When Number 1 becomes number 2

Up until now the star of this blog has been my son Luka, who is now 18 months old. Like all first borns he’s enjoyed undisturbed attention from both his parents, and a host of relatives who are frequently in his life. And then, one day recently, he was taken to the hospital. There was a lot of fuss over another small baby and slowly it dawned on him he has a baby sister, Annabelle. Now he has to share his parent’s attention.

This happens to all children who end up with siblings, and I’m guessing it’s probably one of the biggest hurdles parents have to overcome in a child’s emotional development. So, is he jealous? You bet he is. Amid all the excitement of the arrival of our daughter we couldn’t help noticing his change in demeanour.

Suddenly, this perky little boy went all quiet. He was curious to see what all the fuss was about and on several occasional tried to grab her or touch her, unaware how delicate she is. For sure his behaviour was strange (and it didn’t help that he had an undetected ear/nasal tract problem which was making him irritable), he would suddenly go into fit of crying.

So, what to do when number 2 comes along and number 1 suddenly finds out he’s no long the only number in the family? There is plenty of good advice on the topic in various baby books, I have a volume by the famous Miriam Stoppard called Complete Baby and Child Care (DK). It seems all babies eventually get over it, but it’s obviously a very trying period where you’ve got one baby needing attention every couple of hours from the mother, and another to balance in-between or sometimes at the same time.

When a baby is irritable it will cry and cry and want only the comfort of its mother, and even that’s not enough to satisfy a ‘cry fest’, where you simply cannot figure out what it is they want. We’ve have this quite often with Luka and it’s testing trying to pacify him when the other baby is mewing away wanting milk – which I cannot obviously give.

I’ve had plenty of sleep interrupted nights assisting with one baby while mummy is breast feeding the other. The other night at about 2am he awoke, as he often does, feeling irritable and was soon in a screaming tantrum, acting frustrated as he clung to his familiar little blanket and pillow. Nothing seemed to pacify him, he was simply venting frustration and was probably in a bad mood from waking. His mother was trying to quieten him down while simultaneously breast feeding Annabelle. It became obvious when he started trying to push her out the way.

Eventually we had to remove her from the nipple and I took care of her, while he promptly climbed into his mummy’s arms, curled up (he was exhausted by now from all the crying) and promptly fell asleep. Within a few minutes we had Annabelle back on the breast and the problem was solved.

So, with two babies only 18 months apart it can be very testing in the early stages. There is more to say on this subject, particularly on how to make your first child feel like she or he is not being neglected, so I’ll save it for the next blog entry.

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