Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Getting the Big Kids Ready for a Baby: My Strategy

A First Time Big Sister!
Over the past five years, since we first introduced Sadie to Maggie, I've given quite a bit of thought to the subject of adding new siblings to the family.  The first thing that I found when I was pregnant with Sadie was how utterly ridiculous many of the articles I ran across (usually in parenting magazines) were.  There was no way I was going to be reassuring my older child that I "would still love them" when the new baby gets here.  Of course I would still love them and they're shown love every single day... but reassuring them and telling them not to worry that they would still be loved seemed to put an idea into a busy little mind that wasn't already there. 

In a way it reminds me of an article that I read recently about an Italian politician who made the mistake of saying that he is not an authoritarian dictator, and how that statement instantly set in the minds of the people that he is just that.  The article compared it to Nixon saying "I am not a crook" and how saying those specific words, instead of saying something positive (like maybe "I'm an honorable man") instantly put it into the minds of the American people that a crook was exactly what he was.

In my mind, "Don't worry Sweetie, when the new baby get's here we'll still love you just as much" falls directly into the category of things to never, ever say... and that's the problem that I have with many of the "new sibling" books that are out there. 

Our new baby welcoming strategy is a little different.  We talk about babies.  All of our kids, from Sadie to Maggie to Patch have loved looking at the pictures of babies in utero in the pregnancy books that I have.  Most of my books are now taped together and worn.  Pages fall out constantly and I keep taping them back in. 

When Sadie was tiny she was fascinated with a picture of a baby with an "icky belly button," always kissed the picture of a little swaddle baby near the front of one of my books and quickly turned the page and refused to look at the picture of the baby nursing, which lead me to worry (since she'd only been weaned a few month before) that she'd be jealous of the baby nursing when the baby arrived (although that didn't turn out to be the case). 

A fun little tradition we've also come up with is taking the kids out after we find out the baby's gender and allowing them (and us too) to each pick out a small gift to give the baby in the hospital.  It's exciting for them to go into the store and pick out something for a new little brother or sister.  And it's always interesting to see what they pick out.  For our latest baby the presents turned out looking like this:

Sadie's choice

Maggie's choice...
covered in kisses before we left the store

Patch's choice.
He had some help from Daddy.

Daddy's choice.
Mommy's choice.
The most amusing part of the trip was Sadie's insistence from the time we got to the store that she knew what the baby needed.  She would be picking out something to swaddle the baby and that was that.  When we were in California she also convinced Nani to take her to buy a pacifier for the baby.  So you can see what she thinks babies need: to be swaddled and "binked" (as she would say). 

The other half of our little tradition is that I make (or buy depending on my level of preparation and budget) little presents for each of the kids that the baby will give them when they come to the hospital to meet him for the first time. 

Mostly these days though, I have it easy when it comes to introductions.  Sadie is over the moon about the new baby.  She talks about him all the time.  Maggie seems to love every single baby that she sees.  Patch is clearly "her baby" and now her partner in crime, but she lights up just about every time she sees a little one and heads in their direction, so I imagine her reaction will be the same as the last time which alternated between ignoring the baby entirely and dancing in front of him to entertain him and wishing she could scoop him up and hold him. 

Patch is the loose canon.  He is very much "the baby" who has been spoiled in the extreme... by his big sisters.  When he wants something he gets it... usually from other little hands that rejoice in seeing him smile.  Yet he's nicknamed the baby "Bubble" on his own and talks about having a "brubber" with excitement so I think that his big sister's impatience to meet the newest addition to the family is spreading. 

I guess that is the key that we've found to easing the transition each time a new addition arrives has been fairly simple (so far) for us: excitement.  Everyone is excited to meet the new baby and the day is looked forward to with anticipation.  There's a lot of talk about how big the bigger siblings are and how blessed the baby is to have such wonderful big sisters (and now a big brother too) and how fortunate we are to have been blessed with another baby to love.

So far the strategy has felt completely natural and has worked really well for us. 

Do you have ideas/traditions/strategies for welcoming a new baby?  I know I have at least one reader who would love to hear them (and if you have any book suggestions you've loved feel free to throw that in too!)!


  1. Our younger daughter and her husband welcomed baby boy #2, Sam, to the family a week ago today (9 lbs. 7 oz. of Sam!!!) Their first son, Ben, turned 3 in April.

    They talked about the "baby in Mommy's tummy" all through the pregnancy; this elicited some questioning looks from Ben at first. You could just about hear him thinking "how did he get in there"??? They read several books about welcoming a new baby, at least one of which had excellent illustrations, including showing the baby at various developmental stages, and one showing the baby actually inside. He insisted on reading those every night. They also had him help pick out an outfit for the new baby, and Ben got a "big brother" toy, as well.

    When Sam arrived, he looked a little surprised to see that the baby in Mommy's tummy had actually come out, and was no longer theoretical, but very real. They had talked a lot about the baby nursing (Ben himself had only been totally weaned for 4-6 weeks when Sam arrived) and I know there was concern that he would regress in that area; he hasn't so far.

    By far the biggest challenge was to keep very exuberant Ben from bouncing on the bed or chair when his mom is nursing Sam; there have been some time outs involved. But he has been very gentle otherwise, which was a concern, as sharing hasn't been a strong suit of Ben. (He has only sporadically been around other children, mainly his cousin who is Patrick's age, so sharing hasn't been part of his daily experience.) We were rather worried about how he would share his Mom, but there is cautious optimism on that score.

    His mom has enlisted Ben's help in getting diapers, picking out a onesie for Sam to wear, etc., and he has done well. She makes certain to spend one on one time with him (very important), as actions do speak louder than words.

    It sounds as if you are certainly on the right track, given your successful track record.

    God bless!


  2. I had my 3yo help pick out an outfit for baby brother with our last new baby! He was old enough to understand and be excited! I'm hoping we'll be able to do the same for my next baby.

  3. I like to take the kids to the appointments and let them see the baby on screen and hear the heartbeat, and we talk about how excited we all are to have another member of the family. My 4 yr old talks about "our" appointments because "we" are having a baby.
    Our first trip with this one with everyone will be in three weeks when WE all get to find out if the newest member of the family is male or female. Right now it's an even split as to who wants what.
    It is such a blessing to add to the family.

  4. Thank you, thank you for posting this!

  5. I hadn't thought before about having the boys pick out a gift for the new baby. That's a good idea. I got Andrew a little gift when Peter was born, but he was much more interested in the new baby! This time around Andrew is very much interested in all things baby. He's come with me as we've picked out new outfits, asked excitedly to see her ultrasound pictures, hugged my belly, and talked about what he's going to do when she's born. (he's going to buy a house where he can take care of her, and drive her to school)

  6. I know one large family that managed a baby book for each of their children with the each kids participating in the observations...drawing "portraits" and noting eye color, favorite toy, "first" word. (that they observe, haha!)

  7. In our tradition, we don't talk much about the baby or bring any baby items into the home before the baby is here safe and sound. Obviously, the older kids know a baby is coming. It suits the little ones just as well for us to bring home a baby as a surprise. We don't make a big deal of it... So it's not!

  8. A timely post for me! We just welcomed #4 (Dominic Pier Giorgio), into everyone's waiting arms yesterday morning!

    We've talked about the baby in utero, shared stories of the way the five and three y/o behaved in the womb and as babies, and talked a lot about all the beautiful and precious moments, as well as the extra jobs and responsibilities that everyone would have, when the new baby arrived.

    The two older boys were hoping for a girl, but fell in love instantly when they saw their new baby brother. They are very much interested in helping with the new baby and showering him with kisses every chance they get.

    The 19mo old was fascinated with the new baby's "toesies", and spent his first meeting kneeling on the ground, kissing those toesies.

    We're very fortunate to have my mom here (she was here for the birth!), and everyone is lacking sleep and struggling a bit with mom out of commission, but I can't help but marvel at how the boys are in awe of every aspect and motion of this tiny, helpless little baby. It is so good for them to learn compassion, love, and selfsacrifice in the home!

    Deo gratias! TB


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