Introducing Your Baby to Siblingsby Your Baby Club
Your new bundle of joy is finally here and your other child has been asking for months when their new sibling will be ready to play with them. Some children are excited that they will be a big brother or sister, but for others, it can be daunting that they’re no longer the only child, or the youngest. Of course, having a new arrival is a massive change for the whole family, but it may take a few months in the lead up to birth to prepare them emotionally and mentally that there’s a new family member on the way.
Here are a few ways you can prepare your child for their new sibling:
First thing’s first, talk about the baby openly, get your child to speak to your bump, feel the kicks, listen to the heartbeat, and look at the scan pictures, so they know that a new baby is coming. If you have any friends with newborns, or see a baby on the street, you can draw your child’s attention to it, showing them that there’s one in mummy’s tummy. This is so they can better associate ‘baby’ with an actual baby. Talk with them about all the fun things they’ll be able to do when they’re older and show pictures of you and your siblings when you were little, to help with the association.
Involving Them in Decisions
Let them help you prepare for the baby. Get your child to pick out clothes, bedding, toys, and nursery decor to make them feel more involved. Get them to pick a special cuddly toy or blanket that the baby can have when it's born that is a present from your older child. They will feel happy when you come home, and the baby has this with them. Ask them their opinion on baby names and even ask for ideas.
Make them your chief toy tester, a super important role to make sure the baby will like it too - this can also introduce the concept of sharing if your child knows that the toy will be played with by the baby too. You can even sort through their old toys, asking if the baby can play with each one.
Prepare Them for Your Hospital Stay
It’s also essential to prepare your child for the time you will be in the hospital. Make it seem like they’re getting a special treat and spending time with nanny and granddad or with friends, away from mummy and daddy and that you are going to come back with a fantastic present - a sibling! If they are old enough, you can explain the situation more maturely. Again, you can make sure they know you are taking their extra special gift for the baby with you and will show it to the baby once it’s here. You could also get them to physically give their gift to the baby once they can visit the hospital, or when you arrive home.
It can also be a good idea to get a present from the baby to give to your child, so they feel extra special to meet them.
Once You’re Home
When the new baby arrives home, try to do something special for your older child. In a small child’s eyes, there’s a big difference between meeting the baby in the hospital and the baby coming home to live with you, in their space. It’s essential to make them feel they are getting just as much attention as before.
Be sure to maintain your bedtime story routine, have some 1-2-1 time with them whilst the baby is sleeping with both parents together and individually, as well as time with the grandparents too - who better to spoil them! Also, make sure they get some calm playtime with the baby, even if it’s just lying on the activity mat together, or watching TV with the baby next to them on your lap. This bonding is essential and can make for some strong sibling bonds later.
If you are still breastfeeding your older child under 2, make sure you give both adequate bonding time with you; expressing so your partner can feed your baby whilst you’re with the eldest, or feed your eldest whilst your partner feeds your newborn.
Finally, you can take them on special outings or do things they love, but space these things out, so they don’t start expecting treats every day, forever!
How ever you prepare your child for a sibling, introducing them to your child in the home environment can be a slow process. It can take a few weeks for your child to accept the significant change, or it can take a matter of hours. Just listen to your child’s cues and go at their pace. Don’t force it and they’ll be inseparable in no time!