Welcoming a newborn baby into the family can be both an exciting and stressful time. You’re excited as parents because you can't wait to spoil your little one, but at the same time, you're worried about the baby's older siblings' reaction. Will they be happy to meet the baby, act indifferent or unfortunately hate the baby? You can never tell how the baby siblings will act as it can go either way.
Therefore, you should be prepared for any response, and don’t take the older siblings’ negative reactions to heart because those feelings will change with time when they adjust to the newborn’s presence.
And you also need to keep the older kids’ feelings in mind because they may be fearful of how the baby might change the family dynamics - take up so much of your attention that you show them less love, take up their space, and force them to share their toys.
To reassure and help the older siblings overcome these hang-ups, so they’re somewhat excited when you get to introduce the newborn to them, you need to prepare them first.
By pre-introducing the older siblings to the baby before it’s born. This will help them create a bond with the baby while it’s in the womb and make them eager to meet their baby brother or sister. Here are the ways you can do this:
Let them know that you’ll be having a baby soon
As soon as your baby bump becomes quite noticeable, you need to talk to the older siblings about how you've got a baby growing in your tummy and its pending arrival. For the younger ones below two years of age who don’t understand time and associate it with seasons, tell them the baby will arrive during winter when it’s cold or during summer when it’s hot.
Encourage further discussions by asking them questions like “Who they think the newborn baby will look like?” and “What they think the baby is doing when it kicks in your womb?” Remember to express your excitement while you talk to them about the coming baby. Doing this will get your enthusiasm to rub off on the older siblings, too.
Get the older siblings involved in the preparations
When you’re making preparations for the baby, let them help you. Let them create some artwork for the nursery and pin it up in the room. Also, go online shopping for newborn baby clothes together -let them pick out a few clothes and toys for the baby.
Include them in bump bonding activities
As you bond with your bump, encourage them also to sing and talk to the baby while touching the baby bump. Furthermore, whenever the baby kicks or makes any movements, call them to feel it.
Read age-appropriate books to them
These books should be about babies, sisters, and brothers, and encourage the children to ask questions. For the much younger ones below two years, show them picture books of babies and families to help them understand words like brother and sister.
Show them the ultrasound photos of the baby
As soon as you get these photos, you should share them with the baby siblings and explain to them that they’re photos of their soon-to-be younger sister or brother.
Take them along to prenatal appointments
If you can, you should take them to your doctor's appointments so that they can hear the baby’s heartbeat and share in this beautiful moment.
Take them to sibling birth classes
These are offered at most hospitals and can help the children learn how a baby is born, hold the baby, and discuss their feelings about getting a new sibling.
Make early changes concerning the older siblings
If you have to transition one of the kids from the crib in the nursery to a bed in another room, you should do it before the baby is born. This way, the child gets time to adjust to the bed and stops thinking of the crib as theirs. Otherwise, if you 'force' the older sibling to leave their crib after the baby comes, they may hate the newborn baby.
Let them know when it’s delivery time
Before you go to the hospital, let your kids know that you’re going to the hospital to give birth to their baby brother or sister and that you’ll be returning home with them. Tell them how long you expect to stay at the hospital and where they will be staying while you're are there. All these will prevent them from feeling ambushed when you finally introduce them to the baby because they will already know that you went to the hospital to give birth.
Now that you know how to prepare the baby siblings for the tot’s arrival, let’s move on and talk about how you can introduce your newborn baby to their older siblings with as little drama as possible.
Orchestrate the first meeting at the hospital or home
At the hospital
If it’s at the hospital, ask your partner or a relative to first take the older siblings to a park or to a toy store to buy the baby a few gifts. It's a simple way to ensure that the introduction meeting is more of an adventure. This way, they form positive associations about the baby’s arrival.
And make sure by the time the baby siblings come to visit you at the hospital, the baby is sleeping in his bassinet and not in your arms. You don’t want the kids to feel threatened by the baby-that it has come to steal your love away from them. Then, introduce them to the baby, and let them know that they’re now big sisters or brothers.
Give them a present from the baby-it can be a T-shirt that says "Big Brother" or "Big Sister," and encourage them to touch the newborn's fingers and feet under your guidance - their smallness can be captivating. After visiting you and they’re on their way home, let them pass-by a restaurant to eat snacks of their choice so as to end the day on a high note.
You should make it a celebration if you plan to introduce the newborn to the older kids at home. Throw a welcome home party from the hospital, but make it all about the older siblings to make sure they feel loved and associate the baby's arrival with good feelings.
When you arrive home, give the baby to your partner to carry so that you can greet the older children with enthusiasm. And during this special occasion, you should give the baby siblings presents for becoming big sisters or brothers on top of having cake and snacks. Also, invite their friends to celebrate with them and let the older siblings do the honor of introducing their new sibling to them.
Furthermore, it would be best if you talked to the adults beforehand so that they can include the older kids in their excitement by greeting them first (as the honorable older siblings) when they come to the party.
With all that in mind, much as the experience of introducing the newborn baby to the older siblings can be trying to the entire family; you will be able to handle it efficiently.