Today’s post is sponsored by Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center and written by Pam Warren, registered nurse, certified childbirth educator and a board-certified lactation consultant at Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center.
Welcoming another baby into the family is an exciting time for families. However, you may be concerned how your older child may react to the new baby. Yes, there may be jealousy, there may be tears and this may be a difficult time for older siblings to cope. So, what can you do to make this adjustment better?
Prepare your child ahead of time and talk to them about what babies are like. There are many books or even YouTube clips available that may be helpful. If a friend or family member has a baby, introduce your child to them with so they can have a more realistic idea of what noises they make, and even some of the smells! It is common for children to think a baby is hurt or in pain when they first hear them cry. It’s important they know that crying is just how babies communicate with us.
Where will your older child be staying while you are in the hospital? Advice I give mothers is to pack a bag for their child while they are packing their own bag for the hospital stay. Include a favorite activity or special snack and pack clothes for the activities they will be doing. That way, they will be preoccupied while you are in the hospital or busy with the new baby.
Enlisting grandparents or a friend’s help can be helpful by continuing to do fun activities with your child. When that is not possible, read your child a book while sitting and feeding baby. I know even the youngest sibling can probably “read” the baby their favorite book.
Some parents will bring a gift to the hospital for the big brother or big sister “from the new baby.” For the first introduction of the sibling, having mom’s arms free to welcome the older child can be helpful. You can use occasional opportunities to tell the baby, “You need to wait your turn.” Although the baby won’t know, it may help your older child start to realize that we all need to take turns. Speaking of gifts, I like to tell siblings that babies do get a lot of gifts. I usually like to start out asking what the day you are born is called. They quickly realize that they too get gifts for their birthday. I also like to tell older siblings that friends and family are trying to help their parents since so many things are needed for the new baby.
Another challenge can be all the praise and attention a new baby gets (so small, so big, so much hair). Break out some old photos and share what was said about your older child when he or she was born. I also like to point out to the older child just how “big” they are. I like to explain why babies are only able to have milk at this time and how it will be a long time before the baby can have cheerios or other “big kid” food. Babies are also not able to be a playmate at birth and can’t ride a bike or go outside to play. Explain to older siblings the benefits of being “big” and how one day, their little brother or sister will be able to do the fun things they are already able to do.
I always recommend that siblings first hold the baby with an adult’s permission and help. I always tell children that babies have weak neck muscles and since a baby’s head is the largest part of their body, we need to support the neck with one hand and the baby’s body with the other hand. Sitting in a chair is always recommended and is the safest place for this to occur.
Your older child may like to take on a helper role. Let them get a diaper or pick out an outfit for the baby to wear. If the child is three years old or younger, a choice between two things may be appropriate. If older, you may be able to send them to the closet to pick out something on their own.
Lastly, prepare a safe environment for the baby. You do have some time before they are mobile, but if the older sibling has small toys, it is important to keep them out of the baby’s reach. A handy toy tester is a toilet paper roll. If a toy is too big to fit in the roll or too big to block the baby’s airway, then it should be safe for the baby. Crawling around on the floor is one of the best ways to search for any small parts or unsafe items around the house. Enlist the older sibling to help with this as well.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies be placed in close proximity to parent’s sleeping space. One of the guidelines is that your toddler should not be in the same sleeping space as your newborn.
I wish you best of luck with your new baby and if you plan on delivering your baby at Saint Mary’s, I’d be happy to give your child a tour of our Family Birthing Center so they will know where Mom and Dad will be spending a couple of days.
Pam Warren is a registered nurse, certified childbirth educator and a board-certified lactation consultant at Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center. Please call 775-770-3429 for more information or to schedule a Sibling Tour.