I have a question for you. I have 3 boys (5,3,1, and a new boy coming in August). I am wondering about your experience in having so many children, and what you do to prepare. I have had fairly clear ideas to focus on as I’ve prepared for the births and lives of my other 3 boys, but I”m having a really hard finding ways to prepare for this little one, to find a way to connect to him. I don’t know if this even makes sense. 🙂 I know my other boys need lots of attention, and my thoughts are often spent on them, but I’m not quite satisfied with letting the baby take the back burner.
This question came to my inbox last week. It’s a great question! As mothers, especially mothers of many, we want to make sure that all of our children get the personal attention they need. Preparing for a newborn can be hard to do especially when all of our kids are still young. We don’t want anyone to feel neglected or forgotten but it feels so overwhelming when the multitudes are wanting and needing our attention all at once!
As more and more children have joined our family I have found myself doing a similar routine to prepare for the arrival of each newborn. Right before I fall asleep is the time when I connect to the baby within my womb. I rub my tummy and talk to the baby and enjoy the quiet and peace in the house. I also sew a special quilt just for the baby that is theirs to keep forever without having to share it with anyone. I take time to choose the right fabric combination and create a pattern that is unique to that quilt. While I sew I imagine all the nights the quilt will be used to tuck the baby into bed.
My husband and I also pray for guidance in choosing the right name to fit our baby. This helps us pay attention to any promptings or feelings we get about what this child will be like and what names will fit their personality.
When the baby is born they take center stage! I remember when I was right at your stage of having three little ones and feeling completely overwhelmed (three kids was the hardest for me) and wondering how I would make it when our fourth was born. I ran across this article by Diane Hopkins called The Baby IS the Lesson. It was a game changer for me! From then on I wasn’t so worried about whether the other kids were getting enough attention. I gathered them around the couch when I nursed and we read or sang songs.
There are many who have been there and still are there. To get even more ideas I went to the source – moms of many (all with six kids or more) – to see what they suggest. Hopefully you’ll find a few suggestions that just click while you are reading and you’ll know what will be good for you and your family. You’ll also find varied experiences that might surprise you! Here are ideas from fourteen other mothers.
Jessica – I’m not sure there’s a lot I do while pregnant besides pray for the new baby. The kids on the outside just need so much more attention than the one on the inside.
But, once the baby gets here, I really give myself time off to bond and recover. I let other people help with the big kids. My husband takes on more. I let people who offer rides and childcare and meals give them. And I just sit and bond and snuggle and nap for a few weeks with my new little person. I feel like it gets us off on the right foot and helps me to connect to the new baby.
Raelyn – I was in exactly the same boat when I was having my fourth boy (ages new 5, 3.5, and not quite 1 as boy 3 and 4 are 13 months apart) I think the more kids you have the more important a baby moon becomes. I wish I knew that several kids ago. I think moms of one or two kids get so caught up in “social” activities and lessons for little kids it can add a lot of stress where it is not needed. So dont over schedule lessons and extra curricular activities ( I only do swim lessons in summer as that is a life skill until they are 8) There was a good article on how today’s society has put so much effort on “quality parenting time” that they overlook “quality sibling time” and today’s parents try to be both. one of the benefits of a large family is that siblings entertain each other. It isn’t the mothers responsibility.
There is a big difference in independence between 5-6. So I think more of the unknown in “how do I handle one more kid” is because she hasn’t experienced the next level of growing up yet with her oldest.
Ruth – One thing I love to do is to have the kids talk to my belly so the baby will know and recognize their voices too. My teens weren’t really into it this time but my other kids would lay on my belly and chat with the baby or sing to the baby.
I love to talk with my older kids about the coming baby and the things we will do once the baby is born. I have learned after so many that even though the baby occupies my thoughts it doesn’t do that for the rest of the family. So talking to or about the baby coming helps get everyone excited. I love to snuggle and bond once they are outside my belly.
Lanette – When pregnant with my fourth I remember struggling a bit when the ultrasound showed a boy not a girl like I was expecting. So I remember trying to get to know him before he was born so I could be connected to him. During the day was hard chasing the other kids around but at night I would lay on my back and talk to him while I patted my belly. Tell him about my day, ask him about his and just express my love to him.
Sarah – Find a quiet hour to sit down and write a letter to your unborn baby. Tell him how happy you are he is coming and what he means to your family. You will have to focus on him during this process and you can’t help but feel more bonded to him. It may even lead to some heavenly inspiration about who he is and what his mission in life will be.
Jill – I spend lots of time skin-to-skin with my new babies. I think it’s a beautiful way to bond. Before the baby comes I enjoy washing and folding little clothes, buying little diapers… I would encourage her to teach her little boys to sit quietly while she reads stories to them. If they can do that she will be able to sit down and nurse more easily.
Ana – All I can say is that I am in AWE of mothers who talk about how much they look forward to meeting their new little baby. I usually lie awake the night before each birth wondering how I am going to manage everything, thinking about the fact that a “stranger” is coming into my life and HOW am I going to love them? I usually tell my husband I’m not sure I want another baby–which always prompts him to say “It’s a little late.” (If you are wondering, it has always worked out and I fell in love with my babies after they arrived–my baby hunger works backward. I never get it BEFORE getting pregnant, but once they are born I do and even start planning out how I am going to volunteer at the hospital holding crack babies when all of mine are grown. 🙂 ) So to sum up: I don’t think you can prepare.
Viki – I eat as much chocolate as possible while pregnant so hopefully some of it gets through the umbilical cord to them and their heart quickens a tiny bit at the rush of goodness in their bloodstream and at that happy moment as they kick in delight, I smile, and we bond. J/K, but seriously, the more kids I had, the less I worried about it. It sounds weird, but I just kept telling myself “take no thought for the morrow” and “consider the lillies” and things like that. I often remind myself that I am child ten of eleven and I felt plenty of love and belonging all my life.
Amanda – As soon as we find out if it is a boy/girl we but them a new outfit. It is usually one that they come home in. We tend to have the basics and hand me downs so this gives them something that is theirs. I try to shop specifically for the one I am pregnant with. For example, when making my shopping list I would add diapers for (new baby name), wipes for (baby), ect. Each one gets a new blessing outfit too! My family had one for boys and one for girls. I was not lucky enough to get either one given to me so I want each of my kids to have the one they were blessed in.
As soon as a name is picked out, I start talking to and about the baby by their name. This seems to make them a part of our lives before birth.
As the kids get older and have their personalities shining through, we try to do different activities that each kid likes. For example, W loves baseball. He gets to play competitive baseball. This means double header games on Saturdays. We plan a picnic with the other kids at the ballpark. I always let others bring a favorite toy or such to make sure they don’t get bored. Then when someone else has an activity we do similar things with W knowing he had to go and support his other sibling at T ball, track, band concert or piano recital.
I also take an interest in what they love. M loves music. I let her choose the radio station while driving or let her download her new favorite song so we can listen to it together. J loves frogs. I know way too much about frogs! It makes him happy that I know everything. It goes for each of the 8 children.
Jennette – It seems to me once the new baby is born, it’s the baby that takes up all your time and the older kids who get put on the back burner. I try to read to the older children or just have an attentive conversation with one of them or help someone with their homework each time I sit down to breastfeed.
I try to make the purpose of a lot of the must-do tasks be to strengthen relationships: We clean together to strengthen relationships, we cook together to strengthen relationships, we take care of the baby together to strengthen relationships, etc.
We think of games we can play with the baby, like “Baby’s gonna get you!” where I chase them around the house carrying the baby and they run squealing, pic-a-boo using the baby’s hands and face, count the baby’s fingers/toes, name his body parts, let older kids pick the baby’s clothes, let the baby pick their clothes. Dipping the baby in with the older kids for a small part of their bath time is a favorite. I’ll have silly conversations with them where I move the baby’s chin with my finger as though he is the one talking, and they respond to him. They love that! That kind of thing. Anything that will integrate and unite everybody.
Liz – I think the 1st year or 2 of any baby’s life, the baby takes the central role just because of his/her needs (at least all of my babies have been really needy). But in that time, I still try and connect everyday with each my older kids in very simple ways: reading a story together, helping me with laundry or making food, even just a tickle and laugh. Our culture often puts all the focus what attention parents give their children and completely overlook what sibling interaction and family togetherness contribute to each child’s well-being. Attention from parents is important, but spending time with siblings and just being together as a family brings so much to the table too.
Julie – With each of my pregnancies I have always told the children that this was OUR baby, not mom’s or dad’s but emphasized that WE were having a baby. I tried to make a blanket just for the new little one. When baby came with the first few children I found myself saying to them, “please wait while I do ____with the baby” I realized that I said that a lot. So with the last few I started to tell the baby, “please wait while I do _____- with your brother/sister”. The older siblings thought that was awseome that I would tell the baby to wait for them. But we also tried to include everyone in the things that we do. The older kids help with getting diapers/clothes/socks/blankets…..whatever for the baby and we try to work together to do the chores.
Lisa – The baby isn’t taking the back burner. Don’t look at it that way. When we are pregnant, SO MUCH is all about the baby! And then when they’re born, it’s really all about the baby! Let your older boys enjoy this time with you. Cuddle them, involve them in talking and preparing for baby and then as much as possible when the baby arrives. For me, connecting with the unborn child is just a natural thing but perhaps when we have so many little ones, it becomes a subconscious thing…and I think that’s ok.
Lani – The baby does take center stage, but as in all parts of family life, the experience of having a new baby can be used to teach the other children. When older siblings are needing the time that must be given to the baby, just use that time to invite the siblings to love and care for the baby. One of the most important things you can teach your children is how to love each other, and that is easiest when they are small and easy to love! I believe the greatest thing you can give your child is a sibling–no one shares a larger percentage of your life with you than do your siblings.
Many thanks to these fourteen mothers who offered their advice and experience.
Remember, you are not alone! We know how difficult it can be but also how joyous it is when a new baby joins a family. Enjoy every precious moment!
This post is part of the Establish a House series which runs every Wednesday on this blog. Tips and tricks on all aspects of creating a home are covered from cleaning and cooking to media use and music lessons, religious and moral training to potty training.