When you’re expecting a baby and you’re already a mum to other children, the reactions of siblings to the new arrival can be of concern. How to help your child adjust to a new baby may be a matter of steps before and after the birth. The reaction to a new baby will depend on the age of the older sibling and their behavior won’t be known until the moment they meet their new brother or sister. We share these tips in the hope that that it will help your children adjust to a new baby so that the transition time is one of calm and joy.
Having done it twice with my family, my husband and I found communication was the key to a smooth transition. We made sure we talked about the baby’s arrival with my eldest daughter when she was 2 and we were expecting her first sister. When it came time to introduce a third sibling to the mix, we discussed names with our eldest daughter.
Of course if you have a special name that you don’t want revealed until the birth, I wouldn’t discuss this with your child. Call the baby a special name while in the womb, or if this is too confusing, just refer to the baby as baby or ‘your new sister/new brother.’
Prior to the birth of my recent daughter, I asked my eldest daughter which name she liked best out of the two names my husband and I were thinking. She chose Phoebe. The night before the birth when she and her sister stayed at their grandma’s house, she let the cat out of the bag and told my parents the name. But the open discussion about the name eased my girls into knowing what was happening.
Once I gave birth to Phoebe, my parents brought both of my girls in to meet their new sister. Both of my girls were captivated by Phoebe. It’s normal for your kids to be a bit apprehensive or quiet when they meet their new baby sibling. My 17 month old was the most excited when she met her sister for the first time exclaiming ‘baby, baby’ while tilting her head with a knowledgeable smile. It’s a memory that I will have etched in my mind forever. My eldest daughter Esther was excited but quiet, and wanted to be near me so she could hold Phoebe.
Some tips from other mums about what to do after birth include:
- If possible, have your child visit you and their new sibling as soon as practical after the birth.
- When your child arrives for their first visit, greet them first (if possible) before introducing them to the new baby.
- Allow them touch their new sibling, count their fingers and toes, let them give him/her a big kiss. Help them understand this is a new little person joining your family.
- Arrange with whoever is looking after your child to bring along a gift for their new brother/sister – and maybe one for Mum too! A drawing or flower is always a great gift idea.
- Display any drawings or gifts from your child in a prominent location in your room – remind them you value their feelings and efforts.
- Tell them about the similarities between their new sibling and themselves as a baby – “You cried just like your little brother” or “You both have the same shaped nose!”.
- Keep hospital visits short and remember to be flexible. The hospital can be an intimidating place for your little one and you may find your child is more interested in your room than visiting you and their sibling.
- When it comes time to bringing the baby home and adjusting to life with a newborn, there are a few things you can do to help your child adjust.
- Involve them! Get them to help you when you are changing their sibling’s nappy, bath them or getting them dressed. It may take a little longer, but it will allow your child to bond with the baby and feel good about themselves for helping.
- Ask them to read, tell stories, sing or dance for their new baby brother/sister.
- Spend some one on one time with your child whenever you can. Take the opportunity to sit down and enjoy one of their favourite activities with them while the baby is asleep.
- Have toys or activities easily accessible for your children to play with when you are feeding the baby.
You may find your child regresses in some behaviours, they may have a few accidents when previously they have been fully toilet trained, or they may act out. Remember to stay calm and talk to them about how they are feeling and reassure them they still loved and important to you. Rest assured this is temporary, and one of their ways of coping with a new and unfamiliar situation. It’s important to be flexible with your approach and be led by your child’s emotions and behaviour, and in no time you will be enjoying life with your new family.
As a parent, we can’t control how our children react but we can control how much we want to discuss with them and we can make sure they feel loved. It’s also important that they know they have a special place in the family that will never be compromised with the arrival of a new sibling.
How did your kids react to their new sibling? Do you have any suggestions on how to make it a comfortable transition for your kids?