Bringing Home a New Sibling
Then there were four…welcoming our son into the world this summer was quite an event. It started about a month prior, when my healthy pregnancy took a left turn down itchy street. I was diagnosed with Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (ICP). If you haven’t heard of it, you’re not alone. ICP only occurs in about 1 out of 1,000 pregnancies. It’s a liver disease that’s triggered by pregnancy hormones. The most common symptom is very severe itching and, if not treated and monitored closely, it can lead to stillbirth. The risk of stillbirth increases significantly after 37 weeks, so early delivery is highly recommended. My doctor was completely on top things and at exactly 37 weeks, my beautiful, healthy and itchy baby boy was born. That same day, my daughter, who had been anxiously awaiting her big sister debut, came down with strep. Let’s just say the tears were in abundance that day. The next 48 hours are mostly a blur, but with the help of FaceTime on our iPhones, big sister still got to see her new baby.
No amount of planning could have prepared us for the hectic hospital days, but we were committed to making sure our homecoming was a family success. The early days of siblinghood have such an impact on long-term bonding. Every child will react differently, but we found a few tips for bringing home baby that made a big difference for us.
Keep It Quiet.
If possible, bring home baby about an hour before you bring home your toddler. This allows for the initial unloading the car, unpacking the bags, getting baby settled in, etc. When grandpa brought our daughter home shortly after, everything was calm and we could focus on giving her our attention and playing together with the baby.
Show Them Off.
When you get home and things are nice and quiet, let your older child explore the baby. We laid the baby on a blanket in his diaper and just let our daughter look at him. We talked about his tiny hands and feet, how cute his nose was, and his soft skin. Not only was this a good introduction to her brother, but also served as teaching time on how to touch a baby and on using gentle hands.
Talk for Your Baby.
It may seem silly, but we took full advantage of our toddler’s imaginative side. We explained to her what we thought the baby was thinking, such as, “When your brother grabs you like that it means he really loves you; he just can’t say it yet.” Our daughter would laugh or smile, but it really helped her see the baby as a real person with thoughts and feelings.
Give a Gift.
Sibling gifts are a common thing, and I’m here to say they really do help the bonding process. We got our daughter a big sister necklace and a stuffed animal from our son, and she loved it. She still wears the necklace almost every day and tells everyone that “her baby” got it for her.
Spread the Praise.
Once visitors started coming by, we noticed the attention shift dramatically to the new baby. We didn’t want our daughter to start feeling neglected or resentful of her new sibling, so any compliments we received for our new addition, we passed right down to her too. When an admirer would say, “What a beautiful baby,” we would add, “Now we have two beautiful children!“ or “And he has a beautiful big sister too!”
While experience has taught me that you can’t plan for everything, you can plan to make the best of everything that comes. There are sure to be ups and downs to sibling relationships, but with a little positive parental guidance, hopefully there will be far more ups in the future.