Bringing in a new baby is always interesting. There’s a whole new dynamic and a lot to navigate. We have been blessed in that the older kids have always really embraced the new baby. Part of it might be the spread we chose. Part of it might be personality. However, I can also tell you we were very intentional, and I wanted to pass along some of my tips.
1. Preparations with Reading – We purchased the book, “I’m a Big Sister,” by Joanna Cole. There are a few different books available, but I have enjoyed reading this to both girls in preparation for a new baby. It shows how important the big girl role is. There’s ones for big brother too.
2. Preparations in Affirmation – It is important to let your older children know how valuable they will continue to be in your lives. Explain to them that you love them so much and this never change. Let them know that they are unique and important just as this new baby was created as unique and wonderful too.
3. Prepare them to Help – Make sure to prep them for their new role. Make it exciting. Tell them all the different ways they’ll be able to help. They get to be a leader and a teacher. They get to play with the baby and show this new life new things. They can nurture and help with diapers, fetching things for mom, feeding and holding.
4. Bring a Present for them to the Hospital – We have girls as the older child. We bought both of them a new doll to give them at the hospital. When they came to meet the baby for the first time, we let them have their time kissing and hugging their new sibling. Then, we presented them with their baby. We said that we’d be taking care of the new baby, and they can take their new baby home to care for it. With a boy this might be something else – a goldfish, a stuffed animal or sea monkeys.
5. Let them Help – You’ve prepped them to help. Now that the baby has arrived, let them help. They want responsibility. As the older kids, they will grow when you give them responsibilities. They can learn to nurture and love this little one too.
6. Make Feeding Time Special for them Too – Nursing can be a challenging time. Utilize that time dad is home at the beginning to do something fun with the other kids during that time. When dad goes back to work, it’s time for you to do it on your own. I would often use this as reading time for my other girls. If you can’t stand having them that close because of the challenges that can come with feeding, it’s a great time to have activities planned. You can have them pull out the coloring books, puzzles, pre-made craft kits, play doh or krazy kits. Do try and make it a special time for them so that you’re not going crazy trying to do it all.
7. Affirm them to Others - A lot of people get excited about a new baby. They oo and ah and want to hold the baby. Make sure you’re affirming your other children too. Talk about the accomplishes they’ve had individually and as a big sister or brother. Make sure they learn to be OK with the baby get attention too, but keep in mind the affirmation they may be needing or seeking from you. If negative behavior start to creep in with your older kids, they may be seeking negative attention from you. Try to be proactive in bringing the positive attention first so you can circumvent some of this behavior.
8. Keep Consistent - It’s really hard to keep consistent during these times. You’re exhausted, and a new baby is demanding a lot of your attention. You may feel bad for the other kids and want to let other discipline strategies go during this time. This will only hurt you in the long run and make things harder down the road. Your consistency will bring comfort to your child. Your expectations for behavior should not change just because the family dynamics have changed. Keep focused and keep your end results in mind.