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Preparing Big Brother (or Sister) for a New Baby

Girl hugs baby brother

Is your family expecting a new baby? Congratulations! The birth of a child brings a lot of joy to a family—but a new baby also brings a lot of adjustment, especially for older children. Luckily, there are things you can do to make sure big brother and big sister are part of the excitement. (After all, they are!)

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Before baby’s arrival:

  • Older children are part of the story of your growing family. When you talk about your new baby, make sure big brother and big sister are part of the story you share with others.
  • When talking to an older sibling, refer to the new baby as “your little sister/brother” to help them feel included in the experience.
  • Make big sis feel as special as she really is. Talk often (and proudly) with her about her upcoming role as big sister.
  • Take out your older child’s pictures and tell him the story of his own birth. Tell him how excited the whole family was, who came to visit—and how wonderful it was to bring him home the first time.
  • Sign up for sibling school. Many hospitals offer sibling-preparation classes that teach big brothers and sisters about babies in an age-appropriate way they can understand. (These classes can be especially helpful in reinforcing the baby-safety rules.)
  • Be honest with your older children about what a baby can (and can’t) do. Depending on the age of the older child, he may be surprised to find out that babies aren’t instant, awesome playmates. It’s good to prepare your child with the reality that infants eat, sleep, and cry.
  • Very young children need to learn what it means to be gentle before a new baby arrives.  Make a game of practicing gentle touches on mommy’s cheek, a favorite stuffed animal—or even the family dog!
  • Get a special doll to be her baby so she can imagine what it might be like. Show her how to gently hold the baby and support the head.
  • Involve your older child in the preparations for the new baby’s arrival. Let him help get the baby’s room ready, pick out the onesie the baby will come home in, or choose a special toy for the baby.

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After baby’s arrival:

  • Continue to make sure big brother feels extra special. Make time for your older children every day for cuddles, focused playtime, or whatever it is he wants to do with you.
  • Keep the older child’s routine as consistent as possible—even if yours is upended. Routines are comforting in the face of big changes!
  • Listen closely to how the older child is feeling about the changes. There is no right way or wrong way to feel about a new baby’s arrival. Whether her feelings are positive or negative, it’s important that she be able to express them freely.  Does she want to be more involved? Does she need more of your time? Acknowledge her feelings by helping her to label them: excited, angry, lonely.
  • If your older child is having an especially hard time with the new addition, you may have to remind visitors to pay special attention to the older sibling.
  • Get your older sibling involved in the growing family. Let her help care for the baby—by pushing the stroller, say, or helping out with bath time. And of course, always thank her for her wonderful big-sister efforts!

Sources: Much of this advice is adapted from the  University of Michigan Health System’s article “New Baby Sibling.”
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