As I reflect on my own experience being 1 of 3 siblings, I was six years old when my baby brother was born. I can still remember clearly; visiting my mom, dad, and brother in the hospital with my older sister and not wanting to hold my baby brother until we were safely at home. The picture above is of me holding my baby brother for the first time! Isn't it precious! I cherish the memories of spending my childhood playing, teaching and helping to care for my baby brother and younger cousins. They were the first ones to truly inspired me to care, teach, serve and help families thrive! I have always been very maternal by nature and knew it was a passion of mine to either start a family or serve families or both! I want to see the beauty in everyone and everything. I always say, "I will always serve the community to take care of the children." This has since grown into taking care of the parents! So congratulations on your growing family and hopefully you will get some tips from the list below when preparing your sibling!
These recommendations are for toddler/preschool siblings. Be honest with your child on how things will be different and although baby will be cute and cuddly they will cry often and need lots of time and attention. Do not overlook your older child’s needs and activities. Let them know they can talk about their feelings. You could say: “A new baby means a lot more work for me. If you ever feel that I am not spending enough time with you, let me know so I can give you plenty of extra love.” Make an effort to spend some time alone with her each day; use that as a chance to make her feel like the most important person in the world! Here are some more recommendations:
+ Arrange for siblings to visit if Mom & baby are in the hospital for a few days.
+ When the baby comes home, arrange for someone to bring over a birthday cake.
+ Have the baby and your older child exchange presents.
+ Have gifts on hand (from the dollar store - in a basket in the hall closet for example) for the older child when friends and family bring baby gifts.
+ Encourage fathers, aunts, uncles, and grandparents to spend more time with the older child.
+ Consider hiring a mother's helper/teenager to spend time with siblings.
+ Give the older child status with special jobs to help out with the baby. Then praise him/her for their helpfulness. (e.g Bring diapers, fold cloth diaper, help dress, bathe, massage baby, put on booties, socks, hots, push a stroller or hold onto stroller when an adult is pushing).
+ Ask the sibling to help make lunch, snacks, set the table for meals or get the mail.
+ Meet your child where he/she is when "helping" - avoid making them feel like a worker if they are reluctant.
+ Hold the baby with supervision - arms in a "circle of love" - top arm over the baby and bottom arm under the baby
+ Every day find a way to spend time along with your older children and focus solely on them.
+ Encourage the sibling to play with the baby doll her practiced on before the baby was born.
+ When nursing, have a special basket of toys and books for the older siblings. Refer to this as "our special time" as it then includes everyone - "Come on, let's set up - it's our special time".
+ Have a place for the older children where their belongings will not be disturbed by a crawling baby in the months to come.
+ Calmly accept any negative feelings your older child expresses about the baby, and at the same time emphasize the baby is always to be treated gently.
+ Say out loud "The baby can wait a minute while we do this" - will impress the sibling that sometimes the baby has to wait - not always the sibling.
+ Have a low down cupboard or drawer with snacks accessible for the toddler. Have refrigerated veggie/cheese/yogurt/fruit snacks on a low shelf in the fridge.
Source: DONA Postpartum Doula Workshop Susan Martensen CD(DONA, PCD(DONA)
Contact Suzanna Miller for more details on Postpartum Doula Services and Sibling Support at Suzannamiller@positivepostpartum.org