Tips for coming home to your new little brother

Speaking of Health
Child kissing baby's head
Bringing a newborn home is different the second time around. With your first baby, you focus on taking care of this new family member. With the second, you’re wondering how your older child will react to a new sibling.

The time to prepare for a happy homecoming for your newborn and his older brother or sister is while you are pregnant.

Here are some ideas to prepare your child for a newborn’s homecoming:

  • Talk to your child.
    Using age-appropriate words, explain how the baby is growing and when it will arrive. Also, let your child know that he won’t be a playmate for a while and he will be eating, sleeping and crying most of the time. Let your child know that when the baby arrives, you will be away for a while, but someone will look after you until you return.
  • Make any move now.
    If you need to move your child to another room, prepare the room as soon as possible so your child has time to adjust. Involve your child in the choice of colors and arrangement of toys and clothes for him.
  • Toilet training time.
    If possible, potty train your child before they are born. If your child isn’t quite ready, try starting the process after your new baby has been home for a few months.
  • Let the books and photos tell the story.
    Choose age-appropriate picture books about babies, families, siblings, and browse through them with your child. Browse your child’s book, family album or photos on your phone that show him as a child and your brothers and sisters. Tell the story of your child’s birth and homecoming.
  • Encourage involvement.
    Consider giving your child a baby doll that he or she can take care of, just like you will take care of the baby. Take your child with you when shopping for baby items.

Once your baby arrives, make it easier to go home:

  • Have your child come to the hospital or birth center for a short visit. While you’re there, let someone else hold the baby so both parents can cuddle.
  • Give your child a gift from the child such as a “Big Brother” or “Big Sister” T-shirt.
  • Take your child on a special outing to a park or get ice cream to celebrate the birth of the baby.
  • Asking your older child to help you take care of the baby, for example by bringing you a diaper.
  • Make sure your older child gets plenty of attention. When taking photos and videos, include him or her, as well as shoot some solos.
  • Have a few small gifts on hand to give your older child if friends or family bring gifts for the baby.

Just as you learned about your first baby, your child will need to get to know the newborn. Older children, stressed out by all the changes happening around them, may take their frustrations out on the child.

Here are some tips for dealing with sibling frustration with the new baby:

  • If your child tries to harm the child, it’s time to talk about appropriate behavior.
  • Give your older child extra attention.
  • Involve your child in baby care, for example while bathing or changing the new arrival. Have your child sing or read to the child.
  • Praise your child when he acts lovingly towards him.
  • Supervise your child and baby. Do not leave your baby alone with a sibling or other loved one under the age of 12.

If you’re breastfeeding, your child may hover around to see what’s going on. He explains what you are doing and answers any questions. If you breastfed your older child, say you did the same for him or her. Consider involving your child in the breastfeeding routine, such as getting a pillow. Encourage him to cuddle you while you breastfeed. Or keep your child entertained with toys, a workbook, music, or an audio book.

No one expects their newborn to have a health problem. Explain to your child that the child is sick and you are worried. If you don’t say something, your child will feel that something is wrong.

A new sibling will change your family in so many ways. As your older child adjusts, reassure him of your love. Explain that he or she also has an important role to play now: that of older brother or older sister.

Amy Down, DO, is a pediatrician in Cannon Falls and Red Wing, Minnesota.

For the safety of our patients, staff and visitors, Mayo Clinic has strict masking policies in place. Anyone shown without a mask was either checked in pre-COVID-19 or checked into a non-patient care area where social distancing and other safety protocols were followed.

Tips for coming home to your new little brother

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