As a Postpartum Doula, I get asked quite frequently by second time parents how to introduce their new baby to an older sibling (who is still pretty young). To this point, big brother or sister has been the only child. They got mommy’s attention whenever they wanted it. They were the star of the show! Now this new little person enters the home and big brother or sister may not quite know how to handle it. Here are a few tips to help with the adjustment.
Start babywearing! There are so many benefits this- It frees your hands so you can play or chase after your first child. You can go food shopping with ease. You newborn will feel connected, attached (literally), and safe. You can meet several of the baby’s needs – knowing when baby is hungry, needs a diaper change, etc – without much effort because he is close enough to observe his every movement. You are teaching baby language- she is close enough to watch you speak, hear your voice and word patterns, and feel the vibrations while you speak. Baby can see the world around him. You are doing all of this just by carrying your baby AND still be able to give complete attention to your first baby.
- Go for walks.
This not only helps baby see the world and get some fresh air (much needed for the whole family) but also allows for wonderful time with your older child. This is the time to talk to each other without distractions. It doesn’t have to be anything serious, but about anything! The child can observe the world around you and ask questions. You can point out if the leaves are changing color and why, the birds flying, construction trucks, the different color houses. I used this time to teach my son. We would count flags. We would look for colors. He would ask questions. You are focused on each other and not what has to be done around the house. And it gets his energy out!
- Have a quiet box.
It can be pretty difficult to feed baby if your older one is bouncing off the walls. Have a special box (or a few to alternate) of quiet things to do while you are feeding the baby. They can be puzzles, a book, crayons, play-doh, cars, cards (we like to play War- counting, number recognition, matching, colors, shapes…), or a scavenger hunt (either pictures for her to recognize on her own or a list you read to her) – just to name a few ideas. You can do these together or the child can do some on her own.
- Have the older sibling help!
What better way to get involved than to help! You can ask him to get you a diaper and wipes (count how many wipes you take out). Ask him to read a story to the baby. Ask him to hold the baby’s hand if the baby is upset. Get a toy or blanket. Hold the bottle. Hold the baby. The list is endless! Be sure to praise big brother or sister for the wonderful job they are doing helping their little brother or sister! Most of the time, they want to help. They want to be involved. And they want to be proud of how well they are doing being the big brother or sister. Keep an eye on the situation though. If they are eager to help and look forward to it, then keep asking. But the moment they start getting resistant or seem annoyed, then back off. Don’t push it on them!
- Start during pregnancy.
While you are still pregnant, talk about the changes that will happen. Read books about babies. Talk about baby behaviors (crying, eating, diaper changes, spitting up, sleeping, etc). Maybe get a doll that the older sibling can take care of. Ask them their opinion on the nursery or picking out clothes. If you are doing hand-me-downs, ask if it is okay they can share their old clothes with baby since they don’t fit in them anymore. Talk about all the memories you have of the older sibling in the clothes or equipment. Get them involved early so it’s not a HUGE shock when baby gets home.
- Have visitors acknowledge your first-born.
It can be easy to fall into the adorable-ness of a new baby. When you have visitors over and they start ooh-ing and ah-ing over the baby, be sure to excitingly share something about the older sibling. How amazing they have been helping with the baby. What they did in school. What they learned that day. Anything that your child is proud of, be sure to talk a few minutes about it.
- Hospital birth- Spend time as a family.
When big brother or sister comes to visit you in the hospital, be sure to be super excited to see them. Introduce the new baby. Ask if big brother or sister wants to hold the baby. After they have some time together, have someone hold the baby so big brother or sister can sit or lay with you alone for a little bit.
- BE PATIENT.
SO important. The first few weeks may be tough. Your tired (okay, exhausted). Your hormones are going crazy. You’re trying to learn your new baby. You’re chasing after your first baby. You’re trying to keep your s*** together. Your first child is excited, scared, anxious, rebellious, loud, whiny, amazing, helpful, and every other feeling and description you can think of. They are still little with big feelings that they can’t always express the right way. Be patient. Go slow. Give them a hug.
- Have “scheduled” one-on-one quality time with big brother or sister.
I cannot stress this enough. Make sure you keep the quality alone time there. Whether it is breakfast in the morning, bath time, or a bedtime story at night, make sure you have one- on – one time together. Do it every day. Don’t miss a day. It will be these moments that your child will look forward to.
- Ask for help.
There is nothing wrong with asking for help. I INSIST you ask for help. You are still recovering from childbirth. You have two little ones needing you- ALL of you. The house can wait. The dishes can wait. I wish I could say cooking can wait… so order out once in a while. Ask a family member, friend, or postpartum doula to come over and help around the house or with the children. Ask for a little bit of time to have to yourself – to recharge, to fill your cup, gather your thoughts, and be YOU.
You’ve got this.