Congratulations, you’ve decided to grow your family! While this is an exciting time, you may be concerned about how your older child will react to the baby. And while this may not be your first time bringing home a new baby, because there is already another child in the home, it introduces some different challenges regarding integrating baby in to the family.
These five tips will help you when bringing new baby home so that everyone can enjoy being part of a growing family.
1) Have a present ready for older children “from the baby”.
Babies need a lot of attention and rightly so – they are helpless as newborns and parents need to spend a lot of time with them to bond. A special present for an older child “from the baby” acknowledges that the sibling is important, plus can provide a welcome distraction when Mom or Dad are busy with the baby.
2) Set some special time aside to bond with your older children.
Remember that your firstborn was once the focus of Mom and Dad’s attention, and now that attention has shifted to the baby. Try at least once a day to have some special time with your older child. Whether it’s reading a book together, playing a game, or letting someone else (grandparent, friend, postpartum doula, neighbour), watch the baby while you have an outing or a snuggle. Make time and remind your older child that they are special too.
3) Let siblings help around the house.
As children get older, they can start to assume small responsibilities and chores. This is ideal if you can start this before the new baby arrives. That way, they can do small things and feel like they are contributing to the family. “Everybody does their share” is a great phrase to use. This is an opportunity to explain that the family dynamic will change when baby comes, and that the older child is needed to help. Children take pride in accomplishing things and this is an opportunity to build their self-esteem (and keep them busy when parents are busy with baby!)
4) Let siblings help care for baby.
Even young toddlers can do something to help with the new baby, like a simple game of peekaboo. Older children can read baby a story, and help with general care like bathing and diapering. It’s a learning opportunity for them and shows them that they are an important part of the family. The important thing is to not make it feel like a chore, so that they are not resentful. Pour on the praise for the older child when they help, even if it’s not perfect. Be gentle, this is new to them as well.
5) Have a sibling basket by your feeding basket.
Just like new moms need to have a basket filled with water, snacks, and entertainment when feeding a baby, for older children (especially toddlers!) having a sibling basket is a great strategy for managing feeding time. Fill it with special toys, books, and games (that you can play one handed!) that are to be used ONLY when baby is feeding. That way, the novelty takes longer to wear off (you may have to rotate to some new items) and it makes the time spent feeding the baby a special time for them too.
Remember, it is challenging to bring a new baby home, sibling or no sibling. But by preparing in advance, lining up help, and using these strategies, it can help reduce friction between siblings and help set a foundation for a more harmonious transition for your growing family.
Do you need a helping hand with bringing baby home? Doula Care Journey has postpartum doulas that can help with the transition. Contact us to learn how we can help.