That time has finally arrived after months of waiting! Your baby has made their grand entrance into the big wide world and is ready to meet the rest of the family.
So you ask yourself – what is the best way to introduce your once only child to your newborn baby?
Hopefully you will have had the opportunity to talk to you older child about the impending arrival of the new baby, and what to expect from a newborn. How your once only child reacts to their new brother or sister will largely depend on their age and level of understanding.
How to introduce your toddler to your newborn baby:
You will most likely arrange for a family member or close friend to look after your older child when you go into labor. You should discuss with them how you want to introduce your once only child to your newborn before it happens.
A great start is to have them bring your toddler into the hospital (or wherever you have chosen to give birth) to meet their new sibling. Aim to keep this initial visit short, as hospital environments can be scary, loud and uncomfortable places for a toddler to visit.
Try and time the arrival of your toddler when your newborn is NOT feeding, just after is best. Lucky we have the ability to text and call on the go with technology today! When your toddler arrives someone else should be holding your newborn baby, or perhaps even have them in their crib (hence the advice to time the visit after a feed). This way your arms are free to greet your toddler and give them big hugs. It is a great way to avoid any feelings of initial jealousy or resentment, as well as provide reassurance for your toddler.
When your toddler is feeling comfortable and relaxed you can bring your new baby out of their crib and introduce the two. Let them touch, explore and become acquainted with their new little sibling. You can put a pillow across their lap and lay the new baby there so your toddler can have cuddles with their new brother or sister.
Your toddler may need a lot of support and reassurance during this first introduction. They will likely need close supervision and constant reminders to be gentle. Take the time to talk to your toddler about how small and vulnerable their new little sibling is and what they can do to look after them. Show them where the vulnerable soft spot is on the head, and how little their fingers and toes are.
It is hard to resist the temptation to snatch your newborn baby away from toddlers who can be rough, even if they don’t mean to be. However, try to remain calm and show your toddler how to be gentle and hold their newborn sibling safely.
Another great idea is to have a present for your toddler from their new little sibling. It doesn’t have to be a big gift; something small like a new book or teddy bear will suffice. Then if your toddler is feeling upset, or left out you can make a big deal and fuss over their newborn sibling giving them a present. It helps to foster positive thoughts around your newborn, and maintain excitement and happiness.
How to introduce your preschooler to your newborn baby:
You can utilize many of the same tactics as introducing a newborn baby to a toddler, for a preschooler. However, a preschool aged child may have more of an understanding of babies. This can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how they react to the big changes a newborn brings to their life.
Just as with a toddler, it is important to remain calm and provide reassurance and support for your preschooler. Children at this age can feel jealous and uncomfortable about sharing their parents’ time and attention. You may find that your child may not even want to look at, much less interact with their new sibling. Take the time to validate these feelings and reassure your preschooler that they will not be replaced. Explain that at this age a new baby needs lots of time and attention, but it wont last forever (although it may feel like that)!
Try getting them involved, with cuddles, taking photos, handing you a blanket or even interpreting the babies’ cries for you. These will help your preschooler feel important and hopefully start to foster a healthy interest in their new sibling.
A preschooler may have a lot more questions and curiosity then a toddler. Despite the fatigue and pain that comes with recovering from labor and having a newborn, try to take the time to answer your preschoolers’ questions.
How to introduce your school age child to your newborn baby:
Once again, you can use much of the same advice we have already discussed. However, a school age child will obviously have a much better understanding of newborn babies and what that means for family life.
A school aged child will have many questions, and most likely want to be more involved in the day to day care of your newborn. Again, taking your time to talk to them and to remain calm and relaxed will help this first introduction go smoothly.
Tips to remember when introducing your only child to your newborn baby:
- Remain calm and relaxed.
- If you can, take the time to answer all their questions.
- Don’t force a relationship between your children, they will find their own ways to form a bond.
- When your older child visits, or first meets baby, make sure your arms are free to give them a big hug and greet them.
- Have a small present from your newborn baby to their sibling ready to give.
- Help your older child, regardless of age, to feel involved – cuddling, taking photos, handing you things like a nappy or blanket for baby etcetera.
Introducing an only child to your newborn baby can be rough, but hopefully these tips and advice will help make it as smooth and relaxed as possible. Nothing lasts forever! Your child will adjust and adapt to their new little sibling in their own time. In the mean time, enjoy those cuddles and precious moments with both your children!
Related article: The Secret to Announcing Your Pregnancy to Your Only Child
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