Having a new baby is an exciting and exhausting time. For older siblings is can also be an anxious and frustrating time as they have to share your attention, maybe for the first time. Here are some ways to help your older children adjust to having a new sibling.
Help them to be part of the pregnancy and birth – read books about having a sibling, show them what a baby looks like inside the womb, let them feel your bump and talk to the baby and read stories. Where possible keep them close during the birth and postnatal period, don’t exclude them for long periods of time.
Relatives and visitors – remind your friends and relatives to ensure they include your older child and not just ‘coo’ and focus all the attention on the new baby.
Photographs – look at photos and scan photos of your older child when they were a baby, showing first bath, nappy changing and how quickly they grow.
Use a sling – having the baby in a sling at home can help you to meet the baby’s needs and keep your hands free for your other child. A sling is also useful when you go out; you can hold your child’s hand and not have to worry about a pram and still be available to push a swing at the park.
Routine – children like routine and it will really help if you can keep these as familiar as possible. So if your child goes to nursery or pre-school keep it that way, the familiarity will reassure them.
Special Time – dedicate 10 minutes or more with your child, when there is someone available to look after your baby. Follow their lead during this time, do what they want to do. If your child gets upset when the time ends explain that you can do it tomorrow. You could try to set a timer on your phone which goes off at the end of the 10 minutes. Your partner can also do special time; it’s a great way to stay connected.
Feeding Time – a newborn baby feeds frequently and you’ll be limited to what you can do during this period. Instead of trying to distract your child by asking them to watch TV or play independently you could invent a game to play whilst feeding. For example – snap,(easier if you’re breastfeeding as you have a free hand) i spy, reading a story with a story sack, or throwing a soft ball into various sized containers on the floor.
Ask for Help – asking if your child would like to help you with bathing, clothing and nappy changing their sibling, it can be a great way to keep them involved.
Behaviour – some children can feel quite fearful about the arrival of a new baby, some may revert back to using baby language or start to have accidents, if they were previously potty trained. Some behaviour might be quite unattractive, and they might want the baby to go away. Try not to look at these as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ behaviour as it about them feeling unloved. Empathising with their feelings can be supportive, we all feel jealously, it is a normal emotion, but as a young child they may not know how to express this or understand why they feel jealous.
“My two are exactly 2 years apart, born on each others due dates funnily enough. Yes it was hard at first. My daughter got quite jealous when I breastfed my son (completely understandable) and I was constantly worried she would hurt him as she couldn’t get her head round him being more fragile than her 2 year old friends she enjoys rough and tumble with. My son is now 7 months old and things are wonderful. They really seem to love each other and make each other laugh constantly. My daughter has just got used to me feeding him and anyway being well established on solids he doesn’t feed as often anyway. Yes, we have the odd moment when my daughter gets excited and plays a bit rough but most of the time my son just laughs at her. I don’t know whether that is a good thing or not though, it encourages her to do it more :-/ I can honestly say I’m enjoying it and can’t begin to describe the pleasure I get from watching them interact. Definitely brilliant age gap” Elaine Berrill, mum of 2.