Bringing home your first new baby is a thrill. You re-enter your home as a family rather than a couple. You coo and cry and make eyes at that brand new baby. That baby changes everything.
And, then someday later you may bring another baby home–making that older baby an older sibling. It’s magical, it’s emotional, and it can be so overwhelming. No longer can you just spend hours cooing and crying and making eyes at the baby, because your toddler still needs your love and attention. That baby changes everything for that toddler.
There is such joy in introducing your older children to a new baby, but the transition can sometimes be more messy than movie-worthy. These are just a few of the things I’ve learned having brought 3 boys home to meet their bigger brothers.
noah meeting cooper for the first time 4 years ago
1. Avoid saying that they are a “big boy/girl” now.
You mean to applaud their growth and esteem and achievement, but your child may not feel that way. Children can be sensitive to the idea of being overthrown as the baby of the family. Without a full understanding of family dynamics, they may fear that being a big boy or girl means that they aren’t still your little boy or girl. If you communicate to them that because the baby is here that they are “big” now, then they may associate the baby with their loss of standing within the family.
2. Try to avoid any big life changes.
Don’t take away your two year old’s pacifier right after the baby comes home. Don’t kick them out of their crib to make room for the new baby right after you pull in from the hospital. Remember that those are HUGE deals to small children. You don’t need more disruption and neither do they, a new baby is enough! Our rule of thumb is complete big things 3 months before the baby is due–or wait until 3 months after they are born. Obviously, life happens and is unpredictable…but, if you can help make it more predictable for your child it’s definitely worth it!
3. Say “Yes” if you can so you can say “No” if you must.
It’s all about relational capital. You want their “love tank” to be full. Inevitably, life will not be all about them during this season. However, you can ease the discomfort for them by mindfully saying “yes” when you are able. There are times when you will need to say “no”, and it will go more smoothly if your child has heard “yes” when possible.
4. Include them in whatever feels natural.
Include the baby in family activities. Include the older children in baby care. I worked really hard at hiding my horror and fear with how my toddlers would handle the new baby. Babies are not as fragile as we fear, and it goes a long way for sibling confidence if we don’t jump and fuss every time the toddler touches the baby. I think allowing my toddlers to investigate, hold, kiss, and “play with” my new babies helped the older child bond with the baby and not feel threatened. In a way, I think it helped the older child feel “ownership” of the new baby and want to protect him.
5. Make time when the baby isn’t around.
This go around, it wasn’t the youngest child that had a hard time adjusting…it was my oldest, Noah. One afternoon he said, “Mommy, all the time you used to spend with me…now you spend it with Eli.” Even though I knew it wasn’t true, I could certainly see how he would feel that way, especially since he was also gone all day at school. I made it a priority to go on a “date” with him that week. He still talks about that evening and it is one of my fondest memories of this newborn season. He and I got to relearn how to be “mommy and Noah”, and Noah got a lot of time to talk about all he’d been up to since Eli was born. Our dates aren’t fancy, but they are so valuable to both the kids and to us. We normally will take one child on an errand we’d have to run anyway, and then we may grab a quick treat with them if we have time.
More than anything, remember that this is a season. You are doing a hard thing and a good thing. Have grace for yourself, have grace for your older child, and love on that sweet sweet baby. Ultimately, follow your gut and the Holy Spirit’s leading. You know your family, and no amount of advice matters if it just doesn’t fit for your family. Grace upon grace.
What tips or tricks do you have for bringing home baby? Would you to share in the comment section?
I’d love to have you join me in the Influence Network class this Thursday! You don’t have to be a member to attend the class. If you can’t make it to the class when it is live, don’t worry! Everyone receives a recording of the class and the class materials.