Introducing Baby to Another Child
Get your child used to the idea of the new baby before his or her arrival
If you can, try and wait until the last few months of your pregnancy to tell your child that a new baby is on the way. Not only is this wise to make sure that everything is going well in your pregnancy, but also time can go pretty slowly for young children and it may seem an eternity before their new baby brother of sister will be arriving.
Tips for telling your child about the new baby:
- Choose a quiet time to tell your child the great news that they will have a little brother or sister soon. Make sure you and your child can have an uninterrupted chat, giving them plenty of opportunity to ask questions.
- It is important to make sure your child knows that the baby will belong to him or her too. Say things like "our baby" and "your baby brother or sister."
- Explain that the baby will be coming to live with you all; he or she is not just coming over for a short visit.
- Try and upgrade your child to a bed, or a bigger car seat a few months before the baby arrives. This way they don't feel this new baby has come along and stolen all of their prized possessions.
- Discuss with your child what, and who, they think the baby might look like. Look at photos of your child when they were born and tell them what happened (leave out any mention of the screaming that might have taken place!)
- Explain what it will be like when the new baby comes to live with you all - the baby will cry, poo and wee a lot so will need lots of cuddles and nappies. Tell them all babies are like this, in fact this is just what they did when they were a baby. Talk about how babies need a lot of attention and sometimes babies make you tired, but make sure they know that you love a baby no matter how much noise they make.
- If your child is old enough, ask them to draw pictures of the baby (in your tummy, or when the baby comes home) and talk about the drawings with your child. You could also try some role-play with a doll or soft toy, encouraging your child to take care of their 'baby' by doing things like rocking it to sleep, giving it kisses and taking it for a walk.
- Make it clear that to begin with unfortunately tiny babies can't play much and like to sleep a lot (your child may consider them pretty boring to begin with.)
- Involve your child in important decisions. Encourage your child to help you get the baby's room ready. Get them involved in buying nappies, choosing muslins or anything else the baby might need. You could even ask for their help with choosing the baby's name.
- Near your due date, talk to your child about the fact that Mummy will need to go into hospital where their baby brother or sister will be born. Tell them who will take care of them when the baby is being born (ideally this is someone your child knows well.)
- It would be great if you could encourage your child to buy the baby a present for them to give to the baby when he or she is born.
Once the new baby has arrived
- Jealousy and resentment are totally natural human responses, so remember every child is likely to develop some feelings of jealousy towards a new baby at some point. From their point of view, suddenly this tiny being enters their lives and takes some of the attention away from them - they have been used to their world revolving around them.
- It is a really good idea to get big brothers and sisters to visit you in hospital and help you bring the new baby home together. Ideally, try not to be holding the new baby when they come into the room and see the baby for the first time. You could also put a photo of your older child in the cot with the baby. This way they see that they are already being included when they meet the baby for the first time.
- Make sure that the baby brings with them a special present for his or her sibling: this should be something your child thinks is totally amazing. It doesn't have to cost a fortune; it could be something as simple as bubbles or a balloon. If the gift is there waiting with the new baby, this should get things off to a good start. In turn, ask your older child to give the baby the present you had purchased together before the baby was born.
- It is very common for older children to regress for a short period of time when they see the attention their younger sibling is getting. They may want to be spoon fed, if potty trained they may start having accidents, or they may start to suck their thumb. This is all totally natural but try not to get frustrated, just remember the phase will pass.
- Never leave a young child alone with a baby, no matter how good they seem to be. Young children may treat a baby like one of their dolls because they are simply too young to understand how to look after a baby.
- If your child would like to give the baby a cuddle, show them how to hold the baby gently on their knees. Make sure a responsible adult is always sat next to them. If possible try to let your child have lots of baby cuddles without there being lots of other people around - keep the time quiet and calm. Take a photo of your child holding the baby and tell them how proud you are of them.
- Encourage your child to gently stroke the baby, cup the baby's hand and put their finger into the baby's curled up fist. Make sure they know not to poke the baby's eyes, or to put their fingers in the baby's mouth.
- Try to make sure you still have quality time with just your older child, without the baby. Also make sure that visitors make just as much fuss of the new big brother or sister as of the new baby.
- If your child helps you with the baby, reward and praise them for this, but don't push them to get involved with the baby if they don't want to.
- As much as you can do, stick to your child's usual routine of meals, naps and activities so that as far as the child is concerned not much has changed for them.
- Try to give your child some fun activities to do while you are feeding the baby. Things like drawing, put on some music for them to sing and dance to, read some books together or encourage them to do a jigsaw puzzle; things that you know they love to do and will occupy them.
No matter how things are going, keep positively reinforcing your child telling them how much you love them. Tell them how pleased you are with what a great big brother or sister they are being to the new baby. Have lots of cuddles, one-on-one time and keep talking about what the baby is doing and why.