How To Help Your First Child Adjust To The New Baby
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Our age-by-age guide will teach you how to help your first child adjust to the new baby. The best tips to prevent jealousy between siblings!
In This Guide
When you’re pregnant with your first child, you and your husband get 9 months to prepare yourself for your baby to arrive. You read books about giving birth, shop for baby clothes and a whole lot of other things that makes it easier for you to wrap your head around the thought of you actually having a baby.
But when you’re pregnant with your second child there’s one more person in your family that you need to prepare.
Suddenly there’s one more thing you need to add to the list of things to worry about. How will your older child react to the new baby?
Once you’ve broken the big news, you’ll most likely have several months to prepare your child for a brother or sister.
We’ll help you figure out how to prepare your child before the baby is born, how to talk to your child about the baby, involving him in the preparations, and get him ready for the amazing change that’s coming.
Common Reactions To Siblings
A new baby brings both joy and challenges to a family. Parents are excited but they are also often nervous about how their older children will react to the newborn.
Older siblings can react in various ways to a new family member. A 1-2-year-old has almost the same needs as a baby and might find it difficult to understand what it means to get a sibling. While a 3-year-old or older child might feel excited to get a sibling or the opposite, jealous of the baby.
Your child has never had to share you with someone else before. For his whole life, you’ve been his greatest love and he has been yours. But suddenly, there’s a new person intruding in your relationship.
It’s common that a child starts to regress when they get a younger sibling. This happened in my family. My son, who was 3,5 year old at the time he got a sibling, suddenly wanted to do all of the things that the baby did. He wanted to lie in the stroller, talk like a baby and breastfeed like a baby. I actually woke up one morning because my son was nursing from my breast. I was so surprised and couldn’t do anything other than to laugh.
Children of different ages will react differently to a new baby but knowing what to expect from each age group will make it easier for you to handle the changes in your family.
How to Help Your First Child Adjust To The New Baby
There are many ways to help your first child adjust to life with a new baby. This age-by-age guide will give you ideas on how to make the transition from an only child to a sibling smoother for your child.
How to Prepare 1-2 Year Old for a New Baby
Children that are this young will most likely not understand what it means to have a new brother or sister.
Try to talk about the new baby anyway while letting your child hear the happiness and excitement in your voice. Your child may not understand why you are happy and excited, but your attitude will rub off on her and she will feel excited too.
Keep in mind, that once your baby is born, you may not be able to satisfy the needs of both your children all the time. If you feel overwhelmed, talk to your spouse, family, and friends and ask for their support and help.
To prepare your child for a new sibling, you can also:
1Read picture books about a new baby
Even if your child doesn’t understand what’s happening just yet, at least your child will become familiar with words like “sister,” “brother,” and “new baby.”
2Let your child feel the baby kicking
Let your child put his hands on your belly and feel the baby kicking. It makes it easier for your child to understand that there is someone (and not just something) in there. Encourage your child to talk and sing to the baby while you use a baby voice and pretend that the baby is answering him.
3Visit friends with babies
If your child is not used to being around babies or seeing you hold another child, he may have some strong reactions at first. It’s great if you can spend time with other families so he can get used to the idea of you holding another baby while still being able to love him and take care of him. It will also give him a chance to see what babies are like and allow him to begin developing ways to interact with them.
How to Prepare 2-4 Year Old for a New Baby
At this age, your child may be very sensitive to change and may even feel threatened by the idea of a new family member. Your child is still very attached to you and doesn’t quite understand how to share you with others.
To prepare your preschooler for a new sibling, you can:
1Tell your preschooler about the baby first
Try to tell your preschooler that she’s getting a new brother or sister before you tell other family and friends. If someone else asks her if she’s looking forward to the new baby, and you haven’t explained it to her yet, she may be a bit baffled.
Explain that the baby will be cute and cuddly but also that the baby will cry and take a lot of your time and attention. Also, don’t tell your child that he’ll get a sibling to play with, it will be months before the two of them can play together and if he expects a playful friend right away, he’ll just get disappointed.
3Involve your child in planning for the baby
Take your child with you when shopping for baby items and let him help decide what you should get. This will make him less jealous. Let him shop with you for baby items.
4Show him his own baby pictures
Show your child that he was once a baby too and so he can get a sense of what babies can and can’t do.
5Put together a busy bag
Create a busy bag for your child that you only take out when it’s time to breastfeed. Busy bags are perfect when you want to distract your child or when you want them to play quietly. By making special breastfeeding busy bag, you make sure that your child doesn’t grow tired of the items too quickly.
6Buy your child (boy or girl) a doll
Get a doll that your child can look after and nurture much like you will be doing with your new baby.
7Prepare your child for when you are in the hospital
Explain that you will be back with the new baby in a few days so he won’t be confused when you leave for the hospital.
8Expect your child to regress a little
Your toilet-trained child might suddenly start having “accidents,” or he might want to take a bottle just like the baby. This is your older child’s way of making sure he still has your love and attention and this is actually a very common reaction among older siblings. Instead of telling him not to act like a baby, let him have the attention he needs and praise him when he acts more grown-up.
9Ask family and friends to spend a little time with your older child
It’s easy for your child to feel unseen when your family and friends come to see the new baby. Ask them to pay a little extra attention to your child to help him feel special and not left out of all the excitement. They could also give him a small gift when they bring gifts for the baby.
How to Prepare School-Aged Children for a New Baby
Children older than 5 years are usually not as attached to the parents anymore and doesn’t feel as threatened by a new baby as younger children are. However, they may still resent the attention the new baby gets.
To prepare your school-aged child for a new sibling, you can:
1Tell your child what is happening
Explain what having a new baby means in a language that they can understand and be honest about both the good and bad changes that may affect her.
2Involve your child in planning for the baby
Have your older child help get things ready for the new baby by fixing up the baby’s room, picking out clothes, or buying diapers.
3Have your older child come to the hospital
If possible, have your older child come visit at the hospital soon after the baby is born so she feels part of the growing family.
4Make sure your child has a role to play
Make sure your older child feels included and that she has a role to play in caring for the baby. Tell her she can hold the baby, but that she has to ask you first and praise her when she is gentle and loving toward the baby.
5Do not overlook your older child
Make an effort to spend some time alone with your older child every day and remind her of how special she is and how much you love her.
What Should I Do if My Child Begins to Act Out?
Older children can sometimes try to get their parents attention by breaking rules. They know that they’ll be punished but also that it’s an effective way to get your attention.
To stop this behavior you need to praise your child when he or she is behaving well. You could even consider ignoring the behavior if you suspect that your child is behaving badly just to get attention. This might encourage your child to find a more positive way to get your attention.
Keep in mind that children sometimes regress or act younger than their age after the arrival of a new sibling. Your toilet-trained child might suddenly start having “accidents,” or he might want to take a bottle just like the baby. These are normal reactions to the change in your family dynamic that require tolerance rather than punishment. Give your older child love and the attention he needs during regressive periods.
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Once your baby is born, make sure that you don’t ever blame the baby. Don’t tell your older child that you’re too tired to play because the baby didn’t let you sleep last night, instead try to say “Mommy’s a bit tired right now but we can look through a book instead”. Otherwise, your child might end up disliking the baby.