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4 tips to help prepare your child for ‘the new baby’

Published in Pediatrics, For the Health of It Author: Jill Amsberry, D.O.

“How long is he staying?” “When will she be going back to the hospital?” “Whose baby is this?” “Is Mommy going to be O.K.?”

Before the birth of a new baby, it is important for caretakers to prepare older children for the new arrival.

  1. Communicate openly and often. Early in pregnancy, begin talking to your child about the new baby. This may look different depending on the age of the older children. Start simple. There are many different children’s books for varying ages that can help ignite a healthy discussion. Your local library is a great place to start. Allow time to be an active listener for your child and answer any questions they may have.
  2. Include your child as much as possible. The most important tool in helping older siblings adjust is to acknowledge their crucial role in the family. Help them decorate the new nursery or pick out new clothes. Be sure the children know ways that they can help their new sibling after arrival. Give children specific tasks, such as helping with diapers, picking out clothes, “reading” the baby books, pushing the stroller, helping to carry the carseat to and from the car. The more included they are, the less isolated they feel. 
  3. Make dedicated time for the older children. Set aside dedicated “older sibling” time.  Even 5 minutes a day of dedicated time can be just enough to make the older child feel as special as you know they are. Some parents will even create a “big brother” timer that can be used during their special time. If the baby cries, you can tell the baby they will have to wait until this special time is over. Don’t forget to prepare your older child for being out of the limelight. “Your brother will get a lot of attention. That’s because people love babies, not because they don’t like you.”  
  4. Prepare for emotional changes. It is normal for an older child to feel jealous and displaced when the new baby arrives. Regression is common, including the return of behaviors such as urinary accidents, thumb sucking and “baby talk.” A child that previously slept through the night may start waking frequently. Increased attention seeking behavior including tantrums, yelling, hitting, and biting are also common. Knowing these behaviors may occur can help caretakers to be understanding. It’s very important to ignore the negative behavior and provide extra praise for good behavior.  

In time, with the right encouragement, your older child will learn how to deal with his or her feelings toward a new baby sister or brother. They will learn to share, love and be responsible for others.