Introducing a new sibling is a pretty big deal for any family. It is important to accept that it will take time to adjust to new routines and new roles. Parents are tired and siblings can be unsettled and unsure as to what the expectations are.
I remember on more than one occasion whilst I was breastfeeding a newborn Chloe, Ben (who was only just two at the time) walked up and smacked her on the head! I was so shocked! It was like he had chosen to do it specifically when he knew I couldn’t do anything about it but I think really it was more just about wanting some of Mummy’s attention.
When we brought Amy home, I was worried about how Chloe would cope. She was 2 yrs and 4 months when her little sister was born and very much “Mummy’s girl” – I feared she might not want to share her Mummy. In reality she has adored Amy from the moment she met her. One of my first memories of the day we all came home was leaving Amy in her car seat on the dining room table to I could make a fuss of the big two. Amy started to cry and Chloe was terribly worried for her: “My Amy ok? You check my Amy Ok? My Amy sad.”
Having done it twice over now I thought I’d share my top tips for helping older siblings to cope with a new arrival:
This is a tried and tested trick – get a present for your older child from the new baby to soften the blow! We also tried this in reverse when Amy was born – sending Ben and Chloe to the shops with Granny to choose a special present for their new baby.
Try to keep things as normal as possible
It’s important to try and retain some semblance of normality for your older children when the new baby comes home – try to stick to their bedtime routines and so forth. Ensure that boundaries remain in place; even though you are tired and may feel guilty that you haven’t got the energy to deal with things – you may find your older children push their luck a bit and test you. Stand your ground, they need to know that things haven’t changed.
Get everyone involved
Help older siblings to feel important and involved by getting them to help with the new baby – ask them to fetch the things you need to change baby, read baby a story or choose an outfit for baby to wear. Let them feel they share the responsibility,
Try to make time to spend quality time with each child
Even if it’s just reading a bedtime story, try to take time to make sure you are giving your older children your undivided attention so that they don’t feel left out or forgotten. Reassure them that although things feel a bit strange at the moment it won’t be like this forever.
Be prepared for long feeding sessions
Have a special story or activity ready for those long feeding sessions. If you’re breastfeeding and essentially pinned to the sofa with your newborn, have a book ready to read to the older sibling or a special game or jigsaw to keep them busy while you feed. (If all else fails the TV is your best friend)
If your children do take a little while to get used to each other just keep focusing on the fact that, whilst they may not appreciate it yet, you have given them the most precious gift in the world.