Introducing Siblings to a New Baby

Pregnant mother standing in front of dad with older siblingAdding a new family member can be an exciting time, especially if you have eager siblings waiting to meet the new baby! Recently, several La Leche League USA Leaders offered some of their best tips for helping siblings welcome a new addition.

Preparations for Siblings

One great way to prepare is by reading books together about what it might be like to have a baby in the house. Katrina K. shared: “We read lots of children’s books from the library about having a new sibling.”

Consider if taking your children with you to prenatal appointments would help them prepare for the baby’s arrival. Amy N. explained that “My children are all about three years apart in age. During my second, third, and fourth pregnancies, the older children were often able to come along to my prenatal appointments. They listened to the baby’s heartbeat and talked with the doctor and/or midwife during appointments.”

Suggesting simple opportunities to welcome the newcomer can help the youngest family members to start thinking about ways they can share, even before the baby arrives. “My toddler lovingly prepared for our new addition by putting together a little box of toys from his own collection that he had outgrown and thought the new baby would enjoy. He so looked forward to showing her what he had saved for her. It was so sweet,” reported Linda A.

Emotions, Gentle Adjustments, and Things to Consider

Talking to your older children is a great way to figure out how they are feeling about becoming a sibling. Alejandra B. said, “We talked about the feelings and fears my oldest was having, and this reassured her that everything was going to be okay with the new baby’s arrival.” Meeting the needs of the whole family can be challenging in the beginning, but many parents fall into a groove quickly.

Some children may be really excited about their new sibling and want to know how they can help. Alejandra B. says she asked “what her older child was willing to help with or what she was looking forward to helping me with. This made her feel special because she was going to be able to do some special chores. She felt useful in becoming an older sibling. She felt included with the simple act of being asked.”

In addition to talking about older children’s feelings, it may also be useful to discuss how things may change around the home. Adjusting can be hard for little ones, but discussing the possibilities ahead of time can be beneficial for the whole family. Some elements to think about that may be a change: Will someone else care for your child when you’re in labor? Will you be at a hospital or birth center away from your child? Will your partner be home on parental leave? Addressing these things before they happen can help to minimize stress.

Consider other changes that may coincide with the arrival of your new baby. Is your older child still nursing? Will their sleeping arrangements or bedtime routine change? For Yukari F. she shared that, “I think the hardest for my oldest was to have to learn to sleep in his bed all night when the baby came home. (He was still sleeping with us for part of the night).”

Some children may not be ready for their own bed, yet. Judith G. offered the following tip for making space for siblings at night. She says, “My daughter and I handled night times with our respective second children by changing the sleeping arrangements of the older child – the older child was transitioned to a toddler bed and was given a sleeping bag on the floor in the parents’ room to come in and lie down on if they wanted to be near their parents during the night.” This leaves an option open for children who still want to be near their parents at night time.

Finding gentle ways to meet the needs of your older child can empower them and make them feel an important part of the new family structure.

Quality Time with Older Siblings

Many parents have shared that having new surprises can be really effective for keeping older siblings entertained. Amy N. shared her strategy for packing backpacks for her older children. “As my due date approached, we would pack a little backpack of fun items (little toys, activity pads, etc.) that my older children could play with while I was in labor/delivery. We wanted them to have something new and different to keep them occupied. Those backpacks didn’t necessarily prepare them for a new sibling, but I think it helped them feel included and that they weren’t forgotten during this time.”

Some families find that they can connect with their older children more easily by relying on a baby carrier or sling. Perhaps your child may want to go for a walk or play a game while their new sibling snoozes or nurses in the carrier. Shannon D. offered, “Try to focus on what the older sibling can do, instead of what they can’t do. Before the baby came, we talked about what babies can do, what kids can do, and what adults can do. For example: adults can drive a car, kids can play on the playground, babies can drink mama milk.” You may be able to use this strategy to get your older children excited about an activity they can do with you while their newborn sibling naps. Reading a book to your older children while your littlest one nurses is a great simple way to solidify the family bond. Your special time together with your older children may change, but even a few minutes of one-on-one time can really make them feel loved and included.

We hope these tips help you and your children feel prepared for the addition of your newest family member.

Share your stories with Kylie at [email protected]

Further Resources:

Supporting Breastfeeding Families–Today, Tomorrow, Always

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