How to Introduce a Baby to a Big Brother or Big Sister
Introducing Baby to Older Siblings
Preparing a Child for a New Baby
While adding a new baby to your family may not be difficult for you, it can be a difficult change for your older child. He or she has been the focus of your attention for a while, and when a newborn is brought home, some of that attention will need to be diverted to the baby, which is something your older child may not understand.
By starting to prepare your child during your pregnancy, you can slowly introduce some of the changes that will occur when you bring the new baby home. Learn how you can prepare older siblings and how you can introduce your new baby to his big brother or sister.
A Toddler and a New Baby
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Preparing a Toddler for a New Baby
Most children are toddlers between the ages of 1-3 when they become older siblings for the first time. They are just getting used to their new independence they discovered when they begin to walk, talk, eat on their own, and play on their own, but they are still rather attached to the parents and often crave the attention of their parents.
A new baby in the family can be a huge change for a toddler who is used to all of the attention. Here's how you can prepare your toddler for a new baby brother or sister:
- Start talking to your toddler about the new baby once you are in your second trimester or are showing. It is wise to wait until your second trimester to begin talking to your toddler about the new baby since you'll be past the danger of a miscarriage. It might even be best to wait until your belly bump grows to give a more tangible idea of the new baby since it could be hard for a toddler to understand the concept of pregnancy. Simple mentions of the baby should be enough at this point, especially for younger toddlers who may not have the vocabulary to react. Each mention of the new baby, however, will serve as a basis for introducing the new baby once he or she is born later on.
- Talk to your toddler about being a big brother or big sister. Toddlers like to hear about how 'big' they are growing, so it's a great idea to mention how your toddler will be a big brother or big sister who will need to help Mommy and Daddy with the new baby.
- Read big brother or big sister books. Even better, you can read a book or two to your toddler a few times a week about being a big brother or big sister. This helped me when I was talking to my then toddler son about becoming a big brother for the first time since he loved to read books and he could see the pictures corresponding with the words.
- Bring out the baby gear a bit early. Since bringing a new baby home will involve changing the layout of the rooms in your home to make room for baby gear, you may want to begin this process early to help your toddler become used to the things necessary to take care of the baby.
- 'Practice' taking care of a baby. Using a small doll, demonstrate to your toddler often of how you may take care of the baby and how he or she could take care of the baby. Hold the doll in a cradle position and gently rock back and forth. Sing lullabies. Mention how the doll's head is delicate and how you need to be gentle to the doll. Speak in a quiet voice when you hold the doll. Hold the doll in one arm as you hold your toddler in the other. Doing all of this a few times with your toddler will help reinforce how he or she will need to behave around the new baby.
You may also find that once the baby comes, you'll need to talk about sharing quite often, which includes sharing of toys along with sharing of the parents' attention. While your toddler doesn't need to give up toys or your attention, he or she needs to know that there will be times when the new baby is interested in a toy or needs the attention of the parents.
Books for Older Siblings
Practice Taking Care of Baby
Preparing a Preschooler for a New Baby
While older children may have an easier time understanding the concept of a new baby in the house, you should still take the time and steps to prepare them for how their lives will change because of the new baby. Unlike toddlers, preschoolers usually have a better grasp of the vocabulary necessary to understand what is going on and to voice any questions or concerns they might have.
Here is what you can do to prepare your preschooler for a new baby:
- Have an honest talk about the new baby. Once you feel comfortable telling your child about your pregnancy, sit down and have an honest talk with him or her. Explain how he or she is going to be an older sibling and how you may need their help from time to time with the new baby. Also explain that as an older sibling, he or she will need to be a good example for the new baby. It may help to mention how you may not always be able to pay immediate attention to him or her since you'll need to but that you will make an effort to just to spend quality one-on-one time with him or her.
- Be open to any questions or concerns from your preschooler. A preschooler may have some questions about how or why this pregnancy came about or about the new baby. While you may not be ready to discuss the birds and the bees just yet, give honest answers about the pregnancy process without divulging too much. Easier questions may be about the baby, so have fun being as detailed as you want with those!
- Ask for opinions about baby names, gear, clothes, etc. Involving your preschooler in the process of preparing for the new baby will make him or her feel as if he or she is still needed and has important thoughts to share when it comes to family matters.
- Relive baby memories. Pull out your preschooler's baby photo albums or movies and have fun talking about when he or she was a baby. Share funny stories or special memories that you or others have had.
How to Explain Pregnancy to a Preschooler
Preschoolers may not be ready for the birds and bees talk yet, but they can grasp general knowledge about the human body. If your preschooler asks how you became pregnant, try asking him or her what they think first. You may get an answer that may seem silly to you (such as 'the baby came from drinking a magic potion' or something on the preschool level), but try to go with it and answer with simple statements, such as:
- Mommy and Daddy love each other and they decided to have a family.
- A baby starts growing in Mommy's belly when the family begins.
- The baby grows in Mommy's uterus, a special place inside of a mom where babies grow.
- When the baby is ready to come out, doctors and nurses help Mommy get the baby out in the hospital.
Simple statements such as these may appease your preschooler. You may not need to go any further than that, but if your preschooler should press on, give a very simple but accurate description of what causes a pregnancy.
For more help, visit BabyCenter's helpful article about talking to your preschooler about pregnancy here.
Gifts from Baby to Older Sibling
When the new baby finally does arrive, it's time to introduce him or her to the older siblings. One easy way to transition into this introduction is to give the older siblings a small gift from the new baby as a way to say hello. This gift giving takes away any initial feelings from the older siblings that the baby is an intruder in the family.
The gift can be something small like a little stuffed animal with a note that says "Thank you for being my big brother/sister". Bring the gift with you to the hospital and present it to the new big brother or sister when they meet the baby for the first time.
Preventing Sibling Rivalry
Sibling rivalry is an extremely common issue in many families. When a new baby is introduced into the family, it can cause older siblings to feel off-balance in their once familiar world and they may begin to regret having a baby in the house.
The key to preventing sibling rivalry is to recognize and acknowledge the feelings of older siblings while preparing the older siblings with clear expectations of what it could be like with a new baby in the house. Once the baby is born, it's also important to spend some one-on-one time with the older siblings without the baby, while also including the older siblings in some of the activities necessary to take care of the newborn.
For more great ideas, visit this article at WebMD.
How to Prevent Sibling Rivalry
Older Siblings and a New Baby
Once you introduce your newborn to older siblings, don't expect everyone to magically get along all of the time or to enjoy having the new baby around. It's going to take time and patience, but after a while things will settle down and everyone will become used to the new routine.
Enjoy all of the precious moments you have with your children!