This is a great post Alison wrote a few years back, since we just had our 5th baby I thought it was great advice and worth sharing again.
My sister just had her second child. Like most parents, they’re trying to figure out how to help their daughter adjust to this new little critter. Whether there are one or seven siblings who greet the newcomer, here are 6 ways to help older children have a great experience sharing the throne.
One way to start preparing your child is to begin reading new baby literature. One classic is Peter’s Chair by Ezra Jack Keats. Amazon has (only!?!) about 1,600 more. Your local librarian could also help you find a whole stack of books on the new baby theme. Keep reading these books through the transition stage. They’ll help your child know what to expect, and give a voice to complicated emotions they may be feeling.
Another helpful preparation tip is to start shifting some of your parenting duties to others. If you are always the one to read bedtime stories or give baths, encourage your spouse take over a few of those duties before the baby comes. If your child will be sleeping overnight at Grandma’s while you are at the hospital, let them have a sleepover a few weeks before. The fewer new things that occur with the baby’s arrival, the better.
Let your child help you prepare by picking out the outfit you bring the baby home in, helping decorate the nursery, or buying baby supplies. Get them involved and excited from the beginning.
2. Baby Talk
One of the most important things a baby needs in the first months is lots of face-to face conversation. This helps them recognize your face, read expressions, and learn the patterns of speech. But, no one said what you have to talk about! Babies at this age respond to expressions and voice tone; the words don’t mean anything yet. Instead of putting your older child through hours of listening to how beautiful, precious, and sweet the new baby is, occasionally tell the new baby how wonderful their sibling is and all the exciting things the baby will learn from them. You’ll give your older child a great boost of self-esteem, and give your baby the verbal communication they need.
3. Take Time for One-on-One
Even though your days and nights will be filled to the brim, take at least a few moments a day to snuggle your other child, play, read a story, or sing a song. Don’t assume they know how much you still love them. Tell them often. In the early days, when your time becomes more divided, they need to know without a doubt how much they are still loved.
4. Expect Regression
After giving my second a child sponge bath in the sink, I found my two-year-old sitting in there, fully clothed and cooing like a baby. Can you say regression?!? Other kids wanted to suck a pacifier again, drink from a bottle, or wear diapers. One crawled back into the old crib, and another started talking baby talk. Don’t be surprised if potty training takes a step backwards, they suddenly don’t like their big boy bed, or if they snitch the baby food. Kids are pretty creative in their coping methods, but with each strange behavior, they’re just processing things their own way. Relax about the regression and just take pictures (the one of my son in the sink is a classic!). It will soon pass.
5. Keep up the Discipline
Just because your little one has been dethroned, doesn’t mean he doesn’t still need some royal discipline. Even when you are tired, stick to your rules and consequences. It will help your other child feel secure and know that life is still predictable.
If you have resorted to harsh discipline in the past, consider learning some more tools. Speaking in anger and hitting your older child at this stage is particularly damaging. Think of how they see it…Mom snuggles and kisses this new kid, but when I make too much noise she yells at me. This is a tender stage, and your anger will only encourage resentful feelings. Control your temper, teach clearly, and give consequences when necessary in a firm, neutral voice. Give your child a chance to practice the appropriate skill, and end the interaction with love.
6. Make a Nursing Basket
One of the most helpful things is to have a small basket of new little toys or activities to take with you whenever you need to nurse or do something for the baby. Only pull it out when you are busy, so the novelty will last through a feeding or task. It will help entertain your older child for a moment when your arms are full.
Bringing home a new baby can be an incredibly sweet time for a family. It can also be a stressful survival experience. Hopefully these tips will help the transition and set the stage for great sibling relationships!