Practical and loving ideas for involving big sister in caring for new twins.

Making Room for More

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Categories Guilt, Independence, Infants, Older Children, Parenting, Relationships, Siblings, Singletons, Twinfant Tuesday

Every mother worries how her first-born will adapt to life with a new baby. How can we quantify and plan for the way our hearts expand to supply enough love for more babies? When preparing for twins, I wondered how bad it would be to bring twins into a family that already housed a three-year-old.

It turned out not to be a matter measured as, “how bad,” but more “how different.” From the beginning, we were keenly aware of how important it would be, during those first few weeks, to give her a role to play as big sister, and to keep up on our promise to love her. Love comes in cuddles, extra helpings of dessert, shared bubble baths, movie nights and special walks together, at least when one is three years old.

The First Days at Home

My husband and I kept a close eye on how our oldest handled the transition. It was important to involve her in as many of the new changes as possible, so we did: She bottle-fed, sang to them, changed diapers, and drew pictures to decorate their nursery. Anytime a visitor came with a gift for the babies, we made sure to express our gratitude, but not evoke much fanfare if there wasn’t also a gift for the new big sister. This was the beginning of our learning the lesson of being even-Steven with everything in a family with multiple children.

bigsister1

One-on-One Time

We chose to do a combination of direct breastfeeding and bottle-feeding pumped milk and formula, which gave my husband and I some free time to spend one-on-one with our oldest girl. This. Was. KEY. Honestly, having a energetic three-year-old was often more work than having twinfants. She did not care if we were sleep-deprived, and she had more needs to be met than ever before. Initially, this intimidated me, and fed my worry about how I would ever have enough time and energy to satisfy each daughter.

Each day, I took a moment or two to capitalize on time together. If she woke before the twins, we would enjoy a quiet breakfast together, just us two. If the twins happened to nap at the same time, I would take her for a walk, or a quick trip into town. If all were awake, I would pile everyone onto my lap and read books, letting my oldest have a chance to ‘read’ to her sisters.

bigsister3

Let Their Bond Grow Organically

I watched my oldest with our twins and recognized there was a new dynamic in the family that required very little from me. New sister relationships were forming, and I moved out of the way. Sometimes, she was too rough with them, and they would cry or whimper in response. Rather than scold her, I watched her face process the twins’ reaction, and she learned how to better handle them. Giving her the space to learn how to be a big sister to twins on her own has given her the confidence to forge ahead, to the beat of her own drum.

She has learned when to shut them out (kindly), because she needs to be alone and doesn’t want to be a big sister sometimes. That’s her prerogative, and rightly so. In turn, the twins have learned to idolize their big sister, and today at age three themselves, they are elated when they are invited to play with her.

We also let her paint on their faces; It was non-toxic and washable!

bigsister4

When Our Hands Were Full

There were, of course, times I was busy feeding the twins, or rocking them to sleep, and I couldn’t physically respond to our oldest’s requests. I would do my best to explain I could help her with my words, but not my hands. I would sing songs if she had a tantrum, I would play word games if she was amenable. I even took to setting up a pile of stuffed animals beside me as I nursed, so I could throw them at her if she was getting into something she wasn’t supposed to!

Telling her, “I’m sorry, mama’s busy feeding” was heartbreaking and, I’ll be honest, is a guilt that doesn’t go away, although it changes as they grow older. I never feel like I am giving each of my (now four) girls everything they need at all times. How can I possibly? I cannot raise four girls with 24/7 individual attention from their parents, but I am happily raising four girls who have established a true sisterhood. They have learned from infancy the values of cooperating with others, empathy, shared joy, and patience.

Sarah is the mother to four girls, two of whom are identical twins Hailey and Robin. They were born in the Yukon in a very small hospital at 35 weeks, and though they were small, they were mighty. She now lives in Ontario, where her high school sweetheart husband works very hard, and she stays home with the girls, freelance reporting on the side. In her past life, she was a journalist who covered everything from fast-paced federal politics to cats stuck in trees. Her writing has appeared in local newspapers and magazines, and in national publications like the Globe and Mail and ParentsCanada Magazine. She is a yogi, a mediocre cook, an awesome Beyonce dance move imitator, and an avid blogger at Cure for Boredom.

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SarahN

Sarah is the mother to four girls, two of whom are identical twins Hailey and Robin. They were born in the Yukon in a very small hospital at 35 weeks, and though they were small, they were mighty. She now lives in Ontario, where her high school sweetheart husband works very hard, and she stays home with the girls, freelance reporting on the side. In her past life, she was a journalist who covered everything from fast-paced federal politics to cats stuck in trees. Her writing has appeared in local newspapers and magazines, and in national publications like the Globe and Mail and ParentsCanada Magazine. She is a yogi, a mediocre cook, an awesome Beyonce dance move imitator, and an avid blogger at Cure for Boredom.

38 thoughts on “Making Room for More”

  1. What a great idea for a post. I have thought about doing a guest post or a series of interviews as well.
    Adjusting to having more then one child is always a challenge but I couldn’t imagine the trials of multiples. The little girl painting the twins faces is just priceless and I smiled big when I saw it. Thanks for hosting #TwinklyTuesday.
    Trista, Domesticated Momster recently posted Favorite Quote #9My Profile

  2. Ahh this post has come at the perfect timing for me!! As my c-section date gets closer (eeek 5 weeks today!) I spend more and more time worrying about how my first born who has only just turned two will cope! There’s some really lovely advice in here! Thanks so much for sharing :) x
    Seychellesmama recently posted My Expat Family 12My Profile

  3. Sounds like you did a great job of making sure your eldest was involved in helping with her baby sisters and making the most of those little moments when you were able to give her undivided attention. Love the fact that you gave your big girl space to discover the impact of her actions on her sisters for herself where possible – I’ve definitely been guilty of jumping in too quickly with my two at times. Beautiful post, thank you for sharing. #twinklytuesday
    Louise (Little Hearts, Big Love) recently posted What we loved about In the Night Garden LiveMy Profile

  4. I have found going from 1 to 2 easier than 0-1 but I couldn’t imagine going from 1-3! When I’m up during the night feeding or settling my baby I often wonder how parents of multiples cope! You seem to have taken it all in your stride! Love the first photo – there is something so adorable about little feet! Thanks for hosting #twinkletuesdays
    Amy (Feeding Finn) recently posted Traditional Weaning or Baby-led Weaning?My Profile

  5. Useful tips and sounds like you are doing a great job! I have 4 so I know how difficult it is giving them all ‘special’ time. The photos are fab :) Thanks for hosting #TwinklyTuesday

  6. great post I particularly like the part where you mention throwing the soft toys at your eldest brilliant idea!! I’m one of four girls and speaking to my mum now as an adult she often worried if she was being fair to all of us with her time. But as a child growing up in a large family I never felt like I wasn’t getting enough attention. I was always at my happiest when we were all doing activities together and often as we got older we didn’t want mum hanging around we were quite happy occupying ourselves with dress up etc which was a welcome break for her! Try not to worry too much it sounds like your doing a great job to me!
    zoe dunn recently posted 10 Easy Peasy Jobs for Mums MinionsMy Profile

  7. You’re right in everything you say. Bringing another child into your family (two more in your case, well done!!) makes parents feel guilty. I cried every day leading up to our seconds birth and every day after for a couple of weeks. It’s so important to make baby 1 feel included in everything with the baby so they don’t get jealous and it does bond them together. We were lucky it was an instant love from baby 1 to baby 2. One on one time is really important like you say, it’s a hard time for them and a real treat to get our undivided attention. Your children look adorable!

  8. We do not have a second child, but I have always wondered how Monkey would cope. Theres some great tips in this post I especially like the one about letting her process how she deals with them. Will bookmark incase we ever have a second 😀 xx #TwinklyTuesday
    Mudpie Fridays recently posted Toddler Memory GameMy Profile

  9. Visiting from Twinkly Tuesday

    Such great advice, I always worry about adding another child in our family, we just have the one, but she’s gotten so used to be an only child I do wonder how she would take having another child around. We would like another one, but haven’t fully decided if it’s best for us, but I’m glad to see such a beautiful relationship between the three of them :)

    liz @ sundays with sophie

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