If you've got a new bundle of joy on the way, you may have some concerns about how your older child or children will react to the new baby.
Welcoming a new baby is an adjustment for the whole family, and it can sometimes be a tough time for the new older brother or sister. This should be one of the happiest times in your life, so try these tips to help your child adjust to the new baby and make the transition as smooth as possible.
Begin preparing your older child during your pregnancy
Start by talking to your older child during your pregnancy, showing them your growing belly and involving them in the planning and preparation process. Ask them to help set up the nursery or to pick out a new outfit or toy for the baby. Explain that the new baby will probably eat, cry and sleep most of the time, but that as the baby grows, he or she will be able to do more and even play with their older sibling.
Give your child time to adjust to changes
If the older sibling will need to change rooms or move out of a crib to make room for baby, start this process at least a few months before your due date. Try to avoid making too many other changes close to the baby's arrival, such as weaning off a pacifier or potty training. Either begin making the change with several months to spare, or wait until a few months after your baby’s arrival to begin the process.
Slowly introduce your child to the new baby
Have a family member or friend bring the new big brother or sister to the hospital to meet the baby for the first time. Allow them to touch and/or hold the new baby if they're willing, but don't force it. Your older child may not pay much attention to the baby, but that will change with time.
Be sure your older child gets plenty of individual attention
The most important thing you can do for your older child is continually remind them just how much they are loved. Give lots of extra snuggles, and if possible, have a grandparent or other family around to spend one-on-one time with your older child in the days immediately following your new baby’s arrival.
When the new baby comes, it’s inevitable that friends and family will stop by with gifts for the new baby. While some may think to include the older sibling in the gift-giving, not all will (and that’s OK). Consider wrapping up a few small gifts for your older child to unwrap when loved ones bring gifts for the newborn. Big brother or sister may also enjoy having the special job of unwrapping the baby’s gifts.
Pay close attention to the behavior of your older child
It isn’t uncommon for older children to seek attention by acting out. Watch for signs your child might be behaving poorly to get your attention, and if you suspect this might be happening, consider ignoring the behavior. Praise positive behavior and take the time to talk to your child, allowing them to express any feelings they might about having a new sibling.
Provide opportunities for your older child to help with the baby
Giving your older child a special helper role can make them feel included in all the excitement of welcoming a new baby. Depending on the age of your older child, this helper role can include anything from assisting with diaper changes to feeding the baby or playing with baby on the floor.
Be prepared for regression
It's completely normal to see some behavioral regressions in your older child after the baby arrives. For example, your older child may choose to act like a baby, using baby talk and sucking their thumb. To break this behavior, try to emphasize the fun things a big sibling can do that the baby cannot, such as playing on the playground, riding a bike or eating ice cream.
You may have some anxiety about bringing a new baby into the family, and that's to be expected. With some gentle guidance from you, your children will grow up to be not just siblings, but friends.
Do you have a new baby on the way? Join us on Saturday, April 8 for an educational class for expecting families and soon-to-be siblings preparing to welcome a newborn into the family. Find all the details here.