When you add a new baby to your family, it is a big change for everyone, especially your existing child. It is normal to fret over how your older child will adjust to their new sibling since she is used to being the center of attention. You will worry about how you will manage more than one and make sure that your firstborn still feels special. A daily routine is a great thing to have in place, but keep in mind it may need to be tweaked here and there.
Introducing Your Older Child to a New Baby
A new baby can be a hard adjustment for everyone, but you can do things to help prepare and then introduce your older child to a new sibling. These things will help her feel more involved and connected, so she can better understand and develop a great bond with the new baby.
1. Tell your child when you’re pregnant.
It is essential to include your child in what is going on. This means telling her that you will have a new baby in your family and what that will mean. Make sure to have this conversation in age-appropriate terms. Tell her about how the baby is growing, and do this early on, so she can understand what it is going to mean.
2. Have her help with the preparations.
There are many things that your older child can do to help get ready for the new baby. Involve her in helping you set up the nursery. My daughter was very proud when she helped daddy set up the crib for the new baby. She talked about it for months afterward. Even though she was only two, he had her help with some of the screws.
By having everything set up ahead of time, your child will be able to get used to the changes in the house. When I got pregnant with my second, I gave my daughter plenty of time to transition. She was still co-sleeping and breastfeeding when I got pregnant with her little brother. I didn’t immediately cut off everything but instead did it in stages so that she could adjust. By the time the baby came, she could fall asleep in her bed, although she did sneak back in to cuddle some nights.
3. Enroll in a sibling class.
A sibling class is an excellent opportunity for your child to learn what it means to have a new baby. It is also a great way for you to spend time together before the baby comes.
4. Have her pick out a special toy or outfit for the baby.
Older siblings usually just want to help out. Let her pick out a toy or a special outfit to give the new baby. This is another great way to help her feel involved and valued as you prepare for a new baby.
5. Plan the first meeting carefully, but don’t put too much pressure on it.
You may have a vision for how you want this first meeting between siblings to go. Understandably, you are excited, but you need to make sure not to put too much pressure on it.
The trend seems to be bringing the older child to visit while you’re still in the hospital. If you are comfortable with that and your hospital allows that, go for it. For me, my daughter was staying with my parents, which was a good 45 minutes away from the hospital, so it just didn’t make sense. We also missed her so much that we had my parents drive her back at 7 p.m. when we got home from the hospital. She was tired, but we weren’t going to let that stop us from allowing her to see her new brother. She held him that night but got another opportunity to really be introduced after a good night’s sleep too.
6. Give the older sibling a gift “from the baby.”
Ensuring that the older sibling doesn’t feel left out when the new baby comes is important. Explaining that a baby is coming into the family is always a good first step, but gifting the older child something “from the baby” is also a great way to secure that initial bond between siblings. Some great ideas include a baby doll (we love this one with a matching baby carrier) or a personalized piece of jewelry.
7. Have the baby lying down and give your older child plenty of love.
Introducing the siblings in neutral territory is a good strategy. If your child comes to the hospital to visit, have the new baby in the bassinet. Make sure to greet your older child and give her plenty of love before you introduce the baby. Your child missed you terribly and needs all the hugs when you see her again. Having the baby in a neutral location instead of in your arms will help you give your older one the best greeting you can and allow her to see the new baby as less of a threat.
8. Let your older child help.
Your older child will be eager to help with the new baby. It might be challenging, but you need to let her. This will help her feel more included. If she is jealous and feels left out, she may begin to act out more. It is your job to help her transition. She will be feeling some pretty big feelings, so make sure to enlist her help in getting diapers, grabbing the pacifier, or picking out the baby’s clothes.
9. Make sure to get special time with your oldest.
A new baby is time-consuming, but you need to make sure your older one feels loved. Spend some time with your oldest to remind her that she is still your baby and still has your love. If she begins to act out, she is missing you and dealing with some hard feelings of jealousy. By making sure to take the time to make her feel special, everyone will benefit, and the transition will be a little bit easier.
Having a new baby is an exciting time for everyone in the family. It can also be a very stressful time trying to navigate taking care of two children. By following the tips above, you can help facilitate a great relationship between siblings and ensure that everyone feels included and valued.