Prepare Your Child for a New Baby Sibling Before the Birth
As a parent, I’m sure you’ve been around enough kids to know that they are all different. And every child will respond to the arrival of a new sibling in a different way. So you need to prepare your child for a new baby sibling in a way that fits their needs.
Some kids will welcome a new baby, fall in love, and want to be involved in caring for their new brother or sister.
Other kids will want the new arrival gone, feel jealous and need more reassuring and one-on-one time.
And still, others may not care one way or the other about their new sibling until they grow old enough to play with or fight over toys.
As a parent, you know your child best and can use that knowledge to help prepare your child for a new baby sibling in a way that meets their unique needs.
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Introduce Your Child to their New Sibling Before the Birth
Kids aren’t always the most observant creatures on the planet (except when it’s sure to embarrass you) but eventually, when your stomach hits the point they can no longer sit on your lap, they might begin to notice.
That’s about the right time to talk to your child about the new baby.
With younger children, in particular, it makes sense to wait a while before bringing up your new baby. Time is a peculiar concept to a young child. And nine months to a toddler or preschooler is an eternity.
But you have to balance that with the fact that you and your partner will probably be talking about your baby-to-be, buying things and maybe preparing a room.
Not to mention other people, friends, and family asking about your due date and your pregnancy.
Try to balance telling your child too soon with waiting so long they’re already starting to wonder and worry what everyone in their life is talking about.
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Share Pictures of Your First Pregnancy and Talk About the New Sibling
If you’re looking for an opening to start talking to your child about your pregnancy and the new baby that’s coming pictures are a great place to start.
Pull out a few photos from when you were pregnant the first time. Explain to your child that they grew in your tummy too. And your tummy grew then just like it is now. Only this time the baby inside is going to be their brother or sister.
Ultrasound photos are great too. Both from your first pregnancy and for the current one. Show your kids that baby growing inside.
I was fortunate to have 3-D ultrasound pictures from my first pregnancy. I could show my older child exactly what she looked like in utero. And talk to her about the baby growing in my tummy.
Even older kids who are aware of your pregnancy and understand the concept of “where babies come from” will enjoy seeing pictures of you when you were pregnant with them.
This is also a great opportunity to emphasize how excited you were with your first pregnancy and how excited you are now.
Baby Pictures Can Help You Explain What the New Baby Will be Like
Once you’ve bonded with your child over pregnancy pictures, move on to baby pictures! Show your kids their baby pictures. You can enjoy some time together and tell them stories about what they were like as a baby.
Kids love to hear stories about themselves. No matter what age. And you can weave in some details about what their new little brother or sister will be like. And what they will need.
You can talk about how when they were a baby your child needed to be held. And needed to fed and changed. All the things you’ll need to do for the new baby in the family.
Get Them a Baby to Care For Before a New Sibling Arrives
Another fun way to introduce the concept of a new baby in the family is to give your child their own baby to take care of. Not a real baby of course, but a life-like doll.
A baby doll can be useful in helping prepare a child for the birth of a new sibling in a couple different ways.
You can use the baby doll to show young children the things you will do with your new baby once they arrive. Bonus points if the doll has a baby bottle to feed them or a diaper to change.
The doll can be used to teach your child about always being gentle with the new baby in the family. And to demonstrate things like feeding the baby, changing them, putting them to bed, and other care taking activities.
And after your new baby arrives, you can encourage your child to take care of their baby when you’re caring for their new sibling.
Encourage your child to feed their baby a bottle while you feed your baby. Or change a diaper when you do. This can be useful for teaching about caring and also for keeping your child from trying to “help” with the new baby in ways that aren’t safe.
Talk About Ways Older Kids Can Help with the New Baby Sibling
If your child loves caring for their new baby doll chances are you can get them enthused about helping with their new baby sibling.
Becoming a big brother or sister is huge! It’s a big adjustment. Encouraging your child to help with the new baby in the family can make them feel special and help them bond with the baby.
It can also be a little scary. If you’re concerned about your child being too rough. Or trying to pick up your new baby every time you turn your back, well you should be scared of that. It can happen. So, it’s important to talk to your older child about the best ways they can safely help with baby care.
Direct that helpful caring and energy towards specific tasks that they can safely do and feel good about.
With toddlers, you can ask them to pick out the baby’s clothes or pajamas. Or they can help entertain their new sibling during diaper changes. You can even let them “help” with holding a bottle.
Set clear boundaries about helping with mom and dad present. And not taking it upon themselves to care for the baby when you’re not supervising.
You can start talking about how excited you are to have your child’s help with the baby near the end of your pregnancy. And then be sure to put it into practice once your new baby arrives.
My only caution here is if your child doesn’t want to help. Or views this as a chore instead of a privilege. I would lighten up on asking them to help. It’s supposed to be a positive thing. They get to help and be the important big brother or sister!
If they seem to be reading it as “we had this new kid, now we need you to do some work around here!” Then “helping” may not be the way to help them adjust to the new baby in the family.
You’ve probably already thought of this! There are many wonderful children’s books you can read with your child to help them prepare for their new role as a big brother or sister. And that are useful for helping them cope with a new baby in the family and all the adjustments that requires.
Honestly, most of these books are really similar. But there is one standout that I absolutely love. And it is my number one recommended book to read with your child before your new baby arrives.
It’s an especially good choice if you’re concerned your child will be jealous or if they are feeling put out about no longer being the baby in the family. It’s called You Were the First.
Most books about new siblings focus almost entirely on the new baby. This book puts the focus on your firstborn. And explains that they will always have a special place in the family as your first child.
If you buy one book to help your child prepare for the arrival of a new sibling, choose You Were the First.
And if you want a few more fun books to prepare your child for a new sibling, check out a few of these great books about becoming a big brother or sister.
Avoid Making Changes Before a New Sibling Arrives
The arrival of a new sibling is a huge change in a child’s life. Even if they love the idea of being a big brother or sister, they are going to need time to adjust.
And big changes cause stress.
So, as you near the end of your pregnancy and then welcome your new baby, let that be the only big change affecting your older kids. At least as much as you can control that.
During the last month of your pregnancy and the first month or two after your baby arrives, avoid making other changes in your child’s life. This is not the time to switch from a crib to a big kid bed. Or to start potty training Or take away their bottle or pacifier.
If you can get it done a few weeks before your second child arrives, that’s great (although be prepared for a regression once their new sibling is born).
Otherwise, give them a few months to adjust to the new baby before trying to make other giant life changes.
I know, sometimes you can’t help it. Things happen. You have to move, or switch daycares, or some other uncontrollable event occurs near the birth of your child’s sibling. And they will adjust.
But the things you can control and wait for, you should. You can make life easier on everyone in the family if you let your kids adjust to one huge life transition at a time.
Prepare Your Child for Your Hospital Stay Before the Baby Comes
When I was preparing for the birth of my second child one of the things I was most concerned about was making sure my older child was taken care of.
Make arrangements for your child’s care well in advance of your due date. And as the day gets closer be sure to have conversations about what will happen when you go to the hospital.
It’s important to reassure your child that you will back home in a few days with their new baby brother or sister. And that while you’re gone they will get to spend extra time with grandma or a friend. Somewhere they feel comfortable and will look forward to spending some time.
Because of complications with my second birth, I was in the hospital for 4 nights. Definitely, the longest my oldest child had ever spent away from home.
It helped that she was in a place she was happy. And that she was able to visit the hospital to meet her new sibling and to spend some time with mom and dad.
If your kids have any negative feelings about hospitals because of prior injuries or illnesses be sure to explain that a birthing center is different. It’s a nice place where babies are born and not like the ER where you went when they were sick (or whatever).
Buy Gifts from the New Baby to Your Older Child
This is my number one tip, you guys! It helped my older kid so much when her new sister came. Buy your older child a gift from the new baby for when the baby arrives!
If you have a young child in the toddler to young school age range this idea is gold. “Look, here is your new sister! AND HERE IS THE PRESENT SHE BROUGHT YOU!” as you quickly hand over the gift.
A gift from the new sibling to your older child helps make the first meeting special for all of your kids. And sets a positive tone. The gift is also a nice distraction from any negative feelings your older kids might be having about the situation.
Encourage Guests to Fuss Over the New Big Brother or Sister
Most people in your life will have enough sense to do this on their own. But it’s helpful when friends and family come to meet your new arrival if they don’t push past your oldest to start gushing over the new baby.
Encourage guests to interact with your older kids. And to spend a little time with them. Your kids will love the attention and it will help prevent jealousy towards the new baby, who at this point they will definitely see as an interloper and an attention hog.
Even better, if guests who bring baby gifts remember to bring older kids a little something too. Or you can keep a stash of books or toys from the dollar store to give older kids if the baby is getting a ton of loot and they’re feeling neglected.
Allow Time for Your Child to Adjust to a New Baby
You already have a child so you know how intense those first weeks with a newborn can be. Between lack of sleep, constant feedings, diaper changes, doctor appointments, etc, make sure your older kids don’t feel lost in the shuffle.
If you plan ahead of time you can make things easier on everyone once the baby arrives.
Make Time for One-on-One with Both Parents
Try to schedule one-on-one time with your older kids after the new baby arrives. And this should include one-on-one time with mom.
Because of breastfeeding or recovering physically from birth it might seem easier to have the parent who didn’t give birth be the one to spend time with your toddler or older kids. But your kids will be missing mom.
So, whenever possible try to allow your older child time with mom while dad or another family member takes on baby duty. Even if it’s just for a half hour.
And of course, special time with both parents means BOTH parents. Mom will inevitably be spending lots of time with the new baby. And while that is happening, the other parent can plan some fun one-on-one activities with the older kids.
But each parent needs to have time with every child in the family. It’s fine to have each of you take on one. It just shouldn’t always be the same one.
Be Patient with Regressions After a New Baby Arrives
No matter how much your child loves being a “big kid” don’t be surprised if a new baby in the family causes the re-emergence of some babyish behaviors.
Regression is totally normal when a new sibling arrives. Or really with any big change in a child’s life. They are still so young. And it’s a lot to handle.
If after your second child is born, your potty-trained child starts having accidents or demanding to be held all the time, or wanting a bottle or pacifier they gave up months ago, well it’s normal.
This doesn’t mean you need to indulge every whim. But be patient with them. Give them some extra attention and cuddles. And know that the only solution for this might be time.
Have a Plan for Your Child for When You’re Busy with the Baby
One of the biggest struggles in going from one child to two is keeping your older child entertained while you’re taking care of the baby.
Breastfeeding or bottle feeding isn’t always quick. And with a newborn, it’s ALL THE TIME. And you’re pretty much pinned in a chair. Unless you’re one of those mega talented moms who can walk around and breastfeed at the same time (I could not do this).
So, have a plan for your older kids for when you’re busy with the baby. Some great ideas are to make or purchase busy bags for them to play with during feedings.
Or a box of toys they only get when you’re feeding the baby. Or coloring books, stickers, craft projects. In a pinch, a tablet they can watch a show on for a few minutes.
No plan will work perfectly. But it can be useful to have an activity or fifty in mind for the times you have to be taking care of the baby but your older kid needs attention.
This will help all of you. It will give your kids something fun to do. And keep you from losing your patience if you’re struggling with feeding the baby, or super exhausted and have limited energy for a toddler meltdown or preschooler demanding to be held.
Specific Tips for Kids Preparing for a New Sibling By Age
The age of your older kids will obviously have a huge impact on how they react to the birth of a new sibling. Most of these tips are for parents with an older toddler, preschooler, or younger school-age child. But here are a few more age-specific tips to consider when trying to prepare kids for a new sibling.
Preparing Your Toddler for a New Sibling
A toddler, especially one on the younger end is not going to have a good grasp of what it will mean to have a new sibling.
Definitely talk to them about it as your baby’s birth gets closer. Spend time reading books together and looking at baby pictures. Even spending time with a friend who has a baby can help them understand the concept.
Before your baby arrives, it can also be helpful to work with your toddler on playing independently. This will help when you need to feed or change your new baby and your toddler needs something to do.
I like this post on encouraging independent play. It’s positive and will help your toddler prepare for when your attention is a little more divided.
Preparing Your Preschooler for a New Baby Sibling
An older toddler or preschooler is old enough to understand what a new sibling might mean and to be none to happy about it.
Jealousy can be a challenge with all age groups but is particularly common with this one. Sharing their parents’ attention is difficult.
This is a great age for the You Were the First book. And for practicing caring for their own baby with a doll.
And this is a great age for having your older child help you with the baby if they’re up for it. Take them shopping for baby gear. Let them pick out a few things. And try to build some excitement around the birth.
This is also an age that will probably love looking at their own baby pictures and hearing stories about when they were a baby. So have those conversations. And while you’re reminiscing be sure to talk about how much attention babies need. And how they need to be touched and cared for super gently.
Because you’re going to be reminding them of these things once the baby comes. A LOT. So lay some groundwork before you give birth.
Preparing School-Age Kids for a New Baby in the Family
School-age kids will likely be jealous of the time and attention a new baby in the family gets. At the same time, they are probably also the most likely to find caring for a baby fun. And to really enjoy a helper role.
Be sure to talk to your kids about their feelings. Let them know it’s ok, it’s normal, to be jealous. Point out the advantages they have being the oldest. They get more time to play. They can stay up later. More exciting toys.
And look for opportunities to help your older kids bond with the baby. While also making sure to make time for one-on-one time with your older kids.
They may not need you in the same way a toddler does or especially a new baby. You don’t need to hand feed them or wipe their behinds.
But they DO still need you. And you need to let them know you are there. And that you have time for them and their needs in your family.
Get Kids Ready for a New Baby in the Family
Adding a new baby to the mix is always going to be a seismic shift in a family. But with these tips and some preparation, you can ease the adjustment for your older kids. And help them find joy in their new sibling.
Before you know it, you’ll be watching your kids play together and join forces in the ongoing campaign to make you late for everything, sleepless, and otherwise living the mom life.
Congrats on the new baby!