Sibling Adjustment Strategies from Pre- to Postpartum

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When adding a new member to the family there is always an adjustment period for older siblings no matter their age. Toddlers can have a tough time with change in general and the birth of a new sibling comes with a great deal of change for the whole family.  Being intentional about sibling adjustment can make a world of difference in their acceptance of the new baby and their attitude in general during the early weeks after baby comes home. In today’s blog, we discuss sibling adjustment strategies from pre- to postpartum.

Before baby is born

It may seem counterintuitive but there are a number of ways you can aid sibling adjustment during your pregnancy. For instance, avoid using the baby as an excuse for why you can’t do things with or for older siblings while pregnant.  Instead, say your back or feet hurt so that they don’t associate the newest addition to the family with a loss of attention from or time with you. Additionally, putting off milestone events such as potty training or moving to a “big boy” bed away from your due date will help keep your child from associating changes with your baby’s arrival. You can also help create reasonable expectations in your child by being honest with them and explaining to them that you will need their help when the baby arrives. This approach can help make your child feel like they have an important role to play after baby comes home. There are a number of books on becoming a big brother or sister that you can read together to strengthen your bond and aid in sibling adjustment. Try this one for soon to be older brothers and this one for older sisters.

In the hospital

When it comes time for older siblings to meet the new baby, it is important for you to greet your children with loving affection before presenting the baby to them.  This small action goes a long way to reassuring older siblings that they have not been forgotten or replaced and can ease sibling adjustment.  Similarly, it is advisable to make sure that your guests acknowledge your older child or children.  You may need to talk with friends and family ahead of time about this because it is very tempting for people to go straight for the baby while unintentionally ignoring the baby’s siblings. You may also consider getting your toddler something special to help them not feel left out when your baby is receiving lots of gifts and attention.

When baby comes home

Once everyone is back at home, there is can be a big period of sibling adjustment as everyone starts to learn the new routines and operate on a schedule. Hopefully, at this point you have implemented the tips above and your child is transitioning well to being an older sibling. However, you can help reinforce the ground work you’ve already laid by being available to your children.  This can be difficult but including the child or children in daily baby activities such as snuggling with them while nursing or letting them sit with you while reading to baby can help them feel like you are paying attention to them. Remember to be intentional about being affectionate, encouraging, and reassuring so that they don’t get lost in the shuffle. Being proactive about sibling adjustment can greatly reduce difficulties in incorporating a new member into the family.