Approximately 80 percent of Americans have at least a brother or a sister.
No-one knows us like our siblings. We may look like them, sound like them, and share the same sense of humor- or be so completely different it’s impossible to understand you are related. Still, one thing’s for sure – siblings share a bond like no other relationship.
But for your firstborn, getting used to a baby brother or sister can be tough.
Up until now, they have been the center of your world, and while this is a hugely exciting time for you and your partner, the arrival of a new sibling means your firstborn will have to learn how to share – both your time and your affection.
So, what are the best ways to prepare them for a new baby sibling?
When’s the right time to tell your firstborn about the new baby?
Much depends on how old your firstborn is and how mentally mature they are as to when you tell them about your impending arrival. It’s probably prudent to wait until after the first trimester as by then the chance of miscarriage will be far less, and the waiting period for your firstborn shorter.
Remember how long your pregnancy seemed to last from your first baby? Imagine how long it seems to a small child—even Christmas pales into insignificance!
Preparing Your Firstborn for a New Baby Sibling
Two Years and Under
Your firstborn won’t be able to comprehend yet what it means to have a new baby sibling, so books on the process of pregnancy and what it means to be a brother or sister can be extremely helpful aids to explaining. There are some fantastic ones available online such as :
- ‘You’re getting a baby brother’ or ‘You’re getting a baby sister’ by Sheila Sweeny Higginson. Available from Amazon
- ‘I’m a new big brother’ by Amanda Li. Available from Amazon
- ‘Hello in There! A big sister’s book of waiting (Growing Hearts)’ by Jo Witek. Available from Amazon
- ‘Waiting for baby’ by Rachel Fuller (available as a series of four board books going from waiting for the new arrival to learning how to be a brother or sister.) Available from Amazon
If you have friends or family with babies, try to involve your toddler by sitting them down quietly with the baby on their lap, explaining they will soon have a baby brother or sister of their own.
Two Years Through Four Years
At this age, your firstborn may still be very attached to you, clinging to your leg before nursery or demanding to sit on your lap in company. The news of a new baby sibling may make them anxious, so it’s vital their fears are addressed early.
Explain that the new baby will need lots of attention and that as a big brother or sister, they can be of enormous help.
Find ways that they can help prepare for the new sibling, such as placing toys in the nursery or putting clothes and nappies away in readiness.
Once you know (if you want to), you can buy a doll the same sex and teach your firstborn how to look after it. It can be helpful when the new baby comes home and needs feeding or changing to have your firstborn do the same with their ‘baby’.
Unlike younger children, school-age firstborns can be made to feel much more involved, hopefully making them feel valued and part of a ‘team’.
It can be fun to compare their ultrasound pictures alongside the new baby sibling ones, such as, are they the same size, laying the same way, etc.
If you are decorating a new nursery, ask what color they might like, or give them a portion of the room to paint themselves so later, when the newborn is older, they can talk to them about what they did, and why they chose it. You could also frame your firstborn’s artwork and display it on the walls.
If it’s still suitable, look online for books you can personalize with both your firstborn and your newborn’s name which shows how special it is to be a big brother or sister.
‘You’re the biggest’ is a lovely book written and illustrated by Lucy Tapper and celebrates the importance of the Big Sister/Brother when their new baby sibling arrives. Demonstrating all the things the eldest will help the youngest within life such as how to share, be brave, be a good friend, etc, it has many personalized features including a message from the giver of the book and can include the date their important ‘job’ began (or is due to begin). Find copies online through Amazon.
Babies take a long time to come, so consider buying a wall calendar, and mark off the days together.
It may be an idea to get the first stage clothes out of storage for your firstborn if you’ve kept any. Ask if they would like the new baby sibling to wear them as a special favor and demonstrate how big they themselves have got by holding something up against them—you may be really surprised yourself!
Greeting the New Baby Sibling
Whatever the age of your firstborn, it’s a lovely idea for them to present their new brother or sister with a gift when they first meet (which should be as soon as possible).
Conversely, the new baby should also have something special for their older sibling—think about something that will last, such as a personalized item or scrapbook for them to keep mementos of their exciting times ahead in.
Jealousy, Anxiety, and Regression – How to Deal With Them
It’s common for a young child to regress when a new baby arrives home. This is perfectly normal and shouldn’t be treated as a bad thing. Your firstborn is probably jealous or confused—have they been replaced? Do you still love them?
Giving them lots of cuddles, constant reassurance and making them part of the new baby’s routine will hopefully relieve some of their anxiety.
Don’t worry if your firstborn greets their new baby sibling with indifference at first—they don’t necessarily know they’re here to stay and probably think they’re just visiting!
They may also ask for the baby to be taken away or put back in when they tire of it taking your attention away from them.
Try not to use the new baby as the reason for not doing things with your firstborn, or telling them to be quiet because the baby is sleeping. Instead, explain that you are busy but will play/help them in a few minutes and make the baby’s sleep time an opportunity for you to give your firstborn quality time. Snuggle together on the sofa and watch a movie with some snacks—after all, you need the rest too!
Above all, encourage your firstborn to talk about their feelings toward their new baby sibling. Small children are brutally honest, so respect their honesty by taking them seriously and doing your best to allay their fears and anxieties.
How are you planning to prepare for a new baby sibling?
Share in the comments below!