What Works for Us: Welcoming a New Sibling

When I was pregnant with Little Brother, I was terrified that our little family would be turned upside down and never be the same. I didn’t want my relationship with Big Brother to change. I was scared that I wouldn’t have enough time for either one of them. Big Brother was 22 months when Little Brother was born and I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to gracefully handle 2 very needy children at once.

So, I did what I always do when I am unsure about things…I prayed, checked out books, read articles, and sought the advice of friends trying to find some “information” to make the transition easier from a family of 3 to a family of 4. There are not many books written on this topic for adults, and the one that I did read was really discouraging. There were very few articles that were all that helpful. The best advice came from my friends and family…people who had already walked in my shoes! Most of the suggestions you read are not mine–they were passed on to us from many other people.

I’m hoping this article will bring you some encouragement if you are adding to your family. Yes, things will be different…but in a great way! We felt that one of the greatest gifts we could each give our children was the love of siblings. And it just keeps getting better the older they get!

Here are just a few suggestions to make the transition easier, especially for your older child(ren):

-Start talking early. Once I was about 15 weeks along with Little Brother, we started telling Big Brother that he would soon have a baby brother or sister. We let him touch my growing belly and give the baby kisses. Our theory was that the sooner we made the baby part of our family (even just through talking), the easier it would be when he actually arrived.

-Involve your child. We took Big Brother to my sonogram appointment where we find out whether we were having a girl or boy. He was only 18 months old at the time, so of course he didn’t really understand. However, this was a big moment for our family and we wanted him to be included. He got to see the baby moving around on the ultrasound and hear his heartbeat.

Once it got closer to my due date, we took him to “shop” for a gift he could bring the baby at the hospital. Of course, he was quite perturbed that the gift wasn’t for him, but he eventually graciously parted with the stuffed bear. We also asked him to help us put things in the nursery, small things of course like, “Can you put this book in the basket?”

Read books about new babies. Along with our Bible study each night, we began reading a story about having a new baby. I think this really helped! Be sure and check with your local library for an assortment of books. Here are just a few of our favorites:

Waiting for Baby by Rachel Fuller

I'm a Big Brother Lap Edition

-Encourage your child to practice “taking care” of a baby doll.  If you are the parent of a boy, you might be cringing. I honestly think it is a good idea for girls and boys to occasionally have a doll to play with. It helps them to practice being loving and gentle. Big Brother is as “boyish” as they come, but he enjoyed playing with a baby for a while (that phase is over now that Little Brother is more interactive).

Make the room change fun and exciting. Because we were having another boy, we chose to keep the nursery the same, changing only the name on the wall. This meant that Big Brother moved to his new bedroom. We wanted him to be fully settled in his new room well before the baby was to arrive, so we moved him 2 1/2 months before my due date. We also made a HUGE deal about it. Perhaps a little too much–for MONTHS he begged anyone who came to our front door (including the UPS man and a door-to-door evangelist) to come see his new big boy room!

Once it is time to go to the hospital, leave your older child(ren) with someone they are comfortable with. We are blessed that we live in the same town as both of our parents, so Big Brother had plenty of places to go once Little Brother arrived. He loved spending time with his grandparents, so this worked out perfectly. Just try to send your child with someone who they know well and enjoy spending time with. And if possible, let him/her frequently spend time with them prior to the baby’s birth.

Make time for each child. Within the first week of the new baby’s arrival, try to spend at least an hour of one-on-one time with your older child. Take him to do something he enjoys. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy…Big Brother’s favorite things are to drive under the “big tunnel” and go on the escalator at the mall! Likewise, your spouse should do the same. Attempt to do this once a week for the next several weeks.

Let your older child help with the baby. This is so important! Have your older child run to get diapers, give the baby his paci, or “read” him a book. Let the older sibling hold the baby (under your careful supervision, of course). The more that you let your older child be involved with the baby, the less resentment he/she will have! And if you are paranoid about your older child sharing germs with the baby like I was, keep some hand sanitizer in every room of the house. :) 

Adding another child to the family is certainly an adjustment for everyone, but seeing the love your children have for each other makes it all worth it!

Now it’s your turn…share a suggestion you have for welcoming a new sibling!

10 Comments

  1. I spent a lot of time worrying about and fielding questions about sibling jealousy, only to be surprised that jealousy wasn't really on my 2 year old's radar at all. Perhaps it's a more adult emotion or perhaps we were just lucky!

    The best piece of advice I received was to never speak to my firstborn as if she was getting the short end of the stick, or to feel sorry for her about becoming a big sister- because we felt that giving her a sibling was the best thing we could do for her happiness. So although we acknowledged that things would be different in some ways, we only put things in a positive light. Some people say things like, "now you'll have to learn to share or share all your toys, give up your room, etc." We just never allowed that talk!

  2. I'm so glad you posted this post!! I'm 12 weeks pregnant with # 2 and they will be 21 months apart.

    I read a TON of books when I was pregnant with my first, so naturally, I decided to look for books on how to adjust to life with 2….I haven't found anything!

    So glad you wrote about this!

  3. Thanks for this post! So timely for us as we're going to start trying for #2 this month! We've mentioned the concept of a baby to DS 21 months and I want to make the transition to a family of four as positive as possible.

  4. We just had our second child about 4 months ago, and we have not experienced any jealousy or regression. My daughter was almost 2.5 years old when her baby brother was born. She is a late talker, so although we talked about it and took her to all of the appointments, I don't think it made a difference. I think 3 things contributed to our positive experience:

    1) Since she was at least one year old, she has grown accustomed to having other children in our home at least once every week that she has to share her mommy with.
    2) Once the baby was born, I would take turns letting one of them cry while I took care of the other if they were both having a crisis at the same time.
    3) After the baby was born, I let her make as many decisions for herself as possible. For example, she would occasionally carry a pacifier with her around the house or want to try out the baby swing (she was in the weight limit so I let her….if she wanted in when the baby was in it, I just told her it was not her turn….which she understood from playing so frequently with all of the neighborhood children)

    I think what it all boils down to is that the world has never revolved around her, but she knows that we love her and are always trying to give her the freedom to do what works for her (within established boundaries). Of course the next time I have a child I may change my opinion as each one is so different! :-)

  5. I'd like to recommend a 'special box' of toys, stickers, etc. that is only for when you are nursing/feeding the baby.
    This is a tote/box that comes out the first day it's only the 3 of you, hubby is back at work and other family helpers have all gone home.
    New, special books, stickers, pipe cleaners, whatever that the big brother (or sister) can play with all by themselves.
    This was a HUGE help for us, my oldest would look forward to the time that he could play with his 'special box' while Mommy was nursing the baby.
    As soon as the baby is fed & burped, the special box goes back to where it came from, to return upon the next feeding.
    Worked great for us!

  6. Thank you for posting this. I'm pregnant with our second, and DS1 will be 22 months at the birth. Yes, like other moms, I read and read all the time with DS1, but there's nothing for moms the next time around! I really appreciate all of the tips!

  7. Thanks! I am expecting my second to be here in a couple months and my first will only be 13 months old. I've been so worried about this. Although your tips don't apply too much since our first really isn't old enough to have a clue no matter what we day or do, it is reassuring to know I'm not the only mother who has these thoughts and worries about adding another even though I love my many brothers and sisters.

  8. My daughter was born when my son was only 17 months old. We did many of the same things you suggested. But, I also decided to enroll my very active son in our church's preschool which meets two mornings a week. I was so tired with the pregnancy and I knew the social and physical enrichment was something I couldn't provide him at that time. Plus, it provided a great consistency for him when his siter was born and a time where I could focus on her without the challanges of his needs. Its been a wonderful choice for us.

  9. I agree with you and the commenters – there is just not a lot of article or book information about this. In addition to a lot of the great things mentioned, we also had a party for becoming a big brother. When I got home from the hospital with the baby, as soon as possible, I asked my mother-in-law or husband to pick up cupcakes from the grocery store. It had to be a no-work party since we were in the newborn days! I put up a few streamers, had everyone sit down together, and we ate cupcakes to celebrate our son becoming a big brother. That was a big hit!

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