pregnant couple holding hands maternity photoshoot edinburgh

Tips on preparing siblings for a new baby. Part 1.

Hello! If you are here and reading this blog post, I will just assume you are or know someone who is expecting or just recently had a baby – congratulations! It is truly such a wonderful time, with so much about to change. I guess you are looking for tips on how to prepare a sibling for a new baby? Having a new baby join your family is truly something else – the anticipation, preparation for the unknown, all the practical things you need to sort – the list seems never ending! And this list is even longer if your soon to be born baby already has an older sibling waiting to meet them. How will it go? Will the sibling like their new brother or sister? Are they going to smack them on the head with a toy and declare a firm NO? Or will they embrace the unknown and smother them with kisses and cuddles?

maternity posing with two kids daughters studio photography

How will my older child react to their new baby sibling?

The answer to all this is easy – nobody knows! I’m sorry, that’s not quite reassuring is it? Of course we would all love it if the siblings would both fall in love with each other immediately and, but sadly, the truth is that it is the unknown. A new baby entering the family where there already are children can go all sorts of ways. Maybe the baby will enter your family dynamic and simply blend in without much fuss, or maybe there will be tears, tantrums, jealousy, love, hate, cuddles and all sorts of other feelings in between. Either way, it is likely going to cause some kind of madness sooner or later. Preparing a sibling for a new baby brother or sister is not easy, but it is possible!

Don’t worry, I have lots of practical tips for you that actually WORK and WILL HELP you and your family with this new transition. What qualifies me to give this advice, I hear you ask? Well, I have been working as a family and newborn photographer in Edinburgh with parents just like you for over 8 years now, talking to them about the ups and the downs, the challenges and the wins and everything in between. Plus, I have two beautiful children and have personally experienced this life changing transition. I was so grateful for the tips I received from friends and my clients, but now I also know that I could have known and done more. If only I knew that there were simple, effective tricks I found out about way too late, which would have made the transition easier. So here is your guide on how to prepare a sibling for a new baby!

Can I do something to prepare my older child for a new baby?

I have spoken to some of my clients and fellow pregnancy and parenting experts. Together we prepared a list of tips, tricks and resources that will help you prepare yourself and your older child(ren) for a new baby sibling. It is important to prepare both practically and emotionally and I hope this will help make your experience better. Lighter, smoother, more relaxed and most importantly more enjoyable.

In the Part 1 of the series of blog posts on How to prepare a sibling for a new baby are all the things you can do during your pregnancy that will help you and your older child prepare for a new sister or brother. Look out for Part 2 for tips and tricks to use when your baby is already here! Part 3 will focus on a wonderful directory of people and resources in Edinburgh and the Lothians. They all specialise in pregnancy and postpartum and will happily help and support you through this transition.

How to prepare an older sibling for a new baby?

1) Look through the photos of your first pregnancy and them as a baby together.

It might be difficult for your child to understand what is about to happen. Yes there’s a baby in your tummy, but this concept of them being earth side is just so difficult to grasp. So sit down and look through the photos of your first pregnancy together. Show them how your belly grew. Tell them stories about how you felt their kicks and rolls and how excited you were to meet them and get to know them.

Show them the pictures when they were born, when you first met. Especially focus on the ones where you are holding them asleep or feeding as this will happen a lot with a new baby. Tell them how much time you have spent cuddling, feeding and rocking them to sleep. This will help set the expectations for when the new baby is stuck to you for long periods of time. Do this regularly over the course of your pregnancy to remind them that they did all the same things.

2) Take them to the baby scan to see the baby

If your hospital allows it, bring your older child to baby’s scan or book a special trip to see the baby at one of the many baby scan clinics in Edinburgh. Make a big deal about it and tell them how excited the baby will be to meet them too. Remember to set the expectations and clearly describe what will happen. They will not meet the real baby. but will see them on the TV screen. Find some sample images from the internet that show how baby will look like, or even show their own scan photos if you have any. Explain that the room might be dark and that the sonographer will use a special device to scan the tummy. You can role play this at home, give your child a ‘scanner’ and let them rub your belly with it. Then show a baby scan photo printed or on your phone screen. They will love the game and it will make it easier to imagine what is going to happen at the clinic.

3) Read picture books and have conversations

There are so so many books available to prepare your baby for a new sibling. Head over to your local library together and pick the ones that suit your family situation. Every single one is different and I would recommend scanning it over yourself before reading to your child. This is because some situations described might not suit your family. When I was pregnant we were planning a home birth. Most of the books I found were saying that the grandparents will come to stay in our house while me and daddy go to the hospital. This was very irrelevant for us and would have set unrealistic expectations to our kid. Their grandparents live far away and them coming over to stay simply wouldn’t be an option for us. So I always made sure to explain to my son that our situation is different and if I need to go to the hospital, he would then go see his friend and stay in their house for a bit. Adapt the stories in the books to your own personal circumstances and make sure to cover all possible outcomes.

4) Have quality one on one time with your firstborn before baby arrives

Plan a special date and do something you both love! Make it a yes day and allow your child to make decisions. Avoid talking about the baby during this time if you can and make it all about your older child and your relationship. Struggling with SPD or in general not feeling well? Order a takeaway, set up a picnic on the floor and watch their favourite movie together. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, the only requirement is to truly enjoy this time together and have fun! It will fill their cup so much and make them feel so important.

5) Ask if they want to help prepare for baby

Do you have a four year old? Include them in building baby’s cot – inspecting, counting and passing all the screws is a big and exciting job! A two year old? Give an option of two first outfits and let them pick which baby should wear first (and stick to it when baby comes!). A three year old could pick a special toy in the shop – one for baby and one for themselves for when the baby comes. We did this with my son and he was ecstatic to finally play with his £2 helicopter in the middle of the night when his baby brother arrived. Older kids might be able to help with making and freezing cookie dough to bake with daddy on baby’s first day home or pick a dinner you should all have to celebrate baby’s arrival. Make it fun, exciting and give them a responsibility they can handle.

6) Delay big changes in your child’s routine and expect regression

Try and limit big changes within the three months in the lead up and the same after baby is born. So if you toddler isn’t potty trained yet, it might be a good idea to leave this adventure until a few months after baby is born. Not sleeping in their own bed? Make a plan to adjust the sleeping place so you all fit. Even without the added stress of change, dealing with big emotions often results in regressive behaviour which can be stressful for everyone. Limiting change and keeping things as normal and as familiar as possible when in the lead up to birth will reduce the stress for everyone.

7) Teach them and practice asking for your attention quietly

Make a special sign or code that your child can use when they need you instead of calling you or shouting. Raising a hand is a good one but make sure to try and notice it! Putting their hand on your shoulder or leg is even better and will make them feel connected. Practise this a lot in the lead up to birth and make sure to acknowledge when they do this. Tell them you see them, respond to what they ask for and thank them for being so patient waiting. This will really help when baby is here and has just fallen asleep!

8) Explain that you will have more visitors than usually

Lots of people will likely want to meet your new baby. Plus the midwife and health visitor will be popping in frequently at the beginning. It can be so overwhelming to your older child. Especially when those people are mainly interested in you and your new baby, but not them! Talk about it in advance and set the expectations as much as possible. Can you plan for your child to have a special snack while you chat to the midwife? Can aunties and uncles bring something special and shower your older kid with attention when they come to visit? There will be a lot of waiting and being patient that will be expected from your older child. Try to include them as much as you can, and remember that setting the expectations and having a plan can really help.

9) Plan for help and support postpartum

This such an extensive subject in itself that it deserves a separate blog post, but in short – accept and seek out all the help you can get, and ideally make a plan before baby is even here. If anyone asks if you need anything – tell them, and tell them honestly! Can your extended family arrange to take your older child for a play date and a treat once in a while? Can your friend batch cook you some meals? Is the washing pile getting overwhelmingly big? When your baby is here, don’t hesitate to ask your visitors to help with chores and practical things, such as putting the washing on or washing the dishes. Everyone wants to hold the baby, but the real help is in the other, practical things. You can also consider hiring a post-partum doula – they are truly worth their weight in gold!

10) Expect the unexpected

With all the tips, asked for and unsolicited advice, life with a new baby and an older sibling will always bring unexpected challenges, adventures and joy. Whether or not you know all the tips on how to prepare a sibling for a new baby, try to simply embrace it, make the most of it and try not to fight it. Even if it feels impossible at times, even if it feels like this is both the most amazing and at the same time the worst time in your life, let it be and it will pass. Soon you will be looking back at this stage in your life and wonder where did the days, months and years go. I am not going to say enjoy every moment, because it is simply impossible, but do remember that this is just a stage that will soon be replaced with something new and likely amazing.

I hope you will find these tips helpful and please do let me know what you think in the comments below! Would you add anything? Share this post with those who might find it useful and look out for Part 2 and Part 3 of this blog series to learn more about how to prepare the sibling for a new baby once they are already born and for a fantastic community of local businesses who would absolutely love to help you through this life changing transition.

Speak soon!


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