Helping your First Born Become a Big Sibling
Deciding to grow your family is an exciting time, and most children will be overjoyed at the thought of having a new brother or sister. However, as your baby bump grows, they may get a little jealous of all the attention your pregnancy is getting, and can feel left out. The below guide will give you some tips to help them bond with their new sibling – both during your pregnancy and when you take your newborn home.
1. Your growing baby-bump is probably getting lots of attention, so discussing your child’s new upcoming role, as a big brother or sister, will help them feel involved. Story time is a great time to do this; read them books that involve siblings, or children with pregnant mothers – this will help them to visualise what it will be like when their new baby brother or sister arrives. Let them know your baby can hear the story too, this is a great way of getting them used to sharing time with their new sibling. If your eldest is old enough, allow them to read a bedtime story and let them know the baby is listening too. This simple task will make them feel important and encourage a bond with their new sibling.
2. As your due date draws closer, you are likely to be receiving lots of gifts for your new baby, including lots of toys! It’s normal for your older child to feel a little jealous at this time, or possessive of their own toys. Plan a day where you bring your eldest to the toy shop and allow them to choose a special toy to give to their new sibling. If they continue to experience a lot of jealousy, consider giving them a special place to store their own toys, reassuring them of their own belongings. This will also make sure any choking hazards for your newborn will be safely stored away!
3. Plan big moves ahead of time – if your child is moving bedrooms with the arrival of their new sibling, try do this early. Waiting until your newborn arrives may unsettle them or cause them to act out. Make your little one feel special about their new role and surroundings by letting them choose their new bedroom colour and helping you decorate when the time comes. If you have a toddler, this may not be the time to rush them into “big kid” activities like potty training. Becoming a big brother or sister can be a big change, and they might want to feel like the baby while you’re still pregnant.
4. Coming into the last months of pregnancy can be exciting yet stressful, so it’s important to let your child know what will happen on the day you go into labour. For example, let them know well in advance if they will be staying with a relative and consider familiarising your child with the relative’s house, so that they are comfortable in their surroundings when the day comes. Discuss what will happen when they come to visit the baby, and mention how you will look in the hospital – some children can be shocked to see you in a strange bed or hospital gown, so reassure them that this is normal, but that you also may not be home right away. Preparing them for time without you will reduce the shock factor for what may be their first hospital visit.
Bringing Baby Home
1. The first few days with a new baby are going to be busy, so it’s important you ensure your older child doesn’t feel too left out. If you’re having a family gathering to welcome your newborn, allow your firstborn to introduce the new baby to relatives. Giving them a small job like this will keep them involved in the conversation surrounding the baby. Feeding time is an important time for you and your newborn to bond, however this could also cause some jealousy between your eldest and their new sibling. Invite your eldest child to sit with you as you feed your baby and ask them to sing your newborn a lullaby – this will help them grow into their new, grown-up role and keep them involved in the process. If your little one grows bored or irritated and is not likely to sit still during a feeding session, schedule some time for them to play their favourite game. Set up colourful paints and paper, their favourite book or even play their favourite movie so that they feel this time is just for them. If possible, sit in the room with them as they play, so that feeding time becomes a family activity.
2. Keep up traditions! If you and your child had any traditions (favourite games, songs or books) before your newborn came along, try to keep them up. Let them know you’re having a special one on one date, so they know this is your time to bond. As important as it is for them to be involved with the baby, they will still crave some alone time, so finding balance here is key. As your newborn gets older you will be able to make these ‘dates’ longer, but an hour or so of play time when your youngest is napping is a good way to start.
3. Encourage healthy interaction between your eldest and your newborn. It’s normal for younger children to want to play with your baby as if they were of equal size, however it’s important to teach them about soft touch around babies. Allow them to practice on a doll or toy of their own, and explain how important it is to be gentle around their new baby brother or sister. Always supervise these interactions – show them examples of gentle touch and always encourage your eldest to smile and talk to the baby as much as possible, letting them know they’re doing a good job.
Bringing a new baby into the home can be challenging, especially when your eldest child has enjoyed years of being your only focus. Remember that this may be as big a change for your firstborn as it is for you, and that it’s something you will have to learn from together and take day by day. Jealousy is normal in this situation, and there may be outbursts or tantrums in the future, but keeping conversation open and your eldest child informed of what’s to come, will help them grow into an amazing big brother or sister to your new arrival.