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How to Introduce a New Baby to Older Siblings

 

If you are pregnant and have a little one at home, it’s likely you have spent some time wondering how to help your children adjust to the new baby. A baby is always something to celebrate, but it also comes with a lot of adjustments - especially to a child that now has to share your attention. There are plenty of horror stories out there. You’ve probably heard a few about children who get tired of the new baby and beg mom or dad to “return” the new baby. There are also those kids that will go as far as to hurt the new baby out of jealousy.

It’s natural to be concerned about the adjustment but with a little planning you can help to make the adjustments as smooth as possible.

a young boy talking to his pregnant mom while playing with toys

Tips on how to help your kids to adjust to a new baby

  • Talk about it, and be honest. Have conversations about the baby, and talk about how exciting it is, and about all the good that the new baby will bring. But you also want to give them a realistic idea of what changes will need to happen once the baby arrives. For example, you can tell your children that "babies need a lot of attention and have a lot to learn. Isn't it great that we can be here to help our baby learn and grow?".  
  • Involve them in the pregnancy. Take your kids to appointments and let them hear your baby's heartbeat and/or attend the ultrasound (if possible). Sometimes the doctor or midwife may even allow your child to help with the doppler and find the baby’s heartbeat!
  • Have the kids pick out a special gift for the baby. Build-A-Bear is a great place to go. You can create a customized stuffed animal with your kids, for the baby. When your little one arrives, you can have the kids greet the baby by presenting him/her with the gift. If Build-A-Bear is a bit out of the price range, have them pick out a special swaddling blanket, outfit or anything you can use for the baby right away. When they see the baby using their special gift, they will be excited to have been a part of picking it out.   
  • Have baby "bring" gifts for your other kids. Before the baby arrives, get to the store and purchase some items for your other children. It can be something small or something large, but it helps if the items you purchase are things that will keep them busy while at the hospital or your first few days home. When your kids present the baby with their gift to him/her- have the baby “give” them their gifts too. 
  • Set expectations. Even before the new bundle of joy arrives, you can teach your kids “soft” and “gentle” touches by using a baby doll or stuffed animal. It’s important that they know they can’t be overly rough with their new sibling. After your baby arrives, if they do end up getting too rough, you want to address it quickly and patiently. Don’t over react, but make sure your child understands when they cross a line. Make sure you or another adult are always there to supervise your children interact with the baby.  
  • Set aside time each day for them. Even if it's just to read a quick story, give your child a few minutes of your day. No matter what happens, make sure that time belongs to them. It can be as short as five minutes to sing their favorite song and have a dance party, paint their fingernails, blow bubbles together, or have a quick tea party.  
  • Let them help. Give your child a chance to pick out the baby's outfit for the day, throw out dirty diapers, or grab the wipes. Give them some responsibility and complement them on how big of a help they are to you and the baby. Let them know you are proud of them for being so responsible. 
  • Don’t “blame” the baby. While it may be true that you can’t read a story to your child, because you need to tend to the baby, you will want to avoid stating it that way. Instead of saying “I can’t read to you right now because I need to feed the baby”, you can say “I’ve got to take care of a few things first, then let’s plan to read that book.” It’s important your child learns to wait at times, but you don’t want to make the baby seem like the only reason they have to wait.  
  • Share your story. Do you have a sibling? Share about your sibling, what it was like when a new baby came into the house when you were born or your sibling was born. You can even take out photos of you and your siblings to show how much fun you had growing up together.  
  • Give them a chance to talk. Let your kids express their feelings honestly. Let them know it’s ok to feel left out, angry, jealous, or scared- what’s important is what they do with those feelings. Sometimes our feelings can come from a bad perception of a situation, you can help your child sort through their feelings by making sure they know the “truth” about the situation. For example, it’s common for children to be worried you don’t love them anymore, let your child express this to you and gently remind them that you will always love them, and there is plenty of your love to go around.  

No matter what you do to prepare, a new baby will bring plenty of new parenting adventures. Give yourself, your partner, your other children, and even your new baby time to adjust. Be patient and take some time to enjoy each member of the family in this time!

 
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