Baby Home: Preparing the Welcoming Committee (cont.)

"My wife actually made a birthday cake and popped it in the freezer," says Dr. Hagan, whose children are 21, 18, and 14-year-old twins. It's just another way of celebrating the birth in a way that an older child understands and can be part of ... And, it feels good."

Dr. Tolmas suggests that a friend or relative take your older child out when you bring the baby home so that when he bursts excitedly through the door, the first thing he sees is you, without the baby, to shower him with kisses and your undivided attention.

That's Life, Plus One

The new baby might appear exciting to your older child at first, but when reality sets in there's bound to be some bad feelings, whether it's resentment, disillusionment or some other negative emotion. It's OK.

"Henry went through a period of acting out, but towards us -- he never took it out on the baby," says Burby. "He'd stare at me with this look of disgust. I really had moments where I thought he hated me. I had horrible guilt about it and would just sob."

Even parents may go through a sense of loss. Jennifer Teague remembers sitting in the rocking chair nursing her daughter on the third day and crying as she watched her son, Jackson, playing independently on the floor nearby.

"I felt bad doing this to him," Teague says. "I was mourning what we had lost. We'll never have that back again, and that's OK, but at that moment it was painful."

The important thing is to accept your child's negative feelings, experts say. Teague remembers a visit the family made to a friend, who asked her son what that "thing" was and why his mom had to be holding it all the time. Couldn't they just get rid of her?

"His eyes got very big and he rolled his eyes and said, 'Because she's part of the family.' But he was so relieved. He wasn't carrying those feelings all by himself, and after that he was lighter. It was incredible," says Teague.

Don't tighten the reigns too much, either. Let the baby get used to the television and videocassette recorder going on in the house, instead of shushing the older child. Or if she's being too loud, just invite her to a tea party or some other quieter activity, suggests Dr. Tolmas. And don't treat the baby like a sacred cow -- let your older child help, such as by bringing you the wipes or diapers.

True, everyone's exhausted, but Burby discovered that once she and her husband stopped admonishing Henry for small trespasses like leaving his toys in a mess and loosened family rules -- letting him stay up later or watch an extra video -- his behavior improved.

She also stopped play dates for a while. "Instead, I had people come over and just sit with him in the living room and read, or I'd have them hold the baby so I could be with him. That worked much better. After a few days he was back to being my buddy again."


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