We’ve talked about how to prepare yourself emotionally for welcoming a second child into your life, but how do you prepare your child to meet their new sibling? There are a few things you can do leading up to the birth of your second (or third, or fourth…) child, as well as once the new baby arrives, to help make the transition a seamless one for everyone involved.
Buy a book about new babies and/or becoming an older sibling. Books are a great way to capture your child’s attention and relay a message to them with colorful pictures and simple language. Books can help them better understand what it will mean to have a baby around and how they can help! We love “I Am a Big Sister” (or brother!) and "Hello in There! A Big Sister’s Book of Waiting.”
Belly bonding. Help start the bonding early — explain to your child that the baby can actually hear you from the inside. Spend time talking to the baby, reading to the baby and giving sweet belly rubs and cuddles. Keep lines of communication open and talk about the baby often, as if they are already part of the family.
Let them help prepare for baby. Make your child part of the preparation process — this could mean taking them shopping to stock up on baby supplies (explain what you’re buying, how the baby will use it, and how they can help in that particular activity), letting them help pack baby's hospital bag, or getting the nursery set up. Keep them involved!
Teach your toddler patience. One thing that is bound to happen once your baby comes home is you needing your toddler to be able to wait for you to do things — feed the baby, change the baby, put them down for a nap, etc. Practice making your toddler wait in the months leading up to baby’s arrival — “Mommy will get you more milk in a minute, as soon as I’m finished putting these dishes away,” “Yes, we can go to the park as soon as I am done getting myself dressed,” etc. This way, when the baby comes, there will be less resentment and more understanding that there are more things besides the baby that require mommy and daddy’s time.
Make the baby wait, too. Sometimes the baby will be slightly whiny or fussy. They’re fed, changed, burped and don’t really need you, and you’re in the middle of something with your toddler. Say out loud “I hear you baby. I will be right there as soon as I am done helping your brother/sister with this puzzle,” etc. This shows your older child that they’re not the only ones that have to wait for mom and dad’s attention.
Have your baby “give” your toddler a gift when they first meet. It helps get things started on the right foot. When your toddler meets your baby, have a present for them and let them know it is from their new brother/sister. They will always remember that this special gift came from their sibling.
Set aside time for your older child. Make a concerted effort to set some time aside each day for one-on-one time with your older child(ren). Get down on the floor with them and play Legos for 10 minutes, read them a few books or make them their favorite lunch and sit down and eat with them. Having the extra reassurance that their mom and/or dad are still available to them and love them dearly will help smooth over the transition.
Encourage bonding between the new siblings. It’s such a great feeling watching your little ones bond and snuggle, but when you have a newborn it’s easy to get nervous when your toddler asks if they can hold the baby. Under your watchful eye, Itzy Ritzy’s Milk Boss™ can help calm your nerves about the baby getting the support they need while being held by their big brother or sister.
While you could spend your entire pregnancy preparing yourself and your child(ren) for the arrival of a new baby, keep in mind that the road will be bumpy at times. There will be moments you think “What have a I done?!” or you will find it very hard to imagine them ever truly liking, let alone loving, each other. This is all normal, and with time and consistency your little ones will grow together into the best of friends.