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As a momma of 3, I've had the pleasure of bringing home a newborn baby to meet their older sibling(s) twice now. It's a very exciting time, albeit, a little nerve-wracking when you're unsure of how those first hours, days, or weeks are going to be like. I remember wondering things like
"Will my older child or children be gentle with the baby?"
"Will they feel like they're being replaced?"
"How can I make sure my older ones are getting enough attention?"
Here are some things I did before and/or after our newborns made their appearances that can help make the transition better for a big brother or sister.
1) Let them be a part of the care taking process
I think this is probably one of the most helpful things I made sure to do. It really helped my older children transition into their new roles, and they benefitted from realizing how helpful they could be. It also gave them something to do and in turn allowed them to become more connected to their new sibling. Here are some things my boys helped with:
-bringing me diapers or a pack of wipes
-gently rubbing baby's back or tummy and shushing or singing to them
-putting baby's mittens on or rolling their sleeves over their hands to keep from scratching themselves
-laying out a blanket for baby to lay on
-holding the baby's bottle or holding the Boppy pillow as I nursed (with me doing the majority of the holding of course)
2) Carve out time to spend with just them
I think one of my biggest concerns was that my boys were going to feel like they had been replaced in some way by bringing a new baby into our family (and home). My husband and I wanted to make sure we maintained the special, individual relationship we had with each of them.
We set aside blocks of time or outings where they'd each get our individual attention. Examples included taking our oldest to the store for our weekly grocery trip, playing a game or doing another activity of their choice, going out for ice cream, or taking walks around the neighborhood.
It can really be anything you want to do together. The purpose is for them to feel special and know your focus is on them during that time. This can help them understand that although baby brother or sister has arrived, you will always make time for them as their parents.
3) Make it a big deal that they're the big brother or sister
Before baby makes their arrival, you can get the soon to be big brother or sister excited for their new role in the family. One way I did this was by asking my son what he was most excited for.
-What did he want to show baby he could do?
-How was he going to help mommy with the baby?
-What books did he want to read to baby?
Once baby arrived, I would make it a point to talk about what a great big brother they were and how I'm sure the baby couldn't wait to be just like them because they had so much to teach them!
I always liked decking my boys out in a Big Bro shirt. I really talked it up and told them how neat it was that they got to wear this cool new shirt. My oldest liked wearing his to school and showing it off to his friends.
If you wanted to step up the older sibling gear, there's even a Big Brother Gift Set that includes a cape, mask, wrist band, backpack and water bottle and the Big Sister Gift Set which includes a cape, crown, bag, dairy and water bottle.
4) Read a book about being a big brother or sister
Reading some books can give the soon-to-be big brother or sister a preview of what being an older sibling is all about. One way to do this is by reading some books about their new role. I read this I Am a Big Brother book to my boys. There is also a I Am a Big Sister book as well.
5) Engage in fun activities together
I know you may be thinking, "What activities can a toddler and a newborn actually do together?" There's a number of different things, although the word "together" is definitely being used with some creative liberties.
I read this book "Look Look" with the kids because it's super cute and unbeknownst to most, a newborn only see about 8-12 inches in front of their face, so it's good for baby as well. If big brother or sister is already reading themselves, they can read it to their baby, too.
Reading books together was always a go-to favorite activity. It was fun, educational, and didn't require any prep.
As a way to get some energy out, and enjoy some music, the boys and I would sing or have a dance party courtesy of whatever fun song I could find on Youtube Kids. Baby brother would participate as an audience member or alongside as I held him.
My kids loved coloring or drawing a picture for their new baby bother.
Here are some fun options that big brother or big sister may enjoy
Those are just a few strategies I used to help my kids during the transition into big brotherhood. I'm sure you'll find things that will work best for you and your family. Just remember to give your child AND yourself lots of grace, love, and patience and everything will be fine.
Together in Motherhood,