After a long hiatus, I have made time for blogging again. The past year has been busy with transitions, the biggest being the birth of my daughter in January. Being the mother of two has given me a whole new appreciation for the work that parents do and also a lot of inspiration for more (hopefully relevant) topics for this blog.
Parents expecting their second, third, or even fourth child may feel comfortable and confident with a new baby in the house having survived the first but there are some things that may need to be considered or discussed with a health-care provider that may impact the health and well being of the newest family member. Here is a list of five topics to consider:
1) Vaccines–Perhaps you decided to do an alternative or deferred vaccine schedule for your first child or skipped them altogether. This could impact the health of your second, especially if your first child is now in school or daycare around other kids with germs. When your first born was an only child staying at home with you, the risk for them getting sick was minimal; however, a baby in the house with a sibling who goes to school or daycare may be exposed to vaccine preventable illnesses that could be quite serious in infants under a year old. If you are at all concerned about having your infant vaccinated at such a young age, you should at least discuss with your health-care provider having all family members, including siblings, up-to-date with vaccines to reduce the risk of vaccine preventable illness to the infant. Even parents and adult caregivers should talk to their health-care providers about getting boosters such as the Tdap, which protects against Pertussis (one of the most prevalent vaccine preventable illnesses). While breast-feeding does provide some protection against some illnesses, it is not effective for all vaccine preventable diseases–this is another thing to discuss with your child’s health-care provider.
2) Childproofing–Most parents are diligent about childproofing the house when your their first child becomes mobile, but may need to revisit this with the second child. Maybe you stopped locking drawers and cabinets when your older child could understand the word “no” and stopped showing an interest in these restricted areas or maybe your childproofing equipment is broken or outdated and needs replacing–these are things that should be checked before your baby becomes mobile. You also need to consider baby-free play areas for your older child since their toys often contain small parts that are not safe for baby (children cannot always be relied upon to put unsafe toys out of their baby sibling’s reach, and they may grow resentful if restricted from playing with their own toys).
3) Sleep arrangements–Depending on the age of your oldest child you may need make some adjustments to your sleeping arrangements and bedtime routine in preparation for a new baby. Keep in mind that transitions such as moving to a toddler bed or a big bed can take some time for children to adjust to and shouldn’t be sprung on them as soon as the baby is born. If you still co-sleep with your child or children you may want to discuss things you can do to make sure you baby won’t be too disruptive to their sleep. It is also more important than ever for parents to go to sleep when their baby sleeps even if it means going to bed at the same time as their older child. Chronic sleep deprivation can affect the safety of the whole family–all it takes is an overly tired parent getting behind the wheel of a car with the family inside.
4) Siblings–Even if you grew up with siblings, you may not be fully prepared for parenting siblings. With oldest and only children, socialization usually involves planned and supervised play-dates with other children (usually with time constraints and little chance of huge conflicts arising during normal play). Siblings have the unique opportunity to practice social skills and problem solving simply by interacting with one another, which will inevitably result in fights or conflicts. As a parent, it is important to keep your children safe and help give them some tools and boundaries for their interactions without stepping in and solving all of their conflicts for them. Your children’s health-care provider should be able to guide you to parenting resources such as classes, books, and websites that can help by giving you tools to use in different scenarios that may come up in parenting multiple children. It can be especially useful for parents who have come from different family backgrounds or who were only children to attend parenting classes or family counseling sessions if conflicts arise in the family due to differences in parenting styles. Being fair and consistent with your parenting does not necessarily mean doing the same thing for every child (what works for one will not always work for the next).
5) Staying educated–Your health-care provider should be your first resource for staying up to date with information that will affect your youngest baby’s health, but it is just as important for parents to do research on their own when it comes to keeping your baby safe. Is all the equipment you used with your first child still safe to use with your youngest? When recommendations change, how concerned should you be about following the latest recommendation vs. doing what you did before? A couple of recent examples include BPA being banned from bottles and other products and a change in car-seat recommendations to keep children rear-facing until they reach the manufacturer’s weight limit or are at least 2 years of age. Vaccine schedules and recommendations are another thing that can change significantly over the course of a few years, so it is important to stay up-to-date and have discussions with your child’s health-care provider if you have questions about any of these things. It is also good to be prepared with some basic information to back up your parenting choices for the times when grandparents or other well-intentioned friends or family make comments such as “we used to do this when you were a baby and you turned out okay.” Parenting support groups and online forums can be a great place to get community support if you feel that you don’t get enough of this support from your own family and extended community.
Here are a few of my favorite resources for a variety of parenting and children’s health topics:
About the Author: Dr. Bowker is a Naturopathic Physician and owner of Snohomish Valley Holistic Medicine. In addition to her clinical practice, Dr. Bowker serves as a Board member for the Washington Association of Naturopathic Physicians. She has also been a guest speaker for community organizations and instructor of several community health classes. For more information, please visit her primary website: www.snovalleyholistic.com