Preparing Older Siblings for a New Baby

preparing older children for baby__1453482928_108.89.137.58Adding a new baby to your family is an exciting time for everyone.  If you have older children, part of your role as a parent is to prepare them for the experience of becoming a big brother or sister.  There may be mixed emotions throughout the entire process as older kids have to get used to the concept of shared attention.  But as a whole, you can incorporate your older children into planning for a new baby as well as taking care of the baby when he arrives.  Today we’re exploring ways of preparing older siblings for a new baby to make the transition as smooth as possible.

During Pregnancy

Before the baby arrives is the perfect opportunity to lay the ground work for how you will welcome your baby into your home.  Make the announcement of your baby exciting for your older children by hyping up the big news.  If you are sharing the gender, make it into a fun reveal.  Once the news has sunk in, let your older kids share the news with friends and family.  This will encourage excitement and a sense of ownership for the new family member.

Reading books about babies is a wonderful way of preparing older siblings for a new baby.  Look for a variety of books that are appropriate for your child’s age and comprehension level.  You can find selections that cover what to expect of mom during pregnancy, how the baby is growing inside the womb, how babies act and what they need, and how your children can help care for the baby as older siblings.  Ask friends with multiple kids if you can borrow books or look for some at the library.  Reading about brining home a new baby is one of the best ways for your child to visualize and understand what is going to happen.

Other ways of preparing older siblings for a new baby during pregnancy include:

  • Taking a big siblings class at your local hospital where nurses show your kids how to care for a newborn.
  • Buying a doll to practice holding, changing, rocking, feeding and burping your baby.
  • Asking older children to help you prepare the nursery and incorporating their ideas into the design.
  • Soliciting help with other baby-ready chores such as washing and folding clothes, buying diapers and selecting toys.
  • Bringing your children to an OB visit so they can hear the baby’s heartbeat or even see him in an ultrasound.
  • Making cards and gifts for the baby to share as soon as he arrives.
  • Visiting friends with babies and spending time playing with them.
  • Reviewing your older children’s baby pictures and talking about all the adorable, fun and silly things they did when they were babies.

When the Baby Arrives

Depending on your comfort level, you may want to allow your older children to visit the baby in the hospital.  This first introduction will be a special time so be sure to take pictures and video.  Let your older children give the baby a gift and have a gift ready from the baby to them as well.  No matter how much excitement they had prior to the arrival of the baby, your older children may not want to spend much time with the baby.  Don’t force them to do anything that makes them uncomfortable.  Give them time and space to adjust and ensure they have lots of attention and fun activities in the mean time.  Just like you, they will eventually settle into life with their new baby.

Tips for Preparing Older Siblings for a New Baby

  • Set ground rules about the baby early and enforce them.  These can include: never pick up the baby by yourself, never walk around with the baby, never give the baby food to eat, etc…
  • Allow your older children to help as much or as little as they desire.  If they want to help feed the baby and you are exclusively breastfeeding, let older children sit with you and sing, read or talk to the baby during feedings.  Then let them help burp the baby since that is an essential part of the feeding process.
  • When you need time with the baby, explain to your older children that the baby needs you for a few minutes and then you’ll be able to play.  Conversely, when your older children need your attention, tell the baby that this is time for the big kids and you’ll have special time with him later.  Obviously the baby doesn’t understand but the older children will see that they are each getting special time with you.
  • Try to keep your older children’s lives as consistent as possible.  This may mean soliciting help from friends or family members or hiring help as needed.  Also, make sure you spend quality time with older kids and let others care for the baby sometimes too.
  • Talk about things other than the baby.  While your attention may be diverted, your older children’s interests are still at the forefront of their minds.  Make sure older children’s passions are important to you as well.
  • Encourage older siblings to talk about their feelings if they are struggling with having a new baby in the home.  Ask how they are feeling on a regular basis to ensure they are coping with the situation.