When you add a new sibling (or siblings!) to your family, the transition can be tough on any existing children as well as on you and your partner. Here are some pointers to help make it easier on everyone.
Take Care of Logistics
The process of introducing a new sibling into your family begins long before you bring the baby home. First and foremost, you'll need to plan for proper care to be provided for existing children during your hospital stay and for the first few weeks after you return home. For example, Twin Mom Ashley arranged for her parents, mother-in-law, and nanny to be in full charge of her twins while she was at the hospital.
To help things goes smoothly while you are away:
- Update your emergency contact information and provide copies to the caregivers.
- Write down your child's schedule, along with meal ideas, dietary restrictions, and playtime activity suggestions.
- Prepare some favorite meals for your child in advance. For example, make a batch of pancakes to freeze that can easily be reheated.
Prepare for a New Normal
Emotionally speaking, it can help to let your child participate in your pregnancy. For example, take your child to your sonogram appointments. If you receive photos of the new baby, give your child his or her own copy.
To help your child get used to the idea of having a sibling:
- Show your child his or her own baby book or baby movies so your child becomes familiar with the behavior of newborns. Say things like, "See how Mommy held you when you needed to eat? I will be doing that with your new brother or sister too."
- Begin to refer to your child as the big brother or big sister.
- Familiarize your child with the new nursery, and allow him or her to play there and get comfortable.
- Install a car seat for the new baby so your child is aware of forthcoming changes to seating in the car.
In addition, it may help for your partner to be more actively involved in your child's routine in the weeks leading up to the birth of the new baby. For example, if you primarily give your child a bath, begin to let your partner do this more frequently. This will help make the transition smoother once you are home and preoccupied with the new baby.
After the new baby is born, pick a day for your child to visit you at the hospital. If you have a C-section, two days after your surgery is typically best; you should be off your IV at that point and able to move a little better than you could the day following the surgery.
During the visit:
- Emphasize the importance of your child's new role as a big brother or big sister.
- Give a gift to your older child from the baby and vice versa.
- Have birthday cupcakes at the hospital, and let your child pick out the flavor. Tell your child that, by virtue of being the big brother or big sister, he or she will know what flavor the new baby will like best.
Once you are home with the new baby, everyone will need to make adjustments. Bringing a new baby home can be very confusing for a young child who is used to having all the attention. Your child may regress by using baby talk or wetting his or her pants, for example. (In fact, this may begin even before the new baby arrives.) In addition, you might feel guilty about having less time with your older child.
Eventually, you will find a balance. In the meantime:
- Maintain your older child's routine as much as possible. For example, keep him or her in school or daycare, and/or keep your nanny if possible.
- Set aside one-on-one time with your older child. Even a brief five-minute cuddle alone without the new baby will go a long way for both of you.
- When your partner takes time to bond with the baby, take that opportunity to be with your older child or to enjoy some "me" time.
- Make your older child feel important. Newborns can be very needy, so you may find yourself frequently telling your older child to wait. Make sure you also do the reverse. Sometimes Twin Mom Maritza would tell her newborn twins it was their older brother's turn and that they would have to wait. The babies were usually asleep at the time, but her son loved to hear that. It made him feel important.
- Minimize guests and visitors. When they do come, ask them in advance to make a fuss over your older child too. Most people already know to do this, but a few will forget.