When I was expecting my second child I was really nervous about helping my son become a big brother. I am the youngest in my family and so all I could do was imagine the seething jealousy a child must have when a new, cute baby comes to replace them. After all, my sister was devastated when I was born and refused to let our mom touch her or help her in any way, she must have sensed my awesomeness even then. My poor mother had to rely on the amazing lady across the street to come over and change my sister’s diaper for several weeks and yes, my sister is still pretty stubborn but we love her.
Throughout the pregnancy I would talk to my son, Cason, about the baby, we called her by name for several months before she was born, I offered him plenty of opportunities to feel her kick and hear her heart beat. I talked to him about what would happen when she was born. I told him that mommy and daddy would have to go to the hospital while he was with his grandparents and then after a while he could come meet us there. I explained that I would have to spend a day or two in the hospital with the baby and I would miss him while I was away.
Once that baby comes:
When Cason came to meet the baby for the first time I had someone else hold her so that I could focus on him as he came in. I told him how much I had missed him, gave him a hug, and asked him if he was ready to meet the baby. We had him sit in an armchair and laid her across his lap to allow him his own opportunity to soak in exactly what was going on.
I was surprised at how much love he had for her from the very start. That has been the best part about having another child for me, seeing the love that they have for each other has been an absolute treasure. Now I have been found to be the jealous one because, try as I might, she will only give me what I call a courtesy laugh and Cason barely tries at all and she thinks that he’s hilarious. It’s really very cute though!
Bringing Baby Home:
We had Cason come with us as we were checking out of the hospital and driving the baby home. I paid close attention to his needs those first few days, making sure he felt like he had my attention when he wanted it and spending at least a few minutes of one-on-one time with him each day. Although the baby is now almost nine months old I still try to make sure each of them have a few minutes of my time to themselves each day and I could never let a day go by without hugging them, kissing them, and saying “I love you.”
I think that it’s important to give your child lots of praise during these early days. They are most likely feeling uncertainty even if you have talked to them extensively about what is happening and they need to feel special and important during this time. Naturally they will hear lots of things like “no,” “don’t do that,” “you have to be gentle with the baby,” as they are learning and so it’s important to counteract all that negativity by telling them what they are doing right.
Another thing I have loved doing is saying good things about Cason to the baby when I know that he can probably hear me. Sometimes I will be in my room with the baby while Cason is in his room playing and I will say “Oh Cason is such a good big brother, he tells you stories, gives you kisses, and is so good at making you laugh.” That way it helps build his self esteem and also helps him to feel security and love.
Now that she is getting bigger I help him to recognize the ways that she expresses her love for him. I will tell him things like “look at how big she smiled when you came over, I can tell that she loves you a lot.” Since he is only three it is hard for him to make these connections on his own, I feel like it is important to teach him to recognize this so that it can continue to strengthen his bond with her and help him build a basic understanding of real love.
Not all children will instantly open their hearts to a new sibling, but I think that as you talk with them, teach them, and try to prepare them it will make the transition much easier. It has been so sweet to see how much love Cason has for his baby sister, the fact that he is a big brother has become an important part of his identity and has helped to deepen his self-confidence. I hope that your experience can be similar to mine, it has been much better than I imagined and I am so grateful that I was able to help each of my children feel cherished and valued during this time of change.
We would love to share all the awesome things we’ve learned from Dr. West and Dr. Latham! Sign up for our FREE newsletter to have a hands-on learning experience every week!