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Helping Your Child Adjust to a New Baby

The thought of sharing mom and dad with a baby brother or sister can be unsettling for a young child. After all, your little one has had your full attention for some time now. He is sure to have mixed emotions about how life will change when the baby comes home.

The best time to tell your child the exciting news is when mom's belly becomes noticeably larger or about 2 months before the baby's arrival. If you tell much sooner, the wait will be too long for your little one. However, if you wait too much longer, your child won't have enough time to adjust to the idea of an addition to the family.

There are many ways you can prepare your firstborn for the arrival of a little brother or sister, such as:

  • Reinforcing his new role as big brother by referring to your baby as "his little brother or sister" instead of "the new baby" or "mommy's baby."
  • Involving her in the preparation of baby's arrival by letting her help choose the baby's name and coming home outfit, helping to decorate the nursery and helping to pack mom's suitcase for the hospital.
  • Letting him tag along on prenatal visits so he can hear the baby's heartbeat or see images of the baby during the ultrasound.
  • Read books on becoming a big brother/sister or about the arrival of a new sibling.

Prepare your child for the fact that Mommy (and possibly Daddy) will be staying at the hospital for a few days when the new baby comes.  If a grandparent or family friend will be staying with your child while you're at the hospital, explain this special visit in advance.

While you are at the hospital, be sure to keep in touch with your child as much as you can. It will reassure your child that everything is okay and that you will be coming home as soon as possible. When he visits the hospital, be sure baby is in a bassinet or somebody else's arms, so that your hands are free to give him a big hug. Let him wear a nametag while there that says, "Hi, I'm the big brother."

When others bring or send baby gifts, you may want to have a few small big brother/sister presents ready, to help keep some of the attention on your first child.  You also may want to have a new toy or bag of simple activities that will keep your child busy (without needing an adult's help) to bring out during the new baby's feeding.