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Caring for your kids when you have a newborn

Alice Gomstyn By Alice Gomstyn

Boy playing with toys while mother holds baby on couch

When I had my first child, I worried constantly about mastering skills like diapering and swaddling. By baby number 2, I had the basics covered and worried more about whether my son would tire of me always kissing his adorable face. (He didn’t!) But second-time moms face a different challenge than newbies: How to balance caring for a baby and older siblings at the same time. Here’s a look at some problems moms and dads face and ways to address them.

Challenge: Recovering from delivery makes it difficult to chase active toddlers around the house.

Solution: Get childcare help. If a traditional sitter is too expensive, consider hiring a responsible tween or teenager. These young mother’s helpers can entertain older kids while you’re busy with diaper changes and feedings. I found a 12-year-old who shot hoops with my son while I was inside with the baby. It was a win-win: My son was thrilled to be playing with a “big boy,” and I was thrilled that I didn’t have to juggle my little bundle with a basketball.

Your health insurance company may also be a good resource. The Resources for Living program, offered with some Aetna plans, can help you identify childcare options in your area.

Challenge: Tending to the baby’s needs leaves you little time to prepare meals for the family.

Solution: Check out a neighborhood mom group before your baby arrives. These clubs often organize “meal trains,” with members bringing home-cooked meals to families who have just welcomed newborns. Are your friends asking how they can help out? Assign them specific dishes and freeze whatever you don’t use for later. You can also fall back on basic dinner hacks like purchasing meal kits from the grocery store produce department. Just throw the pre-chopped vegetables and seasonings into a slow cooker or Dutch oven.

Challenge: It’s tough to entertain older kids on weekends while also caring for the baby.

Solution: Keeping kids home all day can quickly give everyone cabin fever. Happily, newborns are portable and can be taken along in strollers or carriers to a sibling’s sports event or playground trip. Planning ahead also pays off: Try scheduling playdates with an older child’s friend — preferably at their house. If those playdates coincide with your baby’s naps, you might even find yourself enjoying some peace and quiet on the weekend.

Challenge: Older brothers and sisters want to play too roughly with the baby.

Solution: Encourage siblings to be gentle with the baby by suggesting a game of peek-a-boo, performing an interactive song like Itsy Bitsy Spider and modeling other safe forms of play. And don’t forget the power of reading: A number of children’s picture books explore the relationship between new siblings and show children how to safely interact with newborns.

Challenge: The older kids feel ignored or jealous.

Solution: You can take steps to reassure older brothers and sisters of how loved they are. As with the “rough play” problem, children’s books about younger siblings can be a big help, this time delivering messages that emphasize parents’ love for all their children. Kids may also feel jealous that new babies get to do things that they used to do, like ride snug in a stroller. Then it helps to highlight privileges they get that babies don’t, like pedaling a tricycle. Even chores can be an opportunity to have fun together. I used to challenge my older son, then a toddler learning his words, to name kitchen tools as I emptied the dishwasher. I still remember giggling with him over that funny word “spatula.” It certainly wasn’t a conventional way to spend quality time together, but my son’s smiling face told me he didn’t mind one bit.

About the author

Alice Gomstyn is a veteran parenting blogger and business reporter. She is an admitted sugar addict but plans to cut back on the sweet stuff and load up on veggies like never before. Bring on the broccoli!