How to Prepare your Children for New Baby
I am often asked if there is anything that can be done to make the addition of a sibling easier and if there are ways to prevent sibling rivalry when you bring your newborn home. My answer: preparation is key! Below are some ways to prepare your children for their new sibling months ahead of time, what to do when bringing your children to the hospital to meet their sibling, and what to do to prevent sibling rivalry once you bring the baby home.
Introducing the idea of a“Sibling” to a toddler…
First and foremost, preparation is key. Take advantage of the time you have before baby #2/#3 arrives. Here are some tips to help!
1) Teaching patience through the concept of waiting. This is good even if you don't have a sibling on the way 😉 the key is to introduce the word "wait" or “hold on” in association with something your child is asking for or that you are giving to him/her. For example, waiting for food, waiting to talk to you when you’re on the phone, etc. Repetition is key as well- if your child is verbal, have them repeat "we wait." Teaching this beforehand is better so they don't associate waiting with new baby only.
2) Teach your older one how to interact with a baby through a baby doll. Toddlers will want to sometimes kiss their sibling all over. Thus it is important to teach them to kiss their feet by consistently saying "we kiss baby's feet." Also, it's important to teach them to gently "shush" the baby as they can do that while you are nursing or changing the baby, and that can be their "special job."
3) If you know you will be pumping, bring the pump out beforehand and get them used to the noise. Let them press the button to turn it on & off - this can be another special job.👍
4) If baby gets their own room/area, spend time in the room before baby comes & make it fun in there for the older child. Create games they only get to play in there. For example, we played the "pillow game" where all the pillows from the daybed were allowed to be thrown on the floor & they get to run & fall down on them.
5) Have your older one help you put things away, like burp cloths, diapers, & pjs. Turn it into a game so they learn what all the items are called. This comes in handy when you need your toddler to grab a burp cloth etc 😉toddlers especially love being told they have special jobs that only they get to do!
Going to Meet Their New Sibling in the Hospital…
What do you do when you bring your toddler to the hospital to see their new sibling?
Here are five steps you take beforehand...
1. Try not refer to your newborn as a “baby” they should be “Brother” or “Sister.” The reason for this is your toddler still thinks of themselves as a baby so it can be confusing and can cause rivalry.⚡
2. Buy a present from your newborn to your older child(ren) so that when they visit the hospital they get a gift from their new brother or sister.💝
3. Take a picture of your toddler and put it in the bassinet of your newborn. Then explain to your toddler that, “Brother/Sister has been so excited to meet you. They have been staring at your picture all day.”😍
4. Let your child sing one of their favorite songs to their new brother/sister and say, “this makes your brother/sister feel so happy.”🎵
5. When your toddler leaves the hospital to go back home to be with family members, try to have an exciting or engaging activity to help motivate them to want to leave in order to prevent separation anxiety.🏃
I do want to address that sibling rivalry is very natural and can actually prepare your little ones for school. However, there are ways to prevent resentment/jealousy and that is where a parent/caregiver comes into the picture.
1) When you have a baby, talk to your toddler about what life was like when he/she was a baby (ie "when you were little, I used to rub your back to help you burp and now you can help me do that with your sister/brother").
2) When someone compliments your youngest on achieving a milestone, make sure you chime in and say to your toddler/older child, "I remember the day you learned to crawl and now your sister/brother learned how to do it from watching you." Even offer to show a video of when they did it! 🎥
3) Find ways to help engage your children in an activity together. For example: let your toddler pick out clothes for their sibling (assuming your youngest is still at an age where they don't mind being told what to wear). Also, if your toddler has endless amounts of energy (which most do) find something where they can push their sibling (once the baby is old enough) and paint the picture for them (ie - I put my daughter in a laundry basket with pillows on the side and a helmet on while my son pushed and dragged her around the house....pretending he was the pit crew for the race car!)🏎️
Sibling Rivalry with a Newborn…
How do you entertain/prevent sibling rivalry with your toddler(s) when you have a newborn? 👶
The answer: Feeding boxes!
What is a feeding box? It’s a play on my activity box! It's a themed shoe box that you offer your toddler to explore when feeding your newborn.
Build your own feeding box:
1. Take an ordinary shoebox & fill with sensory items like beans, popcorn kernels or moss.
2. Add fun figures to complement the theme such as a mini-tractor, a mini-rake, a farmer figure👩🌾& farm animals.🐄
3. Always include stickers (but make sure to peel the border so it is easy for the toddler to remove the stickers by themselves).
Other themes I have used are an enchanted fairy garden filled with lots of fun pretend insects 🦋& fairies. I have also made a space-themed box that is glow-in-the-dark that the kids really enjoy.☄️
The important part when presenting these boxes is the language you use. When it is time to feed your baby, instead of saying, “I need to feed your brother/sister,” say: “It is time for you to play with your feeding boxes! Remember you only get to play with this when mommy feeds your brother/sister (try not to use 'baby brother' or 'baby sister').” When you are done feeding your baby & can put them down safely, then let your toddler know they may play with the box the next time you feed their brother/sister. This may lead to a tantrum, however it is important to reserve the novelty of the box for the next time. When you are wrapping up with your baby you may say to your toddler, “Now we can go play a fun game of XYZ” in order to pique their interest & entice them away from the box.
For inspiration on what to put in your box, check out my Amazon store here for what I put in some of my feeding boxes.
Older Siblings and A New Baby… 👶👧🧒
The biggest thing I notice is that people are constantly fawning over a new baby and your older one gets left out. There does need to be the idea of sharing a parent and being excited for your sibling but for a toddler/preschooler, it is hard to understand that concept. Thus, it is important that whenever someone makes a comment about your baby, turn to your older child and say, "When you were younger/little I used to carry you like this" or, "you used to eat like this." This opens a dialogue up between you and your older child about what life was like when they were a baby.
Telling those stories not only makes them feel good and important, but it is also helpful for your baby to hear your voice.
And as always, books are a great complement to explain abstract concepts. I like this one by Joanna Cole.