How to prepare your first child for a new sibling

(Photo: Unsplash, London Scout)

This post is sponsored by The Breastfeeding Shop.

Squinting in the early morning light, I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me: Could that be a second pink line forming or is it just a shadow?

Taking a deep breath, I sat the test on the counter and put my hands over my face so I wouldn’t be tempted to sneak another peek until the three minutes were up.

As I waited, my pulse and thoughts raced in anticipation. My heart was bursting with joy at the possibility of a new life forming within me, but in the same moment, I was terrified.

I still haven’t gotten the hang of parenting one child. How am I going to handle another?

The timer went off on my phone, interrupting my inner dialogue. I hesitated a moment before picking up the test.

And, then…

There they were, plain as day: Two pink lines.

Two.

My eyes filled with tears of happiness as I pictured my children playing together somewhere in the distant future, and I let out laugh as a new question came to mind: How am I going to prepare my toddler for a brother or sister?

Thankfully, I had the next nine months to figure it out.

Are you preparing your first baby for the impending arrival of sibling? Take a deep breath. You’re not alone. Here are a few simple tips to get you started.

Practice through play

Children naturally learn more about the world around them as they play. Consider purchasing a baby doll for your child to interact with before their sibling arrives. Teach him or her how to take care of their new baby by modeling things like how to hold the doll gently and how to talk softly when the baby is sleeping. Playing with your child also serves as an informal opportunity to talk candidly about what to expect when their baby brother or sister is born, answer any questions they may have, and address their fears.

Read books

Another fantastic way to teach children about what it means to add a new baby to the family is to snuggle up and read good books together. There are plenty of excellent children’s books on the subject to choose from. We especially like Berenstain Bears’ New Baby and Big Brothers are the Best (there’s a special edition for big sisters, too). These precious moments also allow you to spend quality one-on-one time together before baby number two arrives.

Carry out big changes ahead of time

Figuring out your family’s new rhythm after a baby is born is challenging enough on its own. If you anticipate any additional transitions to take place before your little one arrives, like potty training or moving your first born from his or her crib, it’s a good idea to begin the process well before your due date. For example, we purchased a toddler bed for our son when I entered my third trimester. That way, he had three months to get used to the new arrangements before his baby brother took over his old crib.

Extend a peace offering

A new life is definitely a reason to celebrate, but not all children look at it that way. Small presents make great peace offerings for kids who aren’t sure what to think about the arrival of their sibling. We wanted our son to feel included in the celebration, so my husband and I put together a gift bag to give him at the hospital. It was filled with little goodies, including a big brother t-shirt, books, toy cars, and a few sweet treats – a small peace offering from his baby brother.

Let go of perfection and learn as you go

Every child is different; what works for some won’t work for others. The best advice I have to offer parents who are in the midst of preparing a first child for a sibling is to simply be patient with your child and yourself, trust your instincts, let go of the pressure of perfectionism, and learn as you go. Do what you believe is best for your child, yourself and your family, and the rest will fall into place.

Turns out, nine months goes by a lot quicker when you’re busy chasing a toddler around. Before I knew it, my first born was walking into the hospital room to meet his baby brother . . . or not. As he climbed into my lap, I marveled at how huge his hands suddenly seemed compared to the miniature infant fingers I had wrapped around one of my own.

I held my breath as my husband gently placed our new swaddled babe onto our toddler’s lap. I couldn’t help but picture all of the potentially catastrophic scenarios that could happen, but of course, none of them did. Instead, my two-and-a-half-year-old bent his little head down to plant a sticky kiss on his brother’s cheek.

Ready or not, our second child had entered the world, and I knew we would figure it all out together as a family of four.

The Breastfeeding Shop provides name-brand, high-quality breast pumps and breastfeeding supplies. Catering to the military community, the Breastfeeding Shop’s quick and easy service ensures that TRICARE beneficiaries can receive breast pumps and supplies at no-cost to them.

By Courtney Woodruff