I remember that when I was due with baby #4 my son, our 3rd child, would go around the house, with arms crossed, saying “Don’t want a brother.” Yet, most of the time he lovingly kissed my huge belly and said “I love you baby” and he couldn't resist wanting to hold other little babies that we met. I wasn't not too worried about this behavior, mostly because I had seen child #1 and child #2 in our family follow a similar behavior pattern before the next baby arrived.
As a matter of fact, many of the mothers that I have spoken to about this topic agree that most older siblings go through an adjustment period when a newborn sibling arrives. The family spends time preparing for the new baby and once the baby arrives so much time is dedicated to just meeting baby's needs. That’s a lot of change taking place!
I asked some of my friends and other moms what advice seemed to work best when helping older siblings adjust to a new baby in the house. The suggestions are most helpful for children up to the pre-teen years.
Tip 1: Discuss Pregnancy In Terms That Makes Sense To Kids
- Read books about pregnancy, birth and newborns with your child. Check out your local library or bookstore for age-appropriate books you may enjoy with your child.
- Take out your child’s ultrasound and newborn pictures – they will love looking at them! Tell them about their birth – how excited you were and how everyone wanted to hold them.
- Tell your child about the pregnancy when you tell your friends. You want them to hear the good news from you.
- Young children may not grasp when the baby will arrive, so it may be useful to explain that baby will arrive in a particular season (when it’s cold outside) or after a major holiday.
Tip 2: Include Children In Baby Preparations
- Allow your child to help you pack your hospital bag.
- Visit friends who have infants.
- You may or not want to take your child for your doctor visits, but consider taking them to hear the baby’s heartbeat and see the ultrasound.
- Check with your local hospital for sibling preparation classes.
- Perhaps they can help you pick out a special coming outfit (from two you’ve preselected, of course).
- You may want to buy your toddler age child a baby doll and have them practice holding and gently touching the doll, just like they would with their newborn sibling.
- Allow your child to pick out a small toy or other gift that they can give to their newborn sibling when they meet for the first time.
Tip 3: Make Arrangements To Meet Older Sibling's Needs
- Make sure that major changes – weaning, toilet training, a new room – happen well before the baby arrives.
- For older children, explain to them that the baby will not be able to do much at first, that you may feel tired and the baby will require a lot of your time.
- Arrange for play dates outside your home for your child with close friends or relatives, if possible, soon after the baby arrives.
- Try to keep routines as normal as possible in the weeks around baby’s arrival.
- Try to have your child meet the new baby as soon as possible after the big arrival. It’s best to do this when only the immediate family is at the hospital.
- Let your child “help” with age appropriate tasks once the baby arrives – like getting diapers, feeding, helping dress the baby, or pushing the stroller.
- If possible, arrange for some one-on-one time with your child once baby arrives where you talk about things besides the new baby.
- It’s ok for your child to need time to take adjust the new baby. You can encourage older children to talk about their feelings about their new sibling.
- Younger children who may not be able to articulate their feelings may act up or test the rules, but stand firm – just understand the feelings behind their behavior. Make it clear that you understand their feelings, but that their feelings must be expressed in appropriate ways.
- You may want to consider having a small present for your young child when they come to meet the baby for the 1st time – a small gift from the baby to the child.