Pregnancy and you blog

New sibling: Who is this and why is she in my house?

By Mary M. Murry, R.N., C.N.M. June 4, 2013

When I brought my daughter Aimee home, her older sister, Crystal, wanted to know why I didn't just put the stupid baby in the dryer with her stupid clothes. Crystal was 6. I told myself that this verbalization of her feelings was good. I did keep an eye on the dryer from then on, though.

Foolishly, I hadn't expected it to be difficult for Crystal to welcome the baby. She had been excited about having a baby in the family, although she would have preferred a brother. Instead, Crystal was insecure about the attention the baby demanded and reacted by acting out in various ways.

Could I have better prepared her for the new baby? Most definitely. We had talked about the baby for months, so I assumed that she was prepared for the changes — but you know what happens when you assume.

It would have been better for Crystal and Aimee if I had used concrete examples when we talked about the baby. Involving her in the preparations for the new arrival would have made her feel more directly involved with the baby. It would have been fun to have a "big sister" shower for her with family and friends getting her things she would need in her new role. I wish I had given her some specific responsibilities with the baby, even if it had been as simple as putting the diapers in the diaper hanger. I think she would have felt more involved and less left out.

When the next baby was born, I was more aware of the need for preparing the girls for the new baby. Crystal was 9 by that time and felt like she was an old hand at the big sister stuff. Aimee was 2½ and was going to need some help. We talked about the baby and read stories about new babies. I'd been warned that toddlers can be fascinated by a baby's eyes, so I helped her pick out a baby doll with eyes that opened and closed and reinforced that she could play with the doll's eyes, but not the new baby's eyes. I asked her to pick out a new toy that she would like to give to the baby after he was born. For the record, he enjoyed that Barbie doll when he was a little older!

I learned a few things myself. I could nurse, read a story and check homework at the same time. I learned that the most important time of the day was after work, school and daycare. We would all sit together and I would listen to the highlights of everyone's day. I would hold the two youngest kids in my lap and do spelling words with the oldest. After we recharged together, we were all ready to get on with the evening.

Please share your stories of bringing home a new sibling. How did you prepare? If you're a blended family, did you prepare step-children in a different way? Please offer suggestions, lessons learned and any tips with us all.

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Jun. 04, 2013