As you bring home your new bundle of joy, your children may not always welcome their new brother or sister with open arms. Here are some ideas from parents who have found innovative ways to help their children not only accept but embrace their new sibling. See if one of these ideas works for you:
A Big Brother in Training
During my second pregnancy, here is what I did to prepare my toddler to be a big brother:
- I involved him in my pregnancy. I showed him sonogram pictures and explained in age-appropriate terms how the baby was growing.
- I told him how the new baby would act. We read books about being a big brother, and I helped him hold a doll so he could practice being gentle.
- When I went into labor, he had a special birthday bag. It included birthday hats, balloons and a gift to give the new baby. He even got his own special big brother gift.
A Song for Big Sister
With the birth of her brother, my middle child needed special Mommy attention. She liked to run and play with me, so I made open-gym time a weekly outing.
Halfway through one session, a daycare worker brought my infant son to me to nurse. Chin on her chest and shoulders stooped, my daughter walked away.
I began to sing a soft, made-up song of love from me to her. As I sang, my daughter stopped and turned back to look at me. Her shoulders rose and her beautiful smile once again lit her face. And just like that, she was freed from feeling overlooked.
'You're a Big Brother Now!'
It's easy for a young toddler to feel "replaced" when a new baby arrives. To avoid this, my son and his wife planned the first encounter for their toddler and his new baby brother so that their eldest felt reassured of his parents' love. Their 21-month-old son stayed with me, his grandmother, overnight when his brother was born. The next afternoon, I drove him home, and he rushed to join his parents on their bed, where they lavished kisses and hugs on him.
Once he was happily nestled with his parents, they told him the new baby had arrived and asked if he would like to meet him. From the security of their laps, he watched as I carried his brother in from another room. His new baby brother became a welcome addition, and because of this, my grandson did not feel as if his place in the family had been uprooted.
Attention for Two
With my daughters born only 20 months apart, I had no idea how I was going to manage. At the beginning, it seemed like a perfect storm: bringing home a newborn to an already needy toddler. How could this possibly work? I soon realized that everything could be a lesson for my toddler. Though it seemed counterintuitive, the more I involved her in the baby care, the easier it became. Changing the baby became a game of "bring Mommy the wipes," and nursing time for the baby became "song time" for the toddler. Every little task with the baby gradually incorporated a new development opportunity for my toddler.
Now, when I need to give one of my girls attention, they are learning that this doesn't mean the other one gets left out. Instead, they start to recognize one of their important roles in the family: sibling. Allowing my girls to share in each other's development has not only taught them early lessons in nurturing, but it has also shown me that even little hands can help in big ways.
A Book for Older Siblings
To help smooth our 3-year-old's transition from only child to big sister, my husband and I made her a "photo letter." We wrote about how much we loved her, reassuring her that our love for her would only grow stronger when we brought home the new baby. We included photos of her and our family and told her about her birth and special things we had done with her. We reminded her about how God loves us and that He gave us more than enough love for both her and her sibling. We placed the letter and pictures into a small photo album to create a book.
After her aunt read the book to her the night of the birth, my daughter arrived at the hospital the next day, smiling and ready to meet her new little brother.
Want to create a book for your toddler? Download the template for "You and Our Family."
Toddler-Proof Your Baby
Bringing a newborn home to my 3½-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter was slightly terrifying. My mind was filled with visions of one of them accidentally crushing their tiny sister, so my husband and I took precautions.
We created a "safe" zone on each level of our house where the baby could not be reached by her curious siblings for those brief moments when my husband and I were not directly supervising. A sturdy playpen served this purpose.
Next, we gave our son and daughter specific times and rules for holding their sister. This included sitting on the couch with a blanket and pillow while my husband or I was present. In addition, we showed them how to be gentle, keeping fingers away from sensitive places such as the baby's eyes and mouth.
Soon our toddlers understood the protocol for loving their little sister and realized an infant must be handled with care.
—Suzanne Hadley Gosselin
Gifts for Older Siblings
Dianna Furlong took the usual steps to prepare her 3- and 5-year-old boys for the birth of their new brother by reading books and talking about things. When the boys came to the hospital after the birth, Mom took out two gift-wrapped packages.
“Nolan Gregory wanted to show you how happy he is to have you for brothers, so he bought each of you a present,” Dianna said to the boys.
As they tore into their packages, the older boy paused with a puzzled expression on his face. “How did he do that?” he asked.
“I took him shopping while he was still in my tummy.”
Nolan Gregory became an instant hero. They couldn’t help but love a baby brother who already knew how to make them happy.
Society says a couple is “expecting a child” when it’s actually the delivery that is expected. So during my second pregnancy, we explained to Emily (2), “There is a baby growing in my tummy, and you are her big sister!” Emily smiled and asked many questions. When asked by a family friend if she was excited that she was going to be a big sister, Emily responded by pointing to my tummy and declaring, “I already am a big sister!”
We prepared Amber (3) for a brother by reading books about being a big sister, watching videos together and explaining that Mommy and Daddy have siblings, too. When her brother arrived, though, the race for attention began. We’ve made certain that Amber understands she and her brother are both important, and Amber now realizes that her brother is here to stay. Extra attention as a reassurance worked.
—by Jodi and Greg Dickinson
As we moved our 3-year-old into her big girl room, we explained, “You’re going to be a big sister.” To prepare for the new baby, I helped her save toys that no longer interested her, and I gave her a doll so she could care for the baby with toy diapers and bottles. When her brother arrived, she knew what to expect.
When our daughter Ella was 20 months old, we began moving her to a “big girl room” with a “big girl bed.” When we brought Lily home, we gave Ella her own baby doll to take care of with a diaper bag of items. I included her during feedings and diaper changes by asking for her help.
While I was pregnant with our daughter, our two sons eagerly watched my increasing belly size. We read them “big brother” books and took them to a sibling class at the hospital where they decorated a onesie for their baby sister and designed their own big brother shirts. They wore those shirts to the hospital the day their baby sister was born and were very proud!
Our daughter (who turned 2, two days before our son was born) was able to see Aunt Laurie’s belly grow, just like Mama’s. Then she was able to see Phoebe “be out.” Although not everyone has a sister who can help in this way, having your child witness this transformation (and “product” at the end) can be helpful.
Involved in Planning
When our son was 2, we had daily conversations about the coming baby, prayed together and allowed our son to pick the paint color for the baby’s room. He chose the color of his “Winnie the Pooh.” When the day came, we left some “big brother” gifts in the baby’s bed for him from his new sibling.
—Rachel and Dave Wheeler