Sibling Transition Tips from a Postpartum Doula

Many people say that the transition from one child to two is much harder than going from zero to one, but have you ever thought about how hard it can be for the sibling? For the new big brother or sister, especially toddlers, it can be a huge adjustment. For the longest time, they have been the sole recipient of all of their parents love and attention and now, they have to share that. The first few weeks especially can be trying as newborns do need lots of attention.

Here are some ways to make that transition easier for the newly promoted sibling.

During Labour:

If you are having a hospital birth, chances are that your little one will be spending some time with a relative (possibly having their very first sleepover!) Consider packing a photo album that they can take with them so they can see you if and when they start to ask for you. If your labour isn’t intense and you are having longer breaks between contractions, try and squeeze in a quick phone call or Facetime to let them know you’re thinking of them.
After the baby is born, have big brother come visit at the hospital. An excellent way to transition at this time is to have the baby in the bassinette at first so mom can get a proper cuddle in before introducing the new baby. This helps them to see that even though there is a new baby, there will still be one on one time. Once your child feels comfortable, have someone bring baby over and let them see. I suggest even letting them hold the baby (with help of course!) and letting them touch and hug. They are going to be curious and restricting that first interaction with lots of no’s or scolding could make them resent baby. Another popular idea is to have a small gift for them “from the baby.”

If you are having a home birth, and don’t feel it would be a distraction, it is completely acceptable to have your older child present at the birth. They can even be a mini doula, helping get you a drink or towels! This makes them feel like they are part of bringing baby into the world and would be an amazing experience for all. I would recommend having another adult present, such as a relative, that could be there just to watch over them though, in case they need to be put down for a nap, or fed lunch for example.

The first few weeks:

Once you’re back home and start to settle into a routine, big sister may start to act out a little. This is completely normal and shouldn’t last too long. Be sure to include them in as much as possible when it comes to baby. Some children love having jobs, so having them grab the diapers and wipes at changing time, or if baby is bottle fed, helping to hold the bottle, that can be great, but don’t try and force it. If they don’t want to, making them do it can only make them feel like they are only being used to take care of baby.

The one thing I found to be most important was setting aside time that was just me and my oldest child. My youngest baby was breastfed and refused to take a bottle, so our time was short, but even just popping out to the coffee shop for a special treat or going grocery shopping with just the older child, is huge in their eyes. It shows that mommy (and daddy!) will still be there for them and life doesn’t revolve around the new tiny human.

There will be times when you absolutely cannot tend to the needs of both children and that is totally okay. When this happens, having a basket of toy, books, or crafts that your child can use independently can work wonders when you need to tend to the baby. By only pulling this out at certain times and changing up what’s inside, it keeps your child’s interest and they will start to look forward to it! There is also nothing wrong with having movie days or turning on the t.v. when needed.
There is absolutely going to be an adjustment period when you go from having one child to two (or more) but hopefully by keeping these tips in mind, it will be a little bit smoother for everyone.