Your new baby is finally here, and it's time for the ultimate family moment: introducing your older child to their new sibling. Most parents have been thinking about this moment for 9 months (or more!), and it’s normal to build it up in your head as this Instagram-worthy perfect scene. It may be! And…it may not be. That’s okay. As we always recommend, do not assume anything from your older child- toddlers are unpredictable! The key is to follow your older child's lead and keep their routine as normal as possible. Let's dive into some strategies for a successful first meeting!
When you come home from the hospital, make sure to greet your older child before introducing the new baby. Leave your newborn baby safely in their car seat, and take a few minutes to reconnect with your older child. This will help them feel important and loved, which sets the stage for a positive sibling relationship. Try not to walk in holding the baby- this can feel hard for an older child to watch. In their mind, you’ve left without them and come back with a new child. Reunite your existing family before bringing in the new baby.
After you've spent some one-on-one time with your older child, ask if they're ready to meet their new sibling. Remember, they might not be as excited as you are—and that's okay! Follow their lead, and let them decide if and when they want to meet the baby. Avoid as much as possible saying things like “be careful!” as that can feel too general. Instead, say things like “Can you tickle baby's feet?” Give them safe, specific things they can do, as opposed to what they can’t.
A study in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that maintaining routines and offering one-on-one time can help reduce sibling rivalry and promote positive sibling relationships.
Maintaining your older child's routine is essential during this transition period. Continue with bedtime routines, mealtimes, and other daily activities as best as you can. This will help your child feel more secure and minimize the impact of the new baby on their day-to-day life.
Make an effort every night to spend one-on-one time with your older child, even if it's just for a few minutes. Taking turns with your partner can help ensure both of you get to bond with your older child while still caring for the baby.
Set up a breastfeeding kit or special activity box for your older child to use while you're feeding the baby. This can include quiet art activities, baby dolls for pretend play, or even special toys that they only get to use during this time. The goal is to make them feel included and valued.
It's normal for your older child to regress and test boundaries during this time. Remember, kids test boundaries because it helps them feel safe, not because they don't like to follow rules. Stay consistent, patient, and understanding as they navigate their new role as a big sibling.
Introducing your new baby to your older child can be a challenging but rewarding experience. By following their lead, maintaining routines, and offering one-on-one time, you can help ease the transition for everyone involved. And take a big deep breath. No, really do it. We know this is a lot- try to enjoy the moment, and hold on for a (possible) bumpy ride. You got this.