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Introducing a New Sibling

Introducing a New Sibling

Introducing your older child(ren) to a new sibling can be one of the most joyous moments, but it can also cause some anxiety for some. Here are some tips for how to help your older child(ren) meet their new brother/sister in a way that feels joyful and loving, rather than confusing or overwhelming. These are most relevant for when you are having your new baby at an out of home location. Take what you like and what works best for your family!

During the last weeks of pregnancy, let your child know you’ll be leaving when it’s time to have the baby. Unless you’re having a scheduled induction or cesarean birth, explain that the exact time will be a surprise–it may happen during the night or the day. Tell your child whether he or she will be at home or stay at another person’s home while you’re away. Let them know who will care for them. Your child will be less anxious if s/he knows and trusts this person.

  • If your child will be staying at someone’s house, help him or her pack a bag with their favorite toys, clothes, and comfort items. If you like, have him or her help you pack your suitcase or the baby’s bag to involve them in the birth preparations.

  • When labor begins, remind your child when you’ll be leaving and where you’ll be going. Let him/her know that you may leave while they’re asleep, so they’ll be prepared for your absence when they awaken.

  • Prepare for the possibility of separation anxiety if you’ll be giving birth in a hospital. A one- or two-day stay after a vaginal birth is typical, as is a three- or four-day stay following a cesarean birth. During that time, your child’s ability to tolerate the separation will depend on his/her age, how often they’ve been separated from you before, how long the separation will last, how comfortable s/he is with the person caring for him or her, how comfortable s/he is with the place of care (if not cared for at home), and how well s/he understands what’s happening. Separation anxiety may lead to fretting, crying, sadness, clinging, irritability, sleeping difficulties, and tantrums. Let the person caring for your child know about these normal reactions.

  • Plan to have your child visit you at the hospital or birth center. Most allow visitors, but always check first—especially during cold and flu season.

  • Consider having baby in the bassinet when your older child comes into the hospital/birth center room, rather than you holding the baby. This reassures your child that you are still available to them and connected to them. It can be very helpful for a child to be given signs like this that their “place” in the family is still there.

  • Have realistic expectations when your child visits. Seeing you and the baby will probably reassure him or her and let them respond in a positive way. It’s possible, however, that s/he may ignore you and the baby, cling excessively, or cry uncontrollably when it’s time to leave. If s/he responds in this manner, you may feel that it would have been easier to avoid the visit entirely. However, it’s healthier for your child to see you briefly than to be separated for a longer period.

  • Consider having a gift for your child to open when s/he visits you. Tell your child that the gift is from the baby.

  • If your hospital stay lasts longer than expected or if your child can’t visit, try to talk to him or her by phone or FaceTime. You may also want to connect with him or her by providing photos of you and the new baby.

Remember that the most important thing is to frame everything in love and inclusiveness. The more your older child is reminded that this baby is theirs, too, and that their “place” in the family is still secure, they—and you—will find the transition easier. As parents, we may wonder how we can possibly love another little person as much as we already love our first. The good news is that our hearts grow with each new baby. There is love enough. <3

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