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Birth & Siblings Transcript

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RC: Hello everyone. This is Liz Harvey coming to you from our studios in New York City where we are dedicated to bringing you cutting edge interviews from many of the leading industry professionals across the US. In today’s episode, we are speaking with Stephanie Heintzeler. Stephanie is a German educated midwife, a US educated doula, an acupuncturist and she is a certified lactation counselor. She is known as the New York doula. Stephanie has delivered over 1,200 babies and has experience with twins, triplets, breach babies, and water births. She also works with newborn parents in their post-partum stage and holds classes and seminars for moms and dads to be. With a wealth of experience and knowledge in her field, Stephanie Heintzeler is widely considered to be one of the top doulas in the country. She is also a contributing member of our national network of industry professionals.

Today we’re going to talk about a very important topic, Birth and Siblings. Hi Stephanie. How are you today?

Stephanie Heintzeler: I’m good. Thank you.

RC: Well thank you so much for joining us.

Stephanie Heintzeler: Thanks for having me.

RC: Should parents plan ahead and make sure they tackle big milestones like potty training with the older siblings before the new baby is born?

Stephanie Heintzeler: Yes, if it makes sense in terms of the age. Let’s say the child’s around 2, they could try potty training. It always depends also on the daycare, if the baby is in daycare and the daycare would actually help with that because some daycares say they don’t even try before a baby is 2 1/2 or 2, so that’s one thing. The other thing is really where is the baby at. You don’t want to stress a toddler or a child with anything because things are changing already just because there is a pregnancy happening and a new baby on the way. It’s really looking at and discussing with a doula if something makes sense in terms of your child’s age.

RC: During pregnancy, what are some ways parents can prepare their older children for the birth of the new baby?

Stephanie Heintzeler: There’s quite a few things. Again, it depends on the age. The biggest thing that can really help is using books because there’s books for literally babies who are 1 year old up to like 10, 20, whatever. The books are very, very helpful. A baby can point at them and see the mother’s belly is growing and then there’s a baby. That can really help, and then of course introducing other babies to your child, so just he or she gets used to having other children, also the sounds they make and breastfeeding, they see that, talking about it generally including the new baby. Make small changes.

Let’s say you have a 2 year old or 3 year old child and there’s a lot of things you do yourself as a mother. You make breakfast and then you eat and then you bring your child to pre-school and then pick him or her up and then you go to the playground and then you read a story and then there’s dinner and then you brush teeth together. You know, you do everything, but then once your newborn is here, you can’t do all of this. See what your partner could do or maybe if you have a nanny or babysitter so that there’s a few rituals you already kind of move away from so that your child doesn’t have this huge change but also knows, oh, daddy brings me to pre-school today or I’m always brushing my teeth with daddy now.

Those things can really help, but also looking at the birth, it’s very important that parents make sure they have it planned out where the child goes once labor starts. That’s always the biggest stress, and it’s interesting to see because second or third time moms, they start contracting and then they’re like, oops, I need to figure out where to put my child. They usually organize this, but they organize that and then an hour or 2 hours later, that person picked up the child and then the contractions pick up again. It’s interesting how mothers really the labor slows until they took care of their child or children. It picks up again. The mind can really help with that.

It’s very helpful to just have a plan in place and maybe be separated from your child before. I have had parents who have never been separated from their toddler, so they were super worried to actually leave their child and go into labor. They didn’t really go in labor. They really were having a hard time to be in the delivery room without their other child. It can be helpful to do that a little bit before and play contractions. Since you know how it went the first time, you can just make the sounds and maybe breathe a little louder just in case your labor starts and your child is still around you so he or she doesn’t get afraid because playing contractions, it could be loud and for children it’s usually a lot of fun to be like, oh, making funny noises. Once the mom goes into labor, she feels more comfortable doing that until the child is taken care of, unless you have a home birth and you say, hey, I want all of my kids around me for the birth, which obviously that’s totally fine too.

RC: Once the new baby arrives home, how important is it to keep family routines in place?

Stephanie Heintzeler: It’s very important and that would play into the question before, what changes have been done already? Where is someone else doing a ritual or something that’s usually done like reading a bedtime story? What would be the key is that the mother keeps a few key things with her older child. It’s interesting that most moms actually miss life with their older child once the newborn is born. They feel guilty. There’s a lot of guilt, just a lot of guilt, much more than towards the newborn. It’s feeling guilty because of the older child who has all these changes happening. If you keep a few things in place like you always have dinner together or you always snuggle together in bed at night or in the morning, then you keep a few things together, but I know it’s a hard time often for the mom because they do have to say goodbye a little bit to this beautiful being together the 2 of you throughout the day.

It is sometimes a mourning phase. Lots of moms cry quite a bit those first weeks after birth because they do feel it’s saying goodbye to life and think that the new baby needs to find its way into the family. That’s a normal transition, it’s very normal, but as long they keep a few things in place, maybe go to the playground here and there with your older child, that can really help to lower the risk of jealousy for your new child.

RC: Do you have suggestions on the best ways to handle the older sibling’s feelings of jealousy?

Stephanie Heintzeler: Yeah one thing is really time so the mother just taking some time still, but the other is the new baby should not be introduced to the other children or the other child in a way so that the older child thinks, okay, this is it now for me basically. This is the biggest change that a child has. Children usually haven’t ever had this kind of change where like a new person came into their lives and stayed with the family. What can help for example is when you introduce your new child, is that you have the baby in a crib so your arms are free, so when the toddler comes into the hospital room or you come back home that your arms are free to actually take your child or your children and kind of hug them and say, “Hey, I missed you,” and then together you walk to the crib and you look into the crib and look at the new baby so that it feels like we all look at this new baby now.

The other thing is for example, bringing a gift, so depending on how old the toddler is, the mother could say, “Hey, your new sister or new brother brought you this” and then it’s a little treat, a little new gift that can help of course to distract so that it’s also a good thing that your new sibling came. Sometimes it’s good to use a certain toy when the mother’s breastfeeding, so whenever she’s breastfeeding the child can use this or that toy so it’s like a special moment or maybe the mom is breastfeeding and every time she does that once the newborn is a little older, you kind of read a story. That can be really helpful too to just give a little bit more attention to the older child.

RC: What are some ways to include the older siblings in caring for the baby?

Stephanie Heintzeler: That is really helpful. If it’s a child who is older than 4, they can really help. They can bring a blanket, they can take the diaper, they can even wipe. They can stick around and even maybe take a role so they always bring the bottle, they always help with breastfeeding, bringing the breastfeeding pillow. There’s quite a few things that the older child can do as long as he or she wants to. Mostly they like it because they feel that it makes me a big sister or big brother now and this is really helpful for my mom, but if the older child doesn’t want to do it, I wouldn’t force him or her. Sometimes it’s such a big change they actually ignore the newborn. They just literally ignore the fact that something has changed. Give him or her that time. That’s important to not put pressure.

RC: Okay, well thank you so much Stephanie. We know you’re extremely busy. I just want to thank you for all your time and help today.

Stephanie Heintzeler: Thanks for having me.

RC: For our listeners across the country, if you are interested in speaking with Stephanie Heintzeler, please visit www.thenewyorkdoula.com or call 917-399-2031 to schedule an appointment. On behalf of our entire team, we want to thank you for listening and we look forward to bringing you more top quality content from our country’s leading industry professionals.