yikes allowing the kids to be involved with naming their siblings is wayyy overboard that’s something that should be kept between parents (let’s be serious it’s hard enough getting our men to agree with us, then having to convince three children as well?) no thank you

    best of luck with twins and a quick labor! Your a great mom You will handle it like a boss.

  9. Alli Korman

    My heart is full even writing this! Being a sister myself, being the mother of two young girls who are (usually) the best of friends – it just indescribable, especially as my girls find their own rhythm to their friendship . I had it in my mind that I wanted to reach out to you (long time DC reader and fan!) but when I saw this post I knew the timing was perfect. My husband is a musician and just out a song called “Sisters.” Since you’re ready to welcome a new pair of sisters, it would give me such joy to gift you the song and the original art as a gift to your growing family. The explanation of the song’s origins and the art are here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/what-does-it-eat-shoulders-ep#/
    Click on the tile for “Sisters” (obviously) :) We’d be so happy to mail you the art. Congrats again on your growing and beautiful family.

  10. Allison Korman

    and omg, apologies for all the typos in my last message! I got way too excited about writing it :)

  11. Alex

    I am so curious on how are you are preparing to take care of 5 kids including 2 newborns?! Are you just nesting & planning like crazy? Is your family going to help out? Or will you start to hires more services (food, nanny, etc)? Or will you just figure it out as you go?

    • TAZA

      we hope to figure it out as we go! i am sure we will need plenty of help over the next few years as it truly takes a village (or a city!) to raise a baby or two.

      josh and i have found we really prefer those first few days and weeks to be just us and our new baby (or in this case babies) and other children. there is such a special magic to that bonding time with our family. we will see both sets of our parents and other family members later in the summer though when they come out for the baby blessings.

      we don’t have plans to hire a nanny but we have recently started having someone help deep clean the apartment and it has been a HUGE HELP for me. i can no longer bend over to clean without feeling a contraction coming on and so this is kind of help i have really been thankful for. we also don’t grocery shop at a store anymore since we do all of that online and have our groceries delivered, another time saver and big help. i don’t know if those sorts of grocery delivery services are offered everywhere yet, but in nyc, it’s been a big help for josh and me.

      i’m all done with the nesting part and i also just finished an online class all about babies and sleep so i am hoping to get them on the same schedule as best i can. i know we are going to have to be flexible with the new adjustment, but overall we are just really excited and hope to figure things out as we go as smoothly as possible. ;)

  12. Suzanne

    I think it is so sweet and special that you are letting the kiddos help with names. I hope we are able to have a third and have talked about this dream with the kids, 5 and 3 (we are very close too) and would totally let them help with names.

    I found nursing to be tricky when baby came home. Water, toys, ect were always needed right as I sat down. I set up baskets next to the sofas and chair in the nursery with all items older brother might need. Kanteen, stickers, pre-packaged snack, flash lights, books, you name it. We all bonded and it was so special.

  13. Mary Claire

    I only have one child now who is 18 months. Though I think I’d like another child or maybe a couple more, I worry about my son. Would it change our relationship? How could I love another child as much as I love him? Do you have any tips or advice about that? Thank you.

    • TAZA

      i definitely felt that as well. i think it’s hard to process that you can love another as much as your first until you have them. but your heart just grows more and more each time. it’s seriously amazing.

  14. I loved this post! We don’t have kids yet, but I’ve always wanted to have a big family. We’ll see if we can get there one of these days. :)

  15. Michelle

    My only tip is that when your baby is crying and you are helping the older sibling, say out loud, “Sorry, baby, I’m helping (older sibling) right now.” Then when you do the reverse, the older sibling recognizes that sometimes they get helped first and sometimes the baby does. This was incredibly helpful for our oldest.

  16. This is SUCH a great post. It was really hard for me to transition from one to two, as number two was…. earlier than expected! But, you just do it! And, I’m so glad they have each other to grow up with now! I can’t imagine life without my baby girl AND boy!

    http://www.jessicabroyles.com

  17. Melissa

    I just went from one to two (big brother was 21 months when baby brother was born) and the best advice I received was that if my older one needed me and the baby was settled and able to be put down, I should say “okay baby, I’m putting you down now so I can go help your big brother but we’ll both be back to help you soon.” It’s so easy to just put the baby down and go help the older sibling but saying this out loud helps make the older sibling feel important and needed to (especially in those early weeks when it’s hard to put the baby down).

  18. shannon

    I remember the day I found out my mom was pregnant with my little sister. My mom didn’t mean for me to find out so early, and so I had to keep it a secret for three incredibly long months. For the life of me, I couldn’t sleep because I was so excited, but I was completely mum the entire time. I still remember how exciting it was to anticipate and then how special it was the first time I got to meet her.
    So excited for your growing family. Nothing better than siblings.

  19. June P

    I wish your blog was around when I was growing my babies! SO MANY tips on how to cope with mama-hood here! Sometimes my mistakes come back to me unbidden, like remembering how my son sounded when he said “you always take care of her now, and not me anymore”. but I know I am a good mom, and I have managed not to scar any of my kids! They are teens now and it’s a different scenario from when they were babies, but oh, it’s a beautiful sight! carry on, mamas! all will be well!

    I’m also wondering if you’d like to share where to find your white blouse on the top photo (with the red wall)? thank you!

    • TAZA

      i am sure you are a good mom! can’t imagine that teenage stage! pass along all the advice for us not yet there, please! and the blouse is an oldie from anthropologie several years back. i feel like they carry a similar version every year though!

  20. Becky bray

    Lovely post. I’ve always felt somehow I’d have a large family, and I struggle very much with the thought that two babies is the end of our family. It’s so lucky that together your two share the same desires. But one thing I feel really helped my first when his brother was on the way, was always talking about his baby, letting him know from the get go we were all building a family and not just having another baby. When #2 was a newborn and I could see his big brother getting frustrated, I would openly vent with him. I’d say things like “oh my goodness your baby brother has been crying all day, he’s having such a hard time and needs cuddles all day to feel better, and I don’t want to cuddle him anymore. I want to read and play, sometimes I really don’t like having a small baby. And I think every single time he’d hug me and say that’s ok man, he’s only small for a little bit, you have to take care of him and one day he’ll be as much fun as I am. And it was like a reminder to him, in helping me, it helped him hear the same things he was feeling I guess.

  21. Brooke

    I have 2 children who are almost exactly 2 years apart. One thing I found that made the new baby transition less difficult for my older child was having my parents come and stay with her at our house while my husband and I were in hospital with the new baby rather than have her stay at their house. It was just one less thing to be new and different for her at a time of pretty big changes.

  22. Marta

    Hi, I’ve been following you since you were pregnant with Eleanor and I was happy to follow because you were just few months ahead of me ;-) so.. My oldest Rita is 18 months older than her brother Iwo, who is 34 months older than Hugo. Hugo will be 25 months older than the youngest in our family.

    Prepping the first child for the second was kind of easy due to her sex – she got a little baby doll and a doll buggy somewhere in the middle of my second pregnancy. She had a need to be around other kids, she loved watching “Peppa Pig” where are two siblings playing together all the time and she liked the books with tales about pregnancy and a sibling to arrive soon and how it might be (they illustrated different reactions – from excitement, missing the mom, jealousy, feel of being left and… how the family needed the older for little help and also for a play ;-))

    With my second baby – he wasn’t that interested in things with my bump or what’s going on. Like he accepted what’s going on, around 2-3 months before the due date Iwo started showing interest in the pregnancy and started asking questions how is it, how the baby eats etc. He and his sister were included into prayers for the healthy sibling and me getting strength and health after labor. When my baby bump got big enough, both kids loved to snuggle with me in the bed, read books before going to sleep, talk a bit to the baby in the belly, give him kisses and so on. They also wanted to know who’s is it going to be – Iwo was delighted he will have a brother. When Hugo was born – both of them liked helping me with things like bringing nappies, snacks for me or to cheer the baby up as the baby was always following them with his sight (and later on – with full body) and liked to laugh out loud to them when they were performing something for him (song, making noises to him, talking, bringing him toys…).

    I was sure we would end up as a family of five. I got back to work. I started also doing sports regularly and things were very intense and sometimes hectic at home, but I had great support from my husband and Rita and Iwo. Then one evening the kids started praying for another sibling. We, parents, were kind of laughing from that and commenting how it is cute and so on. And then two weeks after I found out I’m pregnant again. When they learned that too – Iwo chose the name for baby brother, Rita chose the name for baby sister and I don’t feel like it’s only me and my husband’s child to be born, but actually the well looked forward member of family. Like – the newborn isn’t just mine, he already belongs along his siblings :-) Yet – I’m unsure how the youngest is prepared for the new baby to arrive ;-) I know he started pointing at my belly and saying ‘baby”, but I kind of feel he might have little difficulties with not being the youngest one ever as he loves that role. So we read the stories, Iwo talks about how I’m going to breastfeed the little one, asks more details about labor (so I’m showing him anatomical pictures on his request) and all off them are witnessing now me taking out the stacks of baby things out of the closets or buying new things :-)

    Each time I gave birth my husband gave some extra time for kids and took them for some half day trips to interesting places in the city or to the playgrounds, so they could have fun time and not see how much I’m occupied with a newborn. This way I could also rest when they went out and made sure the home didn’t look like the hurricane went through (as it usually looks every morning or evening when you’re having little children). I love to go back to our family/home routine as quickly as possible and include everyone in our daily tasks.

    I need to say my husband co-parents to the maximum, he’s like a pro now ;-) I don’t need to come up with tasks for him and kiddos, point the things I need hand in especially. We talk a lot, make sure our relationship works good for both sides, that we care about our love, give ourselves time for ‘me time’ and plan the time together (Matt often goes for field trips, conferences and workshops, so he’s then away for few days or weeks). I believe that it sums up and help our children – if we aren’t too stressed and balanced in everyday life, our kids feel secure, loved and they don’t need to fight with each other (apart the situations where they argue like children do normally).

  23. Danseanna

    Having four boys, ages 14-1 year, I can tell you your in for an adventurous ride. I love having a large family. I’ve learned to embrace the chaos.Im pretty certain my older kids will thank us one day for their forever buds:) God bless you guys! You’ve been so inspiring.

  24. Emma

    I’m one of three girls, and I love my sisters so much. I love that you said you think your siblings are the best things your parents ever gave you, as I completely agree. My husband and I are struggling to conceive and it just breaks my heart that I might never have children, or that even if I do, I might not be able to give them siblings. I’ve always wanted a big family, 5 kids would be a dream come true. Best wishes to you all, I can’t wait to hear what you name them :)

  25. sally mae

    Naomi, I would be so curious to hear how old your mother was when she had her 5 children, especially with the big gap between you and your brother. I think it’s amazing you were able to have all of your children so young and I am a little envious. I know women are having babies much later in life and I’m wondering if you are seeing this in the LDS community at all?

  26. Imogen

    Hi Naomi and Josh. So exciting for you and the family to welcoming the twins soon! I am visiting NY at the moment from Sydney and funnily enough the last time I was here Conrad was born! So maybe the twins will arrive when I’m here this time ;)

    I was wondering, I’ve heard you speak about your siblings before but never heard much of Josh’s family. You mentioned his desire to have a large family, so I’m wondering if he also comes from a large family or is he an only child?

    Wishing you all the best.

  27. Kristen

    Great post, Naomi! I think it’s so generous of you to share your experiences with your family life – it’s been a huge inspiration to me as I’ve become a mama! And you know what – we let our son Everett help name Baby #2 and he decided the name for us – Daxton! And now we can’t imagine naming him anything else! I think it’s awesome to be a close-knit family that shares and respects each other’s opinions! Our kids are our treasures, and I’ve been encouraged by you so much because you feel the same way about your family. Prayers for you as you enter the final stage of pregnancy with your baby girls! xx

  28. Lena

    I am an only child that luckily has two half siblings but I didn’t grow up with them but only saw them every few months. I personally couldn’t imagine having five children but I would definitely love to have more than one. I felt like while growing up I didn’t miss having siblings as much but the older I become the more I wish I had at least one more sibling. It’s just great to be able to share you life and holidays with a sibling. To be able to share the responsibility of helping you parent once they get older. I’m very thankful to have my half siblings as well as my wonderful friends in my life and I’m sure that a friend can be as a sibling. I saw two of my best friends way more in my life than my two half siblings. But family stays family and it’s therefore so precious to have siblings. I really hope that one day I’ll be able to give my children the luck to have siblings.
    Lots of love from Germany

  29. ravit

    hi Naomi,
    I loved this piece.
    I am a mother of five children aged from five months to 8 years (no twins, though).
    and every day I find it challenging and fulfilling.
    I still cant believe how lucky I am to have this tight unit of my own.

  30. Joanna

    It always really helped us to give the baby a voice. I think it’s so easy for toddlers to forget that babies are trying to communicate when they cry and it’s hard to bond with someone you think is screaming unnecessarily. If i knew what the baby wanted i would translate for my older one (ie “I’m hungry, Mommy! I want to play/sit/etc with [older] bit i need lunch first!”) and if i wasn’t sure i would narrate my thought process (ie “she just ate so she’s probably not hungry. She seems a little squirmy though so let’s check her diaper and see if she’s wet.”) I think feeling like he understood her language really helped my son bond with his little sister and he seemed to really start taking pride in being able to read her cues. He especially enjoyed telling extended family what she was asking for. It helps if the baby says funny things every now and then too! The other thing that was immeasurably useful were “love bombs.” Whenever possible tried to give my older child undivided attention. This required some tag teaming with my husband but getting that mommy time made my son so much more relaxed and patient when it was the baby’s turn again. Whenever he seemed a little irritable with her it was because he felt a little neglected. Teaching him to identify that feeling and appropriately ask for alone time squashed the resentment.

    Good luck with the transition! It’s such a challenging but amazing time!!

  31. Natasha L

    Hi. I’m not a mom, but I have a lot of experience being the middle child. My mom tried for a sibling for my sister for four years and kept losing them. I came along less than a week after my sister’s 4th birthday. My mom told me that I was so fascinated with everything my sister did, so that made things easier for her. Then, my little brother came along and I was not quite 3 at the time, but I was such the little helper. My mom always wanted us to be close because she’s not close with her siblings. Now that we’re all in our 30s (with my brother turning 30 this year), I spend more time talking to one or the other, but we’re still close. It’s just in our own ways. I don’t think you’ll have too much to worry about with your angels adjusting. I hope to be able to use your tips soon.

  32. se7en

    This is so sweet, I love your excitement and anticipation… we have a pile of kids all close together too… the very biggest gap is about eighteen months, so I know where you are coming from… We gave our older children the very best tasks: they were always “officially in charge” of opening the gifts for the new baby and I kept a basket of materials with me when I was nursing so that they could create thank you pictures/cards for the gifts they opened. Otherwise I made sure to be available to everyone for cuddles (not easy when you have just had a baby) sit on the bed and they would all tuck in around me… I wanted them to know that I was hugging all my babies and loving it, so I would always say, “It’s so great to hug all my babies.” I still call them all for a group hug and no-one ever says no, the oldest is almost 21!!!