Pregnancy can be an exciting time—especially when it’s your second (or third, or fourth!). From diapering to swaddling, there’s so much you won’t have to learn this time! But knowing how to prepare your older child (or children!) for a new baby can be challenging. And although you have months to get ready, that time will pass quickly. By laying the groundwork now, you can help your child adjust to the changes she’ll face soon, and adapt to the most important role of her life thus far: big sibling!
We reached out to our community and asked for advice on helping an older child prepare for a sibling. The journey won’t be seamless, and jealousy may always be an issue—we all know toddler behavior is unpredictable—but they were able to give us some great tips. Here are a few of their best suggestions.
Talk to Your Child, and Be Honest
You know your child the best, and that should be the gauge on when you break the news. It may be difficult for toddlers to understand a baby in the abstract before you’re showing—so waiting until the second trimester might make sense. That being said, some children may be able to process this information earlier, especially if you’re suffering from severe morning sickness or on bed rest—they may need an explanation. Just keep in mind that toddlers are sometimes (often!) lacking a filter, and can’t be expected to keep the news secret from the rest of the world.
Once you’ve explained what’s happening, try to work the baby into everyday conversation, and be casual about it. @kamberliross made sure to include her son in discussions about the baby, and she thinks it helped ease the transition. “We made sure we always talked about the baby with him,” she says, “ and let him talk to his sister in my tummy. We also brought him to doctors appointments so he could see/hear her. I also explained to him that I will always love him so so much and a new baby won’t change that. He was only two when she was born but he totally understood!”
Find Age-Appropriate Books
If you’re parenting a toddler, you know they love being read to! And luckily, there are SO many big sibling books available. @mcneillclan suggests The New Baby by Mercer Mayer, and @daddyfootandco likes There’s a House Inside My Mummy by Giles Andreae. These are only two suggestions—you can find others at the library or online. Better yet, use your imagination and make up a fun story about big and little siblings!
Help Her Get Excited!
One of the best ways to make an older child excited for a younger sibling is by making them feel important. Talk to your child about the significance of her new role—she’ll be able to teach the baby so much! @mcneillclan says spending time with other families of two (or more!) also helped. “We spent time with other families who had recently had babies,” she says. “We also try to help them realize they have a new important role as a big sibling.”
Life is full of bumps and twists, and the first few months with new baby will be no exception. Your firstborn is dealing with a huge life shift—the baby will be noisy, needy, and capturing a lot of attention for several months (from you as well as other family members). During this time, @mcneillclan says patience is the most important virtue. “We also get the older sibling(s) a gift,” she says. “Lots of love and snuggles for everyone and patience knowing change can be hard.”
We’d love to hear from other mamas—what helped your older child prepare for life as a big sibling? Comment with your best suggestions and spread the love.