How to prepare your child for a new baby

Oh, hi baby #2. There’s a bun in the oven and you have finally been promoted past the title of first-time mama.This time around will be similar and oh-so-different from your first pregnancy. Some things will stay the same, like the moment of shock when you see that faint positive sign on your test and all those pesky people constantly offering advice. However, in the time since your first go around there has been a major change that will absolutely be the source of lots of mixed feelings, struggles, and joys throughout this baby-growing season: baby #1. 

Having a baby with older siblings brings a new set of unique challenges and obstacles while pregnant and, don’t worry, you’re not the only one asking, “How will the birth of this sibling affect my child emotionally?” or “Will my child be jealous of the new baby?” and “How do I ease her into this transition?” 

Good news — you’re right. The addition of a new baby will have a significant emotional impact on your children. Y’know how you’re kinda nervous about how you’re going to split your time between a new baby and your high-energy toddler? Imagine how the kid is feeling when you’re her whole world. 

So, how do you go about bringing a new baby into the bunch? We’re breaking it down step by step with ideas, activities, and some nuggets of wisdom you’ll hopefully find encouraging in your journey to growing your fam.

breaking the news

First things first, we gotta let the cat outta the bag. Knowing how to communicate this very life changing news to your little can be super tricky and dependent on a bunch of different factors. You may want to consider…

AGE + UNDERSTANDING LEVEL

A five year old finding out they’ll have to share their mom with a new baby will react much differently than a two year old. You’ll want to bring the information down to their level and make sure they know exactly what you’re telling them. 

THE RIGHT MOMENT

Timing is everything here. If your kiddo is known for being on the chatty side, you’ll want to make sure you tell them about your pregnancy at a time that accounts for the high possibility that your child will be telling everyone from their teachers at school, to people in the grocery store about their new baby bro/sis. Conversely, you don’t want to wait too long and risk your child hearing the big news from someone else. So, when the timing is right, usually sometime during the second trimester, sit your not-so-little one down for the talk

THE TALK

No, not that talk. Remember, this conversation is about the new baby. It doesn’t necessarily need to be about how the new baby got to be in mom’s belly. If your little starts asking questions about the whole baby-making process, don’t worry, you can most likely save the birds + the bees talk for another day (unless you feel like it’s time, in which case, go for it!). Focus on the science and tell them that the baby started from a tiny egg and is growing in mom’s uterus for the next couple of months. It’s a lot to take in, so just answer their questions as best you can and remember to keep things positive. 

THE VIBES

You want to approach this conversation in an upbeat, but grounded-in-reality manner. If you break the news in a way that seems negative, or like you’re anticipating a meltdown, there’s a good chance the kid will interpret it to mean that this news should make them feel anxious, scared or, y’know, actually have a meltdown. It can be a good idea to make the context of the conversation positive, like telling them while having ice cream or during a quiet moment between the family. It can also help to use positive language, like “this new baby will grow up to be your best friend!” or “it will be so fun for our family to have a new person.” After giving the news, make sure to keep the conversation open for your child to process. 

OPEN COMMUNICATION, FTW

Let your child process what this news will mean and be honest when they ask questions. It may help for them to know that there will be changes — some positive and some negative. Also, let your child know they’re not alone in this new venture. You are also taking in this new situation and will be right alongside them meeting the new baby and learning how to function as a family with a new member.

PREP TIME

After telling your child the big news, you don’t want to just neglect the whole “new baby” subject until delivery time. Keeping your child involved and in-the-know with all things baby will help them to adjust to the idea of this new person. We’ve come up with some ideas you can incorporate to help your child warm up to their new little sibling.

LITTLE HELP HERE. You know all that prep work you have to put in for your new baby? Get their big sib involved! Have them brainstorm baby names with you and praise them for all their great ideas (even though their ideas will probably be a little out there, it’s the thought that counts). When it comes time to pack your hospital bag, let your little one pick out a couple of special things they think might help you during your hospital stay. Who knows, their paw patrol action figure may actually give you the motivation you need in the delivery room. 

AAH, MEMORIES. Chances are, you saved a good bit of clothes, gear, and burp cloths from baby #1 to use with future babes. When it’s time to unpack all those tiny, cozy newborn things, let your child help you. Reminisce with him/her about when they were a baby and show them pictures of them using the items you’re getting ready for the new baby. 

WALK THROUGH THE NEW NORMAL. And we’re not talking about pandemic life. There will be a whole new normal rhythm and schedule in your home once the new baby makes his/her appearance. Try to make the unknown of adding a member to your family a bit more predictable by talking your little through what may change with a new baby. For example, there may be extra quiet times while the new baby naps and there will be a couple of days that the older sibling may stay with grandma while the new baby is born. Giving your child a heads up now can help to ease their worries when the time comes.

KEEP THEM IN THE KNOW. If you haven’t caught on just yet, the name of the game here is keeping your kiddo involved! Young children can be pretty curious about how a baby is growing inside of mom. To give them something tangible to understand, it can be fun to involve your child by sharing the baby’s development milestones with them. Almost every pregnant mama downloads some type of app to tell them what their fetus is working on each week and how big they are. Tell your kiddo weekly facts like “this week your little sister is growing her eyes!” or “the new baby is the size of a pineapple!”

(S)HE'S HERE

Once your new baby has arrived, it will take some time for everyone to get into the family of 4 groove. To help your child adjust emotionally to a new, loud, stinky, attention-grabbing person in their home, they’ll need some reassurance from you. Gentle reminders go a long way to let them know that they’re still a big and important part of your world.

ONE-ON-ONE WITH #1. With a new baby in the home, it can be easy for parents to zero in on that tiny bundle of joy. With all the cries, diapers, and newborn cuddles, your hands will be full before you know it. Not to mention it can be hard to pull your attention away from the brand new baby you’ve waited so long to meet. While in the newborn love bubble, ensure that you’re making room for kid #1. Giving your child some personal attention is so important and can make all the difference in regaining a sense of normalcy for them.

TAG TEAM IT. How are you going to pull off parenting two small humans while also recovering from giving birth? It takes a village, mama. If you have a partner, get him/her involved. In the early days, this can be as simple as cuddling with your older child in bed while a partner holds the newborn. Your partner is a really valuable member of your team and your tag teaming skills are about to be taken up a notch. If you’re nursing, for example, your partner can take your older child outside to play one-on-one. 

PATIENCE, NEW MAMA. In your time as a parent, you’ve probably noticed that children don’t react *super* well to change. They like to know what to expect and want to lead relatively predictable lives. You know what’s a huge change? Sharing your parents and having an entirely new person barge into your home. Many older siblings act out in retaliation or regress, like taking backwards steps in potty training or sleeping through the night. These protests should be handled with care and, you guessed it, patience. Amp up the one-on-one time, special moments, and verbal reminders that a new baby is a good thing and will just get easier with time. When all else fails…

LOVE, NEW BABY. If there’s one thing all children can appreciate, it’s a special gift. Having your new child “exchange” a gift with the older sibling can help their relationship to get off on the right foot. In the final weeks of your pregnancy, take your child shopping for a baby onesie or make something special at home, like a handmade card, for your child to bring when they first meet the new baby. Of course, you should have a special gift for your child from the new baby ready for them to open, like a new toy or cute outfit. Having something special from that new tiny person will help your slightly larger tiny person to see that *maybe* this new person won’t be so bad after all. 

Welcoming a new member into your fam is a big deal no matter what, so no shame if you’re feeling a bit nervous about the change in your house when this new bundle joins the party. You remember how you felt before you brought home your first lil nugget, right? You’ll probably feel those first day jitters with every babe that follows. 

So try to shake off the nerves and listen to your mama intuition. You know how to best care for your littles — whether it’s the newest, littlest one in your bunch or your baby that’s not a baby anymore. It’s all about showing them the love and communicating on their level. You got this mama.

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