Bringing a new baby into the family can be a tough adjustment, especially for young children. There will definitely be some jealousy and a few rough moments, but it is possible to help siblings feel loved and excited throughout the transition.
Start before baby is born. During your pregnancy take your children to your prenatal appointments. Get your kids excited about hearing baby's heartbeat while you are driving to the appointment. Talk about how it sounds and how their own heartbeat sounds. Take them to your ultrasound appointment and explain the different parts of the baby that they will see on the screen.
Encourage siblings to interact with the baby while still in utero. They can talk, sing or read to your belly. They can play with the baby by blowing raspberries on your belly and feeling for kicks. Making the new baby part of the family before her arrival is key for a smoother transition after she is born.
Make the older sibling(s) feel special. It can be hard to give extra attention to an older child when you are focused on recovering and caring for a newborn, but if you plan in advance and take advantage of nap time, it can be done. Here are my best tips:
- Before baby comes, take the older child shopping and pick out a few special movies to save until the new baby is born. Buy some favorite snacks as well. Pull out the movies and snacks on a day when you are especially tired or on a day when the new baby wants to eat nonstop. The bigger kids will be so excited to see new movies, and you will be able to rest and recover while spending time with them.
- Consider getting a subscription box from a service such as Koala Crate or bookroo. Take advantage of nap time to explore the boxes, and try to make it last a few weeks by only doing one activity or reading one book at a time. Devoting nap times to one-on-one time means that you may not have the chance to get things done around the house, but I think it is worth it for the first few months to keep the older children from getting jealous. Subscription boxes can be expensive, but there are lots of other low cost options like magazine subscriptions or you could pick up books from the library to read during your special time. You can also put together your own craft kits before the baby is born. Just include all of the supplies needed to do a few fun activities in gallon size plastic bags or small totes. You can find thousands of activities by searching "busy bags" on Pinterest.
Get the older sibling(s) involved. It's so important to spend alone time with the bigger kids, but don't forget to create opportunities for older siblings to spend time with the new baby. Give the older child age appropriate tasks to help care for the new baby. They can get diapers for you, lay out a blanket for tummy time, or help rub lotion on baby after a bath. Giving older siblings a job helps them feel needed and reaffirms that they are still an integral part of the family.
It's also important to create play opportunities for all of the children together. Take a walk, read books or go on an outing together. A simple way to include baby in any activity with bigger kids is to wear her in a sling or carrier. Have older siblings explain to the baby what you are doing or how a game or toy works. This makes the older sibling aware of baby's participation, and it's a great learning activity, too.
Let the big kid be the baby. Sometimes big kids might want to be rocked or carried like a baby. All of the experts say to go along with it, but not necessarily encourage it. In my experience with my kids, it is a passing phase or something that happens occasionally. It seems to make them feel better, plus it is nice to get to rock them one more time!
We would love to hear your experiences with introducing a new baby into the family. What worked for you? What didn't work so well? Tell us in the comments below!