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Preparing Older Siblings for a New Arrival

Preparing Older Siblings for a New Arrival

Preparing to bring a new baby home can be difficult the first time around, as setting up for and taking care of a baby takes a lot of time, energy, and new equipment.  Bringing home baby #2 is significantly easier in these regards, but can pose its own set of unique challenges in that now you have to prepare baby #1 for baby #2. 

big sister holding little sister

Here are some tips and tricks to ease the transition, from a mama who recently went through it herself.

During the pregnancy, talk to your older child about the new baby 

  • When mom starts to show, it’s a good time to start discussing the new baby.  Talk about what a new baby will mean for the older sibling and the family, what the new baby’s needs will be, and help get the older sibling excited for all the fun they will eventually have together. 
  • Be honest and set reasonable expectations, and make sure your older child knows that the new baby may not be a lot of fun right away.  Teach them to expect a lot of sleeping, crying, eating, peeing and pooping for a while, as that’s what new babies do best. 
  • All of these discussions should be in language appropriate for the child’s age and development.  There are a lot of good picture books about being a big sister or big brother for toddlers and young children that can help as well.


Involve your older child in as much of the preparation for the new baby as possible

  • If bringing home a new baby involves moving an older sibling into a new room or bed, do this before baby arrives so the older sibling will have time to adjust to one change at a time.
  • Consider letting your older child help pick the shade of paint for the nursery, some art for the walls, or what color bedding will go in the crib (giving a few choices for the child to choose between so they can’t pick wrong is a good way to do this!). Depending on the age of your child, consider letting them pick out a few toys for new baby as well, if you don’t think they’ll try to just take the toys for themselves.
  • Have the older child help you pack your hospital bag, and talk about who will be taking care of the older sibling while you are gone in the hospital for a few days.  Get your older child excited about getting to spend a few days by themselves with grandma or whoever else will be watching them.

Think about how you want to introduce your older child to the new baby

  • Try to have the older child meet the new baby as soon as possible. With continued COVID precautions, it is unlikely that children will be able to visit the new baby in the hospital. Let them meet the new baby as soon as you get home so you can start your new life as a family all together.
  • Consider having a few gifts to give to the older child “from baby,” especially if your older child is in the toddler age range.  Bonus points for productive/quiet activity presents like workbooks, coloring books, etc., which are super helpful for keeping the toddler occupied while baby is nursing or napping in those first few chaotic weeks home.
  • If your child doesn’t already have a baby doll, get them one!  Your child can “practice” having a baby before the real baby arrives, then as you bring home your new baby your older child can parallel your actions with his/her baby doll.

After baby arrives, keep up normal routines but also involve the older child in new routines

  • Try to keep your older sibling’s overall routine as unchanged as possible.  Keep them on the same sleep and meal schedule as before baby arrived, and continue sending them to school or daycare if finances allow, even if you’re at home on maternity leave.
  • Cut out special time to spend one-on-one with the older child to avoid them getting jealous of baby, even if it’s just 15 minutes here or there as baby naps.
  • Keep taking photos and videos or your older child, don’t just take photos and videos of baby. Or, better yet, take photos and videos of them together!
  • Involve the older child in the care of the baby if possible-- getting clean diapers, picking new outfits, retrieving burp cloths, etc. are all good activities even for young toddlers, and you can make this part of a “new routine”.

Handle unwanted behaviors

  • Expect a bit of acting out...your oldest is going to try to get your attention in any way they can.  Try to ignore the bad behaviors if it’s safe to do so, and praise all of the good behaviors. 
  • Praise and emphasize “big girl”/”big boy” behaviors if your older child is regressing—if they are shown enough love for acting BIG, they hopefully won’t want to act like a baby for very long.  Remember, though, that regression after a new baby comes home is normal, and they should not be punished for it.
  • If there are any major concerns that arise regarding the older child’s behaviors, discuss them with your pediatrician to make sure that they are hopefully just a normal phase of adjustment.



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