So, lets start this with a huge disclaimer - I AM NO EXPERT. I've been asked a few times about how we did it, so thought I could write a blog post to direct people to.
All children are different, and all age gaps are different. Our boys are 34 months apart, Jasper was two months away from being 3 when Reuben arrived.
Jasper had had a hard year in the months prior to Reuben's arrival, so we were very very conscious of how a new baby might affect him and I read a lot of blogs to try and get it right.
So far, so good. They like each other so thats a small victory!
The first thing we did, was move him into his own big boy bed at Christmas (3 months before due date). We moved his room round, got him out of the cot bed and used to his new bed. Reuben still isn't Jaspers room, but it means that the cot will have been empty for nearly a year before he does move into it. I just think this helped Jasper detach himself from it.
This might sound silly, but I really think reading books helped Jasper understand what was going on. We had both "Pirate Pete, Big Brother Book" and the "There's a house inside my mummy".
Before Roo popped out we tried to involve Jasper in as much as possible. We made a big deal about getting out Jasper's newborn and 0-3 clothes, showing Jasper pictures of him wearing them as a baby etc. We decided that Roo would be called 'Bubba Roo' by Jasper, if he was a boy - Reuben or Rupert and if a girl - Ruby. It just helped Jasper identify what was in my tummy and for nearly 6 months Jasper only introduced Roo to people all Bubba Roo.
The one thing I did get advice on, was the first meeting. Advice we did follow was:
1) Get Jasper to pick a gift for Reuben, and have a gift ready for Jasper from the new baby. This might sound silly, but it worked. He was so excited to give the giant octopus and had been deciding how he was going to tickle the baby with the tentacles. CUTE. This also meant that after the gifts had been exchanged Jasper had something fun and new to play with while we were discharged.
2) Make sure the baby is not being held by mum or dad. At first I thought this was a crazy idea but actually it made total sense when I thought about it. Your first born has been away from you, whether it's few a few hours or a few days and will be excited to see you. They feed off the energy around them and will know something is different. Going into a hospital can be quite overwhelming (luckily Jasper was quite used to this hospital). When he came onto the ward, I hugged him and chatted to him on the bed, ignoring Roo sleeping in the cot beside me. Within a couple of minutes he pointed to the cot and said "Baby in there?". I said yes and asked him if he wanted to meet his baby brother, Bubba Roo. It was so calm, and Jasper didn't feel pushed out as he was the centre of attention. We then picked Roo up and popped him on the bed as Jasper wanted him to have his present and miraculously, from under Reuben's cot, Jaspers presents were handed over.
Back at home things have been pretty good. Yes, of course there are times when Jasper wants my attention and I'm feeding Roo, but we've all learnt to be more patient with eachother. Now Reuben sits, Jasper is learning to give him toys that he isn't playing with, so then Roo doesn't try to grab his. We make sure we speak to them in the same way - "Hold on Reuben, I'm just getting something for Jasper", "Hold on Jasper, I'm just getting something for Reuben" etc. I don't know why but Jasper seems to get that they are equals.
Fast forward nearly 6 months and Reuben is OBSESSED with Jasper. He laughs constantly at anything Jasper does. Jasper is very kind to Roo, talking to him and sharing toys. If we leave the room together and Roo gets upset Jasper now says "oh Mummy hurry, Roo Roo is missing us". I hear him chatting away upstairs to Roo in his room. Their relationship is growing and growing and I cannot wait to see what they are like together in years to come.