This is a collaborative post
When you are pregnant, preparing your child for his or her new sibling can be a daunting task. Whilst having a brother or sister is a special gift for many children, some can feel jealous, neglected or angry upon their arrival. It’s therefore important for parents to cement a healthy relationship between siblings from an early age starting with pregnancy right through to early years.
For those wondering where to start, here are some expert tips for parents to help baby and toddlers to get along from the off.
Encourage pregnancy bonding
Similarly to how expectant mothers will bond with their baby during pregnancy, toddlers can benefit from this too. Let your little one stroke, hold and listen to your bump during pregnancy, giving them time to interact with their new sibling and ask you any questions they may have. If possible, take your child to one of your pregnancy scans, showing them the screen and giving them a photograph afterwards to keep. Parents can show their child or toddler their own baby and scan photos, explaining that they are going to be a big brother or sister, instilling responsibility.
Involving your child in the caring and nurturing of your new baby will help them feel involved and important. Where possible, give your child the opportunity to get involved with small tasks and decision making, as this will make them feel helpful to you as a parent.
This doesn’t have to be major tasks like bathing or putting the baby to bed, but accompanying you with things like reading a bedtime story or picking out outfits. Make sure to ask their opinion by asking questions like “what outfit do you prefer” and applaud them with comments like “you’ve been so helpful, thank you”.
When passing down toys, furniture or clothing, put a positive spin on this process by explaining to your child that they no longer need certain things so they can kindly pass it on to their baby brother or sister. Parents should note that some items like bottles and dummies are not advised to be passed on to younger siblings whereas more substantial items like car seats and cot beds can.
Have alone time with your toddler
Once your new baby arrives, you will inevitably have less free time to spend playing with your child or toddler. Parents should do their best to allocate time each day for bonding time with their other child or children, to prevent them feeling left out and neglected. Make an effort to keep up with fun activities and family time, as otherwise your child will associate the arrival of their new sibling with the end of their fun. Utilise the time when your new born baby is sleeping to spend quality time with other children, with either both parents or 1:1.
Manage feeding time
In its first few months, a new born baby needs around 8-12 feeds per day. Whether you are breastfeeding or feeding your baby formula, this can be time consuming for parents as it is a struggle to entertain a child or toddler whilst simultaneously feeding their baby. To avoid chaos, delegate certain games and activities to do only when you are feeding your baby, such as drawing, counting or puzzles. This will involve little physical interaction from you when you are feeding though you can observe and interact whilst doing so. Coincide snack times with feeding so your child understands what you are doing and why it is so important, saying things like “your little sister needs to drink her milk to grow big and strong like you”. Again, this will create positive associations in your toddlers mind when it comes to the baby.
Whilst it’s important for siblings to spend time together and as a family, this could be the perfect time for your older child to branch out and start something new. Extracurricular activities allow children to spend time with others their age outside of school time and can help boost mood, fitness, confidence and social skills. This will not only free up time for you to do other things at home, it will give them something to be proud of and for them to discuss when they come home.
Bringing a new baby into the family will inevitably be unsettling for young children, so parents should remember that any feelings of jealousy or resentment are only natural. To encourage baby and sibling bonding, families should spend time together as a unit whilst also ensuring each child has its own special moments 1:1 with each parent. Don’t be afraid for your eldest to get as involved with their baby sibling as they wish, as this will instil a nurturing and loving relationship from a young age. More importantly, enjoy this stage while it lasts as before you know it, they will be squabbling teenagers!
Disclosure: This is a collaborative post