So you’re expecting your second baby! Congratulations! You are probably feeling so many emotions: from excitement to anxiety to guilt. Trust me, feeling all of those emotions (sometimes at the same time!) is normal. As your due date looms closer and you’re enjoying the last moments as a family of three, you may be wondering how to introduce your older sibling to the newborn baby. Whatever you do, don’t stress! I know this is easier said than done as you will feel pressure to make sure everything goes off without a hitch. This blog post will help guide you to making this the best introduction ever!
While it may be tempting to just “wing” the introduction, it is probably for the best to plan it ahead of time. Better yet, include it as part of your birth plan! And be sure to share this with all caregivers so everyone is on the same page. Some things you may want to think about:
- Where will the introduction take place? Will it be in the hospital or at home after you are discharged?
- If you plan to have the introduction take place at the hospital, who is bringing the older kid(s)? Make sure to review the hospital’s visitor policy before bringing the whole gang, especially during the flu season where the hospital may have a stricter visitor policy. There’s nothing like amping up your toddler for a visit to see their new brother or sister only to find out that the hospital will not allow them.
- What time of the day will the introduction occur? (see more tips below)
- Who will be documenting the introduction with photos/videos? And make sure this person knows their assignment and/or knows how to work the equipment. Nothing is worse than having a beautiful and emotional introduction that brings everyone to tears and nobody recorded it! There’s no do-over, so make this moment count.
Of course, everything may not go according to plan, so be flexible and enjoy this moment.
Don’t Schedule the Meeting Close to Meals or Naptime
While you’re formulating the plan for introducing your older child(ren) to their new sibling, be sure to take into account their schedule. Don’t schedule this meeting close to meals (hangry, anyone?) or naptime/bedtime. That is a recipe for disaster and will leave you disappointed. Your toddler not only has their entire world completely changed by this little person, but they’re also hungry and/or sleepy and will associate this schedule upheaval with the baby. Therefore, take note of when your toddler is the happiest and try to plan the introduction at that time. Is it in the morning after their morning snack? Or after they wake up refreshed from an afternoon nap? Planning the introduction for around this time increases the chances that it will be successful!
Do Make it a Special Occasion
Treat the introduction of an older sibling to their new baby brother or sister as a special occasion – because it is! Have the person bringing your toddler show their excitement on the way over to meet the baby. You can even stop off at a nearby park to play or visit the hospital gift shop to pick out something special for the baby and mommy! These experiences will allow for the older sibling to associate positive emotions with visiting the baby. Commemorate the day by having a special outfit that says, “I’m the big brother” or something to that effect will also help make this a special occasion.
Do Give a Present from the Baby
Consider getting something special for the older sibling that is from the baby. Similar to the last tip, a present will help associate positive emotions with their new brother or sister. In addition, a present will allow for your older child to realize that the baby is an actual, live person who can give presents! What to actually get is up to you and your family. It can be a big ticket item like a new bike or play kitchen or as small as a new book or a favorite snack. There’s no “right” time to give the present so you can give it before visiting the baby or right in the hospital room. Either way, make it a big deal and emphasize that the baby is so excited to gift the present!
Do Make the Older Sibling the Center of Attention
This tip is super important. Toddlers and little kids are way more observant than we give them credit for. They take note of everything and will be in hypersensitive mode with the arrival of a baby. Thus, try hard to make the older sibling the center of attention. This doesn’t mean to ignore the baby, but do the following small things to help big brother or sister transition a little easier. For example, when your older child comes to visit you the first time in the hospital, consider having the baby in the bassinet instead of in your or someone else’s arms. Then give the older sibling the most enthusiastic greeting, telling them how much you missed them. Do all of this before even drawing any attention to the baby. Similarly, if you have any friends or family visiting, remind them to greet big brother or sister first before gushing over the baby.
Don’t use the Term “New Baby”
This tip is a hard one and it is easy to slip up. But try not to refer to the new baby as “new baby”. To your older sibling, calling the baby the “new baby” means that this tiny little thing is replacing them and they are now the “old baby”. Instead, try saying, “Your little sister looks just like you!” or “Gosh, your little brother is so excited to meet you! Would you like to hold him?”. This sounds simple, but it has a huge impact.
Introducing your older child to their baby brother or sister is an exciting time so be sure to enjoy the moment! You may hold your breath the whole time, but keep in mind these dos and don’ts for ensuring a huge success! How did you introduce your older siblings to their baby brother or sister? If you could repeat the moment over, what would you do differently? I would love to hear your tips and tricks!