How to Prepare Siblings for Life with a Newborn

Adriana Lozada tackles a question parents ask her often: how to introduce your other children to their newborn sibling. There isn’t one right way to do it, so Adriana has suggestions to make the intros and transition easier—and joyful!

How did you introduce your older child(ren) to a new sibling? Do you have a special memory of their first meeting? Share your experience and tips with us on Instagram @birthfulpodcast.

 

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Transcript

How to Prepare Siblings for Life with a Newborn

Adriana Lozada: I’m Adriana Lozada and you’re listening to Birthful, here to inform your intuition, and I am on my own today just like every other week, taking 10 minutes or so to talk to you one on one about a topic that I get a lot of questions about. This is how to introduce your new baby to their sibling or siblings, depending on how many you have already. 

There isn’t one unique way to do this, to help introduce your older kids to your newborn or the other way around. What you need to consider is your child’s personality, right? How do they normally deal with changes and what works for them? I’m gonna give you suggestions today, but basically don’t force it, and also don’t necessarily make a big deal about it. There are some things you can do before the baby arrives. So, if you’re planning to move your older kid out of the nursery into their own room, do that before the baby is born. You don’t want to make them feel like they’re being kicked out of their room and forced into this doubly-new situation, right? 

Then the other one is not to start toilet training, because that’s another drastic change. You want to make sure if you’ve already started, you want to finish before the baby arrives, or if you are not gonna start or you’re not gonna finish in time, then wait for a few months after the baby is born to begin. And if you’re somewhere in the middle, understand that your older kid might experience some regressions in toilet training or go back a few steps and that’s completely normal. 

There is one more thing that you do want to consider universally, and that is to start talking to your older kids about the new baby. Whether you want to show them ultrasound pictures, or have them feel your belly for kicks, or talk and sing to the baby in the belly, have them come to prenatals and hear the heartbeat, or even help measuring your belly. If your kids are two to four, then you start getting into definitely more awareness, but also some jealousy, because that’s… Those are ages where they’re very attached to you and it’s really important to set realistic expectations that a new baby is not gonna be a playmate immediately, right? That babies sleep a lot, and cry a lot, and just want to be carried a lot. So, make sure you communicate that. 

Then, you also want to involve them as much as possible in preparing the house for the new baby. So, maybe helping you buy baby stuff, or going to the store, picking out a few things to decorate the baby’s room if you’re doing a baby room, or whatever. Just have them have a say, because it’s a family affair, and they’re a part of your family. 

Also, in terms of with these older kids, you can when you are engaging with the baby in the belly, you can also ask them, “What do you think the baby is doing there in the belly? Oh, look. They’re kicking. What do you think they’re doing? Do they want to play soccer?” Just make up ideas so that it humanizes the baby in the belly, and you can also even get them a doll of their own and have them roleplay taking care of that baby. That can be really cool. 

And then in terms of connecting with what a baby is, you can even show them their own baby pictures so that they can see like, “Oh, you were a baby too. Look, this is how cute you were. And this is you when you started to eat. This is you when you were carried around in the sling or the stroller.” So that when they then see you doing that with the new baby, there’s hopefully some connection there. You might have to do it lots of times for that connection to be put into place.

So then, all right, that’s before baby, like months before baby shows up. As you get closer to your due date, you want to prepare for the actual birthday. Have a little birth plan of who’s gonna take care of this kid, how are you gonna set it up, is it gonna be a sleepover at grandparents’, are grandparents coming over, like whatever the plan is, make sure you communicate with them. Maybe even do a trial run, but that’s gonna depend also on your kid’s personality. If you think that’s gonna stress them out, then don’t. 

Definitely explain that you’re gonna be away for awhile, and then in terms of yourself, know that it is normal to have big feelings because you probably have not spent that much time away from your older child. And I see this with a lot of clients. They go into the hospital to have their baby and they have to sort of mourn a little bit the being away from their other kid. Let yourself feel whatever you’re feeling.

So then, in terms of the first meeting, you want to make it memorable and you want to keep it short. Be intentional. Make sure your older kid is meeting the baby at a time that’s good for them, meaning they’re not tired, they’re not hungry, they’re not cranky. You want to make sure you center the older child and then have them intentionally claim this new baby. And they might even say, “It’s my baby.” And if you’re considering getting them a gift from the newborn, like those tend to be big hits, it depends on your kid, too. For some it creates an emotional bond with positive associations and for others it might backfire and then they’re starting to manipulate you with like, “Oh, can I have another toy from my sibling? Is he not getting me another toy? Or is she not getting me another toy?” 

So, if your older kid is coming to the hospital to meet your new baby, then there’s a great way you can introduce them in an intentional way, and I got this from Alyssa Jennings, who was a mom who shared their birth story on the show. If the meeting is not happening at the hospital, you can modify that to a meeting at home. So, what you want to do is to make sure you center your older kid, but before they come over, see if you can have the newborn go to the nursery or be out if there’s a nurse that can hold them, and have the older kid come into the room and just see you. Because you guys have been away from each other and if they walk in and then see a baby in your arms, sort of in their place, it’s not gonna set them up. They’re gonna be wondering what’s going on. 

So, just you, spend some quality time with them, a few minutes, maybe give them the gift from the newborn if that’s what’s going on, and then maybe say to your partner or whoever brought the sibling to visit, say to your older kid, “Hey, can you go with so and so and bring… Can you find the baby? Go find the baby and bring them to me.” And so, they’re actually gonna have to go out and find and claim the baby and bring, like there’s this responsibility of I’m bringing baby to you. And it can be a really great way to help them claim that and be part of the family and really create a bond. 

And from then on, what you want to make sure you do is you have your older kid in team baby, meaning it’s not, “Get out of the way so I can change the newborn.” Or, “Oh, no, I need that space.” Rather give them a job so that they… that is their own. Especially if you’ve got that toddler that is in that, “I do it. I do it,” phase. Oh, they can be the one that brings you the clean diaper so you can change it, or while you’re changing baby or feeding baby, they’re the ones that sing a lullaby, or somehow they can help with feeding. Whatever it is, give them a job. That’s gonna help them feel included and needed. 

And then make time, at least 10 minutes, 5 minutes, whatever it is, make daily time for undivided attention, just you and the older kid, so that you get that connection and they’re not feeling like this baby is taking everything away from them. 

If you’re taking pictures of the baby, make sure you include your older kids in there, as well. Make sure you take pictures of them alone, as well. If you find that your older kid is acting out, at the end of the day what they’re doing is seeking attention, so see if you can attend good behavior and ignore the bad. Ask them how they feel about having a sibling and listen and validate those feelings. And I think the last thing I want to say is one of the questions that I hear people ask a lot is what’s harder, going from one to two, or two to three, three to four, and one of my clients gave me the best answer, which is going from zero to one. Zero to one is the hardest. 

So, remember that. You’ve already done zero to one. However many you have at home, adding another one is gonna be easier. You’re gonna navigate it. And give yourself grace. Give your kids grace. And you’ll figure it out. You will have love for all of them and you’ll find your rhythm. 

Birthful was created by me, Adriana Lozada, and is a production of Lantigua Williams & Co. The show’s senior producer is Paulina Velasco. Virginia Lora is the managing producer. Cedric Wilson is our lead producer. Thank you for listening to and sharing Birthful. Be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify, and everywhere you listen. Come back next week for more ways to inform your intuition.  

CITATION: 

Lozada, Adriana, host. “How to Prepare Siblings for Life with a Newborn.” Birthful, Lantigua Williams & Co., November 3, 2020. Birthful.com.

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