And so the question arises, how do you successfully bring home your new member of the family? How do you help older siblings with this transition? A reader requested this be our poll, and here are the results. You can find the original answers here.
1. How old was your child[ren] when you brought the new baby home?
2 Years: 2
2.5 Years: 2
3 Years: 3
5 Years: 2
2. What, if anything, did you do before the baby was born/adopted to prep the older sibling?
Lindsey said: "We read books, went through old baby clothes, read and sang to the new baby and did some crafts for her room."
Krysten said: "We read books about having a new baby and there was a new baby at church too that he saw in nursery."
Kimberly said: "We talked about the new babies a lot. We read books from the library. He saw the cribs and baby stuff coming out of storage. He also came with to some of the ultrasounds to see the babies. He actually switched rooms so all the kids could be in one bedroom. "
Sarah said: "We read books, talked about baby, they went to the doctor appointments and sonograms. They went shopping and picked out presents for the baby, and the baby brought them a present at the hospital. The 5y/o and 3 y/o also transitioned to sharing a room and I think that transition also helped them knowing that baby sister would have the other room."
Natalie said: " We talked about how he was going to be a big brother, read a lot of books, pointed out way she could help, slowly set out the baby stuff over a period of several weeks so he wasn't overwhelmed. But, he's an extremely laid back and independent kid, so I wasn't really concerned about the transition for him."
3. In retrospect, what do you think helped your older child[ren] with the transition?
Love and attention: 2
Get baby stuff out before baby born: 1
Make big changes before baby if possible (like room changes): 1
Have baby "give" sibling a present: 1
Our excitement: 1
Prepare what you can: 1
4. In retrospect, what do you think did NOT help your older child[ren] with the transition?
Discipline for being too rowdy with baby: 1
5. How did your child respond to the change? Things like, how did the child initially react? What about a few weeks later? Did you notice any behavioral or sleep impacts?
Lindsey said: "Initilally she was great because we had lots of extra help around the house, but soon they left and she started to have some attention seeking behavior/read: crazy loon/ and I started t really have to improve the quality of the time that we spent together. It wasn't enough for her to be a big helper- she needed to feel like she was independently super valuable. She started struggling with her identity and wanted to be "the baby" for a while, reverting to baby-behaviors and then she need to be the "big girl" and wouldn't do anything remotely baby-ish. She's somewhere in the middle now where she does both, one of her big girl things though is getting out of bed. Apparently, only babies have to stay in bed. We are working on that because it has had big sleep impacts."
Krysten said: "Initially he was very excited but quickly became indifferent. There were some sleep disruptions during nap time but it was short-lived."
Kimberly said: "My son did really well! He didn't want to be too close to the girls or hold them or anything, but that was actually nice. We weren't worried about him accidentally hurting them. He enjoyed helping by bringing burp cloths or giving them toys. He also loved to throw away diapers. He didn't seem to mind how noisy they were sometimes. His sleep didn't suffer too much. He did stall at bedtime a bit, but it wasn't too bad. We were tolerant of it a bit. He did act out a little by pushing buttons. Literally, he pushed buttons around the house and on the bouncers he wasn't supposed to. That only lasted a couple of weeks though. Overall it was a pretty smooth transition."
Sarah said: "Both girls did well! They were excited to meet her at the hospital and proudly showed her off to visitors when they came to our house. About 6 weeks in to baby being home, we had some behaviors from the 3 year old. Overall no sleep disruptions, a little trouble falling asleep at times. "
Natalie said: "My son handled it probably better than I did, lol. I really missed my little dude, and I don't do well on little or no sleep so he was getting snapped at a lot. He did decide he wanted to potty train shortly after bringing her home from the hospital--something I was hoping to put off until we got through the rough first few months of the newborn stage. I'm sure that was a way for him to get some attention. He was excited to be a big brother, but honestly he didn't pay her much attention. Even now at 4.5 and 1.5, they still pretty much exist alongside each other, interacting very little. Not really any significant behavioral or sleep changes. "
6. Any advice for parents about to take this step?
Lindsey said: "Read the book peaceful parents happy siblings and really try not to blame the baby for things. Also, understand that basicaly all the undesireable behavior at this point is due to an unsecure connection and try to nurture that connection rather than punish the child"
Krysten said: "My advice to parents is to introduce your child to a baby before the new one arrives. This gives kids a visual and something you can compare your new baby to."
Kimberly said: "Just because the child doesn't seem to want to talk about the new baby or doesn't seem interested in it doesn't mean the child isn't listening and taking it all in. My son wasn't super verbal during the pregnancy (he was a late talker), so we were never very sure how much he understood. But he was great! He didn't really seem to have a problem with what was going on and is a great big brother. I would also say don't try to force the older sibling to do anything with the new baby he or she doesn't want to. We made it clear he does not have to interact with the babies, or really touch them in any way if he doesn't want to. We really praised when he did though, like when he gave them hugs and kisses. As parents we instantly love our new babies, but to the older child these are brand new people they have to get to know in their own time."
Sarah said: "My advice would be have as much done house-wise and meal-shopping before the baby comes. This allows you to focus on the new baby and other children without stressing about those things. Try to catch some one on one time with your older children so they feel included too(I.e. Books, coloring, playtime, etc)."
Natalie said: "I honestly think I underestimated what the transition would be like for any of us. Going from 0 to 1 kid was really easy for us as a couple, so I banked on the transition from 1-2 kids would be just as easy...it wasn't.. My youngest is now 20 months and I still feel like I struggle with balancing the needs of both of them. All along, I've told myself that the next stage my daughter goes into will be better--easier. So far, each stage has presented its own challenges. I think the piece of advice I would most share is to remember that especially during these early stages, it's only a season and the stage will be difficult in that way for only a little bit...then it will change. It's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you are in it."
Katie said: "I have 3 kids so I have done this twice - once bringing home a baby to a 3yo, and once bringing home a baby to a 5yo and a 2yo. We had read some books in advance, set up the baby's room, and talked about the baby. I think those were good things - certainly we wouldn't have kept it a secret and made the whole thing a total surprise! But honestly at those young ages, kids are still pretty self-centered, and I think their biggest concern was just their own little world and day-to-day life. They didnt' seem overly affected. They didn't seem to either adore or detest the baby, they just wanted their own normal things - cuddles with mom, toys, snacks, routine, etc. My 2yo did later do some social shyness/regression which maybe could have been avoided, I think that was mostly a factor of how much more we were home once the youngest arrived, since with 3 young kids and 2 in diapers, we weren't getting out regularly a lot! As far as tips, I would say, expect that everyone will get sick once the new baby comes! After the first, it seems like the #1 rule is that when you bring a new baby home, all the kids get sick (bonus points if it's a vomiting illness and your washing machine breaks, like when my 3rd was about a week old!) Only other tip is to realize it can be about a 4-12 month rough season that will look VERY different from the rest of your life once baby gets a little older, so just hang in there during this time. And cut WAY back on activities for toddlers, they will be okay staying home for a few months!"
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