Introducing A New Sibling
Introducing A New Sibling
Becoming a first time parent is such an amazing experience and is filled with excitement, happiness, exhaustion and endless love, so it is no mystery why parents decide to try for another little one.
When families are pregnant with number 2, sometimes along side all of the excitement and love, comes questions about how to manage two small children and how to introduce the new family member to their first child.
Introducing The Idea To Your Eldest
Some children will love the idea of becoming an older sibling, however some little ones may be apprehensive of this change and need some further comforts and encouragement.
When introducing the idea of a sibling to your child, you may find that simply telling them “there is a baby inside mummies tummy” doesn’t provide them with enough information and guidance on what exactly this means and how much change can some with this new brother or sister. I would suggest to look at getting some age appropriate books and explain more about the baby in mum’s tummy. You can also use this time as an opportunity to explain how they themselves came from your tummy and so will their new brother or sister.
If you are adopting or fostering a little one you can always introduce the idea in a similar way, however explain how the baby is coming into the family and the important big brother or sister duties they will have once they arrive.
There is no right or wrong time to tell your little one they are going to be a big brother or sister and the decision to tell a little one, will be different in each family. Many families will decide to tell their little ones as soon as they find out, while others may decide to tell them once the mum’s tummy is more noticeable. When adopting and fostering, most families will wait until everything is finalised, to avoid confusion and disappointment if things don’t eventuate. Nevertheless, when you do tell your little ones be sure to mention it often, even if your little one doesn’t seem overly interested.
You may like to take your little one to the ultrasound appointments as well as include them in the purchasing of baby products. If you have family friends who have multiple children, you can refer to these families when introducing the idea of a sibling to your little one. So for example you can say “You know how Jane has two brothers? Well, when this baby is born you will also have a brother. Isn’t that exciting?", "What kinds of activities would you like to do with your baby brother or sister?”.
While you are still pregnant or preparing for the new family addition, it is a great time to think about the changes and transitions you may need to make before your new little one makes their arrival.
So for example, if your little one is ready for toilet training, you may like to begin this straight away in the early months or your pregnancy or adoption, or delay it until you have settled in with your newborn or addition.
Another area to think about is whether or not to transition your eldest from the cot into a toddler bed.
We generally suggest to only make this toddler bed transition once your little one has been consistently sleeping through the night without intensive support. If you do move your little one into the toddler bed too early, you run the risk of having a toddler getting in and out of bed while you are trying to feed and cater for a newborn.
Many families feel pressured to transition their little one into the toddler bed before baby arrives and a big factor in this is being able to save money and not have to purchase another cot. However, if you are planning on having another child, you may find that another cot purchase is a great idea to help accommodate these transitions.
If you are not wanting to purchase a cot, you could instead look at investing in a bassinet, so you can transition your eldest into a toddler bed when they are ready.
When They Arrive
It is also a great time to discuss if you will have your little one at the birth, or who they will stay with while you are delivering.
Having your little one cared for by someone familiar and comfortable to them will help to relieve your stress when leaving them, however will also ensure your little one is comfortable and happy while you are delivering.
Most little ones, especially toddlers, are hesitant to engage and be affectionate towards strangers, so it is important to remember that when you introduce your newborn to your little one, they may not be overly excited or happy to fully engage with them just yet.
This is okay!
Your little one may just like to observe how you act around the newborn before feeling comfortable getting near them. There is no right or wrong way to introduce your little one to your newborn, however some families like to get a gift “from the newborn” to give to their eldest when first meeting to make it more special and also provide a positive encounter.
When explaining the arrival of your newborn, it is important to explain and remind your little one that the baby will be coming home with you and staying in your family. Some little ones won’t fully understand that the newborn is here to stay, so allowing lots of time for this idea to become familiar is a great idea.
The first few weeks of your newborns life are all about becoming comfortable with feeding and settling into all the changes a newborn brings.
However, with another one to look after, it can be a whole different ball game. My first and main suggestion is become okay with asking and accepting help.
If you have friends and family who are happy to come over and do dishes, bath the little one, cook dinner or just hold the newborn while you have a shower, be okay with accepting this help. If you are unsure of how to ask, perhaps get your partner or close friend to ask family members to help and give them ways in which you feel they can best help you.
For some families, this will just be having people come over for some newborn cuddles, or taking the eldest out to a park or movie. Cooking can always be a chore, so asking friends and families to cook some meals and popping them into the freezer can be a huge help.
Welcome Home, Baby.
When your newborn comes home, it is normal for your eldest to go through an adjustment period.
You may find they act out or become easily frustrated or you may find their sleep is disrupted and they are more emotional. These are all normal phases for your eldest to go through, however there are a few ways you can help your eldest to adjust further.
Most toddlers love to help, so include them in activities such as nappy changes and feeding. You may like to provide them with “special jobs”, such as getting a nappy and wipes, or getting baby a blanket or dummy.
Allowing them to have bath time together is also a great way to encourage bonding between siblings and allows you to be able to attend to your eldest and newborn at the same time.
You should also allow your eldest to share some of the limelight.
It is normal for friends and family members to be excited about the newborn, but allowing your eldest child to introduce their brother or sister and have some of the focus and conversation can help them not feel so left out.
Regardless of how you feed, whether feeding by bottle, breast or formula, it still takes time to feed your newborn, however it can be tricky when you also have another little one demanding attention. You may like to use this time to take out some special toys, read books or provide an easy activity for your eldest to complete. Allowing them to complete these activities next to you when feeding can help your little one feel connected as well as avoids them feeling left out.
It can definitely be challenging to find time to get everything done when having a newborn, however it is important to remember that your eldest is also going through a huge life changing transition and they will still need attention and support.
Having some one on one time with your eldest will help to relieve their stress and frustration, but also provides you with the opportunity to connect and have some quality time with your little one. This time doesn’t have to be a full day, however just 15 minutes every day can make a difference. You can do this when baby is sleeping, or if you have family members, friends or a partner, you can always ask them to come and watch the baby while you take your other little one out for an hour or so.
You shouldn’t expect a newborn to be able to follow a strict routine, however if you have previously had a routine in place for your eldest, try and keep this as consistent as possible. Little one’s work well of understand what is coming next and with such a huge change, everything can seem a bit overwhelming, however keeping these routine foundations consistent can help your eldest to adjust and find comfort in the sometimes chaos.
It is such an exciting time for every family, however sometimes you won’t be able to do everything during the day.
If the house is a mess or the dishes haven’t been done, this is okay!
Prioritise settling into all the new changes and feeding, sleep when you are able to and ensure that you are taking a few minutes each day to catch your breath. Relaxing will help both you and your eldest adjust to all the new changes and challenges a new sibling can bring and don’t be afraid to ask and accept help.