by Misty Many parents are anxious when introducing their older child to the newest addition of the family. Although you have been preparing your child for their new role as big brother/sister, many younger children do not grasp the understanding that a baby will be joining the household. Their first meeting with the baby, if handled correctly, can be a positive stepping stone from which to build a healthy relationship between siblings.
- Consider the appropriateness of having your child at the birth. Some children enjoy participating in the birth, while others become upset at the sights/sounds/smells. Never force a child to stay at the birth if they are not comfortable, and have a trusted family member around to babysit.
- If your child has not attended the birth, have your partner prepare them well for what they will see. Explain that Mommy will be in bed, resting, and that a new baby will be with her.
- If you are planning a hospital birth, consider bringing your child in to see the hospital before the birth, so that they are familiar with the space.
- Have your child participate in picking out a special gift for the baby, and have a gift ready (from the baby) that is to be given to the older sibling. Handmade gifts are always special.
- When your older child is about to enter the room, put your newborn on the bed, in a neutral position. That way, everyone “meets” the new baby together, without Mommy cuddling or breastfeeding the baby when the older sibling walks in.
- If your older child has no interest in meeting the baby, don’t force the issue. He/she will become interested in the baby at some point, and will begin to ask questions.
Remember that patience and understanding are key. If your older child becomes upset, consider handing the baby off for a few minutes and cuddling with your child. Explain that you will need to do a lot of caring for the baby in the next little while, but that big brother/sister will have very important jobs to do to assist mommy. Kids like to feel important, and giving them small jobs to do is a great way to integrate them into baby care. Enjoy your “new” family, and remember that this stage of adjustment will only last a little while!
Misty Pratt is a doula in Ottawa, and supports families through birth and postpartum. You can find out more about doula services here (www.chickadeechildbirth.com). In her spare time, Misty blogs at The Chickadee Tweet (www.thechickadeetweet.blogspot.com)