Helping Your Firstborn Welcome a New Baby

As much as welcoming your first child changes your life, bringing home your second baby can really bring new dynamics to your family too. Helping your firstborn son or daughter adjust to life with a new baby can be difficult - especially when you are making your own adjustment to life as a mom of two. Here are some tips to help you survive the change.

  • Talk It Out: Start talking with your older child about the baby as early in the pregnancy as you feel comfortable. This will help your child adjust to the idea and eventually the concept of the new baby will feel familiar. Tell your child what the baby will look like and what it will do. Most young children have a hard time understanding that a newborn doesn't play and really doesn't do much other than eat and sleep. It may also be helpful to explain that babies cry because that is their only way of communicating - many children worry about a new baby's crying and fear that something is truly wrong.
  • Plan Ahead: If your child is anywhere near the potty training age, you have a serious decision to make: Do you get the potty training done a few months before the new baby's arrival or wait a few months after? Potty training anywhere around the new baby's arrival is too stressful for your toddler and for you. Don't do it! If you are fortunate enough to get your toddler potty trained before delivering your second, don't be surprised if there are some accidents after the baby is born. It is natural and will probably pass without too much work on your part.
  • Plan a Visit: When the new baby arrives, have your partner or spouse bring the older child to the hospital to meet the baby and to see you. It may be helpful for you to focus this visit on you and your older child - have someone else hold the baby so that you and the older child can snuggle on your bed. Let the older child set the tone for how much he/she wants to interact with the baby - introduce them, but keep your expectations low. Often the child will be more interested in your hospital-issued ice chips than the new baby!
  • Understand Your Child's Age: Children will react to a new sibling differently depending on their personality and, more importantly, their age. Children younger than two years really won't understand what it means to have a new baby, regardless of how much you try to prepare them. Talking about it and reading picture books about babies may help but patience and kindness are really your best bets. For children aged two to four years, jealousy may be an issue. Explain why the new baby needs so much attention and show them pictures of when they were that age and needed and received the same attention. Give your older child a doll and let them parent the doll while you parent the baby. Carve out time where your attention is placed solely on the older child. For school-age children, it may be helpful to point out the benefits of being older - later bedtime, able to do fun stuff like ball games and restaurant outings. Help them realize how important they will be to their new baby sibling.

If you or a friend are considering parenthood, register to attend one of our upcoming Baby Steps events, where you can see Birth Center of the Dignity Health hospital nearest you, meet our physicians and be treated to gifts and raffle prizes. Register today!

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