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Preparing for a new sibling is an exciting and anxious time. We couldn’t wait for the new baby to be born and were counting down the weeks as a family. But I was nervous about how my son would react when he actually met his new baby sister. He had no experience of what babies were really like and he was used to having all of our attention. So I found ways for him to build a relationship with his sibling while I was still pregnant. This meant he felt involved in this big change to his life and helped to prevent jealousy with his new sister.
These are 9 fun ways you can prepare a child for a new sibling:
1. Talk about the Size of the Baby
You can change how you do this depending on their age. If they are younger, compare the size of the baby to familiar objects around the house. If they are older, download an app such as Ovia Pregnancy. Then they can track the baby’s growth. You can also share a fun fact about the baby’s development with them.
2. Read a Book
There’s a house inside my mummy by Giles Andreae is a rhyming book. It is good for younger children as it helps them to understand things like mummy being sick or tired and needing rest. It has some lovely illustrations and the rhyming story is easy to understand.
3. Practice with a Doll
Talk about what the baby will need when they are born. Show them using the doll how you will put a nappy on, carry the baby, hold the baby, rock them when they cry, put them to bed, feed them and bathe them. This will prepare your child for what they will see a lot of when the baby is born. Also, show them ways they will be able to help such as changing a nappy or pushing the pram. We love Baby Annabel and she comes with useful accessories or Melissa and Doug make a lovely doll with a soft body.
4. Decorate the Nursery Together
Get them involved in decorating the nursery. Talk about the colours or theme you want to use and let them share any ideas they have. Go shopping together and let them choose some accessories for the nursery. They could make some artwork to be displayed on the wall or in a frame.
5. Buy a Special Gift for their Sibling
Let them choose a special toy to give to the baby. My son chose a few special toys for his new sister some were new and some were his baby toys he wanted to give to her. One was the Fisher Price Seahorse which he had as a baby but wanted to keep so he bought her one of her own. Another was a very hungry caterpillar toy as this was one of his favourite books.
6. Talk about what a Baby is Really Like
Make sure you are really honest with them about what a new baby will be like. If you talk about all the fun things they will do together they will expect this to happen as soon as the baby is born. Talk about how new baby’s sleep a lot, explain how they will feed and that they cry because this is their only way to communicate. Talk about how they will change as they get older and plan some things they can do together in the future.
7. Build their Confidence and Independence
Before the baby is born to build up your child’s independence so they will feel confident doing more for themselves. If you need the cot for the baby, transition your older child to their own bed in plenty of time. Make it into a special occasion and talk about them growing up. Make sure you do it early so they don’t feel pushed out by the new baby or like the baby is taking all of their things. If they are ready for potty training do this before the baby is born.
8. Prepare them for the Birth
Talk to your child about what will happen when it is time for the baby to be born. Tell them who will be looking after them and try to keep to their routine as much as possible. If they are going to stay with a friend or relative pack up an overnight bag for them. Include a change of clothes, pyjamas, a toy, favourite snacks and any medication they will need. Then keep this bag with your hospital bag ready to go. Also, explain to them when and where they will get to meet the new baby.
If you have enjoyed reading this check out The Essential Guide to Childbirth. I share all of my experiences of using hypnobirthing, a birthing ball and a TENS machine. There is lots of information about labour, pain relief, postpartum recovery and planning your birth.
9. Plan the First Introduction as a Family
The first time your child is introduced to their new sibling is a very special time. It is a good idea to plan this meeting to create a positive first interaction with the new baby. These are some things you might want to consider:
Letting someone else hold the baby
When you see your child for the first time after giving birth make sure you are able to give them plenty of attention. They will have missed you and will want reassurance from you. Let someone else hold the baby or place the baby down. When my son met his sister for the first time we had just come home from a very short hospital trip. The baby was in the car seat which we carried into the house. My son was able to have a cuddle with his mum and dad and then go to see the baby. This was good for him because he could gently touch her and ask questions about her.
Make sure your older children get attention from visitors
Everyone will want to look at and hold the new baby. Visitors may also bring gifts for the new baby. Talk to your child about the gifts they got when they were born to remind them that they got presents too. Talk about how the new baby will want to share with their older sibling. Also gently remind your visitors that the older child would like some cuddles and attention from them.
Ask older siblings to help with the baby
If the baby needs anything ask your older child if they would like to help or what they think the baby would like.
Let older siblings give a gift to the baby
This can be a new toy or a baby toy that your child no longer wants. My son was so excited to choose some gifts for the baby and he even wrapped them himself. He placed them in her cot to wait for her until she was born.
Have a big sibling gift ready for your older children
Have a gift or little bag of gifts for the older sibling from the baby. These don’t have to be expensive items, just little keepsakes or items to keep them busy. My son still remembers what his sister bought him when she was born. These are some ideas of items you could include:
- Me and my brother/sister photo frame
- You’re the biggest book
- You were the first book
- Big brother/sister bag to put your gifts in
- Kidizoom camera or a disposable camera (my son’s favourite gift that he has had so much use out of)
- A photo album
- An activity book they can do on their own (my son loves Where’s Wally books)
- Big brother/sister t-shirt – great for photos
- A toy they can carry with them – a small car or doll
- A snack can be useful – especially if it is a treat
- A big brother or big sister book
I hope this has given you some ideas about how you can prepare your child for their new sibling. One of the most important things for me was spending as much 1:1 time with my son as possible while I was pregnant knowing that he wasn’t going to be an only child for much longer. He loved talking about his new sister and asking questions about what she was going to be like. Also, take as many photos as you can to document this journey and especially the first time the new siblings meet.