There are many books and articles on how best to introduce your toddler to a baby sibling. And like most of you, we were so excited about extending our family we bought as many books as possible. Our two year old son learned one thing from all of the books. Babies cry. This he would repeat frequently. Are you excited to be a big brother? Babies cry. Wow! Are you going to be a big helper for mom? Babies cry. He was not wrong in his prediction of baby behavior!
While we incorporated books on big brothers and big sisters to our daily reading rotation, we also brought home some baby toys for the brother-to-be. We collected kid-friendly items that included babies, bottles, and rockers. We had lots of fun pretending with the new babies (dolls?). When preparing the baby toys, I thought it was necessary to really think about the jobs our son could help with when the actual babies arrived. I had burp cloths and blankets stored in baskets on a low shelf easily accessible. We talked about how bottles were similar to the milk he drank in his sippy cups.
While this may not be an option during the pandemic, we depended on our village to help introduce real babies to our son. Our mothering group had plenty of resources. I would offer to help out a mom at her home and bring our son along. This gave us more exposure to the lifestyles of babies. He watched the babies nurse and was also introduced to the breast pump. This was especially helpful if there was an older sibling he could also watch interact with the newborn. He did notice that indeed, babies do cry.
Bringing home triplets
Bringing home one baby to join the family is a big deal. Bringing home three babies after over two months of an unpredictable hospital stay is an even bigger deal. When introducing our babies to our son we planned ahead for that first introduction, making sure the babies were fed, diapered, and happy. This helped because they were actually asleep and not crying when our son met his brothers. The babies brought gifts for their brother. He was very intrigued by their presence after talking for so long about them. He was also quite skeptical and learned quickly his brothers were like most babies. Babies cry.
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Becoming a big brother
The transition to brotherhood was less than easy for our son. We learned quickly he had a very weak stomach and could absolutely not help with feeding or diapering, not even touching unused items associated with these chores. With careful observation, we discovered he was a master at distracting the boys with toys or by making faces. We praised him for being a great helper with these activities that helped so much. We supported him by dedicating special “mom and me” time daily. Each time I used the breast pump, he was invited to stick around for special reading or tv time with mom. We asked each guest to greet our older son first when visiting. We kept a bag of small wrapped toys on hand so if someone arrived with gifts for the triplets, he would have a special gift as well. Some guests even visited only to play with our older son or take him on a special outing.
During a time when patience is absorbed doing the most ordinary of chores, as parents we had to find the extra patience to help our son with this transition to big brother. We continued to encourage interactions with the boys and gave an enormous amount of praise when we noticed traits of his big brother role. We absolutely dished out more grace than we knew we had the power to give. And when we weren’t looking, the dynamics of the brothers changed. They were no longer one plus three. They evolved into The Four, well for us, The Orr Four.
About the author
Jessica Orr is TLC’s Triplet and Connecticut Associate and a mother of four brothers, a six-year–old singleton and four-year-old triplets. This North Carolina native has called many states home with her Navy husband. She is currently enjoying the amazing Connecticut summers and learning the fine art of fire building during winter. Her whirlwind beginning of multiple motherhood included a month of bed rest at home, hospital bed rest, and a two month NICU stay. This season of struggle helped Jessica to appreciate the joys found daily, at least during those fleeting moments of solitude. A former school counselor, Jessica enjoys sharing her jolly journey of mothering multiples with all new parents. You can reach Jessica at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about our Connecticut and Triplet services.