I remember when I was expecting a new baby, the thoughts going through my head about how to ease the transition for my then 13 month old. There are a lot of “unknowns.” For me, tandem nursing saved the day over an over again. Nursing my new baby was the only time my toddler seemed to be jealous. I always made it a point to be willing to nurse Eliza anytime I nursed her baby brother. I reassured her there was always enough milk for her, and always enough love for both of them.
What can you do if you’re not planning on tandem nursing, though? What if that’s not an option? There are plenty of things you can do to ease the transition for older siblings.
- Keep older sibling’s routines as close to normal as possible. Meal times, nap times, bed time routines.
- Validate their feelings about a new baby in the home, and allow them to express these feelings, even the big, difficult ones.
- Expect that there may be some set-backs in behaviors, such as potty learning, thumb sucking, tantrums, baby talk, etc. Making a big deal out of any set back will only compound the issue.
- Let go of your own expectations of how you want the older sibling to behave or act toward the new baby.
- Praise them for any positive behaviors they show toward the new baby.
- Do not expect a toddler to become more independent once the new baby arrives, rather, lower your expectations, that’s when you’ll see more independence from them.
- Explain the importance of being gentle with a new baby, and practice ahead of time with a doll.
- Have a small stash of gifts for your older child, wrapped and hidden, so when friends and family start showing up with gifts for the new baby, older sibling receives one as well and feels included in this monumental occasion.
- Encourage the older sibling to help in caring for the new baby. Getting the baby dressed, picking out clothes, throwing away diapers, or putting them in the laundry, etc. Having them feel helpful and useful go a long way.