Introducing a Sibling
Ashley Jowett
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2022

Introducing a Sibling

Depending on your older child’s age and disposition, introducing a newborn sibling can be tricky. Older siblings can suffer from the shift in focus, regress developmentally, or express anger or aggression toward the new baby. When you follow the parent- and expert-approved tips below, you are more likely to begin this new sibling relationship on the right foot.

Sharing the News
Months seem to take eons in kid time. Wait to tell your older child about the coming of the new baby for a few months, if you can. Use changes in weather to share when the baby will arrive. For instance, you might say, “they will be here when the weather gets really cold again.”

In two-parent households, both should be present. It should be an announcement but not a serious one. Emphasize how much fun it will be to have a playmate and someone that they can teach to do new things. Be sure to tell them before you tell members of your extended families. Grandmothers and aunts love to talk about new babies, and you don’t want your child to learn about it secondhand.

Before the Birth
Talk about the new baby regularly. The young older sibling may need reminders that a baby is on the way. Read stories about becoming a big brother or big sister and about what babies do and what they need.

As the belly grows, introduce your children through the belly. Encourage your older child to talk to the baby about their favorite toys or sing to the baby. Tell the older child that the baby can hear them and it seems like the baby is excited to meet them. It is very special if the older baby is able to feel the baby move.

If your older child will relocate to a different room or move from a crib to a “big kid” bed, make the changes well in advance. Let it be about their growth and progress, rather than “making room for the new baby.”  Leave plenty of time for preparing the nursery for the new baby after the older sibling is settled and comfortable in their new space.

If you choose, pick up a small gift for the newborn to present to the older sibling upon meeting and have the older sibling pick out something special to give to the new baby when they arrive. You can also empower your older child to suggest names, choose the “going home” outfit, or complete other baby preparation with you.  Some kids appreciate having a doll that they can care in the same ways you care for the baby.

Some parents pack a framed photo of the older child to have with them when they go to the hospital. If you decide to have the older sibling visit in the hospital, it gives them the indication that you care about them and wanted them there.

Talk to your older child about what to expect. They should know who they will stay with and that you will see them again very soon. Some kids associate the hospital with being sick, which could lead to worry. Reassure them that you are OK.

First Meeting
Often, parents choose to introduce the new baby while they lay in a bassinet or cradle, rather than in mom’s or dad’s arms. Use the baby’s and child’s names to make the introductions. Let the sibling know that it seems like the baby is very happy to have an older sister or brother like them. Let your child know that they can’t play with the baby yet. They should ask if they want to hold the baby.

Coming Home
Generally, try to operate as a family unit. Breastfeed in the living room while the older sibling plays nearby. Try to send the message that you are available for both the older and younger child.

Plan some one-on-one time with mom and dad either separately or together and find small ways to make the big kid feel special. Use all of the familiar ways of telling them that you love them. Encourage visitors to pay attention to the older sibling too. If they bring something for the new baby, it’s especially nice if they think to bring a little something for the older sibling as well.

Keep expectations low and be accepting of your child’s reaction. Bonding usually happens naturally over time and sometimes with a few bumps along the way. If you have concerns about how your older child is coping, talk to their doctor for additional ideas.

Jaclyn Lozier, MD, is a pediatrician at SVMC Pediatrics, part of Southwestern Vermont Medical Center and Southwestern Vermont Health Care, in Bennington. 

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