Child Caring

This first-born is still a baby herself!

My 13-month- old will hit/try to climb on her 1-month old sister, I keep pulling them apart.... if I have both of them in my arms or the younger one in arm, my oldest is loving to her but as soon as I sit the youngest down, the oldest goes from a loving big sis to a mean sister... I keep telling the older one, "no, that hurts," but I don't now what else I can do. I even put my oldest in her bouncer to try and give them theire own time and I even give them one on one .... but nothing seams to help.... PLZ HELP and on top of it all, my 1month old has a cold, so we're barely getting any sleep :(

From: Kewlgrl, Boardman (Oh? Pa? OK? Wisc? reader doesn't specify)

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Dear Kewlgrl,

First things first. At 13 months, your oldest is still a baby herself. When you say, "No, that hurts," she doesn't know what those words mean but she does understand the feelings and emotion behind them, which is undoubtedly some level of unhappiness. So her take-away is that most of the time when she goes near this creature called the baby, "mama is unhappy with me." That will either create resentment/confusion toward the baby, you or both.

Here are some alternative responses:

1. It's great that you are making one-on-one time with the 13-month-old. That would have been my first piece of advice. Do you also label it, "Mom and Jane's time"? Do you have someone else available to run if the baby needs caring for? And do you tell your first-born, "Grandma will take care of the baby. This is time for just you and me." I know I said she doesn't understand words, but it's important to say these words anyway, again, because she does get the feeling behind them and also because it's a good reminder to yourself that you are committed to time alone with her.

2. A big part of your job right now is to be eagle-eyed and eared. u>You cannot leave the two of them alone for a nano-second. At 13-months, your first-born is too impulsive; she could cause hurt in the blink of an eye. That doesn't mean she can't have contact with the baby, but it must be adult-controlled contact. Demonstrate how she can touch the baby by taking her hand in yours and gently guiding it to the baby's leg, for instance (just not the face, for now). Tell her in a soothing voice, "See how soft the baby's skin is? See how you can make nice to the baby?" This kind of role-modeling will rub off over time.

3. Anticipate your first-born's moods and behaviors. Climbing on the baby? Why would you leave the baby in a place where the older could reach her by climbing? I suspect it happens when you are trying to hold them both at the same time. Don't. Too risky. Instead, create as much cuddle time as possible with the first-born and try doing your cuddling with the infant out of the older one's sight. If at any time you think the FB is about to grab the baby, gently and quickly take her arm and move it away, or otherwise distract her: "Oh, you want to make nice to your sister? Here's how," and model yet again what is OK. It is always preferable to teach by positive example than to scold because of a negative behavior.

4. Lastly, as I mention in my book, be honest with her: "Little babies aren't very much fun, are they? When they are little, all they do is poop and pee and cry and eat and sleep." That removes any expectation she might have about the baby as a playmate. Also tell her, "In the beginning, babies take a lot of a mom's time because they can't do anything for themselves." If she does express negative thoughts about the baby, ("No baby!" "Go 'way, baby!"), don't try to talk her out of them. She means what she's saying at the moment and she's entitled to those feelings. Little kids' feelings turn on a Cheerio and they are not predictive of the sibling's future relationship. In fact, I'd name her feelings for her: "Right now, you're wishing there was no baby in our family, aren't you?" That level of empathy will score you lots of points in the understanding and credibility department. Because your first-born is so young, you've got at least a few years of this kind of behavior ahead of you. My advice is as much for you to get yourself into a different mindset as it is for to know how to keep your children safe.

Oh yeah, and did I mention? Cuddle time, cuddle time, cuddle time!