When I first learned that the Princess was coming, I worried about the (not-quite!) big brother. I loved him so much – how was I going to love another baby? And how would he, who would be 21 months old when his new sibling arrived, adjust to the new baby?
Several more pregnancies and babies later, I no longer worry that I won’t love the new baby. I know my love is big enough for many children! I do still worry about the former baby adjusting to their new role as a big brother or sister. Of course, each child adjusts differently based on their personality, but I’ve discovered a couple tricks to make the ride a bit smoother.
Well Before The New Baby Arrives, We Begin Talking About Him Or Her
We talk about our friends’ babies and what they need and do. I make sure to say that the new baby will cry and need his or her diaper changed a lot. I try to focus on the soon to be big brother or sister and what they can do to help: “You can bring Mommy clean diapers for the baby and help me burp the baby. Do you think the baby will like a yellow blanket or blue blanket best?” I try to frame everything in a positive or loving manner.
Get Them Used To The Idea
Someone once told me, “Go to La Leche League and hold all the babies so BigBrother gets used to seeing you holding another child.” This advice I took gladly, as I love holding babies! I’ve had several children look at me in shock when they see me holding another baby. Instead of handing the baby to his mother, I get down at my child’s level and say, “Mommy is holding another baby but I can still hold you! See, I have one arm for the baby and one arm for you!” Then we examine the baby gently. Of course, I do this under the watchful eye of the baby’s mother, with her permission, and if my child starts “loving” a little too much, I hand the baby back. Then I lavish hugs and attention on my child.
Make Changes To The Routine Before The Baby Comes
For example, I normally do most of the nighttime parenting. When the first trimester morning sickness and exhaustion hit, my husband took over most of the nighttime and, as the pregnancy progressed, evening parenting. At first, my children clearly wanted me and the way I normally did things. After a day (or night!) or two, they became accustomed to the way Daddy put them to bed or gave a bath. This made the transition easier when the baby arrived and I had my hands full with a cluster-feeding newborn.
Ask Friends And Family To Make A Fuss Over Older Children First
When the new baby arrived home, we, of course, had visitors, and they happily obliged this request – greeting the new big brother or sister, asking them about things they liked and, when the time came, about their new baby. This made the child feel loved and valued even when the new sibling was getting a lot of attention. It also reinforced that this baby was their baby too – not just a new stranger who took most of mommy and daddy’s time.
Make The Baby Wait
Although we got off to a great start with each new baby, as time passed and we worked to establish a “new normal”, issues sometimes arose. The “former baby” got sick of “wait a minute” every time they wanted something. So what did I do? I made the baby wait.
It sounds very anti-AP, but sometimes when the older child wanted something that would only take a moment (like a snack or a drink), I would set the baby in a safe place like a bouncy chair and say, “Baby, BigBrother needs me to get a drink. Wait a moment and then I will change your diaper.” When I finished helping BigBrother, I picked up the Princess, kissed her and said, “Oh, thank you for waiting! BigBrother is so happy now that he has his drink.” Of course, the baby didn’t know exactly what I was saying, but the older child did. The first time I tried this, a big smile went across BigBrother’s face. He saw that sometimes the baby also had to wait for her needs to be met. I kept repeating this trick a few times a day and, after a week, he was happier to wait his turn when I said, “Just a moment, I need to change her diaper and then I will get your drink.”
Praise The Older Children ‘Behind Their Back’
Although the idea of praising a child is controversial, I found this technique worked wonders. While I was cuddled with the new baby and while the older child was within earshot, I would chatter on about how awesome their big sibling was. “Look at your big brother!” I would say. “He’s totally awesome and loves you sooo much. When you get older, he’s going to teach you cool things, like how to swing and read books.” It has never failed to produce a big smile from the older child and, better yet, a hug and kiss to the baby.
Don’t Borrow Trouble
Prepare and plan for the new baby and possible interactions but don’t assume anything. Because PuddinPie and Baby Bear are only 16 months apart, I assumed there would be more envy towards the new baby from PuddinPie. Friends told me that yes, there could be, but not to assume that. Still, when PuddinPie met his new brother for the first time, he tried to wiggle out of my arms and grunted and pointed at Engineer Husband, who was holding the baby.
“Oh,” I said, near tears, “he’s jealous of you holding the baby!”
“No, Laura, look!” my husband said. “He wants to hold him!” Gently, he placed Bear in his brother’s arms and PuddinPie melted, a big smile on his face. He cooed and smiled at the new baby, before indicating that he wanted me to take him away. A year later, at 28 and 11 months respectively, they are still best buddies and adore each other.
How did you help your older child adjust to a new sibling?
Photo credit: Engineer Husband