Photo by Danielle Aubrey Photography.
Bringing home baby #2?! We're here to help with some tips about how to prepare your firstborn (aka 1.0) for their newborn sibling (aka 2.0).
Before you jump in, we want you to remember there will be double the tears, double the exhaustion, double the fears...and double the love.
when to tell your firstborn
This one honestly depends on their age. For older children- preschool age and up- we suggest telling them whenever you choose to tell other people. If you post it on Facebook or tell family and friends, the chances of another adult (or their children) mentioning baby 2.0 in front of your 1.0 are pretty high. For kids younger than two, it’s okay to wait a little longer. Time means nothing to them, so sharing the news that they’re going to be a big sister or big brother the minute you pee on a stick will make the months to follow long and confusing for them, and for you.
fun ways to prepare
Around month 6 is a great time to start prepping your home for baby 2.0! If your older child likes helping out, give them little tasks- organizing diapers, clothes, toys they might want to “give” the baby, etc.- even if it means you have to double back and redo it when they’re not watching.
Consider taking a sibling hospital/birth center tour and a sibling class offered by your facility.
If you’re into babywearing, let your toddler practice wearing a baby doll.
Have your older child pick out or make a special gift for their baby brother or sister.
Make it really fun by buying and wrapping a gift to your oldest from your youngest. Amy’s newborn daughter “gave” her son a pair of Buzz Lightyear light up shoes when he came to the hospital to meet her, and in his little three year old mind, it was the best thing ever!
prepping your home
This varies on the size and layout of your home. Regardless of how many levels your home has, you’ll want the same variation of stations on every floor. It will make things run smoothly if they include:
Safe play space for child 1.0.
Safe play and sleep space for baby 2.0.
Diaper changing area/pull-ups/dry underwear with wipes, lotions and diaper cream.
Clean, dry clothes for everyone.
Look around and imagine spending most of the day on one level, and then try to prep it with everything you would need for the day! The last thing you want is a one week old with a blowout while hanging with your three year old in the basement…and the diapers are two floors up in the nursery. This “station tip” really comes in handy on those first few days after your partner returns to work, or when you’re home alone with your crew.
the first meeting
As parents, our expectations tend to be high in this area. You’ve seen the YouTube videos that could pass for a Hallmark commercial, and you’ve imagined this moment over and over in your head. You’ve seen the perfect Fresh 48 photos posted on Instagram, and you can’t wait until your beautiful children meet each other for the first time.
Friends, ask any professional photographer- YOU’RE ONLY SEEING THE HIGHLIGHT REEL! Snapshots of perfection! You might get the sweetest response from your first baby when they meet their little brother or sister for the first time. On the flip side, they might completely ignore the baby or even act out. Most of the time, you’ll get both.
Our favorite doula tip for making the first meeting easier on your older child:
The very first time they see their mom after the birth, they should see her with empty arms. Empty arms means that mom is waiting to welcome and embrace her older child. Sometimes, it’s been days since they have laid eyes on their mom, and they’re MUCH more excited to see her than they are by seeing their new sibling.
Walking into the hospital room, or seeing their mom walk through the house front door, with arms already occupied by a baby can quickly put a damper on this magical moment. When your child sees YOU waiting to embrace THEM, instead of you holding your newborn, they will instantly know they still have a spot in your heart- and in your arms.
If your oldest isn’t on a schedule yet, now is a great time to implement one! Family walks, meal time, story time, bedtime, etc. can all be done together- Baby 2.0 included!
Consistency is key here. Your older child will long to be included in whatever you’re doing- cooking, laundry, even fetching baby's diaper or paci (remember those easily accessible stations on every level in your home!). When you are feeding your baby, you can spend the time reading/listening to a book, or flip on a video to watch with your oldest while Baby 2.0 is filling up their tank. A little screen time could be your saving grace if jealously is raging during feedings. Doing simple things together will help both of you feel connected while you’re navigating your new normal.
let them be little
Your firstborn has been your baby since the day they were born- and they will still be your baby even after you give birth to your next little one. Allow the space for your oldest to continue being who they were before their world was rocked by a new baby.
Go into this season of life by giving grace to yourself. Reach out for help from family, friends, or a postpartum doula- we know two great ones! Consider preschool or set up play dates to break up your day while giving your toddler some fun interaction.
Know that you will make mistakes daily, and that’s okay! Thankfully, children are built to be resilient. Let them be little now…it won’t be long until your children join forces and start plotting against you!
And just like every season in life, this one won’t last forever. Embrace it.