1. Give older siblings some time and grace. Change is hard.
2. Try not to make too many changes around the same time as the birth.
Going from one child to two is hard. While there isn’t much you can do to prepare your older child for the true reality of losing their “only-ness,” try not to make too many changes. For instance, right at the birth isn’t a great time to move your older child into a new school, day care, or into a new room.
3. Watch some birth videos, especially if your older child will be present for their new sibling’s birth.
4. Encourage family ownership of the new baby. “Our” new baby.
“Let’s go shopping for our new baby brother or sister.” “What should we name our new baby?”
5. If you’re breastfeeding older sibling, will you tandem breastfeed the new baby?
If it hasn’t been very long since your older child weaned, what will you do if he/she asks to nurse again when they see baby nursing? No one else can tell you what the right approach to this is but yourself, so put a little thought into this and talk with your older child about it, too.
6. Have the baby give older siblings a special present.
In my house, the new baby gave her older sister a baby doll to take care of. It helped a lot that the baby doll peed. The baby doll was a good surrogate for any hurt feelings, too.
Once your baby is home make sure you still time a way to spend some time with older children. Our postpartum doulas are available to provide support if you need a break so you can give some attention to your older children.
My second daughter, Violet, was born when my oldest, Annie, was 2.5 years old. Up until that point, Annie was the idyllic child, truly. We had moved out of the harder, baby years and into sweet toddlerhood. When she picked up the new baby and dropped her on the ground I was shocked. I freaked out when she reached out and smacked the new baby in the face. I panicked at all of the “naughty” behavior and convinced myself she would grow up to be a criminal psychopath. Perhaps my own over-reaction stimulated more of this “naughtiness” and created a cycle that was hard to break.
Fast forward 2.5 years, and this time our daughter Freya was born when Annie was 5 and Violet was 2.5. When I observed similar behavior in the toddler towards the new baby, I realized how developmentally appropriate Annie had been and pardoned her from her crimes in hindsight.
I’ve found this series of books to be really helpful for every age – they may not tell you anything mind-blowing, but instead can help you set your own expectations for what is developmentally normal and acceptable for your child’s age. I also find a lot of actual, practical advice on this podcast from Janet Lansbury… perfect for listening to while running errands!
Of course, you may not have similar problems. Every child is different, but all children want structure and love. Change has a way of shaking our foundations and we are bound to see something of that change come out in behavior one way or another.