Many years ago when I started doing postpartum work, it became apparent that preparing siblings for a new baby was important for parents. Adjusting to a new sibling can be a challenge for some.
I had a fellow doula send me the below information to help better serve my families. I wanted to make it accessible for all families that may be seeking information on “Adjusting to a New Sibling”. While I did not write this myself, I do have permission from the author to share.
Wishing you the best on your parenting journey!
Adjusting to a new sibling is a huge transition for a child. Most pregnant moms tell us that they are concerned about their toddler or child and they often ask questions like, “how can I prepare my older child for the arrival of the new baby?”
Listed are some things that you can do to make this important family transition an easier adjustment.
- Let your child be amongst the first people you share the big news with. Overhearing you talk to others about this or finding out from someone else about your pregnancy, could be more difficult for your child.
- Reminisce with your older child about their birth and newborn stage and how much your enjoyed becoming their mommy
- Look into a sibling class at your local hospital. Be sure it is age appropriate.
- Create a real picture of how things will look when you have a new baby. It is ok to tell children that things may be difficult in the beginning and that having a new baby makes mommies tired for a little while. Creating the idea that your child can “play” with the baby, gives them an unrealistic expectation.
- Bedroom or bed changes should be made well before the baby’s estimated due date so that the older sibling doesn’t feel put out by the baby.
- Pick up and read some children’s books about bringing a new baby home.
Affirm your older child often during this transition and include them by calling the baby “our” baby instead of “the” baby. Let your child know that you will still be their mommy and that the two of you will still have special time together to do fun things.
As you get closer to your due date, explain to your child that at some point, you will go to the hospital to have the baby (this is where that hospital sibling class comes in handy) and you will sleep there for 2-3 days once that happens. Explain to them who will be with them when that happens and paint a real picture for them of what that might look like. No, really. Paint or draw a picture with them to help them understand what that will look like.
Let the older child chose a gift for their new sibling and create some excitement around the idea that the new sibling might bring them a gift too!
Although, people often say to include the child in the new baby’s care (bathing, diaper changing, etc.) always ask the child if they want to help or participate, rather than assuming that they do. Some of that baby stuff is boring and they would rather do their own activity during that time. Remember to give them the choice. Adjusting to a new sibling doesn’t always mean they have to be part of every event!
Think about putting together a special box of toys and calling it “feeding time toys”. Explain to your child that when you must feed the baby, he or she will be allowed to play with the feeding time toys but they are special toys that must be put away after the feeding. This will give them something to look forward to when the baby is demanding much of your attention.
Hiring a postpartum doula to help during this time can be extremely beneficial as well. Your doula can focus on the baby while you give your toddler the attention that he wants and that you want to give him. OR, she can help keep your toddler’s routine as normal as possible while you are recovering from giving birth and your baby is adjusting to life on the outside.
The most important thing to remember is that no one ever died from becoming a sibling and your child WILL make it through this transition! Adjusting to a new sibling can be challenging, but it will be OK. In fact, it will be difficult for him to remember a time when he didn’t have a sibling!
Great books to help your child(ren) know that a baby is coming:
Bringing Home Baby: Great books to introduce a new baby
Books are a fun and useful way to introduce children to all the changes a new baby brings. Whether they are excited about their new role as big sister or brother, or carefully stockpiling their toys away from curious baby hands—there is a book out there that will help your child adjust to sharing the spotlight. How you talk to a child about the newcomer will depend largely on how old he or she is, so I’ve divided up the list into suggested age groups: Toddler (1-3 years), Little Kid (3-6 years), Big Kid (6-9 years). Let me know if you have come across any others to add to the list on the topic of adjusting to a new sibling!
There’s Going to Be a Baby
Delightfully illustrated, this book follows the swirl of questions in the mind of a young child anticipating a baby sibling with excitement, curiosity, and just a bit of trepidation.
The New Baby
I was a fan of the Little Critter series when I was a kid, and this edition doesn’t disappoint. It helps kids understand what to expect from a new baby in a way they can easily relate to.
Waiting for Baby
If you are looking for a way to start a conversation with your young child, this wordless board book is a great choice.
I’m a Big Brother
This popular book takes a very positive approach (no sibling rivalry mentioned here) to introducing a new baby boy or girl. Also available in “I’m a Big Sister.”
We Have a Baby
Simple illustrations and text tell the story of a mixed race family bringing home baby. The older child could be seen as a boy or girl, so it really works for all families!
For Little Kids
A Baby Sister for Frances
The beloved badger has trouble with coping with her new sister in this charming book.
From Brooklyn’s own Ezra Jack Keats’s comes this classic tale of a little boy who feels displaced by his baby sister.
Julius, the Baby of the World
This gem from the creator of Lilly (of purple plastic purse fame) hilariously deals with jealousy over a new baby.
What Baby Needs
This informative book by William Sears, M.D. and Martha Sears, R.N. is one of the few books that demonstrate breastfeeding.
This is a sweet story of a young girl in Tanzania who mimics her mother caring for her new baby by taking care of her doll, which is actually a rock.
How You Were Born
If your child is more interested in the mechanics of how a baby comes about, this photo essay of conception and birth is worth checking out.
For Big Kids
A hilarious story from Beverly Cleary about coping with a new baby as told from the cat’s point of view.
Bad Kitty Meets the Baby
Apparently cats, have issues with babies—here’s another funny tale about a kitty who must deal with the unwanted addition of a baby in the house.