Last year, I wrote about how The Barn Owl and I prepare our kids to welcome a new baby into the family. Since then, I’ve had messages from other parents wondering how we prepare our kids to meet their new sibling for the first time.
J and Little E love their little brother Thumper to bits, and they both help me out a lot at home by looking after him and playing with him, which I am very grateful for. When they met him for the first time, they were both so excited and so happy to see him! They absolutely couldn’t get enough of him.
I was so glad that the groundwork we had laid in the months previously really paid off!
I think it is really important for the new baby to make a good impression on his or her older sibling as well. The Barn Owl and I always try our best to make sure that not only our older kid is mentally and emotionally prepared, but that the baby is also ready to meet them too!
Debs G’s Guide to Introducing your Child to a New Sibling
- Prepare your child for a special solo adventure. You’ve probably already made arrangements for who will be looking after your older kids when you head off to the labour ward. The kids have to know that they will be spending at least one night away from both Mummy and Daddy, so it’s worthwhile letting them have a taste of this experience at least once beforehand so that they have something to look forward to. This is a no-holds barred opportunity for grandparents or relatives to coddle and spoil the children and otherwise turn their stayover into a junk food fueled paradise of fun. I also took advantage of this opportunity to squeeze in a date night with The Barn Owl (fancy restaurant and a movie) and to have a lavishly indulgent lie-in the next day.
- It’s all about Daddy now. In the month or so leading up to the end of your pregnancy, it will be time to let Daddy take the reins with the kids, especially with regards to the baths as well as the evening and bedtime routine. After all, you will need to be able to devote time to the new baby without your kids feeling abandoned – and Daddy will have to practice putting the kids to sleep on his own since he may have to spend a day or two doing that anyway.
- Resist the urge to have the children brought to you immediately after labour. If you are anything like me, you are the sort of person who does not want their children in the labour room with you. My reason for excluding the children from the birth is because I knew from previous experience, that I am an emotional and otherwise unpleasant person during labour, and I do not want to traumatise them. After labour, when both I, my husband and the baby are exhausted and messy-looking, I think that seeing the kids immediately would not be a pleasant or reassuring experience for them (even though it would be a reassuring experience for me). I feel that it is better for them to hear my cheerful voice over the phone, then for them to look at my exhausted face and see me with all the tubes and urinary catheter in situ. Even if I reassure them verbally, they will still worry for my well-being after observing me in that condition – and I don’t want them to ever resent the new baby.
- Do not hog your husband – the kids need him. After labour is over, and both baby and I are nicely cleaned up and waiting to be transferred to the ward, this is when The Barn Owl leaves and goes home. He does not stay over in the hospital with me and he does not spend every waking moment in the hospital with me in the days to come. Yes, it’s lonely being in hospital on my own, but really, I do not need him with me anymore – I can get on with the breastfeeding and everything on my own or with the help of the nurses – so it would be selfish to keep him in hospital with me when the other children need him much more. Let him go home, reassure the kids, show them pictures of the new baby and sleep comfortably in his own bed.
- Timing is everything. First impressions count, so I always make sure that both I and the new baby are looking spiffy when the older sibling(s) arrive. The best time to do this is in the mid-morning after the doctors ward rounds and baby checks, and just after the baby has had a full feed and has had a nappy change. This will mean that the baby is in a good mood, maybe even alert for a few minutes. I always make sure that my hubby gives me a heads up before coming to the hospital with the kids, so that I have time to prepare the baby! I also make sure that the baby is lying happily in the bassinet on the far side of the room when their big brother/sister arrives, and not in my arms or being breastfed. If I’m still breastfeeding or changing the baby when they get to the hospital, I tell my husband to distract the kids until we are both ready. I want the older kids to walk in the room and see me waiting for them with open arms! This allows me to literally show them that the baby has not displaced them in my affections!
- Greet and cuddle the new big brother/sister first before doing anything else. The first thing that I do is cuddle the older child, making sure that he or she is happy and contented. They need that reassurance that you are still there for them.
- Stay by their side until they are ready to see the baby. Once we’ve finished greeting each other, I wait for my kids to ask permission to see the baby! Usually once the kids have ascertained that I am well, they will start to clamour to see the baby. I don’t get up to bring the baby to them either. I sit right next to them and ask their daddy to push the bassinet to the bed, or I hold their hand and walk with them to the bassinet.
- Give them space. Your child is going to be more excited about seeing you again than seeing the new baby – mostly because the baby is still just a small blob that lies there and doesn’t do anything. Do not be surprised if after a few moments frowning at the baby in the bassinet, your child wanders off to go look out the window and otherwise appears to be disinterested in the baby. Use this time to thoroughly spoil your older child with attention, and don’t keep trying to draw them back to the baby or pester them with questions about the baby (“Do you like the baby? Huh? Do you? DO you?”). Be cool. It just takes them a longer time to process this whole event, which is really quite overwhelming! They’ll eventually warm up to their new sibling and want to hold it, and take pictures (which will be your cue to make an almighty fuss of them), but if they don’t feel like doing any of that right now, don’t sweat it or it’ll become forced and unpleasant. There will be plenty of opportunities for you to see that sibling bond forming!