A bond between a newborn and their siblings is an essential part of the family system as a whole, but how can you encourage this bond? Here are a few tips for creating a healthy and secure attachment between your infant and their older siblings:
⦁ Tell your child about the pregnancy yourself.
⦁ Adjust the older sibling’s schedule before the birth.
⦁ Involve your child in preparing for the newborn.
⦁ Make time for one-on-one time with your older child.
⦁ Start using the baby’s first name.
⦁ Involve your child in caring for the baby.
⦁ Ask your child before involving the new baby in activities.
Keep reading to get the specifics.
Tell your child about the pregnancy yourself.
Your child will feel included if you tell them yourself that they’re going to have a new baby sibling. Not only does it make the family closer, but it also gives the child more time to adjust to the transition of having a new family member. If the child is younger, try reading them children’s books on the subject to get them familiar with the concept.
Adjust the older sibling’s schedule before the birth.
Moving a child out of their old routine can be challenging. Don’t make drastic changes after the birth, as this could lead to resentment or feelings of displacement. However, slowly ease them into a new routine throughout the pregnancy.
You may find it easier to keep the older child’s schedule as similar to their established one as possible. For example, keeping your child in daycare or school can provide them with a space that hasn’t changed with the arrival of a new sibling. This arrangement also allows you one-on-one time with the new baby without the pressure of caring for two children.
Involve your child in preparing for the newborn.
Letting your child help with things like picking out clothes and toys for the new baby makes the concept of a new sibling more real and creates common ground between the siblings. The older child may even be proud when the infant plays with the toy they picked out. It also gives the older sibling a sense of control and belonging within the family, even when they have no control over the changing dynamic.
If your family is willing to follow the visiting guidelines, you might also consider taking your child to your OB/GYN appointments to see the baby and hear the heartbeat. Some families even report that including the older child in the birth can promote sibling bonds. A St. Luke’s Health team member at one of our Family Birthing Centers can walk you through what this might look like for your family.
Make one-on-one time for your older child.
By making time for your older child, you show them that you still care about them and prioritize time to attend to their needs, both socially and emotionally. This time together helps your child feel heard and loved, even if you don’t have as much time for them as you used to. Making time every day to give them your undivided attention goes a long way.
Start using the baby’s first name.
Using your new baby’s first name as soon as you decide on one can be an excellent way for your older children to see the new addition as more than just a “baby” but as a member of the family and a growing person.
Involve your child in caring for the baby.
If they show an interest in caring for the baby, let them do simple tasks like retrieving a diaper or a bottle. Let them feel like they’re doing a big part in caring for the baby and praise them for being a good older sibling. However, it is crucial to clarify that these actions are voluntary, and they’re not required to help with caring for the baby.
Ask your child before involving the new baby in activities.
One easy way to give your child some agency is to ask before involving the baby in anything. Instead of immediately taking the baby along with you when you play, first ask the older sibling if the baby can join. If the answer is no, respect their boundaries; it’s normal for children to want time to themselves.
If you have any other questions about how to create a strong family dynamic, consider taking one of the Prenatal and Family Education Courses available at St. Luke’s Health. Be sure to check out our maternity resources, as well as the Sibling Class in The Woodlands, designed to help older siblings understand their new family members better.
⦁ Preparing for Childbirth Classes – offered at the ⦁ Sugar Land, ⦁ The Vintage, and ⦁ The Woodlands locations
⦁ Breastfeeding Classes – offered at the ⦁ Sugar Land and ⦁ The Woodlands locations
⦁ Breastfeeding Support Groups – offered at the ⦁ Sugar Land and ⦁ The Woodlands locations
⦁ Newborn Care Classes – offered at ⦁ The Woodlands location only
⦁ Infant CPR Classes – offered at ⦁ The Woodlands location only
⦁ Sibling Classes – offered at ⦁ The Woodlands location only
Healthy Children | How To Prepare Your Older Children for a New Baby
Kid's Health | Preparing Your Child for a New Sibling (for Parents)