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Bringing home your newborn is so exciting. You’ve grown and birthed this perfect little darling to join your family and everyone should be thrilled, right?! If you already have some kiddos running around, there is a very real chance they will not be as excited as you are. This is not because they hate their new little sibling. Rather, they don’t love all the attention he is getting. That used to be their attention and now they have to share it. However, I can speak from the personal experience of bringing home three newborns to siblings. It isn’t all bad. And it really doesn’t need to be one of the points of anxiety around having another child. Instead, use these tips to make the transition of adding a new baby to your family all go smoothly. It’s possible! I promise!
1. Before baby comes…
Other kiddos will obviously get the hint that a new member of the family is about to arrives as you set up the nursery, have baby showers and in general, make preparations During this time, you can help get them ready for this big change.
Talk, talk, talk
Each day, find ways to talk to your child about what is coming. No matter the age of your child, tell them about the new baby and show your excitement. Tell them about their new role as a big brother or sister. Be specific about things you plan to allow them to do in this role as well as about how you know they will do such a great job.
Practice makes perfect
Practice is particularly important if you will have children close together in age. If you are bringing home a newborn and will have a child two or under, this one is big. But I’d argue that it is incredibly helpful for most any age.
Practice your limitations
When your toddler asks to be picked up, kindly put them off for a few minutes. Explain that you need them to wait for a few minutes while you get a particular task done. They need to practice waiting. This is something they will have to get used to so provide opportunities for them to practice waiting before you are asking them to do so while having a newborn in your arms. You can do this in many different circumstances and can make it part of games. You can make games centered around commands that include: wait, quickly, gentle, rough, loud, quiet, etc. Anything that will help your child get used to these new behaviors you will want them to be able to use when baby comes.
Also have your big kiddo practice more independence. You’ll need them to be more independent at meal times, play times as well as when you are trying to get out the door.
For example, practicing having your child gather their own belongings for an outing by placing a large bag (not the diaper bag you’ll need for baby’s things) by the door. Each time you will be heading out, have your child grab their dolly, blanket, sippy cup, etc. that they always want in the car or when you’ll be out for a bit of time. I did this with my three kiddos when I had my fourth and it made life so much easier when each big kid was responsible to grab what they wanted for the morning out. And due to this expectation, even though my fourth is now two, they all each know they must grab whatever it is they want when we head out the door!
Additionally, consider spending a night or two apart from your child sometime before baby comes. If they’ll be spending the night elsewhere, let them do that before they are suddenly whisked away while you are in labor.
Practice with a baby doll
Another thing you can do is give your child lots of time with a baby doll. Let them practice putting on diapers, feeding, rocking and putting baby down to sleep. They can practice gentle touching, including avoiding touching the face. The more they get to interact with a doll, the more normal it will seem when you are doing this with your newborn. Be sure to make the connection for them; explain that just like they have a baby to take care of, soon you’ll have a little baby to take care of, too. Also, tell them what a great job they are doing and that you know they’ll make a great big brother or sister. Bonus points if you know someone who has a newborn and you can take your child to see that new little bundle.
Give new routines a try
There are things that will have to change. Try to give those things a try before baby is actually here. You may not know what each of those changes will be until the situation presents itself, but practice anything you can anticipate. This may include dad being a bigger part of the bedtime routine or your child grabbing a bin of toys to pull out while you nurse (which you can pretend to do with a baby doll for practice time). Basically, any new routines you can gently put into effect before baby arrives, the better off you and your child will probably fare.
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2. Involve the other kids
Help with new baby
Big siblings just want to be involved. It takes a tiny bit more time, but ask them to help you get diapers, wipes, burp cloths and the pacifier. When they are involved with the new baby, they will soften towards him and fall in love.
You can even allow big brother/sister to help with feeding the baby if you have a bottle to be given. While you still need to be very close by and keep baby safe, this is definitely something a big sibling can do just a bit of and feel like a really big brother or sister while doing it. We connect with baby while feeding him so it makes sense that there could likely be a point of connection when big brother or sister gets to do this, too.
Help mom and dad
Your kiddo just wants to feel like their whole world isn’t flipped upside down. One way they will feel secure during this huge change is to continue to spend time with mom and dad. You won’t have as much time to do this as before, so include your older child in helping you with anything they can.
This could include standing on a stool to help with some part of the meal prep they can handle or grabbing the broom and helping sweep after a meal. Maybe they could help fold and put away some laundry. It won’t be done perfectly, but the benefits of your child feeling special and a part of something with you will outweigh the negatives of a few wrinkles or poorly folded towels. Spending time together on a daily basis will probably look very different for some time. That is ok. They will get used to it more quickly if you can include them in some new ways.
Just like you did before baby came along, be sure to talk things up! Go overboard on telling your older child that you appreciate them. Be borderline nuts with how excited you get over the help they are able to give. Make being a big sibling a big deal! They may see how corny some of it is, but they will LOVE it nonetheless.
Tell them the real deal
Also, communicate realistically with your child. I remember having to tell my 2, 4 and 5 year olds that things wouldn’t always be ‘like this.’ I had just spent a considerable amount of time getting their new baby sister to bed. During that time, I had to send them away from the room I was putting her to bed in numerous times. Like so many times that I definitely got upset.
After I came out from putting her down, we all had to chat. I took this opportunity to talk about the fact that I knew things had changed and that I didn’t have as much time for them. I acknowledged that I wasn’t available for them the moment they wanted me and I said out loud that I bet it wasn’t easy. But, I also told them that it wouldn’t always be like that. Our little baby girl would get bigger and need me less, just like each of them had. So, we all had to practice patience and know that, while baby needed me a lot right now, it will get easier. For all of us.
It’s been two and a half years, but I still remember the look on their adorable little faces. They were so glad this wan’t the long term situation. And I remember how relieved we all felt to just talk about it. So, don’t underestimate your child’s need for realistic communication right along side your encouragement. They need it and they will understand it.
Help them fall in love
Another tip that may not seem obvious is this: tell your big kid that their baby brother or sister loves them. A lot. Every time one of my newborns/babies made grunt or noise before they were speaking audible words, I told the child who was interacting them that it was an “I love you.” And every single time they felt so special. I kid you not. They believed it with all their heart and it began a connection between siblings. It is one of my favorite memories with new babies around. I loved seeing the look of wonder and excitement when one of my big kids was told this little baby loved them. I truly believe it was the start of their great friendships.
On the flip side, I also helped them understand what it would mean to their baby sibling to be shown love. A gentle hug, a kiss on the forehead, getting them a blanket, etc all communicated love to their new sibling. They loved having an understanding of what they could do to show the new baby that he was loved. This gave them the opportunity to do something positive with their emotions. I’m certain it has had a great impact.
4. Maintain routines
Maintain whatever routines you have in place when it comes to bedtime, meals, nap schedule, etc. If you made changes to these routines before baby came in preparation for his arrival, great! If not, make the adjustments necessary and then stay consistent. You may find this is more successful if you are able to get your partner’s help in these areas. All of this just helps give your older child some stability. This feels really good to them when there is a new baby that has caused everything to get get a bit out of whack.
5. One on one time
Throughout the day, try to snag some time alone with your big kid. This shows them they are still just as important to you as they always have been. When I bring home a new baby, I have told each of my kids that when I had this baby I grew another heart. I told them I had to because I love each of them with all my heart. While they were slightly creeped out, they also loved it. Now they see it as a joke, but when they were really little, they loved the idea that I had an entire heart just for them. All this goes to show, they still just want to be special to you.
Set a reminder
To help make this practical, consider setting a timer on your phone each day. Use this to remind yourself to spend just 10-20 minutes each day during one of baby’s naps or when baby is particularly content, to focus on your big kid.
Use guest time
Additionally, if someone stops by to hold the new baby, pull your big kid up on your nap. While your guest gushes over your newest bundle, if you aren’t all ‘touched out,’ using this time to give your other kiddos some special love through a cuddle could be super meaningful.
6. Give extra attention when possible
Respond to big kid first
I really like the suggestion Melissa at Just Simply Mom gives about giving some extra attention. She suggests that if both kids are having a hard time at the same time, respond to the big kid first. The big kid is the one who will understand and remember that you chose to go to him first. Baby won’t remember any such thing and will be ok fussing for the couple extra minutes it takes to show your big kid that they are still a big priority.
Meal and bath times
Both these daily events are a time you may be able to snag a few extra moments of connection with your big kid. Even though you are encouraging more independence at meal time for your big kid, you can sit next to each other, ask them questions and just give some great eye contact to let them know they are important.
You can also make your older child feel super special by setting up special dates with daddy or a grandparent. They will love the extra attention and enjoy being the center of it all for a couple hours.
You could also celebrate their new role with a special date with you if possible at some point. This isn’t likely to happen in those first weeks while you are still recovering and figuring out breast feeding, perhaps. But, maybe you can take your big kid out to celebrate their first month as a big sibling. This continues to create excitement about their new role and is a chance to tell them how they are rocking it!
7. Get out of the house
This one totally depends on how mama is feeling. You’ve just given birth and in many cultures, it is expected that a new mom remain in the house with their newborn for over a month! This isn’t typically how American moms feel, however. But, just remember, you shouldn’t feel any expectation to get out of the house before you feel ready to do so.
With that said, if your older kid is not in school, they may be going a little stir crazy. If you see them feeling restless, getting out to a park or fun activity. Choosing one that allows you to keep baby in the stroller or baby carrier might be worth considering if you feel up to it.
8. Hold off on any other changes
As far as it is possible, try to delay any other big changes. Shortly after bringing baby home is not the time to give potty training a try or move your child to a toddler bed. Choose to make any changes a couple months before OR after baby is born. If you try to make changes too soon, you’ll likely see a lot of interrupted sleep, behavior challenges or a child who can’t take to tasks as you would expect them too. It is all just more than they can handle.
It will go well!
Well, mama. I know this may be a topic that has occupied a lot of your thoughts when it comes to bringing a new baby home. But, be encouraged. With a little extra intentionality, it will go much more smoothly than you may have been anticipating. As I mentioned, I’ve brought a few newborns home and it really has always gone well. I have implemented the above mentioned strategies to varying degrees each time. So, I am passing them on to you. I hope you find comfort in this encouragement! Also, use these tips to make a game plan for brining baby home while keeping everyone positive as well as keep that great connection with your child.