There was a soft knock on the hospital door. The mom I was talking with hardly had time to say, "come in" and then her 3-year-old, Joey, confidently entered the room with a huge smile. He proudly placed daffodils in her hands and asked, "where's the new baby, mommy?" This is one of my favorite moments of my workday, when an older sibling meets their new brother or sister for the first time. It is magical and memorable for families.

The next day, when I went back to talk alone with the mom, she earnestly revealed she was worried about how Joey would adjust. I validated that her concern is one of the most common issues parents bring up when we meet with our families on the Mother-Baby unit at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital.

Here are some suggestions to help an older child with the transition of gaining a new sibling:

1. Keep the older siblings routine the same as much as possible. Try to avoid changes such as toilet training or switching beds or rooms.

2. Give a gift from the newborn to the older sibling, and the older sibling can color a picture as a gift for their newborn sibling.

3. Set aside one-on-one time every day with the older sibling, even if it's just ten minutes. I suggest turning off your phone, putting it in a drawer out of sight, and turning off all electronics. Put your older sibling on your lap and cuddle while you read a book together. It is helpful if you can do this every day at a certain time, for instance immediately after dinner. That way, the older sibling will feel adored every day with consistency.

4. Check out books from your local library. Here are some of my favorites:
    -A New Baby is Coming! by Emily Menendez-Aponte
    -I Used To Be The Baby, by Robin Ballard
    -Spots Baby Sister, by Eric Hill
    -Beyond Sibling Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Become Cooperative, Caring, and Compassionate, by Peter Goldenthal

5. Tour the St. Joseph Mercy Hospital Family Birth Center for parents with children: www.stjoeshealth.org/classes. As a parent, facilitating the bond between your children is one of the best gifts you'll ever give them! Please call our office 734.434.3000 if you would like more information.

 

Amy Albert, PNP is a pediatric nurse practitioner with IHA Pediatric Healthcare - Arbor Park, who works with new parents at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor.