Getting ready to welcome a new baby is exciting, but it can be anxiety (and tantrum) provoking for an older sibling. Here are a few things you can do to help your older child adjust before and after the arrival of your new addition.
Before the baby arrives:
- It’s best to wait until you are really showing to tell younger children (those under four years old) that you are expecting. Otherwise, it may be too difficult to understand the concept of a younger sibling, or they may not be able to understand how many months they will have to wait for the baby to arrive.
- Once they understand that a baby is on the way, include your child on shopping trips to get new items for the baby. I find it helpful if the older children pick out a blanket or onesie that you can then later point out and say “I think the blanket you chose is the baby’s favorite” once the infant is using that item.
- It may help siblings adjust to the addition of a sibling if they know the sex of the baby, especially if they are hoping for a brother or sister.
After the new brother or sister arrives:
- Introduce your older child to their sibling at the hospital or home by having the infant in the bassinet or carrier rather than in your arms. Then greet your older child with a big hug and go introduce him/her to the infant together.
- Try not to call the infant the “new baby” – otherwise the older siblings can feel inferior. Instead refer to the infant as “your little brother (or sister).”
- Tell your older child how lucky the baby is to have them as their big brother or big sister.
- Have the infant bring their older sibling a special toy (or a basket of toys) that they may only play with while mom is breastfeeding or caring for the newborn.
- Be sure to share stories with your older child all about their early days of life and draw similarities to their infant sibling.
During the first year and beyond:
It may not be until the younger child starts doing new things such as rolling over, sitting up, eating foods and crawling that older siblings can get jealous of the attention the new milestones bring.
- Remember to talk to your older sibling about things like “the first time you crawled…” and “the first food we fed you…” to help foster sibling harmony.
- Make sure to protect the younger child from a possible lapse in toddler poise and avoid any injury from flying toys or books. Older siblings may also try to share a food or toy that would be dangerous to an infant. Set expectations on how an older brother or older sister should behave around their new sibling.
With the addition of these tips, enlarging your family will be a smooth transition for all. Congratulations!