Preparing a child for the birth of a new sibling

By admin

As we all know every child is different, some kids will take well to a new-born baby and others will not. I had one such child and here is how I managed to make the transition easier for both her and the baby. These tips will hopefully make it easier for anyone who is expecting another baby.

I didn’t seem to have an issue introducing baby number 1 to baby number 2 as they were only 11 months apart, for him his brother had been around forever.

When my third child was born she was a girl and both my boys had so much fun together that they actually didn’t even notice that she was there apart from the odd cuddle or kiss.

My daughter had a very calm temperament and I could tell even at the age of 1 that she would welcome the baby and enjoy her. She was an extremely independent child.

But, my 4th child was very different child.  From the day she was born, she never slept, cried a lot, suffered from separation anxiety and wanted to be held all day. She was also quite a clingy child and to be honest I was worried how she would cope with a new baby.

I also had to get her into a big bed as the cot was still in my bedroom and get her off her dummy that she had to comfort her. This was a mammoth task, not only was I pregnant with baby number 5, but I had the 4 other children to deal with, school drop offs and lots of homework from school. Here are my top tips to prepare a sibling for the birth of a new baby;

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1. Introduce a new baby into the home

Not a real baby but a doll, we bought my daughter a dolly with a bottle, a dummy, pushchair, car seat, bath and all the accessories I could find. We made this baby a part of our lives feeding it, dressing it, and even taking it out in the car. It was literally like we had a new-born baby in the house. My fourth child spent 6 months bonding with this baby and learning how to love it.

What I did do however do was to feed the baby, bathe the baby and put the car seat in the car, I was worried that she may try to take on these responsibilities when my new baby arrived and try to feed or bathe the baby herself which wouldn’t have been a good idea.

You could also use this new baby to practice gentle touching and explain that baby will rely on mommy for everything and she won’t be able to play properly with the new baby until it is strong enough and a little bit older.

2. Read some books together

There are so many books available now that you can share with the whole family. You can show your child the pictures and have a discussion about the new baby and how they would love to have a wonderful older sibling.  We looked through lots of books and discussed the new baby, making sure that she understood that the baby wouldn’t be ready to play chase straight away.

What you could suggest is that she would have a special job of teaching the baby to count to 10 and the alphabet this made her feel so important. I also told her that the baby would love her because she would be the special sister as she could do so many amazing and wonderful things. A few of my favorite books to share are;

My New Baby

I am a big brother/ I am a big sister

Waiting for Baby

The New Baby

3. Encourage the child to play independently

This point helped me a great deal in the early days of breastfeeding when the baby was constantly attached to me. Having a small box of independent activities that she could do whilst still being near me was invaluable. I had two boxes of toys that I would rotate every few days to stop her becoming bored.

4. Try to keep the child’s bedtime routine the same

We religiously kept her bedtime the same, and we didn’t change it when the baby arrived. This was a constant in her life and wasn’t going to change. I would take her up to start the bedtime routine at 6:15pm and she was normally in bed asleep by 7pm. This meant that I could deal with the fussy baby hour (or hours!) without worrying about her.

5. Go and visit friends and family who have a baby

If you are fortunate enough to know someone who has just had a baby it would be a lovely idea for you to take your child over to see a real baby. See if the parents are brave enough to let your child help bathe or play with the baby as this could be a great way of the baby actually putting what you have discussed into practice.

6. Make special one to one time with the child

I have always given 1 to 1 time to all my children even if it’s 10 minutes it’s a very important part of bonding with them. It is even more important when a new baby arrives and is the centre of attention, other children will inevitably feel like second best.

I try and make the activity all about what they want to do, they may want to colour, do a drawing or play a game of hide and seek. My kids love this mom time and ask for it every day.

7. Try to split time between mom and dad- this is where we fell short

Here was one thing we didn’t do right and that was relying heavily on dad to spend time with my daughter while I was with the baby, he was doing nappy changes, bath time and tucking into bed. My husband had to work out of state when the baby was a few months old and she suffered terribly with separation anxiety, even if my husband went to the toilet, she would be in floods of tears screaming ‘My daddy has gone’. We are still dealing with this issue as my husband is working away again. So please try and split the time between the two of you if you can.

8. Be aware of regression

Even the best-behaved independent child may start having regressions, they may start acting more babyish, try and get into your bed at night, may want a baby bottle and even start having wee accidents and need a diaper. Some children may become unwell and I have seen this with 3 of my kids and never attributed it to the new baby but looking back now it seems abundantly clear that this was the case.

It is totally normal for children to have these sorts of regressions when big changes are taking place in their lives. It is the child’s way of showing their parents that they still need them and helps them get the attention that they are craving.

9. I asked guests to give my child some attention when they visited the baby.

I asked all of my close friends and family if they could give my other children some attention when the baby was born so they didn’t feel left out. I even asked close family members to bring a little something for the other children. This really helped them feel special too.

10.We bought the siblings gifts from the baby on the day they met for the first time

I packed small gifts for my other kids in my partners hospital bag, I wanted them to all feel special, they could all see how many new things the baby was getting that I didn’t want them to feel left out at all.

It was a special day for all of us when the children saw the baby for the first time and I hope they will remember it fondly.

11. Try not to make big changes in the final trimester.

If you need to move the older child into a big bed, potty train or get rid of a dummy try to do it well before the baby arrives. If you have to move the baby out of your room or from a cot to bed then do it as early as possible.

We opted to wait to potty train after the baby was born and I had established a good feeding routine with my baby. I physically and mentally couldn’t cope with potty training whilst dealing with a difficult pregnancy and I’m so glad I did because she potty trained in 3 days when we eventually got around to doing it.

Try not to leave big changes until the baby is born, too many changes may be difficult for your child to cope with and they may feel resentment towards you or the baby.

12. Prepare the children for your hospital stay.

Reassure your child that you will be back in a few days with the baby. it is also nice if the person who is taking care of them spends some quality time with them. I left a list of things my children like doing, what they like to eat and what they enjoyed watching on TV. I also left a note of the special routines my children have.

If the children are older, they may associate hospitals with being sick and in pain so it may be a nice idea to sit down and explain that the maternity is a nice place where babies are born and different to the place they were seen when they broke their arm.  

13. Involve the older child and ask their advice

Do you think the baby would like to be held? Can you help mommy choose a nice T-shirt for the baby? can you help me tell the baby a story? Are just a few simple ways of involving the sibling in the new baby’s life. It will make them feel important and responsible for their new sibling.

14. Look at old pictures together

If your child is old enough to understand, you can show them old scan photos of her and explain that she was also once in your tummy. You can show her pictures of when she was a new-born and tiny and needed mommy for everything.

I hope that these tips will help you prepare a child for the birth of a new baby. These tips really helped us prepare my daughter for the birth of the new baby and now they are the best of friends. Just remember that if they don’t get on to begin with it doesn’t mean that their relationship will always be like this.

Here another mom shares a similar experience.