By Contributor Lisa Corriveau
Our little family has just grown from three to four: our three-year-old Sprout has a new baby sister. Over the past few months we put some effort into preparing Sprout for his new role as big brother, so I thought I’d share with you some of the things we did that worked for us.
1. Books & talking about how it’ll be
Our son loves books and the stories really seem to stick with him. First on our list of sibling preparations was getting some books about having a baby sister. There are tons of books out there on this topic, some specific to a sister or brother if you know the gender of your baby. When you head to the bookstore or library, find age-appropriate books that align with your parenting style. For example, we looked for at least one book showing breastfeeding and babywearing. Look for books reflecting your family’s ethnic/gender makeup too.
2. Sibling gift
Most likely your friends and family are bringing you lots of hand-me-downs and gifts for the baby, which leaves older brother or sister feeling left out. Find a little gift that will be from the baby to the older child and have it ready when baby is home from the hospital or soon after s/he’s born at home. I made a mini mei-tai baby doll carrier (pattern here) for my son so he could carry his dolls or bears around like I wear his baby sister. I wrapped it up & had it sitting on Sprout’s sister’s lap when she came home from the hospital.
3. Doll/role play gear like carrier, diapers, bottle
If you have a daughter, chances are she already has a doll or two. If you’ve got a son, does he have a doll? Children learn through play, so toys can be a great way to practise gentle touch, explain how to hold a baby, and all the other things you might want your child to know about.
4. Include them in preparation
When you’re shopping for items like clothing or other baby gear you need to buy, birng your older child along and let them choose something. Preparations like painting baby’s room (depending on the age of your child, of course) or prenatal appointments are another way to involve them. My son liked hearing his baby sister’s heartbeat at my midwife appointments and he came to the 20-week ultrasound as well.
5. Switch the child to their new bed/chair, etc well in advance of the baby needing it
If your kids are going to be at least two years apart, you may be moving the older one to a different bed or out of their high chair/booster seat to use it for the baby. To try to minimize feeling of being pushed out, emphasize the positives. Stress that they’re old enough to move into a ‘big kid bed’ or chair, rather than saying that their sibling needs it. Several months before Sprout’s baby sister was born, we got him a new chair so that his old high chair would be a distant memory by the time his sister needs it.
I hope these tips will be useful for you. Though my son is still getting used to having a little less of my undivided attention, he loves his sister and so far hasn’t asked us to take her back. For parents of two or more kids, what did you do to prepare your older child(ren) for their new sibling? Do you have any other ideas to add to the list?
Lisa Corriveau lives in East Vancouver with her husband, son & daughter in a 1940s bungalow. Spokesmama chronicles their life with two little kids, living car-free, getting around on bikes, walking, transit & with the occasional car share vehicle. Lisa also blogs about green living, parenting, DIY projects & she loves to share what’s going on in her neighbourhood.