Best Advice for a Growing Family?

Updated on March 26, 2014
A.A. asks from Tulsa, OK
25 answers

So we are 3 weeks away from welcoming son #2 into our family, and I am starting to get a bit overwhelmed! Big brother will turn 3 a few days before my due date, and is very excited to meet his baby brother (although I don't think he has a clue how it will change things in his day to day life). We have been talking about the baby and reading lots of books about new siblings and he has a pretty good understanding of the basics of a new baby, he likes to talk to the baby and sing him songs and loves to help get the nursery ready. So my question to you all is: What's your best advice for a family of 3 about to be a family of 4?

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So What Happened?

Thanks so far, everyone! It's the logistics of going out with 2 that has me nervous, DH will get to take a week off work so at least we can double team them in the beginning.
And Julie S., the books we are reading aren't prepping him to expect a fantastic playmate. They are pretty realistic: Babies are little, cry a lot, can't play until they grow, need to be held a lot, can only drink milk, etc. He'll tell me when he's having something especially tasty that "Babies can't have this, only milk!" and then take a big bite. So hopefully we have done our best to prepare him, without setting him up for unrealistic expectations. I figure no matter how much we talk about it or read his favorite books, he won't really get it until the baby gets here.

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answers from Chicago on

Just be prepared to not be prepared, if that makes sense. You could try to have a plan, but it will likely go to hell quickly.

My DS was a nightmare for about a week after we got home from the hospital. Then he adjusted. He would sit with me while I fed his sister, cuddle with us on the couch while she napped.

The biggest mistake I made was forgetting that he was still little (2 at the time). I found that I expected him to be able to roll with things a lot more than he was capable of. Meaning things like going to get his sippy cup from the fridge, or getting himself dressed. That tried my patience and I had to remind myself that he still needed my help with that a lot.

And just remember...within 2-3 months, everyone will be adjusted to the new norm. Remembering that helped to keep me sane in the very beginning.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I think you have a pretty good handle on it! My oldest was almost 3 when my youngest was born, and we prepared her as best we could. But yes, there's no preparing a kid for how much her world is about to be rocked. I'll never forget that when baby was about 3 months old and sitting in her bouncy chair, my oldest went over to her and began singing to her. "How sweet! What a great big sister!" I thought. After a few minutes of her singing, and baby smiling happily at her big sister, I began listening to the words my older daughter was singing: "I'm the first one, and I'm the best one! You're the stinky baby, and you'll never be like me!" LOL! Luckily, that was the worst that ever happened (and baby sister never knew, really).

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answers from Springfield on

My son was excited about his baby brother for about 5 minutes. Then his excitement shifted to the relatives who came to see the baby and now needed to give my oldest attention (and were more than happy to do so).

Reality set in for him once I came home from the hospital. It was fun and new to have a baby brother, but hard not to have all my attention. When those moments happened, I just tried to empathize with him. "It's kind of hard having a baby in the house. Sometimes Mommy can't pay attention to you. Sometimes the baby needs Mommy's attention." Once I said that to him a couple of times and he knew that I really did understand his feelings, he had an easier time accepting things.

If your oldest starts to act up, try to remember that transitions are hard for anyone and especially hard for 3 year olds. When you can, spend special time just with him. He needed to know that he is still special to you. If you can't pay attention to him and need to take care of the baby, that's just he way it goes.

Once in awhile make sure you choose him over the baby. Sometimes baby really can wait. Baby probably won't like it, but baby also won't remember it. But your son will remember you saying, "I'm sorry, Joey, but Billy needs me right now. I'll change your diaper in just a minute." Of course baby won't understand what you're saying, but big brother will!

Transitions aren't always easy, but it won't be long before your oldest doesn't even remember life without his little brother.

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answers from Richland on

Don't over prepare. I am old and all the cranky that goes with it at times. I don't understand the idea of preparing sibs for younger sibs. You drag them into this fantasy of how the baby will be. Newborns are never the fantasy. Doesn't this set up the not what I bargained for send them back response?

I much rather handle responses to what is actually happening so explaining the moment in the moment.

I guess I see it as the answer to is this shot going to hurt. You go with it won't be so bad, or in the case of the baby, this will be wonderful, then you get a screaming kid crying that their arm is falling off! I go with yes but it should stop hurting quickly. I always get the, that wasn't so bad.

Isn't it better to get well that wasn't so bad when you are talking about family?

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answers from Washington DC on

I agree with Julie S. My kids are 22 months apart and 23 months apart. Honestly, we never really did anything special to prepare them at all...we talked about baby a little bit, but nothing big. We never had an issue with any of them accepting or welcoming the new baby into the house.

The transition to two was harder than to 3, but it wasn't really hard at all. They are both your kids and you make it work I guess.

Good luck and congratulations on baby!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

Don't allow the baby to interfere too much with the older child's life. Avoid making excuses like "we can't go to the playground because the baby is napping", or "you can't go outside because the baby needs to eat". Babies can sleep and eat anywhere!

Have your older child start nursery school a couple of days a week so he gets time away from the baby.

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answers from Boston on

Be prepared to be logistically challenged for a while and know that it's normal and that you WILL get the hang of it. I remember taking my two youngest (22 months apart) out to Babies R Us when my youngest was a couple of weeks old and it was a very long day! Packing a diaper bag, the double stroller, snacks and toys for my toddler, my purse, and the items I was returning felt like packing for a vacation. Then there was the pickle of how do I get this all out to the car and who do I bring first? I think my general routine back then was to buckle the baby in his seat (the bucket carrier thing) and put that on the mudroom floor, then bring my toddler and any bags I could carry get out to the car, buckle him in, turn on the car to warm it up, then go back and get the baby and any other bags, secure him into the base, make sure I had everything else (including the stroller) and then go. Phew! Then at the store I had to figure out again what to do first (park, remove keys, unload and open stroller, put bags in the stroller, then pop the baby into the stroller base, then the toddler). And again, how to load the car up and unload at home.

Eventually I got the hang of it and it became second nature, but I remember wanting to cry that first time out with all that I had to THINK about just coming and going places.

It'll be like that at home too, where you have to figure out who you can take your eyes off of first. A 3 year old is slightly more predictable and a lot more able to follow directions than one just turning 2 so that should make things a little easier but yeah, it's just a new level of planning and thinking at first and then, suddenly, you're an old pro and it all just comes together.

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answers from Chicago on

I think 3 years is a great age gap. Big brother should easily adjust. My son never missed a beat, while my oldest ( 21 months between her and her brother), really struggled with the addition.

The most important thing is to be kind to yourself. You can't do it all, so don't beat yourself up. Also, plan out some activity bags for your 3 year old. When baby needs you, give him a bag to explore. Also, make sure you create quality alone time with your oldest everyday day. Work on keeping that bond strong, and he will adjust quickly.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Learn to master the Moby Wrap early on, so that you can wear your infant while having hands free to play with your 3 year old. My kids have this same age gap, and my 3 year old was great about understanding that I couldn't play when the baby needed to nurse. As long as I would say (and follow through with) "In 15 minutes when Baby is done eating, I can play Thomas Trains (or whatever) with you." My 2nd had reflux, and this worked great because keeping him vertical in the wrap after nursing helped him feel better AND gave me the freedom to play with my 1st.

ETA: Oh, another post reminded me of this. When you can, make a point to say to the baby "Just a minute, I'll help you after I help BigBrother." No, the baby won't understand. But your older child will understand that sometimes he has to wait while you help the baby, and sometimes the baby has to wait while you help BigBrother. I think these kinds of small things really help avoid sibling rivalry as they grow.

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answers from Williamsport on

My advice is simplify simplify, simplify! I needed to accept that I could do LESS each day and be OK with it rather than stressing about it. If everyone is fed and loved then you've done well that day. Don't make elaborate plans when you don't need to. Savor the chaos. It's brief. Mine are 8, 6 and 4 now and it's SO MUCH easier than when babies and toddlers were in the mix. Just go with the flow. I always expected that siblings WOULD accept each other and be helpful. My extended family is huge and has never given credence to the "babies are hard for older sibs" philosophy. I think what you believe and live by will be what happens. Sounds like big brother and parents are well prepared to enjoy the new baby! Congratulations! Its a surprisingly natural and happy transition!

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answers from Chicago on

just roll with it. and don't expect baby #1 to love it lol. he has the fantasy of a new playmate going on. but in reality its a screaming, pooping machine that gets all of mommys time and attention. so just bring baby home and start your new life. let big brother help or go play. but try not to say over and over "wait til I'm done with baby" or he will hate the baby. set your self up ahead of times with things like something for him to do while you nurse, and have his snacks etc ready. so he doesn't have to constantly wait. also my number one is stay home as long as you can lol. don't go out in public for a bit. navigating a restaurant is hard with a new baby and one who is mobile. good luck and congrats

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answers from Los Angeles on

Congratulations! I found #2 the hardest adjustment.

Your 3 year old may become a little more needy when the baby is born. Suddenly, things he could do on his own, or be patient for, he now needs help with "right now". And that "right now" is often when you are wrapped up with the baby. Particularly nursing. I found I needed to get as much settled as I could before nursing- a trip to the bathroom, a drink, a snack etc. For the 3 year old, that is. Inevitably he will still ask you for something the moment you start nursing. I have heard it is helpful to have a basket of toys for the older one, some new stuff, that you pull out when you are nursing to keep him busy. I didn't think of this but I wish I had!

Expect about 6-8 weeks before everything settles down and your older child adjusts. He also might have random tantrums or upset about silly things he never would have made a stink over before.

I also found myself a little sad for the "lost" relationship with my older child, once I had the second. I felt it could never be the same again. It's true, it won't. The older one has to share the attention now. I still look back on that time when it was just me, hubs and baby #1 with fondness and nostalgia. It will never be that easy again! You also feel bad for the 2nd child, because it doesn't get near the attention the first did. But a new normal develops, everyone adjusts, and a precious relationship between siblings grows that makes it all worth it.

Currently going through the process of integrating #3 into our family (4 weeks and counting) and finding it much easier this time around.

Good luck! Enjoy, all the stages speed by so fast.

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answers from Raleigh on

Make some dinners in advance. It was odd, but even my own family didn't help me much with my second (whereas they did with my first). I guess they figured I knew what I was doing and didn't need help??
Have a special gift ready for your son for when the baby is born. It does make them feel special to be included like that. Maybe a "Big Brother" tshirt or something similar.
Finally, find alone time for your son everyday. Whether it's giving him a bath or reading to him at bed, he needs to know he feels loved even more so when a baby is taking all your attention.

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answers from Norfolk on

Cherish these last few weeks with your oldest child.
Remember that although the new baby will need you, your oldest will need you too - so try to fit in as much one on one time with him after the new baby comes.
Don't be upset with him if he wants to send the baby back to the hospital after a week or so.
Also, try your best not to force the kids to be together all the time.
Siblings need breaks from each other.

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answers from New York on

When someone offers to help take them up on it. Let them take your the older brother on adventures that are fun for big boys but not for babies. Or let them take care of the baby and spend some time doing something special with your big guy. Sleep as much and whenever you can. Don't feel guilty for not meeting everyone's needs all the time. When nothing is right take a deep breath. If you make it to the end of the day and everyone is alive and well then you've done a good job. If someone give you stupid advice just smile, nod and do whatever you feel is right. When you make a mistake it's not the end of the world. And my final advice is to remember that little ones grow fast so if given the choice of cleaning the house or playing with your children always choose playing with your children.

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answers from Spokane on

My oldest turned 4 just before baby brother was born. What we made sure to do was special time for him every day with just me, just dad and sometimes the grandparents would come get him to go do something fun so he wasn't just stuck hanging around the house with the baby.
My oldest adored his little brother and was very helpful. He would get his diapers or a blanket or whatever. But he was a little hurt and a little angry with me. I was okay with that. He had some feelings he needed to work out and I much preferred he took them out on me than his little brother. We talked a lot and I tried my best to give him one on one when the baby was sleeping (that was the most difficult b/c when you just had one you could sleep when the baby sleeps but not now! I took that time to spend it with my oldest. He needed that time.).

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answers from New York on

1. Enjoy
2. Accept help
3. Don't take on too much
4. Go out every day even if just for a little walk or a local park if weather permits.
5. If others want to do something for you, have them make a meal you can freeze or have them clean or maybe take your 3 year old for a playdate. Whatever it is pick something useful for yourself!
6. Have 2 ready to go diaper bags. One in the house and one in the car with everything you need incl non perishable snacks for your 3 yo, and some little trains or cars etc.
7. ENJOY IT!!!!!!!


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answers from Santa Fe on

My advice is to not worry. Every mom has these same thoughts when going from one to two. You worry about how you will logistically handle two. And you worry how your oldest will handle it. But you know all works out. You learn how to juggle both of them. You get down your new routine. You even become great at it! Before you know it having 2 kids is's just the new normal. Your oldest will be fine too. He may be a little jealous at first. He may want to pretend to be a baby. Or not. He will get used to it too though. It's amazing to me how fast the oldest kid becomes so used to having a sibling he cannot even remember not ever having one.

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answers from Beaumont on

I would be sure and factor in one on one time with each parent for the older child. It could be as little as 15 minutes a day but he needs to be reminded that he still has your time and energies.

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answers from New York on

Remember less is more. I never made a big deal about the new baby. Yes we talked a little bit about it. Brought the baby home and just incorporated them into family. Sometimes when you continuously talk about new baby etc. it backfires. At 3 yo he should be pretty independent so going out should not be an issue. Of course, the first couple of weeks are an adjustment. Set your expectations low.

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answers from Houston on

JB's spot on about the complicated dance involving multiple kids and going out in public. I developed a few strategies. First and foremost I taught my oldest to hold on to my trouser leg whenever I let go of his hand. Next our car is large enough I could unbuckle my oldest and he could climb down from his seat, standing in the backseat while I dealt with my little one. Or I could have him climb into the car and across to his seat while I got my little one buckled in. That was a huge help so I didn't have to worry about my big guy standing around in a parking lot. Finally I always took a less is more approach to outings. I never packed too much in a small carry bag - one diaper per kid and wipes mostly. Everything else (change of clothes, extra diapers, wipes, roll of paper towels, etc.) lived in the trunk. No point in dragging around more than needed and if it comes down to a diaper or clothing disaster, chances were heading to the car was the wisest choice anyway.

Mine were close in age (less than 2 years) so I had to constantly remind myself how little my big one was. Honestly, though, no matter their age everyone struggles with the transition so deep breaths all around. I wish I had done more one on one outings with my oldest before but we managed to get a few trips in. Also I wish I had put my oldest in some kind of care a few days a week so I could really focus on my baby. I did a disservice to all of us in the beginning trying to juggle everyone and not being able to just focus on one at a time. I needed help and should have sought it out sooner.

I deliberately put my baby after my oldest many times. I never wanted my oldest to feel like a second class citizen as a result of the new baby. I can remember swaddling my screaming baby and plopping him down for a few minutes while I got my oldest milk or a snack or whatever. The whole time I talked all of us through the experience. "Baby, you are fine; babies cry, sometimes a lot. Big brother, let's get you what you need and let's talk to Baby so he knows he can hear him. Big brother, what do you think Baby needs?" etc. etc. etc. Even know my oldest is very calm when my little guy pitches a fit. He just looks at me and says 'babies cry, right, momma?"

For us as working parents finding one on one time with everyone is tough. We put our littlest down first and spend time with our oldest. Then he goes to bed and it's time for us as a couple or as individuals. In general for me the single biggest culture shock was the stark reality somebody always needs something. It can run you ragged at times; you get one settled only to have to deal with the other and then it starts all over again when done.

P.S. Beware the oldest trying to help. For example I turned my back for a moment and that was all it took for my oldest to pick up my baby. BAM! He hit the hardwood floors and chaos ensued. I had both of them shrieking and it was madness to calm down. Not my finest moment for sure but a lesson learned.

P.P.S. Shopping carts and multiple kids and your groceries/purchases. This one was always a pain for me and I don't have any words of wisdom.

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answers from Kansas City on

Not really much advice, just go with it. Everyone will learn to adjust. Every family dynamic is different and what works for one family may not work for another. Just make sure to keep 1:1 time with the 3 year old so he does not feel left out or feel he isn't important. Good luck and congrats!

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answers from Jacksonville on

Be excited, don't worry.

Help him understand that babies are BABIES (they can't do stuff for themselves yet, and need help learning stuff), and that he can HELP his new baby brother to learn how to do stuff as he grows.

Family is FAMILY and the fact that each of them (son and baby bro) are part of your family unit is a special thing. Foster that "family" awareness from the start. There will never be anyone else like him. (well, in theory, if you have more kids, that might not be exactly true, but...) His friends will not be family. His neighbors will not be family. His little brother, will be there for the good, the bad, Christmas, vacations, all of it.

Love doesn't get divided by siblings, it multiplies!

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answers from Miami on

My son #1 had just turned 4 when we welcomed son #2. Son #1 and I went to a "super sibling" class at the hospital where he learned about newborns and "infant safety". He is now almost 8 and still remembers going to that class. He still is concerned about choking hazards!

I made sure that son #1 had plenty of special time with his grandparents when I was in the hospital. Have daddy be sure to go home and spend time with him while you are in hospital but also have him visit and meet the baby. Son #1 made birthday cupcakes and goody bags to bring to meet the baby and we sung happy birthday - he remembers being in charge of the "birthday" party. Baby gave son #1 a "Big Brother" tshirt from Carters and the DVD - Cars.

Involve big brother when you can, have him bring you a clean diaper, sort the babies clothes in the laundry and do big boy stuff during baby naps.

Logistically, I didn't have a problem. Big boy didn't use a stroller anymore and I used a Bjorn and then an Ergobaby until baby was about 2 so I wasn't hampered by lack of hands or a stroller. I often read to big boy while nursing baby. Baby had to nap on the run because we had library story time, Soccer and mommy and me art classes to attend.

The hardest part for me was the first 4-6 weeks when we had to limit playdates and "exposure" for baby until he got those shots. After that, it was actually easier for me. I had someone else to sing to the baby, pick up pacis, etc.

Now at nearly 8 and 3, they are almost always really good playmates.
Big boy plays down a lot and baby boy plays up and it works out well. But they do fight in the car!!! That is a more recent development!

Good luck and best wishes!



answers from Honolulu on

Make sure... that Husband also knows... what having a new baby at home will be like and what it will mean.
Your older son, has an idea.
But does your Husband?
It is not common sense.
Meaning, once there are more children, the HOPE is that, Husband will be on board and DO things FOR you and the HOUSE and help with the baby and your older child, TOO.
And not just leave it ALL to you or expect YOU only, to be doing everything. And give you a break too, when you need it.

It is not only the older child that has to adjust to having more kids in the house. The Husband has to get used to it, too.
So make sure, you and he talk and that he knows, what he needs to do too.
Otherwise, it will be stressful.
And all on your shoulders. And then it gets irritating.

That is my advice for a growing family.
Don't forget about the Husband's role, and duties in all this.
Even if you are a SAHM, it does not mean that ONLY you, do it all.

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