Helping your older child adjust to new sibling

Sheena 19-08-2022

Adding a new member to your family is a monumental shift in the family dynamics. The older sibling, whether brother or sister, is often overwhelmed by the new addition.

Here are a few tips on how to make that transition less challenging for all:

  1. Don’t make big changes just before or when baby arrives

Don’t send your older child to a new school or daycare just weeks or days before baby arrives. Don’t change to toddler bed just days or weeks before birth of the sibling. You don’t you’re your older child to associate baby’s arrival with these big changes that might feel like they are being “sent away” so you have more time with baby – and you obviously don’t want this to be the feeling your older child has.

  1. The new baby brings a gift

If your toddler is visiting you in hospital after you have given birth, make sure baby is not in the room with you when your toddler arrives. Let your firstborn see you first, see that you are fine and healthy and everything is well. Give cuddles and hugs and tell them you missed them. Only then let the new baby come from nursery and have it come with a gift – something your toddler enjoys and has been asking for or wanting to play with. Your toddler can of course also select a gift for baby before birth. This can of course also be done when you are already home from hospital.

  1. Don’t “blame” baby for not having time

There will inevitably be many moments when you are juggling baby and older sibling at the same time. Maybe baby needs changing or to eat while you are in the middle of a game with your toddler. Of course, you need to respond to your baby but make sure you don’t say “let me just feed baby and then we can play” or anything related to needing to tend to baby first. Go grab baby and feed them while you are playing or put them in the baby carrier and continue doing what you are doing for a few minutes so it doesn’t seem like you are dropping everything for the newest addition.

  1. Spend some quality 1:1 time

Especially when baby is tiny, it can seem impossible to find any moments to be with your toddler, but try to find those 5 -10 minutes when you can focus only on your firstborn and spoil them with attention. Finding some short moments on a daily basis is so helpful for your firstborn to feel important and loved.

  1. Keep your routines the same

This might seem impossible, especially at the beginning, but try to keep the routines – children love predictability and routines. Possibly take turns with your partner or get your partner to manage baby for the bedtime routine or other routines that are vital to your toddler.

  1. Let your toddler chip in

Change a diaper? Help hold the bottle? Refilling the diaper station? Get your older child involved in some of the baby care. Make them feel responsible and be part of the care – it makes them feel important and involved and is a nice way to bond.

  1. Be kind to yourself

Most importantly be kind to yourself. A new addition to the family is a very tumultuous time for all, including the parents and especially the breastfeeding mum. Try to give yourself time to adjust, be gracious, don’t expect to master it all from the start.